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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!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Perceptions From a Lost Continent

All summer long I have been out in the fields and wetlands scoping out birds to photograph. While I am always on the look out for the exotic, it is the ordinary residents of our estuaries that fill in the long droughts between between more remarkable sightings. It is a major part of the challenge of nature photography to capture a common species in a new light. Case in point, my old lovers, the Blue heron and Great egrets. The long and lean supermodels of Michigan swamps are everywhere prancing knee deep in the shallows with that quirky runway gate. I have reams of these stately, statuesque birds locked in stoic poses, but the captures I truly go gaga for are the victorious "fish-in-beak" shots. In the long swirling whirlpool off my photographic DNA I have been predisposed to taking picture after picture of these giant, frame filling birds when I probably should be spending the gift of my free time in search of rarer quarry.
   I recently showed one of my prized Great Blue photos to a duck hunting pal and to my horror he tore at my heart with his quick cutting comment, "That is one hell of an ugly bird!"
   He could have slammed the looks of my first born with no less effect. The fog of my loving gaze lifted and I could see what he meant; the long skinny legs, disproportionate beak, and the hot little coals it calls eyes may not be considered charming by everyone. I wanted to hurt him back with a sharp quip denigrating his beloved ducks but it was no use, my mind was shaken blank with this frank perception.
   I suppose those beautifully lanky, near emaciated human supermodels might be worth a cautious, more dispassionate second look as well. Are they really so pretty or merely hanger thin stick figures disguising their structural oddities with luxurious plumage too?
   I wonder!

Most every evening I'm in Midland I'll stop over by the Eagle ponds to see if I can reel in a decent juvenile photo. Today I got lucky and managed to lock lens on Raggedy Ann, the roughest looking of the young eagles crowding the air. No rail thin supermodel here, just a rugged killing machine. Even given the advantage of my hilltop observation post these birds seem to materialise out of thin air and often give me a start. A distracted photographer would be easy prey for one of these ten pound missiles zinging in from the stratosphere. Go ahead, laugh at the thought, eagles hunting humans does seem preposterous, but the Polynesians who first inhabited the South Island of New Zealand had just such a horror to contend with. New Zealand was our planets only avian dominated mini-continent, here nature dealt a radical evolutionary wild card: only two types of bats accounted for the isolated islands entire population of mammals; no cats, no rats, no dogs, none of that nasty big brained behavior to compete with.  Bird life thus reigned supreme and flourished unhindered. Picture, if you will, tree covered mountain slopes giving way to vast Savannah valleys thickly populated with a variety of flightless birds topping out in shear size with the 400 pound 12 foot tall Moa bird.

   The apex predator of this isolated world was Haasts Eagle, the "Tiger of the Sky," a massive airborne meat eater at least triple the weight of the Bald eagle. It was not so much a soaring bird as my local eagles are, the Haasts had a stubbier profile on it's ten foot wing span designed for flapping flight, propelling it through the tight forest canopy at speeds in excess of 50 mph. It's striking power was calculated to be roughly that of a cinder block dropped from an eight storey building. The length of it talons and ferocity of grip was on par with the Bengal tiger. While this bird was thought to be an example of aboriginal mythology by the first European explorers, modern DNA science has rendered ancient Maori cave drawings accurate, a man eating eagle did exist on the New Zealand Archipelago.
   I kid you not!

   Bone specimen analysis indicate the Haasts kill move was a devastating one two punch. The giant Moa bird was dropped cold with a pelvis crushing body blow delivered with the first set of talons followed by a skull piercing head shot with the next. This aerial assault proved equally effective on human beings. The giant eagle would then linger over it's kill like an African lion. That's the privilege of being the apex predator, complete mealtime serenity.
   I think you get the gruesome picture, man arrives on a lost continent H.G. Wells would have been proud to conjure, becoming a tasty new entree for the mighty Flying Tiger. Sad to say, the Maori oral history describing small humans being snatched up and flown away to feed hungry nestlings is true. Unfortunately for the Haasts eagle the Maori people adored feasting on the grazing Moa birds and their herbivorous ilk, hunting them into extinction. No Moa, pardon the pun. The doomed Haasts eagle, thought to comprise only 1000 pairs in the best of times, clicked lights out on New Zealand's fantastic lost world of the birds a mere five hundred years ago.

    The BBC produced a little docu-drama about the man hunting exploits of the gigantic Haasts eagle, here is frighteningly realistic two an one half minute morsel of it for you. Safe journey!

   Thank you for your overwhelmingly kind response to my comments last week about the challenges facing the fire service in Detroit. I have read your thoughts again and again.
   Our local TV news did a story on the visit Fire Commissioner Austin had at our engine house and I thought you might find it interesting as a follow up to last weeks post. Yes, I have a non-speaking role in it, about a two second shot at the table calculated to emphasize our aging man power before our young firefighting prodigy Perry rightfully dominates the screen! This is footage taken at my wonderful 112 year old firehouse where WBW is fussed over many a late night.
Click here to view news reporter Charlie LaDuff's informative video!

Now it's time for World Bird Wednesday!

This is the home of World Bird Wednesday.  A place for bird photographers from around the world to gather and share their photographs and experiences as they pursue Natures most beautiful treasurers, the birds.

World Bird Wednesday will be open for posting at 12 noon Tuesday EST North America through midnight on Wednesday.


#1. Simply copy the above picture onto your W.B.W. blog entry, it contains a link for your readers to share in the fun. Or, you can copy this link on to your blog page to share WBW.

#2. Come to The Pine River Review on Tuesday Noon EST North America through Wednesday midnight and submit your blog entry with Linky.

#3. Check back in during the course of the next day and explore these excellent photoblogs!

The idea of a meme is that you will visit each others blogs and perhaps leave a comment to encourage your compadres!

         Please consider submitting one of your older "hall of fame" posts to a fresh audience.
Come on it's your turn!


  1. Is it possible that juvenile bald eagles are cooler looking than the adults?

  2. You still managed to catch some great shots of the ordinary residents. I feel the same way. It's too hot right now to try and find more rarer species. That juvenile eagle is a great shot. I think it's time to send them down here for the winter.

  3. Amazing sharp photos, as usual, including the blog new header! Great information on the Moa and great video too.

  4. Another wonderful read and beautiful images thats a great flight shot of your Eagle..
    Thanks for the info and video about the Haast.

    I watched your clip of what you do for a living...I take my hat off to you and your colleagues heroes one and all.. take care

  5. Great shots and thanks for sharing photos and information!

  6. Springman, great post! Thanks for the videos. I can't even imagine a bird that big!

  7. I love the photo of the egret with its feathers all ruffled. As usual - an interesting post. I grew up in NZ and remember graphic stories of the Moa but do not remember similar graphic stories of the Eagle. Great piece of video from the BBC.

  8. well, i LOVE your egrets and herons - gawky supermodels as they are... and your firehouse is beautiful. i wish your city could recover, and i know that's asking a lot...

  9. Maybe I am an oddball, but most of the time I find the ordinary to be extraordinary (at least in my eyes)! Beautiful photos, Springman.

    Thanks for sharing the link to the video. Your firehouse is lovely! I love older buildings.
    500 arsons a month?! My word! I had no idea.

  10. I guess one has to be a bird lover to see the beauty in the GB Heron. Your shot is awesome. And I love the eagle captures. Well done!

  11. Another wonderful read. I share with you the victorious feeling of capturing a "fish-in-the-beak" photo. Well, I can only I have yet to relish that moment, but someday I will, and you can be sure it will be posted on WBW.

  12. Boy can I relate to that "capturing the ordinary in a new light". I have so many shots of backyard birds and turtles, but each one is unique. Only others of like minds understand. Beautiful birds, by the way.

  13. Well, I'll be! There's someone out there who thinks a Great Blue is ugly! Gangly yes, but way!

    Just watched the video...very sad that a service as crucial as firefighting can be shucked aside like that. Your building is gorgeous, though!

  14. Amazing flight shots of the beautiful eagle! The Moaeagle looks very scary...

    Have a nice day :)

  15. Some real 'show off' pictures of your beloved herons. Seems we have the same affinity towards them, only I am not a fireman with muscles and can't carry any weighty gear around with me. I'm glad for whatever I can get.

    I am so sorry about the plight of your fire department and the once booming city you love. Since the car industry was taken over by low wage countries, there hope for those who traditionally built it up. There is also no quick fix solution to your frayed hoses and decrepit fire trucks. No amount of chief-talk can mend the matter without the budgetary underpinning. It is really frightening that you all risk your lives on a daily basis without decent support or recognition from above.

  16. Fantastic pics, I really enjoy watching all the post and learn more about all the birds I never seen before!

  17. Hi there - It will be interesting to see what happens in your fire dept. over the next year. As they used to say in a well known TV show - "be careful out there"!

    Some of the animals that we missed by a few 100 years are remarkable - we used to have marsupials "leopards" - huge things with very big teeth, wombats the size of small cars, and huge lizards that make most crocs look like bath toys! All of these animals were still in Australia when the native people arrive - remarkable thought really!

    Cheers for the post and pictures

    Stewart M - Australia

  18. Great post as always, and some really nice photos! I have to agree with your friend, the herons are ugly ;) But in a beautiful way, they look kind of clumsy, but yet so elegant, kind of like the skinny models you mention! Really facinating birds, I would love to get such shots of them like you do, over here they are extremly shy. None of my stealth-teqniques work on them...


  19. I love your post as usually.Herons are so fascinating for me and so elegant!

  20. Your shots of the young Eagles are fantastic - they look like they mean business! I fail to see anything but beauty in the photos of the Egrets and Herons I see. They may appear gawky but they are efficient fishing machines. The BBC video is chilling as is the news video. Stay safe Springman!

  21. Absolutely love that first shot of the Egret.

  22. I always thought wood storks as hideous looking!! THE very first Great Blue I saw in my lifetime as a child--- I came home to report I had seen a prehistoric Bird and it spooked the horse I was riding so bad he nearly threw me.
    BUT then once you see how adaptive they are the long lanky ugliness is explained by the stealth and speed they need to continue the species...
    KINDA like your Let It Burn Commissioner...its ugly but its doing a job that maybe will help the entire neighborhood continue to survive-
    Great post as always and fantastic photos!!!
    I really enjoyed that BBC vid. makes one think-for sure!

  23. Whoa! Where do I begin? All the bird shots are spectacular! The young Eagle is amazing. Love the talons and how the wing feathers curl.
    The info and video on the Moa was new to me. Now that was one scary bird.
    Is it hard for a Fireman to stand and watch a house burn to the ground?
    You work with some handsome men. Any of them like to bird? Maybe they would like to retire near me.Wink...Wink.:)

  24. I cannot believe anyone would suggest that the regal blue heron is anything but beautiful!
    I love your post,& I love the way you caught the eagle`s wings curling upwards toward the heavens,thank-you for sharing your job & your photos this week,phyllis

  25. So sorry I missed you today! Our internet connection is not good right now, but I will be back next week :( I was doing a post just for you! Haha! I would;d love to get more bird shots, but my camera makes that difficult :)I love your site!!!

  26. Another exceptional post Dave. Your photography is fantastic. I think you could probably make a skinny supermodel look voluptuous! Of course I think all birds are beautiful, even the vultures in their own way.

    The giant birds of New Zealand sound awesome and that video was absolutely amazing. It should make people think about what it's like to be hunted. Pretty scary!

    It's hard to imagine 500 arsons a month. That's insane. It's also sad to have all these abandoned homes eroding with nothing to be done about it. The idea of letting them burn when the chance arises makes a lot of sense to me, especially if they pose no danger to adjacent structures. Why endanger the lives of firefighters for no reason? What are your thoughts on that?

  27. I don't blame you for loving to photograph egrets and herons. They are not only beautiful, they are also mysterious and dinosaur-like. Gus and I always call the flying GBHE a pterodactyl! And that beak can be very dangerous if one were to get close enough to it!

    Love that first shot with the white birds against the cobalt blue water. I know how difficult it is to get all the lighting in balance on a white bird! Wonderful detail and color. Nice composition and yes, it is exciting to capture a bird with a fish in its beak.

    To me, the chicks of these birds are even more ugly/funny/ridiculous! The first time I saw photos of them I laughed out loud! However, to me, they grow up to be beautiful birds. Let your friend have his own opinion. We know what true beauty is!

    I cannot believe the story of that Haast eagle of the Mao bird. How awesome it would be to see such things, though I would not want to get too close to the Haast! When we lived in Tucson on the slopes of the Santa Rita Mountains I used to have to watch out for my little 12 pound dog being carried away by Great Horned Owls. I cannot imagine having a similar fear for my little 30 lbs grandson! Flying Tiger seems an apropos name!

    Springman, once again, an outstanding post!

  28. awesome, awesome shots!! i need to come back and check out some of the others.

    that first shot of the egret took my breath away!!

  29. Life on planet earth would be spicier if there were still some Haast's eagles out and about... what a magnificent bird they must have been...

    Btw, did you get around to paying TomB's Tumblr site a visit, to see his shots of abandonned buildings in Detroit ? I forget whether you had seen them or not.

    And thousands of thank you's for your kind, kind words the other day...

  30. I loved your pictures and the bird history lesson (at least I think I did -- I may have nightmares about that video -- but you gotta' love those BBC documentaries~
    And the video from the Detroit news ... well actually that # of arson fires a month is what we all should have nightmares about. I hope things work out for you. Be safe!

  31. I love your captures of the egrets and that great blue! I, for one, am so grateful for your devotion to photographing them!!!
    And I will call you to complain if I have nightmares about the Haast eagles, tonight! I still think the video was worth it!