Adios, Midwest!

The mighty and muddy St. Joe River

The St. Joseph River is approximately 206 miles long, zigzagging through southern Michigan and northern Indiana, draining a primarily rural farming area into the watershed of Lake Michigan. You really can’t drive very far without continually crossing over it.

So I am now back home again in Arizona, out of Indiana, hoping that all will be well with my mother for quite awhile, for her sake as well as mine. These first few photos were taken at St. Patrick’s County Park in South Bend, IN. It’s really a beautiful park.

Eastern Bluebird, juvenileRed-Winged Blackbird, femaleWhite-breasted Nuthatch

Great Blue Heron

I got 7 lifer birds total while back there. Some are in my last post. Some are in neither post as I either got no photos or blurry photos. Those ones are Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Baltimore Oriole, and American Goldfinch (seen several times with no photos). Seven isn’t that great for 5 weeks but, considering I was only out in nature for about a total of 8 hours, pretty good. If I had spent more time and had my birding lens with me, it would have been awesome, I’m sure, but I had many other things to do on this trip. I did not get my target Pileated Woodpecker nor the fairly common Red-headed Woodpecker. Someday…

One day, a friend, Judy, and I went to Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve in Niles, MI. What a beautiful place. The birding was slow and we got caught in a downpour about 2 hours in but it was lovely before that.


This stick structure was awesome. At the time, we saw no signage so did not know what it was made from but I have since found out that the artist is Patrick Dougherty and the sticks are willow twigs. This piece is called Take Five and was done in 2014. Here is more info on it.

This park is also on the St. Joe River and had some creeks draining into it.

They have had a very wet spring and summer (so far) back there so everything is very lush but we also saw many big trees down.

Jeremiah (he had many friends)

There was a bird viewing area and that is where I saw the lifer hummingbird mentioned earlier. Here are a few photos taken there, through glass that was very reflective on a cloudy day, so they look a little funky.

Blue JayWhite-breasted NuthatchRose-breasted Grosbeak, femaleBlack-capped Chickadee

Many, many flowers there were being visited by many, many bumble bees.

The other places I visited while back there, with photos in my last post, were Rum Village Park and Nature Center in South Bend, IN, and Madeline Bertrand County Park in Niles, MI.

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In Exile (in IN)

I’m still in Indiana for a few more days, cut off from the real world or at least it feels that way. Last night my laptop croaked. I knew its days were numbered as I had been told a couple months ago when I went to get it a new battery that the particular year that it was (2011) was known for its bad video component and to not bother sinking more money into it. Sure enough, that’s what happened so I went out and bought a new MacBook Pro today. My old one was a 15″ but those are pricy so I downgraded to a 13″. I actually like it quite a bit so far and think the smaller screen won’t be an issue.

I have not gone birding much. I hope to get out another time or 2 but it rains a lot here so I just don’t know. Anyway, I’ve stopped briefly at a couple parks and I also went to a nature center in another park so here are a few photos I got. The nature center and feeders are right by the viewing area so the birds came in really close. That was nice as I don’t have my long lens with me. I still hope to see a Pileated Woodpecker and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird while here and anything else I can find without too much time expended. I’m open to anything, especially lifers!

Blue Jay RVBlue Jay

Hairy Woodpecker

I have seen a Hairy Woodpecker before, in Scottsdale, but I didn’t get a good shot. And looking very similar to Hairys are Downy Woodpeckers and that was a lifer! They are smaller and have a few other subtle differences, bill length, head size, tail feather markings.

Downy Woodpecker (lifer)

And I was very excited to see this lifer, too:

Red-breasted Grosbeak (lifer)

I don’t know if the whole midwest is like this but these squirrels are everywhere! I must see 30 a day and then a bunch of chipmunks, too, with a groundhog and bunny here and there. Also saw 2 deer yesterday.

House Finch
Red-bellied WoodpeckerNorthern Cardinal

Eastern Bluebird (lifer)

Eastern Phoebe (lifer)

Song Sparrow

St. Joseph River

I have many more photos but they are all on my old hard drive which I will get downloaded when I get back to Phoenix. I also have Carbonite backup and I can see that everything is available to me there; it would just take forever to download it all. I had to use it to just get these few photos off my old hard drive. And I backed up my laptop in November. Should have done it since but I think I pretty much have everything covered this way. Don’t forget to back up.

Eat or Be Eaten

American Kestrel, male

I know everyone needs to eat but please don’t eat any of the sweet birdies I feed, Mr. Kestrel.

Orange-crowned Warbler

And this is what I feed “my” birds daily:

  1. Suet Cake (1)
  2. Orange (1~halved)
  3. Grape Jelly
  4. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (BOSS)
  5. Thistle
  6. Sugar water for the hummingbirds (4 feeders)

The Orange-crowned Warbler (above) really only eats the jelly anymore.

Abert’s Towhee

The towhees eat everything but the thistle and hummingbird food.

Curve-billed Thrasher

Same for the thrashers and they seemed to be working on a nest the other day although I couldn’t locate it.

Anna’s Hummingbirds, males and female

Bugs and nectar for these guys.

Northern Mockingbird

Mockingbirds are bold, aggressive birds yet they seem shy around the food. They will eat everything but the thistle but I don’t see them come to the feeders very often at all. They watch and wait before they come in to have a bite.

White-crowned Sparrows, adults and immature

These guys eat nothing I put out but do like mulberries. It will be a couple months until we have mulberries, though, so we’ll see if they stick around. There seem to be 4 of them.

Gila Woodpeckers, female and male

These woodpeckers love the oranges but will also eat suet and BOSS. I don’t think I’ve seen them in the jelly yet. But the male is so loud when he arrives, announcing to everyone that he is here, and the female sneaks in without a chirp. Many people I know say they drink from their hummingbird feeders but I’ve never seen them do that in our yard.

Verdin

Pretty much oranges only for the Verdins now that the only hummingbird feeder I had that they could drink from broke.

Eurasian-collared Dove

These doves are hogs, especially in the BOSS feeder, knocking all the seed to the ground. When they leave in the summer, the White-winged Doves show up and they’re just as obnoxious. Oh, yes, we have pigeons, too; same for them, obnoxious.

House Sparrow, male

Everyone’s favorite invasive species eats everything I put out except the thistle. They’re raucous and plentiful but I don’t really mind them much. This guy was after peanuts which I put out once in awhile for a special treat.

House Finch, male

The finches eat everything, including thistle, but they’re so pretty, I enjoy them.

European Starling

I guess I’m lucky because some people complain that starlings, another invasive species, are feeder hogs. We have a few starlings but I’ve never seen any eat any of the food. I do enjoy the sounds they make; it sounds like a happy circus when they’re around.

Lesser Goldfinches, males and females

And these little cuties, so different from the House Finches, eat only thistle. I love that they like the swings. They sit on them while they wait for an opening on the thistle socks.

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I Got Lucky!

This is a male Pyrrhuloxia, sometimes called the “Desert Cardinal.” It is a cousin to the Northern Cardinal. He has been a nemesis bird for me. Their range is more in southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, southern Texas, and Mexico so they are not very common in the Phoenix area. However, this particular bird is now spending his 3rd (at least) winter at the Desert Botanical Garden and I’ve been chasing him that whole time but he was very elusive. I kept seeing photos of him in my Facebook birding group from many other people. He hangs out in a specific area quite a bit and, a few days ago, I sat there for 2 hours waiting for a glimpse. No show. I was getting discouraged but decided to go over one afternoon this past week and get disappointed again. I sat down and, within about a minute, he appeared! And he seemed to do a lot of posing just for me, probably recognizing me from all the times I’ve been looking for him:

Isn’t he beautiful/adorable/unusual? During breeding season, his bill is also bright yellow so he’s even more colorful then but he doesn’t breed up here so I’ll have to try to catch one in southern Arizona sometime.

Gilded Flicker, male

Northern Mockingbird

Queen

A couple days before finally seeing the Pyrrhuloxia, I went to Gilbert Riparian Preserve (Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch) in search of some rarities being seen there. I never have good luck there unless I’m with an experienced birder. Fortunately, one showed up and, when the bird finally appeared, helped me find it. It was a Prairie Warbler, very unusual for this part of the country, but my picture is not good at all. There are now several more rare (for Arizona) birds there so I should try to make it out there one day this coming week and hope someone can help me find them, too.

Desert Cottontail

And I saw a ton of these fast, little guys:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Say’s Phoebe

Western Meadowlark

And these little warblers were energetically flitting about right in the same area as the Prairie Warbler giving me false hope several times as they have the same coloring.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audubon’s

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Earth-based Faith

Like many other people, I’ve been constantly monitoring the last two U.S. hurricanes (with a 3rd and 4th coming) and their damage on TV as well as reading news coverage about the forest fires in Montana and Oregon and the earthquake in Mexico and wondering why there are so many natural disasters lately here and throughout the world. Some of it is definitely human-caused in the form of climate change and carelessness. Yes, there have always been hurricanes and earthquakes and forest fires but the increased frequency, size, and intensity are from climate change, the climate scientists agree. It’s sad what is happening to our planet.

I’m sure many of us know people in several of the affected areas and are concerned for their well-being. We have a friend who lives in Puerto Rico now who is okay but is without power and that could last for several months. The U.S. and British Virgin Islands are decimated. Cuba is currently being pummeled. Texas will be recovering for a long time. I have a cousin who lives on Florida’s gulf coast and, although he isn’t there at the moment, he is concerned about his house as so many people are. I have another friend who evacuated and is in Mississippi until Irma passes through, also hoping he has a home to return to. I have a blogger friend who is actually fighting the forest fires in Montana and a friend who was supposed to go to Portland to visit her kids today but decided against it when they told her there was ash floating everywhere.

Last night, just coincidentally, we went to an event sponsored by the Grand Canyon Trust where a Navajo woman spoke eloquently about her earth-based faith and what the land on the Navajo Nation means to her, how she respects it, how water is power, how the spirits of her ancestors still reside there, how she goes there to seek peace all while developers are trying to coerce the Navajos into letting them build resorts there. The U.S. government is considering reducing or eliminating existing National Monuments so we can have more development and less nature.

I’ve been trying to document Fibonacci spirals demonstrating nature’s perfection but this is as far as I’ve gotten:

Virgin Murex

Fiery Skipper

West Indian Fighting Conch

So for now, I’m sending prayers for those being affected by natural disasters…not just in the U.S. but throughout the world, including all the poor animals. We need to be better custodians of our planet while we still have it.

Northern Mockingbird, Florida and Texas State Bird

Western Meadowlark, Montana and Oregon State Bird

Crested Caracara, Mexico’s National Bird