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

Archive for May, 2013

Eastern Meadowlark, Sturnella magna

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.

Eastern Meadowlark, Sturnella magna

The Eastern Meadowlark is a medium-sized icterid bird, very similar in appearance to the Western Meadowlark. It occurs from eastern North America to South America, where it is also most widespread in the east.

Their breeding habitat is grasslands and prairie, also pastures and hay fields. This species is a permanent resident throughout much of its range, though most northern birds migrate southwards in winter.

These birds forage on the ground or in low vegetation, sometimes probing with its bill. They mainly eat arthropods, but also seeds and berries. In winter, they often feed in flocks.

Nesting occurs throughout the summer months. The nest is also on the ground, covered with a roof woven from grasses. There may be more than one nesting female in a male’s territory.

The numbers of this species increased as forests were cleared in eastern North America. This species is ideally suited to farmland areas, especially where tall grasses are allowed to grow. Their numbers are now shrinking with a decline in suitable habitat.

On to my photos:

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark in flight

Eastern Meadowlark in flight

 Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

This is number 100 in my photo life list, only 250 to go!

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

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Memorial Day weekend, Sunday morning

You know that you had a great weekend when not only does each day deserve a post of its own, but I have to split the day in half to prevent the posts from becoming way too long!

I should say a little more about the location and the area I was at. The Ossineke State Forest Campground is on the southern shore of Thunder Bay, one of many bays of Lake Huron. Alpena, Michigan is located on the west end of the bay. Here’s a link to more information on everything there is to see and do in the area.

http://www.us23heritageroute.org/alpena.asp?ait=cv&cid=4

The bay was, and maybe still is, used by ships to escape storms when they rage on Lake Huron. Many a ship met its demise trying to make the safety of Thunder Bay, the entrance to the bay is littered with shipwrecks, some in quite shallow water, some, hundreds of feet down in Lake Huron proper. The shipwrecks are now protected in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and the area has become a destination for scuba divers. In addition, there is a specially built tour boat that is based in Alpena that takes people on a tour of some of the more visible wrecks.

I didn’t inquire about the cost of the tour, as I had too much on my plate for the weekend already, but someday, I would like to take the tour. A quick check of their website tells me that the tours are $30, not bad, I will have to take the tour one of these days.

Anyway, there are several smaller bays within Thunder Bay, one is called Misery Bay, so named because of the number of ships that wrecked while trying to seek shelter from storms, and the sailors who lost their live’s as a result of the wrecks. The other is named Isaacson’s Bay, which was my first stop of the day after shooting warblers in the campground first thing in the morning, which I will get to shortly.

Isaacson’s Bay is one of several known for the number of shorebirds it attracts, and is located on the northern shore of Thunder Bay. It is just to the right of the La Farge Quarry and cement plant that can be seen in this photo.

The cement plant across Thunder Bay

The cement plant across Thunder Bay

In fact, the road to Isaacson’s Bay takes you through the cement plant. More on that later.

I had slept like a rock despite turning in so early, and I found an added benefit to having lost so much weight. The memory foam pad that I have to sleep on while camping supports my new lighter weight much better than it did before.

I woke up before sunrise, I have proof!

Sunrise over Lake Huron

Sunrise over Lake Huron

I was already drinking coffee by then, just waiting for the sun to show up, and take some of the chill off from the morning, it did. It also brought a steady parade of birds through the campground, so I stood there drinking my coffee and shooting warblers as they posed for me.

Black-throated green warbler

Black-throated green warbler

Red-eyed vireo

Red-eyed vireo

Pine warbler

Pine warbler

Wilson's warbler

Wilson’s warbler

OK, so the red-eyed vireo isn’t technically a warbler, and you can’t really see how it got its name from that photo, I’ll remedy that in a later post. 😉

By the time I had finished my three cups of coffee and a breakfast that consisted of a couple of blueberry turnovers, other people began moving around in the campground, and the birds departed for quieter surroundings. I did the same, heading to Isaacson’s Bay. On the way there, I spotted a tern, which I would have loved to have photographed, but there was some jerk right on my tail, and I didn’t want to be involved in a wreck over a bird by braking suddenly to pull over.

The only other time I have been to Isaacson’s Bay was several years ago, when the Great Lakes water levels were much higher. With the lower water levels, I wasn’t prepared for what I found, as far as footwear.

Mudflats at Isaacson's Bay

Mudflats at Isaacson’s Bay

Most of what you see in that photo was covered by water before, and I could have easily walked the edges looking for shorebirds. I learned a lesson from this guy, who I chatted with for a while as he searched for the shorebirds the correct way.

Looking for shorebirds at Isaacson's Bay

Looking for shorebirds at Isaacson’s Bay

He had knee-high boots and a high-powered spotting scope so that he could really see all the birds there. He spotted about a dozen species on this day, I got three. Most of the birds were well out of range of even the Sigma lens, and my boots weren’t high enough for me to wade the standing water to get closer to them.

He and I chatted for some time, and he was kind enough to give me a number of tips on where to find birds, directions to those places, and the best times to go looking. Here’s my three species of shorebirds for the day.

Killdeer

Killdeer

Semipalmated plover

Semipalmated plover

Semipalmated sandpiper

Semipalmated sandpiper

Semipalmated plover

Semipalmated plover

Shorebirds sure do look similar to each other! The killdeer are easy, they’re always calling out. The sandpipers and plovers almost fooled me on two counts. The semipalmated plovers look so much like the killdeer, that I wasn’t completely sure that they weren’t killdeer, but their soft calls and orange beaks told me to shoot them. The sandpipers and plovers were in a mixed flock of a few of each, I assumed that they were males and females of the same species, until I got home and looked closely at them, then I discovered that there were two distinct species.

The trip may not have yielded as many shorebirds as I should have gotten, but it wasn’t a total waste. While walking the parts of the mudflats that I could, and along the road and marsh on the other side of the road, I came up with these shots.

Blue wildflower

Blue wildflower

Great egret

Great egret

Sandhill crane checking me out

Sandhill crane checking me out

Sandhill crane doing a flyby for me

Sandhill crane doing a flyby for me

Sandhill crane doing a flyby for me

Sandhill crane doing a flyby for me

Savannah sparrow

Savannah sparrow

Male northern harrier

Male northern harrier

Male northern harrier

Male northern harrier

Common grackle

Common grackle

IMG_4210

Strange red? wildflowers

Strange red? wildflowers

I chased many other species of birds, but never got photos of them. This little excursion did lay the ground work for some decisions that I made later in the day. I had walked the mudflats to the extent that I could, but I was seeing many species of songbirds right along the strip of higher ground right along the road, between the marsh to the north side, and the mudflats on the south side. I also flushed a flock of shorebirds that had been feeding in the marsh on the north side of the road as well.

Had I brought my knee-high boots, or even better, my waders, I would have spent more time there looking for shorebirds, maybe too much time. I had two lighthouses to photograph, and Thompson’s Harbor State Park to hit yet this day.

After photographing the new Presque Isle Lighthouse, I started walking one of the nature trails in the park that the light is in, but I wasn’t seeing anything other than insects. Not mosquitoes, but swarms of bugs so thick that they were really bothersome, especially since they were getting in my eyes, ears, nose, and if I had been silly enough to open my mouth, I would have gotten a snack of the unwanted kind. So, I cut my walk short, and headed over to Thompson’s Harbor, and spent most of the rest of the day there. That’s where I will pick up the next post.

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


Memorial Day weekend, Saturday, the arrival

I got an early (for me after working 2nd shift) start, and hit the road before 10 AM. After a stop to photograph the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse, I arrived at the campground that I had chosen for the weekend, Ossineke State Forest Campground.

That reminds me, at the lighthouse, I shot this male American Redstart.

Male American Redstart

Male American Redstart

I was a little surprised to see so many campsites available at the campground, since it was a holiday weekend. But, since many of the individual campsites were little more than small peninsulas of raised land projecting into either marshes or a cedar swamp, I can see why many people would reject this campground, something tells me that the mosquitoes could be unbearable for much of the summer. I’m sure that the heavy rains we’ve had this spring has made the campground to appear worse than it is in a normal year, but still, if I were to camp there in the summer, I would be sure to bring plenty of insect repellent, and be prepared to shower in it several times a day.

I found a high and dry site right on Lake Huron in the north unit, and promptly set up camp. I was a little leery of my site, it was number 13, and next to the grave of one A. J. Michalowsky, as you can see from this sign.

Grave marker

Grave marker

By the way, the B&W was an oops, as the bright sunlight made reading the LCD display of my camera difficult as I was switching settings.

Side note, I really could use a second camera body, I would have been switching lenses every few minutes this entire weekend to photograph everything to my best abilities. But, no matter where I went, or what I did, there were always birds around, as you will soon see. As it was, I left the Sigma 150-500 mm on the camera more than I should have, but if I had switched lenses every time I thought about it, that’s about all I would have accomplished this weekend.

Since I was in the B&W mode, I’ll throw in a couple of other shots that actually work in B&W.

Great egret in flight

Great egret in flight

Dunlin

Dunlin

The flowers that I had switched lenses for that got me to the B&W setting look blah without color, so they were deleted.

As I said, my campsite was right on the beach, so after getting camp set up, I strolled the beach looking for whatever I could find to photograph.

Lake Huron shoreline

Lake Huron shoreline

IMG_3932

Red-breasted mergansers taking a break

Red-breasted mergansers taking a break

The cement plant across Thunder Bay

The cement plant across Thunder Bay

Lake Huron shoreline

Lake Huron shoreline

Lake Huron shoreline

Lake Huron shoreline

Beach flowers

Beach flowers

Great egret landing

Great egret landing

There’s a mile of beach there at the campground, so that means I walked two miles out and back, and it was time for a break. As I was sitting there relaxing, I noticed a trick of the late afternoon sun in the needles of some pines.

Pine needles in the sun

Pine needles in the sun

Then, it was back to the beach a second time.

Dunlin and reflection

Dunlin and reflection

Dunlin

Dunlin

Lake Huron shoreline

Lake Huron shoreline

Lake Huron shoreline

Lake Huron shoreline

Beach plant

Beach plant

Shorebirds in flight

Shorebirds in flight

Shorebirds in flight

Shorebirds in flight

Shorebirds in flight

Shorebirds in flight

Shorebirds in flight

Shorebirds in flight

Lake Huron shoreline

Lake Huron shoreline

Lake Huron shoreline

Lake Huron shoreline

Great egret in flight

Great egret in flight

IMG_4068

Lake Huron shoreline

Lake Huron shoreline

Lake Huron shoreline

Lake Huron shoreline

Lake freighter at night

Lake freighter at night

Glowing Japanese lantern

Glowing Japanese lantern

I waited (and froze) until 10:30 PM for the moon to rise, as I really wanted to photograph the full moon rising above the lake, but I guess I picked a bad spot where it wasn’t in my line of sight. So, as cold as it was, and little else to do, I turned in for the night so I could get an early start on Sunday.

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


Memorial Day weekend, the Lake Huron lighthouses

These are the photos I took of three Lake Huron Lighthouses over the Memorial Day weekend, 2013. I shot so many, and varied photos this weekend that I have to break them up into several posts. The lighthouses are the easiest ones to post quickly, so I’m starting with those.

I’ll have several more posts about this weekend, one of the flowers I saw, one on each of the two state parks I visited, and birds galore! I’m still working on Identifying many of the species of birds that I photographed, that may take me some time, as many are warblers or shorebirds, both of which can be very hard to ID.

Anyway, I’ll do the lighthouses here, and I’ll post a link to more information and detailed directions for any one interested, starting with the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse.

Sturgeon Point Lighthouse

Located just off US 23, just a few miles north of Harisville, Michigan.

The Sturgeon Point Light Station is a lighthouse on Lake Huron in Alcona County. Established to ward mariners off a reef that extends 1.5 miles (2.4 km) lakeward from Sturgeon Point, it is today regarded as a historic example of a Cape Cod style Great Lakes lighthouse.

History: In 1854, Perley Silverthorn established a fishing station and cooperage at this site. The dangerous reef that extends 1½ miles east from Sturgeon Point presented a serious hazard to ships so one of the earliest lighthouses in Michigan was built in 1869 and placed in operation in 1870. Mr. Silverthorn, the first Keeper, served from 1870 until 1874. In 1939 the lighthouse was electrified and automated and in 1941 the last personnel departed. The lighthouse fell into disrepair due to neglect and vandalism. In 1982 the Alcona Historical Society, under the leadership of Floyd Benghauser, leased the Keeper’s house and Lighthouse and restored it to its 1890s grandeur, using mostly volunteer labor. The light with its 3.5 order Fresnel lens, no longer used by the Coast Guard, is kept operational by the Alcona Historical Society for boaters.

Sturgeon Point Lighthouse

Sturgeon Point Lighthouse

Sturgeon Point Lighthouse

Sturgeon Point Lighthouse

Sturgeon Point Lighthouse

Sturgeon Point Lighthouse

Sturgeon Point Lighthouse

Sturgeon Point Lighthouse

Old lifeboat at the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse

Old lifeboat at the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse

Sturgeon Point Lighthouse

Sturgeon Point Lighthouse

For more info…

http://www.us23heritageroute.org/alcona.asp?ait=av&aid=6

The Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Located just off from US 23, roughly 15 miles north of Alpena, Michigan.

The Old Presque Isle Lighthouse is one of the oldest surviving lighthouses on the Great Lakes. Built in 1840 by Jeremiah Moors of Detroit, the harbor light operated until 1871 when the keeper transferred to a new, taller, coastal lighthouse a mile to the north. The Old Presque Isle Lighthouse park is a complex composed of two main structures, a keepers dwelling and a light tower. The stone and brick tower measures thirty feet tall and eighteen feet in diameter. Visitors can climb the hand-hewn stone steps for a panoramic view of the Lake Huron shoreline and Presque Isle Harbor. Nearby is the one-story side-gabled brick keeper’s dwelling which serves as a hands-on museum. Here, visitors can blow foghorns and examine other interesting artifacts. They can also ring the bell from the Lansing City Hall clock tower. Tipping the scales at an impressive 3,425 pounds, this bronze behemoth is much bigger than the Liberty Bell, which weighed 2,080 pounds when cast. Visitors may also pose for the perfect photo opportunity with head and hands in an old set of punishment stocks.

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Scenery at the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Scenery at the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Scenery at the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Scenery at the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Scenery at the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Scenery at the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

IMG_4231

Light keeper’s quarters at the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Scenery at the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Scenery at the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Scenery at the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Scenery at the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse light

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse light

Lake freighter passing by the light

Lake freighter passing by the light

A link to more info…

http://www.us23heritageroute.org/presque_isle.asp?ait=av&aid=326

The new Presque Isle Lighthouse

Presque Isle Light Station is a complex of three historic buildings including a lighthouse tower and two keeper’s residences. Located on the Lake Huron shoreline near Presque Isle Harbor, the “New Presque Isle Light” is the tallest lighthouse tower accessible by the public on the Great Lakes. Built in 1870, it replaced the 1840 harbor light. The light station complex is part of a 99-acre township park that includes a playground, picnic area, pavilion and nature trails. A gift shop is located in the original keeper’s quarters connected to the tower. Visitors, for a nominal fee, may climb the 130 steps to the top of the tower for a spectacular view. An unattached 1905 keeper’s dwelling has been painstakingly restored. It is now a museum that provides visitors with an opportunity to learn about local history, as well as how keepers and their families lived.

The new Presque Isle Lighthouse

The new Presque Isle Lighthouse

The new Presque Isle Lighthouse

The new Presque Isle Lighthouse

Lightkeeper's quarters at The new Presque Isle Lighthouse

Lightkeeper’s quarters at The new Presque Isle Lighthouse

The new Presque Isle Lighthouse

The new Presque Isle Lighthouse

The new Presque Isle Lighthouse

The new Presque Isle Lighthouse

The new Presque Isle Lighthouse

The new Presque Isle Lighthouse

Lifeboat

Lifeboat

Canon

Cannon

Lake Huron at the new Presque Isle Lighthouse

Lake Huron at the new Presque Isle Lighthouse

A link to more info…

http://www.us23heritageroute.org/presque_isle.asp?ait=av&aid=20

Well, that’s about it for this one. I had photographed the lights before, using my old Nikon and the lens I had for it, but wasn’t completely happy with the results. This time, I used my Canon and my 15-85 mm lens, and I’m still not completely happy with my photos. I tried to compensate for the distortion that I knew I was going to get with the wider angle lens, but the buildings still look somewhat askew. Sorry, I am not going to buy a tilt-shift lens just to photograph a few lighthouses. 😉

Thanks for stopping by!


Palm Warbler, Setophaga palmarum

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.

Palm Warbler, Setophaga palmarum

The Palm Warbler is a small songbird of the New World warbler family.

Palm Warblers breed in open coniferous bogs and edge east of the Continental Divide, across Canada and the northeastern United States. Their nests take the form of an open cup, usually situated on or near the ground in an open area.

These birds migrate to the southeastern United States, the Yucatán Peninsula, islands of the Caribbean, and eastern Nicaragua south to Panama to winter. They are one of the earlier migrants to return to their breeding grounds in the spring, often completing their migration almost two months before most other warblers.

Palm Warblers forage on the ground much more than other warblers, sometimes flying to catch insects. These birds mainly eat insects and berries. Their constant tail bobbing is an identifying characteristic.

The song of this bird is a monotonous buzzy, trill. The call is a sharp chek.

On to my photos:

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

This is number 99 in my photo life list, only 251 to go!

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

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Brown Thrasher, Toxostoma rufum

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.

Brown Thrasher, Toxostoma rufum

Often heard, seldom seen, many people never realize that the constant singing coming from a dense thicket is just one bird. Brown Thrashers are noted for their mimicry (as a member of the family Mimidae), but they are not as diverse in this category as their relative the Northern Mockingbird. However, during the breeding season, the mimicking ability of the male is at its best display, impersonating sounds from Tufted titmice, Northern Cardinals, Wood thrushes, Northern flickers, among other species.

The Brown Thrasher is a bird in the family Mimidae, which also includes the New World catbirds and mockingbirds. The dispersal of the Brown Thrasher is abundant throughout the eastern and central United States, southern and central Canada, and is the only thrasher to live primarily east of the Rockies and central Texas. It is the state bird of Georgia.

As a member of the genus Toxostoma, the bird is a large-sized thrasher. It has brown upper parts with a white under part with dark streaks. Because of this, it is often confused with the smaller Wood Thrush, among other species. The Brown Thrasher is noted for having over 1000 song types, and the largest song repertoire of birds. However, each note is usually repeated in two or three phrases.

The Brown Thrasher is an omnivore, with its diet ranging from insects to fruits and nuts. The usual nesting areas are shrubs, small trees, or at times on ground level. Brown Thrashers are generally inconspicuous but territorial birds, especially when defending their nests, and will attack species as large as humans.

The Brown Thrasher resides in various habitats. It prefers to live in woodland edges, thickets and dense brush, often searching for food in dry leaves on the ground. It can also inhabit areas that are agricultural and near suburban areas, but is less likely to live near housing than other bird species. The Brown Thrasher often vies for habitat and potential nesting grounds with other birds, which is usually initiated by the males.

The Brown Thrasher has been observed either solo or in pairs. The Brown Thrasher is usually an elusive bird, and maintains its evasiveness with low-level flying. When it feels bothered, it usually hides into thickets and gives cackling calls. Thrashers spend most of their time on ground level or near it. When seen, it is commonly the males that are singing from unadorned branches. The Brown Thrasher has been noted for having an aggressive behavior, and is a staunch defender of its nest. However, the name does not come from attacking perceived threats, but is believed to have come from the thrashing sound the bird makes when digging through ground debris. It is also thought that the name comes from the thrashing sound that is made while it is smashing large insects to kill and eventually eat.

This bird is omnivorous, which has a diet that includes insects, berries, nuts and seeds, as well as earthworms, snails, and sometimes lizards and frogs. During the breeding season, the diet consists primarily of beetles, grasshoppers, and other arthropods, and fruits, nuts and seeds. By the late summer, it begins to shift towards more of a herbivore diet, focusing on fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains. By winter, the customary diet of the Brown Thrasher is fruit and acorns. It has also been noted for its flexibility in catching quick insects, as the amount of vertebrae in its neck exceeds giraffes and camels.

The male Brown Thrasher has the largest song repertoire of any North American bird, which has been documented at least over 1,100. Some sources state that it has up to 3,000 song chants, while others stated beyond 3,000. The males’ singing voice usually contains more of a melodic tone than that of the related Grey catbird. Its song are coherent phrases that are iterated no more than three times, but has been done for minutes at a time. By the fall, the male sings with smoother sub-songs.

On to my photos:

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrashers

Brown Thrashers

Brown Thrashers

Brown Thrashers

Brown Thrashers

Brown Thrashers

Brown Thrashers

Brown Thrashers

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown thrasher

Brown thrasher

This is number 98 in my photo life list, only 252 to go!

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

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My week, the short version

Monday

It’s still hot and humid, I don’t like days that start out like this. But, there’s little I can do about it. I have many things to do this week in preparation for my trip this coming weekend, so my daily entries will probably be on the short side. To make matters worse, I added to my work load at home in ways that would bore you, so I won’t list them, but they will limit my time for blogging this week.

After my post from Muskegon yesterday, I was feeling quite proud of my “haul” as far as new species was concerned. Then, I get home, check the Muskegon County Nature Club’s website, and see all the species that I missed. They did a “Big Day” species count on Friday, and came up with 125 species on that day alone.

Oh well, no need to get greedy, I did OK, and if I continue to post two species per week as I have been doing, I have enough queued up to last three months as it stands right now. I’m sure that I am now well over one-third of the way through my list, I may get half way through it by the end of the year with any luck at all.

So with that said, it’s time to face the muggy weather and get my walk in for the day.

It seems that I forgot three from yesterday that I meant to post, so here they are.

Ferns unfurling

Ferns unfurling

Ferns unfurling

Ferns unfurling

Pillsbury doughboy fungus

Pillsbury doughboy fungus

OK, for today, it’s hard not to whine about the heat and humidity, but I’ll try, at least there was a breeze at times today. I’m convinced that birds dislike the heat almost as much as I do, or close to it. It was much quieter today, part of that may be due to the season, and that most of the males have found mates, but I don’t think so. Males will mate anytime that they find a willing female. 😉

I shot a couple of flower photos, they’re OK, but I can do better, so I’m not posting them today. I did find a blue jay that posed for me.

Blue jay

Blue jay

Blue jay

Blue jay

Blue jay

Blue jay

Blue jay

Blue jay

I ignored all the male Baltimore orioles today, and concentrated on the females. The females of most species are harder to find and photograph for many reasons. One, they tend to be more drab in color than the males. They tend to stay hidden more, as there’s no need for them to perch out in the open and sing the way that males do, and I for one often find birds by following their song. And finally, it’s typically the females that sit on the nest to incubate the eggs, so there’s a period of time when they are completely inactive, and out of sight. So here’s the female oriole from today.

Female Baltimore oriole

Female Baltimore oriole

Female Baltimore oriole

Female Baltimore oriole

Female Baltimore oriole

Female Baltimore oriole

I tried the Sigma out as a macro lens again, for this dragonfly.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Not bad.

From my bad shots too good to delete series, here’s a male rose breasted grosbeak.

male rose breasted grosbeak

male rose breasted grosbeak

A robin, since I haven’t posted one in a while.

American robin

American robin

And finally, nightmares to those who cherish a perfect lawn.

Dandelion crop ready to spread

Dandelion crop ready to spread

That’s it for today, Mondays are the day that I visit my mom in the nursing home, on top of everything else I have to do this week.

Tuesday

Still hot and humid. We had a very strong thunderstorm move through the area yesterday afternoon, 3/4 of an inch of rain in ten minutes, a few limbs blown down, and some urban street flooding. After visiting my mom, I had to take a circuitous route from the nursing home to work to avoid large areas of standing water with flooded cars stuck in them.

More storms moved through the area overnight, adding to the humidity, but I slept through them nicely, as they did provide a temporary cool down.

The good news is that the weekend is looking great for my trip up north, there may even be a light frost Saturday morning to hold the bugs down. Typing that reminded me, I had better check the weather forecast for the region I am visiting so that I know what to take with me. Looks like sleeping bag weather at night, light jacket during the day, with sunshine, just about perfect!

So much to say today, and so little time to say it, so I guess I’d better get down with the get down.

Clouds and a breeze helped to make my walk today more pleasant than I expected as far as weather, but then people had to go and get on my nerves. I was going to do a rant about the people who I swear go out of their way to interfere with my attempts at photography, but I don’t have time for that now. Besides, some one else got on my nerves even more.

A pleasant enough, well-meaning woman stuck up a conversation with me while I was taking a break, which was OK at first. But, soon she was pumping me for information about my personal life, then telling me that I’m living my life all wrong, and offering her opinions as to how I should live. What is it about human beings that most of them think that every one should live exactly as they do? And why do they think that it’s OK for them to tell a complete stranger how to live his life?

I know that I’m weird, well outside the mainstream, but hey, I like it here, it suits me just fine. I don’t go around telling any one else that they should live like I do, because I know that 999,999 out of a million would hate the way that I live. I prefer not to be a sheeple that follows the crowd and every fad that comes along to begin with. And, I’m of the firm belief that most people would be much happier if they stopped trying to follow the crowd, and followed what is in their heart instead.

You know, I might just be considered an old curmudgeon, however, I’ve been this way my entire life more or less, my attempts to fit into the stereotypical human world have never gone well. I’ve tried to make a deal with the world, you can all live your life as you want, please leave me alone to live as I would like to.

OK, so I did take a few photos, nothing special, mostly flowers and a few birds. So here they are all at once!

Wild phlox?

Wild phlox?

Flowering bush

Flowering bush

Turkey

Turkey

Honeysuckle and lilacs

Honeysuckle and lilacs

???

???

Wild geraniums??

Wild geraniums??

Wild phlox?

Wild phlox?

Pine flower

Pine flower

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole in flight

Male Baltimore oriole in flight

Male Baltimore oriole in flight

Male Baltimore oriole in flight

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Female eastern bluebird

Female eastern bluebird

Male eastern bluebird

Male eastern bluebird

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Well, that’s it for the day, as the lecture on how I should live my life that I received while walking has put me behind schedule. In fact, the weather forecast is for rain and storms tomorrow morning, if that holds true, I think that I will take a rare break for a day to complete the many tasks I have left to do this week.

Wednesday

I am going to wimp out today, I can’t remember the last time that I didn’t go for a walk, probably last fall while I was moving. There’s been rain off and on this morning, so it has cooled off a little, but it’s very muggy and uncomfortable. The radar shows a solid mass of rain heading my way that will arrive while I’m out, so I am going to use that as an excuse to stay home at least for now, and do some things that I have to get done. If things go better than expected, I may get in a shorter walk later, we’ll see.

Well, things went better than expected, and I got a shorter version of my daily walk in today, in a light rain. With the rain, I took very few photos, I may as well post the three that I saved now and get it over with.

Wild geranium?

Wild geranium?

Grey catbird singing in the rain

Grey catbird singing in the rain

Grey catbird singing in the rain

Grey catbird singing in the rain

You may be able to tell from the leaves in the first shot of the catbird that it was also a windy day.

I took the 70-200 L series with me since it was raining, and that reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to say about it. In a recent post, I said that the auto-focus of that lens had started performing much better, and that I had no idea why. I’m not sure if this would have anything to do with it, but when I was going through the camera manual and settings, the auto-focus for the camera was set to operate in quick focus mode with the LCD display closed, and live view with the display open. Since I never open the display or use the live view mode, I changed the setting to the quick focus mode only, and that’s about the same time that the L series lens perked up so much. In theory, I can’t see how that would make a difference, but that’s the only explanation that I can come up with as a reason for the improved performance of that lens. I guess that it pays to check every setting that there is to set.

Overall, it was a very good day, because of the rain. I had the trail and park to myself, no one to lecture me on my misguided ways, and lots of birds and flowers, even if few photos were taken.

There was a red-winged blackbird perched on a fence post very close to me, I stood there for a few seconds to see if he was going to fly away, he didn’t. That is, until I pulled the camera out from under my rain jacket, then he took off, and kept on going as if he were going to travel quite a way. As soon as I slipped the camera back under my rain jacket, the blackbird turned around, and not only flew all the way back, but dive bombed me as well, then went off into the distance. I guess that he really doesn’t like the idea of having his picture taken!

That’s it for today.

Thursday

Much cooler, with moderate rain falling as I’m drinking my coffee this morning. It looks as though the rain will let up at least a little a bit later on, so I’ll do some packing before heading out for my walk today.

The weather forecast for this weekend is looking perfect! Cool and sunny! There’s also a full moon this weekend, so don’t be surprised if I come back with a few photos of the moon rising over Lake Huron in the evening, maybe even a sunrise over the lake as well.

After all the money I have spent on camera equipment this past month, I really shouldn’t be spending the money on a trip like this, but my sanity requires it. After staying home all last summer trying to save for a condo, I’ve got a bad case of cabin fever that needs to be cured.

As for today, it rained the entire time I was out there, so only three photos. I would have shot a few more, but the wind played havoc with my other attempts. I stood in one spot for ten minutes waiting for a break in the wind to get a photo that I really wanted, it never happened. So here’s what I did come up with.

Hobblebush?

Hobblebush?

Dandelion

Dandelion

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Despite the rain and wind, I enjoyed my walk today a great deal, as because of the wind and rain, there was no one else around, just me, the birds, flowers, and a few other critters as well.

Friday

An absolutely beautiful late spring day! It’s a shame that I still have so much to do in preparation for my trip this weekend, as I will have to be quick about completing my walk, when I know that I would love to spend the entire day outside. The good news is that the entire weekend is going to be much the same!

After the week that I’ve had, both at home and at work, I think that my trip will involve a lot less driving and taking in the tourist sites, and a lot more time spent wandering the Lake Huron shoreline. But, I’ll play it by ear, one of the great things about doing these things alone is that I get to do what I feel like when I feel like it. Since I have two weeks of vacation time this year, there’s no need for me to fight the crowds of a holiday weekend at the more popular places, I can do that on the weekdays during my vacation(s). Also, I’d rather not waste this weekend driving the entire time.

Since I’ve changed my mind about my plans, I’m going to take my tent, and set-up a camp near Alpena, Michigan. I’ll add a few more lighthouses to my collection, and visit both Thompson’s Harbor and Negwegon State Parks, which are two of Michigan’s least developed state parks. I think that it will more than fill my weekend, and still leave me wanting more, in fact, I’m sure of that. So, I’d better get off my butt and get going today, so that I can get an early start tomorrow.

Well, I started out trying to photograph everything that caught my eye, but then I reminded myself that I didn’t have time for that. I will throw in a couple from early on.

Wild phlox

Wild phlox

Flowing water

Flowing water

Dandelions

Dandelions

Despite the fact that there were many people in the park today, the birds were out, and every one left me to myself. I resisted the urge to shoot more photos of the same species that I have been getting. But, I spotted this bird, and had to get a photo. I’ve seen it, or others of the same species, in the same small area of the park for the last week, but never got a photo until today.

Unidentified flitting object

Unidentified flitting object

Unidentified flitting object

Unidentified flitting object

Unidentified flitting object

Unidentified flitting object

I would have thought that a plain brown bird the size of a small sparrow would be easy to ID, but a quick check online has me stumped for now. I checked the sparrows and finches on All About Birds, but I couldn’t find a match. I didn’t have a lot of time to spend looking though, it could be a female of a species, but I was looking for photos of a bird with a plain brown face and black bill, and maybe the males have color streaks on their faces. I’ll save the photos and work on the ID next week when I have time.

My other shots were taken while taking a break, a couple of a barn swallow in flight.

Barn swallow in flight

Barn swallow in flight

Barn swallow in flight

Barn swallow in flight

That’s it for today, and for the week. I have a couple of loads of laundry to do, plus pack some of the stuff in my Forester today, to get an early start tomorrow. See you all when I get back, thanks for stopping by!


Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus varius

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.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus varius

The yellow-bellied sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker found in North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

The breeding habitat of the yellow-bellied sapsucker is forested areas across Canada, eastern Alaska and the northeastern United States. They prefer young, mainly deciduous forests.

Like other sapsuckers, these birds drill holes in trees and eat the sap and insects drawn to it. Many other species of birds will make use of the holes drilled by the sapsuckers to feed on the sap and/or insects as well.  Sapsuckers may also pick insects from tree trunks or catch them in flight. They also eat fruit and berries.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers nest in a large cavity excavated in a deciduous tree, often choosing one weakened by disease; the same site may be used for several years. Both the male and the female work in making the nest, where five or seven white eggs are well concealed. Both birds share in hatching.

They will mate with the same partner from year to year, as long as both birds survive. They sometimes hybridise with red-naped sapsuckers or red-breasted sapsuckers where their breeding ranges overlap.

These birds migrate to the southeastern United States, West Indies and Central America, leaving their summer range.

On to my photos:

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Male yellow-bellied sapsucker

Male yellow-bellied sapsucker

Male yellow-bellied sapsucker

Male yellow-bellied sapsucker

Male yellow-bellied sapsucker

Male yellow-bellied sapsucker

Male yellow-bellied sapsucker

Male yellow-bellied sapsucker

This is number 97 in my photo life list, only 253 to go!

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

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Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura

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.

Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura

The Turkey Vulture , also known in some North American regions as the turkey buzzard (or just buzzard), is the most widespread of the New World vultures. One of three species in the genus Cathartes, in the family Cathartidae, the Turkey Vulture ranges from southern Canada to the southernmost tip of South America. It inhabits a variety of open and semi-open areas, including subtropical forests, shrubland, pastures, and deserts.

It, like all New World vultures, is not related to the Old World vultures of Europe, Africa, and Asia. It looks nearly identical because of convergent evolution, where natural selection similarly shapes unrelated animals adapting to the same conditions.

The Turkey Vulture is a scavenger and feeds almost exclusively on carrion. It finds its food using its keen eyes and sense of smell, flying low enough to detect the gases produced by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals. In flight, it uses thermals to move through the air, flapping its wings infrequently. It roosts in large community groups. Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses. It nests in caves, hollow trees, or thickets. Each year it generally raises two chicks, which it feeds by regurgitation. It has very few natural predators.

On to my photos:

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vultures

Turkey vultures

Turkey vultures

Turkey vultures

Turkey vultures

Turkey vultures

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

This is number 96 in my photo life list, only 254 to go!

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

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Blood, sweat, and birds

On Sunday, May 19th, I made another birding trip to the Muskegon area. The weather was hot, humid, and hazy, exactly what you would expect in the middle of July. Hard to believe that exactly one week ago, I delayed my hike for a short time as I waited for a sleet squall to pass. The high temperature today was 86 degrees (30 C), that’s why I put sweat in the title of this post.

The blood, well, that’s the blood that I donated to the droves of thirsty mosquitoes that have hatched after the record flooding last month. I thought that I was prepared, I bought a bottle of something that was labeled insect repellent while grocery shopping last night. I didn’t have my glasses with me, there must not be any DEET in the stuff that I bought, as it didn’t repel insects, I think that it helped to attract them.

I started at the Muskegon County wastewater plant, hoping to find some wading birds. I wasn’t disappointed.

Ruddy turnstone

Ruddy turnstone

Dunlin and an unidentified wading object

Dunlin and an unidentified wading object

Dunlins

Dunlins

Dunlin

Dunlin

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

I’ll tell you, identifying sandpipers is harder than warblers!

There were several smaller wading birds around as well, but because of the amount and nature of the trash in every one of the photos I took of them, I deleted them all.

As far as other birds, most of them you’ve seen before, so I’ll just throw in a few of them from today.

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

Horned grebe

Horned grebe

Mother and daughter chat

Mother and daughter chat

Lesser scaup

Lesser scaup

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

American Coot

Savannah sparrow

Savannah sparrow

Ruddy duck

Ruddy duck

Male redhead duck

Male redhead duck

Male redhead duck

Male redhead duck

Male redhead duck

Male redhead duck

IMG_3682

Common Grackle

Common Grackle

Tree swallow

Tree swallow

Besides the birds, I also found time to photograph lilacs and lupine.

Lilac

Lilac

Lupine

Lupine

Lupine

Lupine

I realized about then that I had done things backwards, I should have gone hiking first, and hit the wastewater facility on my way home. I wasn’t looking forward to hiking in the heat of the day, I had been hoping for a lake breeze from Lake Michigan to cool things down, but it hadn’t come up when I started my hike. I soldiered on though, hiking back to Lost Lake, through the swarms of mosquitoes waiting for me in the hemlock swamp that the trail passes through.

I went to Lost Lake hoping for wildflowers, but the only one that I found was this one lone gaywing.

Gaywing

Gaywing

It’s a week or two too early for any of the other flowers that grow there, I found the plants and even a few buds, but no flowers.

I sat down on a bench overlooking the lake, and watched a pair of goldfinches having a spat over nesting material for some reason.

American goldfinches

American goldfinches

They were in the trees on the island in Lost Lake as was this guy.

Common yellowthroat

Common yellowthroat

The bench I was sitting on was exposed to the sun, so it was like an oven there, but at least I wasn’t losing any more blood. The heat was too much though, so I headed off through the woods to the other end of the lake to the observation deck that the DNR built overlooking the lake.

Lost Lake from the observation deck

Lost Lake from the observation deck

I sat there for some time, eventually the lake breeze did come up to cool things down even more. As soon as that happened, the place exploded with birds, small…

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

…and large.

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

There were also redstarts and several other warbler size birds that I never did get a good shot of. Here’s another shot (barely) of one of the gnatcatchers as it ran up a branch trying to escape my camera.

Blue-grey gnatcatcher on the run

Blue-grey gnatcatcher on the run

It was very pleasant there on the deck in the woods, so I sat there even longer, watching and listening to the birds.

I did want to check the eagle’s nest though, so I made my way back the way that I had come, then headed for the nest. I didn’t see the female on the nest, that wasn’t surprising, their nest is very large now. I found a convenient log in the shade to sit on, and waited to see if she would move, or if her mate would appear, but I started losing too much blood again to suit me. I’ll have many opportunities to photograph eagles again, so I didn’t see much point in waiting around any longer. I was tired, hungry, and out of water, so it seemed a good time to head for home.

Oh, I almost forgot, on my way back from Lost Lake, I spotted this young red-tailed hawk that obliged me by posing for a few photos.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

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