Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Perfect Winter Morning

We begin today's adventure with a glance out the kitchen window. Lo! and behold! it is one of the rogue neighborhood cats. Hey! You!

Yes, I'm talkin' to you! Where do you live and why do you skulk around my house? Are you eating the birds at my feeder?

Some quick detective work has turned up the hide-away. I thought things were suspicious with that board cocked at an angle. I nudged it back into place the other night, only to find the next morning it was back in this position. Hm. Seems to me that this is where the cats (there are two that I know of - the little tiger above and an orange and white fellow) are sheltering. Could this be a source of the fleas?

Anyway, it is a glorious winter day here in southern Michigan. I got up late (after all, the sun doesn't really start to get up until well after 8 AM, so why should I?) and the sun was shining for all it was worth in a blue blue sky. I decided the dog and I needed to check out some nature trails.

We headed over to Ella Sharp Park, which is only a couple miles away. I drove around until I found what looked like a trail going into the woods. This would be our destination.

Even though it was already about 11:30, the trees and plants were coated with thick crystals of ice - hoar frost.

We found some Asian bittersweet along the trail once we left the field and entered the woods. This vine seems to be ubiquitous here. In just three weeks I've already seen it more often than I have the rest of my life!

We mosied into another field. There were times where the trail under our feet was snow on ice, so I suspect this might be one of the area's many pocket wetlands.

Even the tops of the trees were still frosty. Back in the Adirondacks, this frost would have burned off by this time of day. It looks like Michigan is the perfect place for us late sleepers!

Even more common than the bittersweet is the honeysuckle. Much of the trail passed through arched bowers of the stuff. It's lovely, yes, but so noted by the sheer numbers of plants here.

So many of the trees have lovely silhouettes. I attended a meeting of the local photography club this week. One of the things they do is assign certain topics for photographs to be viewed and judged at the next meeting. Silhouettes are on the list for the meeting in two weeks. So, I thought I'd give it a try since the sun was so cooperative this morning. However, I think the sun was just a little too was difficult to get any really good shots (but not for lack of trying).

I really like this one, though.

We've had some strong winds lately, which blew the snow from the last day or two into some interesting patterns along the sides of trees.

I've been told that the Grand River flows through Ella Sharp Park. Could this be it?

Toby's trying to form his own opinion.

About an hour later we arrived back at the car. How bare it seems without a license plate on the front - Michigan only does plates on the back.

This afternoon I am off to "work" to attend a program on Winter Bird ID by one of our staff naturalists. While my birding skills are probably better than those of the average Joe, I find myself stumped by most sparrows and other LBJs - little brown jobbers. Sputzies, as my dad calls them. I hope to pick up a few good tips.


  1. Sputzies! My new favorite word. And NC has back plates only, so obviously that must be the correct way to tag a vehicle ;)

  2. I like the shot of the pine needles, too! Looking forward to a big post on bird ID, because I those darn sparrows get me every time.

  3. Lovely pictures... I like the LBJ's myself (as far as a term), but Sputzies is good too.

  4. Great post, in a number of respects. I'll work my way backwards. First, I'm totally adopting the acronym "LBJs" - I find I run into a lot of those, too! Second, awesome photos, especially the hoar frost and ice on the pine branches. Third, ugh, the cats. We have so many persistent strays around, and they're soooo crafty about getting into spaces like under porches and into basements. While I know moth balls work to repel a lot of them, they're toxic, and not enough for the most stubborn felines. We've taken to just boarding (or rocking) up every entrance they use, which could be a full time job. Good luck!

  5. I enjoyed your and Toby's hike through Ella Sharp Park, especially the hoar frost and pine needles.

    Arkansas also has no front plates, though this area of the front bumper is often devoted to promoting one's favorite sports team or religion.

  6. I thought you might enjoy this blog that is featuring posts identifying LBJs. The name of the blog is Tails of Birding and the link is:


    -- barbara

  7. Thanks for the blog/bird tip, Folkways! Some great photos over at Tails of Birding!