Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Kids in Town

After skipping their 2014 visit, Geneva's seasonal family has returned! The pair of Great Horned Owls have taken residence once again in their customary old tree and is raising their family. It must be a good year for voles as the pair has three owlets. Those monitoring the nest indicate that the owlets were born 5 days apart. The older one is already showing its wing feathers so it may be stepping outside the nest in the coming weeks.
In the above image, the older owlet is on the left and the second born is on the right. The third owlet occasionally makes an appearance. Mom has been spending time in the nest while dad is usually spotted on some pines in the vicinity.
The forest preserve is doing their best to protect the nest and keep the birds unstressed. Sometimes, in the excitement of seeing animals, we forget that they are wild and that we should be acting as stewards to nature.
I'm thinking that I need better equipment to photograph these guys and the bald eagles that are down the street and it just so happens that the perfect piece of equipment just came into the market. I just need a bigger piggy bank.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Looking for Ice

Do you ever start your day with one plan and then throw it completely out the window for unexpected circumstances? This is the story of what started out as a simple day trip to Michigan. Forecast in the morning called for partially cloudy skies and above freezing temperatures from St. Joseph to Grand Haven. Once I got to St. Joseph, I found clear skies so I continue driving north to Grand Haven only to find overcast conditions and snow showers. Forecast couldn't have been more wrong!

I stopped by in front of a fast food and checked the forecast again. Looked promising further north so off I went. First stop was Little Sable and as predicted, some clouds were floating around. I love this area in the warm months with the sand dunes and grasses swaying in the wind. However, grasses swaying in the winter meant very cold temperatures. Snow was knee deep in some spots which made hiking interesting.

It was still early in the day so I decided to push further north all the way to Manistee. The wind was so strong on the lake shore that my tripod slid on the icy pier. This is where I started regretting not wearing long-johns...

With still plenty of daylight left, I made one more push north all the way to Frankfort. First stop was Point Betsie. The wind was really something here. This had to be my coldest outing this winter, by far. Even the camera was sluggish under the conditions. Given that I wasn't really dressed for the occasion, I had to run to the car every few minutes to regain contact with the extremities.

The ice and snow buildup on the shore was impressive. In some areas it was over 10 feet high. And the promised clouds were there, moving very quickly across the sky. Sunset did not disappoint!
Just as the sun touch the horizon, I drove back to Frankfort to catch the pierhead lighthouse against the sunset sky. I found several other folks watching the scene unfold, all of them sitting warm in their car.
I briefly considered driving back was a very brief moment. The cold had worn me out so I spent the night in Manistee. In the morning I geared up with all my winter apparel including foot warmers and several hand warmers. I was comfortable outside, maybe a little toasty. When I finally went for coffee, I saw that the temperature had risen to 0; it started out around 15 degrees below 0.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Openlands Winter

A few weeks of freezing temperatures can quickly reshape the shoreline of Lake Michigan. What used to be a sandy beach is transformed into an uninviting ice-covered coast. Carved into all the ice are intricate and delicate patterns that catch the light.
When I left home at 5 AM, the temperature was -3, It was one degree warmer when I arrived at the beach. It was so cold that the water spray from the waves crashing into the ice froze on contact. Needless to say, it was refreshing.