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

Archive for July, 2013

Indigo Bunting, Passerina cyanea

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.

Indigo Bunting, Passerina cyanea

The Indigo Bunting is a small seed-eating bird in the family Cardinalidae. It is migratory, ranging from southern Canada to northern Florida during the breeding season, and from southern Florida to northern South America during the winter. It often migrates by night, using the stars to navigate. Its habitat is farmland, brush areas, and open woodland.

The Indigo Bunting is a small bird, with a length of 11.5–13 cm (4.5–5 in). It displays sexual dimorphism in its coloration; the male is a vibrant blue in the summer and a brown color during the winter months, while the female is brown year-round. The male displays brightly colored plumage during the breeding season to attract a mate. Nest-building and incubation are done solely by the female. The diet of the Indigo Bunting consists primarily of insects during the summer months and seeds during the winter months.

The Indigo Bunting is a smallish songbird, around the size of a small sparrow. It measures 11.5–15 cm (4.5–5.9 in) long, with a wingspan of 18–23 cm (7.1–9.1 in). Body mass averages 14.5 g (0.51 oz), with a reported range of 11.2–21.4 g (0.40–0.75 oz). During the breeding season, the adult male appears mostly a vibrant cerulean blue. Only the head is indigo. The wings and tail are black with cerulean blue edges. In fall and winter plumage, the male has brown edges to the blue body and head feathers, which overlap to make the bird appear mostly brown. The adult female is brown on the upper parts and lighter brown on the underparts. It has indistinct wing bars and is faintly streaked with darker markings underneath. The immature bird resembles the female in coloring, although a male may have hints of blue on the tail and shoulders and have darker streaks on the underside. The beak is short and conical. In the adult female, the bill is light brown tinged with blue, and in the adult male the upper half is brownish-black while the lower is light blue. The feet and legs are black or gray.

The habitat of the Indigo Bunting is brushy forest edges, open deciduous woods, second-growth woodland, and farmland. The breeding range stretches from southern Canada to Maine, south to northern Florida and eastern Texas, and westward to southern Nevada. The winter range begins in southern Florida and central Mexico and stretches south through the West Indies and Central America to northern South America.

The Indigo Bunting communicates through vocalizations and visual cues. A sharp chip! call is used by both sexes, and is used as an alarm call if a nest or chick is threatened. A high-pitched, buzzed zeeep is used as a contact call when the Indigo Bunting is in flight. The song of the male bird is a high-pitched buzzed sweet-sweet chew-chew sweet-sweet, lasting two to four seconds, sung to mark his territory to other males and to attract females. Each male has a single complex song, which he sings while perched on elevated objects, such as posts, wires, and bush-tops. In areas where the ranges of the Lazuli Bunting and the Indigo Bunting overlap, the males defend territories from each another. Migration takes place in April and May and then again in September and October. The Indigo Bunting often migrates during the night, using the stars to direct itself. In captivity, since it cannot migrate, it experiences disorientation in April and May and in September and October if it cannot see the stars from its enclosure.

These birds are generally monogamous but not always faithful to their partner. In the western part of their range, they often hybridise with the Lazuli Bunting. Nesting sites are located in dense shrub or a low tree, generally 0.3–1 m (1–3 ft) above the ground, but rarely up to 9 m (30 ft). The nest itself is constructed of leaves, coarse grasses, stems, and strips of bark, lined with soft grass or deer hair and is bound with spider web. It is constructed by the female, who cares for the eggs alone. The clutch consists of one to four eggs, but usually contains three to four. The eggs are white and usually unmarked, though some may be marked with brownish spots, averaging 18.7 × 13.7 mm (0.7 × 0.5 in) in size. The eggs are incubated for 12 to 13 days and the chicks are altricial at hatching. Chicks fledge 10 to 12 days after hatching. Most pairs raise two broods per year, and the male may feed newly fledged young while the females incubate the next clutch of eggs.

The Brown-headed Cowbird may parasitize this species. Indigo Buntings abandon their nest if a cowbird egg appears before they lay any of their own eggs, but accept the egg after that point. Pairs with parasitized nests have less reproductive success. The bunting chicks hatch, but have lower survival rates as they must compete with the cowbird chick for food.

The Indigo Bunting forages for food on the ground or in trees or shrubs. In winter, it often feeds in flocks with other Indigo Buntings, but is a solitary feeder during the breeding season. During the breeding season, the species eats insects, seeds and berries, including caterpillars, grasshoppers, spiders, beetles, and grass seeds. The seeds of grasses are the mainstay of its diet during the winter, although buds, and insects are eaten when available. The young are fed mainly insects at first, to provide them with protein. The Indigo Bunting does not drink frequently, generally obtaining sufficient water from its diet.

On to my photos:

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting
Male indigo bunting
Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

This is number 117 in my photo life list, only 233 to go!

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

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Another Muskegon County Wastewater birding trip

On Saturday, July 27th, I made yet another birding trip to the Muskegon County Wastewater facility. It seems so weird to post one of these under the Michigan Nature attractions category, but if the shoe fits…

Muskegon County has updated their website to include a section on birding at the wasterwater facility, here’s the link.

And, for those of you who don’t click the link, here’s a blurb from the website.

*****

The variety of habitat at the Wastewater System includes over 1,000 acres of even-aged conifer and dryland white and black oak woodlots; over 5,000 acres of alfalfa, corn, and soybean cropland; 20 miles of drainage ditches, 60 acres of treatment ponds, 11 miles of shoreline around 1,700 acres of storage lagoons; a few hundred acres of natural upland grasslands; and assorted wetland marshes and potholes. Because of this, the 11,000-acre treatment plant is considered one of the best birding sites in Michigan. At least 256 species of birds have been documented at the facility (two-thirds of all species ever recorded in Michigan). Possibly the rarest bird ever documented in the state was seen here in April of 1985, a White Wagtail.

Tens of thousands of geese and ducks spend part of the winter at the site, sharing the area with Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Snowy Owls, Snow Buntings, plovers, sandpipers, and dozens of other bird species. At other times of the year, birders might see Red Phalarope, Greater White-fronted Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Gyrfalcon, Eared Grebe, or American White Pelican.

The Muskegon facility is located adjacent to the Muskegon State Game Area, which helps draw birds to the wastewater system. Birders are welcome at the facility provided they obtain a pass at the wastewater system office before touring the site. Birders that can show membership in a birding organization can be issued annual passes. Contact the office at 231-724-3440 for more information.

*****

As you may be able to tell, it’s far more than a wastewater treatment facility, here’s a few more of its many uses.

*****

Opportunites for recreation abound at the wastewater facility on its vast tracts of open land. Be sure to obtain the appropriate passes and permits from the office before you venture out.

Hunting and Trapping

A variety of opportunites exist for hunters at the wastewater.

Observatory Campus

The Muskegon Community College Observatory is located on the site.

M.M.A.R. – Muskegon Michigan Area Rocketry Launch Site

The Muskegon Michigan Area Rocketry launch site is on the property.

Snowmobile Trails

Over 20 miles of groomed snowmobile trails pass through the property.

Radio Controlled Airplane Field

The Port City RC Club maintains their field on the site.

Beagle Club

The Port City Beagle Club holds some of its events at the wastewater.

Pheasants Forever

Pheasants Forever maintains approximately 250 acres of pheasant habitat on site

*****

So, with that stuff out of the way, time for my day there. As is the usual, I saw birds, lots of birds, too many birds. 🙂

I came home with 500 photos, the majority of the photos are of shorebirds, notoriously hard to ID. I’m still plugging away at some of the birds, but here’s the highlights.

IMG_9086

Still unidentified sparrow

IMG_9029

Semipalmated sandpiper

Greater yellowlegs

Greater yellowlegs

Short billed dowitcher

Short billed dowitcher

Male dickcissel

Male dickcissel

Male bobolink

Male bobolink

Female dickcissel

Female dickcissel

Unidentified white bird

Unidentified white bird

I just happened to run into Ric, the President of the Muskegon County Nature Club while I was there, at the time when I photographed the unidentified white bird in flight. I’m planning on going on their next field trip in August, and will be joining up at that time.

Whitetail doe and fawn

Whitetail doe and fawn

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Gulls

Gulls

Juvenile gull in flight

Juvenile gull in flight

Tree swallow

Tree swallow

Baird's sandpiper

Baird’s sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs in flight

Lesser yellowlegs in flight

Red-necked phalaropes

Red-necked phalaropes

I am not 100% sure on all my identifications, I’ve done the best that I can. Getting to know all the species of shorebirds is a lot tougher than I thought that it would be, especially this time of year. Some of the birds have already molted to their winter plumage, some, like the red-necked phalaropes are partially through molting.

I have another shot to share, a flock of wood ducks.

Wood ducks

Wood ducks

I sure wish that I could have seen a few of those earlier this year before they molted! As soon as the wood ducks spotted me, they swam up into a culvert, completely hidden from sight, what tricky little devils they can be!

Anyway, if you do go to the Muskegon County Wastewater treatment facility, take an excellent field guide with you, or an expert on all species of birds, as you never know what you are going to find!

My photos of the unidentified white bird have been posted on the recent sightings page for the Muskegon County Nature Club. As I noted earlier in this post, I will be joining them on their next field trip, so hopefully I’ll have some expert advice and tips to share after that trip. That field trip will also be at the wastewater treatment facility.

One more thing before I end this, once again, the “curse” of the wastewater facility struck my photos. The weather wasn’t great, but my photos should have been better. I was very close to the bobolinks and the dickcissels, close enough that I should have gotten photos with the wow factor way up there. I swear, there really is something in the air there that affects photography. The farther I was from the area where the actual treatment of waste occurs, the sharper my photos were, like the red-tailed hawk.

Anyway, that’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


My Week, finally, a huge improvement in the weather

Sunday

The cool down finally seems to have arrived, it’s pleasant as I’m drinking my morning coffee and starting another week. I think that I’ll go to the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve today, sort of like going home again. I’ve passed it hundreds of times, but never stopped, there was never any reason to, for I lived just a few miles away, in a small nature preserve of my own. I miss that place, but that’s water under the bridge, and there’s no need to relive the darkest period of my life right now.

Another reason I had never gone there before was because of the controversy over the naming of the preserve. Technically, it is the Fred Meijer Nature Preserve, although few people call it that. You can read how it came to have the name that it does in this photo.

Gibberish

Gibberish

I don’t have a problem with the fact that Fred Meijer is rich, but, he refuses to donate money to anything that doesn’t get named after himself. That tells me that he isn’t donating for altruistic reasons, but that he donates for marketing reasons, to make sure that every one sees his name everywhere. There was a lot of pressure on the county to refuse the donation from Mr. Meijer, but the county never met a donated dollar it didn’t love. Although, they did cave in to the pressure at least somewhat to the pressure, and came up with a compromise of sorts, calling it the Pickerel Lake Park – Fred Meijer Nature Preserve.

Anyway, I had a pretty good day there, even though my photos don’t show it. I managed to salvage enough to do a post on today, so those photos will appear in the other post.

Monday

AAAAAAAAhhh, rain cooled air! Once again, the meteorologists where wrong. The storms that weren’t going to hold together over the waters of Lake Michigan did exactly the opposite, and we had several hours of gentle thunder showers overnight. We needed the rain, since the storms that were predicted for last Friday never materialized. I may wake up with stuffed sinuses, but there’s not many things better than going to sleep with the windows open as a summer shower is falling. The forecast is for a mostly pleasant week, I hope it’s right for a change. Now it’s time to get out there and enjoy the fine day shaping up outside.

An interesting day, but not great for photography due to the low clouds hanging around from last night’s rain. I am getting better at shooting in bad conditions though, as my first shots of the day were of a flock of crows perched in the trees along the road.

American crow

American crow

American crows

American crows

I wish that I could have gotten a close-up of the one in the middle squawking at me.

Next up was a female English sparrow.

Female English sparrow

Female English sparrow

Female English sparrow

Female English sparrow

I wouldn’t normally photograph them, but I still have to do a post on English sparrows, so I do need a few photos of them.

There weren’t many people in the park today, and other than robins, not many birds. I did find a juvenile eastern wood pewee.

Juvenile eastern wood pewee

Juvenile eastern wood pewee

The entire family was in the brush along the creek, the young calling for food, and the adults catching insects to feed to the young. I was hoping for a shot of an adult feeding one of the young, but didn’t have any luck.

Another bird present was an eastern phoebe.

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Just after that is when things got interesting. As I was walking up the hill near the ball diamonds, the flock of swallows was present, some of them flying, some perched on the fences for the ball diamonds. The ones in the air were flying very close to me, too close to attempt a photo of any of them in flight. I assume that they were picking off the insects that I stirred up while walking, the swallows were that close to me.

It was kind of cool being in the middle of a flock of swallows, listening to them chattering away as they whizzed past me. Suddenly, the entire flock that had been perched took to the air, and the real chattering began. I looked around, and saw a cooper’s hawk coming straight at me, as if it had ideas about picking off one of the swallows.

I didn’t have time to catch it coming at me, but I turned and got one bad photo of it as it flew into the woods.

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

If you look very closely, there’s a swallow above and a little behind the hawk, and within seconds, every swallow in the area was circling over the woods where the hawk had gone, with the swallows screaming their little hearts out at the hawk.

I’ve only touched on swallow behavior before, this seems like a good time to add more, as I have spent some time watching them this summer.

There are times that I’ll see all the swallows in the area form a large flock of all the different species from around here, with all of them chatting away to each other. Some times the entire flock will move off together, other times the flock will disperse, with the swallows going off to hunt individually or in pairs.

I haven’t become fluent in swallow yet, but I think that all the chattering going on is them comparing notes as to where the most and/or tastiest insects are to be found. That’s because there have been times when shortly after the flock disperses, several of the individuals will return to where the flock was, and begin chattering in earnest, and the flock will form back together again.

There also seems to be a social aspect to it as well. I seldom see a lone swallow, or a pair of swallows perched. But, when the entire flock forms up, there will be many of the flock perched on the fences in the park. I suppose that could be for protection as well, like today, once one of the swallows spotted the hawk, the entire flock knew instantly that danger was present, and all the perched birds took to the air, where they can out fly just about any predator.

Anyway, I continued on my way, stopping to photograph a Viceroy butterfly, which look very much like a monarch butterfly. Monarchs are foul-tasting to birds, so they say, so birds won’t prey on them. The Viceroy butterfly takes advantage of this, since they look like a monarch, they are not preyed upon by birds either. Of course that wasn’t a conscious decision by the Viceroys, but the more that they looked like a monarch, the more likely they were to survive and reproduce, so eventually the species came to look almost exactly like monarchs.

Monarch butterfly

Viceroy butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Viceroy butterfly

Shortly after that, another interesting thing happened, similar to the one with the swallows and cooper’s hawk, this time, it was a kingbird and a hawk. I heard the kingbird start making a ruckus, then spotted the reason, a cooper’s hawk again. I don’t know if it was the same or a different one, but my photo was as bad as the first one.

Eastern kingbird attacking a cooper's hawk

Eastern kingbird attacking a cooper’s hawk

I may not have gotten good photos either time, but by paying attention to the alarm calls from the swallows and kingbird, at least I got to see the hawk. I was thinking earlier that I hadn’t seen any of the hawks lately, not even the red-tailed that nested across the street from the park.

Tuesday

Some sad news to start this day, a 32 year old man drowned in the Muskegon River on Sunday, while floating the river on an inner tube as part of a family gathering. Even sadder are the circumstances of the drowning, for the local media report that the man drowned following “An intense and physical altercation, involving an unknown number of people, that ensued along the banks of the river”.

I suspect that large amounts of alcohol fueled that “intense and physical altercation”.

One of my reasons for starting this blog was to write about places to go kayaking in Michigan. That has changed over the last three years, as more and more reports such as this one pop up in the news during the summer months.  I stopped posting about places to go kayaking because of the large number of drunken rowdies that are taking over the rivers.

The last two years that I kayaked often, the group that I went with had a few run ins with the drunken rowdies, which took much of the fun out of our excursions. That’s also one of the reasons that I do most of my kayaking in the off-season, just to avoid the drunken rowdies.

The worst part is that those people who become drunken rowdies do so purposely, with the intent of disrupting the enjoyment of others. They don’t go looking for trouble, they go looking to cause trouble. It’s a shame that our law enforcement personnel don’t have the time or resources to deal with the assholes. There are a few river patrols, and they ticket the drunken rowdies when applicable, but the rowdies don’t bother to show up for court or pay the fines. So, until they are picked up for a more serious crime, they get away with being assholes.

Anyway, yesterday morning was cool after the overnight rain, but the heat and humidity returned in the afternoon. Twenty four hours ago, the forecast for this morning for “jacket weather”, wrong again. The overnight lows managed to drop just a few degrees below what they were predicting for high temperatures today. It was ten to fifteen degrees warmer this morning than forecast.

It was extremely humid while I walked today, there were even a few sprinkles of rain. Then the sun would come out for a few minutes to boost the temperature, followed by a few more sprinkles to add to the humidity. And so it went.

I made a decision today, I’m going to carry just the two short lenses with me for at least the next week, maybe longer. I do love the Sigma for birding, but there are fewer species of birds around to photograph this time of year. And, I can usually get close enough to the species that are around to get good photos with the L series lens. The two shorter lenses are much better for photographing the subjects that are most abundant right now, flowers….

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

…and insects.

Hummingbird (sphinx) moth

Hummingbird (sphinx) moth

Hummingbird (sphinx) moth

Hummingbird (sphinx) moth

Those shots aren’t that bad, but I know that I could do better with one of the shorter lenses.

I made that decision both in spite of, and because of, the fact that I shot quite a few bird photos today.

Male American goldfinch eating teasel seeds

Male American goldfinch eating teasel seeds

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

The last photo was the only one cropped significantly, the rest are close to full size as shot.

For the past month, I’ve been posting different combinations of the same two dozen or so species of birds that I see daily. There’s no reason to carry the Sigma and shoot the same birds over and over, while I miss great shots of the flowers and insects that I see. I may regret not having the Sigma along, but most birds don’t stick around long enough for me to switch lenses anyway.

I have also decided to return to Pickerel Lake this weekend, and shoot better photos of the flowers and insects there, I may throw in a shot or two of the solid green walls that line the trails in many places, making birding this time of year very difficult.

If gas prices continue to fall, I may make a trip to Muskegon the other day this weekend, there’s been some recent sightings that I would like to get shots of there.

That does it for today.

Wednesday

Now the cool down has really made it here! When I got home from work last night, the temperature was a full 20 degrees cooler than the night before, great sleeping weather for a change.

As I said I was going to do starting today, I took just the two shorter lenses with me. I should have done that yesterday, as the little vivid blue flowers that I really wanted a good sharp photo of were just shriveled bits of blue today. When will I learn? Shoot what you see when you see it, even plants and flowers. To go along with that, the county mowed along the trail yesterday, chopping down some flowers that I had been waiting to see fully opened before I photographed them. Now I’ll have to find the same flowers elsewhere.

With the cooler weather today, there were fewer insects flying around as well. I was bummed, because the light was the best it has been in weeks because of the cool, dry air in place here now. No matter how good your camera and lens(es) are, they can’t make up completely for what I call dead light. That wasn’t the case today, all the colors looked brighter and more vivid to the naked eye, and that came through in the photos I took today.

The chicory looked bluer.

Mostly chicory

Mostly chicory

The Boneset looked whiter.

Boneset flower

Boneset flower

The colors of the bindweed were more intense.

Bindweed

Bindweed

Bindweed

Bindweed

And these berries, what ever they are, caught my eye, and I couldn’t stop shooting them, looking for that perfect photo.

Berries

Berries

Berries

Berries

Berries

Berries

Berries

Berries

Berries

Berries

I’ve walked past the bushes with those berries everyday for weeks, I had noticed the berries before, but it was either the light today, or that they had changed color overnight in the cool air, or for what ever reason, they really stood out today. Of course I didn’t get THE perfect photo either, so you may see more of these later on this week, sorry.

I should also warn every one now, you’re likely to see many berries here in the next few weeks. I’m a sucker for bright colors, be they from birds, berries, blooms, or bugs. And, if there are contrasting colors that I can get into the frame, then I go crazy, as you can see by the berries.

Two more shots from today.

Evening primrose

Evening primrose

Tiny toad

Tiny toad

I did shoot a hand full of bird photos today, but I won’t bore any one with them. 😉 I’m not sure how long that I’ll be able to hold out though, a family of house wrens has been in the park the last two days, and I could use better photos of them. So far, the entire family has been sticking to the shadiest parts of the park, where a good photo would be impossible to get.

Tomorrow is forecast to be the same as today was, I sure hope so! It was as close to a perfect summer day as we get in West Michigan.

Thursday

I don’t know where all my time is going lately, I seem to be running behind, and I don’t know why.

I was going to write about the recent developments concerning the Enbridge oil spill from a couple of years ago, how people are interfering with Enbridge as they replace the section of pipeline that ruptured causing the spill. Makes perfect sense to me, not! Also, the EPA has ordered Enbridge to dredge a section of the Kalamazoo River to remove the last remaining oil from the spill, but environmental groups and a brewery have filed suit to prevent Enbridge from doing the dredging ordered by the EPA, makes perfect sense to me, not! On a side note, I didn’t know that the brewery that has joined the lawsuit used water from the Kalamazoo River, or I would have never drank their brand of beer. The Kalamazoo is the most polluted river on this side of the state, and was long before the oil spill. The EPA is still dredging sections of the Kalamazoo to remove PCBs and other nasty chemicals left over from the many paper mills that once lined the Kalamazoo River.

Anyway, I carried just the two short lenses with me again today. When I step outside without the Sigma, I feel like an unarmed soldier going into battle. But, I am adding to my knowledge base doing this, even if I miss a few bird shots now and then. I did shoot a few flowers, more berries, and I chased a few insects around, to no good end.

I’m going to bore most of you with this next bit on camera gear, so most of you may want to fast forward to the photos.

I had considered buying a teleconverter to extend the usefulness of the 70-200 mm L series lens I have, but decided against purchasing one at this time.

Since summer isn’t a great time of year for birding, but is the time of year for flowers and insects, I have been considering a macro lens so I can get better photos of the flowers and insects. Last week I wrote that I was considering two different macro lenses, a Tokina AT-X AF 100MM F2.8 Macro Lens, or the Canon EF-S 60mm F2.8 Macro USM.

Today, after chasing insects around with the 15-85 mm lens that I have, I decided that I’ll go for the Tokina lens and its longer focal length. That will also be a plus when shooting flowers as well. The Canon lens is a much newer design with a lot to offer, such as the fact that the lens doesn’t change length while it focuses. But, you have to be within four inches from the front of the lens to the subject to get the full 1 to 1 magnification. That’s too close for live insects, or even small flowers that grow close to the ground. The Tokina is a little better in that respect, you can be almost a foot away for full magnification, even though the lens is an older design.

However, even though I could afford either of those lenses right now, they have been pushed down the priority list as far as what I want to purchase next. The Canon 300 mm f/4 L series prime is back to the top of the list, which means I still saving for that instead of buying a macro lens. That lens focuses down to within just a few inches of what the 70-200 mm lens I have does, and with 100 mm more of focal length, it should get me much closer to my subjects without cropping as much. Almost like a 300 mm macro lens. In fact, that lens is known for its abilities close-up.

OK, now the photos from today.

Berry still life

Berry still life

That last one was shot with the 70-200 mm L series, all the rest of these were shot with the 15-85 mm lens. It does so well on flowers, that I can hold off purchasing a macro lens for the time being.

Boneset

Boneset

That lens also works as a macro lens for insects that don’t move.

Japanese beetle

Japanese beetle

Thistle

Thistle

Berry still life

Berry still life

It’s not even bad on birds if they are close. This kingbird must have been reading my blog just before this shot from the size of its yawn. 😉

Juvenile eastern kingbird yawning

Juvenile eastern kingbird yawning

I finally duplicated the Queen Anne’s Lace shot minus the fence, I just had to use the same lens as the first shot.

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

I almost wished that I had one of the longer lenses on the camera for the next three photos.

Male American goldfinches dogfighting

Male American goldfinches dog-fighting

Male American goldfinches dogfighting

Male American goldfinches dog-fighting

Male American goldfinches dogfighting

Male American goldfinches dog-fighting

The goldfinches must have been reading Donna’s blog about osprey and eagles dog-fighting, and decided that it looked like fun. 😉

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These next ones are of the blue flowers that I found a couple of days ago. I had to do some judicious pruning and bending to get these shots. The last of the good flowers was about three inches above the ground.

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???

My brother recommended going with the longest focal length macro lens that I could afford, and that last flower is a good example as to why that’s true. Laying on your belly on a busy sidewalk is no fun.

It’s funny, of the three lenses I own, my favorite is the one I use the least, the 15-85 mm. It is as sharp, or nearly so, as the 70-200 mm L series, but it is easier to get the sharpness with the shorter of the two. The 15-85 mm is so easy to use, I don’t have to play with it to get the sharp photos from it. The auto-focus is extremely fast and accurate, much more so than the L series lens. I need to find more excuses to use the short one.

Next week I will be posting the 117th post in My Photo Life List project, cause for celebration! That puts me 1/3 of the way through the list I’m working from. I even have a bottle of white wine in the fridge that I’ve been saving to mark that point. I’ll now be posting those posts once a week on Wednesdays from now on.

Friday

I’m not sure what the weather is going to be like this weekend, so my plans may change. There’s another cold front headed this way, and it may get cool enough that we get lake effect rain showers over the weekend. I’ll have to wait for an updated forecast before I make a final decision about the weekend.

What the heck, lake effect showers are typically no big deal, so I’ll call to get a pass for the Muskegon Wastewater facility on Saturday, and hit Pickerel Lake again on Sunday. I have to hit Muskegon this weekend, reports are that many of the small wading and shore birds are showing up there as the birds are migrating south for the winter already.

The water levels of the Great Lakes continue to rise. The most impressive figures in the weekly Great Lakes Water Level Report is the continued impressive rise in the water level of Lake Superior.  Superior is a big lake and it takes 552 billion gallons of water to add one inch to the lake level.   Lake Superior is up 6″ in the last month and is now 6″ higher than one year ago.  The lake is now only 2″ below the average level.  Lake Michigan/Huron is up 1″ in the last month and is 3″ higher than one year ago.

In other news, it’s time for me to renew the plates for my Subaru, and to my amazement, the plates for it are cheaper than they were for my old Ford Explorer. Michigan determines the price of license plates for a vehicle based on the original selling price of a vehicle, so I was expecting to pay more for a 2013 vehicle versus one originally sold in 1999. The Explorer I that had was a top of the line Eddie Bauer edition, with every option available, so I’m sure that it was expensive to purchase off the lot. My Forester is “just” a mid-level edition, still, given the difference in age, I would have assume that the Forester cost more than the Explorer had 14 years ago, wrong. I do love my Subaru!

Of course, when I renew my license plates, I’ll also be renewing my Recreational Passport, which is the yearly fee to get into all the state parks and other state lands here in Michigan, without paying the daily user fee. The price increased a dollar this year, making it $11 now, but it’s still a bargain compared to the old fee structure, where a yearly permit cost $26. There’s a lesson there, the State of Michigan decreased the cost of a yearly permit, but they are now selling so many more of them that they are seeing an increase in revenue.

The weather this morning is cloudy and cool, with a few light showers scattered about the area, ahead of the cold front headed this way. I’ll be taking just the two short lenses with me this morning.

I’m back, after a very thoughtful walk this morning.

I was thinking about the trip to Muskegon tomorrow, and how shore birds have begun migrating south already. That goes along with the fact that the meadowlarks, red-winged blackbirds, and some other species have already departed the area. It is the end of July after all, but you wouldn’t know it by looking around.

Green in July

Green in July

The plants and trees still look so fresh and green, like late spring, rather than the middle of summer. It’s hard to fathom that another summer is winding down, and fall will soon be upon us. But, the signs of fall, though they may be small and sporadic, are beginning to appear.

I almost wished that I had taken the Sigma with me today.

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

That would have been such a great shot with the longer lens!

I watched the kingbird family for a while.

Juvenile eastern kingbird

Juvenile eastern kingbird

Yeah, I know, more photos of birds that I have already posted too many shots of.

But, there’s a reason.

I think that Allen is the only regular reader of my blog that was around when I was posting photos of robins and cedar waxwings eating berries, and I was shooting from so close to the birds that you could see the berries going down the bird’s throats, and even see what color their tongues were.

Also, when I first moved to my new apartment, I had difficulty getting close to most of the birds around here.

Now, I get to hang around twenty feet from a family of kingbirds as the adults feed their young.

I am making “friends”.

At my old apartment, I was getting very close to to the birds because they were used to my being there, and they had learned that I wasn’t a threat to them.

The red-tailed hawks were so used to me that they would let me stand and photograph them as they hunted rodents, and I got to the point where I could recognize individual birds in the family.

This shot helped to form this idea.

Cedar waxwing plucking a berry

Cedar waxwing plucking a berry

Not that great, but it did remind me of my old friends, and how I am beginning to make new ones. Then, I shot this one, yet another species of bird that I have posted too many photos of lately.

Juvenile rose-breasted grosbeak

Juvenile rose-breasted grosbeak

Something dawned on me then, just because I get close to birds, and I’m ready to press the shutter release doesn’t mean that I have to actually snap the photo.

The birds won’t know if I do or not, as long as they get used to the big guy with the funny looking thing in his hands that beeps from time to time is what matters.

I suppose for that matter, even if I do press the shutter release all the way doesn’t mean that I have to post the photo. 😉

I did shoot a few other subjects today, despite the cloudy conditions.

Bee balm

Bee balm

Butterfly

Butterfly

Butterfly

Butterfly

I’ve called to arrange for my pass tomorrow at the Muskegon wastewater treatment facility, and I see that they have updated their website to include a section just on birding there, now how cool is that? Here’s the link.

The battery for my camera is fully charged, I’ve put the Sigma lens on the camera for tomorrow, I think that I’m all set to go. I will really be surprised if both tomorrow and Sunday don’t warrant posts of their own, so I’m going to end this week a day earlier than normal.

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


Semipalmated Plover, Charadrius semipalmatus

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.

Semipalmated Plover, Charadrius semipalmatus

The Semipalmated Plover is a small plover.

This species weighs 22–63 g (0.78–2.2 oz) and measures 14–20 cm (5.5–7.9 in) in length and 35–56 cm (14–22 in) across the wings. Adults have a grey-brown back and wings, a white belly, and a white breast with one black neckband. They have a brown cap, a white forehead, a black mask around the eyes and a short orange and black bill.

Their breeding habitat is open ground on beaches or flats across northern Canada and Alaska. They nest on the ground in an open area with little or no plant growth.

They are migratory and winter in coastal areas of the southern United States, the Caribbean and much of South America.

These birds forage for food on beaches, tidal flats and fields, usually by sight. They eat insects, crustaceans and worms.

This bird very closely resembles the Killdeer but is much smaller but has only one black band on their chest. The bill of the killdeer is totally black, where as the bill of the Semipalmated Plover is orange near their face, and only the tip is black. The term “semipalmated” refers to its partly webbed feet. Like the Killdeer, and since its nest is on the ground, it uses a “broken-wing” display to lure intruders away from the nest.

On to my photos, these were all shot on the shores of Thunder Bay, an arm of Lake Huron, near Alpena, Michigan:

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plover

This is number 116 in my photo life list, only 234 to go!

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

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Dunlin, Calidris alpina

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.

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

The Dunlin is a small wading bird. It is a circumpolar breeder in Arctic or subarctic regions.

The Dunlin is highly gregarious in winter, sometimes forming large flocks on coastal mudflats or sandy beaches. Large numbers can often be seen swirling in synchronized flight on stop-overs during migration or on their winter habitat.
This bird is one of the most common and best-known waders throughout its breeding and wintering ranges, and it is the species with which other waders tend to be compared. At 17–21 cm length and a 32–36 cm wingspan, it is similar in size to a Common Starling, but stouter, with a thicker bill.

The Dunlin moves along the coastal mudflat beaches it prefers with a characteristic “sewing machine” feeding action, methodically picking small food items. Insects form the main part of the Dunlin’s diet on the nesting grounds; it eats mollusks, worms and crustaceans in coastal areas.

An adult Dunlin in breeding plumage shows the distinctive black belly which no other similar-sized wader possesses. The winter Dunlin is basically grey above and white below. Juveniles are brown above with two whitish “V” shapes on the back. They usually have black marks on the flanks or belly and show a strong white wing bar in flight.

The legs and slightly de-curved bill are black. There are a number of subspecies differing mainly in the extent of rufus coloration in the breeding plumage and the bill length. It should, however, be noted that bill length varies between sexes, the females having longer bills than the males.

The nest is a shallow scrape on the ground lined with vegetation, into which typically four eggs are laid and incubated by the male and female parents. Chicks are precocial, however are brooded during early development. They start to fly at approximately three weeks of age. The majority of brood care is provided by the male, as the female deserts the brood and often leaves the breeding area.

Their call is a typical sandpiper “peep”, and the display song a harsh trill.

On to my photos:

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

Dunlin, Calidris alpina

This is number 115 in my photo life list, only 235 to go!

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

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Pickerel Lake Park – Fred Meijer Nature Preserve

On Sunday, July 21st, I visited Pickerel Lake Park – Fred Meijer Nature Preserve, which is in northeast Kent County, Michigan. Here’s a link to the county’s website for more information, including how to get there and trail maps.

Here’s another link, from the Michigan DNR that provides an even better description and more information.

One note of warning I should throw in here, Pickerel Lake Park is one of the most popular parks in the area, it can be quite busy. I got there just after 8 AM this morning, and my Subaru was the third vehicle in the parking lot. When I left just after 2 PM, the parking lot was almost full.

I’ll start with a photo of the plaque dedicating the park.

Gibberish

Gibberish

I won’t go into the controversy over the name of the park, because that doesn’t matter to most of you.

It was a fine mid-summer day, I should have had a very good day, but for some reason, I found that most of the photos I shot there didn’t turn out well. I got just over halfway along the trails, and the feeling came over me that the photos I was shooting were all going to be lacking. Part of that was because I just wasn’t on my game today, and I have no idea why. Part of it was because I had to use the wrong lens for so many subjects.

There’s a very nice boardwalk across several parts of Pickerel Lake, it allows you to see many water plants that you wouldn’t be able to get close to otherwise without a watercraft of some type. But, the boardwalk has a handrail to keep people from falling off into the water, and from the walking surface up to the handrail, there’s fencing to prevent small children falling off. So, the only way to photograph the flowers is shooting almost straight down from the level of the handrail down to the flowers. That was too far for any of my lenses other than the Sigma 150-500 mm lens, and that lens does not work well as a macro lens. Here’s a few examples of what I mean.

Unidentified purple waterflower

Unidentified purple water flower

Unidentified purple waterflower

Unidentified purple water flower

Unidentified red waterflower

Unidentified red water flower

Unidentified red waterflower

Unidentified red water flower

If it hadn’t been for the fencing, I’d have been laying on my belly on the boardwalk to get closer, and better angles on the flowers.

One other thing, the boardwalk isn’t solid, it bounces around when people are walking on it, you can feel it even when the other people are still some distance away from you. That makes it harder to hold the camera steady.

If this sounds too negative, I don’t mean it to be, the entire park is great, except for the boardwalk for photography purposes, at least that’s what I found.

Now then, with my excuses out of the way, there are about five miles of trails in the park, one main trail around Pickerel Lake, including the sections over the lake, and also several short loops off that main trail. I hit most of them today. There are restrooms and drinking water available, after crossing the first section of boardwalk across the lake.

Two of the loops take you uphill into wooded areas, one takes you along the edge of a larch swamp.

I’ll bet that this park is a birding paradise in the spring before the foliage is fully developed as I saw many different species of birds, but only managed a few photos.

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

American robin and common grackle

American robin and common grackle

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Mute swans

Mute swans

Song sparrow preening

Song sparrow preening

Song sparrow preening

Song sparrow preening

Song sparrow preening

Song sparrow preening

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

I think that you’ll get a better idea how thick the foliage is from these two wide shots looking across the lake.

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

Here it’s the middle of July, and everything is as green as the middle of May! You can also see that except for the lake, nearly the entire park is heavily wooded.

I could list all the species of birds that I saw, but that would take up too much room, suffice it to say that most species of songbirds common to southern Michigan were present, and in quantities.

There were also many insects of various types.

Damselfly

Damselfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Wasp

Wasp

Wasp

Wasp

Butterfly

Spicebush swallowtail

Bee

Bee

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Butterfly

Butterfly

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

I also saw a few interesting fungi along the way.

Unidentified fungus object

Unidentified fungus object

Unidentified fungus object

Unidentified fungus object

Unidentified fungus object

Unidentified fungus object

And although they aren’t fungi, I guess this is a fitting spot for the Indian pipes I spotted.

Indian pipes

Indian pipes

And that leaves me with the flowers, most of which I can not identify.

???

???

???

???

???

???

???

???

???

???

???

???

???

???

???

???

???

???

IMG_8630

Rose look alike

Rose look alike

Bladderwort?

Bladderwort?

???

Swamp milkweed

???

???

Spiderwort

Spiderwort

It really surprised me how many different wildflowers I saw there from what I’m used to. This park is about halfway between the home where I grew up, and the home I owned to the north.

Oops, almost forgot the turtles.

Painted turtles basking on a fine summer day

Painted turtles basking on a fine summer day

I will definitely being going back, and soon. I went this time expecting to concentrate on birding, so I left the Sigma on the camera far too much of the time. As thick as the foliage is, that was a poor choice. I’d have been better off using the L series lens most of the time, and finding ways to get better photos of the flowers.

I’ll also go back in the spring, as I’m sure that I’ll get bird photos then.

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


Mid-summer flowers

Another post of flowers that I’ve seen in the past few days while out for my daily walk. I’m no expert when it comes to identifying flowers or plants, so I hope that I have these right, the ones that I did ID that is.

Sweat pea and knapweed

Sweat pea and knapweed

Teasel

Teasel

Pokeweed "fruit"

Pokeweed “fruit”

Sedum???

Swamp milkweed

IMG_8421

Blue Vervain?

Teasel

Teasel

Teasel

Teasel

Thistle

Thistle

Purple loosestrife and bee

Purple loosestrife and bee

Teasel

Teasel

Teasel

Teasel

Thistle

Thistle

Harebell?

Harebell?

Black eyed Susan

Black eyed Susan

???

Evening primrose

???

Hairy Sunflower???

Day lily

Day lily

Day lily

Day lily

???

???

Bee balm

Bee balm

Double tiger lily?

Double tiger lily?

Double tiger lily?

Double tiger lily?

Soapwort

Soapwort

Phlox

Phlox

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Michigan lily

Purple loosestrife

Purple loosestrife

Hawkweed family?

Hawkweed family?

Chicory and Queen Anne's Lace

Chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace

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


My Week, like a sauna

Sunday

So the misery begins. The forecast for today is for a high near 90 degrees (32 C), with the humidity beginning to build. By the middle of this week, we’ll have highs a few degrees higher than today, with dew-point readings in the mid 70’s (24 C), which means overnight lows won’t be low. I may have to break down and turn on the AC this week.

I was up at dawn, I’m planning on getting an early start today, then napping this afternoon. I feel like I could use a nap already, and I haven’t done anything more strenuous than lift my coffee cup so far today.

I thought about going to the Pickerel Lake Natural Area today, that isn’t very far from here, just northeast of Grand Rapids, which is near where I grew up and spent most of my life. In a way, going there would be like going home, but, I don’t feel like it today. It would make me realize how much I miss that area, and make me more discontented with the area I’m living now. Before I totally bum myself out, I’d better get something to eat, and get moving.

I’m back, I didn’t last long today. I was in the woods before 8 AM, and it was nice and cool to begin. However, there wasn’t a lot of light in the woods that early.

Peeping Tom cat

Peeping Tom cat

There are times when my camera and the Sigma lens amaze me, that was one of those times. Here’s another.

Daylily

Day lily

I walked almost the entire length of the park without shooting another photo, there wasn’t enough light for the few things that I got close to in the heavily wooded section that I walked through. It was cool though, and the smell of pines was wonderful, so it was a nice start to the day.

I got to the boardwalk section of the path, where it is more open, and things started going downhill a bit. I saw a red bellied woodpecker hiding in the shadow of a tree….

Red bellied woodpecker

Red bellied woodpecker

…so I cranked some positive exposure compensation in, and the woodpecker stuck its head out into the sunlight…

Red bellied woodpecker

Red bellied woodpecker

…so there’s some blow out in the white of its face. I went back to zero compensation, it went back into the shadow, I gave up, temporarily…

Red bellied woodpecker

Red bellied woodpecker

Not great, but as soon as I moved to get a clear shot without the branch, it was gone.

A little farther down the boardwalk, I came upon some damselflies sunning themselves.

Damselfly

Damselfly

Damselfly

Damselfly

I should have changed lenses for those, but I was chasing a small, rather plain-looking bird down the boardwalk at the same time.

Female indigo bunting

Female indigo bunting

She refused to come out from under the grass hanging over the boardwalk, so I never did get a good shot of her. However, her mate was doing his best to distract me as tried to get a photo of her.

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

For a moment or two, it was perched right out in the open, in the sunlight, I could see the glint in its eye, but for some reason, the same camera and lens that got the photo of the cat in the shadows of a brush pile couldn’t get a focus lock on a brilliantly bright blue bird, or the branch under it, or the tree next to it. As soon as I switched to manual focus, the bunting was gone. Aargh!

Maybe the birds were all grumpy from the heat, as not even a chickadee wanted to pose for me today…

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

…as soon as it saw me, it dove into the hollow tree…

Black capped chickadee's tail

Black capped chickadee’s tail

…and at times I would see its head though one hole, at other times, its tail through a lower hole, but I missed the head shots, sorry.

I caught a downy woodpecker feeding on mulberries, but it was so dark under the tree that I didn’t dare zoom in at all, so I shot this one at 150 mm.

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

I thought about hanging out there by the mulberry tree, because there were several birds eating the berries. However, the bird droppings all around where I was standing convinced me that it probably wouldn’t be wise to stand there long.

I saw a few deer over the course of the day, or more accurately, I saw a few deer ears looking like twin periscopes moving through a sea of grass. The grass in the parts of the park that aren’t wooded is now four to six feet tall, so the deer can be thirty feet from you, and you’d never know they are there.

It was getting warmer all the time, and people were flocking to the park. I assume that they don’t have AC at home, so they are going to the parks to try to stay cool. I just saw a tweet from a local meteorologist saying that it’s 87 degrees with a dew point of 66, and it’s only 1 PM.

I pressed on though, and found a pair of young catbirds feeding on wild cherries.

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

The last photo from the day is a giant, ugly mushroom.

Mushroom

Mushroom

By then I had finished both bottles of water that I had brought with me, and it was a quarter of a mile walk to refill the bottles if I wanted to continue my walk. That wasn’t that bad, but it would have meant another quarter of a mile back to pick up where I had left off, on top of the four miles I had completed. Most of the remaining walk that I do at that park is out in the open with little shade. I wimped out and decided that I had enough of the heat, since it’s only going to get worse this week, and called it a day. Now it’s time for a nap!

Monday

Well, it’s official, we hit 90 degrees for the first time since August of 2012 yesterday, whoopee! Before I go off on anther media rant, I’d better slightly change the subject.

Because it’s going to be so hot this week, I’m only going to take one lens with me each day. Not only does that mean less weight to carry, it also means that I won’t have the straps from the harness I use to carry my gear pressing my shirt against my skin, making me feel even warmer. It will probably be the 70-200 mm L series, since that’s the most versatile of my three lenses.

I’m back, and the lesson for today is that all things are relative, especially the heat. I thought that it was warm in my apartment when I left, after a little over an hour, and three miles in the outdoor sauna, my apartment feels pleasantly cool right now.

Let me start by saying that here it is only the middle of July, and already the birds are leaving, at least this area. I saw one or two red-winged blackbirds today. I haven’t seen the meadowlarks in two weeks or so, and today it dawned on me that the flocks of orioles that I shot so many photos of this spring seem to have vanished as well. I haven’t seen or heard the alder flycatcher lately either.

I did find a few things to photograph today, starting with this one. It didn’t come out as I envisioned, but there’s something about it that I like.

Maple seeds in the sun

Maple seeds in the sun

While looking over the tiger lilies to see if there was one that stood out, I found this green insect in one.

Tiger lily and visitor

Tiger lily and visitor

I know that I’ve posted many photos of Queen Anne’s Lace lately, but this one is too good to throw out.

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace

And even though I’ve shot many photos of yellow warblers this spring, here’s a couple of a female that posed for me.

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

And, even though this is a horribly invasive species, it is pretty.

Purple loosestrife

Purple loosestrife

I’m finally remembering that photos taken in the portrait orientation fit better into the blog theme that I’m using, especially flower photos. If I can get close enough to one of these, I’ll switch to portrait as well.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I generally shoot everything with the camera in the landscape orientation, as the results display better on my computer screen, I’ll have to be more flexible from now on.

Anyway, the heron was at one of the small ponds in the sister apartment complex to the one I live in. I was quite surprised to see a heron, as the ponds are very small, and located very close to the apartments. I did try to stalk the heron to get closer, using a well placed bush for cover, but the heron flew off before I got much closer to it. I would be very surprised to see it back, as it looked very nervous before I started getting closer to it. As thick as the leaves were on the bush, I don’t think that the heron could see me, but I could be wrong about that.

Oh, and by the way, those were all shot with the 70-200 mm L series lens. I wrote before that it takes more work to get a sharp photo with it, it still does, but, the more I use it, the more I learn what it takes to get excellent photos with it. For example, the auto-focus is much more accurate in the servo mode that in the one shot mode. I have my suspicions as to why that is, since both of my other lenses perform very well in the one shot mode, but there’s nothing that I can prove yet. Besides, the why doesn’t matter, it is what it is, and I have to work with what I have.

Some readers may be bored by these discussions, but others are learning from them, or at least they enjoy them, or so they say. Anyway, before I go on at length on that subject, I have to shower and then visit my mom today, so this wraps up this day.

Tuesday

Yes, it’s still hot and humid, that’s not forecast to change until Friday. I did make it through one more night without turning on the AC in my apartment though. We had pop-up thunder showers yesterday afternoon that cooled things down a little, which helped.

Back to camera gear for a bit. It’s quite interesting to me how a slight tweak of the camera settings can make such an impact on the performance of the lenses these days. I suppose that it is understandable, since the electronics in both the camera and lenses  control everything. Being a geek at heart that loves nothing more than solving problems, I do enjoy playing with my new camera and lenses to find out what works and why.

Cameras and lenses are electro-mechanical devices these days, and the electronics in each may be of different generations as far as design and components. I doubt that the manufacturers would admit it, but I would assume that makes some combinations of cameras and lenses more finicky than others as far as getting them to work together at top performance for both.

At least that’s what I seem to be finding out with the 60 D and the 70-200 mm L series lens. I assume that the lens is an older design, with older electronics than what the camera has, but I could be wrong about that.

Anyway, I did some more playing with the L series today, starting with a turkey in the shade.

Turkey

Turkey

I don’t want it to sound as though I’m blowing my own horn (too much), but that’s one of the tougher shots in nature photography. Most of the time, a turkey in the shade will come out as a black lump, but by going up with the exposure compensation, and getting just the right angle as far as what sunlight there was to work with, I got some of the colors of the turkey to show. Of course everything in the foreground and background that was in the sun is way over-exposed, but other than a HDR, I know of no way around that. The point of this is that it pays to practice taking the tough shots, for the next time I’m confronted with a set-up like this, it may be something other than a turkey, and a species that I really want a photo of.

I also tried a few macro photos…

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

Purple loosestrife

Purple loosestrife

Both of those were heavily cropped to get that close, but the L series lens is so sharp that I can get away with that.

Here’s a few shots that were not cropped at all.

Tiger lily

Indian love call day lily

Tiger lily

Indian love call day lily

Tiger lily

Indian love call day lily

I thought that they were tiger lilies, but one of my Facebook friends correctly identified them, they sure stood out from the background, as I spotted them from some distance away because of their color, which as you can see, was very vivid. All five of these last shots were taken with -1/3 EV, which has become my standard starting point for photographing flowers and landscapes. I usually try -2/3 EV as well, and I’ll go down a full stop for white or yellow flowers, depending on which metering mode I am using.

I typically have the camera set to partial spot metering which works well on birds, and requires less of an adjustment when shooting flowers. I normally switch to evaluative or center weighted for landscapes, and those modes require larger adjustments to the exposure when shooting flowers. At least that’s what works the best for my Canon 60 D and the lenses I have. Your results may vary. 😉

Can you tell that I’m really, really enjoying getting back into photography done the right way now that I have a camera and lenses that actually function correctly?

But, there’s a point to be made about the lily photos. I’ve read and heard that muted sunlight is best for photographing flowers, as you get better color saturation in that light. Being a stubborn non-conformist, I like shooting flowers in full sunshine, as many flowers have structures that sparkle in the full sun. It takes more work my way, as far as getting the sunlight just right, as well as the exposure, but I don’t think that any one would say that the four photos of flowers that I posted today are lacking in color saturation.

I did see the alder flycatcher today, I even got a photo of it, but I’m holding off on that one for now, until I do a post on that species in my Photo Life List project.

I had an interesting experience last night at work. I got to the Lansing, Michigan branch, and backed in to the dock as I always do. I did my thing as far as unloading and reloading the trailer, and was preparing to pull out into the street. I saw the power lines going to the building across the street begin shaking violently, So I was looking around to see why, when a couple of cables came crashing down on the truck. One of the cables landed between the truck and the trailer, the other was over the top of the trailer. I thought that they were phone and cable lines, but I wasn’t about to hop out of the truck and get zapped if there had been a power line that I couldn’t see touching the rig.

So, I called 911 and waited for the fire department to arrive, which took longer than I expected. They determined that the lines were just phone and cable lines, and they helped me slide the cables off from the truck.

They told me that was their third call that day for the same thing, a truck pulling down wires. With this heat, the wires are stretching and sagging down lower than they normally do, which is why trucks are catching wires we normally pass under on a daily basis. The good thing is that they had all been phone and cable lines, as they are strung lower than the power lines for just that reason. I learn something new everyday.

The funny thing about all that is that I didn’t hit the wires when I backed in, I would have seen that I was hitting them while backing in. No, the wires had to sag a little lower while I was at the loading dock, so that I would rip them down on my way out, when I can’t see above me.

Wednesday

Half way through this heat wave, I think that I’m going to survive it. I’m in no hurry for fall or winter, but I want this heat and humidity gone! The forecast for the weekend looks good, but I don’t have the energy to do any planning right now.

Even though the park that I walk everyday can be crowded, I have discovered a few benefits to walking in a park, like the availability of restrooms and drinking water. I can get by with taking one bottle of water with me to start, then refill it as needed at the drinking fountains, rather than carry several bottles with me.

I took what I think will be another major step towards quitting smoking yesterday. I stopped on my way to work, and bought one of the disposable e-cigarettes that are on the market now. I gave it a try last night while driving, I can tell that they could easily take the place of real cigarettes, with one caveat. The electronic ones don’t go out, and last much longer than a real smoke. I could see myself sticking one in my mouth and leaving it there for far too long, giving me more nicotine, not less. It worked OK in the truck, because I know how long a real cigarette lasts from the time I light it until it’s done, so I limited my time with the e-cigarette to the same amount of time. Now, if I can do the same thing the rest of the time, I think that the e-cigarette will work to help me quit smoking.

I over slept this morning, which seems to be my norm for Wednesdays. Because of that, my apartment was already getting warm since the windows were still open from last night. I broke down and turned on the AC for a few minutes while I was eating breakfast, it didn’t take long to cool it off in here.

I’m glad that I did turn on the AC, because it was sure nice to come home to a cool apartment, it was miserable out there today. My clothes have been wrung out and hung to dry, and no, it didn’t rain while I was walking, I should have been so lucky.

I shot very few photos, about a dozen or so, none of them very good. All but two were shot while I was standing in the shade on one of the bridges that cross over the creek that runs through the park. I was playing more than anything, as it gave me an excuse to stand in the shade and watch the robins staying cool.

American robin

American robin

American robin

American robin

The only half way decent shot I took was of a cedar waxwing, and it’s nothing special.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Great, they’re delivering the woodchips for the new playground across the street from me, so I get to listen to that for who knows how long. I’m certainly glad that I don’t work third shift! I think that they must be about done converting the tennis courts into a playground, at least I hope so.

Anyway, back to my walk. I saw a blue jay land in the lawn next to the woods, no big deal, except that a few seconds later, a male cardinal dropped out of the trees, landed on the blue jay’s back, and started beating the crap out of the jay. The jay was on its back for a second, I could see its white belly as the cardinal pummeled the jay, which then managed to right itself and get away from the cardinal. I don’t recall ever seeing a cardinal that aggressive before.

Other than whine about the heat, I don’t have much else to say about the day. When the birds and insects are behaving differently because of the heat, its hard to talk about anything else.

Thursday

You know, I can be really dumb at times. The electric utility is charging me a $7 per month “access” fee, because I use so little electricity. Yet, I haven’t turned on the AC this year, other than for about five minutes yesterday, to save money, or so I thought. I’ll bet that if I were to run the AC more often to keep it more comfortable in my apartment, that my electrical usage would go up to the point where I was no longer hit with the access fee, so my electric bill would end up being about the same as it is now. I’m going to give it a try, and see what my next bill is.

Today is forecast to be the worst of the heat wave, close to 95 degrees (35 C) during the day, “cooling off” to around 80 degrees (27 C) tonight. That will be unpleasant!

By the end of next week I will have posted one-third of the species of birds seen regularly in Michigan in the My Photo Life List project that I began in January. Once I hit that milestone, I’m going to cut back those posts to one per week, until I run out of photos, which will happen eventually. Before I pat myself on the back too much, I’d better get something to eat, and venture out into the sauna outside.

OK, I survived another day! High temperatures and humidity must count as bad weather for a lot of people, for the last two days, there have been very few others in the park besides me.

I’ve seen almost as many butterflies the past two days as I have seen all year. However, I have not been able to get any good photos, as they have refused to sit still, and it’s been the same with bees as well. This hot weather has their metabolism running at hyper-speed.

I shot a number of experimental photos today, they were failures for the most part, other than for what I learned in failure. I did save a few of the non-experimental types.

Kitten

Kitten

Crown vetch seed pods

Crown vetch seed pods

Raspberries

Raspberries

Once again I tried to duplicate the earlier Queen Anne’s lace photo sans fence, I give up!

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace

When you watch a kingbird in flight, they don’t appear to be particularly skillful fliers, but I watched one flying across a field today, a swallow got close to it, and a dogfight ensued. I was very surprised at how well the kingbird was able to stick to the swallow’s tail as the swallow dove and darted as they are well able to do. Of course the swallow prevailed, and flew off unscathed, but it was a sight to see, even though I couldn’t keep up with them with my camera. I knew that kingbirds were very territorial, but this was out over a field, a long distance from the kingbird’s nest, so I don’t know what the swallow said that set the kingbird off.

I may have missed photos of the dogfight, but I did manage a bad photo of the kingbird on its way back across the field again.

Eastern Kingbird in flight

Eastern Kingbird in flight

And to go with that last one, here’s a bad photo of a rose-breasted grosbeak in flight.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak in flight

Male rose-breasted grosbeak in flight

That’s it for the photos from today, pretty slim pickings.

And once again, I don’t have much else to say, other than for some wacky ideas for a camper and also a way to carry my stuff with me while walking, but I won’t bore you with those, yet, or any more whining about the heat.

Friday

The big news item in Michigan is that the city of Detroit has declared bankruptcy. That’s something that has been a long time coming, for Detroit has been a drain on the rest of the state for at least thirty years. The rest of the state has been pouring so much money into Detroit to keep it afloat that the entire state nearly went bankrupt. In some respects, it is sad news, that a once proud and vibrant city like Detroit is bankrupt, but on the other hand, maybe this will be the start of an even better Detroit in the future.

The other news is the heat, when I went to bed last night, the temperature was still 81 degrees outside. Yes, I ran the AC overnight. The good news is that there’s a cold front forecast to move through the area this afternoon, I sure hope so! I’m tired of listening to the whining about the heat coming from the same people who a week ago were whining that it hadn’t been hot yet this summer.

Seeing the photos that some other bloggers have posted the last few days while travelling had me chomping at the bit again to take a road trip this weekend. I even started making plans as to where to go, but then, it hit me that every spot I thought of would be extremely crowded on a summer weekend. So much for that idea for now. I should explain that a little more, it isn’t so much the crowds at a destination, such as Sleeping Bear Dunes, that would bother me, it’s the crowded roads and parking lots that I’d rather not deal with. I’ve become such an off-season tourist that I’ve become spoiled, since I go to places that attract millions of visitors in the summer, but only a few hundred in the off-season. Being a truck driver and having to deal with crowded highways on a daily basis plays a part in my decision as well.

Back from my walk, it was interesting, even productive to some degree. Even though it was even hotter than yesterday, it didn’t feel as bad as there was a stiff wind blowing today. That did limit my opportunities for photos, because with the wind, flowers were almost impossible, and even birds and bugs were difficult to shoot, as they were bouncing around in the wind. I did manage a few though, starting with a hummingbird moth.

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

That’s the best out of half a dozen or so attempts. I tried to ID the species, without much luck, sorry. They are really cool to watch, they are easily mistaken for small hummingbirds in the way that they fly from flower to flower, and hover while feeding on the flower’s nectar.

Seeing a blue bird perched on a wire gave me a chance to shoot a series of photos to test exposures under the conditions today, here’s the one that came out the best.

Eastern blue bird

Eastern blue bird

That was shot at +1/3 EV, which looks much better than I’ve gotten so far.

The teasel are blooming.

Teasel flowers

Teasel flowers

Teasel flowers

Teasel flowers

The first shot is as close as I can get with the 70-200 mm lens, the second shot is cropped severely, but still looks reasonably sharp. The individual flowers of the teasel are tiny, not much more than 1/8 of an inch across. I’m still mulling over the idea of buying an extension tube to use, since I can’t afford a true macro lens right now. That’s a tough call, the darned extension tubes are way overpriced in my opinion, I think that I’ll hold off and wait until I can afford a true macro lens, maybe the Tokina AT-X AF 100MM F2.8 Macro Lens, or the Canon EF-S 60mm F2.8 Macro USM. Another blogger I follow recently purchased the Canon macro, and it’s producing excellent photos for them, so that’s the direction I’m leaning now, but the added focal length of the Tokina could come in handy. I could also use a fast 2.8 lens, as the three lenses I have are all rather slow.

Anyway, I can’t decide which of these photos of a small butterfly I like the best, so I’m posting them all.

Small yellow butterfly

Small yellow butterfly

Small yellow butterfly

Small yellow butterfly

Small yellow butterfly

Small yellow butterfly

Small yellow butterfly

Small yellow butterfly

And while I’m on butterflies, a few of a monarch.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

The wind did make for at least one interesting shot.

Blowing in the wind

Blowing in the wind

The young kingbirds have left the nest, and were hanging onto the trees for dear life to keep them from being blown into the next county.

Juvenile eastern kingbird

Juvenile eastern kingbird

Other birds weren’t very cooperative today. I found this cardinal singing, out in the open. As I was getting ready to take its picture, it began tip toeing along the branch it was perched on to put some leaves between us, but never stopped singing.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

It had been to the right of where it is in that photo, a second later, and it was behind the leaves to the left of the frame. After I stopped laughing, I saw an opening for an even better shot, as I lifted the camera, the cardinal ducked behind another branch. I had a female oriole do about the same thing, we played peek-a-boo for a minute or so until I gave up. It was fun watching her lift her head over the leaves, see that I was still there, then duck down behind the leaves again, just like a little kid.

Some one commented that they were familiar with white bindweed, but not the purple variant that I posted in an earlier post, so here’s a white one.

White bindweed

White bindweed

The large sycamore in the park is shedding its bark as they do in the summer, maybe to keep cool? 😉

Sycamore bark

Sycamore bark

And finally, as far as photos, another attempt at getting a good shot of a swallow in flight.

Barn swallow in flight

Barn swallow in flight

I do love a challenge! I know that my chances of a good shot of a swallow in flight are slim at best, but trying does keep me occupied and out of trouble.

I may get another challenge tonight at work. The forecast is for strong to severe storms as the cold front comes through. Thankfully, I won’t have the challenge another truck driver had last night, his rig was almost blown off from the Mackinac Bridge during a storm. The deck of the bridge is almost 200 feet above the water at the highest point, although the truck last night hadn’t made it to the center of the bridge when it was blown over on its side. They normally close down the bridge to trucks during high winds or storms, and occasionally all traffic if the winds are strong enough. Some one must have been slow on the switch to close the bridge last night.

I’m tempted to take my camera along to work, well, I mean the good camera, I will bring my Powershot point and shoot to capture anything interesting that may happen if the storms are as strong as predicted.

Saturday

The storms were a bust, which in a way is too bad, as we could have used the rain. There were a few small storms, but nothing widespread as they had been predicting for several days.

I’m going to walk here at home today, as the updated forecast is calling for temperatures and dew points only slightly cooler today than they have been all week. Now they are saying that the real cool down will come tomorrow. It’s just as well, I have laundry and other household chores to attend to when I get back.

Being a responsible adult is such a pain. I really don’t feel like walking around here today, I want to go someplace, anyplace!

I feel like doing one of my old style road trips, sleeping in my forester overnight, and coming back tomorrow. I know, I keep saying that, it’s a good thing that my forester still has a bunch of stuff in the back that I’ve been too lazy to put away where it belongs, like the Yakima rack system that I tried to sell to my brother a couple of weeks ago, or I probably would take off. But, there are so many things that I want to buy in the next few months, spending money on a road trip now isn’t going to get me closer to the goals that I have set as far as saving for those future purchases.

Well, before I get carried away here, I’d better get something to eat and head on out for the day, be back later.

For not feeling like I wanted to walk around here, I sure did come back with a slew of photos! Turn me loose with one of my short lenses when there are flowers in bloom and that happens. I did shoot a couple of birds and bugs, and I’ll throw those in here now, and as usual, since this is getting quite long already, I’ll do another flower post soon.

OK, my walk, it was hot, I don’t think that it cooled off much if any from yesterday. The thermometer may have said it did, but there wasn’t the wind today that there was yesterday. It was so hot that the squirrels were spraddled out on the limbs of trees in the shade to keep cool.

Fox squirrel staying cool

Fox squirrel staying cool

If you look very closely at the squirrel, the area around its mouth is stained from mulberry juice, it really could have used a napkin. 😉

I was seeing many flowers along the west leg of the trail, and just like the last few weeks, not many birds. I had decided to switch lenses at the end of that leg, and photograph flowers on the way back. However, a pair of house finches posed for me at the end of the leg, so it was a good thing that I hadn’t switched to a shorter lens than the Sigma earlier.

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Female house finch

Female house finch

Since I didn’t dig through my archives when I did the post on house finches in the My Photo Life List project for any photos of females, I’ll add the photos I took today to that post, if any one is interested.

Doing the east leg of the trail, I came upon the young kingbirds that have recently left the nest, they were hungry!

Juvenile eastern kingbird saying "FEED ME!"

Juvenile eastern kingbird saying “FEED ME!”

Juvenile eastern kingbird saying "FEED ME!"

Juvenile eastern kingbird saying “FEED ME!”

Juvenile eastern kingbird saying "FEED ME!"

Juvenile eastern kingbird saying “FEED ME!”

And, I shot a photo of a song sparrow’s butt, just because I could.

Song sparrow's butt

Song sparrow’s butt

I finally found a butterfly, and one that would sit still.

Unidentified fluttering object

Unidentified fluttering object

To finish up with, here’s a preview of just a few of the many flowers that I photographed today.

A preview of things to come

A preview of things to come

It took me five hours to cover five miles today, hardly any type of speed record, so you know that I took some time on the flowers, along with taking breaks in the shade to cool off. And to think, I didn’t want to do this walk today. The joke was on me for sure.

Anyway, that about wraps this one up, and wraps up another week, thanks for stopping by!


Yellow Warbler, Setophaga petechia

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

Yellow Warbler, Setophaga petechia

The American Yellow Warbler is a New World warbler species. They make up the most widespread species in the diverse Setophaga genus, breeding in almost the whole of North America and down to northern South America.

Depending on subspecies, the American Yellow Warbler may be between 10–18 cm (3.9–7.1 in) long, with a wingspan from 16 to 22 cm (6.3 to 8.7 in). They weigh 7–25 g (0.25–0.88 oz), varying between subspecies and whether on migration or not, globally averaging about 16 g (0.56 oz) but only 9–10 g (0.32–0.35 oz) in most breeding adults of the United States populations. Among standard measurements throughout the subspecies, the wing chord is 5.5 to 7 cm (2.2 to 2.8 in), the tail is 3.9 to 5.6 cm (1.5 to 2.2 in), the bill is 0.8 to 1.3 cm (0.31 to 0.51 in) and the tarsus is 1.7 to 2.2 cm (0.67 to 0.87 in). The summer males of this species are generally the yellowest “warblers” wherever they occur. They are brilliant yellow below and golden-green above. There are usually a few wide washed-out rusty-red streaks on the breast and flanks.

Their song is a musical strophe that can be rendered “sweet sweet sweet, I’m so sweet”, although it varies considerably between populations. The call is a soft or harder chip or ship. This is particularly frequently given by females after a male has finished his song. In territorial defense, they give hissing calls, while “seet” seems to be a kind of specialized cowbird alert. Other calls are given in communication between pair-members, neighbors, or by young begging for food. These birds also communicate with postures and perhaps with touch.

The breeding habitat of American Yellow Warblers is typically riparian or otherwise moist land with ample growth of small trees, in particular willows. The other groups, as well as wintering birds, chiefly inhabit mangrove swamps and similar dense woody growth. Less preferred habitat are shrubland, farmlands and forest edges. In particular American Yellow Warblers will come to suburban or less densely settled areas, orchards and parks, and may well breed there. Outside the breeding season, these warblers are usually encountered in small groups, but while breeding they are fiercely territorial and will try to chase away any conspecific intruder that comes along.

These birds feed mainly on arthropods, in particular insects. They acquire prey by gleaning in shrubs and on tree branches, and by hawking prey that tries to fly away. Other invertebrates and some berries and similar small juicy fruits are also eaten, the latter especially by American Yellow Warblers in their winter quarters. Caterpillars are the staple food for nestlings, with some – e.g. those of geometer moths preferred over others.

These New World warblers seem to mob predators only rarely. An exception are cowbirds, which are significant brood parasites. The Yellow Warbler is a regular host of the Brown-headed Cowbird, with about 40% of all nests suffering attempted or successful parasitism. Upon recognizing a cowbird egg in its nest, the warbler will often smother it with a new layer of nesting material. It will usually not try to save any of its own eggs that have already been laid, but produce a replacement clutch. Sometimes, the parents desert a parasitized nest altogether and build a new one.

As usual for New World warblers, they nest in trees, building a small but very sturdy cup nest. Females and males share the reproductive work about equally, but emphasize different tasks: females are more involved with building and maintaining the nest, and incubating and brooding the offspring. Most of the actual feeding is also done by them. Males are more involved in guarding the nest site and procuring food, bringing it to the nest and passing it to the waiting mother. As the young approach fledging, the male’s workload becomes proportionally higher.

The clutch of the American Yellow Warbler is 3–6 (typically 4–5, rarely 1–2) eggs. Incubation to hatching usually takes 11 days, but may take up to two weeks. The nestlings weigh 1.3 g (0.046 oz) on average, and are brooded for an average 8–9 days after hatching, and leave the nest the following day or the one thereafter. Almost half of the parents attend the fledglings for some time after these leave the nest. This post-fledging care can extend for two additional weeks or more, and sometimes the pairs separate early, each accompanied by one to three of the young.

Some 3–4 weeks after hatching, the young are fully independent of their parents. They become sexually mature at one year of age, and attempt to breed right away.

On to my photos:

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

This is number 114 in my photo life list, only 236 to go!

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

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Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas

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.

Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas

The Common Yellowthroat is a New World warbler. They are abundant breeders in North America, ranging from southern Canada to central Mexico. Northern races are migratory, wintering in the southern parts of the breeding range, Central America and the West Indies. Southern forms are largely resident. This species is a very rare vagrant to western Europe.

Common Yellowthroats are small songbirds that have olive backs, wings and tails, yellow throats and chests, and white bellies. Adult males have black face masks which stretch from the sides of the neck across the eyes and forehead, which are bordered above with white or gray. Females are similar in appearance, but have paler underparts and lack the black mask. Immature birds are similar in appearance to the adult female. First-year males have a faint black mask which darkens completely by spring.

The breeding habitats of these birds are marshes and other wet areas with dense low vegetation, and may also be found in other areas with dense shrub. However, these birds are less common in dry areas. Females appear to prefer males with larger masks. Common Yellowthroats nest in low areas of the vegetation, laying 3–5 eggs in a cup-shaped nest. Both parents feed the young.

These birds feed on insects, which are usually captured in dense vegetation, but sometimes caught in midair.

The Common Yellowthroat’s song is a loud twichety twichety twichety twich. Its call is a soft jip.

On to my photos:

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common yellowthroat

Common yellowthroat

Common yellowthroat

Common yellowthroat

This is number 113 in my photo life list, only 237 to go!

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

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