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Welcome to the Pine River Review. Our sight is dedicated to our little homestead located along the Pine River tucked inside the Chippewa Nature Center's 1400 Acres of wild in Michigan's lower penninsula. We love to share our pictures, video, comment, and our own homespun music. Step inside our world as we celebrate this beautiful nook!

Monday, January 21, 2013

I'm a Bluebird

I hit the bird lottery this week when a flock of Bluebirds visited my yard. They were feeding on the chokecherries incorporated into leafy arrangements of pine branches and sticks nestled in the big ceramic flower pots that sit on our deck by the river. The Bluebirds stuck around the general area for a couple of days before abruptly disappearing into a snow squall.   

For the most part conditions were dark and I had to push my camera to it's limit. Fortunately, the objects of my affection tended to hold steady and I tried as best I could to settle my jittery hands.

A week later I am still craning my neck hoping my blue and cinnamon friends will return to the branches of the oak tree where they staged their forays into the berry laden twigs.

     We who live in traditional Bluebird territories have a responsibility to provide suitable housing for these beauties as they compete with more aggressive starlings and sparrows for nesting opportunities. Bluebird resurgence is a credit to human intervention.
     Sometimes it's a simple choice, to have or have not. 

    Consider the next four shots as you would a short movie. I think they tell a story and... I will resist the urge to caption them.

I'm a Bluebird!


Sir Paul McCartney's wonderful "Bluebird," take a listen.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Heavenly Skies Prevailing

And at the top of the tree...

     It would have been easy to stay in a somber mood. Featureless clouds dominated the solstice skies and the spooky sad Minor chords of Christmas hymns had long ornamented our musical selections. I was starting to morph into a Gregorian monk. In concert, their forces made a contemplative state of mind irresistible. Even the trusty waters of the Pine River locked up glacier tight with ice flows. How startling it was to see the river asleep again. Of course, those of us masquerading as adults know the water flows quietly underneath; that should be a good metaphor for something. Suzanne suggests it aptly describes the vacant look on my face. Not much movement on the surface but, she infers, I must be considering something below.
    She further remarks, "Thank goodness we don't have to make a conscious effort to breathe like whales do."
   Was Suz insinuating I would not make a very good whale? To absent minded perhaps?
   I told her I had been contemplating the universe (dressing it a little grandly) and I suspected, whales do much the same thing when they're not occupied with their breathing.
   "Do you think I would make a good whale?" I ask her.
   "You'd soon get tired of eating krill."


    Suzanne is right, I do crave variety and a plankton diet would grow weary, however; I do not get tired of taking bird pictures. During holiday travels my trusty Canon T2i stacked with a 400mm L lens rode shotgun. It was high time to track down the raptors hanging in Michigan's canopy like so many flashy ornaments.
    Red tail hawks stalk prey from the limbs of road side trees and make good subject choices under light starved, leaden skies. There are leafless holes to angle tight shots through and the edge of my half closed car window, buffered with a bean bag, makes for a superbly stable platform. I focus at five times magnification until the image is sharp and trigger a short burst of perhaps ten pictures - refocus - fire another series...Whisk, the cars go by. Jittery hands make for lousy pictures at these slow shutter speeds. Now we're having fun!

I had been playing hell with auto focus. I reasoned there was something wacko with my lens when I could not track birds in flight effectively. Sitting on my rump at Overlook Park I had no choice but to take matters into my own hands, tracking the diving gulls while manically twisting the lens into adjustment. It turned out in the end the T2i was not set to center spot focus, a setting I never adjust. Go figure.

Working perfectly, auto focus would more than likely have botched this shot preferring the foreground gulls as opposed to the young Bald eagle as it's point of reference. The eagle flew frustratingly close and stayed chronically unfocused before settling into a tree a few hundred yards away perching with two other eagles. I was definitely getting a work out.

                                                                   The three wise men...

   Should I press in close and disturb their calm? Good sense does not often prevail at moments like these and I was left debating my conscience while my busy hands eagerly readied the camera for close ups.
   There would be a tiny window of perhaps 30 seconds to attempt a dozen pictures before the eagles spooked at the presence of a human being in their midst and flew off. I did not want to cross that line.
   The adult bird was partially clear of branch clutter and holding nicely when I emerged underneath them. Click, click, click, and I backed out, the threesome holding steady.
   Later in the evening our skies cleared and Suzanne and I partook of wine soaked star gazing. We looked out at the line formed by the three stars of Orion's belt and followed it to Sirius, the brightest of all stars, now resting on the Eastern horizon. A meteor streaked momentarily between them. An angel, no doubt, encouraging the Wise Men on their profound journey.
   I share with you my wish, on that shooting star, for a safe and awe inspiring New Year.  "May a thousand angels guide thy steps and keep thee on thy way."
   Peace to all who read these words, Dave.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012



    After the eating binge so recently concluded (and the decimation of Meleagris gallopavo  achieved nationwide) I am ready again to sit still and pick through the bones of my recent photo sessions. 
    A Brown creeper searching for insects is a fairly rare sight climbing up and around the trunk of the maple tree just outside my living room picture window. You will often catch me laying in wait with my camera cradled on the sill, the pane slid barely open. It is no coincidence a couch is parked right underneath. There is a wonderful confluence of terrains with the river, forest, and farmlands all close by, there's no telling what may perch for a moment in this particular tree. 
    I had been chasing the elusive Northern flicker popping back and forth between the trees until it showed up foraging for insects in the boulder pile at the base of the aforementioned maple. I happened to be at my post by the window and suddenly my heart was thumping.
    My super thin depth of focus at 5.6f, was part of a grand compromise with an ISO of 400 to achieve a shaky shutter speed of only 1/320. Finding focus on the energetic bird wasn't a sure thing, fortunately I had a few keepers. 
    Thank heaven for good pictures because describing the Flicker, appreciating its confusion of dots and dashes, would take a thousand telegraphs a thousand years.     

A Red-breasted nuthatch is a new neighbor, my first sighting ever just this Autumn. I'm pretty sure he's flying solo.

A male Downy woodpecker in his quest for nourishment.

    I have intentionally left this picture small in hopes you might click to enlarge it. It has a micro-focus on the Wax-wings right claw, nothing else on bird or background is clear. Somehow my eye travels right to that very spot and freezes. Up to size and spread across my 15" monitor I think the effect is kind of riveting.

    The pale bandits have cleaned the cherry tree of fruit and will not be back until there is a fresh harvest. That won't be for a good long time but even so, there will be others, the great diversity nature favors, and I shall be waiting for them by the window.


Monday, November 12, 2012

With Respect to Cavegirls...

    It seems that Fall has moved by me with astounding speed from the first unexpected tinges of red and gold in the hardwoods to these latter days of burnt orange, peppery grays, and of course, the omni-present browns that crunch underneath my feet. I have stayed pretty close to home for the most part this Autumn season except to visit Shiawassee Wildlife Reserve once on a preemptive photographic attack before it's borders were closed off to all but the bird shot slinging shot gunners. Fortunately, my own backyard can keep me busy with photo ops. Such is the blessing of living inside the wild and gun fire free boundaries of the Chippewa Nature Reserve along the Pine River. The wintering birds are arriving and I'm getting acquainted with a troupe of regulars that will have become old and dear friends by winters end. Take this Red-bellied woodpecker as an example, I've had plenty of opportunities to capture it's profile in the cloudy all day twilight so common in a Michigan November. The difficult trick, and it has become something of an obsession, has been to catch him (her?) clearly in-flight. Believe me, those wings are beautiful spread out airborne. That shot, when it comes, will take light and luck to pull off and Luck has been at hand, providing for example; a flock of Cedar-waxwings just at the golden hour scarfing up dried cherries in the orchard. I have been able to creep close and drop the shutter on these genteel souls often. So, the luck is there.
Now all I need is light. 



  Eaten Alive
    Night drops like an iron curtain at 5:30. After that the woods and river that surround my home crowd in with a deep and impenetrable darkness. When your out in "The Dark" and most especially alone, deep shadows can transform branches into bears and boulders into tusk wielding wild boars. Those under functioning hunter gatherer instincts, formed over 200,000 years of living in the field, can flood your central nervous system with an uncontrollable dread, the fear of being hunted and eaten alive by fellow creatures. I have seen this outdated instinct run amok in my partner Suzanne who has come to live with me in the pseudo wilderness outside fortress Detroit, leaving the street-light drenched safety of city nights behind. The call of the wild is heavy upon her and she feels a little threatened by it, just my opinion. 
   Yes, there is an increasing population of wild feral hogs in the general area and it is open season all year 'round on them, even the odd male bear has been seen to roam through the county in the early spring dejectedly looking for territory... But really, the circumstances surrounding the last person eaten alive by a wild animal in Mid-Michigan probably had a saber-toothed tiger associated with it.
   I have no problem walking through the neighboring woods at night, (that's how brave I am!) I kind of like the feel of hair standing up on the back of my neck. From here we can charge across the road and hike for miles through the familiar forest, lucky us. We do so nearly everyday and Suzanne is wonderful to walk with, when the sun shines. Her amazing sense of hearing and smell fill in nicely for my siren ears and other smoke reduced sensations.
   However; as visibility subsides and the other senses heighten in importance, she detects the aroma of things that are not there. Walking at night sets her on edge. Her freshly fueled ancient instinct to check for the possibility of wild animal threats burns brightly and unashamedly against a truly dark nightfall. At the witching hour the prehistoric Bio-chemistry that boils up from below bubbles away any small comfort statistical analysis can bring. In a single adrenalin filled heartbeat imagination can easily best boring old common sense.
   Last night Suzanne served us more than a morsel of shear fight/flight terror. We had just arrived home and I went in to unlock. Suz was alone outside unpacking the trunk when a pack of coyotes within a spears throw of our front door started howling loudly and plaintively. She yelled for me to come quickly. The blood curdling din, such as I have never heard, did not abate and the look of vindication on her face, that I told you so moment, well, I'm sure that has not changed in a hundred thousand years.
    Give the cavegirl credit, she had it right this time.   
Speaking of Howlin' Wolf... 
     I have been pushing my study of bass guitar perhaps a little to hard. My left hand is in a uproar. I am rehabbing, but what I need right now is to lay off. The Rickenbacker lays tilted against the couch pleading, "What's up man, wanna play?" How can I not say yes? So I pick it up and bang on it long enough to test for pain and stiffness and set it back down. I've got a gig Wednesday night; blues and rock for three hours straight, no breaks. Stupid right? That's why I'm being so good about icing and heating, I sure don't want to be dragging around a lame hand when things get cookin'.
     I am in dire need of diversion.

     Many a blues man has remarked about a supernatural influence on their playing. A crossroads moment if you will, when a sort of deal is struck with destiny. Did Robert Johnson truly sell his young soul? I've often thought Bob Dylan's deal involved never being able to come off the road in exchange for his genius and fame. These are extreme cases, often fate pushes it cause in subtler ways.
     I was tired of woodsy solitude and made the trip to town. Always I hit the second hand stores. Here I find my people, a little tattered around the edges, with that shy, yet wonderfully optimistic personality obsessive/compulsive people tend to have. Like them, I look for odd bargains and project materials mostly, occasionally I find something more. When I started poking through a bin of cassette tapes I had no idea what I was getting into. One after another old blues titles emerged; Robert Cray, Robert Johnson, Bobby Blue Bland, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker and on and on 'till my arms were filled with 50 of the little treasurer chests. What a gift, and they were half off too, the whole lot set me back only ten bucks! 
    As I play through these gems, so eloquent and soulful, I wonder, who originally collected them and why and how did they wind up on a shelf for me to stumble upon in a second hand store? Like the movie, "The Red Violin," the history of ownership can be as interesting as the object itself. 
    Certainly this find was a good push in the right direction for me, positively enlightening, and yes, I feel a little personal visitation from the powers that be was involved. The whole experience had that peculiar otherworldly vibe. Could moments like these soon be outlawed? 
    In my country, before our Supreme Court, rests this question: Should it be illegal for Americans to resell or give away their privately owned copyrighted material such as books, C.D.'s, and DVD's?
    Copyright owners argue that they should be paid every time their work changes hands. If our Justices come down in favour of publishers interests over the rights of property owners used book stores, thrift shops and their E-quivalents like Amazon and E-bay, will be restricted from selling used items such as these. The very premise of a lending library or a neighbor to neighbor sale might be threatened.
    Consumerism could reach new depths with this "buy and burn" idiocy.
   Will new rule?... and the Hand Me Down Blues sung from sea to shinning sea?
            Be there or be square!   ;-)WBW!