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

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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22 responses

  1. Vicki

    I really liked this post.. in agreement about the cloud cover (plus fogginess where we live) it is depressing, very depressing. thanks for the photo of the ruddy duck, I haven’t’ seen that before. yes, competition between seagulls and mallard can be very fierce.. The sunset and moonrise are beautiful.

    February 17, 2013 at 9:38 am

    • Thanks Vicki, even though Michigan is in the heart of the midwest, the Great Lakes surrounding the state makes our climate very similar to the maritime climate in your area.

      February 17, 2013 at 9:49 am

  2. If I’m forced to deal with grey skies I often go the whole hog and convert to black and white.
    Interestingly, my field guide describes a behavioural characteristic of Ruddy Ducks known as ‘bubbling’ – the first time I saw one that’s just what it started to do – if I hadn’t read the ‘bubbling’ bit I’d have thought it had a wind problem! 😉

    February 17, 2013 at 11:46 am

    • Thanks for the comment and the info, I had never heard of bubbling before. I wasn’t even sure what had happened, as I was busy timing the waves to catch the little ruddy duck near the top of a wave. They’re so small that they were disappearing in the troughs between waves that day. She appeared in the viewfinder of my camera covered in bubbles, so I started shooting.

      February 17, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      • 🙂
        I have found I’ve learnt quite a lot through photography, where following up on some ‘newly discovered’ occurrence has revealed something I didn’t know.

        February 18, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      • That is certainly true! I also find species that aren’t supposed to be living in the area where I photograph them as well.

        February 18, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      • Wicked! (As they say.)

        February 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm

  3. Northern Narratives

    Hope the sun finds you soon 🙂

    February 17, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    • Thanks for the thought, it worked! It was a beautiful sunny day here today.

      February 17, 2013 at 4:38 pm

  4. The moonrise through the tree branches is breathtaking….

    February 17, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    • Thank you! Any one watching me would have thought that I was crazy. I couldn’t decide if the moon looked better through the branches or not, and the colors in the sky were constantly changing, so I was running back and forth to catch every color both ways.

      February 17, 2013 at 4:41 pm

  5. Kim

    I love love love the picture of the moon through the tree branches! You got some great pictures that evening. As for the shorebird ID — looks like a Dowitcher to me, but I’m a real newbie at shorebirds, so take that for what it’s worth.
    And I have to agree with you about the lack of sunshine in Michigan’s winters. I lived the first 40 years of my life in Ohio and never had any problems with seasonal depression. But it’s been a problem every year since we moved to Michigan. So I try to soak up every bit of sunshine I can squeeze out of the days at this time of year. Taking 5000 IUs of Vitamin D each day also helps…. Oh, gotta go, the sun is shining in the window suddenly!

    February 17, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    • Thanks Kim, hope that your day was as sunny as it turned out here. I’m good for another week of clouds now. 😉

      February 17, 2013 at 8:02 pm

  6. The sunset / moonrise pictures are beautiful. Hope you see some sunshine soon!

    February 17, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    • Thank you! Seems that every one wishing for some sun for me worked, it was the nicest day here today in months!

      February 17, 2013 at 7:17 pm

  7. Between those outstanding sunsets and bird mecca, I would almost consider tolerating the terribly cold and dreary weather you’ve been having. “almost” mind you. 🙂 After all, i was raised in Florida.

    February 17, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    • Thanks. Some one from the Sunshine State would be hard pressed to tolerate the Lack of Sunshine State. That’s why so many retired people from Michigan become snowbirds.

      February 17, 2013 at 9:36 pm

      • I’ve gotten used to the cold now, and when I visit Florida the humidity kills me ! LOL !

        February 17, 2013 at 9:39 pm

  8. So glad you found a little sun. I think LB Dowitcher is a good guess – do you have Sibley? The hard thing I guess is that the bills of the LB and SB Dowitchers aren’t always that different, but I think someone once told me the LB Dowitcher’s bill tends to look a little down-turned, which the second photo seems to show. Beautiful moon & pink clouds! (FYI, I got here after seeing a comment of yours on Northern Narratives).

    February 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    • Thank you, I’m still working on the ID.

      February 18, 2013 at 10:08 pm

  9. Great post and photos, gorgeous sunset and moonrise!

    February 20, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    • Thanks, it was a great stroke of luck to get a sunset like that during an evening when the moon rose just before sunset.

      February 21, 2013 at 2:13 am