On my last two days off from work, I did the same old thing at the same old places as I usually do, I went to the Muskegon County wastewater facility and the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve. I did so because I was trying to find a species of bird that I need for the My Photo Life list project that I’m working on, a northern mockingbird. A mockingbird has been seen and heard several times this spring at the wastewater facility, but I hadn’t been able to locate it, until Friday.
That photo would have been good enough for me to cross that species off from my list of species that I need to complete the list, but I was able to use some natural cover to get slightly closer and with a clear view of the mockingbird.
I thought that as long as he continued to sing…
…that he didn’t think that I represented a threat to him. I made sure that I had shot plenty of images of him, enjoying his song as I watched him through the viewfinder, and then I moved on, listening to him as I walked back to my car. Now I know why people say that the song of a mockingbird is one of the most beautiful bird songs that one can hear.
Earlier this spring, I listed three species of warblers as my goals for this spring, but I have yet to make a serious search for any of the three. Although, I did keep my eyes open when I visited Lane’s Landing in the Muskegon State Game Area, as all three of the species have been seen passing through that area in the past. The way things have been going this spring, I may not get a chance to search for the three species that I had as my goal for the year, as I’ve been quite lucky to cross several other species off from the list this spring. That’s okay, there’s always next year, as long as I’m adding species to my completed list, it doesn’t make any difference which species they are, or where I find them.
One other thing that I have been trying to do this spring is to show a wider variety of birds, and not fill my posts with only a few species of birds. However, since I’m getting so close to having photographed most of the species of birds seen in my part of Michigan, finding new series becomes harder all the time. I have posted more than one image of one species at times, when the series told a story, as with the cedar waxwing eating aphids. I never shoot only one photo of any bird when I have the chance to shoot more than one, so I have a lot of leftover photos from my earlier trips this spring, of species that seldom appear here, such as this American avocet.
And, this eared grebe.
Also, this female rose-breasted grosbeak, even though they are a common species here.
I’m not sure why I felt the need to use those photos from earlier this spring in this post, when I shot plenty of equally good or better images this past weekend.
Early morning light reflecting off from the water makes getting an image like that easy, it’s the same with this one.
If only the eagle had turned to look at me. 😦
My new work schedule is working well for me to get to where I’m going for the day when the light is great, right at sunrise, even though most of the sunrises have been rather boring as far as the sunrise itself. I’ve been very fortunate for the past month, I’ve had excellent light with mostly clear skies at sunrise, and as the days have progressed, only high, thin clouds have formed by the afternoon, meaning that I’ve had very good light almost the entire time that I’ve been out for this month. It also helps when a bird perches in great light to shoot an image such as the last one of the killdeer.
The killdeer was standing on the rock in a place where the light from the sunrise struck only the bird and the top of the rocks, the base of the rocks and the water were still in the shade, so I had to shoot that image even though killdeer are very common, and I’ve posted many photos of them in the past.
I could go on at length about how diffuse light is easier to shoot photos in…
…but that I’m learning how to use the shadows to help define the shape of my subject to get a more three-dimensional look to the subject, but I won’t. I’ll only repeat something that I’m learning, light illuminates, shadows define. That’s one of the reasons that I shoot more photos of any one bird when I have the chance, along with getting the best possible pose from the subject that I can.
No wildlife, especially birds, are ever completely motionless, so I watch the subject through the viewfinder, and when I get a good pose from the subject, with the light as good as it can be, then I’ll fire off a series of shots in low-speed continuous until I see that the bird has moved again. I think that most of the images in this post so far are good examples of that. However, there are still times when a subject doesn’t move, and I have to settle for an image with shadows that are too harsh.
I shouldn’t have posted that image due to the harsh shadow on the left side of the bird, but it isn’t often that I get that close to a ruddy duck. They’re usually more skittish than this one was, and even he took off a few seconds after I shot that image.
Enough of that, I think that the time has come to show a map of my home state of Michigan again.
That’s because there are several new readers to my blog, and not all of them are familiar with where I live. You can see that Michigan, shaded in yellow on the map, consists of two peninsulas surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes. I live in the metropolitan Grand Rapids area, which is labeled on the map, as is Muskegon, which is on the shore of Lake Michigan. It’s only about a 50 mile drive for me from home to Muskegon. Also, I drive to Traverse City four nights a week for work, which is about 135 miles north of grand Rapids. The area where I located the osprey nest and the three nature preserves that I featured in a recent post are about 50 miles due north of Grand Rapids.
I also posted this map because I was considering shooting completely different subjects during my time off from work this week. It just so happened that my two days off coincided with the new moon for a change, and I was thinking of trying for a shot of the Milky Way and/or a star trails image. The Milky Way appears in the southern sky, and unfortunately, most of Michigan’s light pollution is in the southern third of the lower peninsula, and I’d also have to deal with the light coming from Chicago Illinois, which isn’t shown on the map, but is only 150 miles southwest of my location. That means that I’d have to go quite a distance to the north to get away from the manmade lights
I didn’t trust the weather forecasts either, as on both of my days off, it clouded over during the afternoon, and while the forecast called for clear skies again overnight, I didn’t want to drive as far from home as would be required only to find that there were clouds blocking my view of the sky. Maybe I’ll try the night photography this fall if the timing of the new moon and the weather cooperates.
Also, on Friday, the clouds thickened to the point where thunder showers developed, and I sat along the road between Muskegon State Park and Duck Lake State Park, hoping for a chance to photograph lightning. However, the lightning bolts were few and far between, and I hadn’t thought of a way to keep my camera and lens dry as the rain fell. Maybe one of these days I’ll catch a storm where the lightning is visible before the rain starts falling, or I’ll invest in a good umbrella to keep myself and my camera gear dry. Although, I did have the idea of opening the lift gate of my Subaru, setting the tripod up under the lift gate, and sitting in the back of the car to shoot photos and stay dry. It wouldn’t have worked where I was on Friday though, but it’s something for me to keep in mind for future reference.
The point to all this, if there is one, is that there are so many things that I’d like to photograph, but as always, time limits what I can do. There are plenty of scenic areas in Michigan, but I’ve been chasing birds, because spring is the best time of the year for bird photography. The males are in their breeding plumage, and there are the birds that only migrate through Michigan, but don’t nest here.
It just dawned on me, I go through the same cycle every year. All through the winter, I’m complaining about the lack of light and the fact that the birds, what few there are, are all in their eclipse plumage. Then, when spring arrives, I complain that I don’t have enough time to photograph everything that I’d like to.
I don’t know how to break that cycle though, it’s something that I know is going to happen, so I shouldn’t complain about it as much as I do. I should just shoot the images that I can, and let nature go through its cycles with no complaints from me.
And, I probably shouldn’t think about visiting new places in hopes of finding a photographic nirvana as much as I do, as long as I’m shooting good images and I’m not bored sitting around waiting for wildlife to appear, what difference should it make where I shoot the images.
I say that because I did do the exact same thing two days in a row last week while searching for the mockingbird, and now I may have to repeat that this week, as a rare to Michigan Henslow’s sparrow is being seen and heard regularly at the wastewater facility lately. That’s another species of bird that I need to track down for the My Photo Life list project that I’m working on, and I’ll probably find the temptation of adding another species to my list too great to pass up.
In addition, I’m getting good photos of birds and other subjects at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, including a few series of photos of bird behaviors, such as the cedar waxwing eating aphids. I have quite a few photos from MLNP left over to post, and I think that one day on my upcoming “weekend”, that I’ll take a few wider photos and devote a future post to just photos from there. I say that because I’m planning on where to go for my next two days off from work as I type this.
In the meantime, here’s a few more photos from my last outings.
I know that my posts have been jumbled up messes lately, I’m sorry, but I can’t help it. I get started on a subject, then it’s time for work or for me to go out and shoot more photos, and I lose my train of thought, or I worry that people will find the track I was on boring, so I switch to another subject. I’ll try to make my post more readable in the future though.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!