Two Fridays ago we were invited (along with some other couples) to one of the pastor's homes for finger foods and a meet-and-greet. This is the church we've been attending since the second week we arrived in Michigan, and the only one we've attended for that matter. We happened to be the only couple that either answered the phone or was able to come, so our kids ended up getting invited too, and we ended up having homemade pizza instead.
After we ate, we ended up in their den. This room had pictures, books, and tons of other bird watching paraphernalia. These people are serious about their birds. We like to watch birds, but we are only amateurs. We're hang-up-bird-feeder-and-see-what-comes kind of people. We saw pileated woodpeckers in our woods behind our house in Virginia and considered that a big deal (which it was for most ordinary people).
The pastor and his wife (they have no children) were going bird watching at a hawk tower at Holiday Beach Conservation Area the next week and invited us to go along (this was this last Saturday). This area is one of the main migratory paths for raptors (birds of prey) and other birds. They expected us to go home before they did and were surprised we hung with them all day. Caboose was ready to go earlier than everyone else, but he always is.
The first thing we did when we got there was go up to the hawk tower. People were naming the different hawks they were seeing in the air, and these birds were way up there, and I'm thinking that I'm way out of my league and I'm never going to get the hang of this. But by the time the day was over, I figured out how to watch wing flapping patterns and such to help identify the different hawks.
During the course of the day they bring different song birds up and release them from the tower. The first time they brought three different ones up: the yellow-breasted chat, the grey-cheeked thrush, and the Swainson's thrush. Caboose got to release the grey-cheeked thrush. Here are the pictures of those birds:
Here's the hawk that is not ours; it's a little bigger and was probably a female based on that. It's also a juvenile, just like ours, because the tail wasn't actually red yet (on the side you can't see).
and can't crop her out. She said she was cold and that is
the explanation for the look on her face.
Our bird is even a little unhappy.
I don't know if you can see it in the picture where I said the bird was unhappy, but he has a hole in his tongue. It's so he can breathe while he's swallowing his dinner whole.
Guess what's in the Pringles' can? A sharp shinned hawk. A female one at that, because they put the smaller males in tomato cans.
We went back up to the hawk tower after adopting our hawk and releasing it. They brought up a couple more birds to release: a ruby throated hummingbird and a bay breasted warbler.
Ruby throated hummingbird
Bay breasted warbler
We wandered around some trails and by the roadside after that and spotted some songbirds, a woodpecker, and some other neat birds we hadn't seen before. It was a lot of fun. The pastor and his wife had some great binoculars we got to use which helped a lot. Plus a little laser pointer that I think I'm going to have to get. I can find lots of other uses for that I think.
Coming back through customs was a bit of an adventure. Chatty has a name that we shorten. For some reason the border crossing agent asked both girls their names. She gave her name we call her. Hubby and I didn't even catch on, and we hadn't given the "talk" about names since we went to Niagara Falls a few weeks ago. Somehow the border crossing agent missed her birth certificate, or didn't catch her name, because it's obvious what it is. It's not like we call her Frankie and her name is Christine. He was chatting with us for four or five minutes, he asked her her middle name, but then there was an immediate switch to something else so it never got answered. Finally I said her shortened name in comment to something, and he said, "You don't have a Chat here." I said, "It's short for Chatty. It's one of the matching birth certificates you have in your hand. They are twins." He said, "My granddaughter's name is Chatty." We got to leave pretty quickly after that. Somehow we raised a red flag, he missed something, who knows? But I'm pretty sure the people behind us in line weren't too happy.
I'm also thinking that we need to get passports for those cute little troublemakers that ride in the back seats with us pretty soon.