My week, Mother Nature is so fickle!
Summer, winter, back to summer again, in just a few short days. All last week, up until the weekend, we had high temperatures around 80 degrees F (27 C). This weekend, the highs struggled to reach 50 degrees (10 C), and we’re forecast to be back near 80 later this week. What a roller coaster, but that’s typical for Michigan. My mom always used to say that you knew that there would be a cold snap and frost as soon as the lilacs begin to bloom. I prefer cool weather, somewhere in the middle, but that seldom seems to happen. The cold snap was welcome in a way, it delays the appearance of the mosquitoes a little longer.
I knew that it was going to be a chilly day today as I sat in the parking lot for Palmer Park and waited for a sleet squall to pass over. That’s what happens when you have the giant refrigeration unit known as Lake Michigan 40 miles to the west, and a west wind. So I went from wearing just a light T-shirt on Friday to a winter parka, knit wool hat, and gloves today. Somewhere in between would suit me just fine!
Palmer Park has been strange the last few times I’ve been there, plenty of birds, but they’re all in one small section of the park, around the boardwalk along Buck Creek. So it was today, including photos of two more species for the My Photo Life list project, although the photos of the blackburnian warbler that I shot are a bit iffy.
You could say that I saw three new species, if you accept my ID of this bird.
OK, so it’s a house wren.
The (bad) photos that I get of birds moving through thick brush are teaching me that birds seldom actually fly short distances in the brush by flapping their wings, they’re great leapers as well. They may flap once or twice to fool us into thinking that they can fly through the dense thickets they inhabit, but they really can’t.
I did get a few good ones of the house wren to use to update the post that I already did on them.
I think that I could be taking the close-ups of birds a little too far.
I saw another black and white warbler, but the only time it would sit still was in this position.
My other first for the day was an ovenbird.
After I left the boardwalk area, I saw few birds, not even many woodpeckers, and the park used to be chock full of them, I wonder what’s going on?
There’s few flowers or anything else of interest there that I haven’t already photographed, so it was somewhat of a boring day, other than avoiding tree limbs crashing down from the wind. It was one of those days when it was dark and cloudy one minute, then bright and sunny the next. Here’s two shots to illustrate that, and what a difference it makes in the appearance of some things.
I tried using the Sigma lens for macro photos again.
Here’s another, but a wider view.
I came across a plant that looks like it belongs in the holly family, shiny dark green leaves with pointed lobes, but the flowers were yellow.
A quick search on the web tells me that they may indeed be a holly plant, but I’m always suspicious of what I find online, as many people seem to be much worse than I at identifying plants. Some of the “yellow holly” I found were neither holly or yellow.
I did see a few deer, but no fawns.
My last shot of the day is of a pine flower.
That’s all I have to say about today.
Since Tom, who may be better known to you as Mr. Tootlepedal, asked for some landscape shots of this area, I’m going to add one per day this week. As I live on the edge of suburbia, they will hardly be things of beauty, but I will do my best.
Well, I shot a lot of “landscapes” today, such as they are. It was cool, but with bluebird skies, so I thought that I would shoot all the photos of where I walk today, so the lighting would be about the same for all of them. I missed a few birds by doing that, but made up for it by getting a few flower shots to make up for those.
Starting out from my apartment.
I found a few dogwoods blooming, I throw one of those in.
I spent some quality time with the manual for my new Canon 60 D this weekend, there’s a lot that this camera will do! I found out that there are three presets for image quality that I can use, so I spent some time playing to fine tune those settings. I haven’t decided yet if I will come up with one setup for each of the lenses I own, or have presets for sunny, cloudy, and rainy days.
Anyway, I walk west down the M6 trail about 1/4 of a mile, after that, the trail runs next to a mobile home park, and I seldom find anything to photograph there. So, I come back to Eastern Ave. walking through the thick brush beside the trail.
Because the trail is too darn ugly to walk twice.
Getting back to Eastern, I climb the hill to the back entrance to Creekside Park.
All the way along the trail, this is my view to the north.
My view to the north would be the same on the first leg of my walk if it weren’t for the sound barrier blocking my view. All the traffic does interfere with my ability to listen for bird songs, and find birds that way.
On top of the hill I reach Creekside Park.
The “upper” field closest in this photo is where I have photographed the meadowlarks and Savannah Sparrows. Beyond that field are the baseball diamonds.
Here’s the “middle” field in the park.
I see the pair of bluebirds and other species in this field, they love using the young trees as perches to scout from. As it happened, there were two meadowlarks perched on the fence around the ball diamonds when I shot this, good luck picking them out. 🙂
Here’s what is behind me in that last shot.
There are tons of birds in that field and brush, but I’m shooting into the sun, so it is difficult to get good photos of them.
At the bottom of the hill is the creek, and a narrow strip of brush on each side, this is where I get the majority of my bird photos.
And finally, the “lower” field.
So, that’s about it. I walk around the edges of the park, near the trees that ring the park, and along both banks of the creek. It’s not much to look at, but on days like today, when there aren’t many people in the park, I do see many more birds than you would think. Here’s the rest of my photos from today.
According to my GPS unit, I walk almost exactly three miles per day during the week.
I’m going to have to do some landscape shots of the places I go on weekends, most of them are a little more attractive than this park. But, in some ways I’m fortunate that there is this little park here, as I don’t have to drive anywhere for my daily walk.
My thought for the day, how and where do we strike balance as far as protecting habitat that may not be the historic habitat of an area, but because of human activity, that habitat has been created, and species of wildlife have taken root there.
Here’s what I mean by that. When the first Europeans came to Michigan, over 90% of the state was forest land, and was the home to forest loving creatures. By 1900, 95% of the forests were gone, most were cut for timber, the rest went up in smoke in the great fires that swept the northern part of the lower peninsula in the late 1800’s as the result of poor lumbering practices.
The numbers of forest dwelling species plummeted, some disappeared entirely, like the turkey and grey wolf as examples.
Nature abhors a vacuum, so species more suited to open areas dramatically increased in numbers, or moved into the state for the first time, and have become what those of us living now consider to be native species, but they were few and far between 200 years ago, if they were found here at all.
Now that our forests are returning, our true native species are making a comeback, but at the “expense” of the non-native species that had taken the place of the natives.
As the numbers of the species better suited to open country fall, the environmentalists that love those species are demanding action to save those species. That would of course involve lumbering off some of the forest land to create the open habitat for those species.
This gets the environmental groups who love the forests and the species associated with the forests all worked up, and the poor Michigan DNR is caught right in the middle. It’s common for both sides to take any plan put forward by the DNR to court, with opposing environmental groups on each side of the plan.
No one wins, least of all the taxpayers that have to foot the legal bills, and the time spent by DNR staffers working on plan after plan trying to make every one happy, which is impossible.
And I think that Mother Nature is fickle.
OK, for my walk today. It started pleasantly cool, jacket weather, but soon warmed up enough that I shed the jacket and was down to a T-shirt.
I’m afraid that optimal birding time is done here in my area, there are enough leaves on the trees now to make seeing (and photographing) birds much more difficult than last week, and it’s only going to get harder. We’re in a lull as far as flowers also. The early spring blooms are done, and the summer blooms haven’t started yet.
So, I spent some more time fine tuning the settings on my new camera, and I think I have the settings for the Sigma 150-500 mm about dialed in.
These photos about match the output of the 15-85 mm lens that I am in love with! I didn’t adjust the exposure for any of these, shot under a variety of conditions from shade to full sun. I notice a little blow out in the white in the first photo of the blue jay, that’s OK, I can take care of that with exposure compensation in the future. My goal was to test the basic settings, and I think that as far as sharpness, contrast, color saturation, and color rendition, that I have the settings for the Sigma close enough for who it’s for, at least for now.
However, I think that these settings would be too much using the 15-85 mm, so I have made up my mind to use one of the three available user setups for each of the three lenses I have.
There will be a slight pause while I do a little gloating, and my happy dance!
OK, I’m not say that the photos from today are anything special, but, after several years of using a camera that didn’t function as it should for even the basics, matched to a poor quality lens, having quality equipment is really nice, really nice!
Maybe not, now I have no excuse for crappy photos any longer. 😉
That’s it for today, I’m going to spend a little more quality time with the camera manual before work.
This morning temperatures are 40-45 degrees warmer than 48 hours ago, the roller coaster ride continues. So, what do I do, I dawdle around the apartment longer than usual, so it will be even warmer outside, and I can come back and complain about the heat. 🙂
You can’t get those types of temperature increases without a strong wind to change the air mass overhead, and so it was today. That limited my flower photos a little, that and seeing many birds to photograph.
I can see that I am going to have a serious problem soon as far as storing photos. I shot 81 today, and the only ones I deleted were duplicates of flowers to make sure that I got a sharp one in the wind. Also, a few of birds where the wind blew leaves in front of the bird as I was shooting. Well, part of the reason I kept so many is that I am comparing today’s results as I fine tune the camera settings.
So, where do I begin, I suppose at the beginning, when I shot a pair of mallards to test my setup.
Since birds that are mostly black are tough to photograph, I shot a red-winged blackbird as part of my testing as well.
I have noticed something since I switched cameras. When I was using the Nikon, I reduced the quality of the images before I uploaded them here, but I really couldn’t tell the difference in the before and after versions.
That’s no longer the case, I see a marked difference between the originals and the reduced quality versions that come from the Canon. I suppose that’s because there’s such a huge difference in the quality of the originals, reducing lower quality images doesn’t change them as much as higher quality images.
Anyway, I played with a meadowlark for a while, trying to get closer.
Since the flowers were whipping in the wind, I settled for a shot of most of the crab tree that is flowering.
I also shot a series of a red-shouldered hawk as it circled me.
The Sigma is a great lens for just about everything but moving targets. Some of the problem is a lack of practice with it on my part, but mostly it’s because of the size and weight of that lens. It’s darn hard to hold up overhead while trying to track a moving target.
The red flowering crabs in the park have just begun to bloom in earnest, I was going to hold off for a day or two given the wind today, but thought to myself that it may not be a good idea to wait, as I don’t know how long the blooms will last. So, I went crazy.
All of those except for the first one were shot with the 15-85 mm lens, and I amazed myself by remembering to switch the exposure settings to standard for those, then back to the settings I’ve saved for the Sigma, to capture this male rose-breasted grosbeak.
I was sneaking up on the meadowlark again, when it spotted me…
…then flew only a short distance from me, and rewarded my efforts with a song.
I was tempted to shoot several hundred like this next one…
…as it’s been so long since I’ve seen leaves, but I controlled myself until I spotted this rather nondescript bird in those leaves. Actually, I heard him singing first.
I’m going to wrap up today with this so-so shot of a pink double crab apple, only because I want to remember to do it justice tomorrow with the right lens in the right light.
I’ve been putting together a list of places to go over the Memorial Day weekend, when it dawned on me last night that there won’t be many, if any, leaves on the trees as far north as I was planning on going. I’m going to have to make some major revisions in my plans, as it is rather pointless to go on a tour to shoot landscapes when the areas won’t look their best. Oh well, I’ll come up with something.
I received an Email from Canon announcing a new lens, an EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4X, and I thought “Yippee, about the perfect lens”, until I saw the price. At nearly 12 grand, it won’t be on my shopping list anytime soon.
Time to go for my walk and think about places to go next weekend.
Well, back to mid-summer weather, the heat is sapping my energy, and that’s made worse with my allergies kicking in a little. I’m fortunate that my allergies aren’t nearly as bad as many people have them, but it was enough this morning that I would have liked to have sat down in the shade somewhere and not move.
Itchy, watering eyes aren’t a good condition to have when you’re trying to photograph things either. I made an effort to do justice to the pink double crabs from yesterday, I was not happy at all with my photos as I was shooting them. I felt as though I was just going through the motions, and that the photos would be crap.
Now that I’m home, feeling a bit better, and see them on the computer, they’re not nearly as bad as I thought that they would be.
There are a few lilac bushes in the area, but no large displays, and I can’t get as close as I would like to most of the bushes, as they are in people’s yards. So, I had to make do with these two, shot at a distance with the Sigma.
The bush in the last one is on the grounds of a funeral home that I walk past daily.
My mood improved as I went along, as I was cheered by all the birds singing.
I also watched a red-bellied woodpecker trying to pluck seed pods off from a tree. The seed pods were well attached, as several times the woodpecker nearly fell out of the tree while yanking on them.
That’s all the photos from today, well, all the photos that I’m going to post today.
I think that over the Memorial Day weekend that I am going to try sleeping in the back of my Forester. It will be cramped, but I think I’ll survive two nights in the back. It will save me the time of setting up and taking down my full size tent. Setting up doesn’t take long, breaking camp is what is time-consuming. Making sure that the tent is clean and dry before being stored is what takes so long.
I’m thinking of buying one of those cot/tent combinations I’ve seen. My full size tent works great when I go someplace and spend a week there, but packing up and moving daily is not its strong suit. I seldom sit around in the tent, no matter what.
One of the cot/tent combos looks about perfect for quick weekend get aways when I’m on the move all the time. The big plus to one of those is that I can set it up in the garage to dry and clean after I get back if need be.
I was going to stay home this weekend, but the weather is forecast to be quite warm on Sunday, so I think that I’ll go to Muskegon where it will be much cooler due to Lake Michigan. I’ve been meaning to do the Lost Lake trail in the spring anyway, this seems like the perfect time to do so.
In my planning for next weekend, I have to keep reminding myself that it is only three days, and that I don’t have to try to photograph the entire state in those three days. There are two more three-day weekends this summer, and I have two weeks of vacation coming. You know, I don’t think that I have ever taken a two-week vacation in my life. I may have to give some thought into doing that this summer, I’m liking that idea.
For about the last decade, most of my trips have been either to camp and fish in the Pigeon River Country, or kayaking trips on northern Michigan rivers, with maybe a little fishing thrown in for good measure. Those are reasons enough to love Michigan, but there is so much more to the state. I think that it’s time for me to reconnect with some places that I haven’t been to in years.
Anyway, for next weekend, I’m thinking now that I’ll do a birding and rare plant trip around the Straits of Mackinac, that’s where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet. Because of Michigan’s unique freshwater coast and geology, the area is home to many plants that grow nowhere else in the world, like the dwarf lake iris. Late spring/early summer is when many of these plants flower, so now would be a good time to go looking for them. I’m sure that I’ll get some good scenery shots as well, and maybe some shore birds thrown in for good measure. Sounds like a plan, so it’s time to go for a walk.
Cloudy and cooler today, very pleasant for a change. The wind limited my shots of flowers, but at least I wasn’t feeling run down like the last two days.
I’m going to start with a few photos of deer, despite the brush between us, I like these shots.
I could start several series of birds shots, one of them in action. Here’s a warbling vireo I caught gathering caterpillar silk for her nest, spotting me, then going back to work.
I could do another series of birds singing.
Or I could do a series on the look that they give me when they spot me.
And finally, there’s the bad shots that I like for some reason series.
I had a few flower shots to add, but they’re nothing special, and I cut short working on this yesterday to run to the camera store to pick up a polarizing filter. So, my last shot from yesterday is this woodchuck lounging on a stump.
I bought a the filter and a step-down ring so that I could use the filter on two lenses, but the salesman goofed and sold me the wrong size filter to do that, so I have to run back to the store again.
The heat is back in earnest today, made worse by the fact that I went to the camera store first thing this morning to pick up the correct size filter. If it wasn’t for the heat, I’d be doing a celebration dance of the type that they outlawed in the NFL! You’ll see why shortly, but first, a male northern cardinal that’s beginning to molt already.
You’d look grumpy too, if you were losing your brilliant red crest so early in the year! His mate was looking well groomed though.
Until a puff of wind ruffled her feathers.
I spotted a muskrat in the stream that runs next to the trail in one spot.
If it hadn’t been for the heat, it would have been a perfect day, even with the heat, it was close to it. The honeysuckle and some other flowering trees were filling the air with their wonderful fragrance!
Not too hard on the eyes, either. I was going to switch lenses and get serious about photographing the flowers, when I first heard, then saw, a small flock of scarlet tanagers in the brush. Here’s what the All About Birds website has to say about them.
“Male Scarlet Tanagers are among the most blindingly gorgeous birds in an eastern forest in summer, with blood-red bodies set off by jet-black wings and tail. They’re also one of the most frustratingly hard to find as they stay high in the forest canopy singing rich, burry songs.”
I have a grand total of four photos of scarlet tangers, despite my best efforts in the past to photograph them. One was taken with my film camera, from too far away to be good, and three taken with my old Nikon just before dusk, where the photos are blurry because of the low light, and the colors are also muted. I remedied that today, but it wasn’t easy. Trying to catch one of them in the open and well lit was proving as difficult as always.
I even shot a male cardinal by mistake.
I was hot, frustrated, and I needed a break by that time. Trying to shoot through the thick brush, and into the sun was not working at all, so I thought that strategy may be in order. I saw that the tanagers seemed to be moving east as they foraged the tree tops, so I took off in that direction, circled to the other edge of the woodlot, and hoped that the tanagers would show up. I set my camera bag down, and noticed that the forest floor was almost covered in small white flowers of several different species, but I wasn’t about to change lenses then.
I had time to cool down, and get my mind cleared, when the tanagers showed up!
I now have more than four photos of them! I did miss the females though, I got one bad shot which I deleted it was so bad. Still, time for my happy dance!
I got to the hill overlooking the park, and played with my lenses and new polarizing filters, but they’re nothing special, so I won’t bore you with them. Besides, I have learned that Creekside Park should really be named Baltimore oriole park! I don’t know how many breeding pair of the orioles there are, but it is significant, as they were everywhere I looked.
Even though this post is too long already, I have posted almost all birds today, so I’d better throw in at least one more flower shot, and a bug shot before I end it.
Tomorrow I’m heading for another day of birding around Muskegon, so that’s it for this week, thanks for stopping by!