Skip to main content

A fortuitous badger encounter!

This year marked the 8th year that I've led natural history forays in one of the great hidden gems of eastern North America, Presque Isle County, Michigan. I work in partnership with NettieBay Lodge, and there couldn't be a finer base camp. The lodge and its cabins sit on the shore of a beautiful natural lake. The wild yodels of Common Loons are commonplace, Eastern Whip-poor-wills sing from the forest, an American Woodcock displays nightly in the front yard, and scores of other birds are on the property.

But we range throughout the county and beyond on our day trips. Above, this year's group patrols a remote road in the Pigeon River State Forest. There were Mourning Warblers, Northern Waterthrushes, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Ruffed Grouse, and more at this locale. In sum, the group's total bird list for our 3+ days was 142 species, and if my other observations from pre and post excursions is included, the number soars to over 150 species.

If you're interested in coming along next year, drop me a line. We're doing two groups, each of two full days, with a half-day on either end. I think the first one is full, but there are a few spots for the second group. We'll sort the exact dates out soon, but it'll be sometime in the 3rd and 4th week of May.

We usually stop at this big meadow, which always hosts a complement of grassland birds, and this year was no exception.

Savannah Sparrows can always be found singing from the fence posts along the gravel lane in the previous photo, and this is one of those birds.

The highlight of Big Meadow, though, is the Bobolinks. The males put on quite a show, chasing females about and singing their twangy R2-D2 songs. Although Bobolinks occur in many of the pastures up there, this is a particular good spot to view them.

Whoa! An American Badger! While we watched the Bobolinks' antics over the meadow, sharp-eyed Carl Winstead suddenly exclaimed something to the effect of "Is that a badger?!" Yes, indeed it was, and here's the beast. It was snuffling about near the entrance to its burrow along the fenceline buffering the meadow, and close enough to offer stellar looks. We even had him in the scopes for extended views.

Badgers apparently don't see so well, and rely heavily upon scent to interpret their surroundings. We were upwind, which helped a lot, and I don't think the beast even knew we were there, or if it did, it didn't care. Finally, I crept stealthily in its direction, and it eventually detected me and paused to stare my way. After a bit, it slunk back into its burrow, after offering up the best looks one could ever ask for of one of these hard to observe animals.

Two years ago, Sandy Brown spotted a badger from the van on one of our trips. That was the first one I'd ever seen, and I told the story RIGHT HERE. Badgers are quite common in Presque Isle County and vicinity, as evidenced by their numerous burrows. But seeing one requires a fair bit of luck. I'm not sure that they are particularly concerned about people, but the animals spend much of their day holed up in dens, and apparently forage mostly by night.

Photo courtesy of Bob Crist.

Your narrator was quite pleased with the badger sighting, as was the rest of the group. Carl was man of the hour for making the initial spot. To me, this even trumped the singing Connecticut Warbler that we found first thing that morning.

In the case of the badger of two years ago, I got no photos. That's because I didn't bring a camera. It was raining hard when we set out that morning, and the forecast called for lots of precipitation. I didn't want to take the rig out in the rain, and left it behind. Dumb, and a stupid mistake I'll not make again. I could have just left the camera in the van in case of emergency.

For photographers, the rig I'm holding is one of the greatest setups for handheld field work, in my opinion. It is the Canon 5DS-R (more often I'll use the 5D IV) attached to Canon's fantastic 100-400mm II lens. In this case, I had the 1.4x extender attached, and was glad that I did. That makes the lens at full zoom a 560mm, which was plenty of reach to pull in the badger, and it's easy to handhold. Pop the extender off, and the 100mm low end offers the ability to do tight landscapes, people or groups, etc., and the lens focuses to 3.5 feet. Lots of versatility here. If I could only carry one rig, this would be it.


Trees Planet said…
Wow! Awesome post. We have to love nature. You take some wonderful pictures.

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…