This post is about the trip that I made to Muskegon on August 31st, 2014.
It was another hot, humid, hazy day, with variable cloud cover. The day started quite cloudy, but by mid-afternoon, there was hardly a cloud in the sky.
I started at the wastewater treatment facility, hoping for a lifer or two as far as shorebirds, but while there were many shorebirds to be found, no lifers on this day. I did start the day on a fair note, a northern harrier (hen harrier or marsh hawk) perched on a clump of grass.
That’s one of the few times that I’ve seen a harrier perched, they spend most of their time gliding just off the ground looking for prey.
They had just mowed the grass in what are known as the grassy cells at the wastewater facility, which is probably why this red-tailed hawk was perched so low as well.
I could have spent the majority of the day shooting red-tailed hawks, I saw at least a dozen of them, and I did manage better photos of some of them than the one above. But, the one above was perched within sight of the harrier, which I thought was rather odd.
It also reminds me to say something about the way that birds have learned to make use of human activity, particularly agricultural activity. Like I said, they had just cut the grass in the grassy cells, that brings in the raptors that find it easier to spot the small mammals that they prey on. If there are gulls, crows, or other birds in an area, they will follow a farmer as he plows the fields, the birds know that they will find easy pickings of earthworms and grubs in the overturned soil as the farmer plows. When a hay-field is cut, crows, cranes, and other birds will flock to that field as it is easier for the birds to feed on grasshoppers in the stubble left when the hay is cut.
The “fashion”these days is to bash agricultural activities as being harmful to wildlife, particularly birds. In the “old” days, it was that birds ate a great deal of a farmer’s crop, therefore the birds needed to kept away from farms one way or another, and that often meant killing the birds.
As in most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Yes, birds will make an easy meal of a crop when they can, but they also are a benefit to farmers by eating insect pests that would do far more damage to a crop than the birds do. There are some farm practices that are harmful to birds, but overall, birds benefit from agricultural practices though out the year. So, maybe it’s time that we call it a wash, and call a truce on both sides of the issue.
Anyway, I made my way to one of the aeration cells where Hudsoinian godwits had been seen a few days before. Unfortunately, they had left, but a small flock of other assorted shorebirds were there to be seen.
Seeing the flock come flying in, I hopped out of my Subaru and began shooting.
There were Baird’s, Least, and semipalmated sandpipers in the flock, but no godwits, darn!
A little later, I spotted one of what I think is the cutest shorebirds, a semipalmated plover.
They seem to know how cute they are, and most of the time, they will even pose for me, as this one did, turning so that the light was as close to perfect as I could get.
The plovers also seem to be helpful little birds when they can be, one of them chased a Baird’s sandpiper closer to me…
…so that I could get a few close-ups….
…but the sandpiper was too busy feeding, and wouldn’t turn just right for the lighting, and like the dummy I am, I had left my new flash unit in my Forester.
Some of the members of the Muskegon County Nature Club have named this eagle, but I can’t remember what they named it. However, it has a favorite perch on the west side of the west lagoon, and spends a great deal of time there. In fact, this is the same eagle in the same tree as I shot on my last trip there.
Along with the shorebirds, migrating ducks are showing up at the wastewater lagoons in greater numbers all the time. Here’s a few of the hundreds of northern shovelers that I saw.
Since it’s closing in on autumn, and the ducks are all in their non-breeding plumage, I didn’t bother to shoot many photos of them. But, when a shoveler close to shore started bathing, I did shoot a few of that.
Along with the shovelers and mallards were large numbers of blue winged teal, no photos, you’ll have to take my word for it.
I have some good close-ups of Bonaparte’s gulls, so I shot this one and didn’t crop it because I like it the way that it is.
I was surprised that I saw only a few swallows, they flock up at the wastewater facility in the fall to feed on the crane flies that hatch there. I could have used a few swallows to reduce the number of crane flies, seen here on the window of my Forester.
They were so bad along the north edge of one of the lagoons that I didn’t roll the window down to shoot this hawk.
Shooting through the window was not a wise idea, as you can see, so I deleted the other four of five hawks that I shot along the powerline there. There was a hawk on just about ever other pole, and I could see others in the distance, but you’ll have to take my word for that. I wasn’t about to open the window to let the crane flies in. ;)
I stopped at one of the other small ponds there, as there were fewer crane flies there, and shot this yellowlegs.
I shot that one as a test shot before going after a pair of dowitchers that I had spotted, but the darned yellowlegs spooked shortly after that photo, and spooked the dowitchers too. They landed on the far side of the pond and tried to pretend that they were mallards.
I took a break while chatting with some other birders, then went back to the pond, hoping that the dowitchers had returned to the close side of the pond. My plan worked.
I tried to get a shot of both birds with their heads up, it didn’t happen.
Most of the photos I shot were like this.
A sunny day, with interesting cloud formations, no wind, and a large body of water reflecting the cloud formations, I had to shoot the scene.
But wait! It was a sunny day and the rocks in the foreground were nearly white, why does the foreground look so dark? It’s because the sensor in my camera can not record the dynamic range from light to dark present in this scene.
When I exposed for the clouds, the foreground was too dark, when I exposed for the foreground, the clouds were blown out. That’s the reason that I’ve been playing with Photomatix HDR software, to get this image, the way that I saw the scene.
If I had needed any more convincing about the limitations of a digital camera’s sensor, that scene was enough. I will be going over to the dark side and post-processing some of my photos from now on. There’s no other way to capture what I see realistically when it comes to landscapes.
It dawned on me that I hadn’t been doing any close-up portraits of gulls lately, not that I need any more photos like this one…
…but, they make good practice shots.
I moved back to the grassy cells, and instead of crane flies, I had grasshoppers on my windows, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to shoot a few with the Tokina macro lens.
I also found a great egret, but not on my windshield. ;)
I was about to switch over to the 300 mm prime lens, since the egret was within range of it, but the egret flew off before I could make the switch.
It was hot out in the open, so I headed over to the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve where I could stay in the shade at least some of the time, and hopefully catch a few migrating warblers. No luck on the warblers, but I did shoot these there.
All those, and all of the other photos so far except for the grasshoppers, were shot with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), and the flowers are a bit fuzzy due to their movement in the wind. I had a hard time keeping the flowers in the frame because the wind had come up so strong. I couldn’t get close enough to the flowers to hold them from moving, as I was on a fenced boardwalk and the flowers were too far away from me.
The next few photos aren’t great, but they are perfect examples of why the Beast is still my go to lens for birding, even though the 300 mm prime may be capable of better image quality. I was on a boardwalk over a marsh, as you can see in the last photo, the vegetation was extremely thick. I saw a small area of open water, about 6 feet long and 3 feet wide (2 meters by 1 meter). I saw one small brown something cross the open water, followed by another small brown thing that I thought may have been a sora. I was looking in the direction of the sun, so it was hard for me to see anything in the vegetation, but I was able to make out that the second bird was indeed a sora.
The Beast’s ability to lock in on a bird in vegetation that thick under extremely poor lighting is incredible! It’s like a hunting dog that sniffs out the birds, as I could barely see the sora with the naked eye. But, it soon got better, the first brown thing I had seen go across the opening was a marsh wren, I heard it first, then spotted it looking at me.
That image was cropped a lot, if you saw the full size version, the Beast’s ability to pick the bird out of the vegetation would be even more amazing! The wren, knowing that I was getting photos of it even through the weeds, came out into a relatively open spot for a few better photos.
And you can see, open is a relative term, for it was still hard to see the wren through the weeds. I do love the Beast!
The wren went back into the weeds, I hung around for a while hoping that either of the birds would come out into the open, but I had no luck there. To amuse myself while waiting, I shot a few dragonflies.
I did have to focus manually for those, but then one landed for a better shot.
A while later, I got this one with the Tokina macro lens.
And, my last two photos from the day, a mourning dove….
…and a mute swan family.
It turned out to be another great day, even if I didn’t get another lifer, but they will come. Maybe this weekend, for it’s forecast to turn quite cool for this time of year, and I’ll be going back again.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
This post is about the trip that I made to Muskegon on August 16th, 2014, not one of my better days. I think that some of the first waves of shorebirds had already departed, as I didn’t see more than a handful of species of them. I am positive that this will be the shortest post that I’ve ever done on a trip to anywhere in the Muskegon area, and I shot less than 200 photos for the day as proof of how little I saw.
I went to the wastewater facility again, and warmed up taking a few photos of a horned lark.
I posted quite a few images of red-tailed hawks in the last two posts I did from Muskegon, but when one poses for me, I just have to shoot it. ;)
One of these days I’m going to have to buy a good lens other than that junk Sigma 150-500 mm, otherwise known as the Beast. ;)
When I got to the first of the man-made lakes, there was a mixed bag of birds to be seen.
I shot a few more of the greater yellowlegs, since I posted just lesser yellowlegs last week.
While I was shooting those, another birder/photographer showed up, and I showed him my trick of hiding in the weeds to get better photos than from his vehicle. Too bad that somewhere in there I managed to switch the mode of my camera from aperture to manual without knowing it, and I fought that for most of the day. I checked everything else out when I started having trouble, but never thought to check the shooting mode, as I seldom change it.
Anyway, we were kneeling in the weeds, and the Wilson’s phalarope swam right over to us.
As you can see, I over-exposed the last two images quite a bit, darn!
I did manage a few halfway good shots of the semipalmated sandpipers.
Later in the day I was able to get even more, but I won’t bore you with them now.
Instead, I’ll bore you with a few eagle images. The first one was shot from inside of my Forester.
I eased outside for this one.
Since the eagle seemed in no hurry to leave, I put the Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter behind the Beast for these next to, giving me a focal length of 700 mm.
Fair, since I have to manually focus, I never know if I missed the focus or it that combination of the Beast and extender is just soft past about 75 feet.
Another very poor shot, four sandhill cranes and a murder of crows out in the middle of one of the fields eating grasshoppers I assume.
That’s one of those “for the record photos” that I don’t post many of any longer. There were between 30 and 50 crows out in the field along with the cranes.
Next up is the most interesting sequence of photos from the day, a pair of American kestrels engaged in what I assume was pair bonding.
I had watched one of the kestrels chase a hawk out of the area, then it was joined by the second kestrel. They were fooling around in the tree at first, then one took to the air to make passes at the other.
Then, the second one took wing, and the two of them flew in formation together for quite a while as I watched.
I shot plenty of photos, too bad the kestrels had moved to where I couldn’t get a good image of them.
After that, I went back and got a few more shorebirds.
The rest of the images of the Baird’s sandpiper I used to correct one of the mistakes that I made in the My Photo Life List project. One down, one to fix yet, but I didn’t get any shots of a stilt sandpiper, maybe next time.
I’m not sure when that will be. I’m a bit burned out on shorebirds right now, so I think that I’ll skip a week at least before returning to the wastewater facility unless the birding reports tell me that I’d better not. But, I have a week to figure out where to go next weekend. It will depend on the weather, also. It’s hot out there in the mid-day sun, I could use a break from that as well.
Other than that, I don’t have much to say, it was a long day, and not a very productive one at that.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
This post is the second from the trip that I made to Muskegon on August 10th, 2014, you can see the first one here.
I may as well start with a few photos of a pectoral sandpiper which I have also used to update the post on them that I had done earlier in the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on, since some of my earlier photos weren’t as good as these.
Not only weren’t some of the photos very good, I had incorrectly put a few photos of an upland sandpiper in that post.
Identifying shorebirds is still difficult for me, but the more of them I see frequently, the easier it is becoming. The first time that I went to the Muskegon County wastewater facility to photograph shorebirds, they all looked alike to me. I’m getting better, I could tell that the pectoral sandpiper wasn’t a yellowlegs…
…nor was it a solitary sandpiper, as this is.
I’m learning to spot the slight differences in the color patterns on their backs, in their bills, and leg color, all of which are clues to their ID.
Another thing that I’m learning is how to get good photos of them. The first few times that I tried I had a very hard time getting the exposure correct. With the sunlight reflecting off from the water and rocks, it results in “confused” light entering the camera. Confused lighting isn’t easy to work with, but getting closer helps a lot, along with checking the images and adjusting the exposure for each and every situation. You can see some of the reflections from the water in the first photo of the pectoral sandpiper. However, those aren’t the worst offenders as far as reflections, it’s the ones that you can’t see which make photography difficult.
One thing that I meant to try was to use a polarizing filter to cut down on the reflected light coming from the water and rocks, but I haven’t shelled out the big bucks for one of those filters to fit the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) yet. It takes an 86 mm filter, and they don’t come cheap for a good one of that size. I do have a polarizing filter for the 300 mm prime, but I didn’t want to do any testing and risk missing a photo of something special. It turns out that I didn’t see any birds that fit that category, but you never know around Muskegon.
Another thing that I want to try is using fill in flash to help when the lighting is less than ideal. I’m jumping way ahead, but just before I packed it in for the day, I found a treasure trove of birds to photograph, but on the north shore of the lagoon. That meant that I was shooting towards the sun, and my photos from that spot are not what I wanted, but they’ll have to do.
The only photos that I had up until them of the Bonaparte’s gull were of juveniles, or adults after they had molted. I didn’t know it when I shot that photo that just a bit later I would get a chance to photograph another of the gulls while perched on shore.
Still, the light was wrong for that shot, but it was the best that I could do, birds don’t always perch where I would like them to for the best images. ;)
I used to use the flash on my Canon Powershot camera for fill-in flash quite often, but that camera seemed to be programmed to get good results that way. My old Nikon was junk, but I learned some bad habits from it, like not using fill-in flash. I also made a poor decision in purchasing an off brand flash unit that had little control over the unit’s output for the Nikon.
I thought about trying the flash on my Canon to improve the gull photos, but as large and long as the Beast is, I didn’t think that the built-in flash would work well. I could have been wrong. It’s been rainy the past two days, so I’ve been playing, but not with the Beast on the camera. However, the results when using the flash and the 300 mm prime lens have been encouraging so far.
Still, if I’m going to get serious about using a flash more often, as my brother keeps telling me I need to do, I need a better, more controllable flash than the one built-in on my camera.
I’ve been researching Canon’s speedlites, and I’ve settled on the 320 EX. It can be used as a wireless slave in addition to or instead of the camera’s flash. That means that I don’t have to have the flash mounted on the camera in order to fire it. The camera will do that wirelessly, meaning I can hand hold the flash off to one side for macro photography. In addition, I can have the camera on a tripod, point the flash at the camera and press a button on the flash to trigger the camera’s two second shutter delay, and it’s the same as pressing the shutter release on the camera using a two second delay. The two seconds will allow me to position the flash before the shutter fires. I can even trigger the camera remotely with the flash, and have the flash not fire, just like the remote control that I was going to purchase.
So, that flash will kill two birds with one stone, not only will it work as a flash, but it will also work as the remote control that I needed. Speaking of birds, it’s time for a few more.
I included the killdeer because I saw so many of them, dozens at least.
This spotted sandpiper was jumping from rock to rock in search of food…
…and seemed quite proud of itself after making the leap without getting wet.
I tried to catch a jump, but I missed, a little early on the shutter.
By using the sparse brush along the dike that created the lagoon, I was able to sneak up on the short-billed dowitcher from the last post.
A little closer.
I almost got even closer to the dowitcher, but a bird that I hadn’t seen as it hid in the rocks took off when I spooked it, and spooked the dowitcher as well. Birds weren’t the only critters hiding between the rocks.
I did get two poor shots of the dowitcher in flight.
I also saw a small flock of semipalmated plovers, they’re such cute little birds!
The look like killdeer, but they’re less than half the size, only have one black band at the neck, and have slightly webbed feet, which if you look closely at the last photo, you can see.
For the other birds that I saw, there were quite a few hawks….
….another juvenile bald eagle…
…a great blue heron…
…a common raven…
…and last, but certainly not least, a sandhill crane.
I had mentioned earlier in this post that I had found a treasure trove of birds along the north shore of one of the lagoons. That’s where I shot the gulls and plovers. But, by that time I had nearly baked my brain again in the hot sun as I stalked the shorebirds from this post and the last. Since I had been sick that morning from too much sun the day before, and since the light was so poor on the north shore of the lagoon, I decided to call it quits for the day. The rest of the photos were shot as I drove slowly towards the exit of the wastewater facility.
I’ll probably be going back this next weekend, I know of no other place where I can see and photograph the variety of birds that I do there.
I think that I’ll pick-up the flash unit tomorrow if it is in stock locally, that will give me time to read the manuals for it and my camera, and test it out around home here before I try it on some rare bird that I may spot.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
I had great plans for the day, starting with getting up early so I’d beat the heat of the day. I was up early, but I was also sicker than a dog, so I piddled around home for a while until I felt well enough to go. That meant that I had to change my plans a bit. I was going to start at Lane’s Landing again, but instead, I started and finished at the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility.
I shot 600 photos, and no, I’m not going to post them all, not even close. The “curse” of the wastewater facility struck again, I have to be very close to a subject to get a sharp photo of anything there. I’ve discussed possible reasons for that in the past, no need for me to rehash them again. It is a shame though, there are more birds to be seen there than anywhere else I’ve ever been. The area is mostly open as well, making it hard to sneak up on the birds. The first few times I went, I shot most of my photos from my vehicle, but I am learning a few tricks that let me get closer to the birds on foot, so that my photos are a bit better at least some of the time.
As soon as I turned off from the main road to enter the facility, I began shooting photos, starting with a red-tailed hawk and a great blue heron, but those images have been deleted, since both species made frequent appearances during the day. On the other side of the road I spotted some spotted bee balm, and so I decided to look them over and if they looked good, I’d set up my tripod and get some good macro photos of them. Silly me, since the flowers were within a few feet of the road, I didn’t grab a camera, and several species of waterfowl went winging past me as I inspected the bee balm. I quickly returned to my Forester and grabbed the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) but the waterfowl seemed to know that I had a camera then, and stopped flying past me. The spotted bee balm was well past its prime, but I did find this insect feeding on the few remaining flowers.
Not bad for a “junk” lens not worth buying. ;) But, I’ve hammered that review of the Sigma lens enough, time to move on.
And move on I did, checking what are called the grassy cells for any birds that were worth exiting my vehicle and attempting to stalk on foot. I did spy a red-tailed hawk recharging after a rough morning.
A little farther on, this great blue heron.
As good as the Beast is, the 300 mm prime is better under the right circumstances, and I’d love to see what the prime lens can do on a heron. So, I drove down the road a short way until I could find a place to park in the shade, swapped lenses, and started back on foot, hoping to sneak up on the heron. It didn’t work.
I don’t know if the heron heard me, or if it just decided to try other hunting grounds, but you can see that it left well before I got close to it.
However, what happened next was one of those magical moments in nature that I’ll never forget, although it began on the bland side. I was walking back to my Subaru when a small flock of vultures came from over the woods out in the open very close to me.
As I was standing outside of the car, changing back to the Beast, the vultures continued to circle above me, catching a thermal updraft to help them gain altitude without expending much energy. The vultures were still over me as a pair of sandhill cranes came from across the grassy cells, headed straight at me, giving me plenty of time to get ready for them.
The cranes joined the vultures circling over me as they gained altitude also. Next, a red-tailed hawk came along to do the same.
By then, I had a flock of vultures, the cranes, and a hawk all riding the thermal upwards, which begs the question, how do the birds know where to find updrafts? Because the vultures and the hawk as well as more birds I haven’t mentioned yet came from over the woods, I don’t know how far away from the updraft that they were to start. But, I know the cranes flew a quarter of a mile directly towards the updraft to get to it.
Can the birds tell by the lay of the land, experience, weather conditions, or a combination of various factors to find an updraft?
Anyway, the first hawk had hardly gotten out of photo range when the young eagle joined the parade.
I was getting arm weary keeping the beast pointed almost straight up, but the birds kept coming.
I thought about zooming out and trying to get several of the birds in one photo, but the vultures were mere specks in the sky by then, the cranes were slightly closer, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell what they were, and besides, more hawks joined the upward spiral.
You may think that I’m cheating and using many photos of the same hawk, but I’m not. Look closely at the markings of the hawks and you can see that there were five individual hawks circling over me, along with the eagle, cranes, and vultures.
It was truly an awesome display, seeing all those birds circling over me, I forgot how sick I had been earlier. ;) I neglected to say that I think that I felt as poorly as I had because of my allergies kicking in combined with too much sun the day before. I had gotten the top of my head sunburned even though I wore the same hat that I always do.
I may not have gotten a great photo of the heron which I had set out for, but I have to thank the heron anyway, for if I hadn’t parked there to try, I would have never seen all those graceful birds flying over me to begin circling above me.
For most of the rest of the day, I spent my time chasing shorebirds, of which there were many. The fall migration has begun in earnest, believe me! Two years ago I had never heard of most of the species of shorebirds that I saw this day, and it was just a year ago that I wondered if I would ever get a good photo of a species like the lesser yellowlegs. Little did I know.
There were so may yellowlegs everywhere that there was no way I could keep count of them all.
I’m sorry for so many photos of them, but they were everywhere! And as many of them as there were, there were even more least sandpipers! (I won’t bore you with as many photos though)
When I did see a species of shorebird other than those two, my biggest problem as far as photography was getting the other species alone. Most of the time, there were either least sandpipers or yellowlegs in the frame at the same time. Here’s a wider shot showing a Short-billed Dowitcher in a mixed flock of shorebirds.
Luck was on my side, later I caught the dowitcher even closer, with just one least sandpiper in the frame. However, those photos and the rest that I saved from this trip will be in the next post. ;) And I promise, no more yellowlegs or least sandpipers unless they just happened to be in the frame as I shot another species of bird. ;) But, I know of no other way to convey the shear numbers of those two species that I saw on this trip.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Having received a rare bird email alert from eBird that told me that trumpeter swans and American bittern had been seen at a small wetland not too far from where I live, I decided to check that place out.
First, I “scouted” the area on Google Earth so that I would have some idea of what the area was like, that helped a lot. It also helped that I just happened to bump into the person who verifies the rare bird reports for eBird here in Kent County, Michigan this morning, and he gave me more info about the place.
After doing my daily walk around home, I ate lunch, then set out for the wetland. When I arrived, it was rather cloudy with a pretty stiff wind out of the northwest. I had barely gotten started down the path when I began spooking birds that I should have gotten photos of. But, since this was my first time at this spot, I wasn’t sure what I would find or where. I tried to go slow and cautiously, but I wasn’t able to sneak up on anything, the birds were spotting me and either running…
…or flying away from me long before I could get a good shot.
I was a bit disappointed, as I could tell that the trumpeter swans had left the pond, I didn’t think that I would ever be able to spot the bittern in the marsh, and overall, things were not going well.
As I approached the far end of the pond, there was a stand of willows and alders there, along what turned out to be a small creek that drains the pond. I could see small songbirds flitting about in the brush, so I put the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) to work at what it does an excellent job of, catching small birds trying to hide from me.
I was in my element, surrounded by plentiful birds in thick brush, spotting the birds and shooting quickly before they could escape the Beast. To make things better, the sun came out, and eventually, I grew arm weary chasing the small birds with the Beast.
I spotted a very large bird of prey across the pond, and got this one bad photo of it.
I watched it land, and from the way that it worked its way back into the thickest brush as red-winged blackbirds swarmed it, I think that it was probably an owl of some type, but I could be wrong. Hawks don’t usually hide, that’s something that owls do. I kept an eye out for whatever it was, but never saw it again.
My arms needed a break, so I sat down on the rocks that had been placed along the creek to keep the creek flowing where it is supposed to flow, but my break didn’t last long. The birds just wouldn’t leave me alone.
It turned out to be a great day, well, except for the wind. But, the sun was out, I was surrounded by birds carrying on, some singing, some just calling, and the Beast was performing well. I spotted a bird that I didn’t think that I had ever gotten photos, sure enough, it was a northern waterthrush! My first lifer of the day.
So, how good is the Beast as a birding lens? This good!
The Sigma lens may not be as sharp as my new 300 mm prime lens, but the auto-focus of the Sigma is much quicker, and it seems to hone in on birds even when they are partially hidden, whereas the new lens will focus on the brush rather than the birds.
I have no idea how long I played around in that small area of brush, but I shot many more photos than what you are seeing here, and I decided that it was getting late, and I should start back.
As I had been photographing the small birds, I saw a sandhill crane spiral in and land in the marsh across the pond from me. I looked for the crane, but was having no luck spotting it in the reeds. A red-winged blackbird came to my rescue, and began to attack the crane, which is how I spotted it.
I am happy to report that both birds survived, I felt sorry for the crane, it was just looking for food, but in the blackbird’s territory.
Anyway, I continued on my way, watching to blackbirds to see if they would alert me to any other birds, but it was a muskrat that drew my attention to my second lifer of the day, a sora.
I got a few so-so shots of flying birds.
I had about given up on seeing the bittern, I was trying to use my camera as a spotting scope from time to time, but that doesn’t work very well. I rounded a curve in the path, and came eye to eye with one of the bitterns perched in one of the willow bushes on the edge of the marsh. I froze, it took flight.
It flew across the pond, to where I had been before. I took a step or two in that direction, then decided that I wouldn’t go after the bittern, even though I wasn’t sure how good the photos that I shot were. If I pressed the bittern, it may have left the area for good, and I didn’t want that. So, I turned back around, and just then, a second bittern let out a croak, and took off from very near where the first had been.
So, after a lackluster start, the day turned out to be a very good one! Three lifers in a wetland that was less than 80 acres in size makes for an excellent day in my book.
I have one more photo, of the field next to the wetland area.
All in all, a very good day after a slow start.
An update, I went back again today, and got yet another lifer, so that makes four from that small wetlands in just two days. But, you’ll have to wait for the next post to find out what it was. ;)
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
I boxed up and shipped out the defective 300 mm prime lens to start the day, then I spent the rest of the day in the local park where I walk every week day, and many days on the weekends as well. The weather was fabulous, and there were a number of flocks of migrating birds in the area, but I managed to miss all but one of them. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, here are two of the reasons that I keep on taking photos of the same species of birds that I have already photographed hundreds, if not thousands of times.
Neither photo is perfect, but the one of the cardinal may be the best of that species that I’ve ever gotten. I knew that the photos of the cardinal were going to be very good, but I didn’t think that they would be great. I wish that the twigs in the foreground weren’t there, but I wanted the tree trunk that is in the background to be there to make it easier for me to get a good exposure of the cardinal. You can’t have everything I suppose.
And I thought that I was having a bad day. I was in a way, I saw winter wrens, fox sparrows, and at least two species of warblers, but I missed all but this fox sparrow.
And, I almost missed the sparrow as you can see, at least I got a shot of some kind.
I did get a blue headed mallard.
But, most of the day I ended up with photos of birds that ducked at the last second…
…or skulked in the shadows.
I didn’t shoot only birds.
I spent quite a bit of time photographing the first crocus of the year, way too much time. ;)
The next three are identical except for the exposure, I went down 1/3 of a stop between each one, but I can’t decide which one I like best.
That’s interesting, they don’t look that much different here in this post in their small version, but full screen, there’s a great deal of difference in the lighting of each of those three photos.
The last one is okay, but it was more of a test to see how low I can go with my new tripod, and it passed the test with flying colors! It is really a great piece of kit. I’ve posted a couple of photos with it set-up with the center post flipped to the horizontal position, and that’s how I was able to get the photo of the crocus from the side. Not only does it position the camera very low when required, but it also allow you to keep the main part of the tripod back away from the subject so that you don’t have shadows from the tripod to contend with. The articulated display of the Canon 60 D body is also great when shooting that close to the ground, I only had to kneel in the mud, not lay on my belly in it to see the screen to set-up the shot. ;)
I was a little disappointed that none of the blue crocus were open yet, hopefully they will be on Monday when I return.
A clear, frosty start to what promises to be a great day. I don’t have much time this morning, I’m headed to Grand Haven, Michigan for a day of birding along the big lake.
It’s late, but I did make it back home. I went a little crazy out there today, and shot photos of 48 species of birds, well over 400 photos in total.
In the old days, I’d probably do two or three posts from my photos today, but that won’t happen this time, although I do think that one stand alone post is warranted, as you will have seen before this post gets published.
Anyway, I started out at Harbor Island near Grand Haven, Michigan because there have been red-necked grebes seen there lately, which I did find. But, not before seeing many other species first. I’m going to start with a photo of a song sparrow belting out his spring song, because it represents the kind of day it was so well!
I could do an entire post of just song sparrows singing, but I won’t. Here’s an American tree sparrow instead.
Oh, and by the way, I know that no one is interested, but I’ll be updating the photos for many species of birds that I have already posted in the My Photo Life List project, the song sparrows, tree sparrows, starlings, American coot, and horned grebes.
It took me a while (and quite a few photos) but I talked the grebe into posing for a series of photos up close and personal, that’s barely cropped at all.
The stand alone post that I’ll do features this coot and the trouble that it has eating a snail.
While watching the coot trying for its meal of escargot , I found the red-necked grebes that I had set out for.
My next stop was Lake Harbor Park where Mona Lake empties into Lake Michigan. A number of eagles were flying around, I forgot to turn off the OS of the Beast, and as a result, there’s the ghosting that I get with the OS on in this photo.
I may have been off a little on the focus as well, I was using the Beast with the Tamron extender, so I had to manually focus the shots of the eagles that I tried.
Here’s a few other photos from my time there.
On to my next stop, which was Pere Marquette Park in Muskegon, on the channel from Muskegon Lake to Lake Michigan. Most of the waterfowl have headed back north already, but I caught a greater scaup preening.
A female mallard too cute not to photograph…
…more horned grebes…
…and to make it a three grebe day, this cute little pie-billed grebe.
That’s another species that I’ll update the previously done post.
There was one lone male long-tailed duck left.
So, then it was around to the other end of Muskegon Lake and the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve. The photos that I shot there were all of common species, the only one worth posting is this one of a herring gull checking out its lunch.
Even though I was tired, I made a stop at the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility to see if I could find anything noteworthy there. Way out in some of the flooded farm fields there were snow geese and other waterfowl, but I could just barely make them out with binoculars, they were way too far away for photos, so this bufflehead…
…and these hooded mergansers were the only photos that I shot worth posting.
Well, that’s about it for today.
I’m still recovering from my bird extravaganza yesterday, and running behind as well, so this will be short.
I noticed a pair of vultures perched in a tree, which I seldom see, so even thought the light was poor, I went ahead and shot photos anyway.
When the vulture leapt into flight, I kept shooting.
I spotted a flock of golden-crowned kinglets and managed a few shots of them, along with some photos of empty branches where a kinglet had been a split second before, they sure do move fast, and often!
While taking a short break despite being pressed for time, I saw what I thought was a downy woodpecker on a tree nearby, but it didn’t act like a downy, so I decided to give it a closer inspection. It was a good thing that I did, for the bird in question was a male yellow-bellied sapsucker. This photo and several more will be added to the previous post that I did on this species in the My Photo Life List project, as my only photos so far have been poor ones of females of the species.
The sapsucker looked a bit skittish, and here’s why.
The Cooper’s hawk was in sight of the sapsucker, so I was surprised that the sapsucker moved around as much as it did, I would have thought that it would freeze in place like most birds do when a hawk is about.
Finally, a photo of a house finch that refused to sing for me.
As long as I had the camera on the finch, it wouldn’t as much as peep, when my arms got too tired to hold the Beast up any longer, the finch would start singing away, until I brought the camera back up again.
Now, it’s time for a shower and a visit to my mom.
It’s a mostly cloudy and cool start to the day, it has really been a fine week so far, and that is forecast to continue into the weekend.
I’m finely getting caught up around here, last night and this morning I update half a dozen of the posts that I’ve already completed in the My Photo Life List project. That’s the great thing about doing that on the web in a blog, as I get better photos of a species, I can go back and add to or replace my earlier photos.
I am also almost fully recovered from this past weekend of spending almost all of both days outdoors, Saturday, lugging the majority of my photo gear, and Sunday, from carrying the Beast and my tripod around all day. I would say that I was looking forward to a day of not so nice weather so that I could ease up a little, but after the winter that we had here, I’ll keep pushing, and keep on enjoying this string of splendid days!
One other thought about my birding extravaganza on Sunday. I brought back photos of 48 species of birds, granted, some of the photos were pretty bad, but, I read some other birder’s blogs, and they are happy to see 48 species in a day, I got photos of that many species. That’s not my bragging about my birding skills, that’s more a reflection on how great of a place that the State of Michigan is to live if you’re a nature buff, especially if you’re a birder.
I suppose that I could post one photo of each species, but I have switched gears and gone from numbers to quality whenever possible. I could list all the species that I photographed, maybe even list the species that I saw but wasn’t able to get a photo of, such as the peregrine falcon that swooped over me and disappeared before I could get a shot of it, but I don’t want to bore you any more than I already do. The main point is that I truly love living in Michigan with the numerous areas of public access that we have, and our abundant wildlife.
Well, before I prattle on any longer, I suppose that I should get going, and see what I can find today.
I’m back, and I found too much! It was so ominous looking when I started my walk that I came back in to grab the dry bag that I use as a raincoat for the Beast, and there were even a few sprinkles of rain before I got to the park. Along the way, I stopped to try to see how good of a photo that I could get of a turkey vulture in the horrible light.
But when I got to the park, the sun broke through the clouds, and I started taking good photos.
I tried to find an angle where I wouldn’t have the branch behind the waxwing with the bad hair, but couldn’t do it.
My attempts at even better photos of the sapsucker from yesterday were ruined by some jerk that insisted on going between myself and the bird, even though I had the camera up, ready for the sapsucker to come out in the open. The same guy has done that to me before, next time, he gets an ear full!
As many photos of chickadees as I have shot, I shouldn’t try any longer for more, but how could I pass up these?
I know, way too many, but I couldn’t choose a favorite from among them. I love chickadees to begin with, and getting images that good of them in action always makes me happy.
Most of those were shot very close to the limit of how close the Beast can focus, and were only cropped slightly, which is why they’re so sharp.
I also shot a few of the crocus, but used the Beast. If I had known the weather was going to get better, I would have brought my tripod, other body, and the macro lens, which I will do tomorrow, but here’s a preview.
And, the same holds true of these maple flowers.
I had to rush through the photos from today, as I just got off the phone with my brother, discussing various things related to photography. He has received the 10-20 mm lens that he ordered, and has been posting some awesome photos to Facebook while using it, of both flowers and skyscapes. I want one, more than ever, but it will have to wait.
It’s just about the perfect spring morning as the day begins, I wish that I didn’t have to work tonight. I’d spend the day in the park just as I did on Saturday, wearing myself to a frazzle lugging all my camera gear as I walked in circles.
The weather is forecast to remain good right through Saturday afternoon, but then rain moves in for Sunday. I have been thinking of going to the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, but that’s too far to go for one day, since it’s a five-hour drive across the state to get there. Besides, there haven’t been reports of very many species of birds that I couldn’t find much closer to home.
So, I’ll have to decide on where to go around here. I could easily repeat what I did on Sunday. I got one lifer, the red-necked grebes, and got much better photos of over a half a dozen other species of birds than I already had. Or, I could go looking for early spring flowers at one of the parks even closer to home, but I think that it’s about a week early for that. Maybe I’ll do a birding extravaganza again on Saturday, then look for wildflowers in the rain on Sunday. We’ll see, once the weather forecast is more certain.
For right now, there are crocuses blooming in the park, and birds singing outside my apartment window, so it’s time to get moving!
I’m back. I think that I may have to wimp out and drive down to the park one day this week, rather than try to lug everything with me. I had the wildlife body with the Beast, the second body with the macro lens, and my tripod, but I really needed something to diffuse the harsh sunlight and/or add fill in light for most of the flower photos that I shot today.
It wouldn’t be quite as bad to carry all that stuff if the temperature didn’t start out chilly as I start my walk, then warm up a lot while I’m out there. I ended up shedding my jacket and a shirt, and had to add those items to the camera gear to carry. On the other hand, if I carried all my stuff every day, maybe my muscles would get used to it. ;)
Anyway, to start the day off, this robin came running up to me and demanded that I take its picture, so I did.
That’s full frame.
I have to wonder, if what the robin did today, or what the chickadee did yesterday, is the bird version of a selfie? Find a human with a camera, then pose so that they get their photo taken, since birds don’t have cell phones, yet. ;)
The rubber duckies are nesting!
I shouldn’t waste space like that, but I couldn’t help myself. ;)
The other birds were singing.
I got another excellent photo of a downy woodpecker.
I tried for a few shots of cedar waxwings in flight, but by that time, I had too much stuff hanging off me to put much effort into the photos, so here’s the best of a bad lot.
Actually, what I need is the 300 mm prime lens back, in good working order. Not only is it better suited for bird in flight photos, it weighs a lot less than the Beast, so carrying my other gear wouldn’t be so much of a burden. The defective lens has made it back to the retailer that I ordered if from, I hope that they get the replacement lens shipped out soon.
I shot this goose, as it was smaller than the average Canada goose, and its neck looked shorter as well, so I thought that it may be a cackling goose, but no, it’s just a small, short-necked Canada goose, but the look it gave me was great, so I have to throw the photo in here.
Okay, for the macro shots that I tried today, they’re not horrible, but I know that I can do better.
As soon as I started reviewing the photos, I knew that I should have brought the LED panel light with me to soften some of the shadows, I’ll try that tomorrow or Friday, depending on the weather. There may be rain tomorrow, so my next attempt may have to wait until Friday.
By the way, those were all shot with the Tokina 100 mm macro lens, as was this one.
That was the best subject that I could find close enough to the ground to reach with my tripod, none of the buds lower on the tree were open yet. I added the Tamron extender behind the macro lens, but it was still too short to really reach the flowers, so I cropped this one down.
I also used the extender for these lichens, even though I didn’t really need it.
Well, that’s it for today.
Another beautiful spring morning! I could get used to weather like we’ve been having this past week! There may be a little rain this afternoon, but that’s okay, we could use some rain, and so could all the plants that are starting to green up and/or blossom.
It looks as if Sunday is going to be a washout, rain off and on most of the day, and mostly on if the forecast is to be believed. They are predicting an inch or more of rain from Saturday night to Sunday evening. Oh well, into each life a little rain must fall.
I have changed my mind about another lakeshore birding trip this weekend, I think that I’ll go to the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve instead. That’s a good spot to find migrating songbirds, even migrating waterfowl, along with early season wildflowers. Besides, I just did the lakeshore thing last weekend. Good weather is here, it’s time to get out all over the place again!
More good news, the replacement 300 mm prime lens was shipped yesterday, I should have it in time for the weekend! That played a part in my changing my mind as to where to go. Pickerel Lake will be a good place to test the new lens out.
More than anything, I just want to get out in the woods and enjoy this spring! Spring has always been my favorite time of the year, and after the winter that we just went through, I’m enjoying this spring even more than usual! In fact, it’s time for me to get moving, get out there, and enjoy the heck out of today!
I’m back, and I sure did enjoy my time outside today, I hated to come home. But, there are things that I have to attend to so that I’ll have more time this weekend, and also to start preparing for my vacation, which starts in 30 days.
With a layer of high clouds diffusing the sunlight, today would have been a good day to re-shoot the crocus with the macro lens, but the strong wind today would have left me frustrated. It’s been so dry, and the wind was so strong, that it was blowing up dust devils, there’s always tomorrow for the macros.
Okay, for my photos, the goldfinches are getting their summer plumage.
And, I saw a small patch of crocus in the woods, this was shot with the Beast, just because this photo says spring to me.
A Cooper’s hawk circled me a couple of times, for the first photo, I turned the OS off but used my normal exposure settings.
While it circled away from me, I changed to my saved bird in flight exposure settings for this one.
This red-winged blackbird didn’t seem to mind the hawk overhead.
In the wooded part of the park, I spotted my first hermit thrush of the year. In a rare occurrence, the Beast failed to get a focus lock on the bird, so I had to focus manually, and I missed too.
I suppose that I can’t blame the Beast for missing the focus, as when I saw the photo as shot, I had a hard time making out the thrush because it blended in so well with the background, and there were weeds in the foreground.
I had much better luck with the male yellow-bellied sapsucker.
Patience paid off when shooting the sapsucker, the first 20 or so photos of him today weren’t very good due to the lighting, but I hung in there until he worked his way to where he was in good light, and I had a fairly clear view of him.
Here’s the backside of a blue jay.
I’d rather get side or front views of most birds, but with the jays, you don’t get to see their beautiful plumage in those angles, you almost have to photograph them from the rear.
Then, there are the birds that you’re lucky to even capture in the viewfinder!
If only! If only the kinglet hadn’t turned its head as the shutter went, and if only the twig in the foreground hadn’t been there!
Just a few quick words this morning, it’s absolutely beautiful outside today, but I’m going to try to do my walk fairly quickly. The replacement 300 mm prime lens is due to be delivered today, and I’d like to be back before it arrives. The UPS truck usually goes through here just after noon, so I have to get a move on.
Well, I’m back, no new lens yet, but I’m sure that it will arrive soon.
It is such a beautiful day out there that I’m thinking about going back out to try a few more macro photos. I’m finding macro photography to be even trickier than I thought that it would be, but I’ll get to that later.
I’ve practiced on birds enough that I think that I’m getting fairly good at photographing them, and right now, I’m a bit obsessed with getting images of the birds while they are singing.
I watched two female cardinals in a territorial dispute as a male looked on, but the photos are junk, since the battle took place well back in the brush.
And, the winner was…
…I suppose the real winner was the male, but he didn’t want his photo taken.
It must be nice to have two females fighting over you! ;)
The huge flock of cedar waxwings is still around, but I didn’t spend much time trying for photos of them, just this one.
It wold have been quite easy for me to get a shot of one of the waxwings out in the open, but I liked the lighting of that photo.
I know that I posted too many chickadee photos earlier, but when one poses, how can I resist?
And finally, for wildlife that is, the reason for our long cold winter, this guy saw his shadow.
Okay, when I got back from my walk, I didn’t really want to come inside, and I also noticed some tiny flowers just outside the door to the building. So, I set the beast inside, grabbed my tripod and macro set-up, and tried a few photos.
Okay, all those were shot with the Tokina 100 mm macro lens with the Tamron 1.4 extender behind it because the white flowers were so tiny. The entire flower clusters were less than an inch across, and I had trouble seeing the individual flowers if I wasn’t looking through the camera viewfinder. I’m not used to composing photos of such small subjects, at least not without cropping to get what I want. I need more practice doing the composition knowing that I won’t be cropping, which none of these were.
Also, I’m finding that lighting is extremely tricky on very small subjects, what appear to be slight shadows turn out to be drastic ones in the images the camera captures.
Well, I could go on and on about what I need to learn, but it will come with practice, I’m sure. What it boils down to is that I need to be more precise in both composition and lighting.
I’d go out and get some more practice, but I have the camera batteries charging up for what I hope will be a great day tomorrow at Pickerel Lake!
I think that I’ll end this one now, as It is already quite long, and despite my trying to limit the number of photos, I’ve ended up with too many yet again.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Another trip to Muskegon, more photos of a species that I needed photos of. I just wish that the weather had been as nice as what had been forecast.
Instead of partly sunny, it was cloudy and cold, with fog in the morning, and haze in the afternoon. The weather made bird photos more difficult, but it also provided some opportunities for some scenic shots, which I’ll get to shortly.
But first, the trophy photo of the day, a golden eagle.
That was one of the last photos of the eagle that I shot, here’s two of it perched.
Now, back to the beginning. On the way to Muskegon, I stopped several times to take photos of the snow stuck to the trees, looking very festive for the holiday.
Arriving at the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility, I was greeted by first one….
…then a second….
….Bald eagle in flight. Some sun sure would have helped those!
The deer were out feeding.
There were plenty of mourning doves to be seen.
The crows were busy harassing eagles.
There were bald eagles on the ice fighting over a kill.
Most of the ducks were either gone because the lagoons had frozen over already, or they were laying low because of the number of eagles around, but I did catch this female blue winged teal.
The Canada geese must think that there’s safety in numbers.
The noise from all those geese was deafening at times, especially when an eagle came close to them!
The snow wasn’t melting very fast.
That didn’t bother this hawk…
or these turkeys.
Even though I knew it would still be cloudy there, I decided to stop off at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve to see what I could find there.
Hearing the flock of tundra swans was even more memorable than seeing them! Here’s a link to All About Birds where you can listen to the tundra swans if you like. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Tundra_Swan/sounds
I decided to make one more stop, the channel from Muskegon State Park, stopping to shoot yet another bald eagle on the way.
Arriving at the channel, I discovered what Santa does on his days off, he goes fishing.
There were a few birds around as well.
With that, I decided to call it a day and head back home to sort photos. I wish that the weather would have been better, but any day with multiple eagles is a good one!
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!