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

My week, my how things changed!

Monday

I was up and out the door relatively early today, and it was refreshingly cool to start. I got to the corner of the apartment complex, turned to scan the woods there, only to see that my view is now blocked. There are leaves on the trees now! Since I didn’t walk around here this weekend, that came as a shock to me, those leaves weren’t there last Friday.

A short way down the road, I spotted this red-tailed hawk perched and trying to scan the woods as well.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Not great, but it was nice to see one fairly close up for a change. The hawk was being harassed by a robin, sorry, no photos of that.

I took only the Sigma 150-500 mm with me today, and of course I spotted some flowers that deserve better than this photo.

Red flowering bush

Red flowering bush

My ex and I had several of these planted around our property, I loved them, but they don’t seem to get much respect, I wonder why? I don’t even remember their name, as they were in the junk plant section of the store when I bought ours, so I didn’t expect them to be as nice as they are.

My thought for the day. Will more species of wildlife become urbanized?

Some of the invasive species of birds that were brought here from Europe, such as pigeons, English Sparrows, and European Starlings, that have a long history of co-existing with man, and have adapted to live around humans, but are seldom seen out in the ‘wilds”.

Some of our native species have adapted very quickly, such as robins, house wrens, and barn swallows to name a few. In just my 57 years on this Earth, I have seen more species that seem to be getting more used to our encroachment into their habitat, and living and nesting in areas that they wouldn’t back when I was a kid.

Banning DDT helped increase the numbers of many more species of birds than just the raptors like eagles, and in my lifetime, suburban sprawl has consumed more habitat, but I personally think that wildlife is starting to get used to our being here, hence the larger numbers of both species and numbers of each species seen living in a suburban setting.

My other thought for the day had to do with women’s fashion as it relates to women’s bodies, but I’d better not go down that road!

I caught a blue-grey gnatcatcher doing its thing in the brush along the creek.

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

And I thought that kinglets were quick, wrong! They act as if they have been sedated compared to gnatcatchers! Most of the time I see them they are running along the branches, or hopping between branches, but even if they perch for a split second, they never really stop moving. They twist and turn, on the lookout for a meal, but I wonder how their brain can process the information as fast as they twitch around.

I shot a few of some mallards circling the creek for practice at shooting action shots with my new outfit.

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

And finding a grey catbird in the open always calls for a shot.

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

And, I’m throwing in this last one from today to give all of those who love a perfect lawn nightmares for the next month.

Got dandelions?

Got dandelions?

As I have many things to work on today, that’s it for today, on to Tuesday.

Tuesday

Today’s entry will be short, as I have much to do.

There are times in the spring when leaves bursting out of their buds are just as beautiful as any flower.

Leaf buds opening

Shagbark hickory leaves opening

I knew that I should have taken all my lenses with me, I shot that with the Sigma, but the 15-85 mm would have been better. That goes for the few flower photos I shot today.

Redbud tree?

Flowering plum?

Dandelions

Dandelions

Apple blossoms

Apple blossoms

Tulip

Tulip

The tree that I labeled as a flowering plum of some type, could be something else. I’m so lacking in my knowledge of plants.

I put the Sigma to the use it was intended to get these shots of a Baltimore oriole in a treetop.

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

The last few days have been just about perfect summer days, but that means that the temperature has been above average for this time of year. I think that’s the reason I felt run down this last weekend, and somewhat so this week up until today. I’m adjusting to the heat at about the time that they are predicting a major cool down starting later this week.

After the flooding a couple of weeks ago, it has been very dry since, and we could use some rain, and the cooler temps will be nice as well.

My thoughts today were on a post I am doing on my new camera and lenses, also, I have somewhere around a dozen species of birds to enter in the My Photo Life List project. To add to that, I am starting to plan what I’m going to do for the Memorial Day weekend coming up.

In a way, it is rather silly to plan this far in advance, as I have no idea what the weather will be like, or what the price of gas will be. I’d like to do a whirlwind blitz of some of the scenic wonders that Michigan has to offer, since it’s been so long since I’ve done one of those. We’ll see as that weekend approaches. Just in case it does work out that I’ll be able to do that, I think that I’ll start sticking closer to home for the rest of the weekends until then.

That’s it for Tuesday, next up is Wednesday, if I remember correctly. 😉

Wednesday

Another day, another species of bird. Today’s find was a Savannah sparrow.

Savannah sparrow

Savannah sparrow

I’ve heard people refer to species like this as the “Little Brown Jobs”, and I did the same up until a few months ago. I now know why serious birders are never found without either binoculars or a camera with a long lens. That’s the only way to ID them, other than their songs. That’s what led me to this one, I heard him singing, but had a darned hard time finding him even though he was less than 50 feet from me. Until I got it in the viewfinder, there was no way that I could ID it.

The only other bird shots from today are one of an eastern kingbird, for a blogger who will remain nameless for now…

Eastern kingbird

Eastern kingbird

…and a couple of shots of a red-winged blackbird harassing a red-tailed hawk.

IMG_2847

Red-winged blackbird harassing a red-tailed hawk

IMG_2848

Red-winged blackbird harassing a red-tailed hawk

I was hoping that the blackbird would do a little hawk surfing, but I wasn’t that lucky today.

I took the 15-85 mm lens with me today, and got serious about flowers and leaf buds opening. No explanation is needed for these, so here goes.

Tulip

Tulip

Tulip

Tulip

Leafbuds opening

Shagbark hickory leaves opening

Leafbuds opening

Shagbark hickory leaves opening

Leafbuds opening

Leaf buds opening

New oak leaves

New oak leaves

Leafbud opening

Leaf bud opening

Redbud

Redbud

Flowering plum?

Flowering plum?

Flowering plum?

Flowering plum?

Flowering plum?

Flowering plum?

Flowering cherry?

Flowering cherry?

Dandelions

Dandelions

All in all, it was just another day in paradise!

Perfect day

Perfect day

A week ago, there were few flowers, few leaves on trees, and the weather was just beginning to get nice, now look at it!

Have I said that I absolutely love the 15-85 mm lens? It’s an incredible piece of glass, if anything, a little too contrasty, but I can work on that. It’s not a true macro lens, but with a little cropping, I can make it work as if it were. That reminds me, I have another post to work on, and a lot more bird photos to deal with. I hate to bore all of you, but I think that I’m going to have to go to two posts a week for the My Photo Life List to use up all the photos I have stored again.

Anyway, I’m going to call it a day as far as today’s entry, so much stuff I have to get done!

Thursday

Today was what is supposed to be the last of the really warm days for a while, that’s OK by me. I think that the quick warm up this last week or so is the reason I have felt so run down since this last weekend. And, the warmer the weather is, the more people who there are in the park, which puts a crimp in my birding. Today, that was compounded by the contractors being there to mow the grass in the park.

I brought, and used, all three lenses today, since the weather for the next few days is forecast to be quite windy. I shot mostly flowers and plant life, there weren’t many birds to be seen what with all the noise of the lawn mowers and people. I did get a few more photos of the meadowlark and Savannah sparrow from yesterday, but the photos look identical to ones I have already posted, so I see no reason to duplicate them. I did get a few fair photos of a male Baltimore oriole as it went from tree to tree, pausing to sing a few bars at each stop.

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Other than that, it was all plants for the day.

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Leaf buds opening

Leaf buds opening

3D oak leaves

3D oak leaves

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

It dawns on me that I probably look like a complete idiot out there in a tiny county park, lugging all my photo equipment as I scan thousands of lowers looking for just the right combination of flowers, buds, leaves, lighting, and composition. That’s OK, I probably look like a complete idiot lugging the Sigma 150-500 mm lens chasing tiny birds through the brush. Heck, I look like a complete idiot no matter what I’m doing. 😉

I have got to get serious about organizing all my bird photos, I have been putting that off while doing other things. I posted the yellow-rumped warblers last night, and I’m not happy with the photos I used. Silly me, I had deleted my best photos of them thinking that I had others safely stored in another folder. So, that’s it for today, I’m sticking close to home this weekend after seeing the weather forecast. That’s OK, it will help me save money for the Memorial Day weekend, which I am really looking forward to. Three days off!

Friday

I knew that I should have organized my photos sooner and better! Yesterday while I was doing that, I found the good photos of the yellow-rumped warblers, so I’ll re-work that post. I have 15 more species to do draft posts on in addition to the 7 that I have “in the can”, ready to post. By my rough calculations, that puts me just about 1/3 of the way through my list!

I’ve been dawdling this morning, waiting for some light rain showers to clear the area, so I’ve added the better photos to the post on the yellow-rumped warblers, and been working on another post as well.

Well, it was my kind of day today. The temperature has dropped a good 20 degrees F, there was at least a mist in the air all the time, and there was a blustery northeast wind blowing. The run down, dragged out feeling that I had for the last few days was gone, and the spring had returned to my step.

It hadn’t seemed right to go from wearing a winter parka one day, to stepping outside in nothing but a light T-shirt the next.

As the weather wasn’t what most people would consider nice, I took the 70-200 mm lens today, it was probably the wise choice given the mist and on and off rain showers, but as usually happens in “bad weather”, there were birds everywhere. However, getting photos under such conditions is another story, but, I managed a few.

I was checking out a few leaf buds that were opening, to see if any would be worth photographing, when I spotted a male rose breasted grosbeak perched and posing not more than ten feet away. By the time I fumbled around getting the camera out from under my jacket, the grosbeak had moved away, but his mate was perched just as nicely for me.

Female rose breasted grosbeak

Female rose breasted grosbeak

That’s full framed, not cropped at all. I located the male again, I had to crop down for this one.

Male rose breasted grosbeak

Male rose breasted grosbeak

A little later, I spotted what I think was a female yellow warbler, and was considering trying to get closer to her, when a male Baltimore oriole began squawking at me.

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

This next one isn’t great, but it does illustrate the kind of weather I had today.

Male Baltimore oriole in the wind and rain

Male Baltimore oriole in the wind and rain

I also shot a few of flowers and leaf buds, this is the only one that’s really worth posting.

Redbud

Redbud

I like the color saturation in that one, which is the only reason I posted it.

I am beginning to get caught up as far as my things to do list, but I’m still going to cut this short today so that I can finish that list up.

Tomorrow is predicted to be very much like today, cool and windy, with the possibility of rain on and off during the day, so I’ll stay home tomorrow as far as walking. I’ll run to the bank, pick up a polarizing filter for my 15-85 mm lens, and it’s laundry day tomorrow as well. I think that on Sunday, I’ll hit Palmer park, since that’s only a few miles away, and chase wrens and pileated woodpeckers, and maybe sneak up on a newborn whitetail deer fawn if I’m lucky. It’s that time of the year.

Saturday

A cool, cloudy day. I decided not to do any errands this morning, I can hold off on them. I have to get my walk in before the rain returns.

What great timing on my part for a change! Just as I returned to my apartment, the rain started, half an hour before that, the sun was out, my how things can change.

Before I get to the details of my walk, a couple of news notes.

The Federal Government has awarded a 27 million dollar grant to the City of Grand Rapids to remove the Sixth Street dam, as part of a larger project to create a whitewater kayaking  course. While on its face, this is good news, there has to be enough pork built into that project to feed a small nation. 27 million to tear out one of the simplest dams there is? Oh, that’s right, they have to truck in some boulders to replace the ones removed from the river 100 years ago. All righty then.

In other news, the green weenie that poses as the editor of the outdoor page for the local paper is all bent out of shape because the Fish and Wildlife Service isn’t going to prosecute California power companies for the deaths of condors killed by wind turbines.

?????

Come on Howard, you’ve been trying to shove “green energy” in the form of wind turbines down our throats for years now! You’ve even called those of us opposed to wind turbines “small-minded”, “ignorant of the facts” and claimed that we were overstating the numbers of birds that will be killed by wind turbines. How many columns have you written in support of building wind farms on the shores of Lake Michigan? Will you be equally bent out of shape if the wind farms are built here, and they are found to kill bald eagles, osprey, and other birds? Will you be upset if the FWS doesn’t prosecute Michigan power companies for those deaths?

All this proves two things, you can’t make an environmentalist happy, and that Howard Meyerson is an ass!

Now that I have that off my chest, I have a question, do some cameras and/or lenses need to be “broken in”?

The last two days, I have taken the Canon 70-200 mm lens with me, because of the weather. My photos from yesterday were the best that I have gotten from that lens. Today, I noticed that the auto-focus was both quieter, and faster than it was when I first purchased that lens, and my photos were even sharper.

Back when I did industrial maintenance, when we got a new piece of equipment in, we would set it up, and let it dry cycle for a few days before putting it into production. Every new machine had glitches, some mechanical, like things being slightly out of adjustment. But, the electronics also had glitches most of the time, that would disappear after the electronics had functioned for a while. We called it “burning in”.

I don’t know how to explain the better photos that the 70-200 has started producing. I hadn’t used it very much up until yesterday, the photos it produced weren’t as impressive as those turned out by my other two lenses, even shooting the same subjects as I tested all three of them side by side.

Here’s a couple of flowers as examples from today.

Apple blossoms

Apple blossoms

Dogwood

Dogwood

Unknown purple wildflower

Unknown purple wildflower

That last shot was cropped considerably, and it’s still sharp. I am beginning to see why other people rave about that lens. I’m not even going to worry about the how and why it seems to be working better now, I give up.

I shot a few birds as well.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Rose breasted grosbeak in flight

Male Rose breasted grosbeak in flight

Male Rose breasted grosbeak

Male Rose breasted grosbeak

Male Rose breasted grosbeak

Male Rose breasted grosbeak

Male Rose breasted grosbeak

Male Rose breasted grosbeak

Male Rose breasted grosbeak

Male Rose breasted grosbeak

OK, the grosbeaks shots aren’t the world’s finest, I was playing with the exposure compensation while shooting almost straight up into a cloudy, misty sky while the bird enjoyed his lunch. When I can get photos where you can see what a critter is eating, then, they don’t have to be technically great for me to post them. Maybe with my new equipment, I’ll get to the point where my more “scientific” type shots are also technically good as well.

As is usual in “bad weather” there were a lot of birds to be seen and heard, and there were several times that I found myself thinking that I should have brought the Sigma to reach them. But, that thought would soon pass, as the photos wouldn’t have been very good on a day like today, so why bother. I’m really liking the new attitude that I have of not having to push myself to get every possible photo whether it will be good or bad. I spent more time watching today, along with enjoying the green of spring, and the fragrance of flowers filling the air again.

The only other thing that I have to add is that my friend Jan just posted to her blog again, photos of the newly hatched cygnets, or peepers as she calls them. You can find it here, the peepers are so darned adorable that you really should check it out.

That’s it for this week, tomorrow I’m going to Palmer Park for a day of birding, thanks for stopping by!

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26 responses

  1. A veritable treasure trove of fine pictures. Your blossom is leaving ours in the shade. I expect onlookers think, “There goes a serious photographer.” when they see you go by.

    Now we just need a few nice landscapes to give us an idea of the place where you are taking your pictures. A bit of context would be nice. I am sure you have a lens for that.

    May 11, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    • Thanks Tom. If only there were a few nice landscapes around here, I would photograph them. But, I live in a rather ugly area on the outskirts of a large metropolitan center, complete with a freeway and billboards.

      May 11, 2013 at 5:39 pm

  2. Your pictures are truly treasures. I enjoyed the walk-about and watching spring unfold, thank you for sharing that…I am anxious to see your next post.

    May 11, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    • Thanks Charlie! But I don’t know that I’d call my photos treasures, treasured memories for me, maybe.

      May 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm

  3. That second shot of the tulip was stunning.

    May 11, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    • Thank you!

      May 11, 2013 at 7:10 pm

  4. I think a lot of your flowering tree shots are apples or crab apples. I say that because apples grow leaves before and while they’re blooming. Trees with flowers and no leaves are cherries, plums, or in that family. They grow leaves after the flower petals fall.
    It’s funny how we each shot a lot of the same things for today’s post without knowing what the other was doing.
    Have you seen any Baltimore orioles building their hanging basket nests yet? I haven’t seen any of those since I was a kid.
    I like the shot of the flying duck and the feild of dandelions is excellent. A feild full of them isn’t as simple to photograph as it might seem. I’ve rejected many.

    May 11, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    • I think that most of the trees had at least a few leaves, they must be crab apples then.

      Hey, we live in about the same climate, and have an equal eye for beauty, so it figures that we would photograph about the same things at the same time.

      As far as the orioles, I think that the females are just arriving now. With most species of migrating birds, the males arrive first to claim a territory, the females show up later. I just saw the first female today, so nest building should start soon. There are a few of their nests left hanging in trees from last year.

      Thanks, I’m surprised at how quickly I’m getting a handle on the new camera and lenses, since they perform so much differently than my old one.

      May 11, 2013 at 7:39 pm

  5. Wow ! What a great week you had. Warm or not. I’m amazed how frequently you find Baltimore Orioles and Grosbeaks. Of that, I am quite jealous.
    There is a big difference in your flower pics from the sigma and the canon 70-200mm. But what beautiful spring flowers you are having!.
    The hickory tree is truly amazing. Great pics, and thanks for sharing your walkabouts.

    May 11, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    • Thank you Emily! The Sigma does not make a very good macro lens. 😉 But, the very best photos of the flowers are coming from the 15-85 mm, but that’s the way it should be, that’s what that lens is for. As for the birds, I go in after them, I’ll show every one what that means next week, since Tom wants some landscape shots of this area.

      May 11, 2013 at 7:52 pm

      • LOL ! Now that I can’t wait to see. Hope some camouflage is involved. 🙂

        May 11, 2013 at 7:53 pm

      • Nope, no camo involved, I really need to repost my story of the snowy owl, the guy with the BIG LENS, and his camo.

        May 11, 2013 at 9:17 pm

  6. I meant to say that the blossoms on your red flowered bush look a lot like a Japanese flowering quince, but quince have thorns and I can’t tell if the plants in your photo have thorns or not. Quince are in the apple family and have edible fruit.

    May 12, 2013 at 8:44 am

    • Thanks, that could be it, I don’t remember at all. I know that I liked the photo on the wrapper, but that it took several years for the bush to really set many flowers. Maybe that’s why it isn’t very popular.

      May 12, 2013 at 5:02 pm

  7. Great shots once again!! I just LOVE that very first pic of the hickory leaves coming out of the blossom. It was phenominal! Nature is so amazing. I’ve had several grosbeaks at my feeders this week. Your picture of the one flying was really cool. I was trying to take pics through the front window and one came flying straight at the glass. Thankfully it flew off unharmed but I was so surprised by his flying at me that I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of him! You may live in an “ugly urban environment” but you have the eye to see the beauty tucked away inside and outside of the setting. So many people hurry through their day without ever recognizing the beauty of nature that is there, even in the city.

    May 12, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    • Thank you, the hardest part of my photography is keeping the ugly out. 😉

      May 12, 2013 at 4:47 pm

  8. You are a MOST prolific blogger these days. Wow! Guess what, we’ve got our first red-winged blackbird here, as well as two rose-breasted grosbeaks in the feeder. Love it when they return! P.S. Snow both yesterday and today here. Errrr….

    May 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    • Thanks, I think. There are plenty of birds headed your way, I saw a bunch of them again today, despite the sleet down here.

      May 12, 2013 at 4:49 pm

  9. Wow, there’s just too much here to digest and comment on, but I want to try. I have to say, so many beautiful blossoms! The gnatcatcher – I love those guys, and I love their little faint zzzzt sounds. I miss them! You got some great shots of them, fast or not. Kingbirds – those fierce aerialists! Another nice shot. I too have watched the change that banning DDT brought, and celebrated it. I’m happy to hear you’re not totally gloomy about the effects of suburban sprawl, something I find it hard to feel good about, even as I live in it. The Grosbeak – you JUST caught that lovely rose – another bird I miss, but we have a different Grosbeak out here, and he and his mate are bold enough to come to the feeder, just inches from the door. So I’m enjoying that. The Redbud shot is very nice – I think they’re hard to photograph. And Saturday’s blossoms are beautiful!

    May 12, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    • Thank you very much for all the kind words! I can’t say as though I like suburban sprawl, but on the other hand, as nature adjusts to us, more people will be exposed to species that they never have seen before, which may impart a greater appreciation of nature overall.

      May 13, 2013 at 10:03 am

  10. A wonderful riot and explosion of colours, and my, those flashy male orioles! Your Monday’s thought for the day brought up a subject which i find fascinating – ‘will more species of wildlife become urbanized’? It seems inevitable thus should we be looking at natural history with a different perspective? Isn’t it amazing how many species adapt very well to the urban niche – why not when that environment offers rich pickings? Nat Geo Wild TV programs are picking up on this subject – wildlife adapting to urban space… leopards in India, nutria across the States, moose, wildpigs, non-human primates, bears, coyotes, jackals …. etc. The studies of birds here and in Australia preferring backyard gardens to the wilds, and what happens with population densification and the eroding of greenbelts. The balance sure is tipping with the loss of wildlife habitat.

    May 13, 2013 at 4:46 am

    • Thank you! I don’t watch TV, so I didn’t know that Nat Geo had been running programs on that subject. I’m just going by what I have observed over my lifetime.

      May 13, 2013 at 10:05 am

  11. Beautiful shots, as always! Considering the location where I take most of my photos, I’d have to agree that urban/suburban sprawl doesn’t seem to be deterring birds at all. I’ve seen birds I never thought I’d see in the middle of the city! They seem to be able to find those little green spaces. (And thanks for posting the link to my blog again! Much appreciated!)

    May 13, 2013 at 9:20 am

    • Thanks Jan! That’s one of the reasons that I pushed you to start a blog, so that more people will understand that all we need to give wildlife is a small area to live within our world of concrete, and they will do the rest. If more people come in contact with nature close to home, they should have a better understanding and more concern for nature overall.

      May 13, 2013 at 10:08 am

  12. What an awesome series of photos for one week, loved every one of them! You and your new equipment are syncing perfectly! 🙂 Great work Jerry!

    May 16, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    • Thanks Donna!

      May 17, 2013 at 2:30 am