Welcome to SCHOCK MCCOY PRODUCTIONS by J.H.McCoy. This website will give you information about a variety of topics: travel, nature, literature, history, and astronomy. The ARCHIVES contain some of my articles from THE MINDEN CITY HERALD. The last two pages are a tribute to my mother, Gloria (Schock) McCoy (1923-2013) - the journal she wrote on our 1977 trip out West can be found in WRITING/GSM. It is my hope that you will always find something interesting and informative on this website and that you will visit often. Please sign the guest book, and thank you for stopping by.
J.H. (John Herbert) McCoy
11:59 A.M. EDT
***CLICK ON THE NAME FOR A SHORT VIDEO***
THE CAMERA SKETCH BOOK **
** With apologies to Washington Irving and THE SKETCH BOOK OF GEOFFREY CRAYON, GENT. (1819-1820).
(Click on small "pics" to enlarge)
THE "BURN BOSS" IN THE WHITE HELMET
HERE AND THERE - MOSTLY BIRDS
from THE OLD TEACHER'S ALMANAC (VIDEO)
++ some photos in THE CAMERA SKETCH BOOK are edited ++
"THE QUESTION IS NOT WHAT YOU LOOK AT BUT WHAT YOU SEE."
HENRY DAVID THOREAU (1817 -1862)
A SANDHILL CRANE FAMILY, MINDEN TOWNSHIP (edited)
COWS ON PASTURE - UNCOMMON IN THE THUMB
SAND BEACH TOWNSHIP
THE THUMB & THE NATION
AUG. 1 WILLIAM CLARK, 1770, EXPLORER WITH LEWIS
AUG. 1 HERMAN MELVILLE, 1819, NOVELIST, "MOBY DICK"
AUG. 4 BARACK OBAMA, 1961, 44TH U.S. PRESIDENT VIDEO
AUG. 6 ALFRED LORD TENNYSON, 1809, POET LAUREATE
AUG. 10 HERBERT HOOVER, 1874, 31ST U.S. PRESIDENT VID.
AUG. 13 ANNIE OAKLEY, 1860, WILD WEST SHARPSHOOTER
AUG. 15 SIR WALTER SCOTT, 1771, POET, NOVELIST
AUG. 16 T.E. LAWRENCE, 1888, "LAWRENCE OF ARABIA"
AUG. 17 DAVY CROCKETT,1786, FRONTIERSMAN, ALAMO
AUG. 18 MERIWETHER LEWIS, 1774, EXPLORER WITH CLARK
AUG. 19 ORVILLE WRIGHT, 1871, AVIATOR, FIRST FLIGHT
AUG. 19 BILL CLINTON, 1946, 42ND U.S. PRESIDENT VIDEO
AUG. 20 BENJAMIN HARRISON, 1833, 23RD U.S. PRESIDENT V
AUG. 22 CLAUDE DEBUSSY, 1862, COMPOSER, MUSICIAN
AUG. 27 LYNDON B. JOHNSON, 1908, 36TH U.S. PRESIDENT V
AUG. 27 MOTHER TERESA, 1910, CATHOLIC NUN
AUG. 28 LEO TOLSTOY, 1828, NOVELIST, "WAR AND PEACE"
AUG. 30 TED WILLIAMS, 1918, BASEBALL PLAYER
WILD APPLE TREE IN BLOOM ALONG A COUNTRY ROAD
NESTING MOCKINGBIRD IN HURON COUNTY (edited) - RARE
LEUCISTIC ROBIN (edited) - see below
9636 Roberts Rd.
Harbor Beach, MI 48441
HURON COUNTY EAGLE NEST / TWO EAGLETS
"August is the eighth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars....It
was originally named Sextilis in Latin because it was the sixth month in the original
ten-month Roman calendar under Romulus in 753 BC, with March being the first month of the year. About 700 BC, it became the eighth month when January and February were added to the year before March by King Numa.... Julius Caesar...created the Julian calendar in 46 BC. In 8 BC, it was renamed in honor of Augustus [Caesar] because it was the time of several of his great triumphs, including the conquest of Egypt." [Wikipedia]
in the Thumb"
2. "Leucistic Robin"
3. "Joseph H. Thompson and the Photographers"
TREE SWALLOWS COMPETE FOR NESTING SITE
WITH AN AGGRESSIVE HOUSE SPARROW / THEY LOST!
CANADA GEESE AND GOSLINGS
MOCKINGBIRDS IN THE THUMB
from THE MINDEN CITY HERALD, JUNE 26, 2020
RARE BIRD in Huron County - a singing NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD. This species is not often seen or heard in the Thumb.
from THE MINDEN CITY HERALD - 5/21/20
Last week, a leucistic robin was seen and photographed in Harbor Beach, Michigan, on a lawn in the Industrial Park.
Mockingbirds are southern. They are not often seen in Michigan and are rarely observed as far north as the Thumb. The maps in most bird books exclude the northern part of the state from the mockingbird’s normal range. But, they are here.
I saw a mockingbird in Huron County on May 14, 2020. I was driving along a country road in the late afternoon north and west of Harbor Beach when I noticed the slim gray bird with the distinctive white wing patches in a blossoming apple tree. I was quite surprised.
I watched the mockingbird as it moved about in the branches, and I snapped a few pictures of it from the car window. It was silent and did not sing. Eventually, the bird flew across the road and landed on a fence post in front of the car. I took more pictures, but I had to shoot through the windshield - I knew I could not get out because the bird was too close.
I recorded my “rare” mockingbird sighting on eBird, the electronic birding website, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (www.ebird.org). I indicated the time and
place and posted two pictures along with the following additional “details,” which are required by the website for unusual sightings:
“spotted along the road; close; white wing patches and tail feathers (photo on post taken through windshield).”
Since I am signed up and get notices from the Huron County Rare Bird Alert about unusual sightings in the county, the next day (May 15, 2020) I received an email telling me about the mockingbird I had seen. It provided a link to the information I had posted on eBird, including the location, map coordinates, two photographs, and my additional comments. Other subscribers to the service received the same email and could use it to visit the location and find the mockingbird themselves, if it was still there.
The official name for the species on eBird and in all bird books is NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD, Mimus polyglottos. The scientific Latin name means “many tongued” (polyglottos) thrush/mimic (Mimus).
The word “northern” refers to the fact that this is the only mockingbird species common to NORTH AMERICA. There are other mockingbirds found in Central and South America, including the Chilean mockingbird (Chile/Argentina), the tropical mockingbird (Mexico to Brazil), and the long-tailed mockingbird (Ecuador/Peru), to name just a few. There is even
a Galapagos mockingbird (Islands/Ecuador), which caught the eye of a young naturalist named Charles Darwin in 1835. He noticed that the mockingbirds he collected from various islands in the area were all slightly different, suggesting they might have changed and evolved over time.
The Bahama mockingbird (Bahamas/Cuba/Jamaica) is the only southern species mentioned in most North American birding field guides. That is because on rare occasions, it might be encountered on the coastline of southeastern Florida, where it would be considered “accidental” or a “vagrant.”
The northern mockingbird is member of the “Mimidae” family, which includes catbirds and thrashers, This “mimic thrush” is relatively easy to identify by its light gray color, slim body, long tail, and large white wing patches (visible in flight).
The description in the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America
“A familiar and conspicuous species. Slimmer, longer tailed than a robin. Note large
white patches on wings and tail. VOICE: Song a varied, prolonged succession of notes
and phrases, may be repeated a half-dozen times or more before changing. Often heard
at night. Mockingbirds are excellent mimics. Call a loud tchack; also chair.”
The Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America rounds out the description of the northern mockingbird:
“Familiar in warmer climates, in cities, farms, woodland edges, desert. Often seen running on lawns, stopping to spread its wings abruptly. Eats mostly insects in summer, also many berries in winter. May sing all night on moonlit nights. Most common in the south, it is called “Northern” because other mockingbirds live in the tropics. Slim, long-tailed. Pale gray with white wing patches (mainly visible in flight), white outer tail feathers….”
Later in the month, I discovered a pair of northern mockingbirds about four miles from the first location “as the crow flies.” These birds were vocal, one singing from inside a small woodlot and the other from a shrubby bush in the surrounding pasture field. As I listened to them imitate the songs of other birds, I assumed they were a breeding pair and would probably nest in the area.
Once again I reported my “rare” mockingbird sighting on eBird. I also posted two more pictures and added the required details:
“two singing mockingbirds in small open woodlot, surrounded by pasture field, feeding in bare field across the road.”
And once again, I and other subscribers received an email from the Huron County Rare
Bird Alert, this time informing us of a PAIR of NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRDS….doing impersonations and singing their repetitive southern songs in the Upper Thumb.
Notes: According to Monica Essenmacher, head of the Port Crescent Hawk Watch and a Huron County birding expert, there is at least one other breeding pair of mockingbirds in
the Thumb. They are nesting in Tuscola County and were also present at the same location last year.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology sponsors a website called “All About Birds” (www.allaboutbirds.org), which can serve as an “electronic bird book.” It provides descriptions, pictures, range maps, and recorded bird songs. It also has a “Cool Facts” segment, which gives interesting trivia on each bird.
In the “Cool Facts” about the northern mockingbird, there is a description of how their population was severely depleted by the caged bird trade:
“It’s not just other mockingbirds that appreciate a good song. In the nineteenth century, people kept so many mockingbirds as cage birds that the birds nearly vanished from parts of the East Coast. People took nestlings out of nests or trapped adults and sold them in cities such as Philadelphia, St. Louis, and New York, where, in 1828, extraordinary singers could fetch as much as $50.”
There are many popular songs which refer to mockingbirds. Perhaps, the most famous is “Listen to the Mockingbird.” It was written in 1855 and is still performed today. The song was popular during the Civil War and was used as marching music. It was a favorite of Abraham Lincoln, who once said, “It is as sincere as the laughter of a little girl at play.”
The refrain or chorus from the song is well known:
“Listen to the mockingbird, listen to the mockingbird
The mockingbird is singing o'er her grave
Listen to the mockingbird, listen to the mockingbird
Still singing where the weeping willows wave”
The most famous literary work referring to mockingbirds is Harper Lee’s 1960 novel
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. Harper Lee died
in 2016 at the age of 89.
A well-known passage from the novel refers to and explains the title:
Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember
it’s a sin TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.”
That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.
“Your father is right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us
to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.”
Five southern states claim the northern mockingbird as their official state bird: Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.
The eBird website, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is open to all, and it is free. To get started, go to www.ebird.org. You will need a user name and a password. Once on eBird, you can check the listings for Huron County (or any county) and see my bird lists, locations, and photos. You can also record your own sightings.
Most people would probably call it an “albino,” but I knew there was another word for it as I sat in my car snapping pictures of the white-colored robin. The bird flew across the road in front of me last week when I was driving out of Harbor Beach on N. Huron Avenue (M-25). I only caught a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye, but I knew instinctively that it was no ordinary bird or one that I recognized.
After I turned around and drove back, I located it on a lawn in the Industrial Park. It was hopping around with a small flock of migrating robins and hunting for bugs and worms. Obviously, the bird was a robin. It had a red breast and the typical robin shape and movements, but there was a lot of white on its head and flecks of white in its breast, wings, and tail. I looked at it through my binoculars, but I could see what it was with the naked eye.
After taking a lot of pictures of the bird on the ground, I wanted to see it in flight; so I decided to get out of the car and make it fly. By this time, the robin had moved to the far side of the lawn, so I took my eyes off it for a moment while I stepped out of the vehicle. However, when I looked up again, it was gone. The robin flew away, and I did not see it go.
I spent over an hour searching the area for the unusual specimen. I walked around the neighborhood and drove back and forth on the streets, but the “white robin” was nowhere to be found.
When I got home, it did not take me long to find out that the proper word to describe the robin was “leucistic.” The word can be pronounced with either a “CZ” or a “K” sound (“lu-siz-tic” or “lu-kis-tic"). It is derived from the Greek word, leukos, meaning “white” or “clear.”
A detailed definition of the word “leucism” (pronounced lu’-si-zem) can be found in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:
“an abnormal condition of reduced pigmentation affecting various animals (such as birds, mammals, and reptiles) that is marked by overall pale color or patches of reduced coloring and is caused by a genetic mutation which inhibits melanin and other pigments from being deposited in feathers, hair, or skin.”
The word “leucism” comes from medical jargon and is uncommon in ordinary speech. I could not even find it in my “go-to” hard-cover reference, The American Heritage Dictionary. However, the online version provides a definition of “leucism” (pronounced with a “K” in this reference – loo’ kiz em):
“a partial loss of pigmentation in a human or other animal resulting in white, pale, or patchy coloration of skin, hair, fur, or feathers but not the eyes.”
The eyes are a key factor in differentiating leucism from albinism (referring to an albino). Leucistic robins, for example, retain normal pigmentation in the eyes whereas a true albino’s eyes would be pink or reddish. An albino robin would have no coloration; even its breast, beak, and legs would be white.
Except for its head and the white flecks on its breast, wings, and tail, the leucistic robin I saw had normal coloration on other parts of its body. Based on the bright red color of its breast, I assumed that it was a male.
Spotting a leucistic robin and having a chance to photograph it does not happen very often, and it was pure serendipity that I saw it at all. If the “white robin” had not flown across the road in front of my car, I would have driven out of town, blissfully unaware
of its presence in the neighborhood.
Notes: Leucistic birds, like the robin I photographed, face special challenges because of their condition. The Spruce website (www.thespruce.com) explains the downside of leucism in birds:
“While leucism can be unusual and exciting for a birder to see, birds with the condition face special challenges in the wild. Lighter plumage may rob the birds of protective camouflage and make them more vulnerable to predators such as hawks and feral cats. Because plumage colors play an important role in courtship rituals, birds with leucism may be unable to find strong, healthy mates. Melanin is also an important structural component of feathers, and birds with extensive leucism have weaker feathers. This means the leucistic feathers will wear out more swiftly, making flying more difficult and eliminating some of the bird’s insulation against harsh weather. White feathers also
reflect heat more efficiently, which can be fatal for birds that rely on sunbathing and
solar radiation to keep warm in northern climates.”
Leucism in animals is sometimes viewed as supernaturally significant. For North American Indian tribes, a white buffalo is sacred and is considered a sign of hope and good times to come. According to the National Bison Association, just one in ten million is born white. A white buffalo could also be an albino, in which case, its eyes would be pink and it would lack all pigmentation for its entire life. If it is leucistic, the bison would have white fur, but its skin would be dark and its eyes blue.
In literature, the most famous leucistic animal is the white whale in Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick (1851). In the story, Ahab, the hate-filled captain of the whaling ship Pequod, seeks vengeance on a huge white sperm whale, which bit off his leg on a previous voyage. His blind, obsessive rage with the leucistic whale leads to his own death and the destruction of his ship and crew. Only one person lives to tell the tragic story, a young seaman called “Ishmael.”
AUGUST 15, 1945
V-J DAY - JAPAN SURRENDERS
AUGUST 9, 1945
U.S. DROPS ATOMIC BOMB
JOSEPH H. THOMPSON AND THE PHOTOGRAPHERS
from THE MINDEN CITY HERALD - 6/11/20
The photograph of the JOSEPH H. THOMPSON passing the iconic Harbor Beach Lighthouse is courtesy of KAREN MURPHY PHOTOGRAPHY, Harbor Beach.
The Joseph H. Thompson is one of the most photographed ships on Lake Huron, at least during the time it takes to sail by Sand Beach Township and the Harbor Beach Lighthouse. Sometimes, three cameras are focused on her as she passes by. In the last few years, I have taken pictures of the ship several times, and I am not alone.
A professional photographer in Harbor Beach and a camera buff from my subdivision also snap pictures of the freighter as she moves up and down the lake. All three of us are on Facebook, and so sometimes pictures of the ship from three different vantage points are posted on the same day.
My interest in the Joseph H. Thompson stems from the fact that one of my former students is the first mate on the ship. He often gives me and my fellow photographers a heads-up about when he and his ship will be sailing past Harbor Beach.
Like other vessels on the Great Lakes, the Joseph H. Thompson has an interesting history. For openers, the ship was not always a lake freighter; in fact, she was launched during World War II as an ocean-going cargo vessel. Built in early 1944 in Chester, Pennsylvania, the 515 foot ship was christened the Marine Robin and immediately put in service for the war effort. The Marine Robin transported troops across the Atlantic Ocean to the battlefields of Europe. She was off
the coast of France on D-Day, June 6, 1944, when the Allies stormed the beaches of Normandy and began the liberation of the continent.
After WW II ended with the defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific, the Marine Robin continued to function as a troop carrier in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In late 1946, she was retired and “put in mothballs” on the east coast.
When the demand for iron ore skyrocketed in the 1950s and more ships were needed on the Great Lakes, the old troop transport was brought out of retirement and converted into a lake freighter. In 1952, a 199.3 foot section was added to her hull, and her deck housing was converted from the mid-ship style to the traditional forward and aft cabins. She was renamed the Joseph H. Thompson, and at 714.3 feet, she was the longest freighter in the world at the time and “Queen of the Lakes.”
After three decades as an ore carrier, the Joseph H. Thompson was sidelined in 1981, when the demand for iron ore dwindled. For the next four years, she was laid up in Detroit and seemed destined for the scrapyard, like so many other WW II ships.
However, in 1985, she was purchased by the Upper Lakes Towing Company of Escanaba, Michigan, and converted into a self-unloading tug-barge. Her fore and aft cabins were removed and her hull was shortened to 706 feet. A notch was constructed at the stern of the ship to accommodate a tugboat, which would be used to power the barge.
A new tugboat, the Joseph H. Thompson Jr., was built of leftover steel from the conversion process and attached to the barge as a push tug. In 1991, the newly converted ship with a stern mounted self-unloading system was back on the Great Lakes as an ore carrier, this time for a twenty-four year run before changing hands once again.
Five years ago in 2015, the Joseph H. Thompson was sold to another barge company in Escanaba, Van Enkevort Tug & Barge Inc. Currently, she continues to operate on the Great Lakes as an ore carrier, hauling primarily limestone and some iron ore.
In 2019, Peter Groh, a spokesman for Van Enkevort Tug & Barge Inc. said of the Joseph H. Thompson:
“I think it’s unique that she does have past history supporting our troops and that she has survived all these years and is still in general commerce today.”
In the seventy-six years that she has been afloat, the old ship has undergone a lot of changes, reinventing and transforming herself from military transport to lake freighter and then finally to tug-barge.
In addition to her long and storied past, the Joseph H. Thompson is quite photogenic and has a local man onboard as first mate – all reasons why sometimes three cameras are focused on her as she sails past Sand Beach Township and the iconic Harbor Beach Lighthouse.
Notes: My contact aboard the Joseph H. Thompson is First Mate David Connell. Originally from Sand Beach Township, he is a former student and a 2004 graduate of Harbor Beach High School. Connell attended Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, Michigan, graduating in 2009. He has been aboard the Joseph H. Thompson since 2015. David Connell lives in St. Joseph, Michigan, with his wife Michelle (Mausolf) and their two daughters, Lola (7) and Natalia (4).
The Joseph H. Thompson is named for the highly decorated WW I veteran and legendary University of Pittsburg football coach, Joseph “Colonel Joe” Henry Thompson (1871-1928). He was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1925.
Last year, the push tug Joseph H. Thompson Jr. was replaced by the newer Laura L. Van Enkevort. Built in Louisiana for salt water service in 1994, the Laura L. was purchased by Van Enkevort Tug & Barge Inc. in 2018, and refitted for service on the Great Lakes. She began powering the Joseph H. Thompson in September 2019.
The photograph used in the article is courtesy of KAREN MURPHY PHOTOGRAPHY of Harbor Beach – she is the professional photographer mentioned in the article. Her picture was taken before September 2019, when the new push tug began powering the barge. The color of the Joseph H. Thompson Jr. (tug) matches the barge whereas the new tug, the Laura L. Van Enkevort, is basically white above the deck.
Prints and canvases of the photograph are available from KAREN MURPHY PHOTOGRAPHY. KMP is on Facebook and can be reached at: (989) 670-0471.
Enkevort Tug & Barge Inc. is in the process of building a new barge, the Michigan Trader. When completed, she will be paired with the Joseph H. Thompson Jr., the tugboat originally built in the late 1980s and now separated from her namesake barge.
In this 2020 photo, the Joseph H. Thompson is pushed by the new tug,
the Laura L. Enkevort. Notice the white tower.
THE UPBOUND JOSEPH H. THOMPSON ON AN OVERCAST SPRING DAY
Another ship story in the ARCHIVES:
"Lee A. Tregurtha and WWII" 4/9/20
Charting vessels on the Great Lakes. Follows the Thompson using the name of the tug, Laura L. Enkevort.
AUGUST 6, 1945
U.S. DROPS ATOMIC BOMB
75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE END OF WW II
"Since Auschwitz, we know what man is
capable of. And since Hiroshima,
we know what is at stake." VIKTOR FRANKL
"ALL WE ARE SAYING IS GIVE PEACE A CHANCE" J. LENNON
"I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with terrible resolve." ADMIRAL ISOROKU YAMAMOTO [on Pearl Harbor]