Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Birding in William P. Holliday Forest & Wildlife Preserve

Last week I was able to squeeze a lunch break in the William Holliday Forest and Wildlife Preserve, a few feet away from the super busy intersection of M14 and I-275. What an interesting green gem!!!! In the middle of wayne county, 550 acres of forest were beautifully preserved thanks to a Detroit banker who died in 1938. The woods were magnificent, with fall colors close from their prime. Amazingly, despite the magnificent weather and the few million people surrounding this green island, I only met a couple of hikers.

I did not expect to see lots of birds, as it was early afternoon and temperature was relatively warm, so I simply enjoyed the fall colors. A yellow maple leaf was magically hanging from a branch.......

Berries were everywhere, so it might be an interesting winter birding destination!

Birds were few, but interesting! Beside the usual (and grossly underrated, if you ask me) cardinals and black-capped chickadees, Hermit Thrushes were numerous, but managed to elude the lens of my camera. A female Black Throated Blue Warbler was slightly more cooperative (although slightly out of focus on my picture). It was October 21, so she was a tiny bit late for her fall migration. Hope she will make it! I was able to see the white spot on her primaries, so I assume she was not a first year bird.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Light makes photography so much easier

I tried to follow Hilke's comment about trying to brighten my pine warbler picture. I only have Microsoft Photo Editor on my computer, so maybe this is the reason why the results were not that impressive. Or maybe it's just that I need to actually read a little bit more about pictures processing.

Update : Hilke was kind enough to process the picture for me. Here is what she was able to obtain:

THANKS, Hilke!

Last week was relatively sunny and warm, and I took this picture of a song sparrow. Easy shot, as the sparrow was basically posing in the morning sun. That's SOO much easier with good sun light!!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Back Yard Birding

I was playing last week end with my camera, trying to get a few decent pictures of birds in low light, trying to find out the most efficient set up for bad light conditions. Most common birds were present, such as Cardinals, White Breasted Nuthatch, American Gold Finches. Lady Downy Woodpecker made a brief appearance at my window:

A Coopers Hawk appeared suddently, sending everyone to hide in the bushes......

A few minutes later, all the goldfinches were back. The finches are now almost completly in their winter plumage:

I took about a dozen pictures of the Goldfinches, and one of the finches seems a little bit odd :

Quite odd, really, since it was not indeed a Goldfinch, but a Pine Warbler!!!! That was a good find for my yard, a new bird for the year (year bird #59 for the yard)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Turkey Hunting Season

This is the start of the Wild Turkey hunting season here in Michigan, so I could not bypass the opportunity to vent a little bit on the hobby of hunting.

Hunters commonly defend their hobbies by pointing out the need to "control populations of.." (choose whatever animal you want to kill). To some extend I understand that deer population are really high in south east michigan and that hunting somehow limits their nuisance, which includes overgrazing trees and farm fields, and the occasional collision with a car (which might not be too bad for the local economy, by the way, since the auto makers are badly in need for a few more car customers)

I also understand that, somehow, Hunters and Birders have a common interest, which is to preserve land and natural habitat, so the animals that one group want to watch and the other group to exterminate ("oops sorry I meant "manage") can work together for the benefit of preservation.

But checking the DNR website, I found out the "bag limit" per animal/bird :

Crow : No limit . My grand dad told me once he killed a few then he was young. It was during WWII, though, and he did it so he could eat. Nowadays, I see no reason (other than shear sadistic pleasure?) why somebody should shoot a crow. Or even, say, a couple thousands of them. Another point I would like to make, is about the possible confusion between a Raven (I've heard they are expanding their territories to the lower peninsula of Michigan).

Quail (Bobwhite) : 5/day : I still have to see or even hear one in washtenaw county, by the way. Populations are low, since we are on the northern range of the species

Woodcock : 3/day.

Scaup : 2/day (obviously there is not distinction between the twos species? )

Pintail : 1 (I think I have seen only one in washtenaw county, and maybe 4 or 5 in Michigan)

Coots and Moorhen (15/day/species) (only one moorhen on my michigan list, none for my county list)

Virginia Rail/Sora (15/day) Not that I expect anyone to actually manage to see or even shoot 15 virginia rails or sora in one day, but what are the DNR people thinking? 15 virginia rails? I am usually lucky if I hear a couple per season (to this date I have not seen one this year)

Another issue I see here, is I don't think a lot of hunters can make an instant distinction between a Virginia and King Rail, which is a very rare species in our state.

Snow, Blue and Ross Geese : (10/day) This is not a joke. You can indeed shoot a Ross Goose in Michigan. There are probably no more than 2 or 3 that are spotted each year in the state. This is how rare this bird is around here.

White Fronted and Brant Geese : 1/day. I got my first White Fronted Goose last spring. I have not heard about a Brant Goose in the south peninsula of Michigan since I started birding, although I think there was one in Ohio 2 winters ago.

Mergansers (5, only 2 of which hooded). Note that they dont' specify if the red breasted, relatively rare in michigan, is huntable (by default, I guess they are)

By the way, anyone can shoot at squirrels, veasels, oppossums and other critters. Just because it's there, said one day Mallory as he was trying to climb the highest mountain of the world. Other people have smaller, much smaller ambitions.
All of this shows that the DNR has obviously no intention to "manage" all these species. These birds are nowhere close to overpopulate any part of the state. The truth is, these bag limits are not based on science or even common sense. They are only the result of pressure from the hunting lobby, and nothing else.

As a conclusion, and for the readers of my mediocre blog who might share my views, it is written on the michigan DNR's website that :

"Hunters in Michigan have the right to enjoy their sport free from deliberate interference. Individuals whose hunting is being obstructed should promptly report the violation to a local conservation officer, the nearest DNR Operations Service Center or by calling 800-292-7800. Complaints also can be submitted online: Reporting Hunter/Angler Harassment. "
This was just in case you had the weird idea to stand between a hunter and a bird. You are indeed risking a ticket or something.
yeah, or something.