Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The King...Again

While birding the other day with my good buddy, Don, I snagged a pic of a Kingfisher. I managed a flight shot a few weeks back at Lake Erie Metropark, but I like this one soooooo much better.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Sometimes, you just get burned out a bit and don't feel like cooking much. Tonight was one of those nights. Sure, I could have gone out but then I would be spending money (which I am trying to save right now), so I was looking to stay hone and do something easy and light. I did just that.

Cous-cous with dried cherries and pine nuts. Huh? Cous-cous is nothing more than a funny little pasta. Pine nuts are, well, nuts from pines. Cherries? I'm sure you know what they are, but did you know recent studies have shown that they lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in rats?

Wait....don't think about that last one too hard....

So, what more could you want than something that is done in minutes, tastes great, and dare I say it, is good for you?! And what should one pair with a cherry-based dinner? Why, a cherry beer, of course!

Ultimately, I found the Derailed Black Cherry Ale from the Erie Brewing Company to be fair. A pale red but clear drink to the eye, the smell of cherries was all over it, as you would expect. On the palate, I found it sort of tasted like marachino cherries, but not too sweet. You would think that some sweetness might kill you here, but didn't. I found it politely refreshing. A light malty finish rounded out a fair beer. Three out of five.

A great simple meal. And not just for rats.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Meeting At The Casino

Notice anything is the picture above? Yeah, that is the Casino on Belle Isle. The original structure was built in 1887 but it burned down. Redesigned and rebuilt in 1907 by Albert Kahn, the Casino that now stands is a total gem. By the way, while we call it a "casino", you don't gamble there. Back in the day, folks would simple gather in the cool shade and be social. It was a nice location for friends to gather. Think of it as a meeting place.

See that pile of feathers in the foreground? Yup, there was meeting there, too. But it wasn't friendly....

Knowing the weather was supposed to be great this past Wednesday, a birding buddy and I hit the road. Our mission was to track down ducks. The Detroit River can be an awesome place when the ducks are in town and by early to mid-November, they should be, right? In any case, one always hopes to find something cool.

Starting at the south end of the river, we hit Elizabeth in Trenton, Bishop Park in Wyandotte, Dingle Park in Ecorse, Loranger Park in River Rouge and found exactly zero ducks! Okay, we found we a few Mallards, but that was it! You have to be kidding, right? With spirits a bit befuddled (despite finding Ring-necked Pheasant just a few block east of the GM HQ and finding Jim the Mockingbird and his squeeze on West Jefferson in Trenton by the car wash), we made our way to the final part of out tour, Belle Isle.

After making the turn on to the Island, we swung into the first lot. That duck one hundred yards out into the river seemed to be defying all of our attempts to name it. Finally, with a scope it was confirmed. Hah! A plastic decoy! Find THAT one in a field guide! Further down the way, a small raft of ducks needed some attention. For the record, it was basically the ONLY raft of duck we found - some Scaup, a few Canvasbacks, some Redheads and some Buffleheads. That was more or less it. Maybe 30 ducks, right? Ooooooooohhhh (sarcasm). Intent on finding something cool, we set off to check the rest of the island. Maybe a Cackling Goose?

After moving to the other side of the island, we spied a group of Canada Geese. Beyond them in the grass? A Peregrine Falcon on a kill! No doubt one of the Detroit birds. Now we're talkin'!!! Using the car as a blind, we moved to the other side of the field. There it sat, not 50 yards out. It was basically "stoop, tug, and eat" with feathers from the kill flying all over the place. After a few minutes, it started to get vocal and took off. Like a bunch of biology geeks, we had to find out what it had been eating. Boy, it was really nice of that Ring-billed Gull to sacrifice itself so the Peregrine could live....

As if the whole episode wasn't cool enough, it came back moments later! Unfortunately, we were still dilly-dallying at the kill site so it kept going....and landed on the light pole less than 100 yards away. Again using the car as a blind, we crept up under the bird, but the lighting was all wrong. So, we kept going (under the light pole!) and moved about 100 feet past it. Perfect late afternoon light. Crawling half way out of the sunroof, I took a whole series of photos (including the cropped but unaltered image below). Breathtaking.

So the total duck numbers were a bust. Very disappointing for mid-November. But to see one of the world's most impressive raptors at spitting distances? Too cool.

So, yeah, I guess the Casino on Belle Isle still is a meeting place of sorts. Mr. Gull? Meet Mr. Talon....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hot Chicks

Yesterday started off a bit slow, right? Internet stuff (bills, etc.) followed by some running around. Shortly after lunch, I found my settled in so I can kick back a bit.

Out of nowhere, this little cutie shows up and just sits on my knee! How presumptuous on her part, huh? She was quite cute. A tiny frame with black pants on her slender legs. A blouse, that for the most part, was gray but with bits of brown and white, too. Reeeaaaallllly nice lookin'! The black hat (I not usually a hat guy) looked really good on this chick.

Before you knew it, she was gone. I even have a picture of her.

Thank A Vet

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

If Only......

If only I had $8,000 stashed in my mattress.  No, I wouldn't drink it....

The King

So, the other day, I had that card that failed and it had some pics of Elvis on it? Remember? Well, I managed a pic the other day of another "King".

This is actually a pic of the "Kingette", by the way. Interestingly, unlike many other birds where the name is derived from a male's trait, the Kingfisher is named after a trait found on the female. See that rufous belt? That's it! Hence, the Belted Kingfisher. An easy way to remember who is who is simply keep in mind who wears a two-piece swimsuit...usually....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Golden Day

I had a chance to spend a few hours at the hawkwatch yesterday. For the most part it was rather slow, actually. However, in a interesting twist to the day's outcome, there was a proportionally high amount of Golden Eagles. At one point, we recorded, I believe 9 or so in a 45-minute window of time, while other species were basically a trickle. At one point, we had three eagles soaring together! At least 15 were recorded before the day's end.

This bird was kind enough to fly almost directly overhead. Yes, the image is slightly cropped but it was estimated that it flew about 75 feet over our heads.

A "golden" day, indeed!

Friday, November 6, 2009


Technology can be a wonderful thing. It has put people on the moon, cured diseases and even convicted O.J. Simpson! Yay! You really have to love it.

Except when it breaks....

Today, I spent just a few hours at the hawkwatch. A few Golden Eagles and some other goodies, too. Apparently, it was even better before I got there. Anyhow, I was taking a few pics of things here and things there when I managed to snatch a couple of shots of a Great Egret.

You might think they are easy to photograph seeing that they are large and white. Large is cool because they are easier to track in flight. Plus they basically lumber along so you can manage a fair number of shots with the hope that a few might be worthwhile.

The white, on the other hand, makes it a bit tough. It is very easy for the camera to overdo it. Any and all detail in the white areas is "burned out" and the pics looks like junk. It is a big white blob. When you look at the pics on your camera's display, the burned out portions blink. The dreaded blinkies basically tell you "Dolt! You blew it!".

So, this Egret comes sauntering by at a fairly close range, right? The lighting is good. Shutter speed is good. Aperture is, uh, apertured. Exposure compensation is compensating(I had is adjusted right for the bird against the sky). I took maybe 15 pics as the white beauty moved along. A preliminary look at things on the camera suggest it might be a nice shot sequence! Cool!

Cool... until just now. I loaded up the compact flash card in to the computer and it can't read it. Hmmmmmmmmm. I removed and re-inserted the card. Nothing. Lots of swearing didn't do a damned thing either, so I finally re-started the computer. Still nothing. I put the card back in my camera. Toast. Totally gone. All files gone. CF card is trashed. The camera even told me to replace the card! It currently sits on the bottom of my garbage can. Damn. Those Egret photos that might have been nice? Gone forever.

But, I am still not sure you understand what has happened here. It was not just the Egret photos that I lost. Last night, I was along the Lake Erie shoreline and photographed Bessie. This morning at breakfast, that was Elvis at Kate's Kitchen eating grits and I think that was a UFO taking Glenn Beck back to the Planet Idiot (and FOX wants you to think it was his appendix!). I have the pics...er, had the pics to prove it. I guess you just have to take my word for it.

Aaah, oh well. A few lost bird pics and some stuff that would unravel society as we know it. So what. I would be really miffed if they were vacation photos!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hunter's Moon Plus Two Days

The hunter's moon — also known as a blood moon or a sanguine moon — is the first full moon after the harvest moon (the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox). Call it what you will, there seems to be variation relating to the origins of the name. Some sources suggest that it relates to Europeans hunting birds by the light of the moon. Others suggest there is a Native American connection associated with the tracking of their prey by moonlight.

Any way you look at, this year, the Hunter's Moon fell on November 2nd. On the 4th? My buddy Kevin and his father, Bud, lease property not far from here. For the third year, I was invited to join them for a deer hunt.

After dropping Bud off near his site, Kevin and I trudged our way across the bean field, under the light of the Hunter's Moon (plus two days). We shook hands wishing each other a good, safe hunt, and went off to our separate tree stands. A few minutes later, I was settled in nicely to a platform half the size of a bistro table 15 feet off of terra firma. My bow was on my lap. An arrow on the string. Frozen like a statue, eyes peeled, and ears tuned to everything, I waited.

Before long, I found myself surrounded by the dawn chorus. The Cardinals. A flight of Canada Geese. The coolest sound of them all? The flight of Sandhill Cranes calling as they headed south (you can hear the call here). There is something still pretty magical about hearing Crows in the cool autumn air. Did they see me? Then there was that Red Squirrel. For a few minutes, boy, he just did not want to shut up! After a while, I think he got tired of hearing himself and went on to other things. Watching the sunrise is really something. I just don't think enough people pay attention to it. The colors. The shifting patterns of dark, light, and shadow amongst the trees. Too cool.

At one point, as the morning ticked by, I found myself in the midst of a bird feeding-frenzy. Tufted Titmice, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, and a Brown Creeper (maybe two) seemed to be on every tree in my vicinity. It amazes me how loud those little toes grabbing tree bark can be! For a brief moment, somebody was on my tree. I never saw who it was, but I knew they were there simply because I could feel the vibrations of their movement coming up the tree. I was even waiting for a bird to land on my arrow (it happens).

The picture below is what I saw from the treestand. While it seems a bit cluttered in this view, there was actually plenty of shooting room. It faces basically south and this was the view to my slight left. Below me? A deer run. Do I know deer have recently used it? I certainly do, but that is story for another time.

In the late morning, I found myself straining to a get a fix on the sound behind me to my left. Leaves rustled. It sounded kinda big. Finally, moving ever so slowly, I peeked around the tree and found myself in a staring contest with a Woodchuck. Sitting high on his haunches, he was clearly on alert. I will never be sure what he saw, but it makes perfect sense that he realized I was there but had no idea what to make of the "tree with eyes". After what seemed minutes, he went on with his day (getting fat, not chucking wood).

By noon, our day was done. My Pop-tarts where gone and sitting functionally motionless in the the chilly weather was taking its toll. We knew going out we would only have a half day available. No, we did not shoot any deer. For that matter, we never even saw one. But it didn't really matter. It was a great morning to be out with my friends and my thoughts.

I have yet to shoot a deer. Maybe next time.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Death at 25 Yards

I hope I shoot like this in the woods on Wednesday......


Woe to you, oh earth and sea
For the Devil sends the beast with wrath
Because he knows the time is short
Let him who hath understanding
Reckon the number of the beast
For it is a human number
Its number is six hundred and sixty six

That quote, from the Book of Revelation, is the spoken word that begins the Iron Maiden classic "The Number of the Beast". No, it is not a song about demon worship; it is about a bad dream. (So says the guy who wrote it! He should know!)

Also consider this: "Pandemonium" is the capital of Hell in the epic poem Paradise Lost by the 17th century English poet John Milton.

Then there is "Interview With the Vampire". Remember that one? Tom Cruise (before he went publicly loony) and Brad Pitt (showing his acting skills have sucked since day one) as the vampires Lestat and Louis? What a cool movie. Very demonic, huh?

Hmmmmm. The number 666. Pandemonium. Blood sucking weirdos. How could these things come together on Halloween night?

Yes, folks, my 666th beer was the Pandemonium Pale Ale from the Short's Brewing Company. In spite of the demonic name, it is far from hellish. It pours a beautiful copper color with a head that swells up and stays there. The hops are there from start to finish, as you would expect with this style of beer, but not enough to ruin the effect. Powerful hops in moderation is a great thing here. On the tongue? An ever-so-slight creamy feel. Pleasant finish. Overall all, a fine beer. A 4 out of 5 for sure.

Good company, good food, a great beer and a spooky movie on Halloween night. The only thing missing was the Iron Maiden tune blasting the background...