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

Archive for February, 2013

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Pheucticus ludovicianus

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Pheucticus ludovicianus

Another species with a particularly beautiful song, their song has been described as a subdued mellow warbling, resembling a more refined version of the American Robin’s. Or, as All about birds puts it, the grosbeak’s song is like that of the robin, only as sung by an opera singer. Fortunately, males start singing early, occasionally even when still in winter quarters.

Their diet is varied, you would think that by the shape of their beak that they would be primarily seed eaters, but in fact, insects make up the majority of their diet. They do feed on seeds and berries as well as insects.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak forages in shrubs or trees for insects, seeds and berries, also catching insects in flight and occasionally eating nectar. It usually keeps to the treetops, and only rarely can be seen on the ground. During breeding it is fairly territorial, in winter, it roams the lands in groups of about a handful of birds, and sometimes in larger flocks of a dozen or more.

On to the photos:

Female Rose-breasted grosbeak

Female Rose-breasted grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted grosbeak

Female Rose-breasted grosbeak

Female Rose-breasted grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted grosbeak

Female Rose-breasted grosbeak

Female Rose-breasted grosbeak

Female Rose-breasted grosbeak

Female Rose-breasted grosbeak

Female Rose-breasted grosbeak

Female Rose-breasted grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted grosbeak

This is number 43 in my photo life list, only 307 to go!

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

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House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus

To start with, I love listening to these birds sing! Their song is a rapid, cheery warble, and it is a sure sign of spring arriving.

Originally only a resident of Mexico and the southwestern United States, they were introduced to eastern North America in the 1940s. The birds were sold illegally in New York City as “Hollywood Finches”, a marketing artifice. To avoid prosecution under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, vendors and owners released the birds. They have become naturalized; in largely deforested land across the Eastern U.S., they have displaced the native Purple Finch and even the non-native House Sparrow.

Male coloration varies in intensity with the seasons and is derived from the berries and fruits in its diet.

House Finches forage on the ground or in vegetation normally. They primarily eat grains, seeds and berries, being voracious consumers of weed seeds such as nettle and dandelion, included are incidental small insects such as aphids. They are frequent visitors to bird feeders throughout the year, particularly if stocked with sunflower or nyjer seed, and will congregate at hanging nyjer sock feeders. Dandelion seeds are among the preferred seeds fed to the young. Most birds, even ones with herbivorous leanings as adults, tend to feed their nestlings animal matter in order to give them the protein necessary to grow. House Finches are one of the few birds who feed their young only plant matter.

On to my photos:

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Female house finch

Female house finch

Female house finch

Female house finch

Female house finch

Female house finch

 

 

This is number 42 in my photo life list, only 308 to go!

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

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Chipping Sparrow, Spizella passerina

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Chipping Sparrow, Spizella passerina

In eastern North America, Chipping Sparrows breed in woodlands, farmlands, and suburban and urban districts. In western North America, the Chipping Sparrow prefers conifer forests for breeding. The Chipping Sparrow is partially migratory, with almost all mid-latitude and high-latitude breeders withdrawing in winter to the southern United States and Mexico. On the wintering grounds and during migration, Chipping Sparrows are gregarious, forming tight flocks with other Chipping Sparrows or loose assemblages with other species such as Eastern Bluebirds and Pine Warblers.

Throughout the year, Chipping Sparrows forage on the ground, often in loose flocks. Their diet consists mainly of seeds and crumbs of mostly any food, especially those fallen on the ground. Chipping Sparrows frequently forage directly from forbs and grasses, too. At any time of the year, especially, in spring, Chipping Sparrows may be seen in trees, even up in the canopy, where they forage on fresh buds and glean for arboreal insects.

Although they are wary, Chipping Sparrows often allow close approach. A quiet observer can often get to within 50–100 feet of one or more Chipping Sparrows feeding on the ground. When spooked, Chipping Sparrows fly a short distance to the nearest tree or fence row.

In early spring, the first migrants return from their wintering grounds in March, but the bulk of migrants arrives throughout April. Males set up territories right away, and their trilled songs make them conspicuous. Breeding begins as early as April, but again, most nesting activity occurs from late April to early May on.

Molt in the Chipping Sparrow follows the “Complex Alternate Strategy” as usual for American sparrows. It consequently has two molts per year as adults and three molts in their first year of life, also called their first plumage-cycle. The Chipping Sparrow’s two adult molts occur in late summer and late winter.

Although this bird’s original habitat was probably coniferous forest, especially the eastern subspecies has adapted well to the changes brought about by increased human population in its range.

On to the photos:

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

This is number 41 in my photo life list, only 309 to go!

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

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Pied-billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Pied-billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps

The Pied-billed Grebe is a small, shy grebe that prefers to dive rather than fly to escape danger.

Pied-billed Grebes rarely fly. They make a slow dive frequently, especially when in danger, diving to about 20 feet or less. They dive for about 30 seconds and may move to a more secluded area of the water, allowing only the head to be visible to watch the danger dissipate. This frequency in diving has earned them the description of being reclusive or shy in nature.

The Pied-billed Grebe is primarily found in ponds throughout the Americas. They are found in freshwater wetlands with emergent vegetation, such as cattails.

Pied-billed Grebes feed mainly on aquatic invertebrates, and also on small fish and amphibians (frogs, tadpoles). They dive to obtain food. This grebe does not have webbed feet. Its toes have lobes that come out of the side of each toe. These lobes allow for easy paddling.

Their bills allow them to crush crustaceans, like crawfish. They may also eat plants. They have been shown to eat their own feathers, like other grebes, to aid in digestion (prevent injury from small bones). They will also feed their feathers to their young.

They are extremely sensitive to disturbances, especially by humans. While breeding, if scared, adults may abandon their nests without protecting the eggs. The waves from boats can destroy the nests and their sounds easily frighten the birds.

On to the photos:

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

I am including a photo of a pie-billed grebe next to a Canada goose to give you an idea how small that these grebes are in relation to the goose, and I doubt that any one would mistake which is which in this photo.

Pied-billed Grebe and Canada goose for size reference

Pied-billed Grebe and Canada goose for size reference

This is number 40 in my photo life list, only 310 to go!

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

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A funny thing happened on the way to the dump

A couple of posts ago, I warned every one that I was going to start dumping a number of posts in my Photo Life List project all at once. But, as I was pounding them out yesterday after my walk, a funny thing happened. As I was approaching 50 posts in the series saved as drafts, I felt a growing sense of accomplishment first, then, a very strong sense of pride as well. Before I go on about that, I have a few photos from my daily walk during our non-stop lake effect snow event.

Red-tailed hawk following another bird

Red-tailed hawk following another bird

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Female Northern Cardinal

Female Northern Cardinal

This is my view while walking 6 days a week

This is my view while walking 6 days a week

Snow and more snow, it stops for about a day at a time

Snow and more snow, it stops for one day per week

Fox squirrel also looking for signs of spring

Fox squirrel also looking for signs of spring

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Anyway, back to my sense of accomplishment and pride.

That really kicked in when I saved the 50th in the series, I feel like I am making real progress, I am now over 1/7th of the way done with this project. Posting photos of 50 species of birds is really not a great accomplishment in the grand scheme of things, there are many wildlife photographers who can say that. Heck, if you went back through all my posts to this blog you’d see photos of around 100 species. However, I’m working from just a few months worth of stored photos, along with photos taken since I began this project.

But, it’s more than just numbers, as the old saying goes, if something is worthwhile doing, then it’s worth doing right.

As I was working on the drafts, I was thinking to my self that some of the people who regularly read my blog may be interested in some of the tidbits of info that I have posted in some of the completed drafts, in fact, I’m sure that they will be. Birds are fascinating creatures, and I’m learning a lot while working on this project.

I may be cheating in a way, I use several online sources for the information, then copy and paste bits of the info into my drafts to save me the time of typing it, then edit, rearrange it, then put it all together in a way that makes sense. My posts won’t be scholarly works, but I think that many people would find useful things to know about the individual species.

Then, there are my photos. I know that I am overly critical of the photos that I take. This was driven home to me when I was looking up the information on the species that went along with my photos. I’m not saying that my photos are great, but they aren’t as bad as I was telling myself. I have photos that are at least as good as many posted to the online birding guides. Maybe not for every species that I have completed so far, but overall, I think that I do OK. They deserve better than to be just dumped out there in bulk.

Yes, there are a few clinkers, more than I would like, such as in the post on Carolina wrens that I just posted. But, that’s part of birding and wildlife photography, you can’t always get very good shots.

I am under no illusions or delusions about the quality of photos that I’m inserting in these posts, there isn’t a single one that is earth shattering as to command every one’s attention.

The same holds true of the individual posts in the series, none of them are all that special.

However, the magnitude of this project is just beginning to really hit me. Even if I never finish this project, and I doubt that I will, the entire body of work that I am generating is something special when taken as a whole, if to no one else, it is to me. I may not end up with a rival to an Audubon field guide, but I’m doing this on my own.

There are few people willing to take on a challenge like the one that I am working on, I think that I should be proud of what I’m accomplishing, and that I shouldn’t be so dismissive of my own efforts all the time.

So, what this all boils down to is this. I’ve changed my mind, I’m not going to dump a dozen posts in a day or two, I’m going to continue on at one a day or so, depending on my mood, the quality of the post and other things. Even though I am anxious to get as much done as quickly as I can, what good is it if no one looks at what I’m doing?

I have also realized that getting the photos inserted into drafts is helping me clean out my computer, when a post is saved as a draft, there’s no need for me to hold on to the photos for that draft. And, there’s something to say for having several week’s worth of posts already saved as drafts. That way, I can put more time and effort into improving the series even more.

I say in the blurb in the beginning of the posts in the series that it isn’t intended to be a field guide, but in reality, that’s what I am building in the long run. I think that I am entitled to take a little pride in that.

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


Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus

Well, it had to happen, I knew that it would at some point in this series. On Sunday, February 17, 2013, while walking in a local county park, I spotted a carolina wren, but the photos I got are less than great, as you will see. The photos do meet my minimum, self-imposed standard of being good enough to make a positive ID, but they’re not photos that I would normally post in this series. But, what is one to do when they see a somewhat rare bird, and bad photos are all one can manage?

Before I continue that train of thought, here’s some info about Carolina wrens from Wikipedia, which will help me fill in the blanks later.

“The Carolina Wren is sensitive to cold weather. Since they do not migrate and stay in one territory. The northern populations of Carolina wrens decrease markedly after severe winters. Because of this sensitivity to weather, gradually increasing temperatures over the last century may have been responsible for the northward range expansion seen in the mid 1900s.

Populations in Canada and the northern half of the US experience regular crashes following severe winters, but their high breeding productivity soon results in a return to higher numbers. These birds are generally permanent residents throughout their range and defend territory year round; some birds may wander north after the breeding season.

They eat insects, found in leaf litter or on tree trunks; they may also eat small lizards or tree frogs. In winter, they occasionally eat seeds, berries, and other small fruits.

These birds prefer sites with dense undergrowth, either in mixed forests or in wooded suburban settings, in a natural or artificial cavity. The nest is a bulky, often domed structure, with a small hole towards the top. Nests of the more domestically inclined wrens have been reported in a great variety of nooks and crannies in, about, or under buildings of various kinds, under bridges, or in holes in any structure such as a porch, fence-post, flowerpot, tree, house or barn. Almost any kind of receptacle may offer an acceptable nesting site. Pairs may mate for life.”

According to both Wikipedia and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology “All about birds” website, Carolina wrens are not residents of the area where I live. I thought that I was going to have to travel to the southeast corner of Michigan to have any hopes of spotting one. But, during my walk, I heard an unfamiliar bird call, and then spotted the bird making the call. However, it was buried deep within the branches of the brush along a creek. No way that the auto-focus of my camera could get a lock on such a small bird with all that brush between us. To make matters worse, like all wrens, this one was always moving, and quickly.

After several failed attempts to get a photo, including the “Hey, it was there just a split second ago” shots of empty branches, I hatched an idea. Luckily, there was enough sunlight for a change to make this almost work. I switched to manual focus, set the aperture to f/14 to give me the greatest depth of field that I could get under the conditions, and managed two not so good photos of the wren before it flew off out of sight. Here they are, in all their inglorious badness.

Carolina wren

Carolina wren

Carolina wren

Carolina wren

Switching to manual focus meant that I was more or less shooting one-handed, as it’s hard to steady the camera when you left hand is spinning the focus control like crazy trying to keep up with a hyper wren. The slow shutter speeds with the lens stopped down didn’t help either, but, the increased depth of field gave me a better chance of getting the wren at least somewhat in focus, and at least I got something recognizable as a Carolina wren.

If the experts are correct, and these wrens are expanding their territory northward, I may get chances in the future to replace these photos with better ones, I sure hope so, but who knows when that could be? Since this is not only is this an entry in my photo life list, a Carolina wren is a regular life list first for me as well, I feel it is important enough to post these photos now, rather than hope I get better ones later on.

Of course I have noted where I saw the wren, and it was in a park that I walk through at least once a month, I will return to the spot where I saw the wren in hopes of seeing it again for better photos.

March 17, 2013, better photos added.

Male Carolina wren

Male Carolina wren

Male Carolina wren in full song

Male Carolina wren in full song

Male Carolina wren

Male Carolina wren

Male Carolina wren

Male Carolina wren

Male Carolina wren

Male Carolina wren

Female Carolina wren

Female Carolina wren

This is number 38 in my photo life list, only 312 to go!

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

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White-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

White-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

The White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) is a small songbird of the nuthatch family which breeds in old-growth woodland across much of temperate North America. It is a stocky bird, with a large head, short tail, powerful bill and strong feet. The upper parts are pale blue-gray, and the face and underparts are white. It has a black cap and a chestnut lower belly. The nine subspecies differ mainly in the color of the body plumage.

Like other nuthatches, the White-breasted Nuthatch forages for insects on trunks and branches, and is able to move head-first down trees. Seeds form a substantial part of its winter diet, as do acorns and hickory nuts that were stored by the bird in the fall. The nest is in a hole in a tree, and the breeding pair may smear insects around the entrance as a deterrent to squirrels. Adults and young may be killed by hawks, owls and snakes, and forest clearance may lead to local habitat loss, but this is a common species with no major conservation concerns over most of its range.

The White-breasted Nuthatch often travels with small mixed flocks in winter. These flocks are led by titmice and chickadees, with nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers as common attendant species. Participants in such flocks are thought to benefit in terms of foraging and predator avoidance. It is likely that the attendant species also access the information carried in the chickadees’ calls and reduce their own level of vigilance accordingly.

The White-breasted Nuthatch is monogamous, and pairs form following a courtship in which the male bows to the female, spreading his tail and drooping his wings while swaying back and forth; he also feeds her morsels of food.

On to the photos:

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

in flight

White breasted nuthatch in flight

White breasted nuthatch in flight

White breasted nuthatch in flight

This is number 39 in my photo life list, only 311 to go!

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

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Should I, or shouldn’t I?

I’m really chomping at the bit to get as many posts in my photo life list project posted as I can, but for the most part, I’ve been limiting myself to one per day.

Before I expound on that, I have started another blog where I am going to post only the very best photos that I have taken. I have done that as part of my plan in an attempt to earn a few extra bucks selling my photos. I doubt if I will ever make a sale directly off from the other blog, but it is part of an overall scheme. Anyway, you can find it here. I think that long time followers of this blog have already seen the photos there, but I have them displayed larger, and I haven’t reduced the quality as much as I do for the photos that I post here.

Back to my life list project. I still have a number of species that I can do a post on, but, if I do them now, they will be incomplete compared to what I would like them to be. But, that was my idea when I decided how I was going to do this project. It’s darned hard to keep hundreds of photos sorted and stored on my computer, waiting until I have very good photos of every species. I’d like to post what I have now, as I already accidentally deleted a few of the photos that I was storing. Luckily, they were of white breasted nuthatches, and I was able to shoot replacement photos the same week as I deleted my older ones.

The way that I organized the project, using pages to navigate to the individual species posts makes it easy for me to find older posts, no matter how long ago it was posted, or how many posts I’ve done since. I did it that way intentionally so that I could continually update the older posts as I get better photos.

I can easily knock off three or four posts in the series per day on the weekends, up till now, I do and save a week’s worth as drafts on the weekends, then publish one per day as not to dump multiple posts per day on my regular readers.

However, since I began this project, I seem to have lost a few of the regular readers that I looked forward to receiving comments from. I’m not sure why that happened. I don’t know if it because of how often I’m posting, or for other reasons. I am tempted to pound out as many posts in the series as I have photos for right now, to get those done so that I can get back to my regular blogging.

Today (Friday) I have reached a decision during my daily walk, but before I announce it, I have a few things to say about WordPress, blogging, and bloggers.

First, WordPress, it’s great! I started my blog using a different platform, and found it very hard to use. Not so with WordPress, it is very easy to create an attractive blog, and they also make it easy to publicize your blog as well.

However, one thing that is usually overlooked is that their motives are not totally altruistic, the survival of WordPress depends on our participation. It takes money to purchase and maintain the servers and hardware, it takes money to pay the wages of the developers and other employees.

That’s one of the reasons that they push so hard for us to post more often, and to visit other blogs to build a following for our blogs.

One of the ways that WordPress generates revenue is through the sale of ads which appear in our posts if we use the free version. The more often we post, the more ads WordPress can sell.

Being a free market capitalist, I’m OK with that. I get a free platform for my blog, WordPress makes the money to pay for it by selling advertising space in my blog. No problem.

So, (I have to quit starting sentences that way, I’m beginning to sound like an NPR liberal) where the problem lies is that, in my opinion, far too many bloggers take the WordPress tips for developing a following for their blog too far.

How do I know that? I have a pretty good idea that when I click the button to publish this, then return to the dashboard, that this post will have received a “like” or two by the time that the dashboard has fully loaded on my old, slow computer. There’s no way that the person liking my post would have been able to read my entire post and determined that they did indeed like it enough to click the like button in that short of time.

I have come to the conclusion that much of the traffic to my blog is false traffic, it is from other bloggers who view as many blogs as they can, and like or follow those blogs in order to generate more traffic to their own blogs.

I can’t say as I blame them, that’s one of the tips from WordPress. Again, that tip is not totally altruistic, the more traffic on WordPress, the more that they can charge per ad. Again, I’m OK with that.

For me, the problem begins when a blogger places too much emphasis on their site stats. I’ll admit, I check my blog’s stats from time to time, but I am really past caring about the overall numbers for the most part. What I do care about is what posts people are looking at, and why. Other than the traffic seekers, I can tell that most people who visit my blog find it through the search engines while looking for specific information. Those are the people I was aiming for when I began this blog way back when.

One more thing before my big announcement, I do value those of you who do visit my blog for what I consider to be the right reasons. I think that you all know who you are, please don’t ask me to make up a list, because I’m sure I would forget one or two of you. I want to thank all of you with whom I have had conversations with through comments here, or on your blog! I hope that my announcement won’t drive you away permanently.

So, my big announcement, and then the why I came to this decision.

Look out folks, there’s going to be a major increase in the number of posts that I will be doing for a while, multiple posts per day for a while. I am going to post this, hopefully yet today, take a break over the weekend while I work on posts in my photo life list project, then start posting them as quickly as I can finish them, starting on Monday.

Those of you have been long time readers can ignore those posts if you like, there won’t be any spectacular photos in them, as I have exhausted my very limited supply (6) of spectacular photos.

The reason for doing this is that I have to get the number of photos I have stored ready to post down to a manageable number, I can’t keep sorting through hundreds of photos looking for the ones I want for a particular post.

I’m already having trouble as far as what to do with new photos I am taking, it’s becoming a monster!

Another reason for multiple posts is because of the way that I am made. Give me a project and/or a goal, and I dive in headfirst to get as much accomplished as quickly as I can. That always serves me in good stead in the business world, that may not hold true in the blogosphere, time will tell. I want to get the species that I have photos of now posted, even if the posts are not as complete as I would like at the present time. At least I’ll have the posts as placeholders for my future photos, and room on my computer for new photos as I get them.

Another reason for doing as many of the posts in that series as quickly as I can is so that I can get back to what I consider to be the normal nature of my posts, and only do posts in the photo life list when I get photos of a species that I haven’t already done a post on.

I also want to get as many of the posts at least started as I can right now, so that I’ll have time when the weather gets nice to do the kinds of things that I want to do, rather than doing those posts when I’d rather be outdoors enjoying spring here in Michigan.

I am not going to be publishing all those posts just to drive up my site stats, I don’t give a rat’s rear end about my site stats, just so you know.

I do apologize advance to those of you who truly follow my blog for what is about to hit you! I see no other good way to do it.

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


Greater Scaup, Aythya marila

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Greater Scaup, Aythya marila

The Greater Scaup (Aythya marila), just Scaup in Europe, or colloquially “Bluebill” in North America for its bright blue bill, is a mid-sized diving duck though it is larger than the closely related Lesser Scaup. It is a circumpolar species, which means that its range circles one of Earth’s poles. It spends the summer months breeding in Alaska, northern Canada, Siberia, and the northernmost reaches of Europe. During the winter, it migrates south down the coasts of North America, Europe, and Japan.

Drake Greater Scaup are larger and have more rounded heads than females; they have a bright blue bill and yellow eyes. They have dark heads with a glossy green tint, white undersides and wings with white on the tips. The females are mostly brown, with white bands located on their wingtips. They have a blue bill that is slightly duller then the drake’s.

Greater Scaup nest near water, typically on islands in northern lakes or on floating mats of vegetation. They begin breeding at age two, but start building nests in the first year. The drakes have a complex courtship procedure, which takes place on the return migration to the summer breeding grounds and concludes with the formation of monogamous pairs. Females lay a clutch of six to nine olive-buff colored eggs. The eggs hatch in 24 to 28 days. The down-covered ducklings are able to follow their mother in her search for food immediately after hatching.

Greater Scaup eat aquatic mollusks, plants, and insects, which they obtain by diving underwater. They form large groups, called “rafts”, that can number in the thousands. Their main threat is human development, although they are preyed upon by owls, skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and humans.

On to the photos:

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Female greater scaup

Female greater scaup

Greater scaup

Greater scaup

Greater scaup

Greater scaup

Greater scaup

Greater scaup

Greater scaup

Greater scaup

This is number 37 in my photo life list, only 313 to go!

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

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Long-tailed Duck, Clangula hyemalis

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Long-tailed Duck, Clangula hyemalis

In North America, it is sometimes called Oldsquaw, though this name has fallen out of favor under influence of negative connotations of the word squaw in English usage.

Adults have white underparts, though the rest of the plumage goes through a complex molting process. The male has a long pointed tail (10 to 15 cm) and a dark grey bill crossed by a pink band. In winter, the male has a dark cheek patch on a mainly white head and neck, a dark breast and mostly white body. In summer, the male is dark on the head, neck and back with a white cheek patch. The female has a brown back and a relatively short pointed tail. In winter, the female’s head and neck are white with a dark crown. In summer, the head is dark. Juveniles resemble adult females in autumn plumage, though with a lighter, less distinct cheek patch.

Their breeding habitat is in tundra pools and marshes, but also along sea coasts and in large mountain lakes in the North Atlantic region, Alaska, northern Canada, northern Europe and Russia. The nest is located on the ground near water; it is built using vegetation and lined with down. They are migratory and winter along the eastern and western coasts of North America, on the Great Lakes, coastal northern Europe and Asia, with stragglers to the Black Sea. The most important wintering area is the Baltic Sea, where a total of about 4.5 million gather.

The Long-tailed Duck is gregarious, forming large flocks in winter and during migration. They feed by diving for mollusks, crustaceans and some small fish. Although they usually feed close to the surface, they are capable of diving to depths of 60m (200 feet).

On to the photos.

Male long-tailed duck

Male long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Female Long-tailed duck

Female Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Female Long-tailed duck

Female Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck

Female Long-tailed duck

Female Long-tailed duck

Female Long-tailed duck

Female Long-tailed duck

Male Long-tailed duck preparing to dive

Male Long-tailed duck preparing to dive

Male Long-tailed duck diving

Male Long-tailed duck diving

 

This is number 36 in my photo life list, only 314 to go!

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

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Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis

Note: This post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis

Their breeding habitat is marshy lakes and ponds. They nest in dense marsh vegetation near water. The female builds the nest out of grass, locating it in tall vegetation to hide it from predators. A typical brood contains 5 to 15 ducklings. Pairs form each year.

Adult males have a rust-red body, a blue bill, and a white face with a black cap. Adult females have a grey-brown body with a greyish face with a darker bill, cap and a cheek stripe.

They are migratory and winter in coastal bays and unfrozen lakes and ponds.

These birds dive and swim underwater. They mainly eat seeds and roots of aquatic plants, aquatic insects and crustaceans.

On to the photos.

Male ruddy duck

Male ruddy duck

Female ruddy duck

Female ruddy duck

Male ruddy duck

Male ruddy duck

Male ruddy duck diving

Male ruddy duck diving

Female ruddy duck

Female ruddy duck

Male ruddy duck snoozing

Male ruddy duck snoozing

Female ruddy duck after being hit by a wave

Female ruddy duck after being hit by a wave

Female ruddy duck

Female ruddy duck

This is number 35 in my photo life list, only 315 to go!

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

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Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo

Since I am on a run of doing rather common birds that have appeared here often in the past, I may as well get this one over as well. Something just hit me as I started this post, the last three species I have done, mallards, Canada geese, and now wild turkeys, are all considered quite common here in Michigan today. But, two of these species, Canada geese and wild turkeys were rare or non-existent when I was a kid growing up.

Turkeys had disappeared from Michigan by 1900, probably due to loss of habitat, and unregulated hunting. Wild turkeys are now found in most counties in Michigan. However, this is following a major re-introduction effort that was successful after four failed attempts. I have not been able to verify exactly when the successful re-introduction occurred, however, even in the 1970’s, turkeys were few and far between.

Adult wild turkeys have long reddish-yellow to grayish-green legs. The body feathers are generally blackish and dark brown overall with a coppery sheen that becomes more complex in adult males. Adult males, called toms or gobblers, have a large, featherless, reddish head, red throat, and red wattles on the throat and neck. The head has fleshy growths called caruncles. Juvenile males are called jakes, the difference between an adult male and a juvenile is that the jake has a very short beard and his tail fan has longer feathers in the middle. The adult male’s tail fan will be all the same length. When males are excited, a fleshy flap on the bill expands, and this, the wattles and the bare skin of the head and neck all become engorged with blood, almost concealing the eyes and bill. The long fleshy object over a male’s beak is called a snood. When a male turkey is excited, its head turns blue; when ready to fight, it turns red. Each foot has three toes, and males have a spur behind each of their lower legs.

Male turkeys have a long, dark, fan-shaped tail and glossy bronze wings. As with many other species of the Galliformes, turkeys exhibit strong sexual dimorphism. The male is substantially larger than the female, and his feathers have areas of red, purple, green, copper, bronze, and gold iridescence. Females, called hens, have feathers that are duller overall, in shades of brown and gray. Males typically have a “beard”, a tuft of coarse hair (modified feathers) growing from the center of the breast. In some populations, 10 to 20 percent of females have a beard, usually shorter and thinner than that of the male.

Despite their weight, wild turkeys, unlike their domestic counterparts, are agile fliers. In ideal habitat of open woodland or wooded grasslands, they may fly beneath the canopy top and find perches. They usually fly close to the ground for no more than a quarter-mile (400 m). Turkeys are capable of flying at a maximum speed of 60 mph (97 km/h), as a turkey was observed to be able to keep abreast with a car driving at that speed.

Turkeys have many vocalizations: “gobbles,” “clucks,” “putts,” “purrs,” “yelps,” “cutts,” “whines,” “cackles,” and “kee-kees.” In early spring, male turkeys, also called gobblers or toms, gobble to announce their presence to females and competing males. The gobble can carry for up to a mile. Males also emit a low-pitched “drumming” sound; produced by the movement of air in the air sack in the chest, similar to the booming of a prairie chicken. In addition they produce a sound known as the “spit” which is a sharp expulsion of air from this air sack. Hens “yelp” to let gobblers know their location. Gobblers often yelp in the manner of females, and hens can gobble, though they rarely do so. Immature males, called jakes, often yelp.

Males are polygamous, mating with as many hens as they can. Male wild turkeys display for females by puffing out their feathers, spreading out their tails and dragging their wings. This behavior is most commonly referred to as strutting. Their heads and necks are colored brilliantly with red, blue and white. The color can change with the turkey’s mood, with a solid white head and neck being the most excited. They use gobbling, drumming/booming and spitting as signs of social dominance, and to attract females. Courtship begins during the months of March and April, which is when turkeys are still flocked together in winter areas.

On to the photos.

Hen Turkeys

Turkeys

Hen Turkeys

Turkeys

Hen Turkey

Hen Turkey

Juvenile turkeys

Juvenile turkeys

Juvenile turkeys

Juvenile turkeys

Turkey

Turkey

Turkeys

Turkey

Turkeys

Turkey

Turkeys

Turkeys

Juvenile Turkey

Juvenile Turkey

Juvenile Turkey

Juvenile Turkey

Juvenile Turkey

Juvenile Turkey

Tom Turkey

Tom Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

DSC_8705

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Hen turkey and young

Hen turkey and young

Juvenile Turkey stretching its wings

Juvenile Turkey stretching its wings

Tom Turkey displaying

Tom Turkey displaying

Tom Turkey displaying

Tom Turkey displaying

Juvenile turkey

Juvenile turkey

Young turkey in flight

Young turkey in flight

Some species of birds bathe in water, other species, such as turkeys engage in what is called dusting. The dust bath is the act of a bird grooming and rolling or moving around in dust or sand, thereby most likely cleansing its feathers or skin from parasites. With turkeys, this also seems to be a social event as well, as the entire flock will crowd close together as they dig themselves down into dusty ground. You can often tell if turkeys are in an area if you find the circular indentations left behind in the soft dirt, which are quite large. Turkeys will return to their favorite dusting spots time and time again, so finding a place where they dust is a good way of finding the turkeys.

I shot the next few photos knowing that the lighting was bad as far as getting good shots of the turkeys themselves, but by using back lighting from the sun, the amount of dust that they generate can be easily seen.

Turkeys dusting

Turkeys dusting

Turkeys dusting

Turkeys dusting

Turkeys dusting

Turkeys dusting

Turkeys dusting

Turkeys dusting

While turkeys spend the majority of time on the ground, they will roost in trees overnight, and will feed in trees at times as well. It was quite comical to watch these two turkeys trying to remain in this small tree as they fed on berries.

Turkey feeding on berries in a small tree

Turkey feeding on berries in a small tree

It was such a dark, dreary day when I shot these that I had to resort to using the flash for this next one. The rest of the small flock remained on the ground and leapt up to snatch one berry at a time from the tree. I don’t know which turkeys were expending more energy per berry, the ones jumping up from the ground, or the two fighting to retain their balance while perched on branches that were really too small to support the weight of such a large bird. (I also attempted to photograph the jumping birds, but didn’t get any usable photos. Without the flash, the birds were nothing but blurs, and the delay in when the flash would fire in relation to when I pressed the shutter release was too great for me to catch one up in the air.)

Two turkeys feeding on berries in a small tree

Two turkeys feeding on berries in a small tree

I’m going to throw in a couple of oddball photos as well, such as these rooftop turkeys…

Roof top turkeys

Roof top turkeys

…and this juvenile turkey roosting on some one’s grill. I’ll bet that the owners of the grill don’t leave it open after this!

Turkey checking to see if a relative was on the menu recently

Turkey checking to see if a relative was on the menu recently

And finally, this mature tom in full display at sunrise! Check out the beard on this guy!

Tom turkey in full display

Tom turkey in full display

This is number 34 in my photo life list, only 316 to go!

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

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Canada Goose, Branta canadensis

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Canada Goose, Branta canadensis, another very common waterfowl, since I just did mallards, I thought that I may as well knock this one out too.

This species is native to North America. It breeds in Canada and the northern United States in a variety of habitats. Its nest is usually located in an elevated area near water such as streams, lakes, ponds and sometimes on a beaver lodge. Its eggs are laid in a shallow depression lined with plant material and down.

By the early 20th century, over-hunting and loss of habitat in the late 19th century and early 20th century had resulted in a serious decline in the numbers of this bird in its native range. The Giant Canada Goose subspecies was believed to be extinct in the 1950’s until, in 1962, a small flock was discovered wintering in Rochester, Minnesota, by Harold Hanson of the Illinois Natural History Survey. With improved game laws and habitat recreation and preservation programs, their populations have recovered in most of their range, although some local populations, especially of the subspecies occidentalis, may still be declining.

In recent years, Canada Goose populations in some areas have grown substantially, so much so that many consider them pests for their droppings, bacteria in their droppings, noise, and confrontational behavior. This problem is partially due to the removal of natural predators and an abundance of safe, man-made bodies of water near food sources, such as those found on golf courses, in public parks and beaches, and in planned communities. Due in part to the interbreeding of various migratory subspecies with the introduced non-migratory Giant subspecies, Canada Geese are frequently a year-around feature of such urban environments.

To me, the Canada geese mark the changing of the seasons. Seeing and hearing large flocks in the familiar “V” formations winging their way south in the fall, then north again to signal that spring is near. They also represent the comeback that wildlife can make once we learn not to attempt to kill them all off, although some, who see them as a nuisance, may feel differently. They are also a symbol of the north, less developed and more wild areas of Michigan, for when I was growing up, seeing one near where I lived was a rarity, other than during their migration.

On to the photos, and since it’s fairly easy to get a shot like this of one on the ground….

Canada goose

Canada goose

…or like this…

Canada geese

Canada geese

…most of the rest of the photos will be of them in flight. But first, a shot of one doing one of the things geese do best, honking.

Canada geese

Canada geese

Well, maybe two honkers honking.

Canada geese

Canada geese

Now for the flight photos.

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada goose in flight

Canada goose in flight

Canada goose coming in for a landing

Canada goose coming in for a landing

Canada goose coming in for a landing

Canada goose coming in for a landing

Canada goose in flight

Canada goose in flight

Canada goose in flight

Canada goose in flight

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada goose coming in for a landing

Canada goose coming in for a landing

Canada goose coming in for a landing

Canada goose coming in for a landing

Canada goose in flight

Canada goose in flight

Canada geese avoiding a collision

Canada geese avoiding a collision

Canada goose in flight

Canada goose in flight

Canada geese coming in for a landing

Canada geese coming in for a landing

This is number 33 in my photo life list, only 317 to go!

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

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Making progress part II

There are a few things that I forgot to add to the last post, which is OK, it was quite long anyway.

We’ve been in a rut weather wise, I almost did a post titled “14 degrees ( -10 degree Celsius) and snow” for almost every morning when I checked the current weather conditions in preparation for my daily walk, that’s what the weather was. (As I am touching this post up on Sunday morning, it is 6 degrees F or -14 C, I think that I’ll take my daily walk in the afternoon.)

I almost titled this post “There ain’t no cure for the lake effect greys” since it seemed to fit as well. That’s a take off on the old rockabilly song “Summertime Blues” by the late, great Eddie Cochran. Of course there is a cure, sunshine, and I wouldn’t have to travel very far to make that happen. However, that’s not going to happen this winter. (Another attempted cure will be included later in this post.)

I’ve read that Seattle, Washington has one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation, and that experts believe that it is due to the chronic cloudiness there. I can believe that. Come winter time in West Michigan, Seattle has nothing on us when it comes to cloud cover.

According to a local meteorologist, the amount sunshine for this February is running below our normal average of 11% of available sunshine for the month. It isn’t by very much, we’re averaging 9% of available sunshine, of course that means that it is cloudy over 90% of the time. I can’t verify this, but I think that most of the sunshine we do receive occurs early in the morning, before I get outside for my daily walk.

That make sense, the winds coming across Lake Michigan, which produces the clouds, die off at night, allowing the clouds to dissipate. Today (Saturday) was a perfect example, I woke up to bright sunshine, even though the weather forecast was for heavy lake effect snow. I had to run to the bank, which took all of 15 minutes, by the time I got back home, the clouds had moved in, and it was snowing at a moderate pace. It looked nothing like when I had stepped outside to get to my car.

The constant cloud cover, and associated snowfall, is really cramping my photography, in several ways. No sunshine means that I’m always having to shoot in very low light conditions, and the dull grey overcast sky makes a horrible background for shooting anything above shoulder level. Add to that the fact that it’s hard to see anything to photograph when I’m walking around with the hood of my parka pulled out as far as it goes to block the wind-driven snow from hitting me in the face. It’s hard to photograph anything when my eyelashes are freezing together. That’s happened on at least two days the last month, it’s been that kind of winter.

When I do spot any wildlife, it is usually birds or squirrels, gathered around a bird feeder in some one’s yard off in the distance.

However, about one day per week, the weather has been relatively nice, the birds spread out, and I’m making some new friends when that happens. You may recall the post that I did soon after I moved, on how the birds around my new home haven’t gotten used to me being around yet. That’s been changing, slowly, but I am making progress, and as soon as spring gets here, it will happen quickly I think.

I am seeing a pair of red-tailed hawks almost daily, they won’t let me get close to them yet, but it takes a while. I also see Cooper’s hawks regularly, as well as many other species of birds. I am also making friends with the other critters, it’s nice to see red squirrels on a regular basis, rather than just fox squirrels. I’m sure that the red squirrels will make many appearances here in the future, as I love watching them race through the treetops.

If I had any other words of wisdom, they’re gone forever, lost in cyberspace. I had this post nearly finished, when in a rare occurrence, WordPress locked up, and I lost it all. To make things even worse, for some reason there’s a gap of an hour in the auto save feature. So, I guess I will move on to the cure for the lake effect greys.

What is that cure you may ask? Go back and relive a trip I made to Muskegon the first weekend that I had my new Subaru back in October.

I’ll start with a pair of ruddy ducks.

Male ruddy duck

Male ruddy duck

Female ruddy duck

Female ruddy duck

Oh yeah, and I remember going off on a rant about field guides, how they focus primarily on birds in their breeding plumage! What is one supposed to do when they spot a new to them species of bird during the fall migration? Here’s why I bring this up, if any one can help me ID this bird, I sure would appreciate it. I’m leaning towards it being a Long-billed Dowitcher, but I’m not positive.

Unknown wading bird

Unknown wading bird

Unknown wading bird

Unknown wading bird

Unknown wading bird

Unknown wading bird

Unknown wading bird

Unknown wading bird

With a bill that long, I thought that it would be easy to ID that bird, but it hasn’t been.

Here’s one that I’m sure of, North America’s smallest falcon!

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

I hope that this next photo gives you an idea about the numbers of waterfowl migrating through the Muskegon area.

Migration

Migration

There’s three lines of birds in flight if you look closely.

So far, the photos were taken at the county wastewater treatment center, but I drove over to Muskegon State Park for the rest of these.

Getting out of my Forester, I noticed a crow keeping an eye on things. (There are several of the crow that will be added to the lifer list post I’ve done.)

American crow

American crow

He soon spotted a red-shouldered hawk, and called a few of his buddies over to harass the hawk.

Crows attacking a hawk

Crows attacking a hawk

Crows attacking a hawk

Crows attacking a hawk

Then, I spotted what may be the best cure for the lake effect greys…

Sun dog

Sun dog

…a sun dog, not much of one, but it hinted at what was to come, so I stuck around to watch some mallards and gulls fight over food thrown to them by a passerby.

Mallard and gull food fight

Mallard and gull food fight

Mallard and gull food fight

Mallard and gull food fight

Mallard and gull food fight

Mallard and gull food fight

Mallard and gull food fight

Mallard and gull food fight

Mallard and gull food fight

Mallard and gull food fight

Mallard and gull food fight

Mallard and gull food fight

Mallard and gull food fight

Mallard and gull food fight

I think that the mallards got the best of it, they would grab the food, and when the gulls tried to take it away from them, the mallards would dive, then surface elsewhere.

When this gull posed for me, I just had to shoot it!

Ring billed gull

Ring billed gull

Then, the real show began!

Lake Michigan sunset

Lake Michigan sunset

Lake Michigan sunset

Lake Michigan sunset

Lake Michigan sunset

Lake Michigan sunset

Lake Michigan sunset

Lake Michigan sunset

Lake Michigan sunset

Lake Michigan sunset

Turning around, I saw the real show part II!

Lake Michigan moonrise

Lake Michigan moonrise

Lake Michigan moonrise

Lake Michigan moonrise

Lake Michigan moonrise

Lake Michigan moonrise

There was color everywhere

Lake Michigan sunset

Lake Michigan sunset

Lake Michigan sunset

Lake Michigan sunset

I couldn’t resist this one, I think that I may have already posted it, but it’s my blog, and my brand new Subaru!

Moonrise over my new Subaru

Moonrise over my new Subaru

It was one of those times that I wished I had a wide angle lens for my camera.

Lake Michigan sunset

Lake Michigan sunset

If that doesn’t cure the lake effect greys, then nothing will!

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

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Making progress

Just a few weeks into my Photo Life List project, and I’m up to 34 species posted already, so I would say that I’m making good progress. I have several more finished and ready to go.

I am also making some progress as far as cleaning out the hundreds of photos I had saved from this past summer, in fact, I’m starting to run low on available bird photos for the life list project, I only have a dozen or so species left, so I had better get busy on the photography end. Some time in the next week or so, both the quality and quantity of photos is going to drop off unless several miracles happen all at one time. One would be that we get some sunshine here, another would be that summer species of birds would return here despite the cold and snow. I suppose I could go searching through my archives, but it will be more fun to shoot new photos.

To keep the project going, on Wednesday of this past week, I took a trip over to Muskegon before work to photograph some of the winter residents. The weather was forecast to be close to perfect, 40 degrees F (4 degrees C), with sunshine and light winds. What the weather was however, was cold, cloudy, some fog, and a stiff wind out of the southeast. I still managed to nearly fill the SD card with photos of mostly ducks. More about the trip later in this post.

I’m making progress as a birder, learning to make better identifications. Between this blog, my photography, and having started the Photo Life List, I’m spending hours making positive identifications of the birds that I have photos of, and that I’m seeing. But, I have a long way to go yet.

I’m making progress as far as improving my skills as a photographer, in some ways. Several people have commented that my photos have been improving over time, I would say that I have gotten back to the skill level that I used to be at when I was using my film camera.

The switch to digital has been harder than I thought that it would be. The difficulty has been compounded by the glitches in my camera, which sure didn’t help. I have done a post on that, but as a quick explanation, my camera used to do some strange things, like lock up while taking a shot. Somewhere around 7,000 shots into using it, a number of specks of something appeared in the viewfinder, and since then, the camera has performed far better than it did before. The only thing that I can think of is that there was something interfering with the operation of the mechanical workings of the camera, which were worn away with use. The specks only appear in the viewfinder, not my finished photos, so I’m leaving well enough alone, and not going to attempt to remove what ever they are.

The other thing that has improved the quality of my photos is that I am learning how to overcome the quality issues present in the lens that I have. It as a 70-300 mm zoom, but I’ve fond that if I can stop myself from zooming past 250 mm, the sharpness of the image my camera produces is much better. (Actually, I can’t stop myself from zooming all the way to 300 mm, but I have learned how far to turn the control back after hitting the end of the zoom range.) I have also begun to use aperture mode most of the time, with it set to f/7.1 while walking around, while the maximum aperture of the lens is f/5.6. Just that little bit is enough to produce sharper images as well.

OK, about my trip to Muskegon on February 13th of this year. From checking several birding websites, I knew that there were quite a few winter resident waterfowl hanging out in the Muskegon area. I have been waiting for weeks for a sunny day on a weekend to make the drive over, but sunny days here are rarer than many of the species of birds I was after. It seems silly to make the 100 mile round trip if the weather is going to be crappy for photography. Just seeing the waterfowl isn’t enough for me, I want photos!

I checked the forecast again before I left home, and even checked a couple of webcams from along the Lake Michigan shoreline, it was sunny just south of Muskegon, and the sunshine was supposed to arrive there before I did, it didn’t.

The first big thing that hit me was as I was driving into Muskegon, the thought occurred to me that maybe it was a good thing that I wasn’t able to complete the purchase of a condo here in Grand Rapids last summer. Since I’m not all that happy with my current job, there’s really nothing stopping me from moving to the Muskegon area. I will have to give that some more thought, Muskegon isn’t the prettiest city in Michigan, but housing prices are lower, and living there would fit my lifestyle much better than the Grand Rapids suburbs.

Anyway, for this trip, I went to the Pere Marquette Park in Muskegon, it’s on the south side of the channel from Muskegon Lake to Lake Michigan, and also has two miles of beach on Lake Michigan. Here’s an aerial photo I swiped from the website. Just across the channel is Muskegon State Park, which provides access to the north side of the channel. I chose Pere Marquette Park instead, to get better lighting for photography purposes, rather than shooting towards the sun as always happens when I go to the state park.

Pere Marquette Park

Pere Marquette Park

When I pulled into the parking lot along the channel, there was another guy there with binoculars scoping out the waterfowl. He and I were there for the same thing, sort of. We struck up a conversation, and I quickly realized that he was a serious birder, and often participates in bird counts.

As we were just starting our conversation, this guy flew up to us to beg for a handout.

Mute swan in flight

Mute swan in flight

And, I’m going to do a before and after crop just to show you how easily amused I can be. As the swan was coming in for a landing, it was behind the railing along the channel, and I timed a shot to catch the swan between the railings, just to see if I could do it.

Mute swan landing

Mute swan landing after cropping

Mute swan landing before cropping

Mute swan landing before cropping

As I often say, you have to practice action shots to be good at them, and that includes practicing shooting around and through obstructions, just a tip for any budding photographers stopping by.

Anyway, the other birder and I were talking, about how people feeding birds alters the bird’s behaviors, when this guy flew past us to land in a tree across the parking lot from us.

Young Red shouldered hawk

Young Red shouldered hawk

You really have to love the Muskegon area when you can stand in a parking lot and birds fly in to have their photos taken!

So, serious birder guy and I were discussing many things as we stood and watched the birds all around us. He had his spotting scope out to help him ID and count birds, I amused myself by shooting them as they flew past.

Female red breasted merganser in flight

Female red breasted merganser in flight

We talked about the way that some photographers have been disturbing the birds to the point that the county is thinking of closing the wastewater treatment facility to the public. On a related note, I stumbled across the website for a local photographer who I would say is one of those that pushes the birds too far. He has dozens of photos of young birds in nests and the parents feeding them posted on his site, he must spend a lot of time staking out nests, which I will not do. Some one made the comment to his site that he should back off and leave the birds alone when they’re on the nest, and the photographer got all huffy about that. Sorry, I agree with the commenter.

Serious birder guy and I also discussed the health of the bird populations, how great of a place Muskegon is for viewing wildlife of all kinds, and many other things. He was also a great help to me as far as identifying many of the species of ducks there, many I had never seen…never tried to ID before. I’m sure that at sometime I had seen most of the species of ducks there, but had never gotten close enough to make a positive ID. In fact, without his spotting scope and my having cropped many of the following photos, I still wouldn’t have been able to ID a few of these.

Juvenile tundra swan

Juvenile tundra swan

Greater scaups

Greater scaups

Female long tailed duck

Female long-tailed duck

Male red breasted merganser

Male red breasted merganser

Male golden eye

Male golden eye

Ring billed gull

Ring billed gull

Male long tailed duck

Male long-tailed duck

Male lesser scaup

Male lesser scaup

White winged scooter in flight

White winged scoter in flight

A few weeks ago, I posted some really bad photos of a barred owl that were taken on an absolutely miserable day for photography. In that post, I explained how hard I had to work to get any recognizable photo at all, and how much I learned in that effort. That came in really handy on this day, for the weather was far less than ideal, and while these photos aren’t great, they’ll do for now, and you can ID the birds from the photos.

I didn’t need the serious birder guy’s spotting scope or help for this one.

Bald eagle flying over a juvenile tundra swan

Bald eagle flying over a juvenile tundra swan

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Not great photos by any means, but, in the first two shots you can see that it was cloudy with a little fog or haze in the air, so I don’t think that I did too badly with these. And, how cool is it when a bald eagle flies past you that closely, and at almost eye level! He was checking out the ducks as well, but never made an attempt to catch any of them. Surprisingly, the ducks all stayed put, which the serious birder guy and I thought was rather strange, but we did enjoy watching it as it happened.

On a side note, I learned serious birder guy’s name, but I’m not going to post it on the Internet, even though he has. Here’s his bird count/species list from the day.

Canada Goose – 5

Mute Swan – 4

Tundra Swan – 1

Mallard – 15

Redhead – 3
Greater Scaup – 143
Lesser Scaup – 22
Surf Scoter – 3
White-winged Scoter – 28
Long-tailed Duck – 59
Bufflehead – 6
Common Goldeneye – 166
Common Merganser – 57
Red-breasted Merganser – 70
Horned Grebe – 2
Bald Eagle – 1
Red-shouldered Hawk – 1
American Coot – 2
Ring-billed Gull – 88 (all adults)
Herring Gull – 97 (adults and immature)
Glaucous Gull – 2 (adult and immature)
Great Black-backed Gull – 2 (adult and immature)

I could cheat and claim all those for my life list too, since I was there at the same time and saw the same birds he did, but, I didn’t have a spotting scope and couldn’t positively ID many of the birds that I saw in the distance. I included his count as a way of letting people know what a great spot for birding the Muskegon area is, and to help me remember what to look for the next time I go there.

He and I discussed that as well, the way that some people cheat when they are doing their life list, and how that sometimes affects policy. When people mis-identify birds, it sometimes gives public officials that rely on amateur sightings a false impression as to the numbers of birds that there are. In Michigan, that’s especially true with sharp-tail grouse. People say that they see many of them, but in reality, there are less than 300 left here.

I didn’t spend all my time talking to serious birder guy, we kept bumping into each other as we worked our way up and down the channel. I also met a woman birder/photographer as well. She had a Canon with the 100-400 L series lens, which I was drooling over, in a way.

That’s another area where I am making progress, I have pretty much decided what I am going to purchase when I upgrade my photo equipment. A Canon 60 D body,

a 15-85 mm  f 3.5 5.6 IS USM lens,

a 70-200 mm f 4 L lens,

a 400 mm f 5.6 L lens.

That’s for starters.

I may add a 1.4X teleconverter later, and I would love to buy a second, better body at a later date as well.

I was going to go with all “L” series lenses, but the 15-85 mm gets better reviews than the 24-105 mm L that I had been considering.

My brother sent me the web address for a site  ( Pixel-peeper) that allows you to see photos from Flickr sorted by the camera and lens used to take the photo, which has helped me to decide.

I really could use a lens longer than the 70-300 mm I have on most days, but especially on this day. Of course most of the ducks kept their distance from any humans that they saw. I walked to the Muskegon Lake end of the channel and hid out behind the range light tower there for a while to give the ducks some time to get closer to the side of the channel I was on after they had moved away from me as I walked to that spot. That almost worked. The mute swan that I photographed early on had been following me around, still looking for a hand out. He lost sight of me while I was behind the tower, and went off to seek a hand out from other people in the area. As soon as I stepped out from behind the tower, the swan spotted me, and headed my way once again, chasing off the other waterfowl as he went.

Male Mute swan

Male Mute swan

I told him to go away, it didn’t work.

Male mute swan

Male mute swan

Every time I escaped his presence for a while, he would spot me and come charging towards me again.

Male mute swan

Male mute swan

Some navy personnel saw that, and hired the swan to guard their submarine.

Male mute swan on guard duty

Male mute swan on guard duty

Just kidding, that’s the USS Silversides, a WW II sub which is a floating museum there in Muskegon, and has appeared frequently in my blog.

I did get usable photos of many species of waterfowl, and they will appear in future posts in my photo life list series, despite the swan chasing me up and down the channel the entire time I was there. Some sun would have been nice, but that also gives me an excuse to go back again on a sunny day to get more photos, and to get the species I missed on this day.

That about wraps this one up. Oh, one more thing, I have had some of my best photos printed out, and they look really good in my opinion. I think that there are some which will actually sell. However, before I run all over town trying to peddle them, I would like to have some business cards printed up, so people know how to get in touch with me. Quiet Solo Pursuits is an OK name for a blog, but a bit unwieldy as a business name, or an easy to remember web address. So before I have business cards printed, I am trying to come up with a catchier name for the business, and a new blog where I will post only my very best photos.

I am going to have to give the idea of relocating to Muskegon some serious thought. I still have a folder full of photos from a trip I made there this fall, I may post that tomorrow, and give every one a break from the birds for a while.

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

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Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos

Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos, you knew that it had to happen! Mallards are one of my favorite birds to photograph, and I have already done a post devoted to why I think that they are under rated, and another on their mating habits.

Mallards live in wetlands, eat water plants and small animals, and are social, gregarious, and horny as hell, which may be why this species is the ancestor of most breeds of domestic ducks. Despite our best efforts to destroy their habitat, poison them with our chemical discharges, and shoot them, mallards dug themselves in and refused to die or to flee to more remote locations as other species did.

OK, for habitat, basically, if there’s water, you’ll find mallards. The Mallard inhabits a wide range of habitat and climates, from Arctic Tundra to subtropical regions. It is found in both fresh and salt-water wetlands, including parks, small ponds, rivers, lakes and estuaries, as well as shallow inlets and open sea within sight of the coastline.

The Mallard is omnivorous and very flexible in its foods choice. Its diet may vary based on several factors, including the stage of the breeding cycle, short-term variations in available food, nutrient availability, and inter- and intraspecific competition. The majority of the Mallard’s diet seems to be made up of gastropods, invertebrates (including beetles, flies, lepidopterans, dragonflies, and caddisflies),crustaceans, worms, many varieties of seeds and plant matter, and roots and tubers. In other words, they will eat just about anything.

The Mallard duck can cross-breed with 63 other species and is posing a severe threat to the genetic integrity of indigenous waterfowl.

Mallards usually form pairs (in October and November) only until the female lays eggs at the start of nesting season which is around the beginning of spring, at which time she is left by the male who joins up with other males to await the molting period which begins in June. During the brief time before this, however, the males are still sexually potent and some of them either remain on standby to sire replacement clutches (for female Mallards that have lost or abandoned their previous clutch) or forcibly mate (rape) with females that appear to be isolated or unattached regardless of their species and whether or not they have a brood of ducklings. Wikipedia has a lot more on the sexual proclivities of mallards if you’re interested, including one documented case of “homosexual necrophilia”.

Wikipedia says “A noisy species, the male has a nasal call, and a high-pitched whistle, while the female has a deeper quack stereotypically associated with ducks.” Ha! Spend any time around a flock of mallards you’ll hear a wide array of vocalizations including whistles, several different quacks, gargling or gurgling sounds, and the strange peeps that the males make as they snap their heads up, almost as if they have the hiccups.

Perhaps the oddest fact about mallards is that modern science can not trace their ancestry. Mallard bones rather abruptly appear in food remains of ancient humans and other deposits of fossil bones in Europe, without a good candidate for a local predecessor species.

On to the photos, and I promise to try to limit the number of them, even though they are hams!

Male mallard clowning for the camera

Male mallard clowning for the camera

Female mallard clowning for the camera

Female mallard clowning for the camera

Female mallard clowning for the camera

Female mallard clowning for the camera

Male mallard

Male mallard

The typical mallard pose

The typical mallard pose

Male mallard

Male mallard

Female mallard

Female mallard

Mallard squable

Mallard squable

Male Mallard

Male Mallard

Female mallard dodging a lovesick male

Female mallard dodging a lovesick male

Male mallard

Male mallard

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard buzzing me for fun

Male mallard buzzing me for fun

That last one proves that mallards have a sense of humor. I heard a quack behind me, turned, and there was that guy headed straight at my head! I pulled up and shot, that photo was shot at 70 mm and not cropped at all, that’s how close he was to me. Then, he landed in the creek next to where I was standing and proceeded to laugh at me for the way that I had jumped when he quacked!

Male mallard landing after buzzing me

Male mallard landing after buzzing me

Male mallard laughing after buzzing me

Male mallard laughing after buzzing me

Female mallard clowning

Female mallard clowning

Molting mallards

Molting mallards

Male mallard during the molt

Male mallard during the molt

Juvenile mallards, one male, one female

Juvenile mallards, one male, one female

Female mallard in flight

Female mallard in flight

Female mallard

Female mallard

Male mallard

Male mallard

Male mallards

Male mallards

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A pair of mallards

DSC_4211

A pair of mallards

Male mallard

Male mallard

Male mallard

Male mallard

Male mallard

Male mallard

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

This is number 32 in my photo life list, only 318 to go!

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


Red-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta canadensis

Red-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta canadensis, one of my great adversaries! It’s not that I don’t see them often, I do, but getting one to sit still in good lighting can be frustrating to say the least.

The adult has blue-grey upperparts with cinnamon underparts, a white throat and face with a black stripe through the eyes, a straight grey bill and a black crown. Its call, which has been likened to a tin trumpet, is high-pitched and nasal and is usually described as as yenk or ink.

It breeds in coniferous forests across Canada, Alaska and the northeastern and western United States. Though often a permanent resident, it regularly irrupts further south if its food supply fails. There are records of vagrants occurring as far south as the Gulf Coast and northern Mexico.

It forages on the trunks and large branches of trees, often descending head first, sometimes catching insects in flight. Its eat mainly insects and seeds, especially from conifers. It excavates a nest in dead wood, often close to the ground, smearing the entrance with pitch, presumably to help deter predators.

On to the photos.

Red-breasted nuthatch

Red-breasted nuthatch

Red-breasted nuthatch

Red-breasted nuthatch

Red-breasted nuthatch

Red-breasted nuthatch

Red-breasted nuthatch

Red-breasted nuthatch

This is number 21 in my photo life list, only 319 to go!

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

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Tufted Titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor

Tufted Titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor, the small birds with the big eyes!

Their habitat is deciduous and mixed woods as well as gardens, parks and shrub land in the eastern United States, they barely range into southeastern Canada in the Great Lakes region. They are all-year residents in the area effectively circumscribed by the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

They forage actively on branches, sometimes on the ground, mainly eating insects, especially caterpillars, but also seeds, nuts and berries. They will store food for later use. They tend to be curious about their human neighbors and can sometimes be spotted on window ledges peering into the windows to watch what’s going on inside. They are more shy when seen at bird feeders; their normal pattern there is to scout the feeder from the cover of trees or bushes, fly to the feeder, take a seed, and fly back to cover to eat it.

Tufted Titmice nest in a hole in a tree, either a natural cavity or sometimes an old woodpecker nest. They line the nest with soft materials, sometimes plucking hair from a live animal such as a dog. If they find shed snake-skin, they will try to incorporate pieces of it in their nest. Their eggs are under an inch long and are white or cream-colored with brownish or purplish spots. Sometimes, a bird born the year before remains to help its parents raise the next year’s young. The pair may remain together and defend their territory year-round. These birds are permanent residents and often join small mixed flocks in winter consisting of chickadees, nuthatches, and many times, woodpeckers.

On to the photos, I only have three recent ones, but I’m sure that I’ll be adding more soon. (Hopefully without the chromatic aberration seen in these)

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse singing

Tufted Titmouse singing

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

 

This is number 29 in my photo life list, only 321 to go!

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

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Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus

Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus, according to the Audubon guide, “flickers are the only woodpeckers that frequently feed on the ground”, probing with their beak for their preferred food, which is ants.

Although they eat fruits, berries, seeds and nuts, their primary food is insects. Ants alone can make up 45% of their diet. Other invertebrates eaten include flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, and snails. Flickers also eat berries and seeds, especially in winter, including poison oak and ivy, dogwood, sumac, wild cherry and grape,bayberries, hackberries, and elderberries, and sunflower and thistle seeds. Flickers often go after ants underground (where the nutritious larvae live), hammering at the soil the way other woodpeckers drill into wood. They have been observed breaking into cow patties to eat insects living within. Their tongues can dart out 2 inches beyond the end of the bill to snare prey. As well as eating ants, flickers have a behavior called anting, during which they use the acid from the ants to assist in preening, as it is useful in keeping them free of parasites.

They are one of the few woodpecker species that migrate.

On to the photos,

Male northern flicker

Male northern flicker

Male northern flicker

Male northern flicker

Northern flicker and American robin sharing a watering hole

Northern flicker and American robin sharing a watering hole

Male northern flicker

Male northern flicker

Male northern flicker

Male northern flicker

Male northern flicker

Male northern flicker

Female northern flicker

Female northern flicker

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Male northern flicker doing its mating dance

Male northern flicker doing its mating dance

Male northern flicker doing its mating dance

Male northern flicker doing its mating dance

Male northern flicker doing its mating dance

Male northern flicker doing its mating dance

Male northern flicker doing its mating dance

Male northern flicker doing its mating dance

Male northern flicker

This is number 28 in my photo life list, only 322 to go!

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


Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens

Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens,  are the smallest of North America’s woodpeckers.

The Downy Woodpecker is mainly black on the upper parts and wings, with a white back, throat and belly and white spotting on the wings. There is a white bar above the eye and one below. They have a black tail with white outer feathers barred with black. Adult males have a red patch on the back of the head whereas juvenile birds display a red cap.

The Downy Woodpecker is virtually identical in plumage pattern to the much larger Hairy Woodpecker, but it can be distinguished from the Hairy by the presence of black spots on its white tail feathers and the length of its bill. The Downy Woodpecker’s bill is shorter than its head, whereas the Hairy Woodpecker’s bill is approximately equal to head length.

The Downy Woodpecker gives a number of vocalizations, including a short pik call. Like other woodpeckers, it also produces a drumming sound with its beak as it pecks into trees. Compared to other North American species its drums are slow.

Their breeding habitat is forested areas, mainly deciduous, across most of North America to Central America. They nest in a tree cavity excavated by the nesting pair in a dead tree or limb.

These birds are mostly permanent residents. Northern birds may migrate further south; birds in mountainous areas may move to lower elevations. Downy Woodpeckers roost in tree cavities in the winter.

Downy Woodpeckers forage on trees, picking the bark surface in summer and digging deeper in winter. They mainly eat insects, also seeds and berries. In winter, especially, Downy Woodpeckers can often be found in suburban backyards with trees and will feed on suet at bird feeders.

On to the photos,

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Juvenile male downy woodpecker

Juvenile male downy woodpecker

Juvenile male downy woodpecker

Juvenile male downy woodpecker

Juvenile male downy woodpecker

Juvenile male downy woodpecker

Juvenile male downy woodpecker

Juvenile male downy woodpecker

Juvenile male downy woodpecker hiding from a robin in flight

Juvenile male downy woodpecker hiding from a robin in flight

Juvenile male downy woodpecker

Juvenile male downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

 

This is number 27 in my photo life list, only 323 to go!

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

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Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus, there’s not a lot for me to say about these birds, even thoug they are one of my favorite species of woodpeckers. They are woodpeckers, and share most of the same habits and traits as other woodpeckers.

They are omnivores, eating insects, fruits, nuts and seeds. Their breeding habitat is usually deciduous forests. They nest in the decayed cavities of dead trees, old stumps, or in live trees that have softer wood such as elms, maples, or willows, both sexes assist in digging nesting cavities. Areas around nest sites are marked with drilling holes to warn others away.

On to the photos.

DSC_2261

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker in flight

Red-bellied woodpecker in flight

This is number 26 in my photo life list, only 324 to go!

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

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Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura

Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,  its plaintive woo-OO-oo-oo-oo call gives the bird its name.

The Mourning Dove occupies a wide variety of open and semi-open habitats, such as urban areas, farms, prairie, grassland, and lightly wooded areas. It avoids swamps and thick forest. The species has adapted well to areas altered by humans. It commonly nests in trees in cities or near farmsteads.

Mourning Doves eat almost exclusively seeds, which make up more than 99% of their diet. Rarely, they will eat snails or insects. Mourning Doves generally eat enough to fill their crops and then fly away to digest while resting. They often swallow grit such as fine gravel or sand to assist with digestion. The species usually forages on the ground, walking but not hopping. At bird feeders, Mourning Doves are attracted to one of the largest ranges of seed types of any North American bird, with a preference for canola, corn, millet,safflower, and sunflower seeds. Mourning Doves do not dig or scratch for seeds, instead eating what is readily visible.

They are one of the earliest nesters here in Michigan, and are prolific breeders. In warmer areas, these birds may raise up to six broods in a season, although three is the average in Michigan, with an average of two eggs per brood. The Mourning Dove is monogamous and forms strong pair bonds.

They are fast fliers, capable of speeds up to 88 km/h (55 mph). (That may be why I have yet to get a good shot of one in flight) Their wings can make an unusual whistling sound upon take-off and landing.

On to the photos.

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

This is number 30 in my photo life list, only 320 to go!

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


If you seek inspiration, step outside!

I have a bunch of photos from the last two weeks sitting around in my computer looking for an excuse to be inserted into a post here. So, this morning I read a post from Allen Norcross who does the New Hampshire Garden Solutions blog, it was of some of his recent photos, and suddenly, the inspiration for this post on inspiration hit me! His post was on the beauty of nature, and that is certainly true, so who needs a common thread to pull a post together?

OK, I’ll admit that on days when it looks like this outside…

Fogged in

Fogged in

…that my photo output for the day goes down, but give me even a little sunshine and a critter….

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

..or two…

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

…or bird…

Blue jay surprised t see me

Blue jay surprised to see me

…and it’s not hard to see how I end up shooting so many photos per day.

But, part of the reason that I shoot so many photos is that I am always in search of The perfect photo of everything that there is to photograph in nature.

For example, I have already done a post on northern cardinals for my photo life list project, but that doesn’t stop me from shooting still more photos of cardinals.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

None of these are perfect either, but they are better than some in the older post. I am going to go back to that post and delete a couple of the photos, and insert a couple of these latest ones that I think are better. Since I have inserted the photos in this post, you won’t have to go back to the northern cardinal post. (Gee, I’ll bet that I am lowering my blog stats doing that. 😉 )

I understand that not every one is into furry or feathered things to photograph, but there are far more things than critters for subjects to photograph while outside. For example, there are icicles…

Icicles, natures Christmas tree ornaments

Icicles, natures Christmas tree ornaments

…but, you may say big deal, icicles are very common. Oh yeah, what about icicles growing up rather than down?

Upside down icicle

Upside down icicle

I won't say what this looks like

I won’t say what this looks like

The base of the upside down icicle

The base of the upside down icicle

I found the inspiration for the logo for the Rolling Stones…

Tree's tongue

Tree’s tongue

…and a giant albino bunny…

Albino bunny with floppy ears

Albino bunny with floppy ears

…I even found the inspiration for the Bride of Frankenstein!

Sumac imitating the Bride of Frankenstein

Sumac imitating the Bride of Frankenstein

I learned some important things today as well, such as the bright white of freshly fallen snow makes a great reflector to illuminate the undersides of birds in flight!

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

See, almost no shadows! Oh, and speaking of shadows, check these two out!

Shadowed illusions

Shadowed illusions

Shadowed illusions

Shadowed illusions

And finally, there’s this one.

Circles

Circles

I’m not sure what to say about that last one, other than I love it! I am quite proud of myself, it almost makes up for some of the crappy pictures I post. 😉

So if you need something to inspire your creative juices when it comes to photography, I usually find it just outside my door, you may find the same thing.

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

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Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, our national symbol here in the states. Not only are they are national bird, but they are also the symbol of the come back that wildlife can make when mankind learns to quit killing for the sake of killing, and to stop the indiscriminate poisoning of our environment.

I am going to do this post a little differently than the others in this series so far. Since most people are familiar with bald eagles, even if they haven’t seen one in person, I’m not going to add any info about them. There are plenty of sources far better than I for that. And, bald eagles have appeared here regularly since I began this blog, I see them often while kayaking, and less frequently while hiking. I am sure that they will continue to show up here from time to time.

For this post, I’m going to tell the story of how these photos came to be.

I was taking my daily walk, and spotted a young fox squirrel half asleep on the limb of a cottonwood tree. That’s not unusual, I see it there nearly everyday, especially if the sun is out. Normally, I don’t bother to photograph the squirrel, because it perches quite high up in the tree, and normally I shoot photos of squirrels like this.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

But on this day, I decided that even though the squirrel was really farther away than I like, that I would shoot a few, just for practice if nothing else.

Fox squirrel dozing in the sun

Fox squirrel dozing in the sun

Suddenly, the squirrel snapped to attention, and scurried off to hide in the tree. I knew that I hadn’t been the cause of the squirrel’s rapid departure, I normally walk right under it and have been known to wave to it as I go past. The squirrel normally just watches me pass. I knew that there had to be a reason for the squirrel to act the way that it did, so I began looking around for a predator, and spotted this bald eagle headed almost straight at me. With the sunlight gleaming off from its white head and tail feathers, I knew immediately that the bird coming towards me was an adult bald eagle!

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

I knew that I was going to get branches when I shot that one, I wanted to get my camera’s auto-focus locked in on the eagle to continue tracking it when it did come out from behind the trees, and because I wanted a record of the sighting, no matter what. So, I kept shooting.

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

By now, he eagle was drifting off to the south of me, a bad thing, as that was putting the eagle between the sun and myself, and any other photos would have turned out too bad to use. In another stoke of luck, the eagle turned, and did a circle right over my head!

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight and checking me out

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

Bald Eagle in flight

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, 40 years ago, there were no bald eagles nesting in the lower peninsula of Michigan. Now, they can be seen flying over suburban Grand Rapids!

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. In my post on Great Blue Herons, I included a shot of a heron flipping a fish around to get the fish in the correct position for the heron to swallow it. I wasn’t even going to photograph that heron that day, as it was a little farther away than I would have liked, and not in the best position for what I thought would be a good shot, but I started shooting anyway, and got the only photo of a heron flipping a fish that I have managed so far.

On this day, if I hadn’t decided to photograph the out of range squirrel, I probably wouldn’t have noticed its reaction when it spotted the eagle. I may not have noticed the eagle if it hadn’t been for the squirrel. I wouldn’t have had my camera out and ready for the eagle when flew past. And, why the eagle decided to turn around and circle right over my head is one of those things beyond an explanation. It’s what I call “photographer’s karma”, and makes up for all the times I have worked my butt off trying to get a good shot of something, but had the chance ruined by things out of my control. Some days, you just get lucky!

I’ll probably add some photos of perched eagles at a later date, but that’s it for right now.

This is number 25 in my photo life list, only 325 to go!

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