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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!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Tweet

A trick or treater came to the door today asking for a hand out. This is a migrating White Throated Sparrow hoping to make his way southward.

Unfortunatly this guy was not cautious and was caught and eaten by a giant monkey. Let that be a lesson to the rest of you little sparrows as you find your way home this late October.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I'm going to watch the horror movie "The Blair Witch Project" tonight and I'm going to watch it alone if for no other reason than the chill I get seeing the scene of the young film crew interviewing the bizarre trailer-park spinster who describes her encounter with the Blair Witch. Then comes their brutal ordeal as they lose their way in the woods. I shiver at the slow ratcheting up of the Unknown Horror's cat and mouse game with the hapless film makers that leads to the cruel deaths of ....Can't tell Ya....If you wanna know you gotta go.
      My imagination is driven right into a macabre ditch this time of year and it doesn't come out easily.  I just checked in with another personal favorite "The Island of Lost Souls"(1932) where an evil scientist conducts procedures on wild animals in his laboratory known as the House of Pain. These experiments have the effect of speeding up the evolutionary cycle of these creatures turning them into a race of subservient half human, half beast monsters. There is a brooding Moses like Beast-man played by none other than Bela Lagosi, who had just completed his staring role in "Dracula"(1931). "What is the law?" The beasts chant, "Spill no blood! Are we not men?"  That call and response, "What is the law? Spill no blood!" is invoked again and again by the beasts, until, reasoning for himself, Bela Lagosi's character responds,"Law No More!" Things get dicey after that.
   The above image is one I inadvertently took when I got caught out of the woods a little late last night. Do you see the face? The woods are strewn with leaves this time of year making the trails all but indiscernible and it's easy to get disorientated. Many a deer hunter knows the heart pounding fear of losing his way out of the woods after the evening hunt.  There was in fact, in the Autumn of 1860, a child who went missing as she walked through these woods to deliver a dinner to a sick neighbor. The girl, whose arms were full, could not carry a lantern. When she didn't return home promptly her Mother's worry grew with the darkening woods. After scribbling a note promising her logger husband that she would  not come home until their daughter was found, the frantic woman left with an oil lamp to search. Neither were ever found.
    I, like many before me, have seen the light of the her lantern forlornly wandering the dark woods of late October when the faces appear in the trees.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fall Marches On

I spent some time at the feeder and the usual suspects were hanging around. This pair of house finches struck a pose that is Japanese in tone.

            A Black Capped Chickadee throws out his wings and deftly finds the perch and a free lunch.

 These guys and dolls will be around all winter, they are not afraid of a little cold weather. Even when the temperature drops to 10 or 15 degrees below zero they do not seek warmer climates. They are well designed to survive.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Confirmed Sighting!

 I thought I would head over to the wetlands and see what the morning golden hour might offer up in the way of interesting waterfowl pictures. Yesterday morning Canadian Geese had flown in and out and I was anxious to practice my Bird in Flight tracking and focusing skills on the big birds. I have a good hide to shot pictures from and with a quick gate I started out for it. In my coffee induced hysteria to get there I didn't do my pre-camera check thoroughly and had to stop along the trail to collect myself and regroup before I crept into the hide. A little bird was dancing from branch to branch in a near by oak, the perfect object to check the camera on before getting serious.

 Just a Sparrow. I clicked a few more pics and spent the next of couple hours waiting for the big birds that never arrived. When I got home and slid my SD card out of the camera and into the computer to inspect the images the little sparrow looked strange to me. It had a light colored belly and a beautiful auburn crown.
A SIGHTING!? During my tenure here on the Pine River I have faithfully filled in the tiny boxes next to the names in the back of my Birds of Michigan Field Guide to commemorate the event of the sighting of a new bird. During the early years these celebrations were fairly common but as the years have come and gone new bird sightings are few and far between.

At first my research led me to the Chipping Sparrow but my bird lacked the dark eye stripe. The guide advised the amateur to look closely for a black spot in the center of the chest. Bingo!
A personal first, let me introduce The American Tree Sparrow, who has the cool Latin name Spizella arborea.

This little guy spends its summers in northern Canada and can be seen in Michigan during its winter migration. Tonight we drink the good stuff!

                    "You will always remember this as the day you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow"

                                                                                    Johnny Depp

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Same Thing, Only Different

Farming in Michigan has been going on since the great White Pine forests were clear cut in the 1800's.  Within a 10 mile radius of my home it is possible to travel back in time and experience this time honored profession of tilling the soil in many of its incarnations. Today the rigs can isolate the farmer in an air-conditioned glass bubble with all the amenities of a luxury sedan protecting him from from the harsh chemicals, dust, and the blazing sun.

It wasn't so long ago a man earned his red neck by sweating the day away under the blue skies breathing in the dusty earth, diesel and smell of manure. A farmer had to be a mechanic, a carpenter, a horticulturist, a veterinarian, a meteorologist, and an optimist in order to succeed.

Our connection to the earth seems tenuous in these days of virtual reality. We can, if we choose to, live in a glass and plaster sanctuary, the air never to hot and never to cold, our food harvested in brightly colored boxes with "nature" being the least important element in the mix. We have won a costly battle with the elements that for millennia blew through every crack and worked us from "sun up 'till sundown" with the gritty business of survival. Our clever minds have dreamt into being, a divine isolation, to be in the world but not of the world. What on God's green Earth were we thinking?

             "The human race's prospects of survival were considerably better when we were defenceless
                against tigers than they are today when we have become defenceless against ourselves."
                                                                                              Arnold Toynbee

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Small Birds in Flight

"Small bird in flight" photography is something that can be done in your own back yard yet one doesn't see to many shots like this. I think they're very dynamic but, with the little I've read about it, the folk that try it have a Rubik's cube of electric eyes, light tents, invisible light beams and mirrors. This is not National Geographic, it is the Pine River Review and we do not work within the same budget confines as N.G. though we hope for similar results. Someday. This Tufted Titmouse is doing a parachute drop off a high branch towards the feeder thus he isn't moving real fast. I wish his little gray cowlick was up at attention and it wouldn't hurt if he was in focus either! I will work on these skills as the Fall and Winter progresses so we may live in hope of better insights into the mysteries of small bird aerodynamics.

        Here's another near miss of a Black Capped Chickadee getting ready to drop his landing gear.

Just to prove I can take a good photograph of something here's the broad side of a barn. And so I give you a new innovation, license plate siding. More colorful than vinyl and last twice as long! Double click on this pic' to find your birth plate.

                                              "What ever you are, be a good one."
                                                            Abraham Lincoln

Monday, October 18, 2010

Three Days On, Three Days Off

Where I work is a wee bit different from where I live. Detroit is 150 miles South-East from my home just outside of Midland.  I make the commute once a week. I stay in Mo-Town for a three day work cycle then I turn around and come back home for three days of rest. It is yin-yang existence defined by its sharp contrast between inner city life and the solitude of the Pine River's woods and water.

My home town of Detroit was a manufacturing giant like the industrial cities of China are today. Now these factories lay in ruins around the city.

           The cement walls of these buildings are painted with the graffiti of a thousand unknown artists.


                                The latest Motor City compact for the post industrial apocalypse.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fill It and They Will Come

     I got the feeder out this week and filled it up with the bargain seed my chum Joe was nice enough to pick up for me and stirred in a little high test sunflower seed to boost up the mix. I keep this red feeder hanging in the giant Maple in the front yard and it is easily seen through the picture window from my favorite chair. Cozy. This large window is flanked on either side by two sliding panes and the tree is about six paces out from there. I can slide open the side window and with my tripod and camera sitting inside the house, eat my granola, listen to the stereo, and shoot bird pictures! What a life.

Blue Jays don't sit around long so it takes a little luck and a lot of practice to locate them with the viewfinder, focus, and shoot. Someday, when you come over, I will show you my collection of empty limb pictures. We'll have wine and cheese.

                  Black Capped Chickadees are very brave and tolerate a human presence gladly.

             House Finches are also tough little guys that will stick around through the long dark winter.

                             "I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird
                                      and not enough the bad luck of the early worm."

                                                                                                 Franklin D. Roosevelt

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Autumn Lullaby

                  October's sunlight is a diminishing source of energy. The leaves fall and the mums bloom.

                                     Storing energy for the long winter is everyone's concern.

                                 The deciduous forest is putting the brakes on photosynthesis.

This is the first video I ever made way back last year. The melody is my own called "The Autumn Lullaby."

             "How much has to be explored and discarded before reaching the naked flesh of feeling."

                                                                                                   Claude Debussy

Monday, October 11, 2010

Columbus's Big Adventure

"In a museum in Havana there are two skulls of Christopher Columbus, one when he was a boy and one when he was a man"
                                                                                               Mark Twain
                                The Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria as fragile as swans.

 Columbus Day is my new favorite holiday. First off, whatever negative implications his voyages may now be clearly seen to have had five hundred and nineteen years later including the small pox pandemic and subjugation of the native populations, it was inevitable that men would cross the ocean and that the continents would meet with similar results. One has to stand baffled at the shear audacity of Columbus, standing on the shore of the new world and proclaiming all these lands for Queen Isabella of Spain, his two remaining ships bobbing frailly off shore. It seemed like a reasonable idea to Columbus that he should leave seventeen of his men to organise this strange island before heading back to Spain for some reinforcements. What was this planning session like? He had to believe he could find his way back to Europe, which had never been done, and then find his way back to that exact spot to relieve his boys. I think its safe to say Columbus's frame of reference was different from a twenty-first century man who searches for a Starbucks with his trusty GPS. At nineteen he worked as a pirate attacking Moorish ships for his living.  Six years later his ship was sunk and Columbus saved himself by swimming to shore. Columbus rethought the pirate lifestyle and learned the cartographers trade from his brother and married a noblewomen, Felipa Perestrello Moniz, whose Dad had explored and charted ocean and wind currents in the Atlantic Ocean. The old man died that same year and Christopher inherited the priceless charts. Thirteen years later, with the help of his second wife, the Age of Discovery was born. True Renaissance geniuses the likes of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Guttenberg, and Martin Luther held sway against the harsh realities and hysteria of the Black plague and Spanish Inquisition brutalising Europe in the 15Th century. These factors framed the insane period of European history the self-educated and quirky Columbus conducted business in.
  Today I celebrate Columbus's intrepid voyages, keeping in mind my 21st century sensibility, for his achievement as America's first illegal immigrant.
          Columbus opened the door for all manor of invaders like this local villain the Japaneses Beetle.

"These people are very unskilled in arms... with 50 men they could all be subjected and made to do all that one wished. "

                                                                                                               Christopher Columbus

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Fungus Among Us

A slightly out of focus unidentified fungi. Unacceptable.
Ever since my daughter found The Audubon Field Guide to North American Mushrooms at her favorite resale shop and plopped it on my table I have been paying more attention to that which is at my feet. So began the mushroom challenge. Learn to photograph and identify. I am failing miserably. The creative minds of the Middle Ages figured out that the oddly symmetrical clumps of these strange plants were the work of the "Little People," and they were called Fairy Circles. This explains quite a bit. Fairies, Leprechauns, and Brownies all delight in confusing and playing jokes on the thuggish Human animal. Why can't I take a properly focused photograph of a mushroom after a thousand tries? The Fairies are nudging the controls a nano-second before I press the shutter, that's got to be it. Or maybe the Leprechauns shake the stalks and blur my attempts that-a-way. This I know for sure, between eating them, photographing them, and trying to identifying them I am getting nothing done around the house this haunted October.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Faces of Nature or Daydream Believing?

     It seems like some of us have the ability to "see," in natures random patterns, forms that resemble faces or animals. Raise your hand if you've seen dragons or french poodles in the clouds. Among scientific circles there is a general and realistic consensus that anthropomorphizing, the application of human emotion to animal behavior, is misguided. They would point out that your dog is not really 'kissing' you when you come home from work and his toothy grin is not an indication of a wry sense of humor. This quirk, though, is something very different but probably no less misguided. "Seeing things" doesn't suggest an obvious Darwinian advantage like believing animals have human emotions which may have promoted advantageous inter-species partnerships with dogs and horses. Who knows maybe daydreaming simply helped man pass the time between Saber-tooth Tiger attacks.
When the Mars orbital spotted a humanoid face on the Cydonia plateau speculation arose that we had inadvertently discovered an Egyptian like statue on a distant planet. Who among us didn't want to believe? When subsequent fly overs, using cameras with better resolutions, cast doubt on this theory many of us were let down. While I no longer believe there is a face on Mars I have seen faces elsewhere that are still unexplained.

                                      A Jack-o-Lantern grin on the back of a Dragonfly.
                    Here we find a one eyed ghoul with a double chin eating a rat, or perhaps a beaver.
                                                                           Could be!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Whooo! That's Scary!

                                                              Welcome to October.
       We shall explore the dark-side this month in keeping with the season so lock the doors, light a few candles, and lets get this thing started.
       What scares you? The sound of foot steps keeping pace just behind as you make your way down the lonely street after midnight? Or maybe it's knowing the buzzard waits on you too!

We, the animals of planet Earth, are generally not living on love alone. We are living on each other, yes, eating each other. Of course there are exceptions, like this passive beast who happens to be eating my tomatoes and not other of his insect brethren yet, still, there is a certain inevitability to life here on the third stone and I'm sure this vegetarian will taste like chicken parmesan to some member of the predatory class. I could have squished him between my fingers or drowned him in a cup of soapy water like I do Japanese Beetles but that would have been mean and mean people suck!

Human beings, as opposed to nonhuman beings, try to suppress their fear of death with the faith that there may be something better in store for us when we leave this ol' bag of bones behind.
We'll see.

          "Heaven goes by favour. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in!"

                                                                                               Mark Twain