My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Archive for December, 2011

Weekly Photo Challenge: Winter

We really haven’t had much of a winter here in West Michigan so far this season, that’s all supposed to change tonight when a storm comes roaring through. They are predicting wind gusts in excess of 50 MPH for tomorrow afternoon along the Lake Michigan shore, so that’s where I’ll be, trying to get some good photos of waves crashing into something!

The nature lover/outdoor person that I am has been somewhat disappointed by our lack of snow so far this year, the truck driver side of me has been very happy with it. I think we are up to around six inches of snow for the season, hardly enough to say so. There have been several times the ground has been covered, and I have managed a few photos that fit this week’s challenge, so here goes.

Any one who lives in West Michigan knows this sight only too well, the sun being blotted out by lake effect clouds.

A patch of blue sky on a cloudy day

It’s been cold enough at times when the ponds have begun to ice over.

Ice on a pond

And of course, a clichéd shot of snow and a flower.

Dandelion and snow

During one of the brief moments of sunshine this week, I tried to get artsy with these two of the sun shining through water droplets left as the snow melted.

Sunshine on a winter day

Sunshine on a winter day

It had looked like this when I started my daily hike.

Snowy branches and turkeys

Everybody talks about the weather, even the turkeys as they try to stay warm.

Talking turkey

By the way, I know I’m not doing this correctly for the Weekly Photo Challenge, I think it is supposed to be one photo, but I have been wanting to do a post summing up our winter so far this season, and the topic gives me a great excuse to do it.

We have had some snow as you can see.

Snowy day by the pond

But it has been more like a very long fall than winter.

Cattails

We had a heavy burst of snow on one day that covered the ponds with a layer of slush.

Geese swimming in a slush covered pond

And this mallard got lost in the snow.

Male mallard in the snow

And that reminds me, back in my post about micro-climates, I said that most critters like the same kind of weather that we do. That does not apply to waterfowl.

Canadian geese cooling off in the winter

I can’t imagine a much colder place than sitting in a pool of water on top of a frozen pond, brrr! Or, just standing in the water on top of the ice!

Mallards cooling off in the winter

Mallard cooling off in the winter

Mallards cooling off in the winter

That makes my toes cold just looking at it!

Finally, this one reminds me of the many days I spent winter steelheading in Michigan rivers during the winter.

Ice formations on a small creek

Right now, I am off to take advantage of a rare sunny, warm day before the storm hits tonight, then tomorrow, I’ll be trying for some good storm photos like this blast from the past.

Winter storm

That’s it for this one, I hope no one minds if I cheated a little on this on it by turning it into a regular post. Thanks for stopping by!


One foxy (squirrel) model

I have no idea why it happens, but on some days, some critters will let you walk right up to them and shoot as many pictures as you want. That’s what happened when I came across this fox squirrel perched on a broken limb just a few feet above my head.

Fox squirrel posing for the camera

These were taken on the same day as my “Walking around in a fog” photos were taken, I don’t think the fog had anything to do with the fact that this squirrel decided to stay put. I have seen this squirrel before, I walk the same path everyday on my daily hikes around the apartment complex where I live. I have learned where each family of fox squirrels lives, and see them all nearly everyday, but it is only once in a great while that one sits for the camera like this.

Fox squirrel posing for the camera

Most of the time when something like this happens, it is on a very nice day when you get the feeling that the critter is feeling really comfy and doesn’t want to move unless it has to. I have had it happen with many species, from whitetail deer down to little chickadees.

Fox squirrel posing for the camera

I may not be able to explain this animal behavior, but I do know what to do when it occurs, take lots of photos!

Fox squirrel posing for the camera

I’m not going to bore you with all of the pictures I took of this squirrel, just a couple more. I even told the squirrel it was being a ham for the camera, and this is what it gave me.

Fox squirrel posing for the camera

Fox squirrel posing for the camera

Like I said, I can’t explain why a critter that runs at the first sight of you on most days suddenly decides to pose for one day, and one day only before it goes back to being deathly afraid of you again, but when it happens, take advantage of the situation while you can.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


When birds soar

Much of mankind has always been fascinated by the flight of birds, and I am one of those who studies the flight of birds. Part of the reason why is that it helps me to identify them at a distance, different species of birds have different flight characteristics. You can often identify a bird just by the way that it flies. Some birds spend most of their time soaring with almost no flapping of their wings, others flap almost constantly, other flap, glide, and flap again. I know there are many books available about the flight of birds, and probably many web sites as well, and they do a far better job of detailing and explaining it than I could, so I’ll leave it at that.

Over the years, much has been written about the beauty, grace, and even power of birds in flight, so I won’t go on about that either. Besides, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me.

This last week or so, I have managed to get quite a few photos of birds in flight, some good, some not so good, I am going to start with a few of the not so good ones of a fairly common species, Canadian geese.

Canadian geese in flight

Canadian geese in flight

Canadian geese in flight

For as many shots as I have taken of geese in flight, I have yet to get one that I think is exceptional. I think that their coloration has something to do with it, but I’m not positive about that. This is the way the underside of their wings should look.

Canadian goose stretching its wings

Another common bird in these parts is the herring gull. Large flocks of them move inland from the Great Lakes over the winter months, searching for food. People often use derogatory phrases in describing herring gulls, since they are plentiful, and are often seen scavenging in landfills. That’s human nature for you, because a species has learned to survive man’s onslaught intent on wiping almost all wildlife from the planet, we look down it. Well, I look up at them, since they I usually see them soaring overhead. 😉

A large flock of herring gulls soaring

And, a closer view..

Herring gull 1

Herring gull 1

I happen to think that they are beautiful birds, even if they do eat our trash. Maybe if we didn’t waste so much food, there would be less for them to scavenge?

Herring gull 2

Herring gull 2

Hey, wait! Herring gull 2 has no legs! That’s OK, this guy has four of them to make up for that!

Fox squirrel "in flight"

OK, so it’s not a bird, it’s a bird brained squirrel. 🙂 Actually, if you look closely at Herring gull 2, you will see that it has its legs tucked up in its feathers. I don’t know if they do that to keep their feet warm, to reduce drag, or both.

This is the White breasted nuthatch from my last post, I am recycling it because it fits so well in this one.

White breasted nuthatch taking off

This is the worst shot of the bunch coming up. The only reason I am throwing it in here is because it confirms something I have thought for a long time, and that is that chickadees don’t fly, they have a hidden jet pack that they use to zoom from spot to spot.

Black capped chickadee in flight

Seriously, chickadees are one of the species of birds that flap their wings intermittently as they fly. It’s thought that they do this to avoid predators. I included that photo as a segue to a discussion about nature photography and understanding nature in general.

I wish that every photo I took was so good that the National Geographic Society was beating down my door asking me to go to work for them, that isn’t going to happen. In the first place, the way I go about getting the photos I do isn’t conducive to getting nothing but top-notch photos. Since I am always moving, either hiking or kayaking, what I get is catch as catch can. If I were to set up some where in a blind or something, I would hope the quality of my photos would be much better.

In posts where I have attempted to explain to others how to get close to wildlife, I have stressed that you have to pay attention to everything you see, hear, smell, and even feel. To sum it all up, you have to immerse yourself in nature.

This is where the two come together, nature photography and immersing yourself in nature. My fellow photographers may understand this already, but I have found that since I have gotten back into nature photography the way I have, I am learning more than ever about nature. As I have written about hunting and hunting with a camera as I call it, you have to know and understand the animals you are hunting if you plan on being successful. Since I have gotten back into nature photography, I spend much more time observing wildlife, their habitats, and their habits than before I picked up a camera again.

I guess I had gotten to a place where I would see lots of wildlife, note it, and move on. Hey, there’s a deer! Wow, an eagle. Look, a beaver, and that would be the end of it. Now, when I see an animal, I question what it is doing, and why, and how can I use that information to help me get the best possible photo that I can. In a way, it’s been like learning to hunt again, for that’s the way I used to hunt, question everything.

I find that taking lots of photos helps in my understanding as well, no matter how bad they are. For every shot that gets posted here, I have dozens more that will never see the light of day, but I don’t delete them, they tell stories. They remind me what the weather conditions where on that day. They tell me what the animal was doing. They tell me where I was at the time, and even the time of day. The photos give me the time to really look in-depth at animal behavior in a way that is hard to do as I am witnessing it live.

I would suggest to any one interested in wildlife and nature to take up photography as well. You don’t need top of the line equipment, you don’t need to try for perfect photos every time, but a photographic record will help you to remember what you see, and you may begin to look at nature differently, or at least more in-depth.

OK, done with that little speech, time to get back to the pictures. Here’s a few of another common species, mallards. I took these three as a male mallard flew from a pond to shore.

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard walking on air

Hey buddy, don’t you think you should wait until your feet touch the ground before you start walking?

Here’s a few of a red-tailed hawk.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I almost fell over backwards getting that last one, it was directly overhead. Glad I didn’t fall over though, as I got the best ones just after that.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Would it sound like I was bragging if I said that I am very proud of that last one?

I am going to wrap this up with an eagle.

An eagle in flight

Even though it isn’t as dramatic as the last of the hawk shots, I am pretty proud of the eagle shot as well! It’s hard to capture a good photo of a black and white bird, especially on that is soaring with the sky as a background.

Anyway, that’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Welcome to the digital age

Sorry for two posts in one day again, but this was originally part of the “Essential bird grooming tips, and how to capture them” post, but I removed this part, thinking that everybody else in the world already knew this stuff. As usual, I was wrong, so I am finishing this one up and posting it. Besides, it is the story of my haphazard transition from film cameras to digital ones, and I may well refer back to this myself, as I continue to learn digital photography.

It has taken this old dog some time to learn some new tricks, such as being able to adjust the ISO whenever you want. Back in the days of film, the ISO was set to the film speed, and never changed until you loaded a different type of film into the camera. You could “push” some films such as Ektachrome, but you had to expose the entire roll of film at the pushed speed, or none at all, you couldn’t change in the middle of a roll.

Now with digital photography, if you have the time, you can adjust the ISO to the situation. You can bump it up to freeze motion or under low light situations, or adjust down for shots such as landscapes where high shutter speeds aren’t as critical, and quality is the driving factor.

Again, I have found huge differences between my two cameras as far as letting the camera control the ISO. The Canon Powershot that I have does an excellent job of balancing the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture with everything set to auto and shooting in the program mode.

On the other hand, my Nikon D 50 doesn’t begin to bump up the ISO until shutter speeds get slower than 1/30 of a second, way too slow for handheld use when shooting with the lens zoomed to 300 mm. So I have finally learned to keep the Nikon set at higher ISO settings, for you never know when the opportunity for an action shot will present itself. When I am shooting stationary things, such as landscapes, I adjust the ISO manually down to its lowest setting for quality.

You have to learn the equipment that you use, not try to rely on how other people with different equipment set up their equipment. The only way to do that is to shoot lots of photos with your camera to learn what works and what doesn’t.

That’s the greatest thing about digital photography as far as I am concerned. Pictures cost you nothing! My new way of shooting wildlife is to shoot until the subject is no longer there any longer. 😉 Like the series of the cardinal here. I end up with many photos that end up being deleted, and I suppose I could have deleted a few more of this series of the cardinal, such as ones where it is partially blocked by branches. However, that’s the main reason to shoot many photos of the same subject, especially smaller, faster moving subjects such as small birds. Their movements are quicker than my shutter finger is. I haven’t used the burst mode yet, where the camera shoots as rapidly as it can until the buffer is full, for I can see a problem with that. It would be about the time that the buffer filled and the camera paused shooting to write the photos in the buffer to the SD card that the best photo opportunity would present itself. So I still press the shutter release for every photo, and slow down when I think I may be about to fill the buffer, so I will have shots “left” in case something special happens while I’m shooting, like this one.

White breasted nuthatch taking off

That’s where there is another huge difference between my two cameras, the Canon is slower than molasses in January. There is a noticeable lag between when I press the shutter release, and when the shutter actually fires, and the camera takes a much longer time to reset for the next shot than my Nikon does. I have to remember to slow down when using the Canon, whereas I can shoot as fast as I can press the shutter when using the Nikon.

Either of my two digital cameras are faster than my old Pentax film camera, where I had to manually advance the film after each frame. I got pretty good at that over the years, but there were times I wished that I could have fitted the Pentax with a motor drive to speed it up. There’s no need for that now days, as there is no film to advance and my Nikon recycles so fast that I can shoot a stop action movie of sorts.

So again, you have to learn your equipment, not just its settings, but you have to adjust your style of shooting to fit the camera you use.

Let’s go back to the cardinal again. I know that my Nikon goes for fast shutter speeds when it is set to the program mode, it doesn’t even begin to stop down the aperture until shutter speeds get as fast as 1/1000 of a second. If the camera you use isn’t programmed the same as my Nikon, you may have to use the shutter priority setting to get the shutter speeds fast enough to freeze motion. On the other hand, I know I have to switch to the aperture priority mode whenever I want to get any kind of depth of field with the Nikon, such as when shooting landscapes or a still-life.

Another difference between film and digital photography is that back in the old days, you had to learn films. All films weren’t the same, each brand and each type reacted differently to different exposure settings, and you needed to learn how to get the best out of each type of film that you used. For example, Kodachrome slide film produced the best color rendition and saturation if it was slightly under exposed, and that was true of any camera you used Kodachrome film in.

That’s all changed now, color rendition and saturation are a function of the camera itself with digital photography, and I have found that there is a difference between my two cameras on that point as well. I have found that I have had to learn what works with each camera that I use, what works with one produces poor results with the other and vice versa.

My Nikon tends to over-expose landscape shots, I have to use the exposure compensation to adjust down 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop in order to get good landscape photos with it. In fact, I find myself adjusting the exposure compensation a lot with the Nikon, very rarely with the Canon. And, I wrote in the post of the shots of the cardinal, I use the spot metering mode for the Nikon when taking wildlife photos, but, the spot meter mode produces very poor results if I use it for landscape photos, or if I am using fill-in flash.

If you go back to my post “Ludington State Park“, most of the landscape photos there were taken with my Canon, it is easier to pull it out of my pocket and shoot those types of photos than it is to re-adjust all the settings of my Nikon in order to get the same results.

So when you see a photograph that really strikes your eye, rather than asking what the exposure settings were, you should ask why the exposure settings were what they were. Then, adapt and use that information as it applies to the equipment you use.

You could be standing right next to the person that took the photo at the same time, and use the exact same settings, but if you’re not using the exact same camera and lens they are, you could well get completely different results.

I know that many of the differences between my two cameras are because the Canon is a compact digital, and the Nikon is a DSLR, but the Nikon doesn’t respond the same as my old Pentax film camera, or my ex-girlfriend’s Nikon film camera either.

It’s probably also been harder for me to make the transition because of how long I held off before making the jump to digital photography. From my stand point, digital photography is a whole new ballgame, some of the terms have been held over from the days of film, but otherwise there is really not a lot in common. The best example I can give you of that is the effect that the aperture has on the quality of a photo.

Back in the days of film photography, I could look at a photo and make an educated guess as to what aperture the photographer used to take the photo. Small apertures yielded much higher quality photos. I don’t see that with digital photography. I have taken several series of photos with my Nikon, dialing through the variable program settings, from the lens being wide open to stopped down to f 22, and I honestly see no difference in the quality of the photos. They all look the same as far as quality, the only difference is the depth of field.

So what I am trying to say in my long-winded way is that film photography and digital photography are only the same in that in each, the end result is a photograph.

I’ll stick by an earlier recommendation that I made, that some one who wants to get into photography for the first time would do well to start with a high-end compact digital camera to begin with and learn lighting and composition with it. Then, when your skill level is high enough, and you want to move up to a DSLR, you’ll be prepared to do so.

If you’re a skilled film photographer, be prepared to throw out everything you thought that you knew about photography and start over from scratch, there’s that much difference between the two, at least in my experience.

Well, I’ve rambled on long enough here for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Essential bird grooming tips, and how to capture them

On the same day as I caught the two mallards fighting, I also was able to get these photos of a cardinal bathing. There are 33 photos in all, I know that’s a lot, but I keep weeding some out, and I think the ones that remain are too good to not post.

I spotted one cardinal bathing in a creek, but some distance away.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

The cardinal may be fairly easy to spot in the photo, because I centered it and was zoomed all the way to 300mm. I was 50 to 60 feet from the bird at this point. Getting closer was also fairly easy, using the weeds you see to the left of center to hide behind as I made my approach.

I am sure I look foolish, crawling around the apartment complex on my hands and knees, but that’s what it takes some times. When I got to the edge of the weeds, the first bird was out of the water, and back in the brush across the creek. I was about to give up, but I noticed other cardinals in the brush, both male and female, and decided to sit there for a few minutes to see if any came out into the open enough for a good photo. Imagine my surprise as another male came to the creek to spruce up a bit.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

You can see that I was in the weeds at this point, and I had to move around some in order to keep the bird in between the branches between us.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

The wind wasn’t helping, it kept blowing the weeds around in front of my camera, so I continued to slide forward to the edge of the weeds.

Now, for some shooting information. I was using my Nikon D50, with the ISO set to 400. That was a pleasant mistake on my part, as bright as the day was, I would have normally set the ISO to 200, but I forgot to do that when I started the day. It worked well set at 400 to capture the movement, of both the ducks in the earlier post, and the cardinal in this post.

I have found that setting the Nikon to the spot metering mode works much better for me, but that’s for my particular camera, and I have found out that various cameras may perform differently. My Canon is set to the center weighted mode, and I have never changed it, not once. When using the Nikon for landscape photography, I switch it to center weighted, but for critters, spot metering works much better with it. You have to learn your equipment and its foibles.

I shot these in the program mode, as the program for the Nikon is heavily weighed towards high shutter speeds. Even with the ISO at 400 and the bright sun, the exposure for that one was 1/500 at f 5.6.

OK, back to the bird. It perched on the small branch, and it looked as if it was checking out its reflection in the water.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Then, it dove face first into the creek!

Northern cardinal taking a bath

And started taking a bath.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

I thought that the jig was up at that point, I was sure the bird had spotted me and would be on its way to cover, but that didn’t happen.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

It was if the bird was looking at me to see if I was ready, and then go back to bathing again.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

He had to check himself out again, then back into the water.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

More splashing about.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Checking to see if I was set….

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Then more splashing..

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Then he hopped up on a branch and shook himself off.

Northern cardinal taking a bath

And he was gone.

Well, that’s it for this one. My plan is to make every one tired of seeing cardinals, leaving them for me. 😉

Thanks for stopping by!


In this corner, Mauler Mallard

This happened on Friday, it started innocently enough. I was standing near one of the ponds here, I was actually watching the geese, who will make a special guest appearance later in this post, hoping the geese would take flight, and I would be able to get some good shots of them taking off. There was a small flock of mallards sharing the pond with the geese, and I noticed that there was suddenly a lot of quacking going on.  I shifted the camera from the geese to the mallards, and saw two males face to face, jawing at each other.

Mallards squaring off for the main event

I couldn’t tell if they were actually touching each other or not, if not, they were very close to one another as the quacking grew in intensity.

Male mallards squaring off for the main event

Then wings began to flail, and the fight was on!

Male mallards winging it out

The two of them started chasing each other around in a circle….

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

I don’t know how many times they went around in circles, I was getting dizzy just watching them. They were using their wings as paddles, and you can see they were throwing up a pretty good wake!

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Around and around they went…

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

They were creating quite a ruckus, between the quacking, their beating their wings on the water, and all the splashing going on.

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

It was a fight of epic proportions…

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Two male mallards in the ring of death

Then one caved in, and tried to escape…

The chase is on!

The other, hot on his tail!

The chase is on!

The chase is on!

Those ducks can really scoot!

The chase is on!

The chase is on!

As you watch the chase and the fight continue, keep an eye on the geese as well.

The chase is on!

The chase is on!

The chasing duck went all submarine on the duck trying to escape!

The chase is on!

And popped up to deliver the dreaded butt bite. Notice one goose is watching intently, the other two are paying no attention at all, one is even getting a drink as all this is going on.

The chase is on!

The chase is off!

That looked like the end of it, what with the dreaded butt bite having been delivered, but the loser must have quacked one last insult as it was swimming away, for the winner lit out for the loser at full tilt again.

The chase is back on again!

The loser, knowing his goose was cooked, took to the air to prevent the humiliation of a second butt bite.

The chase is on!

The chase is over.

This time, the loser had enough sense to keep his bill shut, and it was all over except for the winner taking a bow.

The winner takes a bow.

That about wraps this one up, but stay tuned, for coming up later we’ll have a naked cardinal taking a bath…

Northern Cardinal bathing

…..and you won’t want to miss another exciting feature coming soon, when birds soar!

Red-tailed hawk

Thanks for stopping by!


The Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

I do a lot of my shooting between, between clusters of weeds and/or between branches for example. When I first received the notice that this week’s challenge was Between, I almost rushed to use one of the photos I took of a cardinal bathing, since one problem I had throughout the series was keeping the cardinal between the branches it was behind as I was shooting. I thought no, those photos are worthy of a post of their own, and I am planning on posting so many pics of the cardinal bathing that you will all be tired of them by the time I’m done.

I took this photo on a bright sunny day, it is of the stems of three sumac bushes with the “hairs” backlit and the tallest of the three stems between two shorter ones.

Sumac stems in the sunlight

I thought no, I can do better than that, and so I did. This morning as I was on my daily hike around here, I spotted a red-tailed hawk, and managed to shoot almost 70 pictures of it. For almost all of them, I was working to keep the hawk between branches, since it was perched fairly low in the woods. My troubles were compounded by the wind, which was blowing hard, hard enough to keep moving branches so the shot I thought I had lined up well ended up being ruined by a branch that moved to in front of the hawk as I pressed the shutter. I was shooting holding the camera, and since it was a cloudy day, slow shutter speeds were required, even with the ISO bumped up to 400, so I had to hold extra still and be very gentle on the shutter release in order to capture sharp images.

So without further ado, here’s a few of the better ones.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

I threw that one in to show how the small branches were blowing around, messing up my shots.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

I really have been hitting the jackpot of late as far as getting some really good photos. I thought my string of luck was over today, I was nearly finished with my hike, and the only pictures I had were a couple of the clouds overhead. Then, the hawk decided to pose for a few photos for me before it flew off. At the rate I’m going, it will be spring before I get all of this week’s photos posted. I may have to take a day off from my daily hikes to catch up. 😉

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Walking around in a fog

One day this week, I think it was Tuesday, was one of the most dreary days we’ve had here in some time. It was dark, foggy, with a little mist and light drizzle to make it a horrible day for photography, unless you’re as crazy as I am. One thing that I have noticed is that the water droplets on things are smaller when it is foggy rather than raining, so it makes shots like this possible.

Water droplets on a spruce branch

Or this one.

Water droplets on a spruce bough

This one will give you an idea just how foggy it was that day.

Fog on the meadow

Here’s another.

Fog over a pond

Maybe because of the fog, I almost stepped on a pair of mallards feeding on the ground, near the pond. They didn’t like that at all, and took off.

Male mallard in flight

But, they only went as far as the pond itself…

Mallard pair in flight

…and landed in the pond where they were safe from me.

Mallards meeting their reflections on the water

I was quite surprised how well those came out considering how dark it was, but I love the way I got the male’s reflection off from the pond.

Everything was dripping wet…

Water droplets on ornamental grass

Water droplets on ornamental grass

That didn’t stop the robins from attacking one of the mountain ash bushes here though…

Robin

Robin eating a berry from a mountain ash

The robins weren’t greedy, they were sharing with the cardinals…

A male cardinal hiding among the red berries

I know it’s a horrible shot, I took it for a reason, to show how well the bright red cardinals blend in when they are perched in a bush full of bright red berries. That got me to thinking about how there is so much red present in the low, thick bushes that cardinals are normally found in. One of these days, I’ll do an entire post about that, for now, enjoy this repeat of a photo I posted a few days ago.

Northern Cardinal

There was no wind at all that day, which made for moody reflection shots.

Trees reflected in a pond

Then I spotted a great blue heron hunting in the pond.

Great blue heron

You can’t see it, but I was hiding behind a pine tree, and I was leaning out quite a bit to get that shot. As I was switching to the other side of the tree so I could continue to photograph the heron, it lunged two or three steps into the water, and dove after a fish. I missed that, I had never seen a heron do that before, it was completely submerged for a short time as it chased the fish. The heron walked back to shore and swallowed the fish.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

OK not the best of shots, but considering the weather, I didn’t think I was doing to badly. I got to the next pond, and there was another heron.

Great blue heron

This one walked back and forth in front of me as if showing off.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Those are a little better, next pond, another heron.

Great blue heron

This one wasn’t as keen on having its picture taken as the last one, off it went.

Great blue heron in flight over its reflection

Great blue heron in flight over its reflection

Three herons in one day! I know that they weren’t all the same bird, there’s no way one could have gotten past me twice, it’s too open around here, I would have seen them flying, as I often do. I wish I could have gotten a photo of the first one diving after a fish, but that’s the way it goes. Besides, it probably would have been pretty blurry from the motion as dark as it was. You can see that in the photos I did get.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Cleaning out the leftovers (photos)

In my last post I noted that I had some photos left over from last weekend, and before I get to the more recent ones, I guess I should start by cleaning the leftovers out of the fridge to make room for the new leftovers from the big holiday feast to come.

That reminds me, one of these days I should do a post about how I pack food and cook while I am camping, but that will be later on. This is about the photos, so I’ll start with an evergreen ground cover, I don’t think it is even native to Michigan, but I liked the pattern it is growing in, the texture, and the color.

Evergreen ground cover

Then, there is this shot of duckweed and the swirls the wind blew it in, and the way the sunlight reflected off from the pond.

Duckweed

I have strange taste, I know. How about a downy woodpecker?

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Then there is this series of a White-breasted Nuthatch doing its thing as it looked for food.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch going under the vine

White-breasted Nuthatch coming out from under the vine backwards

and then up the tree. I probably should have cropped these a little, but you can click on them for a larger view.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Next up is snow on moss..

Snow on moss

I’m not sure, but I think this is a holly vine….

Holly vine?

Then a poor shot of a junco, a slate-colored junco, which scientists are arguing whether or not it is a distinct species, or a variation of dark-eyed juncos, I’m going with slate-colored.

Slate-colored junco

It’s hard to get a good photo of them, they are small, constantly on the move, and spend most of their time on the ground where they blend into the background.

This is a photo of the clouds that day.

Blue sky and clouds

That’s notable for the blue sky, which is rare during a Michigan winter.

Then there are these two of rose leaves and rose hips in the late afternoon sun.

Wild rose-bush

Wild rose-bush

A perfect example of why I’ll never be a great photographer. Neither of those came out quite like I wanted, I should have spent more time on it. I should have a tripod, set-up my camera, play with the exposure settings and focus, maybe even “adjust” the plant to get the shot I had in mind. Oh well, if I had spent an hour there, I wouldn’t have gotten the rest of these.

Magic

That’s Magic, a really cool dog who I run into often, along with his human companions.

The next shot is another almost winner, a chickadee jumping from one branch to another.

A chickadee during a jump

I thought that there was enough light to freeze him, but there wasn’t. It is kind of cool that I got him in mid jump and he’s not using his wings at all. I kept on shooting as he found something to eat…

Black capped chickadee feeding

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

..and with that, he was gone. I love how fast my Nikon recycles for the next shot! I actually have a few more from this series I won’t bore you with, but any one who has tried to photograph chickadees knows they never sit still, they are always moving. With my old film camera or my Canon Powershot, I would try to time when to shoot, hoping for a good one. With the speed of the Nikon, I shoot as quickly as it will recycle, then trash the photos that didn’t turn out well. It may be cheating in some respects, but it works. 😉

Cattails in the evening sun

Stump

I don’t know why, but that stump really caught my eye, I think because of the textures and patterns, and the way the evening sun lit it.

Stump

…and finally, the sunset that evening…

Sunset over the marsh

That’s it for this one, lots more to come, Happy Holidays, and thanks for stopping by!


I feel like I hit the jackpot!

In the last two days, I have taken over 250 photos, and most of them came out very well if I do say so myself. More photos of a heron, a fox squirrel (who thought it was a model) ducks fighting, cardinals bathing, and plenty more, I almost forgot, some more cute chickadee photos as well. It will take me a while to sort through them all, plus some left overs from last weekend. Here’s a couple of teasers.

Northern Cardinal

Mallards mauling each other

Northern cardinal checking out its reflection

On top of that, the weather is supposed to be nice this weekend, and I have three days off! I will probably work on my blog here for the better part of two of those days. I am thinking of going for broke, literally, and heading up north on Monday, I’ll have to see about that one though.

Anyway, I wanted to wish every one a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, or whatever you choose to celebrate this time of year. Every one should have themselves a good old-fashioned celebrate this time of year!

Thanks for stopping by!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Self Portrait

Carrying two cameras may seem strange, but that’s how I got this shot this morning. I wasn’t even sure I was going to post something for the Weekly Photo Challenge this week, since what I look like means nothing, but I came up with this idea today while walking around in the fog, and I mean that literally. We are socked in with fog here in my area today with some drizzle from time to time. Anyway, before I go on about the weather, here’s the photo.

Self portrait

I set some napkins down on the ground first to protect my Canon from the dampness, then used the self timer to shoot this as I was taking pictures of the fog.

Foggy day

The Winter Solstice is tomorrow, our time, actually just after midnight. It has been a good fall and early winter in some respects, a bit warmer than average, with a lot more sunshine than average. We get around nine hours a day of sunlight here during December, and we typically average just 18% of possible sunlight due to lake effect clouds most years. We are way above that 18% this year, and I’m loving it! Now the daylight hours will be getting longer until next summer!

We haven’t had any snow to speak of, I think we are under three inches for this winter season. There are years when we get more than that everyday for weeks on end when the lake effect snow machine kicks in. I kind of miss having some snow, and I feel sorry for all those who want to go skiing or some other winter activity that requires snow, and of course Christmas won’t seem quite the same if it isn’t white around here. But, all in all, I would rather the weather be like it has than to be on the other side of average. 🙂

I’ve been on a bit of a tear lately as far as getting some really good photos, at least I think they’re good, if that doesn’t sound too boastful. Not only did I get the really good photo of the great blue heron, but I have some more that I have to sort through before I decide which ones to post, but here’s a teaser, a wild rose bush that is somewhat confused by our pleasant weather.

Wild rose leafing out in December

Maybe I am so shocked at seeing green leaves in December that I think the back-lighting setting off the green and reds of the leaves and thorns makes this a better photo than it really is?

Anyway, that’s it for now, thanks for stopping by!


I doed it!

Sorry for two posts in one day, but I took what I think is a fantastic shot of a great blue heron in flight today. I saw the heron across the pond, and just stood there as it worked its way around the end until it was on the same side I was, then took flight, why, I have no idea, but here’s the photo.

Great blue heron in flight

And here’s the cropped version.

Great blue heron in flight

You can click on either for a 800 X 600 view. I’m not sure that I can hope to get a better photo of a heron in flight, but that doesn’t mean I won’t continue trying… 😉

After I saved and published this, I noticed something that has bugged me but I never got around to mentioning before, and that is that the compression software for the Nikon leaves ghosts in the images, they never look as good when I post them as they do when I view them directly. I may upload the full size version of this one later, right now I don’t have the time.

Thanks for stopping by!


Ladies and gentlemen, DUCK AGAIN!

Here’s another mostly photo post, of mallards I came across on a Sunday evening as I was out hiking. The number of ducks in this flock was pretty amazing, I have no idea how many mallards there were in this small section of a pond. I was struck by both the number of ducks, and all the green heads and orange feet I was seeing. You can click on the photos for a larger version if you like. They aren’t the greatest photos, I will admit that, but I like them.

Lots of mallards

That gives you some idea of the number, there were even more off to the left. But, it doesn’t show the colors too well, so I zoomed in closer.

Lots of mallards

That was a little better, but I zoomed in further to capture more of the colors.

Mass of mallards

I wanted to get closer to catch the reflections of the green heads and orange legs in the ice, but the flock took off.

Mallards taking flight

The sheer number of the ducks all taking off at one time was something! I know this one’s a bit blurry, but it suggests motion, and I kind of like it. I started panning with the flock for this one.

Mallards taking flight

By panning, I froze most of the ducks’ motion, this one looks better if you click it to see it full size. It almost looks like the ducks are fake.

More mallards taking flight

I was trying to capture both the number of ducks and their colors, but I zoomed all the way to 300 mm for this one.

Mallards in flight

Like I said, not the greatest photos, but I’m not sure how one goes about taking a close up of over 100 ducks taking flight at one time. I’m not sure that a still camera could ever capture the moment as well as I would like, for it was not only the sight of that many ducks, and their beautiful colors, but the sounds of all those wings flapping along with all the quacking that really made this a special moment.

On a side note, I didn’t see a single deer that day, and didn’t see much in the way of fresh deer sign. I don’t know if the deer have shifted their home range somewhat to take advantage of a food supply, or what the deal is. I do know that I have used the same deer trail too often lately, other people are beginning to use it as a trail as well. Maybe the increased human traffic has caused the deer to shift where they travel. I’ll be going back soon to check.

Here’s an update since I first started this post last week. I went back again this Sunday, and did manage to find a few deer, bedded down on the other side of the creek from where I was.

Whitetail doe bedded down

Whitetail doe bedded down

That’s as close as I could get without wading across the creek, and while it was warm for December in Michigan, I didn’t really want to ford a stream in 40 degree weather, not without waders. 🙂 But, even though I spotted this small herd, there wasn’t nearly as much deer sign in the area as there has been all summer.

On the other hand, there was a lot of fresh coyote sign, especially in the area where I used to see the deer most often. I do believe that the deer have shifted where they feed and bed down in response to the coyotes moving into the deer’s territory. I wandered around an area I have never been before, and saw quite a bit of fresh deer sign there, and not much coyote sign.

Talking to some other regulars at the park, I learned that a woman walking her two small dogs had been followed by a coyote, and that it had scared her badly. The regulars also thought that the deer were moving out of the park, for they hadn’t been seeing as many.

I’ll have to check on it further, but that’s the way it looked to me this week. Since coyotes are relative newcomers to my area, I am not that well versed in the interactions between them and deer.

I also went back to the pond where the duck photos were taken, it was a bright, beautiful day, and I thought that better light may make for better photos, yes and no.

Mallards in the afternoon sun

Zoomed in to 300mm, the green heads of the male mallards really stand out well, but there weren’t as many ducks there at the pond as last week. I was disappointed that the shots I took of the flock taking off don’t look better.

Mallards taking flight

Somehow or another, the ducks are “lost” in the background of the photos I took this week. I think I zoomed out too far since there weren’t as many ducks, and I was trying to get as many in the frame as I could.

Photography is a funny thing, in the earlier shots in bad lighting, the ducks “pop” as if I had superimposed them into the photo. Go back and get the same species of ducks in what would seem to be better lighting, and the background comes out great as far as exposure and sharpness, but the ducks don’t stand out at all.

I did get a good shot of a female in flight though.

Female mallard in flight

Live and learn, that’s why I love nature and nature photography, there are always new things to learn and try to understand. From the interactions between deer and coyotes to how light plays off from the various species when you photograph them. I know I will never learn it all, the perfect excuse to keep going back time and time again.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


The great blue heron and great blue funk

I want to thank every one for the very nice comments on my last few posts, I do appreciate them, just to let you know. And, there will be photos later on, I promise.

My great blue funk is almost totally related to my employment and financial situation, I’m not used to having to count my pennies or living from paycheck to paycheck. I’ve made good money all my life up until I took this job I have now, which I took for one reason only, and that was that it gave me the time I needed to take care of business for my mother who has Alzheimer’s. Getting all her finances in order, finding an assisted living home, and the reams of government paperwork involved were way more than I had time for when I was driving over the road.

I thought that I had everything taken care of, and I started looking for other work, then I had to switch from Medicare to Medicaid for my mother, and that was a royal pain as well. Not to mention adult protective services getting involved or the assisted living home and a local hospital getting into a shoving match over my mother’s care. I’ll tell you, the healthcare system in this country is so screwed up, it’s a wonder any one survives it.

I started seriously looking for a different job this fall, and the search hasn’t turned up much of anything that I want. I live in Michigan, which has had the highest unemployment rate of any state in the country for years now, but things have improved a little, now we are number two or three as far as the highest unemployment.

The only part that Christmas has played in my bad mood is that the holiday season isn’t great as far as job opportunities unless you’re looking for seasonal work, and I’m not.

So I had decided that I would gut it out until after the holidays, then resume my search, and I was just getting into a better mood, when I got hit with a package from Medicaid yesterday. I have reapply for Medicaid for my mother, another small book of forms to fill out, copies of every legal document that has ever existed in my mother’s name to be made, the same old same old as far as government paperwork. It will probably take me the better part of a week to get all the forms filled out and the copies made. The topper is that I only have until the first of the year to submit everything, or my mother loses her Medicaid insurance. Just what I didn’t need right before Christmas.

I don’t quite understand why that is, nothing has changed, my mother has Alzheimer’s, it’s not like she’s going to improve to the point where she doesn’t need care anymore.

I’m sorry for the rant, I will get to the pictures shortly, but dealing with the government really ticks me off. It seems they make everything as difficult as they can. The period for switching Part D prescriptions was nearly over when the government finally sent out the information package explaining the options available. They set deadlines that are almost, not quite, but almost impossible to meet, which means you have to drop everything else in your life to deal with them. The forms and informational booklets are written so that no one understands them, not even the government employees that you are forced to deal with.

Oh well, sorry about that, on to the photos!

I had mentioned in an earlier post that I hadn’t seen any great blue herons in weeks, when a few have showed up around here. I saw one last weekend, late in the afternoon rising from a marsh some distance away from me, and another during the week that was also out of camera range. So yesterday when I was taking my daily hike, it only surprised me a little to spot this one standing in a creek here.

Great blue heron in the snow

It was snowing lightly, it looked to me as if the heron was just standing there under the overhanging weeds to stay out of the snow. I circled around behind it, using those weeds as cover so I could get closer.

Great blue heron in the snow

Here’s the rest of the series of photos I took as it walked away from me, from the main creek into the little one that flows from behind the building I live in, and joins the larger creek across from where the heron was standing when I first saw it.

Great blue heron in the snow

Great blue heron in the snow

Great blue heron in the snow

Great blue heron in the snow

I don’t think it was enjoying the snow very much, it didn’t seem to want to fly, it just wanted to hunch up and be left alone.

Great blue heron in the snow

So rather than trying to get a better shot of it, I did leave it alone after that.

They’re not great shots, but not bad considering how dark and dreary it was with the snow coming down, and it isn’t everyday that I get to see a heron in the snow close enough for photos. That reminds me of another thing I should say, after 5,000 photos, I am finally getting a handle on how to get better pictures from my Nikon D50. I have found that I have to set nearly all the settings manually if I want good results. Setting the ISO to automatic does nothing for you, the camera doesn’t start bumping the ISO up until it can not take a photo otherwise, as just one example. I would have programmed the camera much differently if it had been me doing the programming, I would have had it start bumping up the ISO when shutter speeds got slower than 1/100 of a second.

It doesn’t help that I have been spoiled by my little Canon Powershot, I never have to set anything manually with it. It also doesn’t help that I am too stubborn for my own good at times and have tried to come up with settings on the Nikon that will work all the time under any conditions. I am learning how to set the Nikon for the conditions on any given day, so now before I start a hike, I go through and set everything manually, and if conditions change, I pause and reset it as necessary. The Canon may be easier, and take really good photos, but it is hard to beat the Nikon optics when you get the settings correct.

Well, that’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


The first snowfall of the year

This is going to be another post of just the photos I took over the last couple of days after our first real snowfall of the year. There’s nothing all that special about them, but I like them, and since this is my blog, I’m going to post them.

The reflection of blue sky on thin ice

Leaves from a rose bush

First snowfall of the year

First snowfall of the year

First snowfall of the year

Snow on these year's new growth of a blue spruce

A little snow on the water plants in a creek

First snowfall of the year

A portent of the dark winter days to come

First snowfall of the year on green grass

Ice and snow on algae

First snowfall of the year on green grass 2

Snow on fungi

Bird and berries, I think it's a finch, could be wrong

Patterns in thin ice on a creek

Patterns in the ice

A very confused wild rose sprouting new leaves in December

That’s it for this one, hopefully I’ll pull out of the funk that has me in its grip soon, and I’ll be able to write something that doesn’t sound like I’m the most negative person in the world. I’m not, but everything I try to write of late ends up sounding as if I’m some hateful old coot. It doesn’t help that I have a cold, and that the great weather we had last weekend as given way to dark and dreary rain.

Thanks for stopping by!


You’ll never see a fat woodpecker

As I wrote in the post “A chickadee grooming“, we had fabulous weather here last weekend, and as I was hiking on Sunday, I came across this juvenile downy woodpecker using up a lot of energy in search of a meal. It dawned on me while watching this woodpecker just how hard they work for most of their meals. I guess that’s why you never see a fat woodpecker. Here’s the series of shots I took as it was probing for a morsel of food.

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

All that work, all the contortions it went through, just for one small meal, and we think we’ve got it rough. 😉

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


A chickadee grooming

We had fabulous weather here last weekend, and as I was hiking on Sunday, I came across this little chickadee.

Black capped chickadee

It had just finished taking what must have been a cold bath in a tiny little creek, and it perched there in the afternoon sun to dry out, warm up, and do some grooming. It’s one of the few times that I have seen a chickadee sit still for any length of time, normally they are always on the move. So here’s the series of photos that I took.

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Chickadees always seem to be such happy little birds, there are times I wish I were one of them.

That’s it for this one, I will be doing a couple more posts of just photos soon, for a couple of reasons. One is that I managed to get quite a few good photos of late, and the second is I don’t feel much like writing right now. Well, I do feel like writing, but I’m in a blue funk, and wouldn’t want to post what I wrote.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Turkey fight, you may not like this one

Yesterday, about the time I was getting ready for my daily walk, I heard a commotion going on right under my window. It was two turkeys fighting, along with a crowd of other turkeys “cheering” the combatants on. Some people may be disturbed by some of the photos I took, so you are warned you may not like this one. I was there, and I was somewhat disturbed by what I saw and heard. There was no blood or guts or anything like that, and after viewing the photos today, I think the sounds had a lot to do with my reaction to the events yesterday.

But before I get to the photos, and to give you time to back out of this if you don’t want to see turkeys battling it out,  some other news.

Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning Ranch has made good on its promise to appeal a judge’s decision that they are required to remove the entire dam they own on the Pigeon River. The dam under the ownership of Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning Ranch has been responsible for two major fish kills on the Pigeon. This means the case will be tied up in the courts for years Not good news in my opinion.

In other news, a number of snowy owls have been spotted all across west Michigan. They are normally found much farther north of here, up in Canada. No one is quite certain why the owls have moved south for the winter this year, it could be because of the food supply the owls feed on, or the weather. The migration happens irregularly, but it isn’t unheard of, I’ve been lucky enough to have spotted one of the snowy owls one of the other times they visited. I hope I can get a photo this time.

On to the turkey fight, as I said, I heard it as I was getting ready to go for a walk, so I hurried and got outside in time to get some photos of the fight. I’ll start with two of the “cheering” section skulking off as I approached the fighters.

Skulking turkeys

As I wrote in the post “For Turkey Day, the turkey dance“, I had never seen an all out fight between turkeys before, a little pushing, a little shoving, and maybe a few pecks, but nothing like this.

The beak lock of fighting turkeys

The beak lock of fighting turkeys

I thought that maybe the two had gotten stuck together, but I guess that’s the way turkeys fight. One grabs the other by the head, and then it is basically a shoving match between the two as they push each other around.

The beak lock of fighting turkeys

Be the soft-hearted dummy that I am, I thought that if I got close enough, the two combatants would stop fighting due to their fear of humans, wrong! You see the other turkeys in the background? Of course you do. As I would first approach the protagonists, the others would move away a short distance as you can see in the photo above. But, when I would get even closer to try to break up the fight, the other turkeys would come after me! I got a few pecks on the legs, and slapped with wings a couple of times for my attempts to break up the fight. I’m not sure if the other turkeys were trying to protect the fighters from myself, that’s not the feeling I got at the time. It felt as though the other turkeys were attacking me for trying to break up the fight!

It was a bit surreal, the two main fighters going at each other, I could hear their heavy breathing from the exertion of the shoving match.

Turkeys fighting

And when one didn’t have the other in a beak lock, they would peck at each other.

The beak lock of fighting turkeys

The entire time the other turkeys were lurking a little way away, ready to attack me if I got too close, or to join in the fight when I was farther away.

Another skulker

Most of the time, the others were circling the two combatants, taking turns pecking and beating the fighters with their wings, as if encouraging the fight to continue.

Turkey fight

Sometimes little scuffles would break out among the skulkers.

Turkey fight

But for the most part, they kept egging the two main fighters on.

The two fighting turkeys surrounded by the skulkers

I think it was the sounds of the fight that bothered me more than the sight of it all. The two main fighters were making some sounds, mostly heavy breathing and maybe a cackle or two now and then, but the skulkers never quit clucking, cackling, and gobbling as the fight went on.

Turkey fight

The two main fighters would break from their beak locks on one another for a few seconds and try to stare the other down…..

The two fighting are on the left edge of this photo

…then lunge at the other again…

Turkeys fighting

At one point, the two fighting entwined their necks together like two snakes, and as I was raising the camera to get a picture of it, I swear that I saw fear in the eyes of the one as the other looked like it was trying to choke the first by using its neck to strangle the first one. I hesitated for a moment, so I didn’t get a photo of it, it is probably just as well.

The skulkers kept circling, with a lot of displaying going on..

A turkey displaying

I don’t know why they moved off, but they did…

Turkey display

…and they left the two fighters to duke it out…

Turkey fight

…more pushing and shoving..

Turkey fight

Turkey fight

Turkey fight

Turkey fight

Turkey fight

Turkey fight

Turkey fight

Turkey fight

when for no reason that I could see, one broke off the fight and started to run away…

The losing turkey

The winner rejoined the skulkers….

The winner

Then there was a lot more displaying, but not full displays like in the turkey dance, but the fight was over.

Turkey display

I had never seen turkeys fight like that before, it was a lot more intense being there than it looks in the photos. I think the two fighting were young Toms, deciding which of them was going to “rule the roost”, but I’m not sure about that. Several of the skulkers looked to be older Toms, I am not that familiar with turkey behavior.

I finished my walk, then went back to near where the fight had been, and the turkeys were still there sunning themselves.

A turkey preening in the sun

Turkey in the sun

Anyway, I hope no one was offended by the photos, it isn’t as if I some how encouraged the turkeys to fight, in fact, I still have the wounds from trying to break the fight up. I should know better than that, nature isn’t always pretty, but it is always spectacular and interesting, even when it offends our human sensibilities.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Celebration

I had to dig back in my archives for these, photos taken while kayaking.

Survived another rapids!

The classic pose of a kayaker celebrating, paddle held high overhead.

An early celebration at the Childsdale Rapids on Michigan's Rogue River

She was a bit early in this celebration, the worst was yet to come, but she didn’t know it. She made it OK though.

Shooting the dam at Altona on the Little Muskegon

Shooting the Rustford Dam on the Little Muskegon.

Those aren’t of me by the way, I was the one shooting them. I had already shot the dam and set up to take photos of any one else brave enough to try.

Kayakers potluck party

Kayakers potluck party

Not only were the people I kayaked with fun on the river, they knew how to cook as well.

Kayakers potluck party

Kayakers potluck party

The cake they got for me

Kind of lame, but the best I could come up with, unless I had gone out and taken a shot of Christmas lights or something.

Thanks for stopping by!


I so wanted to tackle that one!

Since I am signed up for the Weekly Photo Challenge, I also receive the daily Emails from WordPress that are sent out for the Post a Day Writing Challenge. Yesterday’s topic was “Is there a cure for stupidity?”, and it went on from there, “If you had a million dollars to reduce stupidity where you live, how would you spend it?”. I’d better not even allow myself to jot down even a few words on those subjects, or every one will think that I am the most cynical man alive. I’m not, but I am a realist, and human nature being what it is, well, we’ll just leave it at that.

I’m still in a foul mood, some of it from my situation at work, and if that wasn’t bad enough, I received a nastygram from the management here at the apartment complex threatening me with eviction. Why? Because some of the other tenants who live in the same building are throwing cigarette butts anywhere and everywhere, and have even burned holes in the carpeting on the stairways. I’ve lived here for five years now, and there was never a problem before, so I am going to straighten that out on Monday, and it will get straightened out!

It’s going to be a great day today, maybe a little breezy, but it is going to warm up some, it was down in the teens the night before last. I don’t really mind the cold too much, but it does but a crimp on my photography. The herons and other wading birds have joined the songbirds in their winter migration, I haven’t seen any in weeks, and I even walked to a chain of small lakes last weekend looking for them. The ponds around here are freezing over, so soon the ducks…

Mallard touchdown

and geese….

Canadian geese landing

…will be moving on as well. There’ll be a few that will stick around in any open water they can find, but that’s getting tougher every day…

Canadian geese on ice

..and they will say goodbye as they leave…

Canadian geese on take off

OK, so not the greatest shots, I need a driver. Not some one to drive a vehicle, but some one to sneak up behind the wildlife and drive them towards me as I wait to photograph the wildlife.

With the approach of winter, I guess I will have to settle for shooting sunsets…

Winter sunset 1

Winter sunset 2

The chickadees…

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

The cardinals…

Male northern cardinal

That is almost a great shot! If only I had been able to get closer to him!

I can play peek a boo with the fox squirrels…

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel's tail as it hides from me

Fox squirrel

Yup, I’m still here!

Curious fox squirrel

Fat Fox squirrel

There will be herring gulls flying overhead.

Herring gull in flight

A few of the gulls move inland over the winter, mostly the juveniles.

Juvenile herring gull

I may run into a few leaves on a wild rose-bush.

Winter rose leaves

and rose hips…

Rose hip

Rose hips are edible if you remove all the fine hairs inside the shell. They are packed with vitamin C, more than there is in citrus fruits.

Let’s see, I’ve got a couple more mallard photos to share..

Male mallard in flight

Can you see the swirls on the surface of the water? There were from the female who never gained as much elevation.

Mallards in flight

Her wingtips were nearly touching the water, and the air from her wing beats caused the swirls on the water.

I almost forgot, the drunken raccoon made its first appearance in weeks!

The not drunk this time raccoon

Only this time, I don’t think it was drunk, it was just sleeping in the crotch of the tree. It was a lot more alert this time.

Raccoon in a hollow tree

I guess it has run out of fermented berries to feed on, although there are still many berries left on some of the trees..

Snow covered berries

Crabapple

This is only partly a nature photo…

Leaf impression in a sidewalk

It won’t be long and I’ll be putting my Nikon away for the winter, it’s just too much of a pain to try to carry it and protect it from the winter weather. I can slip it into my parka with me to keep it warm and out of the snow, but it takes forever to get it back out again. My little Canon Powershot fits into my pocket, so I’ll be using that most of the time until spring. That’s OK, it takes great photos unless I am trying to shoot a moving target, and there aren’t many of them around in the winters here in Michigan.

Since it’s going to be a very nice winter day here today, I think I will go to the local park and hunt some whitetail deer this afternoon and evening. It kind of ticks me off, the park entrance is closed, I have to park nearby and walk into the park. When they say the park is closed, they mean the park is closed!

A tank at the local armory

They even call in the Air Force!

Air Force tanker

Just kidding, the tank is parked at the local armory near where I park to access the park (A lot of parks in that sentence) and the Air Force tanker was taking off from the airport. Why it had landed at the civilian airport I have no idea, but every once in a while I see a military jet flying overhead.

That reminds me, back when I lived out in the sticks, I would often see Air National Guard A 10 Warthogs flying low in my neighborhood. I asked a friend who was in the Air National Guard why they were flying so low out in the country like that, he told me the pilots were checking their weapons systems. Huh? Yeah, out in the sticks, many of us had pole barns, and there were a few old mobile homes as well. The metal shells of the buildings showed up just as an enemy tank or truck would look on the infrared targeting systems the planes use to locate and lock in on targets when in battle. So the pilots would turn on their weapons systems to locate targets which would pick up the metal shells of the buildings. Now isn’t that nice to know?

It’s about time to wrap this one up, I think I’ll end it with this winter shot.

Unnamed creek in early winter

It’s pretty now, but soon, it will be frozen over too. That’s winter for you.

Thanks for stopping by!


Sometimes it works

This is an old post that I started but didn’t care for the way it turned out. The pictures were too good not to post, so I am going to just delete my useless ramblings and post it for the photos.

Flowers and fountain

I saw the shape of the spray from the fountain, and the shape  of the way the flowers were growing next to the pond that the fountain is in, and thought that the shapes were similar enough, that if I got everything lined up just right, it would make a great photo. The problem, it was a nasty, cloudy day with a gale blowing through our area. I could not get the flowers and the fountain lined up the way I wanted, no matter how I tried to time the gusts of wind. I’ll go back and try again, maybe I won’t like what I end up with, but I think it’s worth a try.

But, every once in a while it does turn out the way I saw it when I shot the picture.

Grass on a sunny day

I wanted to show the fuzzy texture of the grass seed heads, the way the light played off the fibers of the seeds, the way the wind shaped them, and the feeling of what kind of day it was that day.

Or this one.

Helpless

I can only imagine how helpless and alone I would feel if I were caught in a spider’s web. I took other shots zoomed in closer, but they didn’t convey the sense of loneliness that I wanted the photo to show.

Or this one.

A tale of two leaves

Just two leaves, one green, one yellow, lined up so that they appear to be one leaf.

Nothing special, nothing really dramatic, but I like to let nature provide the art, and I’ll just show up to record it.

Patterns in the sand

As always, thanks for stopping by!


Now if that don’t beat all

I’ve got a lot of environmental and recreational news to share, but first a little side note.

Tuesday afternoon when I went into work I had to go up to the front office to speak with my immediate supervisor about the logistics of getting the truck I drive in the shop for its regular maintenance. While I was standing outside my supervisor’s office, the owner of the company came over to me to ask if I was going to attend the Christmas party this year, but first, he had to make fun of the old worn out shoes that I wear to work. The reason I wear old worn out shoes is because he’s a cheap bastard that doesn’t pay his employees what they are worth.

It must be that I’ve mellowed out over the years, in my younger days, I would have done one of two things depending on my mood, either have lit into the owner for being such a cheap bastard and then having the gall to poke fun of the shoes I was wearing, or I would have walked out without a word, and never returned. Of course the economy was a lot better back then, and I never had to worry about landing another job. The truth is, I don’t really have to worry about it now, holding a CDL-A with a Hazmat endorsement and a clean driving record, I could be working somewhere else by the end of the week. The problem is that I have gotten more picky in my choice of jobs over the years as well. I don’t really want to go back to driving over the road and be away from home for weeks at a time.

I’ve also gotten smarter, if I had quit on Tuesday, I would be throwing away any holiday pay for Christmas and New Years, plus, the first of the year, I’ll be getting a check for an extra week for the paid days off that I haven’t taken. I’m not about to hand that cheap ass bastard I work for an extra weeks pay just because I got mad. Revenge really is a dish best served cold, so I’ll wait until that extra weeks pay is safely in my checking account, then let the cheap ass bastard know what I think of him as I walk out the door.

I have decided that if I can’t find a different local job by the first of the year, I’ll go for a regional over the road job. It isn’t my first choice, but it’s a job, and one that pays about twice what I am making now. The bad part, only being home for a day and a half a week. At least I will be able to buy some new shoes. 🙂 I’m thinking of gift wrapping the ones the cheap ass bastard made fun of and leaving them for him as a parting gift to thank him.

Now, on to the good news, and where do I start.

I think it will be with this story, the states of Wisconsin and Michigan are teaming up to create a joint park along the Menominee River in the western Upper Peninsula. You can read the entire story here http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2011/12/michigan_wisconsin_team_up_to.html

That stretch of the Menominee River includes two popular geologic features: Piers Gorge and Quiver Falls, and it will be Michigan’s first whitewater recreation area. It also will be the first state recreation area to be jointly managed. The river forms the boundary between the two states and has class IV and V rapids.

I hate to admit this, but I’m not sure I would want to tackle that river at my age. Since I’m pushing 60, I’m not as spry, or as foolish as I used to be. I would have to look the rapids over first, and that will be made easy as hiking trails also may be developed along with high-bluff overlooks and canoe and kayak launch sites and parking.

“The walk along the shorelines will be spectacular,” said Paul Yauk, the linear trails program manager with the Michigan DNR.

If only it wasn’t so far away. That’s a full day drive from where I live.

In my last post I wrote about the clean up being done in Muskegon Lake, in 2005-06, a similar $10 million cleanup of contaminated sediment was completed at nearby Ruddiman Creek next to Muskegon’s McGraft Park. You can read about the clean up here.

http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2011/11/cleanup_of_contaminated_muskeg.html

In fact, Muskegon is making the news a lot recently. The old Sappi paper mill has been purchased and the new owners are in the process of demolishing the old mill.

http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2011/12/demolitiion_under_way_on_the_f.html

I hate to see people lose their jobs, but I am not at all sad to see the old paper mill go away forever! The stench from the mill was enough to make your eyes burn if the wind pushed the fumes your way, and the mill itself was an eyesore.

Another good news/bad news story is that Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest electric utility is going to shut down the B. C. Cobb power plant in 2015.

The public utility on Friday said the two remaining coal-fired units at B.C. Cobb will cease operations by Jan. 1, 2015. Cobb’s two units are among seven smaller coal-generating units statewide that will be closed.

The good news is that Consumers is shutting down its coal-fired plants and relying on others that are fueled by natural gas, which is a good thing for the environment. The bad news, as a single property, the B.C. Cobb generating plant is Muskegon County’s largest taxpayer. A good deal of that tax money goes to the local schools, so that’s a hit they don’t need at this time. There are also 116 people employed at the plant, but most of them will probably be offered transfers to other Consumers Energy facilities.

This is great news for the environment, but we have to remember that there are a lot of people who are going to be affected in a negative way, from the loss the tax base to people losing their jobs.

More good news for the Muskegon area, the Owasippe Boy Scout reservation has brought in an expert to design a new system of trails for mountain bikers, hikers, bird watchers and trail runners.

The Owasippe Outdoor Education Center is working with the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts of America, which owns the Owasippe property, to manage the land during the 46 weeks of the year when it’s not used for Boy Scouts summer camping.

The old trails were shut down to the public last year due to the environmental damage, mostly erosion, that was happening. With the help of the Alcoa Corp. which donated $3,000 and 12 employees to join about another dozen volunteers for a trail work day at Owasippe to return the abandoned section of trail to nature — a process that will be done with all of Owasippe’s trails that are rerouted.

The new trails will be laid out so as to minimize any damage to the environment, and will be expanded to take users through even more of the 5,000-acre property.

I am going to end this one with some good news from the Grand Rapids area, where I live. Turns out that the Grand River isn’t as polluted as most people assumed.

http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2011/12/surprising_results_to_tests_on.html

That’s about test results done in hopes of either removing the dam on the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids, and possibly restoring the rapids that the city is named for, or constructing a man-made set of rapids for kayakers to use.

The 4th Street dam in Grand Rapids

There’s a lot more I should say about this, and the news that two universities have received a grant to research converting the S S Badger from a coal-fired ship to using natural gas, but my heart isn’t into this right now. In fact, there was more to be said about all the stories I posted links to, but right now, my employment and financial situation are weighing me down mentally.

Since I started this post a couple of days ago, I have talked to a national trucking company, and have a job offer to consider. The pay and benefits are so much better than my current job that it is hard to say no, except, I would be out for a week at a time with 34 hours of home time each week.

That would mean I would have to suspend this blog, heck, I would have to suspend my life. Thirty four hours off isn’t enough to do anything more than get ready for the next week on the road, doing laundry and grocery shopping, then packing. There would be no trips up north, not even any local hiking or kayaking trips.

I tell myself to take the job, knowing I won’t be there for long, a year or so at most. I could pay off some bills, and what’s a year? I’ve done it before, I can do it again.

Well, I don’t have that many years left, I don’t really want to lose another one, not for money anyway.

There’s so much to consider in making a decision, if I am boring you, please feel free to click away now.

I’m lucky in that I’m in pretty good shape for some one my age, which is 57 years old. Most people judge me to be about ten years younger when they first meet me. In fact, one of the branch managers where I work made the comment that he could handle the heavy laundry carts as well as I can if he was my age. Turns out that I’m a year and a half older than he is.

That’s another thing I have to consider as far as a job, driving over the road isn’t the healthiest lifestyle either. I am just now getting back into shape after the years I spent over the road before I got the job I have now. Sitting behind the wheel of a truck for 11 hours a day, chain-smoking to stay awake and fight off the boredom isn’t something I want to do again.

I’d better change the subject. We got our first real snow of the year last night, just enough to cover the ground. I haven’t sorted through the photos I took to have any post here yet, I’m not sure there are any worth posting. I do love the first snow of the year though, it’s always so bright and clean.

Only a few more days left until the winter solstice, the day of the least amount of daylight. From that day until the summer solstice, our days will be getting longer. Our coldest months are January and February, but at least the sun climbs higher in the sky each day, and it stays light longer with each passing day. I think I will have myself a celebration of sorts on the first day of winter, not to celebrate winter, but to celebrate the longer days that are coming.

I’m sorry for the disjointed rambling nature of this post, the weekend is coming up, and I’ll be back to normal with a couple of days off. Thanks for stopping by!


Some odds and ends, another photo dump

Before I get to the pictures, a little environmental news. I read that the EPAis nearly finished with a clean up project in Muskegon Lake, always good news when old pollution finally gets cleaned up. The 12 million dollar project includes dredging 60 acres of contaminated muck from the lake bottom, and reconstructing the shoreline in the area. The contaminated muck held mercury and petroleum-laced sediment. I am glad to see it go, Muskegon Lake is getting close to being removed from the EPA’s list of a Great Lakes Area of Concern, an EPA list of toxic hot spots. Yeah!

Now, on to the photos. These are shots that I have taken in the last few weeks that are too good not to post, but don’t fit into any one category. I’ll start with a couple of cloud pictures.

Heart in the clouds

A new species of bird?

Cloud bird

OK, how about some real birds? First up, a white breasted nuthatch finding something good to eat. I shot these quickly, trying the spot metering mode of my Nikon. The results were better than usual, but not great.

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

The photos aren’t the greatest, but I like the series as it shows the nuthatch as it digs in the bark of the tree for a goody, which you can see in the bird’s beak in the last shot of the series, just before the nuthatch flew off to eat what it had found.

Then there’s this shot, just because I like it, the colors and the contrasts.

Berries, color and contrast

Then, a female cardinal that was perched near the top of a tree, something I rarely see.

Female northern cardinal

Cardinals of both sexes normally feed and stay closer to the ground than this, except when the males are singing. Then they will perch high in the trees, but I seldom see a female more than a few feet off the ground.

More berries.

Bright red berries, from a mountain ash if I remember right

I forgot which trees these berries were on, silly me. I think it was a mountain ash.

Back to birds, an American goldfinch.

American goldfinch

I’m not sure if it is male or female, the males molted their summer colors a couple of months ago.

A couple of ice shots from one of the ponds here.

Thin ice on a pond

Another..

Thin ice on a pond

A lone goose taking to water..

Canadian goose

..to join the rest of the flock.

Canadian geese

I have complained about my Nikon a lot, but this last week I found out that it loves turkey!

Turkey

Turkeys may appear black most of the time, but they’re not. It all depends on how the light reflects off from their feathers.

Turkey

I really like the way the Nikon captured the colors of the turkeys, and the iridescence of their feathers. Hopefully I will be able to get some really good photos of the male turkeys doing their strutting in the spring, and will be able to do another “Turkey dance” post.

I don’t know if you’ve read the post I did titled “Good hikes gone bad” where I posted this photo of a great blue heron behind some trees….

Heron behind the ghost trees

Well, I took a couple of photos from where I was standing that day.

Scene of the crime

You can see the creek in the right side of this photo, that’s where I first saw the heron flying towards me.

Scene of the crime 2

That was shot looking slightly to the left, in the area where the heron was when I took the shot of it behind the ghost trees. As you can see, there are no trees there that would have blocked the shot the way it came out. It still bugs the crap out of me just where those two ghost trees came from that spoiled the heron photo. Oh well, that’s not the only frustrating heron photo.

Very bad photo of a heron in flight

I was tracking this heron as it walked through the cattails, just waiting for it to leap into flight. The auto focus was tracking the bird nicely, until this, the moment I pressed the shutter. There was a slight delay as the auto focus switched from the heron to the cattails in the foreground, then the shutter went. That was enough of a delay to cause me to chop off the birds bill, and of course the heron is out of focus, argh!

More bad heron pictures? I’ve got them.

Great blue heron in flight

I saved this one because it helps to show why great blue herons are called what they are, and not great grey herons. I don’t know if this one is starting to develop its spring mating color, or if it was a fluke of the camera, but this is the way herons are colored in mating season.

I took these two to demonstrate to some friends the way that using the exposure lock can help them to get better photos.

Red tailed hawk

That one was taken by just pointing the camera at the hawk and pressing the shutter.

Red tailed hawk2

For this second one, I tilted the camera down, pressed the shutter release half way to set the exposure for the side of the building, locked the exposure, then centered the hawk for the shot. The sky behind the hawk is washed out and over exposed, but at least you can make out a few details of the hawk.

One more heron in flight photo..

Great blue heron in flight

I have one more shot for this one. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know that I go for a daily walk or hike around the apartment complex where I live, and many of my photos are taken then. I normally try to cut any signs of human development out of any photos from around here, but like with the hawk photos above, that isn’t always possible. I mean, I stepped out of the door of my apartment, and perched there on a building across from me was the hawk, kind of hard to cut the building out of that one. So here’s a shot that will give you an idea how nice it is here.

Where I live

OK, so I don’t live in any of the buildings in this photo, it is one of four ponds here, along with four creeks that cross the complex. I seldom “hunt” this pond, as it is surrounded by apartments. The other three ponds are on the outside edges of the complex, so I am not bothering any one when I wander around those ponds.

I have a view of one of the creeks from my apartment, but I loved this shot of the willow tree and its reflection in the pond. That’s the pond in the center of the complex, the rest of the buildings radiate outward like spokes in a wheel. In between are the creeks and fingers of wooded areas that block your view of the next set of buildings over.

They did a very nice job in designing the layout of this complex, leaving lots of wooded and brushy areas for wildlife to live, as evidenced by the photos I am able to get here. I watch deer, turkeys, birds, muskrats, herons, ducks, geese, even coyotes from my living room window. If I were of a mind to, I could sit out on the balcony of my apartment and take my photos from there, and save myself the daily walk. Being old and fat, I need all the exercise I can get.

I love it here, more than I ever thought I would. I’m not an apartment dweller by nature, I love living in the sticks. There are some upsides to apartment living, more free time to spend outdoors, not doing yard work or home maintenance projects. 🙂 I just signed another year lease, so it I’ll be here for at least six years total at the end of this one, who would have thought? Not me, but there is one thing that bothers me though, that is I have found that as I look around for subjects to photograph, I look small. That is, I look for subjects on the small-scale, like flowers and insects, and I wonder if that is affecting my vision as a photographer. I’ll have to do a post on that, or I should say, finish one I started.

I wasn’t sure if I should post that last picture, I don’t want to burst any one’s bubble if they thought that I spent all my time out in a wilderness area somewhere. I would love to get away more, but that isn’t possible right now, so I make do the best I can.

That’s it for this one, hope you enjoyed it bad photos and all, thanks for stopping by.


I am curious (why) (yellow)

This has nothing to do with the notorious Swedish “art film” from the 1960’s, you know, the one that helped give rise to the phrase “Banned in Boston”, which in turn became a tag line that art films used in advertising themselves after the media picked up on it.

Anyway, it was a somewhat strange fall here in West Michigan, for one thing, it was slightly warmer than normal, and we had a lot more sunshine than our typical fall. Early on, near the end of September, the leaves began to change color the way they always do.

Early red

I did an earlier post of nothing but fall foliage shots, you can see the photos here. After that initial burst of color, most of the trees around here dropped the early red colored leaves, and the remaining leaves began to turn yellow.

Turning yellow

You can see some almost bare branches, that’s where the red used to be. Even the burning bush showed more yellow than I can ever remember seeing in the past.

Burning bush

And, it wasn’t long after that photo was taken that the burning bushes around here dropped all their leaves. Don’t get me wrong, we had a glorious fall.

Mellow yellow

Brilliant yellow

Hidden yellow

I wondered all the time what made the leaves all turn yellow, even the maples that usually turn fire red.

Yellow maple

Yellow maple

The woods were all about yellow.

Yellow woods

Everywhere you looked, you saw yellow.

Yellow here

Yellow there

Yellow everywhere

Even the few leaves that showed some red were muted, almost pink rather than red.

Pink maple leaves

Then they began to turn yellow as well, creating some interesting colors.

Red maple turning yellow

orange maple

Of course that meant most of the fallen leaves were yellow as well.

Fallen yellow

But they looked much better while still on the trees.

Close yellow

Not every tree turned yellow…

Not yellow

..but most did.

Yellow

I am still curious as to why there was so much more yellow foliage than normal, and will this post be banned in Boston?

If you have any clue as to why there was so much yellow foliage this fall, I would really like to hear why, thanks for stopping by.