Our Memorial Day camping trip at Natural Bridge Kentucky State Park was memorable. Great hiking, beautiful scenery with cliffs and streams, and two new birds for the life list. He flitted about up and down the stream, and in and out of the brush right behind our campsite nearly all day long. Each time he landed, he would thrust his little tail feathers in the air a couple of times, giving the appearance that he was doing a little dance. At first I thought he was an Ovenbird, which is also a warbler, and has similar markings. After consulting Peterson’s, found that he was definitely a Louisiana Waterthrush.
This beautiful babe landed in our backyard just long enough to capture a decent shot. The brown coloring on his head gives away that fact that he is a juvenile (versus grey), plus the fact that he just looks like a little fella in the face. Notice all the different coloring and markings on his breast and wings. As an adult, his breast will be almost entirely red, and the wing marks will become much more defined. Red shouldered hawks can be found as far north as southern Canada with Wisconsin as a western border, stretching all the way to the Atlantic. Southern borders include Florida to Texas and span into Mexico. The are also found along the Pacific coast from northern Oregon to the Baja Peninsula – no surprise here as they love to fish. They also enjoy moist, mixed woodland habitats.
The beauty of Northern Michigan was present over the Thanksgiving weekend, despite the gray, cloudy days. My family and I got back to nature, enjoying the Lake Michigan shoreline and all it had to offer. During this time of relaxation and rest, I had plenty of time to think about Christmas and the busy time that lay ahead. Each year, in trying to simplify, I focus on one thing to do better. After our reconnect with nature I have decided to Give Green this Christmas, and make sure each gift is either recycled, reusable, or contributing to the reduction of landfills.
Our first stop was the Zetterberg Preserve at the Point Betsie Lighthouse. The Nature Conservancy, which maintains the Preserve, has done a wonderful job of eradicating baby’s breath; an invasive species to the area. I was in search of the snowy owl and this seemed like the perfect place. We didn’t spot one, but enjoyed seeing the contrasting view of the lighthouse against our summer memories.
After our trek to Point Betsie, we drove south a few miles to Elberta where we were privileged to see two bald eagles. They have made the Elberta beach area their home for a few years now, and after several years of searching, I finally spotted them.
Last, but not least, on an outing the day after Thanksgiving, we spotted these wild turkeys doing a victory march. Still a little skittish from their collective near death experience, they high tailed it as we began to approach.
Winter’s bellwether arrived Sunday; the dark-eyed junco. When these little guys appear on the scene, I get a rush of excitement like a child with the first snow of winter. This is not a cliché, I’m just really that much of a bird lover.
The junco is a sparrow, but unlike those native to the US, this cute little bird has an all black back and tail with a bright white breast and underside. Spending most of the year in Canada, the junco migrates south at the first sign of cooler temperatures in the north, which means we are not far behind.
Ground eaters, juncos typically prefer to eat the nyjer that falls from my finch tube feeder – an easy task. Occasionally, I will see one fly into at tree as I did last winter, when it was apparently very attracted to a snow covered suet hanging in a cherry tree.
Can you see why he is named a ‘dark-eyed” junco?
They typically hop along the mulch covered earth on the edge of the woods in groups of five or more. Their plump little bodies and movements are immediately distinguishable from a typical sparrow. Almost cartoon-like in nature, their white breast and stark contrasting black back are beautiful against the snow. They are my favorite snowbird, right up there with the cardinal.