Construction Season: Blue Heron Edition

Perfect Shadow by Jiafan(John) Xu

Perfect Shadow by Jiafan(John) Xu

Jiafan definitely got the perfect shadow in this shot of a pair of herons building their nest. Head over to his Flickr for more shots of this industrious pair!

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Signs of Spring: Red-winged Blackbirds

Red winged Blackbird by Reji TV

Red-winged Blackbird by Reji TV

One of my favorite signs of spring in Michigan is hearing the calls of red-winged blackbirds. I started hearing them last week in northern Michigan & just saw these pics today in our Absolute Michigan group on Flickr. The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology’s Animal Diversity Web listing for Agelaius phoeniceus (red-winged blackbird) tells us:

The range of red-winged blackbirds extends from southern Alaska at its northern most point, to the Yucatan peninsula in the south and covers the greater part of the continent reaching from the Pacific coast of California and Canada to the eastern seaboard. Winter ranges for red-winged blackbirds vary by geographic location. Northern populations migrate south to the southern United States and Central America beginning in September or October (or occasionally as early as August). Most western and middle American populations are non-migratory.


Red-winged blackbirds roost and breed in a variety of habitats, but tend to prefer wetlands. They have been known to live in fresh and saltwater marshes. On drier ground, red-winged blackbirds gravitate towards open fields (often in agricultural areas) and lightly wooded deciduous forests. In winter red-winged blackbirds are most often found in open fields and croplands.

…As migratory birds, red-winged blackbirds share many characteristics with related species. They are strong fliers that will often migrate in flocks of a thousand or more. Roosting is often communal, resulting in large, centralized populations. Red-winged blackbirds are largely diurnal, spending most of their day foraging. Males defend territories during the mating season. As the mating season progresses, both males and females will spend more time within their territory or the territory of their mate. Although fighting among red-winged blackbirds is not all that common, even among males, it is known to occur. Males chase females at top speed during breeding season. Because of their broad range and tendency to colonize large roosting areas, red-winged blackbirds are extremely common, and are easy to find in the mating season when singing and sexual displays make them more visible.

This great web resource includes many more photos and blackbird calls. Go there!

Reji TV took this photo near Auburn Hills. See more in their Birds gallery on Flickr.

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Mallards will be mallards

Mallards will be mallards by Glen Suszko

Mallards will be Mallards by Glen Suszko

Here’s the latest addition to the Michigan in Pictures Duckie Gallery, which for some reason is a thing. ;) 

Head over to Glen’s Flickr for many more great photos!

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Snowy Owls are Back!

Snowy Owls are Back by Kevin Povenz

Snowy Owls are Back by Kevin Povenz

While these arctic owls are not found in the summer, the Michigan DNR shares that Snowy Owls & other winter visitors spend time in our state during the winter months:

Just because the leaves have fallen from the trees and there is a chill in the air is no reason to put away your binoculars. Winter offers unique viewing opportunities. Many of our summer resident birds migrate to warmer summer climates. Still, there are several species of birds that migrate from Canada and find Michigan the perfect winter temperature. Winter is the only time several of these species can be found in Michigan.

Two of the largest migrants are the snowy owl and the great gray owl. Snowy owls can be found moving into Michigan during winter when the food supply on the arctic tundra is in short supply. Snowy owls have been recorded as far south as Lansing, Michigan. Because they rarely see humans on their northern homes, they are not timid and can be easily viewed for long periods of time.

Kevin took this photo back in the winter of 2016, but he’s been hearing that they are back in Michigan now. See more in his Birds of Prey album on Flickr & be sure to follow Kevin Povenz Photos on Facebook.

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Happy Solstice & Winter

Happy Solstice and Winter by Dale DeVries

Happy Solstice and Winter by Dale DeVries

The Winter Solstice which marks the beginning on winter in the Northern Hemisphere officially happened at 5:02 am this morning. As you may know, the two largest planets Jupiter & Saturn will appear at their closest point since 1623 and the closest observable conjunction since 1226  just after sunset this evening! Michigan weather being what it is, the likelihood of us being able to see it isn’t high, but we will have a chance to enjoy it for the next few evenings.

Dale took this photo on the winter solstice back in 2014. He says that he was overjoyed to find a Snowy Owl on my first trip out that winter – almost like a Christmas present! See more in his Best of West Lake gallery on Flickr & also follow Dale on Facebook for more.

Lots more snowy owl pictures & info on Michigan in Pictures!

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Seney Reflections

Reflections by Ayman Haykal

Reflections by Ayman Haykal

The Seney National Wildlife Refuge:

…was established in 1935 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. The wild land that today is the refuge has not always appeared so wild. This is a land that was once heavily logged, burned, ditched, drained and cultivated. Despite repeated attempts, the soils and harsh conditions of this country would not provide a hospitable environment for sustained settlement and agriculture. So, nature claimed it once again. What was viewed as a loss by early 20th century entrepreneurs became a huge gain for the wildlife, natural resources and the people of Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge is located in the east-central portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, halfway between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. The 95,238 acre refuge encompasses the 25,150 acre Seney Wilderness Area, which contains the Strangmoor Bog National Natural Landmark.

Lots more information at the Seney Refuge website. Ayman took this back in early August. See more on his Flickr!

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The Challenge

The Challenge by Charles Bonham

Charles took this shot of a heron trying to show a group of egrets who’s boss near Midland last weekend. Dive into his Flickr for more & be sure to check out his showcase!

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Making Changes…

When things change inside you, things change around you by Fire Fighters Wife

“When things change inside you, things change around you”
~Unknown

Don’t know what I can say about this lovely photo & sentiment by Fire Fighter’s Wife except “Too true!” See more in her Waterscapes album on Flickr.

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American White Pelicans Expanding Michigan Range

American White Pelicans on Lake Huron by kare hav

American White Pelicans on Lake Huron by kare hav

The photographer writes that it’s hard to believe that there’s pelicans in Michigan, but here they are. In an in-depth Great Lakes Echo feature, Eric Freedman writes that American White Pelicans are expanding their breeding range in Michigan & North America:

The species “is undergoing a dramatic expansion of its breeding range in North America,” the study published in the journal Ontario Birds said. “The nesting on Lake Erie, so far from the colony sites in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, seems unusual. Why such a large dispersal from the nearest breeding colony 550 km (340 miles) away?”

Now they’re spreading eastward.

…That distance “is and is not unusual,” said study co-author D.V. Chip Weseloh, a retired Great Lakes waterbird specialist with the Canadian Wildlife Service. “Pelicans are strange birds and will range far and wide hundreds of miles to feed,” a feat documented with radio transmitters.

With its 9-foot wingspan, the American white pelican is one of North America’s largest birds and feeds primarily on fish, according to the Audubon Society.

The overall population declined through the first half of the 1900s but has grown substantially since the 1970s. It’s protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List categorizes it as a species of least concern.

Lots more in the Echo!

View more in Kare Hav’s Pt. Lookout/Augres gallery on Flickr.

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Michigan

Eye of Reflection by Joshua DuPuis

Eye of Reflection by Joshua DuPuis

I’ve always thought of this bird as an insult from Looney Tunes, but All About Birds from Cornell University explains that Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers:

…are fairly small woodpeckers with stout, straight bills. The long wings extend about halfway to the tip of the stiff, pointed tail at rest. Often, sapsuckers hold their crown feathers up to form a peak at the back of the head.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are mostly black and white with boldly patterned faces. Both sexes have red foreheads, and males also have red throats. Look for a long white stripe along the folded wing. Bold black-and-white stripes curve from the face toward a black chest shield and white or yellowish underparts.

You can click through to All About Birds for more including videos & audio! Lansing-based Feed the Birds (who shares my Looney memories) adds:

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers arrive back in mid-Michigan in April from their wintering grounds in the southern U.S., Mexico, West Indies, and Central America.

I’ve seen evidence of their presence before on the trunks of the pine trees. Sapsuckers tap for sap as their main food source. On my trees the sapsucker seems to like to drill patches of several shallow rows across and several shallow rows down. These neatly organized patches of holes well up with sap that the sapsucker laps up with their brush-like tongue (not sucks). He also eats any bugs that happen to get trapped in the sticky stuff.

These predrilled sweet sap sources benefit hummingbirds, waxwings, and warblers as well when they need a quick, sweet bite while traveling.

Joshua took this photo of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Antrim County. Click to visit Joshua’s Flickr and use the > at the right of the photo to see several more shots of this lovely bird!

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