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wilsons-warbler-male-in-tamarack

Male Wilson’s Warbler in tamarack

Very few Wilson’s warblers nest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  They are usually found in semi-open, wet, bushy habitats, with tamarack trees interspersed.  Males usually arrive on territory in late May, and only for a period of a few days are the males somewhat visible.  After that they become very secretive.

PIED-BILLED GREEBE MARSH REFLECTION

Pied-billed Grebe Marsh Reflection

12″ x 18″

When the ice melts in the marshes of the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (usually in April), Pied-billed Grebes arrive from the south and can be very visible during the beginning of the nesting season.  The males will often patrol the open waters on the edges of the marsh.

Cerulean warbler in redbud

Cerulean Warbler in Eastern Redbud

8″ x 10″     11″ x 14″

In mid to late April some forests of Ohio are sprinkled with the brilliant color of flowering Eastern Redbud trees.  On a very cold morning (just above freezing) hazy early morning sun warmed this tree and it was the only flowering tree in the area in sunlight.  Its flowers’ nectar began to flow and this attracted many small insects.  The concentration of insects attracted a few hungry small birds that just arrived on their breeding territory.  This was the most colorful bird to visit.  The same type of situation occurred when I first became aware of the colorful warblers and other songbirds of our region.  But the tree was a flowering Cherry tree in lower Michigan, the birds were stopping during migration, and there were many more species visiting the tree.

BOREAL OWL ROOST

Boreal Owl Roost

12″ x 18″

The Boreal Owl (about 9-10 inches long) is a rare visitor to the Great Lakes states. A nocturnal owl, during the day it sleeps in a well-protected location, such as near the trunk of a cedar. Blue Jays woke this owl and alerted me to its presence

3 Otters

Three River Otters

12″ x 18″ or larger

In March, while trying to photograph diving ducks in flight from the pier in DeTour Village of Michigan’s EUP, three otters appeared in the water and climbed upon an ice flow.  They were looking at me as the late afternoon sun was directly behind me.  Their curiosity, as they noticed me poking above the railing and behind my camera on tripod, soon resulted in head bobs, grunts, and snorts. It seemed they did not recognize me as human, but possibly as one of their own.

SHARP-TAILED GROUSE IN CRABAPPLE TREE

Sharp-tailed Grouse in Crabapple Tree

9″ x 12″

This photo was taken down a back road not far from the town of Pickford, in Michigan’s EUP. It was very cold morning (minus 20-25 degrees F), so the very hungry bird fed out in the open in a friend’s crabapple tree.

Great Grey Owl determination

Great Grey Owl Determination

12″ x 18″

This individual surprised me one winter day as I was walking down a road close to home when a snow squall started.  With snow blowing in my face and my head down, I walked within 20 feet of the owl without realizing it was perched roadside.  I finally looked up and the owl just looked at me, so I walked (and then ran!) back home to get the camera.  When I returned, the owl had begun to hunt the ditch for voles.

Male Black and White Warbler in spring color

Male Black and White Warbler in “Spring Color”

7″ x 10.5″      12″ x 18″

During a dry period in May I set up a water drip and shallow pool in a forest with colorful spring saplings (aspen and maple pictured).  This well-patterned bird came in to bathe.

BUFFLEHEAD SKIING STOP

Male Bufflehead Skiing Stop Courtship Behavior

7″ x 10.5″      10″ x 15″

Bufflehead ducks perform hilarious courtship behavior during April in the EUP waters: head bobs, blowing bubbles, sneaking up and poking another duck in the behind when coming from underwater, etc.  Here, groups of males and females circled the waters adjacent to a causeway where I parked my car.  I photographed out of the window when suddenly the show came to me; a female decided to leave the water and sit on the shore right in front of me.  Repeatedly, males would make short flights and come to a skiing stop to impress her.

Male Magnolia Warbler in spruce 2

Male Magnolia Warbler in Spruce 2

8″ x 10″      11″ x 14″

Near the northern Lake Huron shore there are some areas where many small spruce trees are grouped together.  Magnolia Warblers are abundant in these areas, and their nests can be very close to each other.  When males arrive on their small breeding territory they are much more aggressive and visible in this type of situation.

Bald Eagles Fighting

Bald Eagles Fighting

9″ x 12″

Twelve bald eagles stopped in a farmer’s field one February day. They were migrating. With a cautious approach along a back road near Pickford, in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula, I was able to pull my car into position without disturbing the group and they resumed their activities.

Broad-winged Hawk at Flicker nest

Broad-winged Hawk Looking into Active Flicker Nest

12″ x 16″   or larger

This Broad-winged Hawk is looking into an active Northern Flicker’s nest. A nestling was poking its head out moments before I took the photograph, begging for food while the adult Flickers were foraging.  The hawk’s opportunistic behavior is surprising and may have never been documented before.  The nest is typically 12″-16″ deep so the nestling remained out of reach.

Ermine

Ermine

10″ x 15″

The stump the ermine is leaving is below our second-story deck, where we feed the birds. Voles gather the seeds that drop to the ground and store them in the middle of the hollow stump. One day, as I heard the ermine whirling around in the stump, it poked out with a vole in its mouth, then proceeded to run to the undercarriage of my van to store its meal for later. I got my camera and waited for it to return to the stump – luckily it did. He looked at me as if to say, “Where is the next vole?”

Lawrence's Warbler

Lawrence’s Warbler

8″ x 10″     11″ x 14″

This bird is a rarest hybrid of the Blue-winged/Golden-winged warbler hybrid complex.  I saw this well-concealed bird with binoculars, and I knew the rarity of the situation.  It sang constantly from the same perch, so I made a plan to possibly get a photograph. I noticed I would be able to stay well hidden upon my approach, so I had a chance.  I moved behind my camera and lens on their tripod only while the bird sang with its head tilted back, and I would freeze the instant it stopped singing.  It took over 1/2 hour to get close enough for a photo, but I was still behind a lot of vegetation and there wasn’t a clear shot.  I took my chance to move into a position to my left where there might be a clear shot, and I found that there wasn’t.  But the wind began to blow the vegetation and, for an instant, there was opportunity.  The bird let out a song, I hit the shutter, and the effort payed off.

Marching Marbled Godwits

Marching Marbled Godwits

12″ x 16″ or larger

This group wintered along the Pacific ocean in Washington.  Then often moved as a cohesive unit in the shallow waters of a pond, seeming to march forward.

ICE EMBERS WINTER SUNSET

Ice “Embers” Winter Sunset

11″ x 14″

In winter, sometimes the near-shore waters of Lake Huron along the North Huron Birding Trail can be a broken-up ice field.  Fortunately, a beautiful sunset appeared behind this ice field, highlighting the chards of ice to give them the appearance of embers.

MALE CONNECTICUT WARBLER

Male Connecticut Warbler

8″ x 10″     11″ x 14″

The Connecticut Warbler is a sought after bird for birders who visit the EUP because of its rarity.  The male’s loud and continuous calling, just after arriving on the breeding territory, make its presence well known.  He walks on the ground often and has big feet to help him.

KINGFISHER YAWN

Kingfisher Yawn

12″ x 16″

One autumn this Belted Kingfisher used this colorful mossy rock as a favored perch to hunt for minnows in a protected cove along the north shore of Lake Huron.  Complete concealment in a blind is necessary to photograph this wary species.

DEER AND DUCKS

Deer and Ducks

10″ x 15″

Many of the bays and coves of Lake Huron had low water levels a few years ago.  In this cove, deer found that they could easily walk through the shallow water to get to the other side instead of taking the long way via the shoreline.  This deer stopped to drink and the ducks were unfazed. My wife, Giuliana, captured this unique photograph.

RUFFED GROUSE ON DRUMMING LOG

Ruffed Grouse on Drumming Log

10″ x 15″

The springtime sound of a drumming Ruffed Grouse is common in the forests of the EUP.  Their droppings on and near a downed log are a good clue to an active drumming log.  But I did not need that clue here.  This individual just stayed in place on a very remote back road as I photographed out of my van window.

Male Cape May Warbler in Spruce cones

Male Cape May Warbler in Spruce Cones

7″ x 10. 5″        10″ x 15″

Cape May Warblers have become abundant in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula (as of 2016) in response to spruce budworm infestation of trees with needles.  This warbler is a spruce budworm specialist, which means that it dramatically increases its numbers in areas of current budworm outbreak.  The nest site of this 5.5 inch bird is near the top of mature spruce trees, near the trunk, as high as 60 feet.   Spruce trees are very narrow up that high so adult birds approach their nest by flying to branches much lower and climbing near the trunk upward, so as not to reveal their nest location. On a spring after many spruce trees had an abundant cone crop, in response to a drought the previous year, some cone-laden tree-tops broke off after a wind storm.  I found one on the ground of a neighbor’s property and received permission to use it near a water drip and shallow pond I set up to attract migrating songbirds.  This beautiful bird came in to bathe.

SCREECH OWL NEST CAVITY

Eastern Screech Owl Nest Cavity

12″ x 18″    or larger

This nest cavity was located less than 30 feet from the door to a public building. The photo was taken at the beginning of the nesting cycle.  The well-camouflaged male was unnoticed by everyone.  One person even came up to me and asked why I was taking a picture of a tree. Then I had him look in the viewfinder of my camera. His reaction? “Oh my God.” I have found a few Eastern Screech Owls recently in the EUP, even though they are not officially confirmed as breeding in the EUP.

3 DEER downsized

Three Deer in Velvet

8″ x 12″

I found these three male deer on an early summer morning close to my home.  They were eating marsh vegetation near a spring fed water hole along the north shore of Lake Huron.

Lake Huron Ice Gems Cave Entrance

Lake Huron Ice Gems Cave Entrance

12″ x 18″ or larger

Winter on the north shore of Lake Huron can bring a variety of ice formations.  A mid-winter thaw, followed by high winds, large waves and very cold temperatures, formed this surreal cave.  Its color would change as lighting conditions changed. Under bright cloudy conditions (as pictured) it glowed and captured the imagination, seeming like a scene appropriate for a science fiction adventure movie.

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