Returned!

Hello. I have returned from my unpleasant trip to Indiana to clean my mother’s house out and list it on the market as she is now in a group home with severe dementia. The cleaning out is done, my private buyer fell through the day before closing, and I feel like I really didn’t do justice to her treasured possessions. But I live 2,000 miles away and am an only child, doing it on my own, so I did the best I could. There were many unpleasant tasks and events while I was there but I’m back in Arizona now and can do the sale of the house from here, fortunately.

My only outing was with a friend to St. Joseph, Michigan, on the shores of Lake Michigan. It was a great day with choppy waters. St. Joe is my favorite place to go while back there.

I did get one lifer there, amazingly, a Sanderling. There were several around.

And many Ring-billed Gulls:

I did go to a park where I’ve had good birding luck before but not this time. It was a little late in the day and I didn’t have my long lens with me so no shots. Other than that, I only saw a few animals in my mother’s neighborhood.

That is an Eastern Cottontail, a Groundhog, a Fox Squirrel, and an Eastern Chipmunk. Now I’m ready to sit in the backyard and reacquaint myself with my local birds and hope a few migratory ones drop in, too.

This is the St. Joseph River as seen from St. Patrick’s County Park.

Oh, and an American Crow. They are everywhere back there.

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.

Three of Four Seasons

This is the Darden Road Bridge in South Bend, Indiana, over the St. Joseph River. The only known truss bridge in the county, this bridge is noted for its multi-span length and unusual deck placement. It was built in 1884 by P. E. Lane of Chicago, Illinois. I came upon it by accident and it was really pretty.

I just got back from there; my 95 year old mother was in Rehab. She’s fine now and will be released in a couple days. I didn’t have much time for birding, understandably, nor did I take my birding lens but, even so, I got 5 lifers!

These first few photos were taken at St. Patrick’s County Park, also on the river.

Black-capped Chickadee

There is a Bald Eagle nest at this park that has been inhabited for the last couple of years. The eagles took over an existing Red-tailed Hawk nest (I didn’t know they did that). Below is the nest.

And my mom and I saw one of the eagles in a nearby tree! Wish I had my birding lens for that. Here’s their Bald Eagle Live Cam.

On another day, I went to Madeline Bertrand County Park in nearby Niles, Michigan, and that’s where I got 4 lifers in less than an hour! These are birds we don’t see in Arizona.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Tufted Titmouse

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Dark-eyed Junco, Slate-colored

I also saw a beautiful Blue Jay but the photos are pretty blurry.

Northern Cardinal, Indiana State Bird

We have Great-tailed Grackles in AZ but in Indiana, they have these guys all over the place (my 5th lifer):

Common Grackle

The robins were in abundance everywhere, pudgy little things.

American Robin

In the 2 weeks I was there, I experienced all the seasons but summer. The temperatures ranged from 19 to about 65. We had rain, snow, sleet, hail (golf ball-sized), tornados all around us, and a little sun. I prefer Arizona’s 2 seasons, beautiful and hot. I’m fortunate it was “mild” while I was there, for the most part. Bye, snow.

Silver Beach

Umbrellas 1

SJLHs 2

Both Piers

These are the St. Joseph Lighthouses on Silver Beach in St. Joseph, Michigan. The North Pier has 2 lighthouses, both over 100 years old, but which have replaced previous lighthouses prior to that. The South Pier, which is the one I was on, has a conduit light at the end, not in a lighthouse, but in a little lookout tower.

SJLH

The city of St. Joe now owns the lights and they are fully operational, all 3 of them. They were renovated in 2015 for over $1 million. The piers at St. Joseph and Grand Haven are the only ones on the Great Lakes that retain their range lights and catwalks. The St. Joseph Pier Lights were featured on a postage stamp issued in 1995.

SJLH 2

Lighthouses fascinate me. You can read more about the history of these lights and see what the lighthouses look like in the winter here.

SJLH 1

Coming In

Jetski

Pier Mural

Big M

Work Hard

Friends 2

This is the South Pier, where the conduit light is located, at the top of the pole above. You can see that the pier has no fencing so you have to be careful to not be swept away when the waters are rough. It happens a few times a year when people are careless or overly daring.

Waves on Pier

South Pier

Looking back to land from the end of the South Pier. The North Pier is to the left.

Triangle Trees

RB GullRing-billed Gull

No Swimming

RB Gull 2

Atlantic Look

Umbrellas 2

If I ever wanted to live in the midwest again (and I don’t), it would be in St. Joe. But, next best thing, they have a livestream going all the time so I can check out the lighthouses any time, day or night. I mostly look forward to nice Arizona winter days in the 70s, looking at the ice-covered lighthouses. You can see the livestream here.

I blogged about St. Joe a few years ago here.

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