Posts in Category: Michigan

Snake Tongue

Common Garter Snake, Bay City Recreation Area, Bay City MI

We found this tiny (less than a foot long and not much bigger than a pencil) Common Garter Snake when returning from the trails at Tobico Marsh at the Bay City Recreation Area. It was just where the trail come back out on to the road, and it was crossing the pavement. My friend Rich had actually stepped over it without seeing it when I happened to look down. While I have seen snakes flick their tongue before, this specimen had its tongue in almost constant motion. I took lots of images, trying to catch it with its tongue fully extended.

Of course this morning I had to do some research to find out why snakes, and this snake in particular, flick their tongues. The reason I remembered is the most commonly held…the snake uses its tongue to collect microscopic scent oils from the air and delivers them to a sense organ in the roof of the mouth. The most recent research suggests that the tongue serves two related functions. When the tips are turned up, it is indeed sampling the air for odors, but when they are turned down, as in this image, it is more likely that snake is sampling the ground ahead of it for something more like taste than scent. This snake might then have been tracking something that crossed the pavement ahead of it, or it might just have been looking for the edge of the pavement for escape. Hard to say.

Sony HX90V at something over 1000mm equivalent field of view (using Clear Image Zoom). 1/250th @ ISO 200 @ f6.4. Processed in Lightroom and Topaz denoise.


Sailing Lake Huron

Catamarans on Lake Huron, Tawas Point State Park

Tawas Point State Park is apparently a popular put-in spot for sailing catamarans. There were 30 or more sailing a circle coarse off the head of the point on the Lake Huron side. And it was a glorious day to be on the water. This is a telephoto shot, reaching out to isolate the boats between the glitter of the water and the piled sky.

Sony HX90V in-camera HDR. 505mm equivalent field of view. Nominal exposure 1/1000th @ ISO 80 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom.

Jeweled Frog

Northern Leopard Frog, Tawas Point State Park, MI

There is nothing unusual about a Northern Leopard Frog. They are common in fresh water ponds of Maine, especially at higher elevations…and evidently they are common in the lakes of Michigan as well…at least Lake Huron, at Tawas Point State Park. On the other hand, I have never seen one jeweled with sand as they all seem to be along the Huron shore. The ones I found were resting in the sand several feet from the water’s edge…two hops (and a Northern Leopard Frog is a champion hopper) at least. Since the shore is sandy, I suppose it is not strange to see that the frogs are coated with sand…just a bit outside my experience of frogs in general, and Northern Leopard Frogs in particular. 🙂

Sony HX90V at around 1000mm equivalent. 1/250th @ ISO 80 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom.

Tawas Light

Tawas Lighthouse, Tawas Point State Park, MI

Tawas Point is a living hook spit, just like Cape Cod, but in the waters of Lake Huron, off Tawas City. This is the second lighthouse they built on the point, after the first lighthouse was left high and dry a mile inland as the point grew. This one suffered the same fate, and has been replaced by a fog horn on the point itself. Efforts were made, successfully, to preserve the lighthouse for its historical value. I was there on just about a perfect September day.

Sony HX90V in-camera HDR. Processed in Lightroom.

Raccoon Story

Raccoon. Bay City Recreation Area. Tobico Marsh. Michigan.

I wish I knew this Raccoon’s whole story. I only know a page of it, perhaps even only a sentence. Due to some misunderstanding at the beginning of Saturday’s Midwest Birding Symposium field trip to Bay City Recreation Area and Tobico Marsh, Rich and I were driving around looking for an open gate to get a dozen cars safely parked. While at the Tobico Marsh parking we saw this Raccoon by the side of the road, just sitting, watching us pass. Strange. Stranger, when we got back with all the cars, it was still on the side of road, but it had moved about 100 yards closer to where the trail enters the marsh along the road. We split the group in to two, and my group walked from the parking to the trail along the road, and the Raccoon was still sitting there, right out in the open. I cautioned the group to give it a wide berth, as, by now, I was suspicious it might be sick or injured…perhaps even rabid. The birders obediently crossed the road and went around the Raccoon while I brought up the rear. I thought sure it would scamper off into the brush behind it, but it just sat there, looking at us, as we passed. Of course, I took a few pics. Close up, it does not look either sick or injured. So, what is its story? I can only wonder. I hope it lived on to write the next paragraph, page, etc. 🙂

Nikon P900 at 1200mm equivalent field of view. 1/50th @ ISO 800 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom.

Coco Loco. Happy Sunday!

The Mariachi Band at Coco Loco in Bay City MI

While at the Midwest Birding Symposium we searched Yelp for a good Mexican Restaurant. Coco Loco had a good rating and the reviews sounded promising…the name was certainly intriguing…it was not far from our hotel…so, why not? Quite a place! The decor was over the top, the atmosphere was fun fun fun…and they had an old style four piece Mariachi Band roaming the floor. The food was not bad either. I, of course, had my Sony HX90V in my pocket, so (uncharacteristically for me in that setting) I took quite a few pics…trying to catch a bit of the fun while remaining as unobtrusive as possible. I am not that much of a tourist yet 🙂

This couple had a request for the band…something slow and old and romantic…and they were clearly moved by the experience. As was I. I felt a bit like an intruder zooming in this close, but that is why I carry a real camera and not just a phone…even into restaurants. I don’t think they knew I was there. No flash…just Hand-held Twilight Mode.

As I say, this is not a typical image for me…I am more into nature, landscapes, birds and wildlife, etc…but I know I need to take more pics of people, and I am trying to remind myself of that at every opportunity. The creator of all who shares a spirit with us is evident in nature, of course, but there is no expression of the creator’s love more complete than what we see in each other…the children of God…as we live out the spirit of creation. A generous eye certainly must see, and respond to, the light that is in each of us…and I am called to celebrate that love as much in humanity as in nature. I want to do that. It does not come natural yet, but I intend to make it so…to begin to photograph my fellows with as much joy as I photograph a dawn or sunset…or a bird. We will see what success I have…

Let this be a beginning, and a commitment. Happy Sunday!

Tennessee Warblers of the Fall

Tennessee Warbler, Bay City Recreation Area, Bay City MI

The Tennessee Warbler is one of the archetypal “confusing fall warblers”…easily mistaken for Orange Crowned Warbler, especially first season Orange-crowned. This one showed its white under-tail in other shots, making the id easier, but often it is a real head-scratcher.  We watched an cloudy afternoon mixed feeding flock (typical fall behavior) of Downy Woodpeckers, Titmice, Chickadees, and Black-throated Blue, Palm, and Tennessee Warblers from the first of the two observation towers at Bay City Recreation Area on the Tobico Marsh trails. It was lead by the woodpeckers and Titmice, followed by the Black-throated Blues, and the Tennessees were the last to pass the tower.

Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. 1/160th @ ISO 400 @ f6.5. Processed and cropped slightly in Lightroom.

Black Squirrel

Black Squirrel, Bay City Recreation Area, Bay City MI

As far as I know, we have no Black Squirrels in Maine. Black Squirrels occur as mutated variations of both Gray Squirrel and Fox Squirrel…at the rate of 1 in 10,000. However, it becomes a recessive trait in some populations, and, for various reasons, the Black varieties are a bit a bit more durable, and can come to dominate whole areas…as they apparently do on the east shore of the thumb in Michigan. We did see Grey Squirrels at Bay City Recreation area…but they were far outnumbered by the Blacks. Interestingly, Black Squirrels have been intentionally introduced in some areas of the country…sometimes to compete with Red Squirrel populations where Red Squirrels are doing structural damage, and sometimes for the sheer fun of it. Where introduced they appear to do well, and, again, can come to dominate the area. I have no idea if the Black Squirrels of Bay City are “natural” or introduced.

Nikon P900 at about 1200mm equivalent field of view. ISO 900 @ 1/30th @ f6.3. (Not much light on a cloudy day in the forest…but the exceptional image stabilization of the P900 pulls it off 🙂 Processed in Lightroom.