July 1: Ventured over to the Prescott area again today, after having my last injection done on my knee (hurrah!). I love the woods, but there are days when all of these trees make me feel a bit claustrophobic. I miss the wide open spaces- watching the clouds roll overhead while birds dip and dive above grassy meadows. That's one reason we venture over to the Prescott area often and I did a bit of digiscoping until it got too uncomfortable sitting in the truck. Hot temps are on their way back (boo!).

July 6: The squirrels here have totally gone bonkers. We have gray squirrels, black squirrels (just a phase of gray), fox squirrels and red squirrels. They've been chewing our wooden beaded curtains and shredding them to pieces. I hang these over my dining room window to stop window strikes, and bottom of the curtains are just plain gone.. they chewed them up. But I may have found a solution- a pet snake! We were trail riding in the park earlier this week and I found the prettiest snake all coiled up next to the road- I had never seen one quite like this and at first I thought it was dead, but nope. It was just upside down and had the prettiest yellow belly. We brought it home and the squirrels really seem to hate this snake..

Ha! It's a toy snake and boy did it fool me when I saw it next to the road..I thought I'd discovered a new species and even flipped it over with a stick before I realized it was made of rubber.. and the best part is, it's fooling the squirrels too! They haven't climbed up on the trellis since I put lil snakey out there. They may figgure it out in time and chew him up too, but for now my beads are safe.

July 7: Spent some time sitting on the deck this afternoon watching and listening to many juvenile birds. Young Indigo Buntings and Chipping Sparrows were splashing about the pond while many woodpeckers were frantically chasing after the parent birds, begging for food. I have yet to see the fledgling orioles, redstarts, vireos or flycatchers but I can sure hear them. Young chickadees, titmice, cardinals, rose breasted grosbeaks, common grackles and red-winged blackbirds are all coming out of cover now, tentatively & loudly exploring their world.

July 9: Spent an enjoyable, and much cooler, afternoon on my fav. butterfly trail near the rifle river. Common milkweed is in blossom and smells so heavenly- I counted over 30 monarch caterpillars and some flowerheads had 2 and 3 cats on one plant. Several adult monarchs were nectaring while many butterfly and skipper species were also enjoying the milkweed- dozens of northern pearl crescents were flitting from plant to plant. Common Yellowthroats, Marsh Wrens and Mourning Warblers darted about gleaning insects nearby while a doe snorted from inside the woods at me- she wanted to cross the road and I was in her path. A family of Indigo Buntings worked their way around the woodland edge while a male American Redstart sang nearby. There were quite a few wasps flying about, which means curtains for the monarch cats if they find them. If I had a stand of milkweed plants to feed them I would have brought them all home and put them in my enclousure, but I haven't got the right habitat for milkweed to grow well. Hopefully some of them will make it to adulthood.

July 11: Despite 30+ mph winds, I sat outdoors most of the afternoon and observed what I'm pretty sure are our first juvenile hummers today. Their plumage is much browner and more mottled than the two adult females that have been here all season. Our adult male isn't too happy to be sharing his feeders with even more birds and his gorget is always flashing in anger while he squeaks in protest. This is such a fun time of year when the young birds start to venture out on their own. We observed young Northern Flickers and Brown Thrashers on the property today and the adult Pileated Woodpeckers are both very active.

July 12: We took to the hills today, starting west of Lupton and wound our way on county roads up into Oscoda county. Stopped off beechwood road to eat our lunch and enjoyed many dragonfly species while a family of Indigo buntings fed on berries nearby. Winding further up into the hills we sighted numerous Vesper Sparrows, Great Crested Flycatchers, American Redstarts and heard dozens of Wood and Hermit Thrush. Many of the roadsides up in this area of the Huron National Forest are sandy so common milkweed is very abundant- a great area for observing butterflies like coral hairstreaks, and a very mellow snowberry clearwing that allowed me to hold it on my hand to view it closely. What a wonderful little moth they are.

Trailriding through the jackpine habitat we encountered many birds including Nashville Warblers, Ovenbirds, Veery and many more. We explored the Mack lake area and also Loon and Crater lakes. The orv trails were surprisingly quiet for a weekend.

July 16: Finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with my journals - spending alot of time at the moth sheets in the evenings and documenting odonata species during the day. I sat out with the scope today, enjoying the many juvenile birds that are begging and calling around the yard. Bluejays are almost brutal in the way they treat their young compared to Northern Cardinals and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. We have one youngster that follows an adult male in to the oranges and he feeds it so very carefully. I finally got a long look at two Baltimore Oriole juvies today- such a beautiful peachy orange plumage that remided me of dreamsickles. Banded hairstreaks swirl about above the canopy dogfighting each afternoon while the twin fawns are venturing further away from the doe as they grow bolder. They still bleat like sheep when frightened but it's so adorable how they stomp those little hooves when they get their courage up.

July 18: We spent the latter part of the day riding the trails on the east then west side of the rifle river. I was very disheartened to discover that Gerald Miller road has been widened. The road crews left such a mess behind them. Fresh bird nests were knocked over, trees uprooted, just a very disturbing scene. Ruby meadowhawks were very abundant and we sighted quite a few bird species. While trying to photograph dragonflies, I enjoyed watching a male Common Yellowthroat gathering insects for his hungry brood nearby.

July 19: We spent the day on Devoe Lake within RRRA yesterday & enjoyed a very peaceful afternoon on one of the small islands on the lake. While drifting in the brisk winds across the open waters, a curious Common Loon popped up right next to the boat and gave us a good lookover with those beautiful red eyes.

Before we reached the island I could hear a most familiar sound- the soft chittering calls of a colony of Purple Martins. This was a real treat, so I propped up a couple boatcushions, looked skyward & watched them for 3+ hours while Garry fished. At times the parent birds would soar so high that they would almost dissapear from view, then down they'd circle to return to the juveniles that were patiently lined up along the tree branches. There were two distinct colonies, one on each end of the island. They are such a sociable bird and truly masters of the air- they used the westerly winds to their advantage while soaring, gliding, hovering & skimming over the waters. If the question "if you were stranded on a desert island, who would you want to share the island with" were reworded to ask: "if you were stranded on a desert island, what bird would you want to share the island with?".. I would have to say Purple Martin. Hands down.
Also enjoyed either on the island, overhead or on the shoreline of the lake : Bald Eagle- Osprey- Green Heron- Red-tailed Hawk- Turkey Vulture- Common Tern- Ring-billed Gull- Spotted Sandpiper- Solitary Sandpiper- Killdeer- Song Sparrow- Chipping Sparrow- Swamp Sparrow- Marsh Wren- Blue Jay- Indigo Bunting- American Goldfinch- B. Oriole- R.B. Grosbeak- Tufted Titmouse- R.T. Hummingbird- B.C. Chickadee- Pileated Woodpecker- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Yellow Warbler- Common Yellowthroat- American Redstart- Warbling Vireo- G.Crested Flycatcher- Empid. Sp.- Cedar Waxwing- Gray Catbird- Eastern Kingbird- Belted Kingfisher- Veery- Hermit Thrush- Ovenbird- and as the sun dissapeared behind the clouds we heard the soft hooting of a Great Horned Owl echo clearly across the lake..

July 21: Received some much needed rain overnight with a few lingering showers today. A Scarlet Tanager male sang his way around the property this afternoon while 5 American Crows hung around the east end of the property- they have been visiting the yard more frequently lately and the juvies are so very rowdy and noisy. I suprised a Coopers Hawk yesterday that was sitting on the ground under one of the feeders- usually a pile of Mourning Dove feathers is the only sign that tells me they've been here. Despite the showers, the hummingbirds nectared at the monarda heavily- always a treat to watch.

July 25: Made a quick trip down to the river today and although there were quite a few butterflies nectaring on the flowering swamp milkweed, I didn't take many photos- the deerflies and mosquitoes are just too miserable. Since I'm out at the sheets so many evenings, I really hate to subject myself to even more bites during the day. Enjoyed quite a few birds along the trail & many odes.

July 26: Much to my delight, I discovered that dragonflies will perch on my hand if I approach them slowly. I went out to the garden with the intent of watching hummingbirds but became totally wrapped up in holding wandering gliders and ruby meadowhawks.

July 27: While holding the female meadowhawks today, a male perched on my index finger while I held the camera. He must have not wanted to miss out on the fun. Later this afternoon we enjoyed Eastern Bluebirds and a beautiful House wren in full song near the river.

We continued on to RRRA, where we enjoyed quite a few new wildflowers and many birds. The park is just teeming with Purple martins this year. Afterwards we stopped to wash the jeep where I watched a Cliff swallow family feeding juveniles in a nest above the floodlights.
Finally sighted my first catocala species today too- at the car wash of all places.

July 28: When we become accustomed to hearing certain sounds daily, there is a gap when those sounds are absent. I heard a family of at least 3 Barred Owls calling last evening and the somewhat mournful call of an Eastern wood pewee today. I've missed them.

Additional 2003 journals: January-February-March-April-May-June-August-September- October-November-December

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