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Nov. 10th, 2014


Post-election ponderings

I'm immensely relieved that the two proposals on wolf hunting in my state failed on Nov. 4th.

However, upon researching the proposals, I learned that the Michigan legislature passed a third measure this past summer. As the Detroit Free Press stated:

"Lawmakers this summer approved a third measure initiated by pro-hunting groups that will remain in effect regardless of how the statewide votes turn out. It empowers the state Natural Resources Commission, a seven-member panel appointed by the governor, to designate game species and set hunting and fishing policy. Lawmakers attached a $1 million appropriation to the bill, making it referendum-proof under state law."


Opponents gathered enough petition signatures to force statewide referendums on both, although not quickly enough to head off a hunt last year, during which 22 wolves were killed — fewer than the authorized maximum of 43."

Note: the establishment of a wolf hunting season was apparently pushed primarily by "sport" hunting proponents and livestock owners in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan, who claimed that wolves were attacking livestock there. Michigan already has a law that allows livestock owners to dispatch "problem" wolves. One wonders how much "proof" a livestock owner needs for this action to be legal, and, if last year's "take" was 22, whether this had any trackable affect on wolf predation in the UP.

One also wonders whether this third measure approved earlier this year was necessary to protect livestock in the UP.

There are words for folk who support wolf hunts. Words like arrogant, shifty, greedy, prideful, self-involved, cheap.

Arrogant, because at least some of them believe wildlife is their personal property.

Shifty, because all they had to do was give lip-service to the recent ballot proposals, as such folk must have known the recent legislative measure made the referendums moot.

Greedy and prideful, because fuckyeah they deserved to have a wolf hunt, and wouldn't a nice carcass impress their friends?

Self-involved, because all the people interested in a wolf hunt in Michigan are in the UP.

Cheap, because there are nonlethal wolf control methods available that are proven to work, but might cost livestock owners more money in start-up. Hobby Farms has some great info on guard animals.

The Natural Resources Commission's seven-member, governor-appointed (but state congress must approve) panel includes a lawyer, a surveyor, a life-long UP resident, an AFL-CIO iron worker, and a former state Farm Bureau member. Most of the commissioners are "avid" sport fishers, sport hunters, or both. Only one has any connection to environmental sustainability. Apparently, none are enrolled members of any federally recognized Native American tribal group (one cannot tell from a name, of course).

The latest estimated wolf population in Michigan is 636. One could safely presume that nearly all of that number are in the UP. The last hunt count of 22 is about 3.5% of the total estimated wolf population.

The NRC Orders are specific to place for hunts, so at least the hunts would be contained. But that still leaves that estimate of 636 wolves all in one region (the UP).

I tell you what: establish a wolf pack in Manistee, contain them to the city limits, and sit back and watch the natural whitetail-deer control measure do its work. Hey, I can dream, right?

Oct. 27th, 2014



sunset over Eastlake Oct 2007

It's the time of year for changing skies (wait five minutes if you don't like the current weather).

trees2Country roads become relaxing drives as the deciduous trees add a riot of color to the evergreens.

trees3If you time it just right, you get pix like the one above.

I keep missing/being unequipped w/camera so as to take pix of my northern neighbor's stunning maple, which turns a bright gold nearly overnight and then quickly sheds its leaves. Ah, some day, some day...

Still no observations of turkey vultures (TVs) kettling in the area. I do miss that aerial display. Especially the rare times when a hawk joins the slow-swirling tornado of TVs as camouflage while hunting. I've seen this exactly twice in my 5+ decades' life. I'd truly love to see it one more time.

Oct. 3rd, 2014


Racket-making raptor descendants

blue_jay_5A handful of these rascals have been squawking nearly every morning here since last week. Noisy little farts, but their plumage is quite lovely. It won't be long before blue jays, cardinals and chickadees are the only birds in residence; that trio of species has spent winters here for decades. Now if that gorgeous Arctic snowy owl would make a return migratory appearance, I would be complete. :-)

Sep. 11th, 2014


Yeah, about those coyote pups...

That post has pretty much bit the dust. Alas and alack. I do hope no one was actually expecting it!

Three years is a long time between posts. I've been ill for at least that long with clinical depression, most likely longer but undiagnosed. At least now the meds are working very well and I've been able to begin doing things beyond making phone calls and getting housework done. Eleven-year-old moving boxes are getting cleared out, as well as bookshelves and such; one ep of "Hoarders" was all I needed to see my future path if I didn't change my ways.

As a result of the three-year gap, I have no critter sightings to report, unless cats count. :-) Gracie and Shu-shu are doing well and are keeping me away from dark thoughts (well, most of the time). I would like to post recent pix of them but can't promise when. It's on the list, k?

The backyard became an experimental area this year, the intent being to observe what sorts of critters showed up. More butterflies and honey bees, which was the main goal, so I'm calling the experiment a success. Now it's time to get the field mowed down before the white stuff shows up again.

Sep. 19th, 2011


Autumn musings

Several years ago, I wrote a feature article for a local newspaper on a raptor migration project in my area. I got hooked on raptors. I've got two field guides to birds and a large tome (thanks Mom and Dad!) on raptors alone, two sets of binocs and a penchant for pulling off roadways to ID a gliding avian.

Autumn is migration time, the second round (the first being in the spring). Critters who spend their summers here are on their way back to their winter grounds. The Canada geese will be leaving soon, taking their poop with them :) I'd add a photo here, but LJ sez I can't use my own pics from my hard drive and I can't figure out how to use any of the stock pics on the Web, so just imagine a small flock of CGs cruising over a wetlands area in standard V formation. With honking. Lots and lots of honking...

Jun. 22nd, 2011


The legless ones

Photo © Jim Harding

This little critter wandered into the front yard a few evenings ago and was basking on the front walk stones when I spotted it. It's the brown snake (Storeria dekayi), one of only 17 snake species found in Michigan. Brown snakes eat earthworms and snails and are not poisonous. You might want a few of these in your garden, actually. Interested in more about Michigan's legless ones? Type Michigan snakes into any search engine and click on the Michigan DNR's page on snakes.

Jun. 13th, 2011



I admit I'm not the world's most reliable chronicler, but nearly a year? Srsly? Sigh...

Forgot to Mention Dept.: The most adorable feline in my userpic is Franklin, whose person is a friend of mine.

And of course there will be no coyote pups or Michigan cougars in this entry -- nearly a year's neglect, dontcha know. I will try to post those soon, however. Once I write them, that is.

There are black bears in the county south of where I live. That is surprising and rather startling. I hope they're enjoying all the salmon when they come to visit.

The white-tailed deer in my area continue to irritate homeowners with delusions of gardening grandeur by eating fresh green shoots on whatever plants smell good to them. My pretty primroses have disappeared, and I miss them. Something either nibbled them down to nubbins last year, or tunneled them out, or both. Ground squirrels are a plague here. Three species (or varieties?) of tree squirrels bound about the neighborhood, risking life and limb daily.

I'm wondering if the muskrat who lived at the bottom of our village hill (there's only one hill) is deceased. I hope not. Perhaps it got crowded out by all the opossums which seem to have taken over the wetlands area near here.

I still don't know which kind of crane is usually seen here. In my previous abode, seeing blue herons, green herons and snowy egrets was no big deal. Cormorants regularly cruised our canal of a morning and evening, looking for snacks. I miss seeing those showy birds, all of them. The Canada geese have taken over the local camping park again, and are probably busy depositing their poo everywhere -- again.

Interestingly, one critter group I haven't seen here is snakes. I see plenty of snake-sized holes around the yard, but have always put those down to ground squirrels.

Paper wasps are no strangers to my house, oh no. They keep trying to finish a nest inside my back door frame and I keep evicting them. Another enterprising group began a nest behind the mirror on my car's driver side door. Evicted, too. They can find somewhere else to squat.

Right now, there's a mosquito nibbling me to death; several swats later, I stil haven't murdered the creep. Ah well.

Jul. 7th, 2010


Natural child

"Natural child
Got to believe in something
Natural child
Got to remain
Natural child
Got to believe in one thing
Natural child
Got to maintain..."
       "Natural Child" -- Brewer & Shipley

Well, decision's been made. Blame lj/matociquala for it; a post title on her blog gave me the idea.

I live in an area in northern Michigan that has a lot of wildlife, large wildlife to be specific. Large is anything bigger than an earthworm, for my purposes here; I know very little about the microscopic world and have no equipment suitable for examining it in detail. After living in the subtropics for over a decade, I've learned to appreciate the amazing diversity of life in different climates. That's what this blog is about: wildlife, its diversity, and the joy of seeing animals that humans haven't entirely domesticated going about their own business.


I'm a birder, but not very devoted to the technical side of the hobby. I enjoy watching the birds that come and go from my yard, and try to mimic their calls and songs just to see how they respond. Several songs I hear I still don't have species to which I can connect them; heard but not seen, these invisible singers intrigue me, sometimes to the point of my walking into the yard or across the street to try and locate the bird. Most times, though, I use binoculars to try and catch glimpses of these tantalizing flyers.

The standard bird population around here in spring/summer consists of robins, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, house sparrows, chickadees, cardinals, junkos, grackles, starlings, American goldfinches, downy woodpeckers, mourning doves, and a ton I haven't seen or identified yet.

However, there are other, more fascinating aerial fauna here as well. Less than a quarter mile from my house, bald eagles have been nesting for at least 5 years, and they hunt over and around a small lake connected to a river. They are marvelous to watch. Last week, I was checking the air temp outside (by going outside; thermometers don't tell me the whole story) and saw a gliding bird to the west. "TV," was my first thought. That's turkey vulture, btw. Then I squinted and changed my mind: this bird didn't have the finger-like spread of feathers at its wingtips. On a turn, it angled differently and I saw a flash of white at its head and tail. "Oooh, a baldy!" Run for the binocs, move slowly as I open the screen door, slip outside. I spent five minutes watching that eagle glide in lazy circles.

If it isn't obvious by now, I have a fondness for raptors.

The most rare bird sighting I've had here is a snowy owl. Yeah, I know this isn't their home range, so this visitor was probably migrating. A few years ago in February, I was driving along near some train tracks and as I rounded a curve in the road just before a cemetery's gates appeared to the left, I saw a huge white bird. I tried to stop as fast as possible without screeching the brakes. Sitting on a small rise across from where I'd stopped the car was an adult, fully winter-feathered snowy owl, Bubo scandiacus of the owl family Strigidae:

free photo, snowy owl

Dumbfounded would be an appropriate description for my reaction. Thrilled would also be suitable. No camera, of course. Drat.

I've seen another rare white bird as well: an albino turkey vulture in the subtropics. They're rare because when they're on the ground, they're a lot more visible than black turkey vultures. A friend who is a wildlife biologist called me to inform me of this find, and I drove over very quickly to see the bird. My jaw dropped. My friend and one of his colleagues were grinning, getting digital photos of their "find" and talking in whispers.

(C) R. Lopez 2002

Turkey vultures are grouped with raptors even though they're almost exclusively carrion eaters (I've never seen one eat live food, and haven't read about anyone observing that behavior). Perhaps that's because they have hooked bills, like raptors. TVs will kettle, or glide in loosely formed swirls, in groups of anywhere from three to 60 or more. They don't always do this when there's a fresh kill nearby; I think that's an incomplete observation that became a myth. Watching a kettle for five or ten minutes can reveal interesting things. During one observing session, while I was standing in the front yard of my then-subtropical home and armed with binocs, I realized after three or four minutes that there was a hawk in the kettle. Completely new behavior to me. I asked my biologist friend about it later and he said that some hawk species will do this, apparently because it disguises their usually solitary silhouette from prey on the ground until it's too late. Clever raptor.

Next time: Coyote pups and the return of the Michigan cougar.

Jun. 12th, 2010



I set up this account so I could read the blogs of some folks already on lj and apparently had some restrictions on who could read their blogs. Now that I have an lj account, it seems there's a trend to moving to Dream Width on the part of many SF writers whose blogs I read. Not all, just some. Will the trend become a stampede? Stay tuned.

I still have no clear idea of what to do with this blog here. Guess I should go think about it some more.