Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Critters You Might Have Missed in the Great Outdoors

Written by on October 08, 2012 No Comments

This posting is to share a few images from the Great Outdoors taken the last couple of weeks.  First, my friend the tussock moth caterpillar.  This fella was munching on a milkweed plant.  I like its colors, the fact that it looks sort of like a fly I’d use to try to catch a trout, and also because word tussock is the only word I’ve found that sort of rhymes with buttock.

Tussock moth caterpillar munching.

This fella made himself comfortable in a red cup attached to a pole under our bird feeder.

Red squirrel in a cup eating sunflower seeds.

 This is a baby cardinal taking a bath in our water dish.

Baby female cardinal bathing.

 She was apparently quite dirty and spent a fair amount of time correcting that problem.  I took several photos including this one where her head is turned sideways.  

Baby cardinal bathing.

A few days ago, I found this unfortunate moth outside in my front yard.  I usually don’t pick up dead things, but thought it was cute.  So, I, took it inside for a photo or too.  On our kitchen table, of course.

Moth on my kitchen table.

 LeptoMan, a moth/butterfly guy at work, identified this as an underwing moth (Catocala relicta) that hangs out on birch trees.  We don’t have a birch tree, but our neighbor does, which means it’s all my neighbor’s fault that the moth died, I’m sure.  Luckily, as I had hoped, my moth friend had a really cute face.  It’s one reason I like moths.

Close-up of my moth pal.

And then I ate the moth because I wanted to know what it tasted like.  Not really.  I took the moth back outside, said, “God bless the fuzzy moth,” and buried it.  I also wiped the table off. 

So there you have it.  A few critters from the Great Outdoors.  Some, like the caterpillars and moths, will be pretty scarce soon, so get outside NOW before it sNOWs.

Little Birdie on the Big Plane

Written by on September 19, 2012 2 Comments

While I thought that a dog, a cat, a ferret, some fish and 10 or 11 hamsters was enough to care for and interact with, my husband, Mark, did not.  He wanted a bird.  And in particular, a bird that would sit on his shoulder, talk to him now and again and just pal around.   He looked high and low, north and south, and found a guy in Florida that spends his spare time breeding mynah birds. 

Like every other critter that has come into my house, I knew nothing about mynah birds.  And I knew even less about how to get a small bird from Florida to Michigan.   It turns out that all we had to do was pay the seller for said bird and allow him to make arrangements for the bird to come by airplane.   Then all we had to do is make plans to be at the closest international airport to pick up said bird.  Then we had to wait for a hurricane to blow through Florida.  Then we had to wait another week for the seller to obtain the proper container for shipping said bird in the cargo section of an airplane.  Finally, two weeks later, we went to the airport to pick up said bird.

Mark was so excited about his new pal that we left at 2:30 to pick up a bird whose plane was to land at 5:00 at an airport that was only 1.5 hours away.  That means I had a long time to hang out outside this building. 

Delta Airline's cargo flight parking lot at Detroit Metro.

I also had plenty of time to take photos of the plane the birdie might have come in on.

One of many planes I got to watch come in.

The 5:00 plane the little birdie was on became the 5:30 plane and it was around then that we learned it can take another 1.5 hours for birds to get carried from wherever they land to where Mark and I were hanging out bored to tears.  It was 7 p.m. when a guy finally walked in with a container that looked like what we were waiting for.

The container the little bird came in.

Because Mark was suddenly acting oddly nervous, I bravely peeled back the green mesh that the seller had put in front of the windows and doors.  Inside, I saw something brown and yellowish lying on its side.  I cringed as I told Mark and the clerk behind the counter that I thought the birdie was dead.  As the clerk was responding with, “Well, you’ll have to take that up with…” this thumping noise came from the cage and I heard flapping inside the cage.  I peered back inside and saw the bird in the back.  Upon closer inspection, I saw that the blob in the front turned out to be a very ripe banana the seller had shipped with the birdie. 

Mark smiled as he carried the carrier to the car.

Mark carrying his birdie.

He placed the carrier in the back of the car and we enjoyed about five minutes of quiet before the bird began throwing itself against the side of the cage, flapping, making squawky noises, and slowly making the entire car smell like banana.  I was a bit of a wreck by the time I got home.  Mark, on the other hand, was beaming and said he couldn’t wait to play with his new pal.  

It was 9 p.m. by the time we took the bird to her new home in a spare bedroom.  We held the carrier up to a real bird cage, thinking the birdie would be happy to get out of a small container it’d been in since 11 that morning. 

Mark trying to get the bird into its new home.

The little birdie suddenly stopped flapping around.  After several minutes and a complete standoff on the part of the bird, Mark reached inside the carrier and gently grabbed her.  She squawked and attempted to gnaw on Mark to show her displeasure.

Little birdie trying to show Mark who's boss.

 Amazingly though, in a matter of minutes, the bird settled in to her new home.  She hopped from one perch to the other, found the water bottle, and found the free standing dish of water and took a brief bath.  She also ate some of the 25 pounds of food Mark had purchased.   The next day, she ate fresh fruit, including blueberries, pear pieces and apple bits.  She also snarfed the dried mealworms we’d gotten to attract bluebirds.

Over the course of the next week, the bird’s name morphed from little birdie to Little Buddy.  Mark spends time with her each day, sitting next to her as he reads a book.  She hops right over to the side of the cage to see him and, after a while, sometimes chirps and makes other higher pitched calls. 

Two nights ago, we opened her cage door for the first time and I snapped a couple of photos.

Little Buddy checking out the outside of her cage.

After hopping in and out of the entrance to the cage, she finally built up the nerve to fly around a bit and ended up on top of the cage.


Little Buddy about ready to take flight.

It took Little Buddy about 20 minutes to build up the nerve to fly around a bit.  It took us over two hours to get her back inside her cage.  Apparently, we have a lot more to learn about mynahs.  Or at least about Little Buddy.

Farewell to the Special Fuzzy Friend That Picked Me

Written by on August 29, 2012 5 Comments

Back 13 years ago, my criteria for picking out a pal for our male dog, Dusty, was pretty simple–I wanted a female, bijon friese-lhasa apso mix, and she had to lick me to indicate she licked me.  This is the puppy that picked me. 

Little Dipper on the way home from the pet store 13 years ago.


 Little Dipper and our first puppy, Dusty, got along from the get-go.


Dusty and Little Dipper, 1999.


And Little Dipper was also my pal.  She figured out right away that if she wiggled just so, I’d take her for a walk.  It worked every day, including Tuesday, the day she died. 

Little Dipper flying across the snow.

Outside, Dipper liked immersing herself in the snow.

Little Dipper in the snow.

She also loved to swim.

Little Dipper in Lake Michigan.

And she liked to play on the beach.

Little Dipper at the beach.

If she got cold after swimming, I was always there to get her warmed up and just be with her.

Me and Little Dipper on Lake Michigan during a "pups vacation."

Little Dipper was also my traveling pal.  Every time I picked up my car keys, she was at my heels, ready to go.  One of our regular jaunts together was to McDonalds on weekend mornings when I ordered one sausage biscuit and one sausage patty for the dogs.  Little Dipper became a bit of a celebrity at the drive-thru.

Little Dipper getting her bits of McDonald's sausage, 2008.

At home, she liked belly rubs, which she trained Mark to do by simply flipping upside down on the couch.  And she liked to snuggle amongst the pillows and blankets.

Little Dipper's eyes peeking out from beneath the blankets.

She also loved to soak in the sun.

Little Dipper in the sun.

She also had a way of letting me know when she didn’t like something.

Little Dipper didn't really like this outfit.

Some say that Little Dipper was spoiled.

Little Dipper finding another comfy place.

But the fact is, Little Dipper simply wiggled her way into the heart of everyone who saw her.   

My pal.

Last night, a stroke led to her quick departure.  The hole she left in my heart is huge.  I will miss my walking pal, my traveling pal, my McDonald’s pal, and the little puppy that first licked my face to tell me she was the one for me.  May she run across the heavens and may belly rubs be waiting for her afterwards.

The Importance of Friends When the Chips are Down

Written by on August 26, 2012 No Comments

The fact is, I almost didn’t go on the trip I’d planned with my Snowy Hoot-ers pals a few months ago, because the day we were to leave was two days after my dad’s funeral.   But Brenda and Sylvia encouraged me to drag my grieving self along and it turns out they–along with a few margaritas and some quality time on a river–was just what I needed.

Things didn’t start out so well, because we didn’t even get out of Brenda’s neighborhood before we saw a dog that had run away from its owner.  The three of us like dogs as much as owls and rivers, so we stopped so Brenda could take the dog back to its home.

Brenda at the front door while the dog looks on by the car.

Three hours later, after settting up camp, I realized I had not only come without a fishing pole, I had brought a kayak without a paddle.  No worries, they said.  Brenda had brought an extra pole for me, and we simply made arrangements the next day with a livery for a ride to the put-in spot on the river and to borrow a paddle. 

With details for Saturday figured out, we headed to downtown Beulah, MI to my all-time favorite restaurant, the Roadhouse Mexican Restaurant and Cantina.  They serve some great food and their margaritas are ones I dream about.


Here's to the margaritas! Photo by Brenda Sayles.

We only had one margarita the first night because there were fish to catch, we heard, at some local lakes. 

Sylvia with one of several not-so-huge fish pulled from a local lake.

We each caught enough fish to verify that indeed, there are fish in the local lakes.  We also saw a loon way,way off in the distance.

The three anglers after a bit of fishing. Self-timered by Brenda Sayles.

The next morning we took to the river . . . with a dozen Boy Scouts.  See, it’s cheaper go with a group than to get a private escort, and we’re all about saving up for more margaritas.  We dashed to get to the river before the Scouts.
Brenda and Sylvia on the Platte River.

Our plan to get ahead of the Boy Scout worked until we found a good fishing hole.  A good fishing hole meant stopping to try to catch fish. 

Brenda with one of several fish.

And that gave the Boy Scout plenty of time to catch up and pass us . . . sometimes.  Other times, the Boy Scout demonstrated at our good fishing holes that the upper Platte does indeed have a 50% tip-over rate.  We’d guess that at least half of the Scouts ended up in the river. 

Meanwhile, we paddled on.

Brenda about to go over some rapids.

Since Snowy Hoot-ers are into birds, I had to stop to photograph the flock of cedar waxwings that seemed at times to be following us down the river.  We also saw kingfishers and a great blue heron.

Cedar waxwing.

 Afterwards, we returned to my favorite restaurant to suffer through more great food and margaritas.

Selfs portrait by Brenda Sayles.

Later, we played chicken.

Another Brenda self-timer portrait.

 Sylvia misunderstood the idea of playing chicken.

Sylvia lying in the middle of a road.

After extracting Sylvia from the road, we wrapped up the day with a roaring fire.

Another Brenda self-timer photo.

Indeed, a camping trip with my pals was the best thing I could have done.  It was the kind of fun my Dad had throughout his life with his friends and family.  It also turns out that where I went camping, paddling and fishing was where my Dad used to go to a hunting camp to spend quality time in the woods with his gun.

Oh, and watch out Boy Scouts–the Snowy Hoot-ers have more trips planned for the future.

Our Latest Fuzzy Addition; Deer Swimming

Written by on July 29, 2012 1 Comment

Since everyone should probably get at least one hamster in their life, and because I’d never had one of my own, I set about to get a hamster of my very own . . . to add to the ten or so that Mark already had in the house.  Her name is Daisy and she was all by herself in a cage at the pet store, winked at me, and well, that was it. 

The hamster we named Daisy.

 Daisy took to her cage fairly well and really took to pepitas and pumpkin seeds.

Daisy inside a container of hamster food.

Perhaps you’ll excuse this shot of Daisy from the back.

Daisy from another view point.

 The other nifty thing that happened this week was looking outside at 6:30 in the morning a few days ago and seeing these.

They're all ears! A doe with her two fawns.

I got to see them swim from the island to a small peninsula across from the golf course. 

Doe with her twin fawns coming out of the water.

They stepped out of the water, and without shaking themselves like dogs do, simply walked off into the woods.

Mom leading her fawns into the woods.


The 2012 Mini Fishing Tournament – and the Winner Is…?

Written by on July 13, 2012 No Comments

This posting is about a fishing tournament that included me, Mark and his Georgia nephew, Terry.   The great thing is that they didn’t know they had entered my tournament and that I got to make up the rules as we went along.

To make sure the tournament started out sort of fairly, we hired fishing guide Doug Samsal on Monday to take us musky fishing on Lake St. Clair.  He had a nifty bass boat that zipped across the water to what he says are hot musky spots . . .  some days.

Terry, with Doug Samsal, the guide, in the background.

It was a lovely, sunny day and compared to my office cubicle, I got a whole lot of sun and a whole lot more exercise flinging a giant lure in search of musky.  My lure looked something like this. 

My friend for hours on the water.

The first few hours of the tournament went by flogging lures, and I have to admit that mine attracted quite a few log-shaped muskies that emerged quickly from beneath some long weeds . . . only to turn around as quickly as they came.   Finally, I got a nice tug on my line and I brought my first fish to the boat.  It was a nice smallmouth bass.  But, because we had come in search of musky, the bass was released at the boat before I was afforded a photo.
But fear not, I soon got another fish, which was also a smallmouth.  It was puny compared to the first one, but since I was now two fish up on the guys, I decided the tournament was about catching the most fish, not the largest one. 

My second smallmouth bass.

 And it’s a good thing I did, because by the end of day one, I had nabbed four smallies to Mark’s one and Terry’s one.

On day two of the tournament, we returned to Lake St. Clair and fished out of Terry’s Boston Whaler.  Near the dock, I took a moment to take in the local wildlife, which included a pied-billed grebe.

Pied-billed grebe.

As we headed out to Lake St. Clair, we stumbled upon these tough looking characters. 

Terns on a buoy.

I had fish to catch, so set the camera down and began flogging the water again.  I started out using a lure like the one I’d used on day one and sadly, had not a single  musky follow.  Instead, I caught one pike.  

Me and my northern pike.

My pike was not a large fish, it was not a musky and it was the only fish of the morning, so I switched to a tube jig.  Soon, I caught a smallmouth bass.  Tube jigs are a whole lot easier to toss than large lures, and the next thing I knew, the two guys were using jigs, too.  Mark caught one a pike, then a bass, then we had no hits for quite some time.  
Even with Mark trying hard to equal my catch, it was really hard to get stressed when the water looked like this.

Clouds reflecting on Lake St. Clair.

It was going on 2:20, and with two old dogs at home to tend to and rush-hour traffic to face, we were about to wrap things up when suddenly, we stumbled upon what must have been a school of smallies.  Terry caught his first fish of the day.

Terry with his smallmouth bass.

No sooner was that fish in the water when Terry caught another fish.  Moments later, Mark had one, too.  I caught a monster bass that got off near the boat, but soon landed one more that was puny in comparison.   Another fish came in on Mark’s line and he had another that came off before it reached the boat.  Then, as quickly as it started, the frenzy was over.  And so was our time on the water.   Day two ended with Terry at four fish; I was one fish up on Mark. 
The next day we took on Lake Hudson, which is in Lenawee County and home, supposedly, to some monster musky.  Things started out well except for the fact that we didn’t have enough gas to get all the way to Lake Hudson, and soon we were driving around downtown Jackson in search of gas that was supposed to be right off the exit.  As we were tootling along we heard this giant WUMP sound and found ourselves in a parking lot with a flat tire. 

Terry begins the first of several adjustments of the jack to remove the flat.

The really nifty thing was that the jack had to be placed on rocks and the ones nearby just happened to be part of some nice landscaping at a doctor’s office.  Borrow rocks we did and soon we had the trailer jacked up.  Then there was the matter of the spare. 

The spare, which was also flat.

 See, on the way from Georgia, the right fender on Terry’s trailer had given way and ruptured the right tire, and, well, once he got to Michigan we had fish to catch and fixing a blown spare tire would cut into important fishing time.  Turns out, the rupture on the left tire was due to the left fender on the trailer giving way, and that and our laziness meant we suddenly were without enough tires to move the trailer any further.  Fear not, however, because the friendly doctor came out of his office and didn’t care we were altering his landscaping, another man appeared out of an apartment building with a wrench that we used to assemble the jack arm, and Terry used his cell phone to find a local tire shop.  Less than an hour later, we had two new tires, had reassembled the landscaping rocks and were on our way.
Lake Hudson’s water is murky and unpleasant compared to Lake St. Clair, but we’d fished the lake on Terry’s previous visits and we had tradition to follow . . . in spite of fishing being terrible the previous two times.  The fishing started off slowly, so I took time from frothing the water with a lure to photograph this fella.

Blue heron at Lake Hudson.

Even more fascinating was this mud dauber (solitary wasp), that was guarding her nest in the latrine.  I mean, how many people will show you that kind of cool stuff?

Mud dauber on the floor guarding her nest in the background.

In the afternoon, I switched to a tube jig, and when that went untouched after an hour, I added a slab of salami on it in the hopes of catching a catfish.  And while I’d love to show you the photos of all the fish we caught at Lake Hudson, the fact is, there was only one.  And it wasn’t a musky.  It was a bass.  And Mark caught it.  Which means the tournament ended in a tie. 

10 Things I’m Grateful for

Written by on July 08, 2012 No Comments

Okay, it’s not Thanksgiving–wherein I’m always grateful for family and food–and it’s not Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day–wherein I’m grateful for the members of the US military past and present–and it’s not July 4–wherein I’m grateful for our Forefathers, independence, the right to vote and bear arms and all of our other liberties.  But a couple of things happened lately that made me realize that I’d taken a few other things for granted lately, too.

1.  Parents.  With my Dad in and out of the hospital lately, I have become even more grateful for having parents.  Two of them, in fact.  My mom is 76.  My Dad will turn 76 in two weeks.  Poor buggers have been parenting me for almost 50 years and it’s still a work in progress.  Just today, Mom witnessed me say hello to two passing dogs instead of the two people walking the dogs.  She apologized to the dog owners and said I’d been raised better than that.

2.  A job.  My program recently advertised an entry level position to manage grants and in response, we had 216 applicants.  I don’t know how many people applied for the job I got with the state in 1986 but I know the job market wasn’t nearly as tough as it is now.  I can also share, though, that about 150 of the people that applied for this entry level job recently didn’t follow directions and were handily eliminated from consideration.

3.  Annual leave and sick leave.  I got to use my sick leave to see my Dad in the hospital.  I get to use my annual leave to go fishing the next three days.

4.  Air conditioning in my car.  It wasn’t until my fairly new, young secretary said that she was thrilled to borrow her father’s car on Friday that I realized I hadn’t appreciated having air conditioning in my car lately.   My first car didn’t have air conditioning, or my second, I recall, so I well remember being in her shoes.  Well, not literally.  She has bigger feet than me.

5.  Air conditioning in my home.  Imagine having 11 hamsters, two dogs, a cat and a ferret without air conditioning.  I couldn’t either.

6.  Nice thunderstorms.  Lucky for us, the recent storms trimmed our trees a bit but didn’t down  power lines.  So thankfully, the electricity kept on going.  Which kept the air conditioning going.  Which made all the pets happy.

7.  Cooler weather.  Every furry creature that’s come to our deck to get sunflower seeds the last couple of weeks has been sprawling itself out on the deck to try to cool off.

Fox squirrel eating and chilling at the same time.

Even a duck came to our deck to cool off in the water.   We’re all happy with cooler weather.

The deck duck coming in for some water and sunflower seeds.

8.  Vinyl siding.  I’m grateful for the siding I have, but note in the photo below the tiny bits of blue foam.  Apparently, there’s a place on the underside of my house that the red “‘spaz” squirrels discovered is in need of being covered in vinyl or aluminum.

Blue insulation bits a squirrel made from the underside of my house.

9.  Having a good sense of humor and being able to stretch the truth a wee bit.  The former is needed just about every day; the latter will come in handy if the next three days of fishing are bad.

10.  Toads.  I had to have 10 things to be grateful for and I saw this little fella last night.  I fed him a bug before we parted ways.

Toad on my downspout.

Book Wrap-Up and a Visit from the Gawky Family

Written by on May 30, 2012 No Comments

April was dedicated to the sport of promoting my book via a virtual tour that lasted from April 8 – 28, and I have to say I learned a lot from my adventure, including:

  •  Doing a book tour is a lot of work because most hosts “offer” the chance to do an interview  and/or the opportunity to post something of the author’s choice.  During my tour, most hosts wanted one or the other, which meant I was writing marketing material every night in  April and ignoring just about everything else, including my poor, sad husband.
  • Most book tour hosts are willing to do a book review as part of a tour, but the thing is, they’re all honest people and are just as happy to give 3 stars for your book as a 4 or 5.
  • If you’re going to write a second book, it’s good to keep track of the book tour hosts that gave you high reviews and those that did not.  I mean, why invite the people who didn’t rate you well to participate in your next tour?
  • Not every tour host will “get” your book.  Two people thought my book was a children’s book and only one of the two of them backed out as a result.
  • One person backed out before the tour began for reasons that weren’t real clear to me, and  it was the very last day of the tour.  I was grateful to be able to call upon Joy V. Smith, who was one of the first (and best) reviewers of my book, to fill that last spot.
  • One tour host got in a car accident.  On the day my book was to have been featured, I told her nothing was more important than getting better.
  • Another tour host put down the wrong date on her calendar and her apology included information about her rare blood disease that is distracting her.  I also told her nothing was more important than getting better.
  • My tour included several give-aways, the success of which was highly dependent on the number of people that frequent the host’s site.  One site got 7 participants, another got over 100.  It’s good to keep track of which sites get the most traffic.
  • Author interviews on sites with lots of traffic can generate just as much interest as a give-away on a site that doesn’t get a lot of traffic.
  • I got the most participants (over 400) in a give-away via GoodReads.
  • I had some nifty jewelry to give away and some people had more to say about the jewelry than my book.
  • The book tour was probably mostly a great way to get my name ‘out there.”
  • Tweeting became a nightly event in April, mostly to boast about the good reviews I received.  I did not Tweet about the marginal reviews.
  • Facebook postings jived with my Tweets which was about the only automated thing that occurred in April.
  • Twitter parties should not be done on a Sunday morning because most people are either hungover or at church.  I would have been better off being hungover or at church.
  • As far as book sales go, I did best after a free give-away on Amazon Kindle.

And so with my book tour behind me, I have a couple more free sites to advertise on and then it’s time to wrap up my next book, a humorous story about raising a whole bunch of animals I knew nothing about.  It’s much more marketable and gosh, as a result of a wee bit of work in April, I now have a list of several hundred Tweety-people, some blog followers, some book reviewers and some book host tours that I can call upon again. 

Between now and when my next book is finished, I’ll be back posting about people and critters.  For instance, during my book tour, Mr. and Mrs. Gawky set up a nest across from our house this year and Mrs. laid 8 eggs just like last year.  And like last year, there was one egg that hatched later than all the rest. 

Mrs. Gawky on her nest; one egg left to hatch.

The very next day, I stopped by and saw the last hatchling.  

Baby swan the day it hatched.

 A week or so later, the entire Gawky family stopped just offshore of our property to say hi.  Some of the babies had their back legs resting on their backs and I was a wee worried they didn’t all work properly.

Gawky family stopping by for a visit and to do some yoga.
Last Sunday–the day before Memorial Day–the Gawkies came into our yard for the very first time.  The chubby little babies could all walk, and they wobbled in like penguins.

Gawky family walking awkwardly into the backyard.

The family did some stretches, ate some grass and posed for photos.

Gawky baby enjoying the safety of our backyard.

Some of the babies wobbled around to find a comfortable place to lie down, using their huge wings as balance.

Baby up for a wee stroll.

Some of the babies felt content enough to take a nap.

Nap time in our backyard.

 The ever-watchful Mr. Gawky took time to preen himself.

Mr. Gawky taking care of his feathers.

 About twenty minutes after the Gawkies arrived, they all rose to Mrs. Gawky’s honk-like call and marched off in a line, back to the lake.   Good-luck little Gawkies!

Gawkies heading back to the water.


How My Stepkids are Like Ducks

Written by on April 02, 2012 No Comments

I’ve now managed to attract people to my blog who like hearing about my wildlife adventures, while others followers are interested in the topic covered in my book, which is stepkids.  How to please both audiences, I wondered?  

And so it was that I sat down and compared my stepkids to ducks, making it such that this posting has something for everyone.  Here are just a few reasons why my stepkids are like ducks:

1.  Like ducks, all my stepkids like to swim.  Stepkid number one swam circles around her competitors last summer during her first triathlon.  Stepkid number three, the boy, swam at Haslett High School for a year or two, proving good in some events, but not so as a diver duck.  Stepkid number four was on the swim team and water polo team at Haslett High School. Stepkid number two can hold her own in the water as well. 


Male wood duck swimming in the water.

2.  Like ducks, all my stepkids like dabbling in the water.  All four stepkids got to try scuba diving at a pool in Lansing and took to it like fish.  Or ducks, for that matter.  All four also took to snorkeling pretty well, after one or two near drownings. 


Mallards dabbling in the water.

 3.  Like ducks, all my stepkids like hanging out with their pals.

A mallard line-up.

4.  Like ducks, all my stepkids occasionally hang out with kids that aren’t like them. 

Male bufflehead hanging out with a female ringbill and a male ringbill.

 6.  Like ducks, all my stepkids had to be watched pretty closely sometimes when they were little.

Hen mallard with her two babies.

7. Like ducks, my stepkids sometimes got into trouble anyway.

Two male mallards having words with one another.

8.  Like ducks, my stepkids (who are all over 21 now) always seem to have a member of the opposite sex nearby.

Hen mallard with a male nearby.

9.  Like ducks, my stepkids got big and flew away.  And when they come home, they always seem hungry.

Mallards coming in for an evening snack in my backyard.

10.  Like ducks, my stepkids will make their own nests one day . . .   

Mallard nest in our front yard.

 . . . and have their own ducklings.

Mallards with lot `o little babies.

Like ducks, my stepkids will likely want to bring their youngsters over for a visit one day, and when they do, Mark and I will welcome them with open wings.  And after a nice wee visit, Mark and I will do like older ducks do and make sure the little ducklings go home with their mother.

Snowy Hoot-ers

Written by on February 20, 2012 2 Comments

Anyone who’s published an e-book lately knows that just about every waking hour that you’re not working your regular job, you’re marketing.  My book From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds was published as an e-book in late December and all I’ve done is Tweeted, gotten LinkedIn, blogged, written articles for interviews or other blogs until finally, last Friday, I found myself sitting at my computer writing “blah, blah, blah.”  I decided it was time to get away with my two fun traveling pals, fellow biologists and adventurers, Brenda and Sylvia.  On Saturday we set out to see a snowy owl. 

You see, snowy owls don’t normally hang out in Michigan, but this year they’d been spotted in various places in Michigan because their population outgrew their food source in the arctic and some had to wander south to find food.  The two places the owls had been spotted that were closest to the Lansing area were the Tawas Point State Park and the Muskegon Wastewater Treatment Plant.  Treatment plants are smelly affairs, so I called the State Park in Tawas on Friday only to learn that the 5 owls that had once been seen there had moved on.  Our destination became the Muskegon WWTP.

Lansing didn’t have any snow on the ground but as we got to the outskirts of Muskegon, we found an inch of snow blanketing the area.  The wind was blowing mightily as well, and since one of the members of our party arrived to go look for owls without wearing any socks, we stopped at a local dollar store.  We didn’t ask why one would show up without socks in the winter time, but while buying socks we discovered several tiny bags of yogurt covered pretzels, sesame sticks and almonds, and loaded up with enough snacks to keep us through a winter storm. 

We arrived on the grounds of the Muskegon treatment plant and took in the fresh air.

Three well prepared wastewater treatment plant visitors, Brenda, Sylvia, and me. Photo by Brenda Sayles.

The wastewater treatment area is laid out like a series of football fields divided by earthen berms.  In each earthen berm is a concrete chute or notch that allows water to flow from one treatment cell to the other.  When we stood back and took in the giant area, we realized that from the view of a snowy owl, it might just look something like the arctic tundra.  We also realized that it might be difficult finding a mostly white owl in the mostly white area.  Luckily, we saw an old guy in a Buick driving around, flagged him down, and, after a wee bit of flirting, got directions to the cell where he’d seen an owl. 

Tundra-like grounds of the waste water treatment area. Owl is in the center of the photo.

 At a better angle, and using my 400mm lens, I was able to get a better shot of what is an adult male snowy owl, sitting on a concrete chute between two treatment cells.

Snowy hoot-er who'd apparently been there for a while, pooping.

I felt particularly lucky to have seen this snowy owl, because I’m not likely to get up to the tundra any time soon, and I realized that in the real tundra, a snowy might be really hard to see.

A white head in the treatment tundra.

 Still, I was hoping for a better picture than one taken from far away, so I sat down in my ghillie suit, thinking I could creep up on the owl and take photos.  But I think I just looked like a giant bush on the otherwise white tundra.  The owl was not impressed. 

Me and my out of place ghillie suit. Photo by Brenda Sayles.

I was also hoping I could get the owl to do something, like move or fly or something, and to do that, I’d brought along a fishing pole with one of my cat’s stuffed mice on the end.  In Lansing, we had no snow, so I’d gone with a white mouse toy.  This did not work well either.

Snowy owl fishing didn't work well, either. Photo by Brenda Sayles.

While we didn’t get to see a snowy owl do something exciting like fly around or catch a vole or something, at least we saw one, thanks to the old guy in the  Buick.

Last shot of the snowy.

 In honor of finding a snowy owl, we decided to name ourselves the Snowy Hooters.  Look for more of our adventures in future postings, a month or so from now when I find myself once again sitting at my computer going, “blah, blah, blah.”

Amy, Sylvia and Brenda at the beach after seeing a snowy owl. Photo by some other guy we flirted with, willing to take our photo.