If I ever end up on a reality show, I will list my occupation as “Wildlife Photographer.”
Here are some of the photos that I took in Northern Michigan. We stayed on Drummond Island, an island off of the northern Lake Huron section of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Drummond Island holds the remains of a fort from the 1700’s and 1800’s. Not an American fort. A British fort. British soldiers guarded this fort even after the War of 1812 ended and the Treaty of Ghent gave Drummond Island to the United States. The British kept a military presence on UNITED STATES SOIL for DECADES after this war. I bet that this urked old Andrew Jackson. I want to blog about this some time.
The island is a few miles from the Canadian border. It is physically possible to snowmobile from Canada to Drummond Island when this part of Lake Huron freezes.
Anyway. I saw a black bear run past me outside as I sat inside the kitchen of our rental house. I didn’t grab my camera fast enough to get a photo of said bear. Had I yelled, “Hey, bear! Hold still til I grab a shot of you!,” it would have ended poorly for me.
I DID see two eagles either fight or mate. I grabbed a photo of BOTH eagles after they separated but before they flew away.
Then, I saw a snake on “our” porch. My new snake friend ran off and hid under the porch after I took photos of him or her. Jonathan either saw this same snake hiding in our wood pile several times, or he saw a different snake of the same species hiding in our wood pile.
Here is a sandhill crane. In my post about the Jersey Devil folklore in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, I mentioned that writers and podcasters theorize that the some of the alleged “Jersey Devil” witnesses actually saw sandhill cranes.
I love heron, and I will shoot heron (with a camera) every chance that I get. I said HERON. You know, the bird.
Now, I know that Jonathan took much better photos than I did, but here are some more:
The Jersey Devil is a mythological creature. Its origin story maintains that the Jersey Devil was the result of a 13th birth to a (human) colonial family in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. The Jersey Devil terrorized the family (or killed the family, according to some versions of the tale). Then, it flew up the family’s chimney. People have reported it flying for hundreds of years now. Mostly in New Jersey, of course. However, at least one person reported seeing it in Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River.
This Cryptid also named a professional hockey team and inspired its mascot. I speak of the New Jersey Devils. I work in an office in Pittsburgh. My one manager – a Philadelphia-area native – sits directly across an aisle from me. He placed a pillow featuring the New Jersey Devils’ “devil” mascot on a shelf directly above his desk. I see that devil pillow every time that I look at his office’s glass front wall.
So, the locals adopted the Jersey Devil as a beloved part of their culture.
I listened to these podcasts about the Jersey Devil:
(Just a warning that Last Podcast on the Left (LPOTL) includes adult language and content.)
I’ve read several books on folklore that include chapters or at least mention of the Jersey Devil. Depending on your source, you will read different things about the Jersey Devil.
Some of my sources speculate that people who reported seeing the Jersey Devil actually saw a sandhill crane. That’s why I included at the top of this blog post a photo of two sandhill cranes. Here’s another photo of the same pair of sandhill cranes:
I took these particular photos in October 2020 from a kayak on Lake Arthur at Moraine State Park in Western Pennsylvania. The park sits about 90 miles south of PA’s Lake Erie shoreline. When I took my photos of these birds, the birds ate in the wetlands at the lake’s edge. I made a lot of noise. The birds ate. They did not flee from me. They just ate. I took these photos during the same week that I read that biologists anticipated significant numbers of migratory birds to fly south for the winter. I am under the impression (I am NOT a scientist) that these birds stopped at Lake Arthur to feed during a migration from somewhere on the Great Lakes to somewhere south.
Here are different sandhill cranes that I saw on an island of Lake Huron in Northern Michigan in August 2020 and August 2021:
Was the New Jersey Devil actually a “Pennsylvania” Sandhill Crane?
Also, what does it actually take to be famous through the ages?
I blogged about American Naval hero Stephen Decatur a few days ago. He defeated pirates. He won a Medal of Honor. He married a socially elite woman. He and his wife were an early 1800’s power couple! He lived in a mansion near the White House. He seconded Oliver Hazard Perry in a duel. He then died in a duel himself. A bunch of people who were born before the American Civil War were named after him.
And – he (allegedly) saw the Jersey Devil while he was testing cannons for the United States military. He (allegedly) fired a cannonball at the poor creature.
And – for me – the whole Jersey Devil story is what convinced me that Stephen Decatur will not be forgotten in America. He was famous enough to be linked in folklore to a beloved American figure – the Jersey Devil.
Just for the record, several sources that I consumed also linked Napoleon’s brother, Joseph, to a Jersey Devil sighting. Joseph Bonaparte used to be the King of Spain. After Napoleon’s defeat, Joseph had to move to New Jersey. The Canadian band Moxy Früvous has a song titled King of Spain that begins with the lyrics “Once I was the King of Spain, now I eat humble pie.” The song’s lyrics include mention of employment in a North American pizzaria. I personally think that the song is a dig at Joseph Bonaparte – the former King of Spain who had to move to Jersey, and then went down in folklore for his alleged run-in with the Jersey Devil.
In case it’s not clear, I don’t have a background in biology. I had to take science credits in college. I took the introductory biology course for non-science majors. This was the very course that my school’s science majors mocked – heavily. I studied and I only got a B in the class.
Also in case it’s not clear, I’m not a duck expert. I grew up in a house full of my dad’s duck hunting magazines. I didn’t actually read any of them.
I just wanted to make sure that we all understood this. Now, here’s my story.
We social distanced in the woods for a few days. We rented a house next to a marshy cove on a lake. We watched the wildlife for hours.
We saw mutiple duck families. For instance, Duck Family #1 consisted of a Mama Duck and three tiny baby ducks. Duck Family #2 included a Mama Duck and three larger duckings.
We think that both duck families were mallards. We based this upon my husband Jonathan’s Google search and also upon the illustrations that I saw on the cover of my dad’s duck hunting magazines.
Both Duck Family #1 and Duck Family #2 hung out in the yard behind “our” rented house. Both duck families walked up onto the porch of “our” house several times each day. Both duck families walked right up to me. Both mama ducks seemed chill when their ducklings pecked at my sandals. The ducks seemed to eat insects off of the porch.
We didn’t feed any of the wildlife at this house.
Duck Family #2 also walked over to the yard behind the neighboring house, which was about 100 feet away along the same lakeshore. The vacationers who stayed at the neighboring house DID feed duck family #2.
However, whenever Duck Family #1 attempted to go into the neighbor’s yard, Mama Duck #2 honked up a storm and ran Duck Family #1 out of that yard.
This happened several times in one day.
A few hours later, Duck Family #1 was in the water directly behind “our” house. Mama Duck #2 chased one of the ducklings from Duck Family #1!
The people staying in the neighboring house yelled at Mama Duck #2 for being a bully. So did I!
A few hours passed. Mama Duck #1 showed up again with her little ones. However, she got all worked up about something. She made a bunch of duck noises, and then she flew off, came back, and flew off again.
Mama Duck #2 showed up, and she did the same thing!
We wondered if a predator threatened them. Perhaps a coyote, or another bird? A snake? But why would the mama ducks fly off?
About this time, we watched an eagle fly over our little cove. Were the mama ducks trying to scare off the eagle?
Both mama ducks returned to their ducklings. Both duck families swam back to the reeds in the marsh that lined the cove where we stayed.
Now, I need to mention that Duck Family #2 (the family that included the older ducklings) included one duckling who kept wandering off from the group.
The next morning, Duck Family #2 showed up with Mama Duck #2 and only two ducklings. What happened to Duckling #3? Was this missing duck the one who kept wandering off from the group? Did it get lost? Did a predator pick it off and eat it?
Later that day, a lone mallard showed up by itself and hung around. We saw through the binoculars that its feathers had molted. So, was this lone mallard actually Duckling #3 from Duck Family #2? Had its feathers molted in between the time that we last saw Duck Family #2 with three ducklings and then the time that Duck Family #2 reappeared with only two ducklings?
It’s a mystery.
Oh, we also saw a bunch of wood ducks. We saw two herons. We saw a bunch of deer, cranes, cormorants, lunes, and one woodpecker. We saw the aforementioned eagle and also an osprey.
Now, the rental house where we stayed has a book where occupants can record their adventures. The prior week’s occupants at that house wrote that they watched a snake eat a frog.
Social distancing can be fun.
Edit: Two days after I wrote this entry, we watched a mink run along the lakeshore carrying a snake in its mouth. I really wanted to grab a photo of the mink eating the snake so that I could post it on this blog, but that didn’t work out. I also saw a mink eating an apple under one of the apple trees that sits next to this lake house. So, now we think that the mink was the potential predator that scared the mama ducks.