From our walks around Detroit, this is our blog of animals, insects, trees, plants and other things from nature that we see. Most of the photos are ones that S.or I have taken in our neighborhood or during our travels in the city.
It might not be the official city bird, but it should be. The ring-necked pheasants are back and seem to be abundant in the city's lots this Spring. We heard this one crowing - sounds more like a tight sharp squawk to us - before we saw him. We did not see any hens about, but they were there somewhere. We then saw another male down the road. This led us to trying to learn how many are estimated to live in the city's parks and empty lots. No data was found (if you know of any, please feel free to point us in the right direction). In Michigan, this great and really pretty bird has been in decline for a while. Sad, sad, sad. Populations are determined primarily by the number of birds taken during the hunting season and surveys from postal carriers. In 2014, the DNR reports that hunters took about 22,000 birds compared with 100,000 birds in 1991 and over a million in the 1940s. Not sure which comes first, the decline in birds or the decline in hunters, but the number of hunters is in steep decline as well (it's a chicken and egg sort of thing to us). The map shows no broods observed in Wayne County during the postal survey. To folks on the ground here in Detroit, which is in Wayne County, this is preposterous but is probably explained by local carriers either not participating or not being solicited to participate in the survey.
Yes, it's a House Finch. We've had a good turnout of House Finches at our feeder this winter. Along with Cardinals, it is the only red bird that is showing up though. We used to live two blocks away from our current home and before that just five blocks away (that's two moves to those who are counting). At those houses, we used to see Redpolls and Purple Finches and only saw a House Finch at our feeders a couple times. Now, House Finches are pretty common out there, but not the others. Will keep putting out the seed though and maybe sometime soon.
Spring is still a month away! Ok, maybe a little less. Still seems early to see a Robin. And, at a feeder? This one seems to be one of the few that did not fly south for the Winter. A little research tells us that not all American Robins fly south. Some do winter-over. But, what is it doing at a feeder. Robins usually eat insects, worms, fruits and not a whole lot else. Food has probably been difficult to come by this Winter with the amount of snow that we have seen and this one might be hungry. We did not have mealworms or fruit at the feeder, so it seems he was either finding some safflower seeds or in the hopes of finding something edible, was following the lead of the other birds that were active eating dropped seeds. Lets hope he makes it through to the other side of Winter.
The Detroit Free Press had an article last week alerting folks that the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge was doing a tour of some property owned by DTE Energy near their Monroe power plant (blek and yes, its coal-fired and its super close to their Fermi nuclear facilities, uggh, but I won't go on). Bald eagles are plentiful on the property and have made a great comeback all along the Detroit River. Check this video from a few years back of the great bald eagle near Peche Island. The birds overcome the soundtrack.
The Detroit Audubon Society, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, the Detroit Recreation Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans to create a bird watching space in Gabriel Richard Park, along the Detroit RiverWalk. It is planned to open in 2015. Look forward to seeing it. Here is the location (courtesy of Google Maps).
UPDATE: August 1, 2015.
The birding spot has opened! The Free Press reports that the spot "features four wildlife spotting scopes and an interpretive panel identifying common birds that can be seen in the area."
This was a really big moth that we came across on a walk. It seemed to be alive, but was not moving much. Its a small-eyed sphinx moth. I would not like to bump into one flying at night. But it was pretty in an ugly moth sort of way.
Took these pictures of a couple moths that landed the side of our storage bin. Despite a lot of time trying to figure it out online, I cannot determine what types of moths they are. Need a moth identification book it I guess. If you know though, send us an email.
This is really gross. The story began when one night my parents suddenly woke-up. They sensed something flying in their room. They turned on the light and it was a bat. The bat flew around the room before turning to fly down the stairs. It then disappeared. I was sleeping and did not see it. They called a pest control person who told us that the bat probably found its way out and that it would be impossible to find unless it was flying around or someplace visible. Apparently, they can crawl into very small places. I kept one eye open for the next few nights, but the bat did not return. That was nearly two years ago. So, the story ends. But, no it doesn't. When we moved this year, we packed up all our things. When were unpacking a box that was stored in our basement, my father found the bat at the bottom of an old vase. Dead, but dried out and preserved. Its a little brown bat. They are out a lot in the summer when we walk at nightfall. Another time, one got into our new house. It flew around the living room and den a couple times and was so quiet - never bumping into anything. We freaked out, dropped, tucked and rolled. But, made it to the back door and opened it. The bat flew out. Here is a picture of the first bat as we found it. Really, really creepy ... and gross.
A couple goldfinches and a lazy mourning dove were hanging around our feeder today when they suddenly took flight. Their exit was explained when this Cooper's Hawk swooped into a nearby tree a moment later.
We were excited when we spotted these Hooded Merganser swimming at the edge of a flock Redhead ducks. Was kind of serendipitous that we spotted these on the same day that we saw our first Bufflehead - both have the unusually large patch of white on their heads.
On a driveby, we spotted a large group of Redhead ducks milling about the Detroit River on the north side of Belle Isle. Upon closer inspection, we saw that the Redheads were not alone, and that their flock had been infiltrated by a Hooded Merganser, a couple Canvasback and Common Goldeneyes.
A cold, windy day on Belle Isle did not deter a large number of ducks from showing their colors. We saw these Bufflehead cruising the main channel of the Detroit River. S. spied the large white patch on the male's head - it stood out against the grey water.
It was freezing cold and the wind was pretty wicked, but on a drive around Belle Isle after the snow came down, we spotted a good number of ducks swimming the Detroit River. Here are a couple that held still and came close enough for some photos:
Another late winter group of photos. These were from Elmwood Cemetery. S. relates:
These birds are so cute I love them. If it was pecking at something on the ground and I wasn’t looking that closing I would think it is a rock. They are just so tiny. They’re feathers on top off their head too looks like a Mohawk.
Some overlooked photos from late Winter. S. writes:
Woodpeckers are just so hard to find , but when you do find them it’s pretty awesome. Normally if you see a woodpecker you see the litte normal ones (Downys) with the red head. So I think it’s pretty cool to see a different one.
The Detroit Free Press reports that the Michigan Sea Grant and its partners are helpinig to restore fish habitat to the St. Clair River by placing a number of spawning reefs in the river. "One of the big benefactors of the reefs will be sturgeon." Sturgeon are prehistoric looking fish that can live more than 100 years. For the full story, see here. The FREEP also has a great graphic explaining how the reefs work. The Great Lakes Echo also covers the story here.
This hawk looked pretty cool and is the first one we have been able to get a good look at when we had a camera ready. Its feathers blend in with nature really well. Especially, if it were Fall and it was on the ground next to a pile of leaves you may not be able to see it. Even though they are birds of prey S. finds them kind of cute, but would definitely not like one as a pet. We saw this at Woodmere Cemetery in SW Det. Not sure what kind it is. Drop us a note if you know!
The Sweet Juniper blog has some pretty cool pictures of vacant buildings in Detroit as they are returned to nature. The posts are from a few years ago, but still work the look and some of the pics can be purchased as prints from that site. See here and here.
The Detroit News reports that Michigan's Department of Natural Resources announced plans to rehab "the Globe Building on Detroit's east side and turn it into a one-of-a-kind nature experience." We are looking forward to this!