This rose-breasted grosbeak was hanging out the shade this morning in Kinde, Michigan.
The thumb of Michigan is dominated by a landscape of farms and woodlots. This mix is just about the perfect situation for white-tailed deer, and they are super abundant in this area. Spending a day driving the many grid roads assures one of seeing many of them.
But mostly they live in the woodlots, and that is mostly where I have been spending my time lately. So seeing a dozen or more in a few hours is typical. Interestingly, there are many does, and while walking around have discovered many fawns lying perfectly still on the ground, but very few bucks.
The trails through the woodlots tend to be grassy, some mowed and some just high grass. When they are high grass, the deer don't know I'm walking there until I am fairly close and they hop up to see what is coming. So I see, over and over, essentially this.
I find cedar waxwings to be some of the most beautiful birds in the United States. Just amazing in every way. Here is one I saw today in Michigan.
A couple days ago I was walking down a fence line. I was on the cow side of the fence and the river was on the other side. I always appreciate it when ranchers keep their cows out of the creeks.
So I came over a little rise and saw a big raccoon hightail it away as soon as she saw me. Didn't think much of it as we see them all the time. But when I walked past where she was I got a good display from this baby raccoon. There were two of them, which apparently didn't get the memo to flee when mom took off, but this one was really giving it a go with his defensive posture.
The first thing was a hissing/growly kind of noise that certainly gives one a bit of a start when suddenly coming from a few feet away from your boots. Then it arched its back high and raised all the fur on its back making it seem much larger and more dangerous than it was.
The second baby buggered off pretty quickly, but this one stood his ground letting me get within maybe three feet before deciding I really was bigger than he was and that it was time to run.
I wish I new what species these are, but probably a toad given their dark coloration. These were found in a river in the "thumb" of Michigan and while there was lots of space in the river they seemed particularly attracted to this little spot. Tadpoles are usually vegetarians, so likely a trove of weed there that drew them in.
These are some really common birds, but the largest concentrations of them are at the Great Lakes. And here is one of them, just sitting on a channel marker on the end of a jetty in Lake Huron.
Fun fact: The "double crest" is kind of a mating thing and for most of the year really isn't visible so don't expect to see it too often. Kind of odd to name a bird after a feature you pretty much never see, but well, then there is the bald eagle named after a feature it does not even possess at all, as it isn't even close to being bald.
This common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) was crossing the road from the swamp on the one side to the swamp on the other side as I was driving along just west of Port Austin, Michigan today.
So I donated some blood to the local mosquito population to take a couple photos since he was just sitting there. Turns out that he was a one-eyed turtle as his left eye looked much too damaged to see out of. Yes, it's rough out there.
We have been finding that eastern chipmunks are nearly omnipresent in all the bits of forest in the "tip of the thumb" part of Michigan. Here is one with its cheek pouches stuffed.
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) at the Huron County Nature Center Wilderness Arboretum in Port Austin, Michigan
Had a little extra time today so went for a trail walk at the nearby arboretum. While at the overlook this red fox wandered by and seemingly didn't notice me at all. Fox here are seemingly quite common and always happy to see them.
A short walk around Lake Accotink in northern Virginia was quite enjoyable, with many gray squirrels out and about getting ready for winter.
Keith Christenson - Wildlife Biologist