Curfews Stink: Midnight milling at the millpond

July 21st, 2014     0 comments     permalink


I met some new millpond residents Saturday night. They were heading toward Main Street at 11:00pm. I had visions of carnage under the wheels of tires as revelers arrived at the bars, but they turned back several times because of the lights and noise.

skunks1_4461_321 skunks1b_4472_249

I spent a couple of hours playing cat and mouse with these polecats as they darted for cover inside a wooden shed attached to the Old Town Hall, the raised bed full of shrubs, and the lawn between the Veteran’s Memorial and the Hall. As I did it, I consciously kept what I thought was a safe distance so I wouldn’t wear a new fragrance home.

skunks7a_4426_228 skunks8b_4424_165 skunks8c_4425_167
skunks4a_4417_181 skunks4b_4445_169 skunks4c_4420_210

The four kits are all individually marked so they could be easily identified if I happen to see them again by comparing these shots to new ones. They probably won’t stay in the area for long, however, although Wikipedia says they remain with their mother for almost a year if they avoid the usual traumas that beset skunks. These rodents rarely live more than a year or so and are crepuscular, most active at dusk and dawn. Mom kept them up past midnight on Saturday for a hike to fill their bellies near Main Street on a warm summer night.

skunks5a_4414_296 skunks5b_4438_275

Their tails serve several purposes. They make the animals appear larger than they are and can warn critters (like me) to keep their distance. But for predators too hungry to mind the possibility of a stink bath, grabbing the tail might allow the skunk to escape because the long hairs disguise a slender rat-like tail.

skunks6a_4413_219 skunks6b_4439_351

Bushy tails also mask the number of animals traveling together. In several of these shots, you can’t tell where one animal ends and another begins. The kits snuggle against mom as they move; the family looks like one animal instead of five individual dinners entrees.

skunks7a_4441_328 skunks7b_4446_242

Mom usually leads the way when the family travels, but the youngsters also explore on their own. One entered the Veteran’s Memorial and ran around the enclosed space for ten minutes looking for a way to flee without getting close to me. I was at the entrance.

skunks2b_4452_166 skunks3a_4453_160 skunks3c_4513_232

He tried to climb inside the inset light (below, center) thinking the light was an exit. As he stood with his nose to the light, it looked like he was attempting to make a withdrawal from an ATM machine for critters. Eventually, he escaped my camera and ran in the opposite direction of where his family was located. I wondered how he would reunite with them later since he was 100 yards away when I last saw him. The moms probably hear their calls (or visa-versa) and they may be at a pitch humans can’t hear. Nature has ways to work out such things.

skunks2a_4455_126 skunks2b_4495_111 skunks2c_4517_324

After the fact, I discovered I was within the range of mama’s wrath if she had wanted to spray me. Skunks can reach 10-18 feet with their rear end cannons. I’ll remember that at my next encounter. If you are less fortunate than me, the tried and true tomato juice neutralization isn’t the best way to rid yourself of the stench. Baking soda, vinegar, and mild chlorine bleach solutions are better choices for eliminating skunk odor. Read up on the methods now so you or your pet won’t have to wallow in the odor for the few extra minutes it will take to look them up online.

An enigma inside a millpond mystery

July 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The color in this image is not correct but shows all of the ducklings

Six of the ducks are either Black Swedish / Mallard mixes or DazzlersNow this is truly puzzling: A brood consisting of eight ducklings that are almost grown was seen at the pond for the first time Friday evening. Since they are still too young to fly, the hen must have walked them in from a nearby pond.

Coincidently, I stopped to photograph a family of ducks at a pond about a half mile upstream from the Brighton millpond on July 16 because I noticed many of the ducklings were black (two photos below). At the time, I thought the black ducklings were probably part Black Swedish, a breed of domestic ducks with white chest patches. Since the “Swede Sisters” sired a few drakes last year, these youngsters might be grandchildren of one of them.

Then again, these young black ducks may be Dazzle’s spawn. He’s a cad and can fly to distant ponds to charm hens. I use the term, “charm,” in its broadest sense. For such a small drake he’s still capable of  forcing his affections on hens even though he doesn’t appear to be very good at it. No iridescent offspring have floated in the millpond since his arrival in January of 2012. from his studly conduct. Maybe the hens at other ponds are more receptive to him because they haven’t heard of his cavalier reputation.

Six of the ducks are black The family at a nearby pond

Why would a hen quickly wander from a pond with her youngsters in tow? From the disappearance of the swan family a few weeks ago after the loss of their second cygnet, I think waterfowl can sense when their current environment too dangerous to remain.

Four of the black ducklings have white chest patches Two of the young are typical Mallard ducklings

The brood’s head has two fresh gashes on it, one on each side (below). Perhaps a mink tried to make a kill and was thrown off. A larger predator would have made a kill, but a small mammal may have bitten more than it could subdue.

The hen has fresh wounds on both sides of her head

2014 Brood 22

July 19th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Hen Mallard with fresh wounds on both sides of her head
Drake(s) None nearby
DOB (estimate) May 24
Pond Location Near Imagination Station
1st Meeting Near Imagination Station at dusk
Duckling Count 8 verified, July 18. First time seen, ducklings are about 8 weeks old.

This brood must have walked in from another pond. The young are almost adult sized, about 8 weeks old. Six of them are black, two have Mallard coloration. Of the black ones, four have white bibs of various sizes and patterns on their chests. They might be offspring of Dazzle, but they could also be Mallard/Black Swedish mixes.

The hen has two fresh gashes on her head, one on each side.

See all posts about Brood 22 together on one page: 2014Brood22

Cuddling up on chilly nights

July 17th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The ducklings still like to cuddle on cold eveningsIt feels like Autumn. The freakish drop of cold air from the far north has the 5-7 week old ducklings cuddling up again just like they did when they were first hatched. Perhaps they haven’t built up their insulating body fat layer that protects the older birds all winter long.

Mom is front and center. You can see how her ducklings are almost her size now. Within another 3-4 weeks, they will be taking their first flights. Most of them will be living independently by then although some hens keep the kids under their tight control until they are at least three months old.

Brood 21 arrives after weeks without hatchings

July 17th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The Mallard hen arrived with 4 day old ducklings on July 14

The hen has a bright white eyebrow

The duck nesting season started on May 13. By June 1, we had 15 broods hatch 96 duckings, a 50% increase over 2013. But the good news stopped by June 5 with a total of 18 broods hatching a total of 112. Since that time, only two more broods have hatched with a total of 5 ducklings. In 2013, 48 ducklings hatched from six broods in the same six week period.

The extended winter might have influenced the mating/nesting season start time, but that doesn’t explain the sharp increase in hatchings. The pond’s duck population did not seem larger than previous years

The following night, the hen arrived with only two ducklings in towArrival of Brood 21 was a pleasant surprise after the weeks without any newborns. The hen arrived with only four on their first day (above). Two were lost to turtles or other predators within the first 24 hours (right and below).

I haven’t had time to thoroughly document the survival rate of the various broods yet this year, but my gut tells me it’s far below last year’s. The northern end of the millpond is almost devoid of ducks now when last year several broods summered there. I identified the hen by the eyebrow and freckles on her billWe have a family of raccoons visiting trash bins each night along the millpond trail. I think they are taking a major toll on hens sitting on nests and the eggs they are incubating.

Several of the consistently productive hens are missing and presumed dead, the swan family has left the pond entirely, and geese are not frequenting the northern region either. It could be an indication of excessive predation from turtles or a fox or coyote roaming the shoreline.

2014 Brood 21

July 16th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Hen Mallard with light eyebrow
Drake(s) None nearby
DOB (estimate) July 15
Pond Location Near Main Street
1st Meeting On embankment by Imagination Station at night
Duckling Count 4 verified, July 16; Only two by July 17; Only one left by July 18

See all posts about Brood 21 together on one page: 2014Brood21

A hightailed exit; a mulberry moment

July 14th, 2014     4 comments     permalink

A chipmunk demonstrates "hightailing" for me

As a prey species, Eastern Chipmunks are quick to run for cover. This one demonstrates his ability to evade my attempt to snap his portrait. Even though it’s a blurred image, I just might submit this photo to a dictionary web site since it perfectly defines “hightailing.”

Chipmunks also have their tranquil moments. Below, one enjoys the sweet goodness of a ripe mulberry in the afternoon sunshine behind the Wooden Spoon restaurant. The wait staff won’t fault him for his less-than-grateful restaurant manners when they find he only left a purple tip.

A chipmunk takes a moment to relish the sweet goodness of a mulberry behind the Wooden Spoon restaurant

Insects fit for a king

July 14th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

An Eastern Kingbird waits for his next meal atop tree roots at the Brighton millpond

Years ago, a tree toppled in the bay south of the Stillwater Grill. The soil has been washed from the root system by rains. It’s a perfect perch for Eastern Kingbirds that come from South America to summer at the Brighton millpond. The Cornel Lab of Ornitology describes the species as wearing “business suits” with their dark bodies and white chests. They perch waiting for delicious insects to fly into their territory. Out they fly to nab one in midair and usually return to the same perch to wait for the next course to come within range.The second bird in the photo may be an English Sparrow but I’m hoping a commenter enlightens us. Never bet on my birding skills.

Turtle v. Muskrat: A frightening moment

July 14th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A muskrat enjoys a repast of bread near the cemetery

The adult muskrat made a routine run to the boardwalk where millpond park visitors toss bread to the turtles between the cemetery and Stillwater Grill. He is quick to gather up the pieces of bread if he can reach them before the turtles and bluegills do. Last night, the muskrat was closing in on a piece of bread at the same speed as one of the large snapping turtles. The horrified observers began to scream thinking they were about to see the beheading of the rodent in the gapping mouth of the snapper. Fortunately, the turtle got there a millisecond before the rodent. His jaws snapped shut on the bread and may have gotten a whisker or two as a garnish. The muskrat lived to gather bread for another day. Whew.

New girl in town or an old flame?

July 14th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The hen is colored by the pink in the sunset

The bird looks a lot like Moxie who left us last fallJuly 11: We had a special guest appearance at the millpond on Friday night, a female Mandarin duck. It may be a new bird, but it may be Moxie who left the millpond last fall.

I don’t think it’s the Mandarin hen who arrived with the two white Mandarins in December. It lacks the red area on the bill above its nostrils and the “nail,” the tip of the bill, appears darker.

Moxie’s bill markings are similar but to confirm it’s Moxie, I’ll have to see her out of the water. She wears a leg band and is quick to threaten other birds when they get in her way even if they are twice her size.

A close up of the rear feathers looks like the brushstrokes in a painting by Francis BaconBoth of these images show some digital photo anomalies due to the low light conditions and the duck’s fast movements. Some parts of the photos look like rapidly painted strokes done by Francis Bacon, an Abstract Expressionist favorite of mine in the 1960s when I was a hungry Wayne State art student.

"Study for a Crouching Nude" by Francis Bacon, 1952The Detroit Institute of Art was open Tuesday evenings back then. I walked from campus to do my homework on a comfortable sofa in the main court. The light was nice, the Rivera murals surrounded me, and ashtrays were plentiful. The public environment and the trickle of the fountain kept me from falling asleep reading dull subjects needed to graduate.

Bacon’s “Study for a Crouching Nude” (1952, right) wasn’t far from the fountain court and a destination on my study breaks. It, along with a few other works in the DIA collection, has influenced my love for ambiguous images for the past 50 years.

It’s curious how certain things embed themselves in our brains because they enter our lives at a receptive moment. They’re often inconsequential things, too, rather than big events. I have a clearer mental image of this painting than who pitched the world series game I attended in 1968. Was it Mickey Lolich or Denny McLain? Selective memories shape us yet we don’t seem to make the decisions of what is placed in our memory banks.

Sorbet is growing fast

July 11th, 2014     2 comments     permalink

Sorbet is quickly becoming an adult as he grows his first adult feathers

Always curious and ready for a handout, Sorbet is good at dodging the adult ducks and geeseIt’s astonishing how quickly ducklings grow. Hatched May 27th with nine siblings, Sorbet is the lone survivor of Brood 15, Just shy of 6 weeks old, it has most of its adult feathers and is about two-thirds the size of an adult.

Sorbet is skilled in dodging adults when handouts are tossed. It’s learned to avoid goose parents who are quick to inflict painful pokes to birds getting close to their offspring.

Its bill looks like it will remain bright orange and black although his father’s (Parfait) is less bright now that he’s a year old. I think Sorbet is a female but the gender of mongrel ducks is hard to identify. By January, we’ll know as it either starts making goo-goo eyes at the drakes or receives them from amorous hens picking favorites in advance of March/April mating.

Summer yellows and whites

July 11th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

There are a number of summer flowers in Brighton’s millpond park now and most of them are either white or yellow. In the harsh light of midday, they aren’t particularly noticeable, but once evening light and full darkness brings the wattage down, they can be spotted against the very green backgrounds with the help of my flash attachment.

Wild Phlox beside a mature cherry tree at the Brighton millpond I have the annoying habit of rattling on when I have some data bouncing around inside my head. But, as a wildflower ignoramous, I’m almost speechless to the delight of a number of people. I try to find information online but it’s frustrating. A close up of the flowers of wild phlox at the Brighton millpond

First of all, if you haven’t noticed, the world has a lot of plants covering its hide. Secondly, there are great online sites for horticulturalists and great sites for botanists, but they often have conflicting names and information. Home gardeners aren’t to be trusted at all. <smile> They may get their knowledge from the next door neighbor or cousin when handed a seedling.

I thought the white flowers (above) were Wild Phlox, but the centers of the flowers don’t look the same as online photos. There are several Michigan varieties to confuse me, too.

Yellow flowers near the millpond Evening Primrose at the Brighton millpond Evening Primrose at the Brighton millpond

I found a tall stalk of yellow blooms (above left) and have no idea what the plant is, but I know the other two above are definitely Evening Primrose. I’m almost sure the ground cover this year’s long-eared taste tester loves (below) is Meadow Vetchling. If you have more knowledge than me, leave a comment so other readers will be better informed than this not so humble blogger.


A gosling with a drooping wing

July 11th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A young Canada goose has a drooping left wing

Geese parents know which gosling are theirs, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out how they know. All goslings look alike to me. When gosling from several families intermingle, the parents will attack chicks that aren’t their own after the quickest of glances. The only way I can identify a particular goose is when something is amiss. One gosling in a family with seven siblings has a left wing that droops. It isn’t broken. I’ve seen it move in its full range, but at rest, it’s lowered.

The wing is capable of full movement but droops when in its resting stateWill it be able to fly south with its family this fall? Perhaps. It has months to build its strength but we’ve had injured geese winter at the pond and they survive with the 100 or so ducks that remain. NONE of the geese or their children can fly now. The adults have dropped their flight feathers and are growing new ones along with their kid’s growing their first set. In a month, both parents and children will take to the sky. Meanwhile, they seek safe roosting locations at the millpond nightly. Some move to the center of the pond while others seek pondside berths in open areas so they can watch for predators coming from all directions.

Last night something frightened all of the geese away from one of their prime roosting areas beside city hall. The birds that usually rest there (including this droopster) moved to the gazebo. An unleashed dog (some people think it’s fun to let their dogs chase the birds) or a fox/coyote probably charged the birds before I arrived. Frantically fleeing danger may be how this young bird injured its wing last week.

Pick me! Pick me! I’m very bright!

July 11th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Photographed on double paned glass, the firefly is reflected many times below itself

We called them Lightning Bugs in this region although they are truly “beetles,” not “bugs. Their more common name is Fireflies. They’re so common here on warm summer nights their miraculous ability to illuminate themselves to attract mates is essentially ignored. Kids still find wonder in their bioluminescence, but their parents yawn having seen it often before.

A Lightning Bug rests on a painted wall after being attracted to a porch lightThe Wikipedia article at the above link states all larvae of the 2,000 species of fireflies glow. It’s a warning to predators they aren’t edible due to toxins inside them. They live in the ground from the time the eggs are laid until they are ready to take flight (about 4 weeks). They must not come to the surface during their subterranean childhood. I don’t remember ever seeing tiny worm like creatures glow in the dirt.

The two photos in this post were taken of the beetle attracted to a porch light. The image at the top was shot as it perched on dirty double pane glass. Hence its overexposure and multiple reflections below it. It’s always amazed me how insects can get a grip on glass with such small feet.

Deadly waterfowl snacks

July 11th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A bright feathered fishing lure could have ended up in the belly of a birdSome people are surprised to learn I support hunting and fishing since I’m a lover of wildlife. Fact is hunters and fishermen are more aware of  the forces influencing environmental factors than the general public. They have also put their money where their boots go; they consistently contribute to saving or improving wildlife habitats.

Not all of them are careful, however. I found this brightly colored fly attached to 30 feet of monofilament line lying in the grass next to Brighton’s city hall. I know of three waterfowl that have already encountered fish hooks this year, at least one of which has died. There are surely more birds that have swallowed hooks that I never hear about. A fourth bird was seen with monofilament line hanging out of its mouth the day of the Fishing Derby, but its fate is unknown.

If you visit any lake or pond this summer, please pick up and properly dispose hooks, lines, and other swallowable items you happen to find. It might save a bird or critter’s life.

A carb loading muskrat

July 10th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The muskrat heads back to its burrow

The muskrat finds a huge chunk of breadOne of the two muskrats that often shows up while the turtles are feeding paid a visit on July 7. Two carp fishermen nearby had chummed the water with large slices of bread. The muskrat made a bee-line to one of the slices and scooped up the soft bread, balled it up, and then stuffed it in his mouth (right) to head back to his burrow. As he swam, the bread streamed out of both sides of his mouth (top).

Summer sunsets

July 10th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A massive thunderhead in the sky to the south on July 7

The western sky at the same time, July 7I’m not a big fan of sunset photographs. They tend to be trite and these aren’t exceptions. But you can’t beat the colors especially when it’s reflected in the water. A massive thunderhead was illuminated at sunset in the southern sky on July 7 and it was doubly delicious reflected in the millpond through the locust trees along Main Street (above).

At the same time, in the western sky, whispy clouds made the sky look totally different (left). The reflection of it was fragmented by the abundant water lily pads in the central pond area.

An artist's dream for a sunset

The sunset used to begin the imaginary sunsetI suppose I could have just posted the July 8th sunset (right) as is, but I felt is was too similar to others I’ve posted in the past. So I did some sandwiching of several shots I took of the clouds that same night and created an artist’s sunset (above).

That’s the problem with artists. They can’t leave well enough alone. It’s mighty presumptuous to try to improve what Nature creates, don’t you think? Well, I failed this time. Nature does a good job of keeping me in my place.

New species of water lilies at the millpond

July 10th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Three water lily sculptures now float on the Brighton millpond

You can see the floating scultures near Main Street in the southwest corner of the pondA new water lily species was discovered on the pond this week. You can’t miss them near Main Street. The trio of flowers are all about 3′ in diameter and made of either brushed aluminum or stainless steel. I found them catching the sunlight as it raked the surface of the pond at dusk. No label is present so I can’t tell you who the sculptor is, whether they are just here for the summer or a permanent installation.

The largest is about 3' in diameter The metal flowers catch the afternoon sunlight before it sets

A family visits the Trash Can Diner

July 7th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Heads and tails tell me there are four raccoon kits
Mom lead her family down the oak tree as I stood below itIt happens almost every year. I find shadowy figures racing through the underbrush along the millpond trail. Eventually, I catch them red-handed pilfering the trash bins and snap their mugshots. Four hungry kits are being trained by their mom to enjoy the half-eaten Dairy Queen sundaes and pizza crusts tossed away by humans whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs.

One of the kits plays kissy-face with momThis sow raccoon is probably the hand-raised one dumped in the park during the summer of 2012. While leary (left), she doesn’t flee like a truly wild raccoon would. She lead her quartet down the large oak beside the cemetery even though I was standing at the base photographing her family.

The youngsters don’t feel as comfortable climbing downward as mom does. They took it slowly which gave me a chance to photograph them as they made their way to the ground.

One by one, the kits climbed down the tree to follow mom on her nightly dinner run after dark The two month old raccoon kits descend the tree slowly so they don't fall Note how the kits are able to head down the tree trunk head first because their back feet can still grab the bark

Yeah, they are cute little guys, but this hungry group may be the reason we’ve had a reduction in duckling births this year beginning in June that’s continued. We’ve also lost a lot of adult birds, mostly hens who might have been sitting on eggs when the critters needed to fill their bellies. It’s sometimes tough to deal with the balancing Nature does. Here’s a Facebook Cover Image of two kits turned sideways to batch Facebook’s format. You’re welcome to use it on your own Facebook page.

The sow nuzzles her four kits in the old oak beside the Brighton millpond

Chives in the limelight

July 7th, 2014     1 comment     permalink

Chives are illuminated by the spotlights intended for flags above them

This is such a small thing, I hesitated to post it. Chives (or some other relative of the onion family) have been planted by the Brighton Garden Club in the raised beds south of the millpond. They are about a foot tall. At light, bright lights in the bed point upward to illuminate the flags. The chives are illuminated, too. It’s great to shoot photos at night without the head-on flash from my camera. Up-lit plants also take on a unique quality. I like the architectural lines of the vertical stems with the fireworks at the top of all members of the Alium family (actually lilies). The purple flowers on these adds a spark of color.

Brood 15 trimmed to only one duckling

July 5th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The duckling on the left has vanished as of three days ago, July 1

This is the duckling we've lostBrood 15, the offspring of Blonde Bombshell #2, is now reduced to only one duckling. When the hen abandoned her last two, I thought they would both survive to adulthood because they were a month old. The one who has vanished was smaller than its sibling (above and left) so it might have been ill although it looked healthy.

The remaining youngster has the more prominent white collar. It’s peeping at night trying to find its mother or sibling. I think it has the chutzpah to survive on its own. Its mother is honeymooning with a Mallard drake near the southern dock farther north. They still might nest this summer. As the grandchild of MooseTracks and the son of Parfait, I’m naming it Sorbet to keep with the dessert theme of its lineage.

The meadow’s lone bunny

July 5th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The young cottontail is quite happy spending its evenings in the millpond meadow

The adult rabbit in the background may be the bunny's motherFor the past month, a young rabbit has frequented the “meadow” along the millpond trail south of the fire station. It’s the largest stretch of grass in the park and dotted with clover and meadow vetchling.

I found our resident doe cottontail paying the bunny a visit on a recent night (left). It’s possible the little one is her offspring. It’s quite skittish, not as calm as its mother, but it still allowed me to come close to take these photos as it ate and individually selected each clover on a long stalk to eat (below).

Selecting each long stalked clover appears to be important to this picky rabbit

Beetles created their own July 4th fireworks

July 5th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The male milkweed beetle on the left is half the size of the other one

The two pairs of Milkweed Beetles mated on the to leaf of a 5' tall plant in Brighton, MIThe millpond’s milkweed beetles proved you don’t have to barbeque on the 4th to have a good time. While distant fireworks exploded in the sky last night, the beetles found the cool evening a great time to have a gathering of their own on one of the milkweed leaves near the north end of the pond.

I think one of the guys was underage (the one at the end of the train), but it was a holiday and there weren’t any insect public safety officials on duty and, being a small-l libertarian, I probably wouldn’t have reported him anyway.

The beautiful stand of milkweed at the pond has been beaten by three heavy rain storms in the past week so they don’t look as good as they did when I first shot them, but they will still be a major destination for a number of insects between now and the first frost. Monarch butterflies have been reported in Michigan but I haven’t seen any yet.

Note the males on top are both smaller than the females

Visiting with the millpond rabbit

July 2nd, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Summer provides a time to relax near the millpond with abundant vittles

The rabbit enjoys relaxing on the car wash lawn near spruce treesIt’s always a pleasure to meet up with the millpond’s resident Eastern Cottontail. She’s been around for more than a year now and seems happy with the neighborhood. Summer lets her loll on the cool lawn of the Rainbow Car Wash in the shade of the blue spruce trees. When she has a hankering, she nibbles on rich grass below her chin or bounds to shore for a drink.

We didn’t talk about the first family she produced this spring. I think she was glad they had left her territory. A couple of bunnies have established feeding grounds south of her and I saw her visit one of them on a recent evening. I’ll post those photographs on another day.

While we chatted, the rabbit nibbled on nearby flowers She complained about the influx of bunnies in her territory

Then it was time for the rabbit to leaveShe indicated life was good now, the days warm, and dew was an added treat while grazing on vegetation during the night. She hasn’t seen any evil raccoons or opossums recently, but dogs are still annoying in the park when they chase her.

As usual, she abruptly turned and hopped into the underbrush. Her tolerance with me rarely extends beyond five minutes.

June Bug marketing tips

July 2nd, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A Michigan June Bug

As a guy who’s spent decades in marketing, I’m alerting the June Bugs of Michigan that they have made serious errors in their branding strategies.

First, they aren’t bugs (Hemiptera) in the scientific sense. They are beetles. The term, “bug,” has become generic so it’s technically not a major faux pas, but brands need to differentiate themselves from competitors. June bugs should take this into consideration in all of their future endeavors.

Secondly, we have a delay-to-market problem. A brand that doesn’t get a jump on its competitors can lanquish on shelves. June bugs market themselves here as June bugs, but the first time I saw them in Michigan was July 1st. Hoards of them flooded the millpond area on that day. How can the marketplace take them seriously if their name defies their delivery date?

Beyond those complaints, these guys deliver. They are built to last, compact in design, are comfortable in the spotlight, and have a nice, coppery finish with tasteful, understated iridescent highlights (above). They are like these other insects that don’t have any brand recognition (below). They might be one of the 16 species of mosquitoes that are driving Michigan residents inside this summer, but I have a hunch they are another species because they are bigger than any mosquito I’ve ever seen, about an inch long. I found these two beauties a mile apart, one at the millpond and the other near home, on the same night. If anyone knows their brand name, please post it in a comment.

An inch long insect of undetermined species This looks like an over-sized mosquito

Brighton: Pockets of the North Woods

June 30th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

The millpond's resident Great Blue Heron fishes in the northern end

When I moved to Brighton from Metro Detroit 40 years ago, I felt I was living in Michigan’s wilds. I was amused when Brighton neighbors would pack up their gas guzzlers and head “Up North” for weekends to get away. I felt I was already away. Brighton had one traffic light then. It’s packed with strip malls and McMansions now, but it still retains some pockets of its original “resort community” character.

The millpond has 200 yards of it. Interestingly, it’s not in the public park. It’s in the backyards on the residential side of the pond at the north end. You’re seeing it here complete with the millpond’s resident Great Blue Heron. The untended shoreline is jammed with a mix of pines, deciduous trees, and hanging vines in lush greens. If you block the street noise, power lines, and commercial buildings/parking lots, you’d swear you were 200 miles north in the quiet woods beside a shaded pond.

Yearn for a visual vacation “Up North?” This 1920×1200 desktop pattern may help you get away. It may only be for a moment in your day, but it might be enough to refresh you. Happy Summer.

Life’s rewards for muskrats

June 30th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

A muskrat swims home to its burrow near the Stillwater Grill on the Brighton millpond at twilight. This chap has a whiter muzzle than most of the resident rodents and he isn’t bothered by human activity like many of the others.

If there’s reincarnation, coming back as one of these guys might be an enjoyable, although short (3-4 years), spin. They certainly find joy in constant activity. What could be better than spending summer dodging lily pads in a warm pond that provides bounty to fill your belly?

An adult muskrat swims home in twilight

You’d have to deal with turtles that want to bring your life to a screeching halt as well as hawks and owls with equally sinister plans. Humans are relatively benign neighbors except for those trapper types who are getting top dollar for your fur coat these days in Asia. Suburban Sapiens don’t have time to do that, but they have an afinity to mow and weed whack plants you’ve been waiting to reach peak perfection for harvest. No matter. The kids in the burrow (up to 9) aren’t fussy about the vegetation you bring home and your spouse thinks you’re a great provider. She rarely chirps displeasure and insists you provide your marital services to keep your soggy abode full of babies up to 4-5 times a year, spring through summer.

Summer Color

June 30th, 2014     0 comments     permalink

Summer #1 Summer #2

June 29: Sometimes I can’t shut up. It’s a character flaw. I rarely let “art” speak for itself. I’ll figure out an angle to jabber about it. Today, I’ll still rattle on a little to say these images involve the reflection of summer in the Brighton millpond. They aren’t particularly good “art,” but they illustration how varied the colors of summer can be with different conditions of light and vegetation beside the water.

Summer #3 Summer #4

"Summer Pond"Not only can’t I shut up. I often post things that might be better kept in obscurity on my hard drive. This image is an example (right). Its origin was an awful shot I took near the north end of the pond. I believe in the “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” principle so I attempted to save it with severe Photoshop surgery. After too much effort, it’s still dreadful and purposeless, but it’s colorful!