July 2: We spent a very hot & muggy day in RRRA yesterday. Many birds still singing on territory and we had good looks at many warblers, vireos and a singing Eastern Towhee near the river. The deerflies were relentless and we came home covered in bites, despite wearing repellant. The traditional (and illegal) holiday fireworks have been going on all week long, stressing out our local loons and causing them to seek quieter areas. We always breathe a sigh of relief when this particular holiday is over. The park is full to capacity, the traffic is bumper-to-bumper and our favorite places are now noisy and crowded.
July 3: We spent yesterday and today on the trails up in Kirtland Warbler habitat and the surrounding area- covered 80+ miles yesterday and probably more today. It seemed like more than that on roads that resemble washboards where you don't drive over 20 mph if you want your vehicle to remain in one piece. It's extremely dry throughout the barrens, with biting flies and choking dust, but the many bird species & etheral songs make it well worth the irritations. Many wildflowers are also in blossom- orange hawkweed, birdsfoot trefoil, hairy vetch, wood lily and bluebells line the sandy paths with bright splashes of color.
Heard dozens of Wood & Hermit Thrush singing, and many Veery. American Redstarts seem to be everywhere this year, many are still singing on territory and many Chestnut-sided along the trails. Vesper and Clay Colored Sparrows in good numbers and a good look at a Scarlet Tanager near Mack lake. Viewed Indigo buntings on most of the trails and while trying to photograph a Golden-winged Warbler in Oscoda Co, I noticed a smallish bird near the top of a dead tamarack that turned out to be a Red-breasted Nuthatch. First one we've seen in a couple years. We also had a very close view of a Black-billed Cuckoo. This sighting was a real treat for us, because we usually see them in thick cover, but he/she sat for quite awhile in the open right next to the trail. At one point, it started 'clucking' very softly, sounding much like a wild hen turkey. It did this a few times before it flew off into thick cover. I was just mesmerized by those red eyes. What a great bird!
July 4: We have a very friendly juvenile Mourning Dove that follows me around when I refill the bird feeders. It comes within reach and often will land on the deck and peer through the sliding glass doors. Many juvenile R.B. Grosbeaks are following the parent birds to the feeders now and we had to cover our trucks' rear-view mirrors because a male cardinal keeps attacking his reflection. Good numbers of moths at the sheets last night, and a brilliant garter snake startled me when it passed right by my feet near the house. It looked like it had just recently shed it's skin with very bright colors. The first snake we've seen on our property this year.
July 6: After visiting Nayanquing Point today, we decided to stop by the Pine River access in Arenac County. On the road to the access we came upon two large flocks of Sandhill Cranes feeding in a soybean field. I counted 47, but there were probably more than that. They sure made for a beautiful sight on a very hazy afternoon.
July 8: It's official. After stopping by the county clerk's office and registering my business name, 'WoodSong Nature Photography' is now a reality. We still have a ways to go, and alot of red tape to wade through, but we've taken the first steps to what I hope will be a very enjoyable journey, doing what we both love best- enjoying the beauty of nature and sharing it with others.
July 9: Stopped by the lily farm again this afternoon and enjoyed watching a family of Barn Swallows being fed. She has such wonderful gardens there and I could sit for hours watching the many butterflies and birds feeding around her colorful gardens. From there we pointed the truck towards Prescott where I saw a Red-winged Blackbird hovering over a Sandhill Crane in the grasses, scolding it loudly- perhaps it was raiding a nest. Enjoyed many species, including another Black-billed Cuckoo and many Sedge Wrens, still singing on territory. I really admire these cheeky little wrens.
From there we stopped by a small lake near home and watched a female Eastern Kingbird feeding 3 of the cutest kingbird chicks I've ever seen. They opened their gaping orange mouths so wide, but were pretty quiet as far as nestlings go. The nest is built right over the water and looks quite precarious, but they are filling out fast and will probably fledge very soon.
July 16: Things have been quite busy here, with many projects in the works, so my online journaling is falling behind again. We now have many juvenile birds coming to the feeders- dozens of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, quite a few Baltimore Orioles and others. I heard what sounded like juvenile Great Horned Owls last evening, but still no sign of our Barreds. We visited Tuttle Marsh last Saturday and had quite a few species with close looks at juvenile Belted Kingfishers. We stopped at the Ausable overlook on the way back where a male Indigo bunting flew down from a tall girder and landed within just a few feet of us. A Black-throated Green sang from a tall pine nearby while a Mourning Warbler darted around underneath the viewing platform.
July 19: I've been putting alot of time into updating the website, but have been taking a few breaks to sit near the flower garden to enjoy the hummingbirds. We have a few juveniles coming out to feed now, and they're such a delight to watch. We also heard two Barred Owls calling tonight. They're still in the area and that was the most welcome bird call I've heard in many many moons.
July 23: We've had a painting crew here all week, putting a damper on our outdoor activities. Today when one of the workers came in from her break she was excited to have seen an Eastern bluebird off our deck. I would have been too, we don't view them here often.
July 24: We finally found time between many ongoing projects yesterday to do some trail riding. Starting off at Twin Lakes Rd. access, we enjoyed many Cedar Waxwings gorging on wild rasberries, a good look at a male Mourning Warbler and watched a pair of adult American Redstarts feeding nestlings. Although I didn't view the nest, I could hear the chicks begging every time the adults would dart into the thick cover with insects. Ovenbirds were quite vocal as were Great Crested Flycatchers.
In the Mack Lake area, I stopped to photograph coral hairstreaks- butterflies and juvenile birds were flitting all around us and the songs of Wood & Hermit Thrush serenaded us throughout the trip. Vesper sparrows, clay colored sparrows, brown thrashers & empids were all busy gathering food for the youngsters that were vying for space in the deadsnags and jackpines nearby. While kneeling next to a burn area, I heard the soft wheezing of begging juvies right above my head- looking up I viewed not one, but 3 Kirtland warbler juveniles. (I only know what they were from watching the parent birds that showed up to feed them after they flew out into the 'do not enter' zone).
After the 'Kirtland Kids' left the area, 4 juvenile Eastern Bluebirds showed up, with parent birds tending to their begging calls. This was one very busy area and one very delightful afternoon.
While taking in the hummingbird feeders after dark, we heard a Barred Owl calling from the north- and a teeny golden tree frog was hanging from one of the feeders. There was a nip in the air and the little frog sure felt cold on my palm when I moved him to the rock garden.
July 25: We planned on taking the boat out today, but got a late start so spent the afternoon in RRRA. We found the cutest little baby snapping turtle, the smallest I've ever seen. He was having a hard time getting up the steep rise on the trail, so I gave him a boost with a stick. It was only 3-4 inches long and just too cute. We also had a juvenile male Scarlet Tanager in our birdbath late this afternoon. I've been hearing an adult singing in the area all week. They're such a brilliant bird.
July 27: We had a lone adult Cedar Waxwing bathing in our pond this morning- in fact the pond has been quite active, despite the cooler than normal temperatures. A Northern Goshawk continues to pick off Mourning Doves in the clearing on a regular basis. I watched her go after a young Rose-breasted Grosbeak yesterday, and the juvenile barely escaped. The grosbeaks loud and incessant begging call makes them a prime target for predators.
July 31: The yard is filled with the begging calls of many juvenile Red-winged Blackbirds. I watched one adult male that had four youngsters following him from tree to tree, calling after him loudly. We also have quite a few juvenile Common Grackles, but they don't seem half as demanding as the blackbirds. Second brood fledgling chickadees. titmice and nuthatch are numerous and young Northern Cardinals are venturing into the feeders on their own now. At last count we had 8 juvenile hummingbirds- the 'squeak-fest' has begun in earnest now, and I love to listen to their many different vocalizations and each hummingbird has a unique "voice". I spent the better part of the afternoon sitting out watching them jostling around the flowers. They tend to spend more time nectaring there than on the feeders, and it gives them a place to hide when the adult males show up. Adult males that are not too happy to share their space with these active youngsters.
Additional 2004 Journals: