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

Archive for June, 2013

My week, the weather yucky, but I’m so lucky

Sunday

Yuck, hot, humid, and my allergies are making the morning miserable for me. It’s one of those days when I’d like to laze around the apartment all day doing nothing. But, I know that in doing so, I would be miserable all day, while if I force myself to get moving, I’ll eventually feel better.

Right now, just the thought of lugging everything out to my Subaru is more than I would like to do. I may even have to make two trips to get everything that I’m taking today. Camera gear, backpack, small cooler with extra water and lunch, so much stuff for just a day of hiking. Oh, and I’d better not forget tissues, as my sinuses are running a marathon this morning. Time to quit whining and get moving.

Wow, what a day! My plan to escape the heat worked better than I had hoped. Today also proved that it’s better to get up and get moving than to sit around feeling miserable.

I went to Muskegon State Park, as I often do. I could feel the difference in air temperature long before I made it to the park, it was 10 to 15 degrees cooler there than in Grand Rapids. A stiff south-southwest wind coming off from the still 50 degree Farenheit waters of Lake Michigan made if feel as if I were standing in front of a refrigerator with the door open.

I hiked the Lost Lake trail to look for birds and wildflowers, I found even more.

Skunk emerging from its den

Skunk emerging from its den

Skunk emerging from its den

Skunk emerging from its den

Skunk emerging from its den

Skunk emerging from its den

Skunks emerging from their den

Skunks emerging from their den

Skunk emerging from its den

Skunk emerging from its den

Those were shot with my 15-85 mm lens, the first one was not cropped at all. I decided that it might be better if I backed off a little way for the rest of the shots, so they are cropped. 😉

Here’s a sign with information about Lost Lake and the ecosystem there.

Interpretive sign at Lost Lake

Interpretive sign at Lost Lake

I’ve hiked that trail many times, usually just as a warm up for the longer trails. Today, I spent hours there at Lost Lake itself, watching nature, taking photos, and enjoying a grand day. There were still many wild roses blooming along the trail to Lost Lake, and the wind was carrying their scent to me, mixed with that of pine, and of the cool refreshing waters of Lake Michigan.

I got back to the new observation platform on the lake, and then took one lens at a time to see what I could find while wandering in the area. If that lens didn’t work, I made note of what and where things were that I wanted to go back for, then returned with the correct lens later.

I’ve already posted the photos of the plant life that I found around the lake here. But here are two more of the water lily anyway.

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

I’m sorry for so many photos of them, but it’s my way of telling the world that I’m back as a photographer. Getting the exposure just right for those can be tricky, and in my opinion, I nailed it. I had an idea in my head what I wanted my finished photos of the water lilies to look like, and I got to 95% of what I wanted to achieve.

After spending a good portion of the day around Lost Lake, I returned to the parking lot at Snug Harbor in Muskegon State Park, then wandered around there for a while, and checked out the eagle’s nest close by.

Eaglet stretching its wings

Eaglet stretching its wings

It’s tough to get a good photo of the nest and the eaglets, you’d think that the parents had built the nest in the worst possible spot on purpose. 😉

I waited for a while to see if I could catch one of the adults returning with food, but no luck there. Instead, this guy landed in the tree next to the one I was hanging out under while waiting for the eagles.

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

I had to make chirping sounds to get him to bend down a little and look my way, in all the other shots I took, his head is partially obscured by the branch above him in this one.

There will be a couple of more posts coming soon with more photos that I took today.

Part I

Part II

All in all, a great day! I hated to come home to the heat and humidity here, but I had to.

Monday

Still hot and humid, you’re going to get really tired of reading that this week. Relief in the form of cooler, drier air isn’t forecast to arrive until Friday, I hope that I don’t melt away before then. I’d better eat breakfast and get my walk over with before it gets too hot for me to survive. I’d also better check all the settings on my camera before I venture out as well, because I was pushing buttons and turning dials all day yesterday. No wonder my fingers are sore today. 😉

Go figure, I keep saying that serious birding is over with for the summer, and I come back with two new to me species of birds.

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

Great crested flycatcher

Great crested flycatcher

I saw both birds from the same spot, I shot several photos of the flycatcher, and was going to work my way around to get side and front photos,  when the pewee perched even closer, I had to shoot a few of it, by that time, the flycatcher was gone.

I’m not sure why the flycatcher is named the great crested flycatcher, the crest is hardly noticeable, not only in my photos, but in other photos that I’ve seen. Maybe it’s because of its size, It was nearly twice the size of the pewee or the alder flycatcher that I’m still chasing.

I didn’t take many other photos today, so I may as well throw them in here and get it over with now.

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

I photographed the meadowlark because I am trying to get closer to them. For the turkey and the goldfinch, they were exposure tests.

That’s about it for today, I’m still trying to catch up on other projects.

Tuesday

I almost made it home without getting wet.

As I usually do while I’m drinking my morning coffee, I checked the weather forecast online, and was surprised to learn that heavy storms had just exited the region, with more on the way. The storms hadn’t woke me up, I really can sleep through almost anything. From the looks of the flowers planted around the apartment complex, the rain had been very heavy, as all the flowers had been beaten down to the ground. The wildflowers fared slightly better.

Wild rose

Wild rose

Wild rose

Wild rose

I hate to keep harping about the cyclists around here, but I am also tired of having to get out of their way while I’m walking on the sidewalk when there’s a bike lane right there for them to use.

Rude cyclist

Rude cyclist

But in his defense, I would bet that he’s had his share of run ins with the even more rude Lance wannabes in the bike lane.

Anyway, with the cloudy damp conditions, the turkeys were out in full force. I startled the turkeys, who in turn startled a fox squirrel, as you can see in the photo, and the squirrel was running around in circles as the turkeys made their escape…

Turkeys and fox squirrel

Turkeys and fox squirrel

…pausing just long enough to cover for the squirrel.

Turkey covering squirrel's escape

Turkey covering squirrel’s escape

A little farther down the road, more turkeys.

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

I caught a crow blinking, I don’t know if you can make it out in the small version here or not.

American crows

American crows

Sorry, I guess you can’t, I was going to crop that one down, but I liked getting three of the flock in the frame at one time.

As is almost always the case during “bad” weather, there were birds everywhere.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Eastern kingbird's butt in flight

Eastern kingbird’s butt in flight

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Overexposed bluejay, sorry

Overexposed bluejay, sorry

Brown headed cowbirds in love

Brown headed cowbirds in love

I could have gotten many more birds, but it was growing darker by the minute, and I could hear rumbling off in the distance which could have been thunder, or trucks on the expressway. I wasn’t sure which, but I thought it best to err on the side of caution and not to dally around any longer. I missed a few shots of the young orchard oriole because by then, it was so dark that the auto-focus couldn’t get a lock on it, one of the few times that the Sigma has failed.

Luckily, I had brought a rain jacket, for a light rain began soon after that. The rain was light enough, and the temperature high enough, that I didn’t want to wear the rain jacket, so I used it to cover the camera and lens as I headed for home. It was an on and off light rain until I got about 100 yards from the entrance to my apartment, then the sky opened up, and a deluge followed. It was raining so hard that I took shelter under a tree at first, but a lightning strike close by changed my mind about that, so I ran over to the covered entrance to one of the other buildings in the complex and waited out the heavy rain there.

They have taken some of the heat out of the forecast for the next few days, and replaced it with more heavy rain and storms. They are now talking about 2 to 4 inches of rain by Thursday night/Friday morning, then cooler, but with more scattered showers over the weekend. That’s OK, I’m broke, so I wouldn’t be going anywhere no matter what the weather.

Wednesday

More heavy rain overnight, more to the south of my area than here, but we received at least some rain here. There are flood watches and warnings up for some of the counties along the Michigan, Indiana border. There’s rain in the forecast for seven of the next eight days, it will be interesting to see the next update of the Great Lakes water levels.

It’s warm and humid this morning, not as hot as it has been, so that’s a relief, but not much of one.

In looking back at the photos I took on Sunday while at Lost Lake in Muskegon State Park, two things dawned on me. One is that I’m darned lucky to have such places so close by. There may not be mountains, ocean beaches, waterfalls, or other large-scale spectacular landscapes to photograph around here, but there are places for me to go where I can extract the more subtle beauty of nature, along with the great variety of things to photograph that there are here in Michigan.

The other thing, is that I have been too intent on close-ups of everything. I didn’t zoom in all the way that I could with the Sigma 150-500 mm lens all the time on Sunday, and I left many images un-cropped, and I love them. That will be apparent in the next, and last, post I do from that day. Part of that has to do with the Canon camera, it is more faithful in reproducing colors, especially greens and blues, than the old Nikon was. In looking at the photos, I found myself liking the setting as much as the critter that I was focusing on.

So, before I babble on forever, I’m going for a walk before the next round of rain arrives.

Well, no rain, instead, the sun came out and it quickly became like a sauna out there. I think that I stayed drier in the rain yesterday, than my perspiration today.

The day started out pleasant enough, and I was seeing a few things to photograph, such as a pair of goldfinches feeding…

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

..and this insect, whatever it is…

Bug

Bug

…and a pair of yellow warblers doing their best to remain hidden.

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Just about the time the sun began to burn through the clouds, I heard a ruckus overhead, and looking up, I saw one of the red-tailed hawks, a flock of starlings, and a pair of kingbirds. I had just enough time to flip the OS of the Sigma off, and start shooting. I got a few almost winners, the first, was not one of them.

Kingbird, hawk, and starlings

Kingbird, hawk, and starlings

Even though I doubted that I would get anything usable, I continued shooting, catching one of the kingbirds doing a little hawk surfing.

Kingbird hawk surfing

Kingbird hawk surfing

Hawk surfing is what my younger brother calls it when the smaller birds sink their claws into a hawk and ride along on the hawk for a while.

Kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

I can see that the secret of getting sharp bird in flight photos with the Sigma lens is to have two birds in the frame at one time, now if I can learn how to get the exposure right, I’ll be all set. 😉

When I got to the most heavily wooded part of the park, there were birds everywhere! I think that many of them were feeding on mulberries, which are ripe now. I missed most of the species there, but I picked off a few.

Common grackle

Common grackle

Common grackle

Common grackle

Common grackle

Common grackle

Common grackle

Common grackle

Male Baltimore oriole

Juvenile male Baltimore oriole

Juvenile Baltimore oriole

Juvenile Baltimore oriole

Juvenile Baltimore oriole

Juvenile Baltimore oriole

I had trouble picking out which bird to watch, as there were starlings, the grackles, orioles, robins, cowbirds, thrashers, and so many other species flitting around that I couldn’t identify them all.

In the short time that it took to shoot those, it was getting extremely hot, and I had left the windows of my apartment open, because it had been comfortable under the clouds when I left.

I didn’t want to have my apartment feel like a sauna, so I hurried home, pausing just long enough for these two.

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Eastern kingbird not hawk surfing

Eastern kingbird not hawk surfing

Well, time to shower, then head off to work, I’m sure glad that the AC in the truck works well.

Thursday

My right-wing wacko thought of the week, why is it that the same government that is keeping tabs on our phone records, Emails, and other electronic communications can not track down and put a stop to the telemarketers who are scammers?

I have a theory, it’s because the bureaucrats in the FTC are delusional enough to think that the scammers actually declare their ill-gotten gains on their tax returns and pay income taxes. Yeah, right, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I’d like to sell them.

I have a suggestion for the IRS, instead of targeting conservative groups for harassment to assist the Democrats in being elected, why don’t you go after the scammers who are stealing millions of dollars from hard-working American citizens?

Anyway, it’s sunny, warm, and humid today, with the threat of rain later in the afternoon. I’d better get moving now, before the heat has a chance to build up.

Too late, with the sunshine and humidity, it was uncomfortable out there again today. There are a number of flowers that are just starting to bloom, and I considered switching lenses and just shooting flowers today…

Tiger lily

Tiger lily

I should have, for there were very few birds to be seen.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

It’s really remarkable how one day I’ll see very few birds, when the day before, I couldn’t keep track of all the birds because there were so many of them.

I think that if the weather cooperates tomorrow that I will take just the L series lens with me and photograph the early summer flowers.

By redistributing the way that I have been carrying everything, my back and shoulder pain has gone away. But, it would be nice to go a day without lugging everything around with me, especially since I seldom stop to change lenses.

It’s all the Sigma’s fault, it’s such a great birding lens to begin with. But, it also does fairly well on flowers and insects. I know that both of the shorter lenses are better for those subjects, but the slight difference makes it easy for me to get lazy and not bother changing to one of the shorter lenses. Adding to my reluctance to change lenses is the fact that I have been dripping with sweat the last few days. The last thing that I need is drip into the camera or one of the lenses.

My plan is to eventually have a second camera body with a short lens that I can carry in one of the holster like cases that are on the market, and carry one body with a long lens for birding.

That’s about it for today, I have some chores to take care of around here before work.

Friday

Slightly cooler, slightly less humid today. I took only the L series lens today, but I can’t blame the lens for the fact that I came back with very few usable photos. I had an off day, to say the least.

I had intended to shoot flowers, and that’s what I did, but I’m not happy with the results. You would think that with thousands of flowers in bloom that I looked at today, that I could have found some good specimens, in good light, with a nice background for the flowers. But, that didn’t seem to be the case, here’s the best of a bad lot.

Viburnum family?

Viburnum family?

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace

Nightshade family???

Horsenettle, a member of the Nightshade family

Catalpa

Catalpa

Wild rose

Wild rose

I forgot

I forgot

Bird's foot trefoil

Bird’s foot trefoil

The breeze today, which made it almost pleasant outside, also made photographing flowers more difficult.

I know that others have made this same observation, but why is it that as soon as you point your camera at a flower, it begins to sway in the wind for as long as you keep the camera pointed at it? And, why does it stop swaying as soon as you lower the camera, only to begin again as soon as you think about raising the camera up again?

My best shot of the day was a robin, go figure.

American robin

American robin

Don’t you just love it when a bird perches in excellent light, even if their pose isn’t the best?

Let’s see, I got a bee.

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

And I like this one, even though it is only of oak leaves.

Maple leaves

Oak leaves

I tried to get artsy with some fleabane, at least that’s what I think it is, but it didn’t work as I wanted.

Fleabane

Fleabane

I caught a grackle that had just caught lunch.

Common grackle

Common grackle with moth

The past few days there have been very few people in the park, yet one day there will be many birds, on other days, not very many at all. Today was one of the days when there weren’t many birds around.

I did almost trip over a flying catbird as I crossed the bridge over the creek, that was interesting, the catbird probably thought so too.

I could bore you with the continuing saga of what they’re doing with the tennis courts here, but I think that I’ll hold off on that until I see for sure what they are doing, it still makes no sense to me.

There’s a good chance of rain tomorrow, so I’ll do the expanded version of my daily walk here. If I didn’t wait too long for the price of gas to bottom out, I think that I’ll go to the Allegan State Game area on Sunday for a change of pace.

Gas prices have dropped 70 cents a gallon in my area since the Memorial Day weekend spike, 80 cents a gallon just a few miles away from me. So, do burn a gallon of gas at $3.45 a gallon to get gas at that price, or buy here at $3.55 a gallon, when I’ll save one whole dollar on my purchase if I drive the extra miles. I think that I’ll fill up on my way to work. 😉

One other thing, the water levels of the three largest of the Great Lakes, Superior, Huron, and Michigan, have been going up about an inch per week for the last month. That puts them 13 inches above where they were when the rains came back in March.

The area rivers are also flowing at two to three times their normal volume for this time of year, so the water levels in the lakes should continue to rise.

Saturday

It’s a good thing that I didn’t make big plans for the Fourth of July weekend, as I won’t be getting a long weekend. I get Thursday off, then have to work Friday.

I did fill the gas tank of my Subaru up yesterday, as the price of gas finally dropped at the stations near me. So it looks like a trip to the Allegan State Game area is on tap for tomorrow. I’ve never hiked there before. The Kalamazoo River flows through there, and I’ve floated that stretch of river in the past, it looks like an interesting area, and is often mentioned as a great place for birding.

The weather is just a few degrees cooler than it has been this time of morning this week, but there’s still a chance of rain for later.

Last night as I was driving for work, the Lansing, Michigan area was getting dumped on with rain. Over three inches in three hours, streets were like rivers! One good thing about a big truck, that isn’t a problem as long as you slow down, and remember to “drag” the brakes to dry them out before you need them. But, the reason for mentioning the rain is that it means that the Grand River will be flowing even higher again for a while, and more water added to Lake Michigan eventually.

Well, I’m back, this may be short, as I am going to promise not to go off on rants about cyclists, brats and their parents, or people lighting firecrackers in a park. Although, I did learn that lighting firecrackers is a good way to find out where every critter was when the firecrackers started going off.

I hadn’t seen the bluebirds for a while, so it was good to see one today.

Female eastern bluebird intently looking for an insect that had escaped her

Female eastern bluebird intently looking for an insect that had escaped her

Female eastern bluebird in flight

Female eastern bluebird in flight

I did just manage to catch her, didn’t I?

I also manage so fair shots of a few flowers, although I had the same problem today as yesterday, finding good specimens in good light, with a good background. So, here’s the best of the lot.

???

Pokeweed

Blackberry???

Blackberry???

Yucca

Yucca

Yucca

Yucca

I have come up with an odd way of operating the camera while photographing flowers. I use the second finger on my right hand to operate the shutter release, my index finger to operate the dial to scroll through the exposure solutions that the camera comes up with, and my right thumb to control the dial that sets the exposure compensation. I know, it would be a lot easier to switch to aperture mode to get the depth of field that I want rather than scrolling through the exposure solutions, but I like doing things the hard way. That, and doing it my way, I don’t have to remember to switch modes after shooting the flowers. 😉

As I was finishing the first leg of my walk, a whitetail buck stepped out of the brush right in front of me again, it may be the same one as last time.

Whitetail buck

Whitetail buck

Whitetail buck

Whitetail buck

He disappeared into the woods to the left, and I continued on my way. Not long after that, the buck came bounding past me again.

Whitetail buck on the run

Whitetail buck on the run

I managed a photo of one of the few monarch butterflies that I’ve seen this year.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Also, a young male rose-breasted grosbeak.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

I saw a yellow warbler in the brush along the creek, so I stood there for a while keeping an eye out for it. I turned m head just in time to see the female feeding one of her young, but I was too slow for a photo of that. I did get the mother and young one in one shot though.

Female yellow warbler and young one

Female yellow warbler and young one

The little one stuck around for one more shot….

Juvenile yellow warbler

Juvenile yellow warbler

I think that about does it for the day, and for the week. I hoping that the humidity goes down as they are predicting starting tomorrow. It’s been no fun walking this week, and the humidity in the air doesn’t help as far as photography either. I know that it diffuses the light, but it also means that photos aren’t as sharp as if they had been taken in drier air, and the constant milky sky doesn’t make as good of a background as a blue sky does, at least not to me.

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

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Lost Lake Trail, Muskegon SP, birds plus Pt II

To escape the heat and humidity on Sunday, I went to Muskegon State Park and hiked the Lost Lake trail. I shot some of the best photos of my life today, and some that may not be spectacular, but are interesting enough to post. I took 341 photos today, whittled that number down to 130, as many of the photos were of the same subject, but shot with different settings.

For this third post from that day, I am going to post an assortment of birds and a few other things I saw, to go along with the post that I have already done with the flower photos that I took that day. Not all the photos are great ones, but I think that they show the variety of things there to be seen.

For the first post of the birds and other things that I saw, go here.

These were taken in the Snug Harbor portion of Muskegon State Park in the evening as I was getting ready to leave. That is the where the boat launch and day use area (picnic area) are, along with the parking lot and the trailhead for several of the trails that wind through the park are located.

All the picnickers had left for the day, and the wildlife came out to play.

All these were shot with my Sigma 150-500 mm lens, and in a rare thing for me, the lens wasn’t zoomed to 500 mm for many of these shots, even fewer were cropped at all. By the time I shot these, a peaceful, serene feeling had come over me, and I wanted to convey that, and a sense of the setting in my photos. It was special to walk along, and see the wildlife behaving completely natural, as if neither I, or any one else, were within miles of the place. Watching a doe appear out of the reeds to feed in the waters of Muskegon Lake pretty much sums it up.

Male mute swan in action

Male mute swan in action

Male mute swan in action

Male mute swan in action

Male mute swan in action

Male mute swan in action

Female mute swan and cygnets

Female mute swan and cygnets

Female mute swan and cygnets

Female mute swan and cygnets

Common yellowthroat singing

Common yellowthroat singing

Common yellowthroat singing

Common yellowthroat singing

Eaglet

Eaglet

Eaglet

Eaglet

Eaglet

Eaglet

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Eaglet

Eaglet

Eaglet

Eaglet

Female eastern bluebird

Female eastern bluebird

Female mute swan and cygnets

Female mute swan and cygnets

Female mute swan and cygnets

Female mute swan and cygnets

Female mute swan and cygnets

Female mute swan and cygnets

Female mute swan and cygnets

Female mute swan and cygnets

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Female mute swan and cygnets

Female mute swan and cygnets

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Female mute swan and cygnets

Female mute swan and cygnets

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Mute swans and cygnets

Mute swans and cygnets

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Painted turtles basking

Painted turtles basking

IMG_6526

Great blue heron

IMG_6534

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer and great blue heron

Whitetail deer and great blue heron

IMG_6547

Male red-winged blackbird

Canada goose gosling

Canada goose gosling

Female mallard

Female mallard

Male mallard

Male mallard

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


Wood Thrush, Hylocichla mustelina

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.

Wood Thrush, Hylocichla mustelina

The Wood Thrush is a North American passerine bird. It is closely related to other thrushes such as the American Robin and is widely distributed across North America, wintering in Central America and southern Mexico. The Wood Thrush is the official bird of the District of Columbia.

The Wood Thrush is a medium-sized thrush, with brown upper parts with mottled brown and white underparts. The male and female are similar in appearance. The song of the male is often cited as one of the most beautiful in North America.

The Wood Thrush is an omnivore, and feeds preferentially on soil invertebrates and larvae, but will also eat fruits. In the summer, it feeds on insects continuously in order to meet daily metabolic needs. It is solitary, but sometimes form mixed-species flocks. The Wood Thrush defends a territory that ranges in size from 800 to 28,000 square meters. The Wood Thrush is monogamous, and its breeding season begins in the spring; about 50% of all mated pairs are able to raise two broods, ranging in size from 2 to 4 chicks.

The adult Wood Thrush is 18 to 21.5 cm (7.1 to 8.5 in) long, with a wingspan of 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 in) and a body mass of 48 to 72 g (1.7 to 2.5 oz). Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 9.6 to 11.6 cm (3.8 to 4.6 in), the bill is 1.6 to 2 cm (0.63 to 0.79 in) and the tarsus is 2.8 to 3.3 cm (1.1 to 1.3 in). The crown, nape, and upper back are cinnamon-brown, while the back wings, and tail are a slightly duller brown. The breast and belly are white with large dark brown spots on the breast, sides, and flanks. It has white eye rings and pink legs.

The Wood Thrush has been reported to have one of the most beautiful songs of North American birds. American naturalist Henry David Thoreau wrote:

“Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; wherever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of Heaven are not shut against him.”

While the female is not known to sing, the male has a unique song that has three parts. The first subsong component is often inaudible unless the listener is close, and consists of two to six short, low-pitched notes such as bup, bup, bup. The middle part is a loud phrase often written ee-oh-lay, and the third part is a ventriloquial, trill-like phrase of non-harmonic pairs of notes given rapidly and simultaneously.

The male is able to sing two notes at once, which gives its song an ethereal, flute-like quality. Each individual bird has its own repertoire based on combinations of variations of the three parts. Songs are often repeated in order. The bup, bup, bup phrase is also sometimes used as a call, which is louder and at a greater frequency when the bird is agitated.

The Wood Thrush’s breeding range extends from Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia in southern Canada to northern Florida and from the Atlantic coast to the Missouri River and the eastern Great Plains. It migrates to southern Mexico through to Panama in Central America in the winter, mostly in the lowlands along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. It generally arrives on the U.S. Gulf Coast during the first week of April. Fall migration usually begins in mid-August and continues through mid-September. Migration takes place at night, allowing them to find their direction from the stars and orient themselves by detecting the Earth’s magnetic field.

The Wood Thrush prefers deciduous and mixed forests for breeding. It prefers late-successional, upland mesic forests with a moderately-dense shrub layer. Robert I. Bertin (1977) found that this thrush favors areas with running water, moist ground, and high understorey cover. The breeding habitat generally includes trees taller than 16 m (52 ft), a fairly open forest floor, moist soil, and leaf litter, with substrate moisture more important than either canopy cover or access to running water.

Soil invertebrates and larvae make up most of the Wood Thrush’s omnivorous diet, but it will also eat fruits in the late summer, fall, and late winter. It occasionally feeds on arboreal insects, snails, and small salamanders. The young are fed insects and some fruit. After breeding and before migration, the Wood Thrush will switch from insects to fruits with high lipid levels. In the summer, low fruit consumption and lipid reserves require the bird to feed on insects continuously in order to meet its metabolic needs.

The Wood Thrush forages mainly on the forest floor, flipping leaves over with their bills to reveal insects. It can be observed hopping around in leaf litter and on semi-bare ground under the forest canopy. Fruits are swallowed whole.

On to my photos:

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

This is number 108 in my photo life list, only 242 to go!

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

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Lost Lake Trail, Muskegon SP, birds plus Pt I

To escape the heat and humidity on Sunday, I went to Muskegon State Park and hiked the Lost Lake trail. I shot some of the best photos of my life today, and some that may not be spectacular, but are interesting enough to post. I took 341 photos today, whittled that number down to 130, as many of the photos were of the same subject, but shot with different settings.

For this post, I am going to post an assortment of birds, bugs, and a few other things I saw, to go along with the post that I have already done with the flower photos that I took that day. Not all the photos are great ones, but I think that they show the variety of things there to be seen.

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole in flight

Male Baltimore oriole in flight

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Mushroom

Mushroom

Mushroom

Mushroom

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Marsh hawk in flight

Marsh hawk in flight

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Marsh hawk in flight

Marsh hawk in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Green heron

Green heron

Green heron

Green heron

Dragonfly eating a small fly

Dragonfly eating a small fly

Dragonfly eating a small fly

Dragonfly eating a small fly

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Common yellowthroat

Common yellowthroat

Male Indigo bunting

Male Indigo bunting

Dragonfly in flight

Dragonfly in flight

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Sunlit spiderweb

Sunlit spiderweb

Tiny blue and white flowers

Tiny blue and white flowers

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

I still have a few more photos from this trip that I want to post, they’ll be coming up soon.

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


Ruddy Turnstone, Arenaria interpres

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

Ruddy Turnstone, Arenaria interpres

The Ruddy Turnstone is a small wading bird, one of two species of turnstone in the genus Arenaria. It is now classified in the sandpiper family Scolopacidae but was formerly sometimes placed in the plover family Charadriidae. It is a highly migratory bird, breeding in northern parts of Eurasia and North America and flying south to winter on coastlines almost worldwide.

It is a fairly small and stocky bird, 22–24 centimeters (8.7–9.4 in) long with a wingspan of 50–57 centimeters (20–22 in) and a weight of 85–150 g (3.0–5.3 oz). The dark, wedge-shaped bill is 2–2.5 centimeters (0.79–0.98 in) long and slightly upturned. The legs are fairly short at 3.5 centimeters (1.4 in) and are bright orange.

At all seasons, the plumage is dominated by a harlequin-like pattern of black and white. Breeding birds have reddish-brown upper parts with black markings. The head is mainly white with black streaks on the crown and a black pattern on the face. The breast is mainly black apart from a white patch on the sides. The rest of the underparts are white. In flight it reveals a white wingbar, white patch near the base of the wing and white lower back, rump and tail with dark bands on the upper tail-coverts and near the tip of the tail. The female is slightly duller than the male and has a browner head with more streaking.

Non-breeding adults are duller than breeding birds and have dark grey-brown upper parts with black mottling and a dark head with little white. Juvenile birds have a pale brown head and pale fringes to the upper part feathers creating a scaly impression.

In the Americas, the species winters on coastlines from Washington and Massachusetts southwards to the southern tip of South America although it is scarce in southern parts of Chile and Argentina and is only an unconfirmed vagrant in the Falkland Islands.

Ruddy Turnstones typically feed on insects in the summer, though their diet is extended to other invertebrates such as crustaceans, mollusks, and worms in other seasons.

They have also been observed preying on the eggs of other bird species such as gulls, terns, ducks, and even other turnstones, though this behavior is uncommon. In the majority of observed cases, Turnstones typically go after undefended or unattended nests, puncturing the shells with their beaks to get at the contents within.

When foraging, Turnstones adopt different postures indicative of their level of dominance. A lowered tail and a hunched stance is associated with chasing and aggression, and thus a dominant individual. Dominance in aggression is age-related, with juveniles assuming the subordinate role a disproportionate amount of the time.

It is a monogamous bird and pairs may remain together for more than one breeding season. The nest is a shallow scrape, often with a lining of leaves. It is about 11 centimeters across and 3 centimeters deep. It may be built among vegetation or on bare stony or rocky ground. Several pairs may nest close together.

A single clutch of two to five eggs is laid with four being most common. The eggs measure about 41 millimeters by 29 and weigh around 17.9 grams. They are smooth, slightly glossy and oval to pear-shaped. They are variable in color but are commonly pale green-brown with dark brown markings, densest at the larger end. Incubation begins when the first egg is laid and lasts for about 22–24 days. The female is mainly responsible for incubating the eggs but the male may help towards the end.

The young birds are precocial and are able to leave the nest soon after hatching. They are buff above with dark grey markings and are white below. They are able to feed themselves but are protected by the parents, particularly the male. They fledge after 19–21 days.

On to my photos:

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

IMG_3604

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

This is number 107 in my photo life list, only 243 to go!

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

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Lost Lake trail, Muskegon SP, the plants

To escape the heat and humidity on Sunday, I went to Muskegon State Park and hiked the Lost Lake trail. I shot some of the best photos of my life today, and some that may not be spectacular, but are interesting enough to post. I took 341 photos today, whittled that number down to 130, as many of the photos were of the same subject, but shot with different settings.

For this post, I am going to do just the flowers and plants from today, I hope that you’ll like them as much as I do. There’s not much to say about them, other than I think that laying in the mud for some of these was worth it. I used all three of my lenses at one time or another for these, depending on the size of the flowers, and how close I could get to them.

You can click any of these for a larger few.

Water lily

Water lily

Green!

Green!

???

Burr reed

Wild roses and other plants along the trail

Wild roses and other plants along the trail

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Atlantic blue-eyed grass

Atlantic blue-eyed grass

Atlantic blue-eyed grass

Atlantic blue-eyed grass

Atlantic blue-eyed grass

Atlantic blue-eyed grass

Water lily

Water lily

Sundew

Sundew

Sundew

Sundew

Sundew

Sundew

IMG_6323

Sundew

???

???

???

Rose potogia

???

Rose pogonia

???

Rose pogonia

???

Rose pogonia

Grass?

Grey’s sedge

Pitcher plant

Pitcher plant

Pitcher plant

Pitcher plant

Pitcher plant

Pitcher plant

Pitcher plant

Pitcher plant

Pitcher plant

Pitcher plant

Water lily

Water lily

Pitcher plant

Pitcher plant

Wild Iris

Wild Iris

Wild Iris

Wild Iris

Wild Iris

Wild Iris

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Water lily

Wild Iris

Wild Iris

New red leaves

New red leaves

Water lily

Water lily

I’m sorry that there are so many of the same flowers, but I was on a roll, and after seeing them, I can’t pick out the best of the best, I like them all.

I still have bugs, birds, and Bambi from today to post, I’ll get to those in other posts.

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


My week, wrong lens, wrong birds, wrong settings

Sunday

More heavy rain overnight, the clouds still linger, and it’s still humid this morning. I think that last Sunday started out much the same way. The forecast is for at least partial clearing later in the day, so I’m holding off going for a walk until then, if that happens. I checked the webcams from along Lake Michigan to see if there was any clearing off to the west of here, they are socked in with heavy fog, so we may not clear out as quickly as they say.

The wholesale price of gas has fallen 80 cents since the spike in prices, yet the price at the pump is just beginning to fall. I’m sure that the price will come down for the two weeks leading up to the Fourth of July holiday weekend, when there will be another problem at a refinery or with a pipeline, and prices will skyrocket again. I am such a cynic.

After two weeks of whining about wanting to travel more, what do I do? Stay home and walk the same trail day after day. I have no idea yet what I am going to do over the Fourth, it will all depend on gas prices and the weather. I’ll get two paychecks on the first payday in July, my normal check, plus a check for all the sick pay that I never use. Towards the middle of July, I’ll have two weeks of vacation coming.

I didn’t take any vacation time last year, I saved the pay, hoping to use it for the down payment on a condo, which didn’t work out, but the pay did become the down payment for my Forester. I know that I’m going to take at least one week off this year, I may even take both weeks together, which will leave my boss pulling his hair out. That’s not such a bad thing. 😉

But, the questions are, where do I go and when do I go there. A trip up to the Upper Peninsula to revisit the Porcupine Mountains, and Copper Harbor area is sounding really good to me at this time. It’s a beautiful area in the summer, but if I hold off until the end of September, it will be less crowded, and fall colors will add to the beauty of the area. It’s been at least five years since I’ve seen a waterfall, can you believe it?

Instead of prattling on about nothing, I should be making a list of some new places to visit around here, like the Allegan State Game Area, and a few others fairly close to home. I have a list in my head, but it escapes me when the weekends roll around, and I end up going to Muskegon, Saugatuck, or one of the other places I go on a regular basis.

My brother and sister-in-law just bought kayaks this weekend, so I think that I will pay them a visit soon, and spend a day kayaking to help them get started. That means that I’ll have to fall back on my Powershot point and shoot camera, but it takes pretty good photos.

Stonecrop

Stonecrop

I’m not risking the new camera gear in a kayak, even on a lake.

Well, even though it’s still cloudy outside, I guess I’ll eat breakfast, then head on over to Palmer Park for the day, even though it’s been a bust of late, other than deer.

Well, I said that we received heavy rain last night, and that was true! Buck Creek was over its banks in places. The boardwalk was the only way to get around up in the northwest corner of the park, water had even been over the boardwalk last night.

I’ve mentioned this a lot also, but it bears repeating, the plant life is loving the weather we’ve been having. I saw many deer today, probably because the places where they usually bed down for the day are under water, but I had a difficult time getting a good photo of most of them because the grass is now taller than the deer. Maybe I should have saved one of the photos I took of the deer in the tall grass, but I didn’t. I did save this one, even though it’s not that great, just because it shows the red summer coat of deer so well.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

I did see two out in the open, and took many photos, but they had the light on me, so the photos are nothing special, I’ve posted much better before. But, here’s one, I’ll bet most people don’t see this everyday. 😉

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

The Sigma lens continues to amaze me, in how well it performs in very low light.

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Hermit thrush on its nest

Hermit thrush on its nest

The hermit thrush was shot handheld at 403 mm, a shutter speed of 1/60 second, ISO 1600, and plus 1/3 exposure compensation. My first two shots were at 150 mm, as there was so little light, I had my doubts that they would come out sharp. I couldn’t resist zooming in as far as I dared to get the one above. For the auto-focus of the Sigma lens to pick up the thrush’s eye, and for the OS to work so well as to get a photo as sharp as it is under the circumstances, I am so happy that I bought that lens!

The 15-85 mm lens performs very well also.

Beardtongue

Beardtongue

Beardtongue

Beardtongue

Yellow aster???

Tickseed coreopsis, also called lance leaved coreopsis

Yellow aster???

Tickseed coreopsis, also called lance leaved coreopsis

Yellow aster???

Tickseed coreopsis, also called lance leaved coreopsis

Black-eyed susan

Black-eyed susan

All of the flower photos here would have been even better if the wind hadn’t been so strong today.

Flower trying to hide

Flower trying to hide

I’d get set up for just the shot that I wanted, and then that would happen, the wind would pick up just as I was pressing the shutter release.

You know that it’s a rather strange day when one of these….

Chipmunk

Chipmunk

Chipmunk

Chipmunk

…holds still longer than what flowers do, even when I have all my ducks in a row…

Mallards

Mallards

Fortunately, there’s one subject to photograph that you never have to worry about motion with.

Painted turtle

Painted turtle

Painted turtle

Painted turtle

Painted turtle

Painted turtle

It must have been egg laying day for the painted turtles, I saw four of them wandering around looking for a place to lay their eggs.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the sun did come out today. 😉

Well, I don’t have much else to say about my walk today, so I guess this is it for now.

Monday

Sunny and mild, a picture postcard mid-June day here in West Michigan.

Serious birding is over for the summer, especially this summer since I seldom see any birds any longer due to how thick the leaves are. I was hoping to make it half way through My Photo Life List this year, but it looks like that won’t happen. I’ll probably pick up a few more, but soon, the birds will be molting into their winter plumage, making identification that much harder.

I’m thinking that I’ll be leaving the Sigma lens home more often now while on my daily walks. I may regret that, but I think my back and shoulders will thank me for doing so. I’m not sure what’s going on with my body, it’s getting easier to sling the Sigma lens around when I need to when photographing things, but my shoulders and back begin to ache from carrying that lens around sooner while on a hike than they did when I first bought it. I should clarify this, it isn’t just carrying the Sigma lens around with me most of the time that’s bothering me, it’s carrying it, plus all the other camera gear, water, etc. that’s been putting an extra load on my back and shoulders.

A couple of friends of mine were serious weightlifters back in the 1980’s, and they always followed a schedule where they worked a set of muscles one day, then they rested those muscles to allow them to “rebuild” for a day or two before they worked them again. Since I never take a day off, I wonder if a couple of the muscle groups in my back and shoulders need a few days off to “rebuild”. We’ll see, right now, my legs feel as if they could use a day or two of rest as well. As far as I can remember, I don’t think that I’ve missed a daily walk since last November while I was moving, and my legs sure didn’t get any rest then, carrying things in and out of both apartments.

It would help if I went back to eating more, and better again. Since I am closing in on my weight loss goal, I have been starving myself for the last three months or so, and that’s not a good thing. I have no energy reserves left, other than fat, and a body needs more than that in order to stay active.

Well, enough of that gibberish, time for my walk.

You know what happened, don’t you? I took just the 70-200 mm lens today, and there were birds out in the open everywhere.

Male red-winged blackbird

Male red-winged blackbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

For the first time in a while, I really could have used the Sigma today to zoom in on the birds. Since I couldn’t do that, I amused myself by shooting some birds in flight shots.

Male American goldfinch in flight

Male American goldfinch in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

For the first time, I saw the flycatcher that I have been trying to identify the last few weeks, out in the open on a nice day, where I could have put the Sigma to use, but I had to settle for this.

Unidentified flycatching object

Alder flycatcher

My photo may not be good enough for an ID, but its song was. It’s an alder flycatcher, now I’ll have to work on getting better photos of it.

Today was the first time that I really put the 70-200 mm L series lens through its paces on a sunny day, and I am starting to see why people rave about the L series lenses so much.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Purple wildflowers

Dame’s rocket?

Goat's beard seeds

Goat’s beard seeds

Milkweed about to bloom

Milkweed about to bloom

Chicory

Chicory

Hover fly

Hover fly

What a quandary to be in, three excellent lens to use, and so little time to use them!

Before today, I had used the 70-200 mm mostly on rainy days, since it is weather sealed, and neither of my other lenses are. I think that’s been a mistake on my part. That lens would never replace the Sigma for birding, and the 15-85 mm does so well on flowers that the only time that I have used the L series lens is for flowers that I couldn’t get close enough to before.

I think that for the rest of this week, the L series will be the only lens I carry with me. It does better on flying birds than the Sigma, is equal to the 15-85 mm for flowers, and does so much better on insects that I am going to give it a real workout. At the same time, I won’t be giving my back or shoulders a workout, and I’ll see if that helps. I do feel better after my walk today than I have felt in a while now.

I have one more photo from today, one that I normally wouldn’t post.

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Sorry about the power lines and the house, there was no way to get that shot without them. I didn’t walk up to the tree to identify it, but it is a good example of how well the trees are doing this year. I didn’t get a shot of the cherry trees when they were blooming, which was a shame. So far this year, whenever a species of tree blooms, those trees are covered with more flowers than I can remember having ever seen before. Our native trees have looked like cultivars grown specifically to produce an abundance of flowers.

Before I go off on a rant about the rude cyclists that will run you over if you don’t jump out of their way quickly enough to suit them, I’d better call today’s entry good, and get ready to visit my mom.

Tuesday

I hate getting older, but it beats the alternative, I suppose. The reason that I say that this morning has nothing to do with aches or pains, at least not the bodily type anyway. No, it comes from listening to interviews with supposedly well-educated people who can’t string more than six words together without throwing in a “like” or a “you know”.

I know that every older generation complains about the younger generations, but it isn’t just the younger generation in this case, it’s seems to have spread across all generations in this country, making us sound like uneducated simpletons.

I’d better get off this rant in a hurry, or I’ll end up with like, you know, an entire book on how, like, this country, you know, exalts stupidity, and like, you know, shuns intellect.

And we wonder how we’ve gotten ourselves into the mess we’re in. We listen to news, not for factual information, facts get in the way of what we just know to be true, and would require us exert a little brain power.

It’s wonderfully cool and sunny outside, I’d better go cool off.

Murphy’s law was in full force today. I woke up refreshed, and feeling really good, but I made the mistake of checking out the news as I was drinking my coffee, which led to the rant that I began the day with.

Okay, so I get outdoors, today would be in the running for most beautiful day of the year, any year. But then, I was nearly run down by a cyclist, not once, which is an average day, not twice, which isn’t unusual, but three times, all while I was walking on the sidewalk.

What really burns me about nearly being hit on the sidewalk is that riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is against the law here, and to top it off, there are bike lanes on both sides of the road, so the cyclists have no excuse for being on the sidewalk in the first place.

There’s three kinds of cyclists around here, and they are equally dangerous.

The first kind is the Lance Armstrong wannabes with very expensive bikes, and all the right clothes to wear to make them look like Lance. They’re Hell bent each day to set a record time for their ride, and woe to any one who holds them up, even if they’re riding illegally. I listened to one cuss out a young mother pushing a stroller on the bike/walking path one day, because she was taking up too much room to suit the cyclist. I intervened, and got cussed out myself, but it was worth it.

The second kind is the young males who insist on texting while riding no handed as they weave back and forth across the sidewalk. Most of them have ear buds in their ears and are listening to music as they ride, there’s a couple of them that practice their dance moves as they are riding. Of course they won’t use the bike lanes, they could weave out into traffic and get hit by a car if they did. One came so close to me today that I considered giving him a nudge as he went past me to send him off into the trees, but I didn’t.

The third kind is the elderly riders, often on a tricycle that takes up the entire sidewalk. They won’t ride in the bike lanes, as they don’t want to get cussed out by the Lance Armstrong wannabes for taking up the entire bike lane and slowing them down as they go for the record. I can understand why they ride on the sidewalk, but it still perturbs me when I have to jump out of their way so that they can pass.

And that brings up something else, I must do everything backwards, even go for my walk. After nearly being hit from behind on Saturday by one of three of the Lance Armstrong wannabes riding three abreast on the path, I started keeping count of how many riders passed me from behind, and how many passed me going in the opposite direction. The count was 15 to 3 when I lost track, but that seems about normal. Few of them give you any warning that they are coming up behind you, so there have been a couple of times when I turned right in front of them as they approached me, and I saw something on the other side of the path that I wanted to look at. The ones that do let you know that they’re coming usually wait until they are about five feet away, then yell “Coming through”, which I think they do just to startle the pedestrians they pass.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, on to the photos from today. Oh wait, they just started the automatic lawn sprinklers here for the first time this year, and I have to check to see if I’m going to get water in through my windows, which are open.

No water hitting my windows, but I have to ask, why are they watering the lawn? It rained last night, and the last I heard, we were eleven inches above our average precipitation for the year then.

Now maybe I can get to the photos. I took only the 70-200 L series lens again today, one thing that I am learning is that it could be very good for shots of flying birds.

Barn swallow in flight

Barn swallow in flight

Tree swallow in flight

Tree swallow in flight

Red-winged blackbird in flight

Red-winged blackbird in flight

I think that by changing a few settings around, that I’ll be able to get some really good shots of birds in flight with that lens. Even if I keep the Sigma at 300 mm, it’s just too heavy to follow the birds with, much like trying to swat a fly with a sledgehammer.

I have to do something to amuse myself, and shooting flying birds is a good way to do so, along with getting more creative, or I should say, learning to make use of the adjustments that the Canon 60D has for me to play with.

Creek scene

Creek scene

That doesn’t look like anything special, but I am very pleased with it because I made wholesale changes to the camera settings to get as much in focus as I did, without any major blow out in the sunnier spots, caught the green reflected off from the water towards the top of the frame, and so on. I should have taken a shot straight up to demonstrate how it would have looked that way. This may not be a special shot, but what I learned while getting it will serve me well in other locations.

I should rephrase that, what I actually learned was to take the time to evaluate what the photo will look like before I press the shutter release all the way, and adjust the camera settings accordingly. That’s what I did with that shot, I pressed the shutter release half way, saw the exposure settings, and then took the time to picture how the photo taken at those settings would look in my mind. I then made adjustments to get the photo to look the way that I wanted it to look.

If any one is interested, I switched from partial spot metering, which I use when shooting birds, to evaluative metering, so that the metering system would read the entire scene. Otherwise, the bright rocks in the creek would have been about all that you could have made out in the photo. I also used an aperture of f/20 to get most of the scene in focus.

Here are my other shots for the day.

Motherwort

Motherwort

Red leaves

Red leaves

Chicory

Chicory

White butterfly

White butterfly

White butterfly

White butterfly

Meadow flowers

Meadow flowers

That last shot was just screaming for the 15-85 mm lens, but I hadn’t taken it with me. I will tomorrow, which is supposed to be just as nice, because a slightly wider view will bring in even more flowers, and of different colors.

I’m not prone to pain, especially not back pain. I’m not sure if it is because I haven’t been lugging everything with me the last two days, or if for other reasons, but I am feeling much better today. It may be because of the cooler weather, I don’t know.

So, I am going to spend some more quality time with the camera manual this afternoon before work, and when I get home tonight. I am going to come up with better settings for birds in flight, and give them a try tomorrow, and see how well I do.

You know, this is almost like starting digital photography from scratch for me. Yes, I had a digital Nikon D50 for years, but I never could make it function as it was supposed to, so when I came up with settings that would produce acceptable photos most of the time, I left all the settings alone after that, as anytime I changed anything, the resulting photos were crap.

With the Canon 60D, I’m finding that the settings that I do adjust make the changes I intend for them to make, so now I have to learn to take advantage of all that this camera offers.

And just so that you know, despite my ranting here today, it was a great day, and I am really fired up to see what tomorrow brings.

Wednesday

They’re still fooling around with what used to be the tennis courts here, I thought that they were almost done doing whatever it is that they are doing, but no luck. It looks now like they are going to put in playground equipment for kids, but they are sure taking their time and doing it in an odd way. At the rate they’re progressing, it will be done next year, maybe.

Very cool overnight, the last week or so has been very nice overall, it’s too bad it is forecast to get hot and sticky this weekend. I should be out there now, enjoying this cooler air before the heat slams me this weekend. That sounds like a good plan, so I’m off. I’m taking both of the shorter lenses, and starting with the camera set up to shoot flying birds.

I’m back, and I’ll bet that you can guess what happened, can’t you? Yup, I saw a new to me species of bird, which I will get to in time.

First, I set my camera to the servo mode for auto-focus, using all nine focus points. I also bumped the ISO up to 800, hoping that it would give me the right balance between high shutter speeds and an aperture setting to give me some depth of field. I was close.

Song sparrow in flight

Song sparrow in flight

Song sparrow in flight

Song sparrow in flight

Eastern kingbird in flight

Eastern kingbird in flight

Barn swallow in flight

Barn swallow in flight

American robin in flight

American robin in flight

Cedar waxwings in flight

Cedar waxwings in flight

Red-winged blackbird in flight

Red-winged blackbird in flight

But birds weren’t the only thing that I practiced on.

Dragonfly in flight

Dragonfly in flight

I think that I’ll go up to ISO 1000 and switch to the aperture mode, setting that to f/7.1, that should give me the depth of field that I need, and hopefully, the shutter speeds will be high enough to freeze the motion of the birds better. That is, if I try this again tomorrow.

Maybe I’m approaching this wrong, logic would seem to tell me to go with shutter mode, and set the shutter speed high enough to freeze the motion. But then, the aperture would be stopped way down, and I’d lose depth of field, and I think that it’s important to keep some depth of field to assist the auto-focus. We’ll see.

By the way, I deleted about twice as many photos of flying birds as I kept, as those were too blurry to post. But, one out of three isn’t too bad.

Switching all the settings back and forth isn’t as big of a deal as I thought that it would be. The controls of the 60D are well laid out, and easy to set. Not only that, but I can see what I’m doing without my reading glasses even on a bright sunny day like today, which worked out well. Because, flying birds aren’t the only thing I photographed today.

Butterfly

Butterfly

Butterfly

Butterfly

Yellow Goats beard seeds

Yellow Goats beard seeds

Garlic flower?

Garlic flower?

I also shot a few stationary birds.

Grey catbird with lunch

Grey catbird with lunch

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

American crow

American crow

The crow and the blackbird show will return after this short break.

I heard a bird’s song that I had never heard before, and traced it back to this guy, an immature orchard oriole, which I don’t think that I have ever seen before.

Immature male orchard oriole

Immature male orchard oriole

Seeing the black bib on its face told me that this was a new species for me, so I was shooting away to make sure that I got a few good photos. A male Baltimore oriole chased the orchard oriole off momentarily. As the Baltimore oriole left, I got a shot of it in flight, but it’s bad, really bad. That may have something to do with the fact that I was bent over backward while trying to keep it in the viewfinder. 😉 As soon as the Baltimore oriole left, the orchard oriole returned, and began to sing again.

Immature male orchard oriole singing

Immature male orchard oriole singing

I was wishing that I had the Sigma with me for those! And, I also saw the alder flycatcher almost out in the open again as well.

Alder flycatcher hiding

Alder flycatcher hiding

I’m going to have to train all these birds to sit still for me like the red-winged blackbird above does. I need time to change lenses and camera settings.

Now we return you to the Crow and blackbird show.

Red-winged blackbird attacking a crow

Red-winged blackbird attacking a crow

Red-winged blackbird attacking a crow

Red-winged blackbird attacking a crow

Red-winged blackbird attacking a crow

Red-winged blackbird attacking a crow

Red-winged blackbird attacking a crow

Red-winged blackbird attacking a crow

Red-winged blackbird attacking a crow

Red-winged blackbird attacking a crow

You can’t see it in the third photo because they are both black birds, but the crow was fighting back whenever the blackbird got close. I think that the crow got in a good jab with its beak while the blackbird was making one of its passes, as the blackbird gave up the attack and flew off.

That’s it for today, now I have to decide if I’m going for flying birds tomorrow, or bring the Sigma and go for the flycatcher and orchard oriole.

Thursday

Today was pretty much a bust, I did about everything wrong. After reviewing my photos from yesterday, and giving it much thought over night, I decided that I would take the Sigma lens today, set it at 300 mm for flying birds, and leave it there for those shots.

I guess taking the Sigma wasn’t a mistake, for the first bird that I spotted to photograph was an indigo bunting singing from the top of a tree. So, I reset just about all the settings on the camera, and got photos like this.

Male Indigo bunting

Male Indigo bunting

The next bird, a female red-winged blackbird that refused to fly, so I had to again switch everything over to the perched bird settings for this.

Female red-winged blackbird

Female red-winged blackbird

Switching back to the bird in flight settings, I spotted the male meadowlark closer than what I had ever been before, so once again I switched to the perched bird settings for these.

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark in flight

Eastern meadowlark in flight

I would have thought that 1/800 of a second would freeze the motion of a bird’s wings, but obviously I was wrong. I was wrong about so many things today, as usual.

They had just finished mowing the grass in the park, that normally attracts birds that come to feed on the insects stirred up by the mowing, but not today. I ended up switching to the action settings, only to have to switch back to stationary settings for shots like this.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

As I was taking a break, I saw one of the red-tailed hawks come swooping out of the tree that they have their nest in across the street from the park. Today, it came to me why I see the hawks circling to the south of the park all the time, and why they never expand the circles to over the park itself.

At the apartment complex where I lived until last fall, I got many close-ups of hawks because they would use the updrafts created above the parking lots to gain altitude. Well, the funeral home that I mentioned in a much earlier post this spring is just to the south of the park where I walk now, and the hawks are using the updrafts above that parking lot to gain altitude.

Even though the light was poor, I shot a number of photos anyway, just to check out my bird in flight settings, and those settings for the Sigma lens suck! In fact, I hate to admit this, but the Sigma lens just plain sucks for any bird in flight photos for the most part, it’s just too big and heavy for most action shots. And for some reason, sensor noise from higher ISO settings becomes very objectionable when shooting birds against a blue sky with that lens, much more so than with the L series lens for some reason. I would have thought that ISO 800 would produce the same results no matter which lens was on the camera, but once again, I was wrong.

Just to prove what a complete idiot I can be, I tried to shoot swallows in flight.

IMG_5967

Swallow in flight

Makes sense to me, try photographing a species of bird that is extremely difficult to get a good exposure of when they are sitting still, while that species is in flight, using a very heavy lens, and trying to keep the birds in the viewfinder. Yeah, right.

The Sigma is best saved for these shots.

Grey catbird singing

Grey catbird singing

Today was the last of the nearly perfect weather for a while, it’s forecast to get hot and humid for the next week or so, darn, I was just getting used to this.

Friday

Being both stubborn and foolish, I don’t give up easily. What’s that definition of insanity that people use quite often, doing the same thing over and over and expecting the outcome to be different? Maybe that applies to me. I am thinking of giving the Sigma one last try for shooting birds in flight. I won’t really be doing exactly what I did yesterday, I’m going to tweak the camera settings to see if I can make it work. This will be my last attempt with that lens, famous last words.

Gas prices have been dropping like a rock this week, just in time to convince people that it will be safe to travel over the Fourth of July weekend. And, since it is going to be the hottest, most muggy week of the year so far, I think that I will take advantage of those lower prices and take a trip to Muskegon on Sunday. I’ll do a little birding early, then spend the afternoon somewhere near the water where it will be a little cooler.

Speaking of cooler, I’d better get going before the heat really begins to build today.

I set out intending to try shooting birds in flight, but before I made it out of the parking lot, these caught my eye.

Unknown flowering bush

Unknown flowering bush

Unknown flowering bush

Unknown flowering bush

The flowers were on a bush tall enough for me to see over the privacy fence that surrounds the apartment complex, and had very large leaves, I’ll get better photos soon.

I did shoot a couple of flying birds, but I’m only posting this one.

Male red-winged blackbird in flight

Male red-winged blackbird in flight

As you can see, there was a milky white sky today as a result of the building humidity. It would have been a great day to photograph flowers, but for two things. One was the wind which was very strong, blowing in the hot, humid air. The other was the fact that the county had mowed down most of the wildflowers along the edges of the trail and sidewalk.

Between the sky, and the mood that I was in, I didn’t hold out much hope of any good bird in flight photos, so I changed settings and tactics, and went after perched birds.

Female Baltimore oriole

Female Baltimore oriole

Juvenile Baltimore oriole

Juvenile Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Juvenile rose-breasted grosbeak

Juvenile rose-breasted grosbeak

Juvenile rose-breasted grosbeak

Juvenile rose-breasted grosbeak

Juvenile American robin

Juvenile American robin

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

The wind was so strong that the meadowlark had to use its wings for balance to prevent itself from being bucked out of the tree it was perched in. I’ve been forgetting to mention it, but there are now young meadowlarks around, and the male tends to stay perched watching over his brood as they feed in the field, which is how I am getting closer to him now. I’ve tried to photograph the young, but they disappear completely in the grass of the field.

As I was on my way back, and deep in thought, this guy came bounding out of the woods to pose for me.

Whitetail buck in velvet

Whitetail buck in velvet

Whitetail buck in velvet

Whitetail buck in velvet

Whitetail buck in velvet

Whitetail buck in velvet

I have decided to stick relatively close to home over the Fourth of July weekend. As much as I would love to head off up north somewhere, I’ll wait for my vacation to do that, and do it right.

I have decided to take my vacation in the fall when it will be cooler and less crowded, I still haven’t decided where yet.

I have decided to continue to live like a pauper for the time being, as there are too many things that I see myself purchasing, not right away, but in the not too distant future.

I’d like one of the Canon 300 mm prime telephoto lenses to use while walking around and for birds in flight. The Sigma is an amazing lens, being able to pick birds out of the leaves of trees as it does, the photos above speak to that very well. But it’s too darned heavy for photographing birds in flight, as much as I hate to say that. Carrying the L series for two days brought that home to me. But, the L series lens is a little too short for what I want to do.

I thought about a 1.4 teleconverter to use behind the L series lens, I could afford that now, but that would slow down the auto-focus, the last thing that you need for shooting action shots, and it still wouldn’t be what I want. I keep bouncing back and forth on the teleconverter, it would come in handy behind a 300 mm prime lens as well, maybe even behind the Sigma. Wouldn’t that be something!

Well, enough babbling, time to get ready for work.

Saturday

It’s officially summer now, isn’t it? I think that I heard rumors to that effect. How time flies when you’re having a good time!

Speaking of that, some of my high school classmates are having an informal 40th year reunion tonight, not that I’ll be attending.

Hot and humid, as predicted! I wanted to travel light, so I took just the L series lens with me. That was another mistake, in a way. I had a few chances for bird close-ups, but the 200 mm maximum length of the L series wasn’t enough, as you will see.

Oh, that reminds me, I have figured out that what’s been bothering my back and shoulders isn’t the weight, it’s the way that I have distributed it. I carry half the weight of my gear on my right shoulder, the other half on my left hip. Apparently, this is causing me to walk somewhat like John Wayne, and it isn’t good for my back muscles. I’ll try a new arrangement tomorrow when I go to Muskegon. I want to be able to carry all my gear comfortably.

And, that reminds me of something else I wanted to mention. Wisconsin has been hammered with rain the last two days, over 6 inches in places. Much of that rain will end up in the Mississippi watershed, but some will be added to the levels of the Great Lakes.

The reason that popped into my head was that parts of that rain system were breaking off from the main core, trying to cross Lake Michigan, and we did get a few sprinkles last night. Since it looked like it could rain again at any time, I took a rain jacket with me, another reason that I didn’t carry all three lenses.

No, I don’t have a problem staying focused, why do you ask?

I keep saying that serious birding is done for the summer because of how thick the leaves are everywhere, I should know better than that.

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

How I wished I had taken the Sigma! Except, it probably wouldn’t have been on the camera at that time, because the filter sunlight was great for flowers.

Milkweed flowers

Milkweed flowers

Anyway, I spotted the bunting, and he and his mate were carrying on, trying to lead me away from their nest.

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

I a repeat of something that happened last week, a grey catbird arrived on the scene to see why the buntings were carrying on so.

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

I never knew that they were such curious birds before, but last week when some sparrows were making a racket, I saw a catbird trying to see why, and now this week, the same thing happened nearly a mile from the first incident while the buntings were going crazy, so I doubt if it was the same catbird in both instances.

That’s funny in a way, catbirds stay hidden in the brush 99% of the time as if they wanted privacy, yet this is twice now when I have seen them come to the sounds of other birds raising a ruckus. I suppose that the catbirds just want to know what’s going on in their little world.

I did take advantage of the good light for shooting flowers as long as it lasted.

Stonecrop

Stonecrop

???

???

Sweetpea

Sweet pea

In the park, a couple was setting up very elaborate decorations for a wedding reception that was going to take place in the afternoon, and they had hanging baskets of these as part of the decorations.

???

???

I also got a dragonfly and butterfly…

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Butterfly

Butterfly

…but another piece of the storm in Wisconsin moved overhead, the clouds thickened up to ruin the lighting for the rest of my walk, even though only a drop or two of rain fell.

This is very long already, and I have things to do as far as getting ready for tomorrow, making supper, and going grocery shopping, so this is it for the day, and the week.

Thanks for stopping by!


Scarlet Tanager, Piranga olivacea

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.

Scarlet Tanager, Piranga olivacea

The Scarlet Tanager is a medium-sized American songbird. Formerly placed in the tanager family, it and other members of its genus are now classified in the cardinal family. The species’ plumage and vocalizations are similar to other members of the cardinal family.

Adults have pale stout smooth bills. Adult males are bright red with black wings and tail. Females are yellowish on the underparts and olive on top, with olive-brown wings and tail. The adult male’s winter plumage is similar to the female’s, but the wings and tail remain darker. Young males briefly show a more complex variegated plumage intermediate between adult males and females.

Their breeding habitat is large forested areas, especially with oaks, across eastern North America. Scarlet Tanagers migrate to northwestern South America, passing through Central America around April, and again around October.

They begin arriving on the breeding grounds in numbers by about May and already start to move south again in mid-summer, by early October they are all on their way south.

Scarlet Tanagers are often out of sight, foraging high in trees, sometimes flying out to catch insects in flight. They eat mainly insects and fruit.

These birds do best in the forest interior, where they are less exposed to predators and brood parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird. Their nests are typically built on horizontal tree branches.

On to my photos:

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

Male scarlet tanager

This is number 106 in my photo life list, only 244 to go!

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

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Ovenbird, Seiurus aurocapilla

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.

Ovenbird, Seiurus aurocapilla

The Ovenbird is a small songbird of the New World warbler family (Parulidae). This migratory bird breeds in eastern North America and winters in Central America, many Caribbean Islands, Florida, and northern Venezuela.

Ovenbirds are large wood warblers and is sometimes confused by the untrained for a thrush. Adults measure 11–16 cm (4.3–6.3 in) long and span 19–26 cm (7.5–10 in) across the wings. They weigh 19 g (0.67 oz) on average, with a range of 14–28.8 g (0.49–1.02 oz). Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 6.8 to 8.3 cm (2.7 to 3.3 in), the tail is 5 to 5.8 cm (2.0 to 2.3 in), the bill is 1.1 to 1.3 cm (0.43 to 0.51 in) and the tarsus is 2 to 2.3 cm (0.79 to 0.91 in). They tend to be heavier in winter and particularly at the start of their migration. They have olive-brown upper-parts and white underparts heavily streaked with black; the flanks have an olive hue. A white ring surrounds the eyes, and a black stripe runs below the cheek. They have a line of orange feathers with olive-green tips running along the top of their head, bordered on each side with blackish-brown. The orange feathers can be erected to form a small crest. The eyes and the upper part of the thin pointed beak are dark, while the lower beak is horn-colored and the legs and feet are pinkish.

Males and females look alike. Immature birds have tawny fringes to the tertiary remiges and sometimes buff-tipped outer primary wing coverts. Most conspicuously, the olive-green tips of the crown feathers, which are hardly visible in adult birds, are far larger in extent in immatures and cover the orange crown-stripe almost or completely.

Their breeding habitats are mature deciduous and mixed forests, especially sites with little undergrowth, across Canada and the eastern United States. For foraging, it prefers woodland with abundant undergrowth of shrubs; essentially, it thrives best in a mix of primary and secondary forest. Ovenbirds migrate to the southeastern United States, the Caribbean, and from Mexico to northern South America. The birds are territorial all year round, occurring either singly or (in the breeding season) as mated pairs, for a short time accompanied by their young. During migration, they tend to travel in larger groups however, dispersing again once they reach their destination.

Ovenbirds forage on the ground in dead leaves, sometimes hovering or catching insects in flight. This bird frequently tilts its tail up and bobs its head while walking; at rest, the tail may be flicked up and slowly lowered again, and alarmed birds flick the tail frequently from a half-raised position. These birds mainly eat terrestrial arthropods and snails, and also include fruit in their diet during winter.

The nest, referred to as the “oven” (which gives the bird its name), is a domed structure placed on the ground, woven from vegetation, and containing a side entrance. Both parents feed the young birds. The placement of the nest on the ground makes predation by chipmunks a greater concern than for tree-nesting birds. Chipmunks have been known to burrow directly into the nest to eat the young birds.

On to my photos:

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Oven bird

Oven bird

Oven bird

Oven bird

Oven bird singing on the run

Oven bird singing on the run

Oven bird

Oven bird

This is number 105 in my photo life list, only 245 to go!

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

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My week

Sunday

The great weather continues, I could get used to this! The rain forecast for this afternoon has been taken out of the forecast this morning, so I’m in no rush to head outdoors, yet. I’d like to stop sneezing and blowing my nose every five minutes before I step out the door. That may not happen today, so perhaps I should fill my pockets with tissues, and brave the pollen.

It’s been tough, but I’m coming to grips with the fact that I can’t just chuck everything, quit my job, and spend the summer travelling around the country seeing the sights, and photographing them. I may not have a lot, but what I do have is nicer stuff, and I have to face the fact that I like living with nicer stuff. It’s nice to think back to my younger days when I would do something that’s really rather silly, like quitting a job on a whim, just to get an extended vacation. I didn’t have anything back then, so that was possible. As a buddy used to say, “If you can’t be ready to move in half an hour, you’ve got too much stuff”. Well, I’ve accumulated too much stuff to do that any longer, and I did so for a reason. I like having good, comfortable furniture that actually goes together, rather than second or third-hand junk that nobody wanted any longer. I like using a quality fly rod, even if I don’t get to use it as often as I would like. The list goes on and on.

So, it’s been time for a reality check.

Well, I had forgotten that I was up almost two hours earlier than normal, so even though I was in no hurry to start my walk, I was actually earlier than normal. Good thing to, for it was much warmer and humid than it has been this last week. When I get done with my walk and put my reading glasses on to begin working on this, they steamed up, it must be warm outside!

Looking through my photos from today, I think that I’m on to something. Back at my old apartment, there were the ponds where I could shoot geese chasing herons one day, herons chasing geese the next, on occasion swans chasing everything, and the mallards being mallards. I haven’t found any ponds similar to those within walking distance of my new apartment. I think that’s why I feel in a rut, there’s little action to be photographed. Yeah, and let’s not forget the turkeys fighting, the hawks soaring overhead or allowing me to accompany them while they hunted, and all the other things I used to see.

Here, it is birds…

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

…or flowers…

Sweetpea flowers

Sweet pea flowers

…and maybe an occasional Tom Turkey displaying.

Tom Turkey displaying

Tom Turkey displaying

Maybe it’s that I’m not looking hard enough to find what there is to be seen?

At the old apartment, I started taking my camera with me to photograph the beautiful flowers there, then the birds that I saw, then the action around the ponds came last going in chronological order. I’m not sure that the same thing will happen here, for one thing, no ponds, for another, a lot more human activity.

That may sound strange, I used to walk the apartment complex itself, now I’m walking trails and a park. But, in the old apartment complex, other than in the parking lots, there was no human activity. There was one other guy who walked the complex for his health, that’s it. Every one else sat inside except for the time spent going to or from their vehicles. To the wildlife, it was almost as if there were no people there.

Here, the park has many people walking, jogging, or cycling on a daily basis, you’d almost think that the wildlife would get used to it, but it doesn’t, it never does.

Anyway, my other two photos from the day, other than flowers, which have already been posted.

Unidentified fledgling object

Unidentified fledgling object

Unidentified fledgling object

Unidentified fledgling object

That little guy or gal was hungry, and wasn’t afraid to let the world know it. I could hear the squawks from a distance. I would have gotten a better photo, but the wind was blowing leaves around so much that it was hard to get a good photo, and I didn’t want to prevent its parents from feeding him/her.

Monday

Cloudy, cool, but humid, with scattered rain showers today, it will be a day to carry just the medium lens, and most likely, few photos.

I wish that they would hurry up and finish whatever they are doing at the tennis courts here, they fooled around all last week, most of the time there was nothing going on. Promptly at 7 AM this morning, I was jolted awake by the sounds of them ripping up more of the pavement that is the tennis courts. Good thing that I went to bed early so that I was going to be up about that time anyway. Like any of you care. 😉

Anyway, time for a walk, or is it a hike? The dictionary defines a hike as a long walk, but how far is long? I go three miles everyday, does that count as a hike, or should I add a category for walks rather than hikes? What about the 5 to 6 miles or more that I walk on weekends? Does it matter that my main goal these days is photography while walking, rather than the walk itself? Just killing time while I finish my coffee, I’m off.

One of those glorious bad weather days! Since it was either misting, raining, or waiting for the next round of either to begin, there were no people in the park today, and that always brings the birds out in force.  In fact, I noticed many territorial squabbles taking place. I have to wonder if that’s because birds that don’t “live” in the park move in when there’s no people, prompting the “resident” birds to chase off the intruders?

Even though the weather was terrible for photography, I did shoot a few, which have been whittled down to two.

Young cottontail rabbit

Young cottontail rabbit

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

I knew that it was dark and cloudy, but the shutter speeds I saw while trying to photograph things were unbelievably slow, too slow for a quality photo. In fact, while in the wooded areas of the park, I was having a difficult time even identifying common birds, they all looked black in the gloom for the most part.

I think that the unidentified fledgling object from Sunday was a baby Baltimore oriole, as I saw a mother oriole feeding her young today, and they were very similar to the UFO.

There’s also a yearling male Baltimore oriole that has been singing constantly for weeks, hoping to attract a mate, which seems to be all in vain, as he was singing even more today than is usual. I know that it’s a yearling oriole, as he is much lighter than the fully grown adult males. I feel sorry for the poor guy, he was singing his heart out today.

That brings up something else I need to mention. In the late winter/early spring, sunny, warm days get the birds singing, by early summer, it’s cool, cloudy days when I hear the most songs. Again, that could be related to the human activity in the park, but I don’t think that’s the only reason. That seems to hold true everywhere.

Something else that made today very enjoyable besides the birds and their songs, the wild roses are in full bloom, so the air was filled with the scent of roses for the majority of my walk today. How could any one ask for anything more?

The weather forecast for the next eight days calls for at least a chance of rain for six of those days. That’s about the same as it was last week, and I only got rained on while walking once, most of the rain came in the afternoon and evening. We’re not getting that much more rain than we do normally this time of year, but it is coming as light steady rains most of the time, rather than a quick dump of the same amount of rain from a thunderstorm.

That’s keeping everything incredibly green this year, and lush as well. Not only that, but the Great Lakes water levels continue to go up. They’re still lower than average, but they’ve risen nearly a foot so far this year. That’s an almost unbelievable amount of water in just a few months. I’m not completely sure of my numbers, but that’s in the neighborhood of 4 trillion gallons of water added to the three largest of the Great Lakes, Superior, Michigan, and Huron.

That’s it for today, time to visit my mom in the nursing home.

Tuesday

The sun was just starting to burn through the fog left from overnight as I began my walk today, it was also the warmest it has been in some time, or maybe it was the humidity. All in all, for the first part of June, not bad.

I didn’t get the photos I wanted, but I did manage a few. I’ll explain as I go.

With the return of nicer weather, there were a quite a few people in the park by the time I got there, mostly young mothers who bring their kids to the park to play on the playground equipment there. They don’t seem to bother the birds much, since they stay in one spot.

The guy who owns the land that borders the park to the west was mowing the woods, or trying to. I heard his brush hog hit something much larger than it was designed to handle, the tractor stalled, and much cursing followed.

I did shoot a few photos of some of the more common birds, even though they were good, I’m not going to post them, except for this male cardinal yawning.

Male northern cardinal yawning

Male northern cardinal yawning

It must have been nap time!

I got to where the creek exits the park to the west, and was standing there enjoying the scent of the wild roses in bloom, a catbird singing, and watching a downy woodpecker while considering whether to try for a photo or not. A couple of sparrows started carrying on in the brush along the creek, I could just make out motion in the brush from time to time. I don’t know if they were fighting, mating, or fighting off a predator, but they were making a huge commotion! The downy woodpecker began chattering like crazy, and the catbird flew over to see what the heck was going on as well. I seldom see other species react to the noises made by another species like that. Sorry, no photos, and I never did figure out why the sparrows were going crazy in the first place.

I walked upstream along the creek to the bridge on the east side of the park, then turned around and walked the width of the park going downstream as I always do. I saw a male rose-breasted grosbeak in the brush, worked my way around until I had a clear view of it, but it was in some dense shade, so I didn’t shoot a photo. I was hoping to catch it in the sun as it looked for lunch, but no luck, and no photo, as it took off right after that.

A brown thrasher then landed in almost the same spot the grosbeak had been in, and began to sing softly. I had a clear view, got a focus lock on it, but it was just too dark, so I waited, hoping that he would move into a sunnier spot. Instead, the catbird landed about ten feet above the thrasher, and began belting out his song louder than I have ever heard one sing before, as if to challenge the thrasher to a singing duel. Talk about hearing some wonderful birds singing! Unfortunately, it didn’t last long, the thrasher’s mate flew off with a beak full of food for her young, and the male followed her. The catbird continued at full volume for a few minutes, but with the competition gone, he went back to looking for food.

So, what did I get photos of? A squirrel enjoying lunch.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

And a grumpy robin looking for its lunch.

American robin

American robin

I got back to the top of the hill at the entrance/exit of the park, and sat down to take a break in the shade to cool off. I also had the daily debate with myself whether to switch to the short lens and shoot flowers on the way back home, or stick to the Sigma in case I saw birds. The short lens lost, as I have been seeing a warbler that I haven’t identified yet, and a very long-tailed sparrow along the trail from the park to the road. But I did shoot these two while taking my break.

Wild roses in bloom

Wild roses in bloom

Colorful meadow

Colorful meadow

There are dozens of the rose bushes in the area, their scent is heavenly! I need to work on my wider shots, I am so used to doing close-ups that I am having trouble capturing how pretty the meadows are with all the wild flowers blooming, and the red leaves from the small trees. But, this is the best I’ve done so far.

I didn’t see either the warbler or sparrow on my way back, but I did see a family of chickadees.

Black capped chickadees

3 of 5 Black capped chickadees

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

I missed a photo of mom and dad feeding the young ones, but it was still fun to watch. The only photo I cropped was the last one.

My last shot of the day.

Buttercup???

Sulphur Cinquefoil

There’s more rain in the forecast for late tonight into tomorrow morning, it’s going to look like a rain forest around here soon if this continues, and that’s not all bad.

Wednesday

Cloudy, warm, and muggy, with rain on its way soon, so I’d better get moving.

A light rain started falling just as I walked out the door, which means I saw a lot, but photographed little.

As I was getting ready to head out, I switched from the Sigma to the 70-200 mm lens, and I asked myself why as I was doing that. The Optical Stabilization of the Sigma is so good, that its performance in low light is better than the shorter lens. It really wouldn’t have mattered which of those two lenses I took, I should have brought the 15-85 mm if I had been smart. It would have been a good day to photograph flowers with the correct lens. I did shoot a few as you will see later, but the short depth of field on a day like today severely limited how I could compose even flower photos.

I did see the very long-tailed sparrow out in the open, as it always goes when the light is so bad that a photo is impossible. I still haven’t identified it yet though.

I have attributed the fact that I see more birds on rainy days to there being fewer people out and about, but that’s only a small part of the reason. It doesn’t matter where I am, I can be out in the middle of nowhere, with no one around for miles, and I still see more wildlife of all kinds in a light rain than at any other time. There’s no better time for wildlife watching than during a light summer rain as far as I’m concerned, wildlife photography is a different story. 😉

I may have to engage in some trespassing, something that I don’t normally do. The plot of land at the corner of the apartment complex, where there’s the foundation of an old farm-house and the ruins of what I think is a barn, is just full of flowers, both wild and domesticated. I found this flowering bush there, I don’t know what it is, other than beautiful.

Flowering bush

Flowering bush

I’ll investigate further tomorrow.

A little farther down the road where these.

Another flowering bush

Another flowering bush

From its scent and flowers, I would say that it is in the viburnum family, but I don’t know if any members of that family produce flowers in spires like that though.

Speaking of scent, here’s another flowering bush with an amazing scent.

Still another flowering bush

Still another flowering bush

I know what we used to call it while grouse hunting, but that name isn’t fit for a family blog. Grouse love the berries those bushes produce in the fall, but trying to walk through the thick growth and get a shot at a fast-moving grouse was close to impossible. But, I digress. The scent from the flowers is a lemony floral one, and on a damp day with little wind like today, that scent filled the air, even overpowering the wild roses.

You would think that with all the rain we’ve had this spring that the mushrooms and other fungi would be everywhere, but so far this year, I have seen very few.

Mushroom, toadstool? Does any one use the term toadstool any more?

Mushroom, toadstool? Does any one use the term toadstool any more?

It could be that as thick as the plant growth is this year that I just can’t see the fungi, even if they are present? Or could it be that I’m too busy looking for birds?

Speaking of birds, I saw two that I’m not sure that I have ever seen before. But, that’s hard to say for sure since the light was so bad today. It also could have been that they looked darker than normal because they were wet from the rain. One looked like a warbler, the other, a very small flycatcher, but I can’t say for sure.

Getting back to the apartment complex, I found this squirrel strolling across the street.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

The only reason for the photo was because the squirrel was just walking, which is unusual for them, especially out in the open like that. It must have had tender feet, for as soon as it hit the grass, it went back to bounding around to get where it wanted to go.

One last thing, I decided yesterday to make another push towards quitting smoking. It’s too darned expensive, on top of the health issues, and there are too many things I want other than another smoke. I have been holding steady at the current rate that I’m at, as far as number per day, for a couple of months now, which is good. But, now it’s time to cut back even more.

That may mean that my blog posts will get shorter, I find it hard to write without a cigarette burning in the ashtray. Don’t ask me why that is, it just is.

Thursday

Heavy storms overnight, I certainly earned my pay by keeping the rig on the road while fighting winds of up to 80 MPH.

All the really severe storms stayed well south of where I live, and most stayed south of the route that I drive for work, but it did rain here at home, a lot of rain from what I can tell. Almost half an inch of rain after midnight last night, and that’s as the storms were moving out of the area.

That means the next two days will be cooler with lots of bright sunshine, before more rain moves in for the weekend.

Because of the chances for rain, and the price of gas, I’ll probably be staying home again this weekend, we’ll see. The forecast for the weekend isn’t very specific yet as to the timing of when the rain will fall.

If I had taken my camera and tripod with me at work last night, I may have been able to capture some of the spectacular cloud to cloud lightning displays I witnessed last night. That’s something that I’d like to try with my new camera, so if the opportunity presents itself on a weekend, I may have a go at it.

When the price of gas was spiking upwards, on the rumor of production problems at a refinery in Illinois, the gas stations were raising their prices several times a day. Well, the wholesale price of gas dropped 20 cents one day this last week, and two days later, the price at the pump did drop, a nickel. But they’re not gouging us, oh no, not much, at least according to the state.

Tourism is the third biggest industry in Michigan. Every Friday evening during the summer, thousands of people from the surrounding states pour into Michigan to enjoy our forests, lakes, rivers, and beaches. The oil companies know this, they have the tourists right where they want them. What are all the tourists going to do when they cross into Michigan and see the high  gas prices here, turn around and go back home? Not likely, and all the tourists need gas to get back home, so they have no choice but to pay the higher prices here.

If the oil companies jacked up the prices in the surrounding states as much as they do in Michigan, some of the tourists would probably change their plans and stay home to avoid the high gas prices. That would lower the profits of the oil companies, and they’re not about to do that. It’s a game we go through every summer, and many of the holiday weekends during the rest of the year.

Well, enough of that, time for a walk.

I learned a few things today, or I should say that I had a few things that I know, but tend to forget, driven home once again. The first thing is to always check and make sure that what you think you see is what it appears to be.

Did I discover a new plant?

Did I discover a new plant?

No, the berry from a mulberry tree had fallen down on the plant below, and I was fooled into thinking it was the bud of a flower.

Earlier I wrote about the teenage Baltimore oriole that’s been trying unsuccessfully to find a mate. Here he is.

Yearling male Baltimore oriole

Yearling male Baltimore oriole

And for comparison, here’s a full-grown adult male.

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

The teenager is much lighter than the adults, and no, he still hasn’t found a mate yet, maybe next year, poor guy.

Many of the flowers had taken a beating in the storms last night, but I saw some that I planned on photographing on my way back home. Bad decision, for the wind came up strong shortly after I started down the hill into the park. I had also seen more mushrooms that I was going to shoot while I had the short lens on, that was a bad idea as well. They were mowing the lawn in the park, and when I got back to where the mushrooms were, where I was going to switch lenses, the mushrooms were gone, victims of a lawnmower, along with some of the flowers. Lesson learned, shoot it when you can, because it could be gone before you know it. So, tomorrow I’m going to start with the short lens, the light will be better at that time as well. Then I’ll switch to birding with the long lens.

I learned that the very long-tailed sparrow I have been seeing is just a song sparrow with an extra long tail, and a slightly different song than the others in this area.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

I learned that kingbirds chase hawks.

Eastern kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Eastern kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Eastern kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Eastern kingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

I learned that other birds like to watch the hawks being driven off.

Eastern kingbird

Eastern kingbird

I learned that my memory isn’t what it used to be, because I had to look up what this flower was, even though I had just posted a photo of them not long ago.

Heal all

Heal all

I learned where the nest of a small unidentified bird is.

Treetop bird's nest

Treetop bird’s nest

I saw the bird land, but it was as if it had disappeared, as I couldn’t see the nest with the naked eye. By zooming in on the spot where I had seen the bird, I could just make out the nest, and the bird’s tail sticking out.

I spotted a chipping sparrow in a tree…

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

…and I thought that it would be a good subject for an extreme close-up…

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

…and it obliged me by posing.

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

That’s it for today.

Friday

More great weather! Cool at night, a little warm in the afternoon, but not bad, at least that’s the forecast for the next week as it stands now. I should know better than to trust a weather forecast, it was quite funny yesterday afternoon, listening to a forecast of sunny skies for the day, while driving through rain showers. But, I can always hope that the meteorologists are right for a change.

We received between two and five inches of rain from the storms that passed through this area on their way to the east coast. The water levels in the Great Lakes continues to rise, Superior is up 7″ in the last month and is now 4″ higher than one year ago.  Lake Superior had the second biggest monthly increase in water level ever earlier this spring and is now just 7″ from the long-term average level.

This weather seems to suit the plant life just fine as well, I know that I’ve said that before, but I think that it bears repeating. Michigan this time of year is always green, but this year, it is such a lush, healthy green, even more so than a typical year.

You’d think that all the rain we’ve had, that at least some of the pollen would have been washed out of the air, maybe it was. However, last night as I was driving for work, there were places where it looked like smoke or fog rising from the grass, but it wasn’t either of those, it was pollen coming from the grass along the highways. No wonder my allergies are bothering me more than normal.

I’m back. The plan to start with the short lens and shoot flowers went fairly well, although I learned that there are a few flowers that aren’t open early in the morning. Apparently crawling around on your hands and knees looking for just the right specimen to photograph takes more time than seeing a bird, shooting it, and moving on, as it’s quite late already.

I shot 100 photos, cut that down to 35 of the best, but that’s still too many to insert here, so I’ll just thrown in a couple for the day, and save the rest for another photo dump.

Green flowers?

Green flowers?

Unidentified flowering object

Beardtongue

Unidentified flowering object

Beardtongue

Red clover

Red clover

Motherwort

Motherwort

Weed along the road

Weed along the road

I assume a member of the viburnum family

I assume a member of the viburnum family

I suppose that I should throw in the one bird photo I took today, just because.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

The 15-85 mm lens is an excellent lens, but not for birding. However, that’s the only time when I wished that I had put the Sigma on the camera today.

Since it’s getting late, time for a shower and getting ready for work. One other thing first, a big thank you to Allen of the New Hampshire Garden Solutions blog, by going through the archives of his blog, I was able to ID a few of the flowers today, if I had more time, I could probably ID them all.

Saturday

I broke down and put $10 worth of gas in my Forester on the way home from work last night, as the low fuel light came on while I was on my way to work. I’m sure that I could have made it home, and then back to a gas station tomorrow, but why push it? I filled up in Grayling on Memorial Day on my way home, and then went three weeks of back and forth to work and around town. I love my Subaru!

The weather is cloudy and cool for June, and I can hear birds singing in the woods across from my apartment. There’s also the threat of rain, both this morning and evening, so I’d better take rain gear with me once I get off my butt and get moving. For some reason, I’m finding that hard to do this morning, maybe it’s because I know that I’ll just be walking the same old same old again. Breakfast would help also, so time to buck up, and get going.

Oh, my aching back! I found out today that just walking everyday isn’t that great as exercise. Neither is slinging laundry racks that weigh up to a ton. The real way to get exercise? Photographing flowers. All that bending down, crawling around on your hands and knees, then getting back to your feet with 10 pounds of stuff strapped to you sure can wear you out. It wore me out today. But, I did manage a few good photos.

Nightshade

Nightshade

Motherwort

Motherwort

Chicory

Chicory

Goat's beard

Goat’s beard

???

Moth mullien

???

Moth mullien

Very small yellow flower

Yellow sorrel

growing outside my window

growing outside my window

I did shoot one bird today, can you find it in the verdant foliage?

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

I’ll crop down so that you can see it better.

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

In case you haven’t been able to tell from the photos, it was another dark, gloomy day. I had only gotten started on my walk when it began to sprinkle lightly, and that continued for most of the day, it still is for that matter. It wasn’t that warm, but it sure was humid, I had my rain jacket on for a few minutes, but it was too hot for me with it on, so I used it to cover the camera and lens while I wasn’t using them.

I think that you can also see from the last photos just how hard it is to do any birding, a bird could be perched five feet from me, and I’d never see it because of how thick the leaves are this year.

What surprises me this year is that with as healthy as the plants are and the abundance of flowers, there are few insects around, other than mosquitoes and flies. I’ve seen very few dragonflies or butterflies this year, so these have been a rare sight.

Butterfly or moth?

Butterfly or moth?

Since this is getting long already, I’m going to save the rest of the flowers for another post, and call this week finished. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do tomorrow, it will depend on the weather. As inaccurate as the weather forecasts are for weekdays, they seem to be even worse on the weekends. I have a hunch as to why, but I won’t bore you with that, at least not now.

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