Scout is becoming more brazen

November 29th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Scout looks larger and more bouyant swimming in the cold water because he's fluffed up his fur to better insulate himself

With less submerged vegetation to eat, Scout is searching for food intended for the ducks. The muskrat came to the south end of the pond after dark during the summer, but now he’s there is broad daylight hopping up to search for duck chow in sidewalk cracks that are beyond the reach of the ducks’ bills.

Scout usually stands on the embankment for a few seconds so he can see what the ducks are doing on the sidewalk before he hops up to join themMuskrats have poor eyesight so he isn’t bothered by humans unless they make quick movements. He might come up to sniff your shoes but hasn’t exhibited any aggressive behaviors. A 10 year old girl told me she hand fed him, and I told her that was NOT a good idea. Muskrats have long, sharp teeth and dagger-like claws.

If he hears ducks on land he's certain they are being fed and comes up to grab his share

Scout looks for danger before he hops up onto the sidewalkIf you’d like to have a portrait of Scout to display as your Facebook Cover Image, click the image to the left. It’s prepped to the size Facebook specifies.

After nibbling on duck chow, Scout often dives back into the water (probably to drink) and swims for a few minutes. Then he returns to land to continue eating.

Scout often stays on shore for just a minute or so then he cruises around the pond a bit but returns to shore within a few minutes

Guests for Thanksgiving

November 29th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The Northern Shoveler is sticking around longer that expected at the Brighton millpond

The migrating Northern Shoveler (above), first seen at the Brighton millpond on November 15th, is malingering at the pond instead of heading to its wintering grounds. During daylight hours, it is usually near the north end of the pond. At night, it visits the south end near Main Street although it won’t some too close to humans. Hence my unsatisfactory photo here.

I noticed another migrating visitor Saturday night but couldn’t see it clearly enough to positively identify it. Perhaps someone will see it in daylight hours and report its species in a comment here. It’s a small duck, most likely a Blue-Winged or Green-Winged Teal. I saw it in the dark 30 feet from shore at the south end near Main Street.

Sorbet is still in residence

November 29th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Parfait is Sorbet's dad but he probably doesn't realize that.Sorbet (below) hatched in 2014 and is the daughter of Parfait (right). She wintered at the millpond last year. For part of spring and summer in 2015, she vanished. Perhaps she raised a brood of ducklings on another pond before she returned to the millpond in July alone.

Although she is an accomplished flyer, she’s elected to spend her second winter in Brighton with about a hundred other birds. She’s the only brown bird with a strong white band on the back of her neck.

Sorbet is a little more brightly colored version of a female Mallard with a predominantly orange bill and slightly blotched feet. The easiest way to identify Sorbet is by her distinct white band on the back of her neck

Goosebumps on iced ducks

November 27th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Ducks all look like they have gained weight because they've puffed up their feathers to provide more insulation

It’s old news now. The millpond briefly iced over last weekend but then another wave of warm air blessed us and the ice vanished. As more than a foot of snow blanketed town, most of the pond’s ducks decided it was time to migrate southward. About 110 ducks either cannot migrate or have elected to remain winter residents. About 60% of them are domestic or wild/domestic hybrids. The others are lazy wild ones or have injuries preventing them from making long journeys.

Ducks have goosebumps just like humans, but theirs are most effective. Goosebumps raise their feather upward so more air is trapped to insulate them from the cold. That ability, coupled with a thick layer of fat and some circulatory adaptations, makes them quite comfortable during even the coldest weather. The past two winters here have been brutal, but (to my knowledge) no ducks died due to the cold. Thanks to many hearty Brighton residents, the ducks are well fed during the winter. It’s a good thing since the domestics are not skilled at foraging for themselves.

During winter, the ducks sit on the ice and wait for the water to open again

People often ask me what the ducks do during the winter. You’re looking at it (above). They sit on the ice and wait for it to melt in spring. They bathe when they can find open water. By February the hens begin to flirt with the drakes but the drakes show very little interest until their hormones start coursing through their veins in March.

We have two Canada Geese who are sticking around. One has an injured left wing preventing it from flying. The other is probably a hand-raised bird. It had no family to lead it to open waters down south. It’s good they have each other (below).

Two Canada Geese are wintering with us in Brighton The hand-raised Canada Goose doesn't seem to grasp wild ways

Ducks stand on one leg so they can pull up their other one into their feathers to warm it. They’ll switch back and forth. Their ability to puff up their feathers to trap warm air makes them look like they are all about two pounds heavier than they are during warmer months.

Ducks stand on one leg so they can tuck their other one into their feathers to warm it

Backyard birds at Kensington

November 27th, 2015     1 comment     permalink

A Tufted Titmouse looks for predators before feeding at Kensington Metropark

Two species of woodpeckers on one tree, a Downy and a Red-BelliedJust a hop-skip from Brighton, Kensington Metropark is our town’s enormous backyard. The Nature Center there has a very friendly tribe of songbirds. When you visit the Nature Center, have some shelled walnuts in your pocket. The Chickadees (below) and Tufted Titmice (top) will eat them out of your hand. You might get a Downy or Red-Bellied Woodpecker (right) to also cooperate but they are more wary unless they are famished in mid-winter.

Kensington’s 4,500 acres of varied terrain provides birds with several year ’round habitats. Cormorants, Herons, Ospreys, ducks and swans nest on Kent Lake during the summer. Turkeys, Bobolinks, and many other woodland species raise families without being disturbed by the 2.5 million visitors who visit the park each year.

A Nuthatch waits for its turn to eat at Kensington Metropark

Calamity moves to north end

November 24th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Calamity hangs out with her retinue at the north end of the millpond

Calamity (on left) has taken her retinue to the north end of the millpond. I doubt she’ll stay there through winter, but she’s of the fickle sort and might surprise me. The nature of her relationships is still a mystery. The Mallard drake (top) has been added to the party this year, but the ducks on the right and bottom have been faithful to her for about two years. The one on the right was Calamity’s mother’s main squeeze until she died in 2014. The one at the bottom is the only duck on the millpond with a charcoal gray head. I think he’s Calamity’s brother.

All three of the drakes follow her wherever she takes them. Sometimes it appears one of the boys is leading the quartet, but if Calamity squawks and heads in another direction, the drakes quickly alter their course to catch up with her.

Golden afternoon light

November 23rd, 2015     1 comment     permalink

I remember this dock when it was surrounded by water years ago. Cattails and other marsh weeds surround it now.

The chilly air is warmed by November’s  golden light in the northern tier of states. The colors set the color scheme for Thanksgiving in subtle browns, yellows, and oranges. Above, a dock at Kensington’s Nature Center used to be at the water’s edge when I first remember it more than 30 years ago. Now it’s surrounded by marsh plants as the pond is reclaimed by the land.

Mourning doves share a branch in what appears to be a complex stained glass window

Mourning Doves share a branch in what appears to be an intricate stained glass window overlooking the pond at the Nature Center. A pair of male Red-Winged Blackbirds are more difficult to see as they blend with the branches and shadows at water level in the pond.

Unlike the doves, this pair of Red-Winged Blackbirds blend with the shadows of branches half-submerged in the Kensington Nature Center's pond

To satisfy some blog visitors who complain that I rarely post photos of myself, I offer this portrait taken near the Nature Center’s trailhead at Kensington Metropark.

Here's a portrait of me on this late autumn day

They’re just weeds

November 23rd, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The leaves on this plant curl as they dry but stay on the stems until next spring

Dried grass catches the afternoon light against a backdrop of tamarack trees at Kensington MetroparkWeeds are just plants people don’t like or those that run amuck by crowding out other plants. Take away the negative connotations and what you end up with are just “plants.”

At Kensington Metropark, the edges of the woodland are filled with plants most people would call weeds but they still have their own beauty as they ready themselves to endure our winter months in these photos. Even in their dormant phase, they retain their individual characteristics especially when photographed in the golden light of late afternoon.

The dried flowers (asters?) face the winter months on tall stalks that will sway in the winds for months

Sunset over Kent Lake

November 20th, 2015     0 comments     permalink


A Kent Lake sunset for your Facebook Cover ImageKensington Metropark is a jewel located only 6 miles from Brighton. The park encloses almost 4,500 acres of rolling hills, small ponds, and 1,200-acre Kent Lake. The lake is a frequent stopover for migrating ducks at this time of year. I saw large rafts of them yesterday but they were two far off shore to identify without binoculars. We photographed the sunset over the lake in a stiff, cold breeze even though this image seems to exude warmth and a degree of calm. Click the top image to see it larger. Click the small image to download a version of it to use as your Facebook Cover Image.

Same species. Different pond & personalities.

November 20th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Carp intermingle with reflections of clouds at Kensington Metro Park

If you are a frequent visitor to this blog, you know I’ve often posted images of millpond carp. These are from the pond beside the Kensington Metropark’s Nature Center. The carp are mingling with reflections of the blue sky and wispy clouds. The Kensington fish are tamer than those in the millpond. Visitors feed them and fishing is either forbidden near the nature center or discouraged in this area of the park.

A large school of 8-10 pounders awaits humans bringing goodies, something you never see at the millpond. Millpond carp must remain wary or they are yanked out of the water and forced to endure a selfie with a jubilant fisherman before being unceremoniously tossed back. It’s terribly humiliating for them as you can imagine.

Where pizza grows

November 20th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A fungus that looks like pizza crust grows on a tree stump

A close up of the fungusOn a tree stump in the woods near the Kensington Nature Center, pizza is growing! Bet you thought it was made from flour. Ha! Take a look at the close up and you’ll see this fungus looks just like delicious golden brown pizza crust. I have no idea if this one is edible. One must be very skilled in identifying fungi before ingesting them. The only one I’ve sautéed are puffballs. Morels are a delicacy in these parts, but I’ve never hunted them.

In the shelter of another nearby fallen tree, a tiny sapling still remains green when all of the surrounding trees have gone into their winter dormancy. By the time the dead tree encircling it disintegrates in a decade or two, the sapling will be large enough to stand alone. That is if rabbits or deer don’t nibble on it while it’s still young and tender.

A tiny sapling grows in the care of a fallen tree

Roadtrip: Chatting with Sandhills

November 20th, 2015     0 comments     permalink


Standing almost 4 feet tall, Sandhills are majestic when they walkWith a cold wind blowing, a friend and I headed for Kensington Metropark instead of the Brighton millpond. Being surrounded by trees made the wind bearable. I hadn’t been in the park since spring and was surprised to still see Sandhill Cranes. Sandhills will be journeying to wintering ranges along the Gulf of Mexico shorelines soon.

The Kensington Sandhills are obviously being fed by the public. They came right to us but showed no interest in the pelletized waterfowl food we had with us. They probably would have been overjoyed if we had pockets full of insects, rodents, and amphibians which are their other favorite foods.

Sandhills are slate gray with red patches on their forehead. Many of the adults have feathers stained a rust color from the iron-rich muds in which they wade. We have Sandhill Cranes in this region all summer. We are at the most southern point of their summer range. Most migrate to far northern Canada or Siberia where they nest.

Beautifully marked Sandhill Cranes come close to you at Kensingtion Metro Park

Click this image to download the one prepared for your Facebook Cover ImageThe image to the right can be your Facebook Cover Image. Clicking on the image will download a photo the exact size Facebook prescribes. I prepared it from the top image but flipped and rotated it a bit so it wouldn’t be obstructed by your Facebook Profile Photo appearing in the lower left quadrant. Enjoy!

Leaving the millpond, glowing

November 17th, 2015     0 comments     permalink


goose-v_2291_300There’s something approaching magical as families of Canada geese leave the millpond at twilight. The process starts with an increase in honking to excite the group. Then they lift off into the golden glow of the setting sun. Part of the magic is their unknown destination.

It might be another pond or a safe, nearby meadow or farmer’s plowed field with fresh, green shoots on which to munch. In the morning, they will return to the pond to beg park visitors to turn over their bounty. Most will be migrating to warmer climes for the winter soon.

To the victors belong the spoils

November 17th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Ring-Billed Gulls squabble over tiny scraps of bread tosed into the water by a park visitorOne of the reasons so many people dislike gulls is how aggressively they pursue every scrap of edibles. Here, these Ring-Billed Gulls squabble over a small morsel of bread thrown into the millpond by a park visitor. If it was a larger reward — like a hamburger patty — it wouldn’t be unusual for the original “owner” of the reward to be relieved of his treasure while grappling with the other birds.

The rule in gull society is that the fastest, most aggressive bird swallows the biggest chunk; aggression is rewarded handsomely. Ducks eat fast before rivals can snatch their food but their tussles over food never go beyond shoving matches and nips to rivals’ posteriors that pluck a few feathers.

The gulls will be leaving the pond for the winter months. They will probably move to open water on Lake Erie though they might venture farther south if ice shuts down their access to food in large bodies of water.

Father and son dazzle in afternoon sun

November 16th, 2015     2 comments     permalink

Dazzle leads his son on an afternoon swim at the Brighton millpond

Rarely do I visit the pond without someone asking me about these two ducks. Dazzle arrived at the pond in January, 2012. In 2014, he fathered at least six ducklings. One of them is Razzle who has become his dad’s sidekick. It’s impossible for me to tell father and son apart unless they are on dry land. Razzle’s legs have a hint of dark orange on his legs while his dad’s are almost solid black. The two can normally be seen trailing behind Franny, the apple of their eyes. They share her affections with Duke, a Rouen drake that looks like an oversized Mallard. Duke is one of the oldest domestic ducks on the pond, at least 7 years old. He walked with a slight limp which is probably from arthritis.

Today’s Game: Find the Fly

November 16th, 2015     1 comment     permalink

A hover fly visits a mound of past-prime mums near the Brighton millpond

As is often the case, I don’t see things in the photos I take until I view the images on my large computer screen once I get home. I found a fly on this mound of withering mums that way. Can you find it? Click the image to enlarge it. I believe it’s a species of hover fly but I could be wrong. Hover flies look like wasps/bees with bands of yellow and black. If you need help locating it, I’ll provide the answer in a comment.

Blooming again

November 16th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Globular fungi grows on a tree stump at the Brighton millpond

I don’t fully understand how fungi grows, but it seems to pop up overnight in some cases. A tree at the millpond shore in front of Stillwater Grill was cut down 3-4 years ago. On Sunday, I noticed the stump covered in fungus. The cool weather we’ve had is an unlikely time for new growth so it was easy to spot since most of the surrounding leaves have already fallen. The fungus will surely play a part in reducing the size of the stump but it will take several more years. That’s probably a good thing. Some of the birds use this stump as a perch.

More color at the dam

November 16th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Reflected afternoon light at the crest of the millpond dam

Because of my limited ability to walk distances at the current moment, I’ve been spending more time near the dam during the late afternoons. Consequently, I’m taking more photos of the reflections of the Old Town Hall at the crest of the falls. Here’s another one. Wish I could enlarge it to fill a wall in my living room.

Swimming through late afternoon light

November 15th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A dark hen swims through late afternoon light on the Brighton millpond

The sun is low in the sky in our northern tier state. It will remain low for another three months. The sun’s position paints interesting long shadows which can be beautiful but the cold temperatures ahead makes it difficult to snap the shutter with frozen fingers. We’ve had a terrific fall this year with temps well above normal so it was easy to photograph this dark hen as she swam through late afternoon light. Is she a Black Duck or a Mallard? I’m not sure. Chances are she’s a hybrid or dark phase of Mallards. We have several dark phase birds on the millpond.

Ty and Charlotte impersonators?

November 15th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

I think this is the female in the pair and has an injury on its lower neck

Neither of the swans have Ty's two-toned "berry"I’m not sure when these two swans arrived at the Brighton millpond. I see them in the distance on my millpond visits, but haven’t gotten close to them in three months. Yesterday, they swam close to shore and noticed neither has Ty’s two-toned “berry” above its bill. Ty and Charolotte were the resident pair earlier this summer but must have been ousted at some point.

One of the swans has what appears to be a wound on her lower neck (top) so it might be Josephine who was paired with Napoleon in the summer of 2014. I can’t recall any unique characteristic to identify Napoleon. If this is Josephine she might have ditched Napoleon or he may have met his Waterloo.

It's uncertain if the swans will winter with us in Brighton

Beads of water catch the light in late afternoonBeads of water on the well-preened feathers of the two birds are beautiful in the late afternoon light. Adult swans spend hours each day preening their 25,000 feathers to keep them properly in place and well oiled so water slides off of them. To see another version of the image at right, it’s here.

Whether this pair will remain at the millpond all winter is unknown. In some past years, swans have stayed. It seems to depend upon how much open water is available for grazing on submerged vegetation. If they disappear, they are probably not far away. The Huron River is nearby. It has sections that remain open during winter due to the current.

Swans spend hours each day preening their feathers

A millpond visitor from northern Canada

November 15th, 2015     1 comment     permalink

The shoveler was kind enough to flap its wings for me

I found a Northern Shoveler drake dining on submerged morsels at the northern end of the Brighton millpond on Saturday. It doesn’t have the characteristic iridescent green head it has during the breeding season, but it looks like the bird photographs on this page at Wikipedia.

It’s the first Northern Shoveler I’ve ever seen at the millpond. They breed in the western region of northern Canada, but fly through Michigan during their migration. Wish it would have come closer but it stayed near the center of the pond so these photos are the best I could do.

The Northern Shoveler stayed from shore at the Brighton millpond on Saturday

Almost healed

November 10th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

The left foot of this Mallard drake is almost completely healed

Less than a month ago, this Mallard drake couldn’t put its full weight on its left foot. The holes in its webbing suggest it had an encounter with a snapping turtle or other predator. I’m happy to report the bird has almost fully recovered with no visible limp and no infection and has grown his breeding plumage so he’s ready for the hens to evaluate him as a potential mate during the late winter. The webbing will never heal beyond what you see here, but he has full mobility. It won’t hamper him from leading a full life.

Drawn to the afternoon light

November 10th, 2015     3 comments     permalink

The setting sun illuminates the west facade of Brighton's Old Town Hall beside the millpond dam

After color leaves our northern landscape, the light from the sun on clear days warms the mood if not the air. It catches my eye each year and some of my best shots in the Color of Water series have been taken in the colder months. The illuminated western facade of Brighton’s Old Town Hall beside the millpond always makes the cut because of the combination of the warm red bricks and rich blue sky. Here’s a similar photo of the same reflected light taken four years ago. Each has its own charm.

Reflections of the shoreline trees are shattered in the ripples on the Brighton millpond

Veteran’s Day in Brighton, Michigan

November 10th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Mounds of mums surround the Veteran's Memorial in Brighton, Michigan this autumn

A ceremony marked Veteran’s Day last Saturday. Red and white mums were planted around the Veteran’s Memorial beside the millpond because they can endure the chilly night’s we now experience. A bouquet of lilies was left at the memorial and attracted my attention in the late afternoon light.

A bouquet of lilies and baby's breath is left at the Veteran's Memorial in Brighton, Michigan

How old is that gull?

October 26th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

A Ring-Billed Gull stands tall in the late afternoon sun

Immature gull have mottled brown feathers they lose in their second yearThe top and bottom pictures are the same Ring-Billed Gull as it saunters along the millpond’s edge looking into the water to see if there is anything to eat. The bird on the right is a first year gull so you can see the difference between adult and juvenile birdss.

When young, the Ring-Billeds have legs and bills on the pink side, but as they mature, they become greenish-yellow. Note how the black on the young bird goes all of the way to the tip but becomes a ring when mature. The most visible characteristic, however, is the mottled breast and back/wings on juveniles.

Always hungry, an adult gull looks for things to eat in the water

Two pairs of Pekins

October 26th, 2015     0 comments     permalink

Captain D. Hookt and Jiminy on Left, Castor and Pollux close behind

Ducks have buddies. The millpond currently has two pair of white Pekins who are always together — Castor and Pollux who were dumped at the pond last fall, and Jiminy and Captain D. Hookt who arrive in 2013 and 2014 respectively. If they are on land, it’s easy to identify them. The Captain has damaged webbing on his right foot so you’ll know the one with him is Jiminy. Pollux has an eye infection on his left side so you’ll know the bird with him is Castor. Florence, the little white Mandarin, is usually close behind because she’s still infatuated with Pollux though he shows little interest in her.

There are two other Pekins on the pond (Dixie and Buda) but their buddies are Rouen ducks (Dexter and Darth) that look like giant Mallards.

Captain D. Hookt and Jiminy on Left, Castor and Pollux close behind

Lone Canada Goose: Not a good sign

October 26th, 2015     2 comments     permalink

A lone goose is being harassed by other geese and appears hand-raised

I don’t spend much time observing Canada Geese at the Brighton millpond. In the fall, we have more than our share. They seem to have the same personalities and look alike so it’s difficult to identify individuals. Their behaviors are also quite predictable. When one isn’t “following the rules,” I notice it.

Most of the geese are still in family groups — mom, dad, and 1-6 goslings who are full-sized but not fully muscled yet. A young bird seen alone with its head near its shoulders usually means it couldn’t keep up with the family. The bird shown here was probably hand-raised. It’s being pecked by other geese, and isn’t afraid of people. I was able to pick it up and it didn’t struggle; a wild bird wouldn’t tolerate that unless it was sick. This one looks healthy and doesn’t have any visible wounds.

I don’t see it on every visit to the pond. I think it will eventually adjust to being around other birds. There’s another goose with damaged flight feathers on one wing. These two might not migrate this year. The geese will head out next month so we’ll soon know who will be wintering with the ducks.

Profile of a Canada goose

Autumn Color: 2015

October 24th, 2015     0 comments     permalink


Autumn color is about a week late in Michigan this year. It was at its peak in the last few days and we’ve had some sunny days with bright blue skies to enhance the colors. Here are some shots to document it.

The Brighton millpond shoreline is awash in color right now

Autumn color sized for your Facebook Cover ImageThe shoreline is sprinkled with color that is enhanced when a bright blue sky is reflected in the millpond.

Click the image (right) to obtain a version of the above photo specially sized and cropped for use as your Facebook Cover Image.

Autumn is twice as colorful when the colors are reflected in the millpond

Greens through golds are reflected in these two images. The close up, below, is presented at the maximum resolution of my camera so you can see the details lost when the above picture is prepared for Internet use.

A close up of the reflected color in the above photo

Virginia Creeper covers this oak’s trunk in reds while Wild Grape vines fight for attention in bright yellows. Most of the leaves on the oak and locust trees are still green.

The reds in Virginia Creeper and the yellows in Wild Grape vines enhance this oak tree

Insects or fungus has damaged these oak leaves but that only adds to their visual appeal this autumn.

Insect or fungal damage adds extra color to these oak leaves