April 17, 2014
Last year I cited the Michigan Natural Features Inventory entry for Great Blue Heron Rookeries. It remains the definitive source, so I guess a rewind is in order:
The great blue herons in Michigan are largely migratory, with almost all leaving the state during the winter months. Most leave by end of October and return in early to mid-March.
The great blue heron is mostly a colonial nester, occasionally they nest in single pairs. Colonies are typically found in lowland swamps, islands, upland hardwoods and forests adjacent to lakes, ponds and rivers. Nests are usually in trees and may be as high as 98 ft. (30 m) or more from the ground. The platform like nests are constructed out of medium-sized sticks and materials may be added throughout the nesting cycle. Nests are usually lined with finer twigs, leaves, grass, pine needles, moss, reeds, or dry gras. The same nests are refurbished and used year after year…
Most great blue herons return to southern Michigan heronries in mid-March although a few may remain through the winter if there are areas of open water. Courtship and nest building commences from early April in southern Michigan to early May in the extreme northern portions of the state. Both sexes are involved in the nest building process with males primarily gathering sticks from the ground, nearby trees, or ungarded nearby nests. Males pass sticks to females who then place them on the nests.
March 4, 2014
March 3, 2014
January 9, 2014
On January 9, 2007 Steve Jobs announced the iPhone. Within months, photography apps for Apple’s pocket computer with a crappy digital camera began showing up. Apps like Hipstamatic and Shake It made the phone’s resolution weakness tolerable and spawned a resurgent interest in the lomo ethic.
Here’s a nice article on apps to trick your iPhone out for a new year of photography.
December 19, 2013
mLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa makes the question of whether we’ll have a white Christmas or not pretty simple, saying: “If you will be in Michigan this Christmas, your dream of a white Christmas will come true – wherever you are.” Read on for his detailed forecast.
Alert readers will note the first back-to-back owling in Michigan in Pictures history. What can I say? This shot of a barred owl is simply perfect!!
More birds on Michigan in Pictures.
December 18, 2013
The Owl Pages entry for the Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) says in part:
The Snowy Owl is a large diurnal white Owl with a rounded head, yellow eyes and black bill. The name “scandiacus” is a Latinised word referring to Scandinavia, as the Owl was first observed in the northern parts of Europe. Some other names for the Snowy Owl are Snow Owl, Arctic Owl, Great White Owl, Ghost Owl, Ermine Owl, Tundra Ghost, Ookpik, Scandinavian Nightbird, White Terror of the North, and Highland Tundra Owl.
…Most hunting is done in the “sit and wait” style. These Owls are highly diurnal, although they may hunt at night as well. Prey are captured on the ground, in the air, or snatched off the surface of water bodies. When taking snowshoe hares, a Snowy Owl will sink its talons into the back and backflap until the hare is exhausted. The Owl will then break its neck with its beak. Snowy Owls have been known to raid traplines for trapped animals and bait, and will learn to follow traplines regularly. They also snatch fish with their talons. Small prey up to small hares are swallowed whole, while larger prey are carried away and torn into large chunks. Small young are fed boneless and furless pieces. Large prey are carried of in the Owl’s talons, with prey like lemmings being carried in the beak.
…Snowy Owls produce large, rough-looking cylindrical pellets with numerous bones, feathers, and fur showing. They are usually expelled at traditional roosting sites and large numbers of pellets can be found in one spot. When large prey are eaten in small pieces with little roughage, pellets will not be produced.
Read on for much more about these winter visitors, who the DNR explain migrate to Michigan in wintertime and have been sighted as far south as Lansing. They add that because snowy owls see few if any humans in their Arctic home, they are not very timid and easier to observe than other owl species.
More Michigan owls on Michigan in Pictures!
October 29, 2013
The American Kestrel entry at Wikipedia says:
The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), sometimes colloquially known as the Sparrow Hawk, is a small falcon, and the only kestrel found in the Americas. It is the most common falcon in North America, and is found in a wide variety of habitats. At 19–21 centimeters (7–8 in) long, it is also the smallest falcon in North America. It exhibits sexual dimorphism in size and plumage, although both genders have a rufous back with noticeable barring. Juveniles are similar in plumage to adults.
The American Kestrel hunts by hovering in the air with rapid wing beats or perching and scanning the ground for prey. Its diet typically consists of grasshoppers, lizards, mice, and other small birds. It nests in cavities in trees, cliffs, buildings, and other structures. The female lays three to seven eggs, which both sexes help to incubate. It is a common bird to be used in falconry, especially by beginners.
All About Birds adds that it’s perhaps the most colorful raptor in the world, Wing over to their American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) page for photos, kestrel calls & more info.
More birds on Michigan in Pictures.
Many more Michigan Birds on Michigan in Pictures!
September 19, 2013
The Michigan DNR says that the common tern (Sterna hirundo) is a small colonial waterbird and one of four breeding species of terns in Michigan (Caspian, black, common, and Forster’s terns):
Common terns are white with a black cap, and pale gray back and wings. Their bill is red orange with a black tip. The tail is deeply forked and dark along the outer edges. Immature common terns and adults in their winter plumage have only a partial black cap. It can be distinguished from its close relative the gull by a smaller body size and longer wings. The common tern’s call is a rolling ter-arr and rapid kip-kip-kip.
Common terns are frequently seen hovering in the air over a school of fish. With a sudden plunge downward into the water, they seize fish with their bills. Sometimes they will dive entirely below the surface of the water. Terns eat small fish such as shiners, chubs, and other minnows. They will also eat crustaceans and occasionally, insects such as dragonfly nymphs.
Their winter migration takes these birds to the Atlantic coastal areas in Florida, the Caribbean, and South America. They return to their nesting sites in early spring.
Arriving on their breeding grounds in May, common terns nest in colonies of 10 to 1,000 breeding pairs. They prefer sandy, well drained areas away from mammalian predators and human disturbances. Currently, common terns are using natural and human made islands in the Great Lakes with a few nesting on inland lakes. Common terns construct their nests by creating a depression in the sand with their feet, smoothing and shaping it by sifting in it and turning their bodies. Egg laying and incubation lasts until late June or early July. Both adults take turns sitting on the nest. The adults defend the eggs and young fiercely, diving at intruders, and even striking them with their bills.
Once numbering over 6,000 breeding pairs in Michigan, common terns were found on every Great Lakes shore. Data from 1992 suggest that the population has decreased to an estimated 1,400 breeding pairs. Several factors have contributed to this decline including loss of habitat, competition with gulls, predation, and effects of contaminants. As a result of these factors, the common tern was officially listed in Michigan as a “threatened species in 1978 and has recently undergone a status assessment by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Great Lakes for possible listing as Federally endangered.
Many more Michigan birds on Michigan in Pictures.
June 21, 2013
One of the most abundant birds across North America, and one of the most boldly colored, the Red-winged Blackbird is a familiar sight atop cattails, along soggy roadsides, and on telephone wires. Glossy-black males have scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches they can puff up or hide depending on how confident they feel. Females are a subdued, streaky brown, almost like a large, dark sparrow. In the North, their early arrival and tumbling song are happy indications of the return of spring.
Male Red-winged Blackbirds do everything they can to get noticed, sitting on high perches and belting out their conk-la-ree! song all day long. Females stay lower, skulking through vegetation for food and quietly weaving together their remarkable nests.
Read on for more including video and blackbird calls. The Red-winged blackbird entry on Wikipedia has more, including a photo of the aforementioned red wing blackbird nest which I have to admit looks very cool!
More birds on Michigan in Pictures!
May 30, 2013
This weekend while morel hunting I stumbled upon a woodcock. Yesterday while riding my bike home from work, I stumbled upon my friend Jason. On a whim, I checked his photos and found this picture. All About Birds entry for American Woodcock Scolopax minor says that this superbly camouflaged bird is difficult to discover on the forest floor where it probes for earthworms. Some facts:
- The flexible tip of the American Woodcock’s bill is specialized for catching earthworms. The bird probably feels worms as it probes in the ground. A woodcock may rock its body back and forth without moving its head as it slowly walks around, stepping heavily with its front foot. This action may make worms move around in the soil, increasing their detectablity.
- The American Woodcock is one of the few shorebirds that is regularly hunted for sport.
- The male American Woodcock has an elaborate display to attract females. He gives repeated “peents” on the ground, often on remaining patches of snow in the early spring. After a time he flies upward in a wide spiral. As he gets higher, his wings start to twitter. After reaching a height of 70-100 m (230-328 ft) the twittering becomes intermittent, and the bird starts chirping as he starts to descend. He comes down in a zig-zag, diving fashion, chirping as he goes. As he comes near the ground he silently lands, near a female if she is present. Then he starts peenting again.
- The male American Woodcock gives no parental care, but continues to display long after most females have laid eggs. Some males display at several, widely separated singing grounds and will mate with several females. A female may visit four or more singing grounds before nesting, and she may keep visiting even when she is caring for her young.
- Unlike many birds that leave their nests at hatching, newly hatched woodcocks cannot feed themselves. They are dependent on the mother for food for the first week. The chicks start to probe in dirt at three or four days after hatching.
Many (many) more Michigan birds on Michigan in Pictures!