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

Archive for January, 2012

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hope

Young male northern Cardinal singing

This is my take on the Weekly Photo Challenge for this week, Hope. Of course the male cardinal in the photo is singing, hoping to attract a mate, but, it is also a harbinger of spring, and the hope of a new year. It won’t be long now and there will be flowers blooming, butterflies fluttering about, and the return of the songbirds that have gone south for the winter.

I know, both the cardinal and I are jumping the gun, spring won’t arrive for a couple more months, but at least his tuning up his vocal cords for the spring  gives hope that it won’t be long.


The eyes have it!

When I photograph wildlife, I try to do one of two things, either tell a story, or to do a portrait of the critter. Sometimes you luck out and can combine the two, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

Generally, I’ll save and possibly post a photo that tells a story but isn’t a technically good photo, on the other hand, I prefer that portraits of critters be very good to great shots. But, what do I do with a shot like this?

Fox squirrel

Or this?

Fox squirrel

Those aren’t very good photos, but the fox squirrel is just so darned cute, how can I not post them?

For photos that tell a story, those aren’t too bad, but there’s not much of a story there. Squirrel interrupted while digging for nuts, I’ve got at least a hundred others, most are better, but the squirrels in those photos weren’t nearly as photogenic as this one was.

Part of my criteria for whether or not to post a photo is how many other photos of the same species I have already posted, therefore, I keep raising the standard for some of the more common species. I have already posted quite a few photos of some species, such as chickadees, nuthatches, and great blue herons, so any newer ones I post will have to be exceptional in some way or another.

Then there are those species that I haven’t posted many photos of, like titmice.

Titmice

So I need to add more photos of them, hopefully good ones.

Titmouse

They are really kind of an odd looking bird when you see them at this angle.

Titmouse

When I am going for portrait shots like these, I try to get a clear view of the subject’s eyes, as if I was doing a human portrait.

Titmouse

Of course it helps if I can get close…

Black capped chickadee

…and I mean really close!

Black capped chickadee

Sometimes I focus so intently on the eyes of a subject that I forget to see what else is going on as I snap the shutter.

Male mallard giving me the evil eye

Like weeds.

Male mallard

Male mallard

But then sometimes I get it right.

Female mallard

Mallard mates

Mallard mates

And sometimes the results can be humorous as well, like in this series of a red bellied woodpecker searching for food.

Red bellied woodpecker

“Come on out, I know that you’re in there!”

Red bellied woodpecker

“Don’t make me dig you out!”

Red bellied woodpecker

In the world of birds, there are no eyes better to photograph than the eyes of raptors.

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

If only that branch wasn’t in the way, I would say that the last one was just about perfect!

I guess I’ll have to keep on trying until I get a photo that captures the intensity of a raptor’s stare, but without the branch in the way.

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


Which way did they go?

It was a few weeks ago that Bob Zeller of Texas Tweeties blog posted a photo of a robin, and in the comments, the discussion turned to the fact that some robins seem to be wintering farther north than they used to. It was an interesting discussion, one commenter said that they put raisins out for the robins, which the robins wolfed down in short order. I opined that I thought that one of the reasons that some species of birds spent winters farther north in recent years was due to the large number of ornamental trees that bear fruit have that been planted giving birds access to more food.

I can’t prove that of course, but my observations seem to show this to be at least part of the reason, along with more people feeding birds in their backyards. Seed eating birds such as finches and goldfinches no longer have to travel south of the snow cover to find seeds to eat, they only have to locate a convenient bird feeder.

The subject came up in the same time frame as I posted “Class, please raise your hand” which featured photos of robins gorging themselves on mountain ash berries. The flock of robins that was hanging around here feeding on the different types of berries isn’t around any longer, I wonder which way they went. The snow cover we had disappeared about the same time as the robins, so I wonder if they headed back to the north again, or south. I can’t say, but on Friday, I witnessed American goldfinches feeding on crab apples here, and I’ll get to those photos shortly.

Before I get to the photos, there are a couple other things I would like to say about birds and their feeding habits. One is that most small songbirds are far more omnivorous than we generally think. We tend to pigeonhole some songbirds as seed eaters, others as insect eaters. But, as I noted in my post about the nuthatches, although they are considered to be insect eating birds, they will feed on seeds when the seeds are available. Conversely, I have seen many cardinals and sparrows, which are generally classified as seed eating birds, chasing and eating moths and other insects.

This is especially true when adult birds are feeding their young, the young birds need a wide variety of nutrients to grow, but I think it happens more than we acknowledge. The best example I can give of this is hummingbirds. We all know that hummingbirds feed on the nectar of flowers, right? But, did you know that insects make up a large part of a hummingbird’s diet? The hummingbirds need the high sugar content of nectar to fuel their high metabolism, but nectar alone doesn’t provide the other nutrients that hummingbirds need to survive. I have sat in my apartment and watched hummingbirds zipping around the in woods, where there are no flowers, eating the small insects that do live there.

The other thing that I should mention is that my brother suggested that I do a post about finding the food sources of critters, and how to use that to get good photos. That’s a good idea, but I would end up doing post after post on that subject, at least one post for every species of critter that there is, and even that probably wouldn’t be complete. My brother just purchased a Pentax DSLR, and I’m going to share one of his photos, because I think it is fantastic!

Cedar waxwings feeding on grapes

Now, on to the fun. I was thinking about the robins, wondering which way they went when they left this area, when I came to a fir tree full of chickadees. I don’t know how many were in the fir tree, but I was going nuts trying to get pictures of them. They would not sit still at all.

Where did the chickadee go?

As fast as I could point and shoot, the chickadees would be gone. Not only was I wondering which way the robins went, I was wondering which way the chickadees went!

Chickadee blasting off

It was one of those days, as far as chickadees, good thing I was able to get this series of photos of goldfinches feeding on crab apples.

American goldfinch eating a crab apple

American goldfinch eating a crab apple

Which brings me full circle in this post. One, these crab apples are of the ornamental variety. Crab apples are native to this area, I believe, but the ornamental cultivars produce far more flowers, and therefore, far more fruit than do the native bushes. Also, goldfinches are known primarily as seed eating birds, and maybe these were eating the seeds within the crab apples, but they were definitely eating the fruit as well.

American goldfinch eating a crab apple

American goldfinch eating a crab apple

American goldfinch eating a crab apple

American goldfinch eating a crab apple

The mountain ash that the robins were feeding on a few weeks ago are not native to this area, but the birds in this area have learned to make use of the berries of the mountain ash as a food source.

American robin eating mountain ash berries

So, is there a point to all of my ramblings? Several.

One, birds feed on a variety of food sources, they aren’t as limited as we tend to think.

Two, we continue to make widespread changes in habitat, and it isn’t always a bad thing. We may not think of it as changing a habitat, but hanging up a bird feeder or planting ornamental trees and bushes that provide a food source for critters is changing the habitat.

Three, birds don’t migrate south in the winter, or north in the spring, because they feel that they need the exercise that flying hundreds or thousands of miles provides, they migrate due to food supplies, and when we change the habitat, we change the migration patterns of birds.

Four, if you find a food source that critters are feeding on, stake it out and get some stunning photos, like my brother did..

Cedar waxwing eating grapes

And finally, when photographing birds…

American goldfinch in flight

…you’ll often be asking yourself, which way did they go?


Listen, stop, look!

I’ve written before about paying attention to the sounds you hear while you’re outdoors, and how that can lead to some great photos, if that’s what you’re after. That point has been made many times to me again the last few days. Starting with the great horned owl I was able to get a picture of.

Great horned owl in the wind and rain.

I heard the hoot of the owl long before I was able to spot the owl itself. As long as it continued to hoot, I continued to search for it, and was able to get that photo because of that.

But, you don’t always hear the subject you end up photographing first, it is often another species that you hear, but that leads you to find something worthwhile. For example, jays, robins, crows, and squirrels can be used to locate other species of wildlife, especially predators. The species I mentioned are the self-appointed watchdogs of the animal kingdom, they’re good at spotting danger and issuing their warning cries, sometimes too good. They can be like the little boy who cried wolf too often, it is easy to dismiss their warning calls because you hear them so often. The deciding factor for me as far as investigating what they are warning is the intensity of their warning calls. Like in this example.

Crow attacking a red tailed hawk

Crows have a definite dislike for birds of prey, especially owls, and in particular, great horned owls. Why? Because great horned owls like crows, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a midnight snack. In many areas, the number one predator of crows is the great horned owl. Crows know this, since they are one of the more intelligent species of birds, and crows do their best to harass any owl they find in the open during daylight. If you hear a large flock of crows going crazy, it could well be that they have an owl treed someplace, and you may find it worthwhile to check it out. Of course, it could be that the crows have found a feral cat to harass, but that could be interesting, also. Crows are very acrobatic in flight when they want to be, and watching a large flock wheeling, diving, and attacking a predator is something to see, even if the predator is a house cat in the wrong place at the wrong time. You may even get to see some feathers or fur fly. I didn’t in the photo above, there were only two crows, and they gave up on the hawk after just a few attacks, but, the possibility of a great shot was there, so it pays to pay attention.

Now, for the story that prompted me to write this post. I was doing my daily hike, and I heard turkeys begin to give their call that means they are agitated about something. I wasn’t close enough for it to have been me, I couldn’t even see the turkeys when I heard them start calling, so I headed in that their direction to investigate.

I saw a small flock of turkeys, some still resting on the ground, but all of them where craning their necks all around, as if trying to spot something. I stood there watching as all the turkeys eventually got to their feet, and I began to think that maybe I was the reason they were agitated, but they weren’t focused on me the way they would have been if I had been the reason.

Then I heard ducks in the nearby creek begin to sound off as well, also in their agitated voices, and I couldn’t even see the creek, let alone the ducks. I wondered if the ducks were reacting to the turkeys’ calls, when a female sharp shinned hawk came flying towards me through the woods, and landed low in a tree. This really got the turkeys and ducks going, which kid of surprised me. I don’t know if a sharp shinned would try to tackle a mallard which is as large or larger than itself, and I seriously doubt that even a starving sharpie would try for a full-grown turkey. A poult, yes, but this is January, and last year’s poults are about full-grown.

I got this photo of the sharpie.

Sharp shinned hawk

With a couple of shots in the can, I was just beginning to plot how I could get closer to the hawk, when it flew off to another wooded area, but I could watch where it went. So, off I went, and got this photo.

Sharp shinned hawk

Or is it a coopers hawk? I have had some birding experts tell me that it is sharpie, others tell me it is a coopers, I can’t tell for sure either way.

Anyway, I was going to try to get closer, but I don’t like trying to sneak up on an animal from behind when it already knows that I am there. No critter likes to be approached from behind, that’s the classic action of a predator. I have much better luck if I can circle the critter and approach it head on if it is aware of me. So, I decide to try to circle around to get in front of the hawk, and I snapped this one on my way.

Sharp shinned hawk

I had to work my way around some wetlands to get to where I could approach the hawk from the front, I didn’t make before the hawk flew off again. I saw the area that it landed in, but not the exact spot. From the movements of the hawk so far, I could tell it was working its way from one patch of trees to another, moving generally to the north.

Since I had been pushing the hawk to at least some degree, I decided the best course of action was to let it rest for a while, and to try to get all the way around in front of its general heading, that way, if it did take fight again, maybe I could catch it coming towards me. At one point, I could see that a woman had parked her car, and was photographing something, I couldn’t see what, but I was pretty sure it was the hawk, and it turned out that it was. There wasn’t much I could do at that point, other than hope that since I had made it all the way around the hawk, that if it was spooked off by the other photographer, it would probably come in my direction. Turned out, I didn’t need to worry, the hawk decided it was going to pose for any of us who wanted to take its picture.

Sharp shinned hawk

I would take a couple of photos, then step slowly closer, and repeat.

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

Until I was as close as I wanted to be, due to the angle I would have had to shoot at if I had gotten closer.

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

After those photo, I just stood there with the camera on the hawk, waiting for it to take flight. That didn’t happen for quite some time, several minutes at least. When I saw the hawk spreading its wings to fly, my brain told my finger to shoot, but by that time, my finger wasn’t working any longer.

Many years ago, as the result of an act of industrial stupidity, I dropped a 400+ pound piece of a machine on my right index finger as I was removing the part from the machine. I can’t call it an accident, because I knew better than to try what I tried, and I paid for it. I won’t say much else about it, other than the sound that it made when my finger was driven into the concrete floor was almost enough to make me toss my cookies right then. I thought my finger was gone, but luckily, it was just a very painful learning experience, although my finger does still stiffen up in cold weather to this day.

So it was when the hawk was taking flight, my finger wouldn’t work at first, but I did catch this one.

Sharp shinned hawk in flight

Not very good, but it was cold and very cloudy that day, here’s one of her landing, and not being very graceful while doing so.

Sharp shinned hawk landing

She nearly fell off the lightpost, but recovered nicely.

Sharp shinned hawk

I thought about trying to get close to the hawk again, but decided against it. It is winter, although a mild one, and I don’t like to bother critters too much when they are obviously out hunting for food. Besides, the light wasn’t going to be any better than for the shots I had already taken, so there wasn’t any real reason to chase her around any more.

Going back to the beginning, I would have never gotten any of the hawk photos if I hadn’t paid attention to the agitated calls of the turkeys in the first place. It was only because I stood there trying to learn why the turkeys, and later ducks, were agitated that I saw the hawk. Then, it was watching it as it flew, and noting the direction it was heading each time. Most critters work their way in one general direction as they are looking for food, even if they seem to use a zig-zag pattern as they do.

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


Some odds and ends, maybe a photo or twenty

After my hike in a county park yesterday, I really have the urge to do a post about cross-country skiers and how rude they can be. My feelings towards them goes back a long way, all the way to the 1970’s when cross-country skiers first started showing up in the woods. We had several winters where we received way above average snowfalls, and I would be out walking on trails I had broken in my snowshoes, when out of nowhere, these people driving mostly Volvos began cussing me out for messing up their trails. Their trails? I had made those trails in the first place, as I walked everyday back then, just as I do now. Back then, there were no defined trails for the most part, so I made my own systems of trails, which the cross-country skiers tried to take over and kick me off from.

But, it got worse. The Michigan DNR tried to cater to the new sport, and opened up some of the state game areas to skiers, but that didn’t work well. It wasn’t long before the cross-country skiers where pressuring the DNR to close off the lands to hunters, when it was hunters who bought and paid for the land.

Then, it got worse. The cross-country skiers began to demand that the DNR groom the trails for them before they would go. Makes sense to me, fire up a gas-powered, air polluting machine to make skiing easier, so the cross-country skiers could claim they were getting back to nature, and getting their exercise as well.

Then it got worse. Building miles of trails made to the specifications cross-country skiers demand, marking the trails so the idiots who can’t find their way around the woods don’t get lost, and grooming the trails cost the DNR millions of dollars, but do the skiers want to pay for it? Of course not! Anytime that a proposal comes up to extend the Pittman-Robertson excise tax hunters and fishermen pay on their gear to cross-country skis and other skiing equipment, the skiers make sure that the proposal gets shot down. They want their cake and the ability to eat it, for free.

For the record, I have met a few friendly cross-country skiers, I think I can count the number of them on one hand. I even had one thank me for breaking trail in my snowshoes, which he was following, which caused my jaw to drop all the way into the snow. I told him about all the times skiers had cussed me out for being in the woods on snowshoes, and he told me it was because they weren’t very smart, that it was a lot easier following a snowshoe trail than breaking it on skis.

Also for the record, I try to avoid cross-country skiers and their trails whenever I can, but the jerks insist on skiing whatever trail they can find, even if it is marked for hiking only. It’s funny, they insist that their trails be groomed, and they’ll cuss me out for breaking a trail by hiking or snowshoeing, but that doesn’t stop them from taking the trails I break, just so they can cuss me out for ruining “their” trails.

As a nature photographer, I am used to people walking right in front of me as I am trying to take a picture. I am also used to people yelling out “Hey, what ya taking pictures of” just as I am trying to photograph a bird or animal, to which I usually reply, “That critter that you just scared off by yelling”. But, cross-country skiers take it to another level, yelling out things like “Coming through!” or “Step aside please!”, at least a few do say please. It’s their attitude that bugs me, as if they own the woods and every one else has to get out of their way.

So it was yesterday as I was trying to shoot the interactions between the nuthatch and the woodpecker. I was on the hiking trail that runs parallel to the cross-country ski trail. I had been watching the nuthatch, but wasn’t going to photograph it as it was a bit too far away for a great shot. Then, the red bellied woodpecker landed on the same tree just below the nuthatch, and bullied its way up to where the nuthatch had been, but it had flown to a branch of the tree and had started chattering away at the woodpecker. I was about to get that shot, I had them both in the frame, I was about to press the shutter release, but it was then that I heard the familiar “Coming through!” from approaching skiers.

I should have waited and snapped a couple of photos before I moved, but skiers always seem to get so huffy if they have to stop, or even slow down a little, after all, they’re holier than the rest of us. They’re out there getting their exercise. Right, that’s why they ski groomed trails, so they don’t have to work to get their “exercise”. They’re getting back to nature. Right, that’s why they ignore the chance to actually witness nature in action, and seem to try to do their best to interfere with those of us who do pause to watch nature in action.

OK, enough of that rant. I have added a link to Rob Slaven’s Photography blog, a very talented photographer from Zionsville, Indiana to the right under blogs I enjoy reading.

I find that I am getting behind in posting photos again, so here are a few I took last weekend. It started with a glorious sunrise.

Sunrise on a snow covered world

It had rained heavily before the snow began, so everything was coated in ice, then covered in snow.

Ice and snow

It was a beautiful day in the marsh

Sun and snow on a marsh

And by the creek

Sun and snow on Buck Creek

The ice that remained on the tree branches resembled miniature ice carvings.

Ice on a branch

Made me wish I had a macro lens for my camera.

Ice on a branch

This one looks strange due to the reflections off from the water.

Reflections

It seemed like the whole world was sparkly.

Ice on a branch

Everywhere you looked.

Sparkly

A bit of a breeze came up to blow some of the snow off from the trees at times.

Snow

It was hard to see very far because of the snow stuck to the trees.

Snow on the trees

It was all so beautiful against a bright blue sky.

Blue sky

This is from one of the smaller creeks.

Circle

I didn’t see much wildlife..

Red bellied woodpecker

Red bellied woodpecker

Since I don’t have bird pictures from last Sunday, I’ll throw in a couple from this week.

Fox squirrel feeding on leaf buds

Canadian geese in flight

Black capped chickadee

American goldfinch

American robin

I almost didn’t bother with the robin photo, I have so many pictures of them, but something made me at least look at it through the viewfinder, and when I did, I saw how dramatic the lighting was, and had to take it! I know that technically it isn’t that great, the robin’s breast is way over-exposed, but I love that photo!

Anyway, sorry for the rant about cross-country skiers, especially if you happen to be one. But a little common (or not so common anymore) courtesy on the trails would be nice. There’s no reason we can’t all share them.

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


The Weekly Photo Challenge: Simple

Now you think a subject like “Simple” would be easy, not for me. In going through my recent photos, there were a number of them that seemed to fit at first glance, but most of them are not as simple as they seem. For instance, today I took a fair photo of a red bellied woodpecker with a seed in its beak, pretty simple, right? Not really, because if you go back to my last post “Sometimes you feel like a nut(hatch)” you’ll see that I photographed a white breasted nuthatch storing sunflower seeds in the bark of trees. Well, the sunflower seed in the red bellied woodpecker’s beak was “stolen” from a nuthatches’ cache as the nuthatch looked on, chattering nonstop in an attempt to chase off the much larger woodpecker. To add to the complexity, I missed some of the photos I would have liked to have taken of this situation because a group of cross-country skiers came by at the wrong time, interrupting me. But since I spilled the beans, I suppose I have to post what I was able to get, first the woodpecker and seed.

Red bellied woodpecker with a stolen seed

Then the nuthatch trying to intimidate the woodpecker.

White breasted nuthatch

Then, the woodpecker sticking its tongue out as if to say “Take that!” after it had stashed the seed in another tree.

Red bellied woodpecker and tongue

Nature is never simple, ever! But going through the photos, this is the one I have chosen for the challenge, the patterns in the ice on a frozen pond.

Patterns in the ice covering a frozen pond

And, if I were to try to explain how patterns like these are formed, this wouldn’t be simple any longer, so I’ll save that for another day.

That’s it for now, thanks for stopping by!


Sometimes you feel like a nut(hatch)

The subject of this post is the white breasted nuthatch, one of the more common woodland birds here in Michigan.

White breasted nuthatch

You can see that their beak is relatively long and thin, they feed primarily on insects, using their long thin beaks to probe the crevices in the bark of trees to find the insects hiding there. Sometimes they will chip away at the wood of trees to get at food, much like a woodpecker does, but nuthatches aren’t as well equipped for that as are the woodpeckers.

Over the winter months, nuthatches join loose flocks of mixed species with chickadees and titmice mainly, but often with a few brown creepers, woodpeckers of different species, and other birds as well.

The white breasted nuthatch is the largest of the nuthatch family, but they are still a small bird, about 5 inches long. Nuthatches are active, agile little birds that creep along trunks and large branches, probing into bark furrows with their straight, pointed bills. One of the first things you’ll probably notice about them is that they are almost always upside down.

White breasted nuthatch

They usually start towards the top of a tree and work their way down as the search for food. In fact, I took one of my photos of them and rotated it 180 degrees to see what they look like in a “heads up” position…

White breasted nuthatch

…and it just doesn’t look right, as you seldom see them in this position. They never hold still for very long, they are always on the move. They are one of my favorite birds to watch, as they work their way around trees and branches. One thing has me really puzzled about them though, they will spiral their way around a tree limb, hanging from the bottom of the limb at times, but they are able to defy gravity and hop their way under a limb. How do they do that? Even the ultimate little clowns, the chickadees, can be seen hanging under limbs, but you can also see that they hang on to do so. Not nuthatches, they go around and around under limbs as if there were no such thing as gravity trying to pull them down.

While they feed primarily on insects, they also feed on seeds and nuts they find, and readily come to a bird feeder. They often store seeds and other morsels of food that they find for later on, by jamming the food into crevices in the bark of trees. Here’s a series of photos showing a nuthatch doing just that.

White breasted nuthatch

It doesn’t show up well in this photo, but the nuthatch has a sunflower seed in its beak.

White breasted nuthatch

You can see the sunflower seed a little better in that photo, and even better in this one.

White breasted nuthatch

The seed is about to disappear, and not by being eaten!

White breasted nuthatch pushing a seed into the bark of a tree

With the seed safely jammed into the bark, it’s time for a quick look around to see if the coast is clear as far as predators…

White breasted nuthatch

…then back to the bird feeder for another seed to hide….

White breasted nuthatch in flight

I didn’t put up a bird feeder, I should, but then I would sit in my warm apartment and shoot great photos without having to work for them.  🙂 The feeder that this nuthatch was using was right on the edge of the park I walk often, and the nuthatch was flying back and forth with the seeds, posing for me.

When they aren’t storing seeds for later, they do about the same thing with seeds that they intend to eat. They bring the seeds to a convenient tree, drive the seed into the bark of the tree, then they crack open the seed by pecking at it. Here’s a series of shots of a nuthatch cracking open a seed and eating it.

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

Down the hatch!

White breasted nuthatch

Or should I say up the hatch, nuthatch that is, how do they do that? Swallow up?

I’ll finish this up with a few of one particularly photogenic nuthatch, who stopped by to see what I was up to while photographing a red bellied woodpecker. First the woodpecker…

Red bellied woodpecker

Then the nuthatch….

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

Here’s looking at you, kid! If you would like to learn more about these gravity defying cute little clowns, you can find more at the All About Birds website.

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


Taking a day off

Not from work, can’t afford that, but I’m not going for a walk today, the first time in so long that I can’t remember the last time that I didn’t. I’ve been feeling run down lately, I slept off and on for a total of about 12 hours last Saturday, I never do that! I usually sleep about six hours a night, I don’t know if my run down condition is due to the roller coaster weather we’ve had the last two weeks, of if I have come down with something. I’m odd, but I seldom know when I am sick, I keep right on going until the time my body gives up on me, then I sleep more than normal for a while, then I’m fine again. The weather is nasty as well, 13 degrees with snow and a 30 MPH wind out of the northwest, which normally doesn’t stop me from going out, but today, I hoisted the white flag and surrendered. We had a storm over the New Year’s Day weekend, then back up into the 50’s, then a three-day snow storm, then back to near 50, and now we’re in the middle of another storm. It’s been a wild ride the past two weeks!

I have some house keeping to do as far as blogging.

First, I would like to thank Bob, Cee, Emily, and Kerry for taking the time to comment and try to help me out after my post “Can some one help me out here?“. With four such talented photographers taking the time to help me out, well, I am very thankful for blogging friends like them. I have come to the conclusion that the problem I asked for help on is due to a glitch in my camera, you can click the link to the original post to see the update that I did explaining why I believe it to be a glitch in the camera. The short version is that it happened again, and I can see a pattern in the way that the camera malfunctions after it happened in so short of a time frame since the original post.

Secondly, I have fallen behind in adding links to some of the great blogs I have found out there in the blogoshere, something I am correcting. I have added links to Cee’s life photographyGardening in New HampshireKerry Mark Leibowitz’s nature photographyNorthern NarrativesFrom Moments to Memories, and Xandre Verkes. I’ll have a few more to add shortly, so I hope no one feels left out, there’s only so much I can do at one time.

A little about each of the new additions.

Cee’s life photography blog is a little of everything, backed up with some truly excellent photography. It’s hard to sum her blog up in a nutshell since she does cover such a wide range of topics, from nature to health to photography tips. I highly recommend her blog as well as all the new additions I am making to my list of links.

Gardening in New Hampshire is focused on native plants, and is always informative, even to some one such as myself who spends so much time outdoors. There are times that I think I spend too much time outdoors, and not enough time reading blogs like this one to learn about what it that I see outdoors. I have already learned the identity of several plants that I have seen and wondered about, but never took the time to research them, in the short time I have been reading Allen’s blog.

Kerry Mark Leibowitz’s nature photography is the blog of a professional landscape photographer, with some really stunning photos on display, along with helpful tips on how he goes about getting such beautiful photos. If you love beautiful landscapes, this is a blog you’ll have to check out!

Northern Narratives is a blog that also covers a range of topics, from the perspective of some one who lives in Duluth, Minnesota. I have been fortunate enough to have visited the area a few times, but not recently. It’s a beautiful area, and she does well in capturing just how beautiful it is.

From Moments to Memories is Sheila’s blog from near the twin cities in Minnesota, focused on nature photography, and how discovering nature has led her to greater self discoveries. She has a great natural eye for photography, and her blog is always a fun read as well.

Xandre Verkes is the blog of a young woman of Dutch descent I believe, I could be wrong about that, but being of Dutch stock myself, the name sounds Dutch. Her blog is a combination of travel, nature, and everyday life from Pretoria, South Africa, though she travels many places and is a very skilled photographer to boot.

OK, now for a few of my own photos, starting with a couple of the male sharp-shinned hawk that lives in the area.

Male sharp-shinned hawk

Male sharp-shinned hawk

Male sharp-shinned hawk

Then, I am going to throw in some bad photos of a muskrat collecting grass for its den, for a reason I’ll get to after the photos.

Muskrat collecting grass

I knew that the light was wrong for a good photo, so in between trips the little guy was making….

Muskrat collecting grass for its den

…I tried to work my way to a better position…..

Muskrat spotting me

But it didn’t work, it spotted me, and headed back to its den.

Muskrat

The reason I added these pictures is this. Just last week I read in the local paper that prices for muskrat pelts was way up, due to demand for fur from Asian countries. When will we ever learn? I hate to sound like a nut from PETA, but there’s no reason in the world for any one to be wearing a fur coat! There are few critters that I can think of that are as harmless, quiet, and unassuming as a muskrat. There’s no reason to kill them other than to feed the human ego that wants the “status symbol” of wearing a fur coat. Muskrats may not be cute and cuddly like some other critters, but they are completely harmless to us, unless we force them into defending themselves, and just go about living their quiet little lives’. Most people don’t even know what they are if they ever do see one.

I don’t have a problem with killing an animal for food, and I believe that if we do kill an animal, we should use as much of it as we can, as in making leather from the hide of cows. But, to kill an animal just for the fur, discarding the rest is just wrong!

I’m stepping off from the soapbox now. I have enough nuthatch photos that I am going to do an entire post devoted to them, and I still have the ice photos I mentioned before, that will be a post of its own, so let’s see, here’s one of a sumac branch that I like.

Sumac in the rain and fog

One of a fox squirrel attempting to stay dry on a wet dreary day.

Fox squirrel trying to stay dry

A closer view of its built-in umbrella.

Fox squirrel trying to stay dry

Then it played peek-a-boo with me.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Yes, I flashed it for the last ones, it was almost like dusk that day.

Oh! I almost forgot, another bad photo!

Great horned owl in the wind and rain.

It is almost as if I live on a nature preserve around here! I love it! This was taken back behind the apartment building I live in, I have heard the owls hunting at night many times. I was out for my daily walk, and heard the owl, so of course I tried tracking it down, and I did get a few bad photos of it before it flew off. What’s remarkable about that photo is how bad the weather was that day. You can see the ear tuft of the owl is being blown by the wind, I had to time my shots trying to get ones without trees and branches in the way as they were blowing around in the wind. Considering the rain and wind, that’s not too bad.

I am going to finish with another bad photo, of ducks disappearing downstream in a creek and snow.

Cold duck(s) in the snow

I promise some better, and some worse photos for the next post. 😉 Hopefully I will get to that soon, but with the weather we’re having, it looks like another long night at work. And that reminds me, I wrote earlier that I really dropped the trailer at work, and there was an outside chance I could be fired. That didn’t happen, the driveshaft that operates the landing gear on the far side of the trailer had rotted away due to rust because the trailer is older than dirt and not maintained well. The place that made the repairs told the boss that there was nothing left to repair, everything on the landing gear was too rusted to trust, so they replaced the entire landing gear assembly.

Last year, they had to cut the rear of the trailer off and weld a new one back on because of how rusty the trailer was, they never learn! The repairs have cost them more than a new trailer would have.

That’s enough of that, I don’t even want to think about work, even though I am ending this to get ready for work.

Thanks for stopping by!


Dumping the moldy leftovers, Part II

I know I promised this one several days ago, but life , or I should say work, has gotten in the way of my blogging once again. I don’t want to go into great detail other than lots of snow made my runs longer the last two nights, and I may even be out of a job come Monday. After finishing my run Friday night/Saturday morning, I had to drop the trailer off at the dock, then take the truck to the leasing company for service over the weekend. When I dropped the trailer, I really dropped the trailer! One of the legs that are supposed to hold the trailer up when it isn’t connected to the tractor collapsed when I pulled the tractor out from under the trailer. It’s pretty ugly, the trailer tipped to one side, slamming into the wall of the loading dock, I don’t know how much damage was done, I really don’t even care. At least it collapsed then, not when people were in the trailer unloading it, but, the boss may not like the huge bill he’s going to get to have repairs made. I’ll worry about that come Monday.

Two other news items before I get to the pictures, one is that one of the snowy owls that have shown up in the area died unfortunately. It had been seen hanging around the Kalamazoo, Michigan airport, which is about 45 miles south of me. They were being careful with the bird there, even disrupting flights trying to keep the owl safe. According to the biologists who examined it, they think it died of starvation, poor thing.

The other news item, winter has finally shown up around here! It started snowing on Thursday afternoon, and hasn’t quit since as I write this on Saturday evening. This is more like a typical winter here, you have to love living close to one of the Great Lakes, lake effect snow is the gift that keeps on giving, and giving. For the New Year’s Day storm that wasn’t, they were predicting lots of wind and lots of snow, we got the wind, but very little snow. They predicted high winds and some snow for this storm, we didn’t get the wind, but we’re sure getting the snow!

I made my daily hikes yesterday and today, there wasn’t much to photograph but the snow still on the tree branches, but even that was difficult as the auto-focus of my cameras were trying to lock in on passing snow flakes.

OK, on to the photos.

Red fern-like plant

Ornamental grass in the sun

Nature as abstract art, a fallen tree

Cattails against a shimmering pond

These can't be pine flowers in January, are they?

Female northern cardinal

Snowflakes on ice

Robin

Blue jay in flight

Robin in flight

Robin in flight avoiding the camera

Slate-colored Junco

Slate-colored Junco

Slate-colored Junco

Slate-colored Junco

Slate-colored Junco

Slate-colored Junco

Slate-colored Junco

Blue jays in flight

Canadian Geese on an ice covered pond after a rainstorm

Canadian Goose on an ice covered pond after a rainstorm

Canadian Goose on an ice covered pond after a rainstorm

Canadian Goose on an ice covered pond after a rainstorm

Mute swans in flight

Mute swans in flight

Mute swans in flight

More geese on ice

Water drops frozen on a maple tree

Water drops frozen on a maple tree

Ghostly images in the ice during a snowstorm

Ghostly images in the ice during a snowstorm

Turkey in the snow

The last nice day we'll see for a while

And finally, one more of mallards in flight.

Mallards in flight

Sorry there’s no witty commentary to go with these, I’m not feeling very witty tonight, just tired. At least I have the fridge about cleaned out for the time being, and it may stay cleaned out with the way the weather is going. There’s so much snow on all the tree branches that seeing more than a few feet is difficult, it is like living in a world of white around here right now. It’s tough enough spotting birds like this female sharp-shinned hawk as it is when they hide in the branches..

Female sharp-shinned hawk in the branches

Female sharp-shinned hawk in the branches

Female sharp-shinned hawk in the branches

Those shots would be impossible right now due to the heavy snow covering everything.

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


The Weekly Photo Challenge: Peaceful

I received the Email letting me know that this week’s photo challenge was “Peaceful” on the same day as we had a significant snowfall, only our second of the year. Freshly fallen snow is something most people find peaceful, as long as they are looking at it from someplace warm. 😉 So, I rushed out to take a few photos, like this one.

Fresh snow and a winter creek

Of course my favorite out of the bunch would be one that included a stream in it. Then it dawned on me, the times I find that are the most peaceful to me are times when I am fly fishing for trout on one of the beautiful streams we have here in Michigan. So I am going to cheat again, and rather than post just one photo, I am going to post several, interspersed with some quotes about fly fishing that help to illustrate why I love it, and find it so peaceful.

“Often I have been exhausted on trout streams, uncomfortable, wet, cold, briar scarred, sunburned, mosquito bitten, but never, with a fly rod in my hand have I been unhappy”~ Charles Kuralt

The Jordan River in May

“They say you forget your troubles on a trout stream, but that’s not quite it. What happens is that you begin to see where your troubles fit into the grand scheme of things, and suddenly they’re just not such a big deal anymore.” ~John Gierach

The Jordan River in May

“Be patient and calm – for no one can catch fish in anger.” – Herbert Hoover

The Pigeon River in May

“The angler forgets most of the fish he catches, but he does not forget the streams and lakes in which they are caught.” – Charles K. Fox

The Pigeon River, mid-summer

“If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.” Zane Grey

The Pigeon River, mid-summer

“To go fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men – for all men are equal before fish.”- Herbert Hoover

The Manistee River, mid-summer

“I have never seen a river that I could not love. Moving water has a fascinating vitality. It has power and grace and associations. It has a thousand colors and a thousand shapes, yet it follows laws so definite that the tiniest streamlet is an exact replica of a great river”- Roderick Haig-Brown

Manistee River, mid-summer

“For the supreme test of a fisherman is not how many fish he has caught, not even how he has caught them, but what he has caught when he has caught no fish.” – John H. Bradley

Daisies along the Manistee River

“Some go to church and think about fishing, others go fishing and think about God.” – Tony Blake

The Manistee River

“When you pause to reflect on fishing, you often find out that the pursuit of fish has no bearing on your pursuit of fishing, or your enjoyment of the experience”~ Me

Me, fishing the Pere Marquette in early autumn

“More than half the intense enjoyment of fly-fishing is derived from the beautiful surroundings, the satisfaction felt from being in the open air, the new lease of life secured thereby, and the many, many pleasant recollections of all one has seen, heard and done.” – Charles F. Orvis

Iris along the Pere Marquette River

“There will be days when the fishing is better than one’s most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.” Roderick Haig-Brown

Mute swan on the Jordan River

It doesn’t get any more peaceful than that!

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


Dumping the moldy leftovers (photos)

First of all, I want to thank Bob, Cee, and Emily for taking the time to comment and offer their advice after my last post. I do appreciate the tips and pointers! I will either update that post, or start a new one to let them know what I find out with my camera.

This post is going to be mostly the photos I have taken the last 3 to 4 weeks that I haven’t had time to post yet. They may or may not be all that great, but they are a record of the incredible winter we have been having here in West Michigan so far this season. It was in the 50’s yesterday, not a record, but it felt like spring rather than winter. In a way, I miss the snow, but in other ways, I’m loving this warm weather. For one thing, it has been sunny! That is even more rare than a January thaw around here! It’s great seeing critters enjoying the fine weather, rather than struggling every minute of the day to survive, so I am going to start with this shot of a squirrel doing some sun bathing.

Fox squirrel basking in the sun

What’s notable about this is that I saw the same squirrel in the same spot in the same position on several days, just lying on the branch enjoying the warm sunshine. Since I’m on squirrels, I’ll add this one of a squirrel trying to sneak down a tree right behind me.

Fox squirrel trying to be sneaky

I could hear its claws on the tree bark, turned, and caught it checking to see what I was up to. They say curiosity killed the cat, but squirrels have a definite curious streak in them as well.

Here are two of a muskrat bring a load of grass to its den, my understanding is that they do this for three reasons. One, to make a soft comfy bed to sleep on. Two, for insulation to keep their den warm, and three, for food during times when they don’t want to venture out. If I am wrong about that, please correct me.

Muskrat bringing home the bacon

Muskrat bringing home the bacon

I took several more that came out better as far as lighting and exposure, but the auto-focus of my camera went nuts for some reason, and ruined them, if it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Here’s a couple of our new building inspector in action again.

Black capped chickadee inspecting a dryer vent

Black capped chickadee in flight

You can see that it is back to using its jet pack again, no wings needed. 😉

More about the weather, it has been fantastic!

Sycamore tree in the sun

Cattails and ice

It has been below freezing at night, allowing ice to form on the ponds at times, only to have it melt again. That has made for some interesting patterns in the ice, I think I’ll do an entire post of those photos. For now, enjoy the sunshine…

Blue skies in January

and that was on one of the cloudier days, we had a day when the sky looked like this!

Blue cloudless sky

I didn’t zoom in on a patch of blue, that was taken with my Cannon at its widest angle. I could have done a fish eye view and gotten the same thing, no clouds! That may not be rare where you live, but Michigan, in the winter, those days are rarer then hen’s teeth!

A few more assorted photos..

Grass seeds

Cattails

White pine needles

Frost on an oak leaf

More frost on leaves

Red and green on a winter day

Red and green on a winter day

Sorry, I couldn’t decide which of the three I liked best. This isn’t my week, WordPress lost one, after I had deleted the small version from my computer, I guess it thought I was boring you with my photos.

Frost on sumac

Cattails on ice again

Then there was this glorious sunset.

Winter sunset

We’ve had some snow.

Snow on a marsh

Snow on a marsh

Then there’s this series of three photos of Buck Creek that I took from the same spot to show how zooming in and changing the composition of a photo of a place can change the mood of the photo dramatically.

Buck Creek in the winter

Buck Creek in the winter

Buck Creek in the winter

Unfortunately, they also show the chromatic aberration in the lens that I have. 😦

Since I started with a squirrel, I think I’ll end it with a squirrel as well.

Fox squirrel getting a drink from an almost frozen creek

Zoomed in..

Fox squirrel getting a drink from an almost frozen creek

Well, I think that’s it for this one, I have to check the fridge to see what I have left to throw out. I know I have quite a few bird photos, the ice photos, and maybe a few more, hopefully I’ll get that done tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by


Can some one help me out here?

I am getting caught up on some personal business I have to take care of, I won’t bore you with the details. I have quite a few photos to post here when I get the chance, but for right now, I am going to post two I took this morning, and if any one can explain why this happens, I sure would appreciate it.

Turkey 1

Turkey 2

These two shots were taken less than a minute apart, and I only moved a few feet between the two. Neither has had any post processing done to it at all, nothing! Both looked the same in the viewfinder when I pressed the shutter release, as far as how sharp and vivid they appeared, and yet you can see how cloudy (for lack of a better term) the first photo looks.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky to cause the difference, I did move a few feet, but not enough to change the angle that the sun was hitting the turkey or my camera all that much, it wasn’t as if I had circled the turkey to get better light, all that really changed was that I was closer to the turkey for the second shot.

This goes along with my experiences the day before. I took 132 photos, and thought that at least 100 of them would be very good at the least. Turns out, a good deal of them were crap. Some were bad because of what I did, some were because the auto-focus locked on the wrong thing, with moving targets, I sort of expect that, but a good many of the crappy ones were bad because my Nikon simply did not expose them correctly.

For example, I had a chickadee land so close to me that I had to take half a step backward in order to get it in focus. I took a series of 10 to 12 shots, starting with the 70-300mm lens I have zoomed all the way to 300mm, then started to zoom out as I was shooting, hoping to catch the bird as it took flight. In that series, the photos taken with the lens at 300 mm came out poorly because of the exposure, where as the ones taken as I zoomed out got progressively better, exactly the opposite of what happened today with the shots of the turkey. For the turkey, I started at 300 mm and left it there as I shot.

I really can not figure this out. I have never used a camera where there was so much difference in the quality of the photos for no apparent reason. Looking at the exposure data from the two turkey photos makes this even harder to understand.

Exposure data for shot one…

Lens: 70-300mm F/4-5.6 D
Focal Length: 300mm
Exposure Mode: Programmed Auto
Metering Mode: Spot
1/80 sec – F/5.6
Exposure Comp.: 0 EV
Sensitivity: ISO 400
Optimize Image: Normal
White Balance: Auto
AF Mode: AF-A

Exposure data shot two…

Lens: 70-300mm F/4-5.6 D
Focal Length: 300mm
Exposure Mode: Programmed Auto
Metering Mode: Spot
1/1250 sec – F/5.6
Exposure Comp.: 0 EV
Sensitivity: ISO 400
Optimize Image: Normal
White Balance: Auto
AF Mode: AF-A

I have NO idea why the huge difference in shutter speeds between the two! I first saw the turkey laying out in the open, basking in the sun, and the first shot was just as it turned to move into the brush, the second shot was taken after it was moving into the brush, if anything, the second shot should have required a longer exposure. They were taken just before noon on a bright sunny day with hardly a cloud in the sky except for a few wispy cirrus clouds, and they never came into play today, yesterday, there were no clouds in the sky at all, zero zip, nada! In fact, I took a shot of the sky yesterday just because there were no clouds, something that rarely happens in west Michigan.

It’s as though every once in a while a neutral density filter comes out of nowhere to screw up the exposure, and I still haven’t figured out why this happens. Actually, it isn’t like a neutral density filter, it is a milky filter that also affects the sharpness of the photos as well.

I have had a run of three or four weeks where I have gotten one great photo after another, due in a large way because the Nikon was taking great shots, now all of a sudden, the last two days, it is back to never knowing for sure what the camera is going to do.

Also for the record, the lens never comes off the body, as I only have one lens. I was thinking that the sensor could be dusty, but then, wouldn’t that effect all the photos? I also use the factory lens hood all the time, and in neither of the photos of the turkeys was I shooting any where approaching shooting into the sun. The turkey was to the north of me in both photos, with the sun over my left shoulder for the first one, and almost directly behind me for the second.

I would truly appreciate any ideas that you may have as to why this happens.

Thanks for stopping by!

An Update!

First of all, thanks to Bob, Cee, Emily, and Kerry for all of you taking the time to reply. I do appreciate it, believe me. However, I am going to chalk the problem up to a glitch in the camera, at least for right now. The D 50 I have has two other glitches that pop up from time to time, one is that the camera just quits working. I press the shutter release halfway down, and nothing happens, other than the exposure and other info in the viewfinder disappears, and the auto-focus will not work at all. I have to turn the camera off, then back on, and it is fine again. This has happened to me a few times, probably about a dozen times during the course of 8,000 photos, not very often.

The second glitch is that I press the shutter release all the way to take a photo, the mirror locks up, then the camera hangs, for lack of a better explanation. The first time that it happened, I was worried. Turning the camera off then on didn’t reset it, neither did removing the battery. In desperation more than anything, I jammed the shutter release button all the way down, quite forcefully, then the camera reset itself.

This has happened more frequently than the other glitch, maybe once every two weeks or so, it seems to come and go. When the camera hangs, I get either a shot of noise from the sensor, or a weird duplicate of the previous photo, but  with a slice missing out of the center of the shot, but otherwise exposed correctly. The slice missing in the middle isn’t blank, both sides of the frame are stretched and joined together like a bad panorama. I discovered that there was part of the frame missing when the camera created a new sub-species of great blue heron, the stubby beaked heron, and I wish I would have saved that one, just for laughs.

I think that problem comes from me being very gentle on the shutter release, just as I learned when shooting a rifle. That’s my best guess as to why it happens, I could be wrong. It doesn’t seem to happen as often if I remember to be a little more firm on the shutter release, but when it does happen, I have to firmly press the shutter release all the way down and hold it for a second, then the camera is fine again.

But to get back to the two photos of turkeys, there is no way anything would have required an exposure of 1/80 of a second on that day, other than a black hole that can actually suck light in. A day or two later, I got about the same set up as in those two photos, but it was a cloudy, rainy, foggy day, and the shutter speeds were still less than 1/100 of a second, even when I put the spot for the spot meter on the darkest parts of the turkeys. The exposure times ranged from 1/125 to 1/200 of a second.

I had the same thing happen earlier this week, again, bright sunlight around noon, and I was shooting a series of photos of mallards in one of the creeks here. I have several good ones, nothing special, but well exposed, then, out of nowhere, another milky shot and the exposure info tells me it was shot at 1/200 of a second, and all the others in the series were taken at 1/1000 to 1/2000 of a second.

Maybe I should lay out all the details. There was a small flock of mallards swimming upstream in a very small creek, so small that they had to go single file because of the brush in the creek. I got ahead of them, found an opening through the brush and weeds that was about twice the length of a duck’s body to shoot through, as seen through my viewfinder. As the ducks entered the opening, I was shooting each one in turn. Shot one, great exposure at 1/1000, shot two, great at 1/2000, shot three, the milky one at 1/200, shot four, slightly milky at 1/400, shot five, great at 1/800, then all the rest were great at between 1/1000 and 1/2000 again. The difference in the shots as far as shutter speeds between 1/1000 and 1/2000 was due to the sex of the duck in the shot, with the females shot at the higher speeds due to their lighter heads than the males, which were all exposed at around 1/1000.

I probably should post the entire series for you to see with your own eyes, but I don’t want to waste my space allotment up with more bad photos. There wasn’t room in the frame for light meter to have picked up on something that dramatically different as to cause the exposure setting to vary as they did.

That’s the way the glitch always “behaves”, when I am taking a series of shots, usually not shooting fast, I get a few good ones, then a milky one with a much longer shutter speed, then a slightly milky one at an in between shutter speed, then all the rest are OK again.

I don’t know if it is just the particular camera I have, or if these things happen with other Nikon D 50s as well. I do know this, I never had any of these types of problems with the old Pentax Spotmatic I had. My ex-girlfriend and I shared the Nikon F 80 I bought for her for several years, never had a problem, and we took hundreds of great photos with it.

She and I shared the D 50 for several years as well, and the two of us spent several long evenings sitting on the couch with the camera and the manual trying to figure out what we were doing wrong, and why we couldn’t get the same types of results from the D 50 as we had gotten with her F 80. We never discussed it being the camera, I think we should have. We’re both experienced photographers. Her F 80 and the D 50 were close enough alike as far as the controls and everything else, it shouldn’t have been that difficult for us to make the transition from one to the other, but it was.

As a matter of fact, I sort of forgot about the evenings on the couch until I started to update this with a reply to you guys. We should have realized that there is something about the D 50 that just isn’t right. In our defense, it was the first digital camera either of us had used, we thought that the fact that the camera was digital was the reason we were having so much trouble with it.

The fact that the two of us had difficulty with the camera, plus the fact that I have now been about to see a pattern in the bad shots is what has brought me to the conclusion that the problem is a glitch in the camera. I should also throw in that the milky photos have occurred when I/we were using the center weighted metering mode as well. This is something the camera has done since I first bought it, or shortly there after. I remember Larri taking several series of multiple shots of the same subject, using various settings trying to find out what works with this camera, something I had also forgotten about until I began this update.

As to why I have it set to the spot metering mode, that’s the only setting that gives good results when taking wildlife photos. I have several thousand bad shots taken with the camera set to the center weighted metering mode to back this up. I also set the camera back to center weighted this last Sunday when I did my long hike for the weekend, and it was back to the same crappy results when taking wildlife photos, with the critters so under-exposed as to lose all detail. It doesn’t seem to matter what the lighting is, or the angle I’m shooting at, every bird or small animal ends up as a silhouette unless I use spot metering and put the spot on the critter.

As to why I use the program mode, that’s because I never sit still until I see something to photograph. Maybe I’m not as good around wildlife as I would like to think, but it doesn’t sit still long enough for me to make many adjustments to the camera. I have tried other modes, and I miss more opportunities than I am able to capture. Part of that is due to the places I do my hiking, I am constantly going from deep woods to open fields, to marshes, to brush lined creeks, then back into the deep woods again. It is impossible for me to stay on top of the settings and be prepared when an opportunity does arise. Heck, some of my shots are taken with me moving while I’m shooting in order to get the ones I do. My style of photography is much like upland wing shooting more than photography. I know that makes the photography more difficult, but it’s the way I do it.

Compounding that is the fact that I don’t limit myself to any one area of photography. I may be shooting pictures of flowers, hear a bird chip, and turn to shoot it, then go back to the flowers again. I do switch the camera to aperture priority and center weighted metering for landscape shots, but that’s about the time a hawk soars past, or a deer jumps up, and I lose those photos because of the camera settings. Even the wildlife makes it tough at times. I was shooting photos of a deer one evening, when a family of squirrels started playing in the trees directly over the deer, and as I am switching between the deer and the squirrels, a sharp shinned hawk came screaming through the trees, less than 10 feet above the deer’s head. I missed the hawk, mostly because I was too stunned to react, darn! Anyway, the program mode is the only one that I have found that allows me to switch from one type of  subject to another quickly enough.

As far as post processing, I crop and maybe tweak the exposure of photos taken with the Nikon, that’s it. I have never done any post processing to a photo I have taken with my Canon, never, as I have never needed to. It takes great photos that don’t need to be tweaked.

It may sound like I’m blowing you off, but I’m not. I do appreciate that you took the time to comment and to try to help me out. In a way, you did help me out immensely, for in working on this update in response to your comments, I have remembered that the problems I have with my Nikon stretch all the way back to when two of us were using it, and that neither of us were thrilled with its performance. I guess that’s one of the reasons it sat in its case for several years, both Larri and I purchased compact digitals that we used almost all of the time from then on. It was only after I killed my Canon that I dug the Nikon back out and have fought with it for the last 6 months. I have finally gotten to the point where I can get good pictures with it, but it hasn’t been easy, and it takes using the “wrong” settings to do so, but after 8,000 photos, I think I have a handle on it. I don’t know how to stop any of the three glitches it has, but I have learned to work around them, so thank you all for your comments!


Where do I start today?

When I started this blog it was never my intention to post daily, or even twice on some days, but I have been very fortunate the last couple of weeks in that I have managed to get what I think are some pretty good photos. Maybe not technically great, but if not, photos that tell a story. I think that my good fortune has continued, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. I don’t want to post so often that people dread seeing an announcement that I have posted yet another worthless post. I’ve stopped following some blogs because the authors seemed intent on posting multiple times per day, and didn’t really have much content to their posts. I don’t want this to be one of those.

I simply do not have the time to keep up that kind of pace, I need to slow down a little, or I won’t have any time left to be out there taking pictures. 😉 For a while I stopped replying to every comment in an attempt to save time, but that’s not fair to the people who take the time to leave a comment, so I am back to replying to comments, as I should. I guess I didn’t really understand this thing called the blogosphere when I started this blog. I had no idea that there were as many talented people out there, as writers, or photographers, or both. I haven’t even had time lately to give a shout out to some of the really good blogs that I have found, or add links to them here, and I need to do that, but don’t have time right now.

One of the things that has left me lacking in time for my blog has been getting all the forms filled out and copies of documents gathered to continue my mother’s Medicaid insurance, I have completed that, and sent everything in, now it’s time for the waiting game to see if I did everything correctly. With that done, hopefully I’ll have some more time for other things.

So what I am working towards in my long-winded way is this, I don’t have the time to comply with the requirements for the Versatile Blogger Award, so I’m not going to accept it. It isn’t just a matter of time, most of the blogs that I follow have already either won the award, or have been nominated for it, so I would have a hard time coming up with 15 more blogs to nominate. Besides, it means more to me that some one thought this blog was worthy of the award than adding another widget to my blog to display the award does, so I hope you aren’t offended by this Sheila. Thank you for nominating my blog for the award.

I would like to have enough time to do other than photo posts as well. I try to post at least a few serious posts from time to time, based on news articles I have read, either good news, or not so good news. I haven’t had time for that lately.

For example, there was recently a story on Yahoo News about hybrid sharks near Australia. Here’s a link to the story, I don’t know how long it will work, Yahoo is notorious for pulling down news stories after a short time. The first thing that hit me was that the interbreeding of the two species of sharks was due to climate change according to the story. At the risk of alienating a few of the readers of my blog, I don’t believe that man is responsible for climate change, and I will explain why in a future post. But, the gist of the story is this. Two species of sharks, the Australian black-tipped and the common black-tipped, were both swimming around in the ocean, minding their own business when both species noticed minute changes in the temperatures of the ocean currents. Both species concluded that this was due to climate change caused by man, and that they had to do something about it. So, the two species got together and decided that interbreeding between the two of them to produce a hybrid better able to cope with cooler ocean temperatures would be just the thing to help them survive. I guess those darn sharks weren’t so smart after all, I mean, they could detect that man was responsible for climate change, and take the initiative to produce a new species, but the new species is better adapted to cooler temperatures. If they were really smart, it would seem to me that they would produce a hybrid better able to survive the predicted increases in ocean temperatures.

What ticks me off about the story isn’t that it supports the idea than man is responsible for climate change, I have come to expect that. Stories that support that theory are the only ones that will ever make it into the mainstream media. The only times you will see a story about some one who disagrees with the theory of man induced climate change is when they convert from a doubter to a supporter, or when the media is attempting to destroy the reputation of a scientist who doesn’t believe the theory, because they once got a discount on their gas at an Exxon station, and therefore are in the pocket of Big Oil.

No, what burns my butt about this story, and many other science related stories of late, is this, that the interbreeding between the two species of sharks was a conscious decision on their part, or at least that’s the way it is written. It’s bad enough when scientists ascribe human traits to living things, but I have seen stories written where events involving inanimate objects supposedly took place because the inanimate objects “decided” that it was the correct course of action to take. I’m sorry, but rocks, volcanos, and continents do not think, they do not do the things they do because they made a conscious decision to do something.

It took the story about the sharks to make me realize that it is only some scientists who do that, and they are the ones that the media will report on. Real science is boring to the average brain-dead reporter and their almost equally as brain-dead editors. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but I have had a few run ins with reporters, and none of them I have met thinks about anything other than their appearance, and how they can get a job in a larger market. To get a job in a larger market requires them to file stories that conform to the correct templates, or the reporter will be stuck in small market limbo for life.

If a scientist expects to get written up in the mainstream media, they too must conform to the current template in place, or the story won’t get published or broadcast.

For the record, I do not watch Fox News, that would require me to turn on my TV, which I refuse to do. I do not listen to Rush “The Lush” Limbaugh either, I don’t need some one telling me what to think. I am not a scientist, only because I couldn’t decide on which “ology” I wanted to go into, but I did win the science bee 5 of 6 times back in school. The year I didn’t win, it was because I assumed what a question was going to be before the question was finished, and I answered incorrectly because I was in too much of a hurry, not because I didn’t know the correct answer.

I do try to keep up on scientific discoveries, but it is getting harder all the time. Part of it is that scientists have to compete for funding, so they try to generate buzz about their research, and often times overstate their findings in order to generate that buzz.

OK, my take on the sharks, then we’ll get to the photos. Both species of sharks are fished for heavily, as the main ingredient for shark fin soup. With the numbers of both species diminished, they are having a harder time finding members of their own species to mate with, and the interbreeding between the species is a result of that, which wasn’t really mentioned in the news article at all. This probably isn’t the first time that such interbreeding has taken place, it is the first time it has been documented, there is a difference.

The photos, where do I start? I guess with this one, of a huge flock of herring gulls circling overhead, nothing special, except for the huge number of gulls I managed to get in the frame.

Herring gulls circling overhead

Some of the gulls dropped down lower, and I shot a few photos of them, but nothing as good as in my earlier post, so I won’t bore you with any more of them.

Stopping at one of the ponds here, I saw a small flock of geese, took a quick shot or three, then started walking away from the geese. About that time, large numbers of geese from several of the ponds in the area all began honking at one time, including the small flock near me. I turned around and saw one goose with its mouth open as it honked, and that gave me the idea to try to capture a photo of a goose with its mouth open. If you know geese, you may say it is harder to catch one with its mouth closed, but I took it as a challenge to get photos for a reason.

It all has to do with timing, learning the delay between when my mind says shoot, and the shutter actually goes. It is something I hold over from my days as a marksman, learning to “call you shots”. You may think that when target shooting, you put the crosshairs on the center of the bullseye and pull the trigger, well, not quite. That’s the ideal, but we humans are full of all sorts of movements within our bodies that we are not aware of until we try shooting, either a gun or a photo. We wouldn’t need tripods if we were as rock steady as we think we are. So when target shooting, you try to keep the crosshairs centered as you squeeze the trigger, but as to when the gun actually goes off, that should be somewhat of a surprise every time. “Calling your shot” means remembering the sight picture at the exact moment when the gun did go off. I find the same thing holds for photography, that between the time my mind says shoot, as in press the shutter release, and the time the camera actually captures the scene, there is enough of a delay so that the scene may change during that small amount of time. That delay is most noticeable when shooting moving subjects, especially small, quick subjects, like chickadees for example. I’ll have a better example of that later on, but I think that any one who has tried to catch small birds in photos has had a time when they pressed the shutter, thinking the bird was sitting there, only to find that the photo shows an empty branch where the bird was.

Anyway, the goose photos.

Canadian goose honking

Canadian goose honking

The other thing I stuck around for was that with all the geese in the area honking to one another, I knew something was going to happen, and it did. The small flock I was photographing began running for take off speed..

Canadian goose running for take off

…and take off they did.

Canadian goose taking off

Canadian goose in flight

Canadian goose in flight

A double winner! Goose in flight with its mouth open. 😉

Canadian goose in flight

That flock joined a larger flock, which continued to grow in size as they circled the area, all the small flocks at each pond joined to form one huge one.

Canadian geese in flight

I shot quite a few of the geese in flight, but I’ll only post a couple more, I still can’t get a really good one of them overhead.

Canadian goose in flight

Canadian goose in flight

My next stop was one of the creeks here, they tend to be hot spots for good photos, like the ones of the cardinal bathing I posted not long ago. While I was walking up to the creek, I could see a flock of turkeys off in the distance having a row, but they were too far away, and there were too many trees between us for a good shot. Two of them took off running towards me, with four others chasing, the two being chased didn’t stop, they kept right on running as they passed me, I guess the four doing the chasing weren’t all that intent on catching the two, for they stopped when they saw me.

Turkeys calling off the chase

Then I got these of a female cardinal near the stream, I thought that she was going to go for a bath, but she didn’t.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

I think the reason she didn’t take a bath was that there was a feral cat in the area. I was going to snap a photo of it, but I was too busy shooting the birds that came out of the underbrush to escape the cat.

House finch

House finch

House finch

House finch

The other small birds didn’t cooperate as well as the house finch did, either they were too far away, or didn’t sit still long enough for a shot, so I crossed the creek at the bridge and found this squirrel who wanted its portrait taken.

Fox squirrel

It kept its eyes glued to me as I continued walking, I thought it may fall off the branch it was on.

Fox squirrel

I continued my walk, taking a few more photos that aren’t worthwhile posting here, until I got to the juniper tree where I had taken a few photos of a male cardinal on an earlier walk. Several people raved about that photo, but I was never that happy with it, so I have made the juniper tree a regular stop on my daily walks, hoping to get a better one. Luck was with me on this day, I saw a cardinal back in the branches, waited, and it came out to make an appearance for this shot.

Male northern cardinal in a juniper tree

That’s better than the earlier one, but it still isn’t quite what I want, so I’ll keep trying. I have noticed that the male cardinals seem to be brighter red this winter than I can remember them ever being before.

Male northern cardinal

I’m not sure if they really are a brighter red, or if it is that we have had a lot more sunshine than is typical of a Michigan winter, making them seem brighter in the sun, when we normally have endless cloudy days that mute all colors.

Next up is a chickadee in action, some shots are good, some not so good, but they are of one of my favorite birds, doing what they do best, non-stop clowning around.

This one thinks that it has been hired as a building inspector.

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Of course what it is doing is looking for insects under the edges of the siding on the building. And that reminds me, I was wrong about chickadees, they don’t always use jet packs to get around, sometimes they do fly using their wings.

Black capped chickadee in flight

I got one of it hopping from branch to branch, and singing as it was doing so.

Black capped chickadee

It’s tough to see their eyes, since their eyes are the same color as their feathers.

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Then this one was joined by two more, and they chased each other around for a while.

Black capped chickadees chasing one another

Not the greatest shot in the world, but how often do you get a chance to capture three chickadees in flight at one time? Well, at least most of three of them, those little buggers are quick!

Which brings me back to calling your shots. This next photo was actually taken today.

Black capped chickadee in flight

I saw this chickadee working its way through the brush, coming towards me. When it got close enough for a photo and perched, I brought the camera the rest of the way to my eye, cranked the zoom in as I pressed the shutter release halfway for the camera to auto-focus and set the exposure, and as soon as I heard the beep from the camera and saw the focus was good, my mind said shoot! At that exact same moment, the chickadee made its leap into flight. I could see that it was airborne even as the mirror of the camera was locking up, that’s how quickly it all happened.

Stupid branch, got to get me a chain saw! Wait, I already did that post.

Back to the last photo, when my mind told my finger to press the shutter release, it was going to be a photo of a perched chickadee, by the time the photo was actually captured, it turned out to be of a chickadee in flight, which I saw as the mirror locked up. Why is this important? Because you have to take that delay into account when you are trying to take action shots of wildlife, or any other moving subjects. In the case of the last photo, it just happened to be luck, but it is luck that I practice at, by shooting as many moving targets as I can, and by calling my shot on each one. I am learning how long the time delay is between my mind telling my finger to fire, and the time when the photo is actually captured, and my brain is beginning to take that time delay into account when I am trying to time action shots.

That time delay is different for all of us, because of us, and because of our equipment. We all have different reaction times, and not all cameras work at the same speed. And, it takes a while for our brains to be trained as to how long the time delay is, and the only way it happens is through practice. Practice, practice, practice!

Well, that’s about it for this one, I hope you aren’t all too upset about my rant in the beginning of it, thanks for stopping by!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Launch

I was about to post the photo for this one anyway, and it is a perfit fit for this week’s challenge, Launch.

A few posts back, I posted a photo of a chickadee in flight, not a very good photo, but I made the comment that chickadees don’t fly, they use a hidden jet pack to zoom from place to place. Somewhere in the last few posts, I also posted a photo of a tufted titmouse, noting that I didn’t think I had before.

Well, to go a long with something else I wrote, about how getting back into nature photography was making me even more observant, I have noticed the reason I didn’t have many titmouse photos is that they sit still even less than chickadees do. I chased two of them around a tree the other day…

Tufted titmouse

Of course the auto-focus locked on the one back in the branches, not the one out in clear view, but I kept at it, I don’t give up easily.

Tufted titmouse

Finally, I got one out in the open more or less…

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

It didn’t sit there for long, it fired up the jet pack…..

Tufted titmouse launching itself into flight

…and shot off for parts unknown.

That’s it for this one, hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, and thanks for stopping by!


Got to get me a chain saw!

You’ll see why in a moment. It wouldn’t do any good though, it isn’t as if critters are going to wait around while I clear a sight path to them for photography purposes.

The day before yesterday, I was doing my daily hike, and I was walking between one of the parking lots and a creek, which has a line of evergreens growing along it for a short distance. Just as I cleared the last evergreen tree, this is what I spotted…

Sharp shinned hawk

I froze as quickly as some one my size can come to a complete stop, I knew I wasn’t going to have much time with the hawk. I’ve been chasing this hawk for over two years now, and there it sat, about four feet off the ground and forty feet from me. I have dozens of extremely bad photos of it, either soaring over head, or perched back in a tangle of brush. In fact, I saw it on Monday during the mini-blizzard we were having and tried to get a shot of it then, but it does not sit still long when I’m around.

I could see it coiling to leap into flight even as my camera reset itself after that shot, I didn’t dare try for another shot of it sitting. I zoomed out to give myself a fighting chance of keeping it in the viewfinder as it started to fly, and that worked! The auto-focus was tracking it well, and I was panning with the hawk as it began to fly, so I knew I had it then!

I zoomed back in and fired!

Sharp shinned hawk in flight

And caught the hawk as it flew behind the small branch, darn, another almost winner. I didn’t know about the branch at the time, I just kept shooting.

Sharp shinned hawk in flight

Very, very good, but the other one would have been so much better if not for the stupid branch in the way.

I kept shooting, and the next shot has to be the strangest shot I have ever taken. I should have saved it just for the heck of it, but it looked like a Picasso painting of a hawk, rather than a photo. I literally couldn’t make heads or tails of the hawk. I don’t know how to explain it other than it looked like the hawk had been ripped apart, and then reassembled with all the parts in the wrong places.

The rest of the photos were the typical unidentifiable grey bird flying away type photos, so I deleted them as well.

A chain saw really wouldn’t do me any good, it seems there’s always something to spoil any of my attempts at the “Perfect” shot. Either a branch or tree, or I have the camera set wrong, or I’m in the wrong place at the right time. Case in point on the last one, I spent most of this last weekend walking the edges of fields hoping to spot owls. People tell me there is a pair of great horned owls and a screech owl in the park I walk in, and there have been reports of a snowy owl in the area. If you read my last few posts, you know that it was very windy and not the greatest of weather for a good portion of the weekend. I would have been a lot more comfortable back in the woods and out of the wind, but I want a photo of a snowy owl.

Wouldn’t you know, while I’m out there hiking 10 miles in the wind, the snowy owl was entertaining crowds at the local shopping center, half a mile from my home. Several residents of the apartment complex where I live have asked me if I got pictures of the owl this weekend, no, not me, but almost every one else did. They are popping up all over on the web this week, a local news crew was even filming the owl.

I admit I did get a few exceptional shots this weekend, like this one of the whitetail doe I posted earlier.

Whitetail doe bedded down in the snow

She’s one of the prettiest deer I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen thousands of them. I also got these three of a male mallard.

Male mallard

Male mallard

Male mallard

And, I managed some cool scenery shots that I’ll be posting later, but I want a snowy owl photo! And no, the owl hasn’t been seen at the local shopping center since I learned it had been hanging out there all weekend. What really burns my butt is that I was considering walking the Paul Henry trail this weekend, and the shopping center parking lot is one of the access points to the trail, the one I would have used had I decided to walk that trail other than the one I did.

I guess that’s human nature, we always want the rare and the exotic. I read other people’s blogs from different parts of the country, even different parts of the world, and wish I could see the exotic scenery and wildlife that those bloggers post.

I should remember something I learned when I did woodworking as a hobby, something that I miss since I am living in an apartment. I was a member of a woodworking group online where we exchanged tips and tricks, and shared photos of our work. This was back when saving the rain forest was the fad of the day, and the discussions often turned to whether or not we should be using exotic imported lumber from South America or Africa here in the United States. The group had members from all over the world, including South America, Africa, and Australia, and they would tell us that what we saw as exotic lumber was what they saw when they went to the local lumber mill for wood, and that they saw our maple, oak, cherry, and walnut as exotic lumbers that they would love to get their hands on. So I guess what we see as a common species in our area is exotic to some one else living in another part of the country, or the world.

But, I still want a snowy owl photo!

Well, that’s all for this one, thanks for stopping by, branches and all!


Class, please raise your hand…

..if you know what color a robin’s tongue is.

American robins are a common species of bird in these parts, one of our most common in fact. I don’t normally shoot many photos of them for that reason. Most of them migrate south when cold weather arrives, but there are a few hardy small flocks that stick around as long as they can.  I can’t verify this, but it seems that a few move north and south over the course of the winter, depending on where the snow covers the ground.

We had a small snowstorm over the weekend along with a sharp drop in temperature, so it shouldn’t have surprised me to see a small flock of robins this morning. They may have come from farther north, or from along the Lake Michigan shoreline, since both areas received a lot more snow than where I live.

I say a sharp drop in temperature, but it has really only fallen to around average for this time of year, but it sure feels a lot different than the temps in the 40’s that we had last week.

It was still a beautiful day, with bright blue skies and very little wind, and I noticed the robins seemed to be everywhere.

American robin

There were a few perched with their feathers all fluffed out to ward off the cold, so I thought that I would attempt to get a good photo of one, since they are at their prettiest when they do that.

American robin

But, as you can see, they all seemed to be perched in a place that left either a branch in my way, or the shadow of a branch over them, so I kept trying.

American robin

And trying

American robin

Then, I found this one in a juniper tree eating the juniper berries.

American robin

Of course it was back in the shadows, making a good photo difficult.

American robin plucking a juniper berry

But I kept on shooting.

American robin swallowing a juniper berry

And shooting.

American robin

That wasn’t working like I wanted, so next stop was a mountain ash tree, with a small flock of robins eating the berries from it.

American robin eating mountain ash berries

Those berries looked quite large for the robins to swallow in one gulp, but that’s the way they eat.

American robin eating mountain ash berries

Did I see the robin’s tongue in that photo? Yes, and a robin’s tongue is yellow, just like its beak. You know what I had to do next, try for even a better shot of how the robins swallow large berries whole, and more tongue shots if I could get them.

American robin eating mountain ash berries

Too late, that berry is already on its way down. I’ll wait until it plucks another berry and try again.

American robin eating mountain ash berries

“OK, Mr. Cameraman, are you ready?”

American robin eating mountain ash berries

Here goes!

American robin eating mountain ash berries

“I’ll pluck another”…

American robin eating mountain ash berries

“Are you ready? Down the hatch!”

American robin eating mountain ash berries

Yes, a robin’s tongue is yellow just like its beak. I have cropped a couple of these for a close up view of the berries on their way down the robin’s throat.

American robin eating mountain ash berries

American robin eating mountain ash berries

American robin eating mountain ash berries

Technically, these may not be excellent shots, the exposure is off a little but I love being able to catch things that you can’t see with the naked eye, unless you have a tame bird I suppose. Surprisingly, it only took a couple of shots to get the exact timing down to catch the berry starting down the robin’s gullet!

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


Crash!

While I was out for my daily hike, I took this series of shots of a Canadian goose. They are really bad shots, I was shooting with the goose between me and the sun, so you’ll have to overlook that aspect of the photos. But what happened was too good not to post, I hope you agree.

Canadian goose coming in for a landing

Actually, I shot these without thinking, or I wouldn’t have even raised the camera. I walked up to one of the ponds, and startled the geese of which this one was part of the flock. I just pulled the camera up and started shooting, and why I zoomed in on this one I have no idea, but I’m glad I did.

Canadian goose coming in for a landing

The goose didn’t fly very far, but it had quite a head of steam going when it landed.

Canadian goose starting its slide

Canadian goose sliding

You can see how far it was sliding by the tracks left on the ice.

Canadian goose falls down, goes boom!

Canadian goose trying to look dignified after falling down

Wildlife is usually so graceful in their movements that this series is a lot of fun for me. It’s nice to know that even a bird as graceful as a Canadian goose is sometimes as big a klutz as I am.

My hot streak as far as getting some great photos continues, I have a bunch more to sort through before I post them. I can even tell you what color a robin’s tongue is from some of the other shots I got today. If you already know what color a robin’s tongue is, please don’t spoil it for the rest of the readers here, it took me 56 years to learn that. I’m sure there are a few others that don’t yet either.

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


‘Tis not fit for man nor beast

This is to go along with what I wrote yesterday, about the storm, the little deer mouse on my balcony, and a few other things thrown in for good measure.

First off, a very cool thing happened yesterday as I was out hiking. A young man stopped and asked me if I needed a ride somewhere! It’s always nice when something happens that reminds me that there are still some good people left in this world. I was walking along the road between the apartment complex where I live and a chain of small lakes about a mile from here. Normally I have to watch for jerks who seem intent on coming as close to me as they can, or making sure they hit the puddles in the road just right to splash me. The young man who stopped got kind of a funny look on his face when I told him “No thanks, I’m out for a walk”, but he wished me a Happy New Year as he drove off, probably wondering about the strange old codger who was dumb enough to be out walking in the kind of weather we’re having.

Now then, about the storm. I was hoping to head over to the Lake Michigan shore and get some good photos of the waves breaking on things like lighthouses, like this one that I stole.

Waves

I know, I shouldn’t steal other people’s photos, and two wrongs don’t make a right, and all that. I got that photo from WOOD TV 8 here in town, and they LOVE to steal from folks. They encourage people to upload photographs to their website, and then the TV station uses those photos anyway they want, with zero compensation to the photographers who submitted them, even if the station uses the photos in ads. That’s just not right. So I don’t feel too bad about stealing one of theirs.

Anyway, the storm was late getting here yesterday morning, and it took its own sweet time in getting wound up, nothing like what was predicted. But then, I kind of expected that, having lived here my entire life. This is a lake effect storm, if you don’t live near a large body of water, you may not know what that means.

When cold winter air passes over the warmer waters of the Great Lakes, the air picks up moisture and is warmed by the lake waters. Under the right conditions, you can see it happening right before your eyes. When the winds are fairly light, you can look out over the lake towards the horizon and see what appears to be a fog bank rising up from the lake to meet the clouds, but if you look past the fog bank, you see nothing but blue skies. The fog bank rising from the water creates the clouds, which then carry the moisture over land. Cut off from the warmth of the lake, the clouds cool again, dropping the moisture as rain or snow, most of the time snow.

This storm is being driven by very high winds, in excess of 50 MPH, gusts over 70 MPH at the lake shore, about the time I was out for my hike. When the winds are that strong, we never get as much snow as is forecast, for two reasons. One is that when the wind is that strong, the air doesn’t have as much time over the warmer waters of the lake to gather as much moisture as when the winds are lighter. The second reason is that the strong winds don’t allow snow-bands to set up and sit over one area long enough to drop huge amounts of snow. The turbulence from the high winds disrupts the snow bands as they try to form. Why the local weather people haven’t figured this out is beyond me.

It’s funny, when I got back from my walk in the afternoon, the snow had just started to accumulate. I checked the weather forecasts, and they were all backing off from the earlier ones that predicted up to a foot of snow where I live. Then, as the winds died off a little, and the snow-bands started to set up, we started getting dumped on. That’s not to say this isn’t a potent storm, it is, that’s why the nice young man offered this old codger a lift. It’s nasty out there, not fit for man nor beast. The problem is, the beasts can’t escape it the way we humans do.

That’s one reason I venture out in any kind of weather, to remind myself of just how good I have it as a human being. While I’m eating a nice hot meal after a walk outdoors, some poor little muskrat is hauling itself up on an ice shelf to eat its half-frozen meal as ice crystals form in its fur.

Muskrat supper

As I’m taking a nice warm shower, swans are out there battling the waves and the ice in search of a meal.

Swans in the waves

And while I’m relaxing in my recliner, the swans are relaxing the only way they can in the winter.

Swans on ice

We think we have it bad if we have to walk a few feet on a sidewalk that hasn’t been shoveled, yet no one shovels paths for the turkeys as they plow through the snow looking for food.

Turkeys in the snow

And as we crawl into our nice warm beds at night, there are geese out there seeking shelter from the wind-driven snow…

Geese finding shelter from wind-driven snow

…and do their best to stay warm.

Geese trying to stay warm

Or deer lying down in the snow…

Whitetail doe bedded down in the snow

…because that’s the only place there is for them to bed down.

I’m sorry about the quality of the two of the geese, they were taken yesterday in the storm. The wind was strong enough that I was having trouble holding still, and the snow blowing across the scene didn’t help either.

We humans have become so soft, fat, and lazy that we’ve forgotten what the struggle for survival is really like.  We are a bunch of whiners and complainers, and yes, I’m guilty of that myself, but I try to limit my complaining to things that mean something, not the trivial things I hear most people whining about.

When you see it happen live and in person as animals struggle with survival in bad weather, it puts our silly little complaints in perspective.

I try to always remember what wildlife has to struggle through in order to survive. It helps to keep me grounded.

I’ve checked the web cams this morning, the waves on Lake Michigan are running high, but not high enough for any really dramatic photos, besides, with the heavy cloud cover and snow still falling, any photos would be poor at best. Modern technology, you’ve got to love it! I can sit here in the comfort of my home office and check out what the conditions are at the lakeshore! Here’s a link to one of the web cams if you’re interested in seeing what Lake Michigan looks like in a blizzard. If it looks all grey, wait until it refreshes a few times, it could be a whiteout rolling through at the time.

We’ve gotten a few inches of snow, it’s hard to say exactly how much because of the way it’s getting blown around. It’s enough that the sidewalks and parking lots are solid ice! Since it was around 40 degrees yesterday, and it is now around 20 degrees, the first snow melted, then turned to ice as the temperature dropped. I can see people are having a difficult time walking to and from their vehicles, and the woman in the next building over from me smacked the pole for the car port even though she was just creeping along in her car. Nearly every one is having trouble getting around, but that doesn’t stop some yahoos from laying on their horn if they think some one else is holding them up for all of 5 seconds. God, I hate people! Why did you make me one of them?

For every nice human like the guy that offered me the ride, there are three or four of the jerks that think that they are the most important people in the world, and that all the rest of us should get out of their way. I’d better change the subject, or I’ll put myself in a bad mood, and I am really in a good mood this morning.

I can see the squirrels and birds are out there finding things to eat, and I’m ready to go out there and join them for a while. It’s getting lighter here as the clouds are thinner than before, so I may even get some good photos. I’m still deciding where to go, I’m sure the lakeshore is out, I don’t feel like dealing with the other drivers, I get enough of that at work. I should really run out and see if the beast will even start. It’s been getting a bit cranky of late, I have to play with it to get it to fire. I’m hoping it makes it through the winter, or at least another few weeks until I get another bonus check from work for all the days off I didn’t take.

I have been tossing around the idea of walking the Paul Henry walking trail near where I live, but it is right along the expressway, and I don’t know if I am ready for that yet. I see a lot of raptors perched in trees along there, along with waterfowl in the storm water run off ponds, but I think I’ll wait until spring before I tackle that one, when there is more wildlife to be seen. Expressways make such good habitat for hawks, except for the fact that a few of them get killed when they fly into vehicles. The expressways are like strips of prairie, with enough trees and power poles for the hawks to perch on while they look for food that I see many hawks along the expressways now. I wish I could figure out a way to prevent the hawks from being killed though. I have almost hit a couple with the truck, they have a one track mind when it comes to food. They are so intent on their prey that they pay no attention to anything else, not even a semi coming at them.

Yeah, I’ll wait til spring for that hike. I am really trying to stick closer to home because I think it is the right thing to do as far as limiting how much gas I burn, but I’m not ready to hike an expressway yet, county parks and such are still hard for me to come to grips with. I would so much rather be up north in the wild country, but I can’t justify burning a tank of gas to get there and back for a one day hike.

Changing the subject again, I read a news article about how L L Bean boots are selling better than ever, and that they are still made right here in the United States! I need to order a pair for winter hiking. My New Balance hikers are great boots, light, warm, and waterproof, but they are only 6 inches high, which allows deep snow to cool my ankles down for me. I have a L L Bean Rugged Ridge parka, and it is the warmest outer wear that I have ever owned! It is windproof, which is what you need in the winter on days like yesterday and today when the wind is what chills most people. I can put the Bean parka on, and be as snug as a bug in a rug no matter how bad the weather gets around here. Actually, I subscribe to the idea that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear, and the Bean parka proves that!

If that sounds like a shameless plug, that’s because it is. I am tired of buying shoddy merchandise that doesn’t perform or last, so when I find stuff that actually does what it is supposed to do, I’ll mention it here when I can.

Besides, maybe I can convince a few others that what we call bad weather isn’t really bad at all, if they are dressed for it. There are no such things as good and bad in nature, those are human terms. In nature, there is only what there is, it is neither good nor bad. What we call bad weather is actually one of the forces of nature that make life on this planet possible. Storms are nature’s way of recycling and purifying water. Water evaporates from rivers, lakes and oceans, leaving the impurities behind, then falls as fresh water and snow fit for drinking again. Yeah, we’ve messed that cycle up some with the pollutants we have dumped into the water and the air, but the process still works well enough that you’re safe drinking rain water, a lot safer than drinking from the cesspools we’ve made of the bodies of water on land.

So the next time you find yourself caught in a rainstorm, don’t think of it as something that you need to get away from, put on a rain jacket and rejoice in the fact that you are witnessing nature’s way of providing safe water for us to drink!

The other thing about storms is that they are the way the Earth redistributes heat energy. Without storms, the planet would be a much different place, with a lot less habitable land available to us, or the animals of the world. I don’t see storms as bad in any way, shape or form. Without them, we probably wouldn’t survive, the planet wouldn’t be fit for man nor beast, so I celebrate them!

Anyway, that’s it for this one, long and as disjointed as it is. Thanks for stopping by!


A quick question and request

There are quite a few other blogs out there that I have stumbled across, and like, and would love to sign up to have news of your new posts Emailed to me, but I can not find a way to do so. I click the follow button at the top of the screen to follow these blogs, but then I have to scroll through the entire list of blogs that I follow and check each one that I can’t subscribe to via Email to see if there are new posts.

This is quite time consuming, as you may imagine, so I ask, is there a reason that you don’t allow readers to subscribe to your blogs via Email?

And if there isn’t a reason why you don’t or, you didn’t know about this before, could you please change your settings, or add the subscription by Email widget to your blog?

I would sure appreciate and there are probably other bloggers who would as well. Thank you!


Happy New Year everyone!

I want to start by wishing everyone the best New Year ever!

The next thing on my list of things to do is to thank From Moments to Memories for nominating my blog for the Versatile Blogger Award.  It means a great deal to me that some one found my blog to be worthy of any type of award, so thank you from the bottom of my heart for nominating me, and I think that she is much more worthy of a versatile blogger award than am I.

It may take me a while to get around to complying with all the rules of the award, if I do decide to accept it. When I first started my blog, I really envied other blogs that had won awards, now, not so much. To me, the nomination, and knowing some one thought enough of my blog to make the nomination means much more than the award itself. I have a whole stack of awards from companies I have worked for, awards for safe driving, attendance, going above and beyond the basics the job calls for, and so on. I’m not even sure why I keep them, other than to show prospective employers at a job interview.

One thing I have learned from blogging is that there are many talented people out there, much more talented than I am, like I didn’t know that already. As usual, I fit into a quirky little space of my own, I am not the most talented writer, certainly not the most talented photographer, but enough people seem to like my blog enough to have made it more popular than I would have imagined, thanks to all of you who have followed my blog!

Writing isn’t easy for me, heck, communicating in any form with fellow human beings isn’t easy for me, I am much more at home out in the woods with my critter friends than I am with humans. Photography is easy for me, I see, I shoot, no problem, other than forgetting to make sure the camera is set correctly for what I am trying to photograph. (Yes, I messed up big time again yesterday, forgot to set my camera back to the program mode and shot a series of photos of geese in flight that would have been exceptional, except they were all blurry since the lens was stopped way down resulting in too slow of a shutter speed.)

Nominee for the stupid photographer award

But, I do that wrong anyway, I see I shoot, I don’t take enough time to put much thought into my photos like a truly great photographer does. My “claim to fame” is that I am able to translate my love of the outdoors and animals through photographs well enough that people like them.

So anyway, thanks again to From Moments to Memories for the nomination! I don’t even know her real name to thank her properly, but that’s sort of normal in the blogging world I have found. Oops, spoke too soon, for going back through her posts, I learned that her name is Sheila, so thank you Sheila!

I wrote yesterday that I was going to head for the Lake Michigan shore for some photos of the storm we were suppose to get, but the storm has been late. When I woke up this morning, there was nothing going on outside except for some very dark and dreary clouds, no wind, no rain, no snow. Around 9:30 AM the rain started a little, and the wind picked up a little, but it will take a while for the waves to build up to large enough size to make the trip to the lake worthwhile. As of Noon, the rain is changing to snow, and the winds are definitely picking up, so there’s still hope for this storm! So, until it gets really wound up, and that may end up being on Monday, I thought I would post about my hike yesterday, New Year’s Eve.

I was hoping that with a big storm approaching that all the critters would be out and about feeding so they would be able to weather the storm out in the most sheltered areas they can find. That was the case with the squirrels…

Fox squirrel saying grace

Fox squirrel feeding

OK, so I swapped the order of those two photos, squirrels don’t really say grace before they chow.

And, there were lots of birds feeding as well, mostly the same old same old birds that I have posted photos of before, but I did manage a couple of good shots of red bellied woodpeckers.

Red bellied woodpecker

Red bellied woodpecker

Red bellied woodpeckers

Red bellied woodpeckers

Do you think I could catch both of the looking at me at the same time? Of course not!

Red bellied woodpeckers

I don’t think I have posted any photos of these little guys either, a tufted titmouse.

Tufted titmouse

My, what big eyes they have for such a little bird! All the better to see me with, and to stay out of camera range most of the time!

For the most part, it was white breasted nuthatches..

White breasted nuthatch

Black capped chickadees…

Black capped chickadee

Downy woodpeckers…

Downy woodpecker

Northern cardinals, both female…

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

and male….

Male northern cardinal

but I did luck out and get this one!

Male northern cardinal in flight

Do you know how hard it is to shoot a flying bird directly overhead? No wonder my neck hurts a bit today. 🙂 Or, it could be from looking for owls all day yesterday, and not finding them. A few people have told me that there are a pair of great horned owls that have taken up residence in the park I was at, along with a screech-owl, but I haven’t found them yet. I think I have been trying too hard.

I’m normally very, very good at spotting critters, except when I try too hard, I have no idea why that is. I did spot these two birds though, proving that birds of a feather don’t always flock together…

House finch and American goldfinch

…as does this one…

Canadian geese and mallards

..and there were still more squirrels clowning around…

Fox squirrel

..looks like it started the New Year’s Eve celebration a bit early!

For the end of December it was a beautiful day!

Green grass and trees, blue water, Canadian geese

I didn’t shoot just birds though, I came up with a few other things I found interesting enough to photograph, like some shelf fungi.

Shelf fungi

Shelf fungi

and these…

Shelf fungi

Shelf fungi

Shelf fungi

Shelf fungi

Then there were these leaves that I couldn’t figure out…

Leaves

I couldn’t recall ever seeing that type of leaf on a native plant in Michigan before, so I checked closer…

Plastic leaves stuck in a bush

…and found that the leaves were fake, the joke was on me! How they got there, I have no idea. I don’t know if they were blown there and stuck in the bush, or if some one stuck them there as a joke, but I fell for it.

This is the aquatic plant life in the creek turning orange, for real!

Orange aquatic plants

And here’s one of the small rapids on the creek…

Rapids on Buck Creek

And here are a few I took that I like, but I really can’t say why, other than I like them.

Raining pine needles

Pine cone and needles

Empty, dried seed pods

I am going to end this with three more photos of mallards in flight, and they aren’t even particularly good photos, but I have fallen in love with the look of these!

Mallards in flight

Male mallard in flight

Mallards in flight

I think my love for the pictures of mallards in flight goes way back to when I was a kid, and my dad loved a picture he had purchased of mallards in flight. I thought that it was about the most beautiful thing I had ever seen back then, even though it was really a cheesy picture now that I think back on it.

That, and a paint by number book of ducks that my dad got for me to keep me occupied while I had the chicken pox are just two of the things that shaped who I am today, and instilled in me the love of nature that he passed down to me. So I hope you will indulge me a little if I continue to post a few more ducks in flight photos later on. You can blame my dad, I thank him for teaching me the things he taught me.

I took a short break at this point, and sat down in the living room to look out at the building storm for a while. I was surprised to see a deer mouse out there on my balcony, eating the stale bread I throw out for the critters. I know I should call the management here and tell them there are mice living in the storage area attached to the balcony, but I won’t. The poor little thing doesn’t know that it isn’t supposed to take up residence there, all it’s trying to do is to get by the best that it can, to stay alive, to survive. The only things I store in there are the tanks of propane for my camp stove, and the can of fuel for my lantern. If the mouse wants to live there, that’s OK by me, I’ll share. Now if it tries to move into my apartment, well, that’s a different story, I would be forced to evict it then. But, just because I could kill it doesn’t mean that I have to kill it, it has enough other critters who would love to make a meal of it, like the hawks, coyotes, foxes, to name a few. I just have to remember to be more careful about leaving the slider open for any length of time at all from now on, like when I step out there to take a photo!

The storm is just getting going now, it’s snowing a little, but hasn’t begun to stick yet.  The wind is roaring now, but it is too late in the day for a trip to the beach for any kind of hike, besides, the wind hasn’t been strong enough long enough for really big waves yet. So I guess I’ll bundle up and do a long walk around here, then check the web cams from the beach areas tomorrow morning to see if the waves warrant a trip to the beach then.

Another thank you to Sheila for nominating my blog for the award, and to all the regular readers as well. Thanks for stopping by!