My Week, Steamy, dreamy, then back to steamy
I’m up early, well, early for me being a second shifter. Drinking my coffee, getting ready to head to Muskegon for a day of birding and who knows what else.
It’s cloudy, warm, and steamy this morning, a good day to do nothing but complain about the weather, but I won’t.
So far this year, I haven’t turned on the AC, but I may have to tonight. There’s been no breeze at all for the last two days to help pull the heat out of my apartment at night. It wasn’t too bad this morning until I shut the windows to keep as much of the coolness in my apartment as I can, but I hate feeling run down by the weather, and I am right now. So, I guess I’d better get something to eat and get moving, or I will sit here all day.
Well, I went to Muskegon, and as usual, that trip warrants a post all on its own, so on to Monday.
Two more days, today and tomorrow, of this lousy sticky heat.
From the local news, some butthead set fire to the historic covered bridge near Lowell, Michigan, and it burned completely, there’s nothing left to repair.
Built in 1867, according to its registered historic site marker, it was the oldest covered bridge still in use in Michigan. The marker says the bridge had hand-hewn trusses covered with rough pine boards, held together with wooden pegs and hand-cut, square, iron nails.
The bridge spanned the Flat River east of Lowell and was in or very near Townsend Park. I should dig through my archives for a photo, as I shot a couple photos of the bridge a few years ago when I did a kayaking/hiking day, hiking upstream on the North Country Trail, then kayaking back to my vehicle. But, seeing the photo would only make me madder than I am already. Now why would some one want to destroy a piece of history like that?
I’m back. I fooled around home hoping that the rain that was approaching from the northwest would make here, but nothing more than a few sprinkles fell here while I was walking. The good news is that the rain was coming from the northwest, not the southeast the way that it has been for the last week. That bodes well for the forecast of cooler, drier air arriving in the next two days. There has to be a pattern shift coming to change the direction of the storm track, even if the storms fall apart before reaching here now.
I shot ten photos, and I kept two.
Most of the rest of the few photos I shot were also of the lilies, at different exposure settings.
Oh, that reminds me, I took just the L series lens today, what with the threat of rain in the air and on the radar.
As far as birds, other than a few of the red-winged blackbirds being back, it was about a normal day as far as numbers and species. It was so dark and gloomy that I didn’t even try any photos, as most of the birds looked black in the gloom, no matter what color they really were.
So today was an exercise day, not much photography involved. That gives me time for a few other things this afternoon.
Like the lack of butterflies. In my post about my last trip to Muskegon, I touched on that. I think that the weather last year is responsible for the low number of butterflies this year. March of 2012 brought record-breaking heat, and many plants began to grow flower buds much earlier than normal.
That first heat wave was followed by a cold snap, including hard freezes that killed many of those early flower buds. Many farmers lost their entire crop of grapes, cherries, and other fruits because all the flower buds were killed by the frost.
Then, we had a second, prolonged heat wave and drought that lasted into August if I remember correctly. I know that we were setting record high temperatures into July at least.
It was the drought that stressed the plants, and prevented them from flowering as they normally do. There were some flowers, but not in the same numbers as in a normal year, and the flowers didn’t last long in the hot, dry conditions.
Since most butterflies feed on the nectar from flowers, there wasn’t as much food available for them, therefore, they probably weren’t able to reproduce as they normally do, resulting in fewer of them this summer.
That’s my theory anyway, and I’ll stick to it until a better one comes along.
OK, the next thing on my agenda, a few thoughts about my Sigma 150-500 mm lens and the photos I shot yesterday of the hawks. I’ll stick them in here again so you can see what I’m talking about.
Neither of those photos are as sharp as I expected them to be, and at first, I didn’t have a clue as to why. The hawks are out in the open, with nothing in the background to confuse the auto-focus of my camera or lens. Besides, I love the way that the same camera/lens combo picks small birds out of the underbrush, here’s a couple recent examples for reference.
So why did the same camera/lens combination do such a poor job when I photographed the hawks, and even some of the other birds while I was at the wastewater treatment facility?
There are three things that I can think of.
One. I shot the hawks at a longer distance than I typically shoot at. Most of the time I’m shooting small birds, flowers, and other subjects at distances from ten to fifty feet. The hawks were a little over 100 feet away from me, maybe the performance of the Sigma lens deteriorates as the distance to the subject increases. No matter how long the focal length of a lens is, or the quality of the glass in the lens, those things can not overcome the simple laws of physics that govern light. Every molecule of water vapor in the atmosphere acts as a miniature lens to bend the rays of light that pass through it, scattering the light over distance. Every bit of solid particle in the atmosphere blocks some of the light.
That’s always true to some degree, but by how much is the question, and the dickcissel photos I took didn’t come out as well as they should have either, and it was much closer to me than the hawks.
Depth of field issues certainly wouldn’t come into play, not at the distance I was from the hawks, the aperture used was more than enough to get the entire hawk in focus.
Two. At the wastewater treatment facility, I’m shooting from inside my Subaru. I do have enough sense to shut the engine off before trying to take photos, so vibration from the engine isn’t the problem.
I do brace myself against the vehicle though. I was thinking to myself how steady I could hold the camera and lens as I was shooting the hawks, almost as steady as if I had used a tripod, the camera didn’t move. The Sigma lens has Optical Stabilization, and I’ve read that the OS should be turned off when using a tripod, or the OS will cause problems when the lens is used on a tripod.
I know from my photos of birds in flight taken with the Sigma lens, I get much sharper photos with the OS shut off, but that’s like comparing apples and oranges, or is it? With the OS on, photos of birds in flight look like the bird is vibrating, very similar to what I saw when I tried to crop the hawk photos from yesterday.
Three. There’s something in the air at the wastewater treatment facility. I know, that statement is ripe for jokes, but I’ve never been 100% happy with the photos that I’ve taken there, no matter which camera I used. That goes for the old Nikon D50, my Canon Powershot, or my new Canon 60D. Even in my post about my first visit there I suspected that there was something about the atmosphere there that affected photography.
Thinking about this as I was taking a shower and doing other chores, I’ve come to the conclusion that the cause of my problems at the wastewater treatment facility are number three, something in the air, with number one, distance, being a contributing factor as well. Those two go together in a way.
Every time I’ve been to the wastewater treatment facility, it’s seemed that there was a haze in the air, more so than on my way there, or back, or the other places in the Muskegon area that I go. I don’t want to go into the details of how the facility operates, but it is pumping huge amounts of water vapor and methane into the atmosphere, both of which effect light passing through them. Add in the longer distances I typically shoot at there, and I think the problem is solved.
The photos of waterfowl that I’ve shot at the wastewater treatment facility have never been as sharp as the photos of the same species of waterfowl shot at about the same distances at the Muskegon Lake channel.
Fortunately, there’s a way to test theory number two, the OS of the Sigma lens. All I have to do is find a subject about 100 feet away, it doesn’t even have to be a bird, and shoot some photos the OS on, and some with it off, all while the camera is solidly resting on something.
Enough of that, on to Tuesday.
I’ll be so glad when the heat and humidity are cleared out, even if it will be for just a few days of reprieve. I really shouldn’t complain after last summer, but I will.
I still haven’t turned on the AC yet this summer, and I just received my electric bill for last month, $23. Yeah! The less I spend on comfort, the sooner I’ll be able to purchase the other things I want.
Even though it is relatively sunny today, I’m going to take only the L series lens with me today. I will probably regret that, but I don’t feel like lugging the Sigma in this heat. And, I’d better get going before it becomes unbearable for me out there.
I’m back. I thought that today would be a good day to attempt to recreate this photo, but without the annoying fence in the background.
I tried different angles, and different, less obtrusive backgrounds, and here are the three best.
I think that I need to pay more attention to the flower itself, and catch one at exactly the same stage of opening. With hundreds of flowers to chose from, who knew that it would be so difficult to match what I did before? Maybe I need to find one near a fence. 😉
I also shot a few more of the white lilies some one has growing by the road.
Good, but not great, they will require further effort as well, but I feel strange shooting photos of some one else’s flowers.
There has been a large, mixed flock of swallows flying cover for me the last few days, and with bluer skies today, I tried for a flock shot of the swallows while airborne.
There’s at least twenty five swallows in the flock, but every time I pointed the camera skyward, the flock thinned out, so I was only able to get four in one shot. I had better luck shooting a few of them that were resting on the fence.
I can’t tell if the brown swallows are Bank, Northern rough-winged, or juvenile tree swallows, I suspect the last of the three.
I also shot one of the kingbirds in flight again, but it isn’t that great.
While crossing the creek, I looked down to see down, as in duck down down there.
As soon as mama mallard spotted me, she called the little ones off from the rock, and back under the branches.
But eventually, she and the little ones came back into the open for this shot to show you how well the duckling’s coloration works as camouflage in a sun dappled setting like this one.
I got too close to a song sparrow.
I was so close that the depth of field wasn’t deep enough to get the sparrow’s tail in focus, and didn’t have time to change any settings before it decided to leave.
The media people are beside themselves because we haven’t hit 90 degrees (32 C) yet this year. Why? The temperature has been as hot as 89 degrees, what’s one more sticky degree? When it does come, the same people whining about it not getting that hot yet will all be whining because it is that hot.
I slept in, I change my schedule around so much on the weekends that somewhere around mid-week, there’s always a morning when I sleep much longer than normal. I’m running behind, so this will be short on words, and I throw in a few more photos to make up for that.
It’s still warm, but I could tell that the weather is changing. The sunlight was livelier today, without as much haze in the air as there has been. I could feel the warmth of the sun penetrating my skin today, in between the cloudy times, rather than just the feel of hot air against my skin. There’s a breeze, which felt good.
As I was entering the park where I walk daily, I came upon a flock of cedar waxwings feeding on insects.
I shot that one because I could, knowing that it wouldn’t be great. What I didn’t know was that the entire flock of them would take turns posing for me so that I could get close-ups of them with the 70-200 mm lens!
Later, as I was taking a short break at the top of the hill, and could see the trees that the waxwings had been in, I saw the big flock of swallows hunting the same area. After finishing my break, and walking past that spot again, I saw a pair of yellow warblers in the same trees, but the only photos were not that great, so I deleted them. However, the point to all this is that there must have been a hatch of insects going on to attract all the birds to that one area, even though I didn’t see any of the insects that the birds were feeding on.
These next two are for Allen, as he wrote that he had never seen white chicory before.
When it comes to the white chicory flowers, most of them seem unhealthy, either not fully formed, or they don’t open all the way, and many tend toward brown as far as color, but I’ll keep an eye out for more. My attempts to recreate the infamous Queen Anne’s lace photo sans fence were put on hold due to the wind today.
As I’m typing this, I notice that the breeze present this morning has strengthened quite a bit, and the skies are clearing. Good news, at least for the next few days, as the heat and humidity are forecast to return this weekend, blah! I’ll enjoy the nice weather while it’s here!
I saw very few red-winged blackbirds again today, looks like they really are flocking up for the fall migration already.
I saw what I think may have been a pair of orchard orioles, but I got neither a good look at them, or photos. Whatever the one bird was, it had a chest colored similarly to a robin, but it was a much smaller, slimmer bird. I got a better look at what I think is a female, and it was definitely oriole size and shape, but could have been a Baltimore oriole, but I doubt it, it was too yellow.
With cooler weather tomorrow, I’ll be lugging all my gear again, including the Sigma, hoping to see the same pair of birds again tomorrow.
Definitely cooler this morning, a pleasant summer day.
I got bitten on the forehead by something last Sunday at Muskegon, I don’t know what it was that bit me though. I do know that I have a large red lump right where my hairline used to be before it migrated north one spring, and has never returned. Judging from the location and size of the lump, I suspect it was a black fly. Fortunately, they are rare this far south. Any one who has been bitten by them knows them to be the scourge of the north woods in early summer.
Here it is Thursday already, and I have no plans for the weekend yet. I really want to go back to the Allegan SGA, but the heat is supposed to be building back in on Saturday, so I don’t know if going there would be as much fun as I would like it to be.
I could take a trip up to Ludington, I haven’t been there yet this year, but gas prices are up again, and Ludington will be jammed packed with people on a hot summer weekend.
I think that I’ll weigh my options while walking this morning, so it’s off I go!
I’m back, and I still haven’t decided what to do this weekend. For some reason, political thoughts were swirling around the empty space in my head today, and I don’t feel like discussing politics today, so I don’t know why my mind refused to let go of those thoughts.
I did do some playing using the Sigma lens. I love that lens for birding, but it can’t hold a candle to my other two lenses as far as sharp close-ups.
Part of that is the extremely short depth of field at 500 mm, but the quality of the lens is just a touch less than the two Canon lenses. I’m not complaining, just stating a fact, for the Sigma does do a more than acceptable job on most subjects.
I made another attempt at recreating the Queen Anne’s Lace photo sans fence again, despite a good breeze blowing today. I’m still undecided, but I think that I like this one better than the one I’m trying to recreate.
I saw very few birds today. For most of my walk I was thinking that I hadn’t seen a single red-winged blackbird yet, and that led me to remember that I haven’t seen or heard any of the meadowlarks in the last week either. Towards the end of my walk, one lone male red-winged blackbird did show up, but there were dozens of them last week.
I shot a few photos of birds in flight today, keeping the Sigma at around 300 mm and turning the OS off. The exposures were off, but at least I got sharp photos that way.
Those things seem to be the key to getting bird in flight photos with the Sigma, don’t zoom in all the way, and turn the OS off. The “action mode” doesn’t work as well as turning it off completely.
Since I wasn’t seeing many birds, other than robins, and they are up to their strange summer behavior, I had to shoot at least one of them.
I don’t know if they are anting, or what they are doing when they strike that pose. They look dazed and distressed, you can walk right up to them at that point, but they snap out of it, and fly off normally. I meant to see if the robin had been on an ant hill, but I got distracted right after it flew off, and forgot to check.
I shot photos of a number of birds doing the same thing last summer when it was so hot. I only see birds doing that when it is hot. Robins and some other species on the ground, cardinals and some other species do that in trees. That’s why I can’t say for sure if they are anting or not. There are ants in trees, or, it could be the bird’s way of regulating their body temperature, just as birds pant to cool off much like dogs do.
For newer readers, anting by birds is a behavior that scientists don’t know much about yet, there are many conflicting theories as to why birds do ant, no one knows for sure why they do. Birds even ant in different ways. Some will take a large ant in its beak and rub the ant all over its feathers, others will squat on an ant hill while spreading its feathers out to allow the ants to crawl all over themselves. Here’s a link to an article on Wikipedia about anting.
Anyway, my only other photos from the day are of a male indigo bunting that refused to come out of the shadows.
Let’s see, from the news, Michigan has a new underwater shipwreck preserve, this one runs from Port Sheldon to Ludington, Michigan, which is the section of Lake Michigan near me, and includes the Muskegon area. I always wanted to learn to scuba dive, but never have. I’d still like to, but the last thing that I need now is another expensive hobby. Anyway, there are several dozen of the 6,000 shipwrecks known to have occurred in the Great Lakes within the boundaries of this new preserve. Some of the wrecks are in just a few feet of water, others are hundreds of feet below the surface.
All this spring I have been noting the rise of the water levels of the Great Lakes, and that continues. Lake Michigan/Huron is up 3″ in the last month and is now up 3″ higher than it was one year ago. The lake is still 18″ below the century average, but it’s 13″ above the lowest July level reached in 1964. Lake Superior is up 4″ in the last month and is now 2″ above the level of one year ago. Superior is 6″ below the century average, but 15″ above the lowest July level in 1926.
Science has known for some time now that the water levels of the lakes fluctuate over an approximately 50 year cycle. Lake Michigan/Huron hit its low in 1964, and its high in 1986, and was back to low levels in 2013. OK, so Mother Nature missed by a year, and the last low to low cycle has been only 49 years.
Back in the 1980’s, when the water levels were at their high point in the cycle, I remember reading an article written by an early proponent of Global Warming claiming that the water levels were going to continue to rise. His theory was that the storm track was being pushed north due to climate change, and that the increased precipitation would be responsible for the continued rise of the lakes. He was wrong. People in the Grand Rapids area do not have frontage on Lake Michigan now, as the writer of that article predicted.
I read that back in June of this year, NBC and Brian Williams did a story on the water levels of the Great Lakes, one of a recent spate of articles on the Great Lakes water levels, most claiming that climate change is responsible for the lower levels of the lakes at this time. Brian Williams says “The Great Lakes are low and getting lower”. Getting lower??? In recent months they’ve been getting higher, following the well-known 50 year cycle.
Don’t believe everything the media tells you!
To go with that last thought, in looking for a graph that displays the 50 year cycle of the water levels, I found an article and graph that predicts that due to the rise of the levels of the oceans due to climate change, that the waters of the Great Lakes are going to rise significantly as well, as they won’t be able to drain down because of the rise in the oceans.
At least they should get their stories straight! Oh wait, if they did that, there’s a chance that they could be proven wrong. By covering their bets and forecasting both lower and higher water levels in the future, one of them has to be right, which they can then claim as “proof” of climate change. Silly me.
Time for a walk.
I should never start my day with a negative rant, for when I do, I seem to have a bad day that day. But, since the day is shot because of the way that I started it, I may as well add a little more to that rant before I tell my sob story for today.
Broadcast media personalities like Brian Williams are not reporters, nor are they journalists, they are sensationalists. Their job is not to report facts, facts are dull and boring, and dull and boring leads to lower ratings. Lower ratings lead to less revenue coming from sponsors, and less revenue coming in means lower pay for the sensationalists.
Brian Williams’ job is to look good on camera while reading copy written for him by an underpaid producer, all the while doing the anchorman twitch to convey a sense of importance and excitement to whatever he is saying, which is meaningless blather most of the time.
Enough of that, I could write a book.
My walk, things did not go well today, and I’ll have to contain myself or I’ll go off on yet another rant about rude cyclists around here. I just love it when I have my camera to my eye, my finger on the shutter release, and hear some one yell “Look out!” because their in too much of a hurry to pause for 10 seconds, and/or too lazy to steer to the other side of the trail to go around me. What really burned my biscuits today is that it wasn’t a Lance wannabe doing the yelling, it was some old guy whom I would have thought would have some manners.
I think that the problem is that I’m too polite, and expect the same level of courtesy from others as I would give them if things were reversed.
Along those same lines, I hope that there is a special place in Hell for those who vandalize property, no matter whose property it is.
I take a break in the park everyday, a bench near the creek made a great spot to do so, for I often photographed birds while taking a break. A little over a month ago, I had to stop using that bench, as some one had done their best to break it.
A week or two ago, some one did break one of the other benches completely, leaving just one left undamaged. Well, today I walked up to that bench, set my camera and the Sigma lens down on the bench, only to have them roll off because some one had damaged that last bench, and I didn’t notice it before setting my stuff down on it. I don’t think that the camera and lens suffered any damage, time will tell.
I said it before, but I’ll say it again. If I witness any one doing things like that, I’m going to shoot a few photos of them in action, then call the cops. You can call me a rat, you can call me a fink, or you can even call me a ratfink, I don’t care. We tolerate way too much of that behavior because we’ve been trained to believe that reporting small crimes is a bigger crime than the crime itself. I don’t but that any longer.
While I’m still in a bad mood, I may as well get one more thing off my chest. I’ve decide to stay home this weekend, because the price of gas has gone up fifty cents this week. The excuse this time is unrest in the Middle East, which could disrupt the flow of oil.
Really, unrest in the Middle East? Some one please tell me for what five minutes in human history hasn’t there been unrest in the Middle East? The oil will keep flowing, it almost always does, for the truth is that it takes money to fund the unrest these days, and that money comes from oil.
Okay, enough is enough, and that was more than enough, time for some pretty pictures from today.
The goldfinches were eating chicory seeds, and I have a photo of an Eastern Kingbird also enjoying lunch, but I thought that I should keep this one separate from the pretty pictures, as the kingbird has a junebug in its beak, and junebugs probably wouldn’t find this one pretty.
Actually, the kingbird wasn’t going to eat the junebug itself, it was beating the poor thing to death on the branch the kingbird is perched on. The junebug was lunch for its young. They have a nest in the large sycamore tree next to the creek, and I could hear the young crying for food today. They must be about ready to leave the nest from the sound of them.
As you may or may not have noticed, it was another award winning day as far as the weather, about the only good thing from today.
Another fine summer day! It’s too bad that the heat and humidity are going to return tomorrow, then stick around all week. Since I’m going for the extended version of my regular daily walk, I had better get a move on before it does get too hot for me.
I’m back. Decision time here folks. I was seeing very few birds, other than these young robins in the nest waiting to the insect delivery parents to arrive with their meal.
I was seeing many flowers, so I decided that I would switch lenses at the end of the first leg, and shoot flowers on the way back. But the lighting for this one was so good, I had to shoot it with the Sigma.
Good thing that I did, for when I came back past it, this is what it looked like then.
I know that shade, or muted sunlight is supposed to be best for flowers, I say that it depends, if it catches your eye in full sun, shoot it! I love the first one, the second one is rather ho hum in my opinion.
But, back to the decision, I’m going to toss the bird and non-flower shots I took in here, call it good, then do another post of just flowers, as I have been threatening to do that for the past few weeks. So, here goes.
That was shot with the EF S 15-85 mm lens, the only lens I have that auto-focuses fast enough to catch doves in flight, as they are one of the fastest flying songbirds. That lens also has advanced Image Stabilization that is supposed to detect when you’re panning, but I’m not impressed by how it worked in that shot. I think that for fast action, you’re better off turning the IS off, and shooting at higher shutter speeds, but we’ll see after I save up to buy the 300 mm prime lens, which has the same IS system.
I was taking a break, and getting ready to switch over to the 70-200 mm lens when the doves flew over me, the rest of these were taken with the longer lens, which doesn’t have IS.
I shot the pewee knowing it wouldn’t turn out well, just because he was singing.
Headed up the hill on my way out of the park and heading for home, I came across a number of birds flying over the middle field, catching insects out of the air. Of course there were swallows, but they’re to quick for me, as I am out of practice. But, I did get a few of the other birds in flight.
You’d have thought that I would have had enough sense to change the camera setting to get better exposures, but it wasn’t as if the waxwings were constantly in the air. They’d make a pass over the field, catch a few bugs, then fly back to the woods. I never knew when they were coming, or if they would return. I’d look up, see one, try for a shot, then it would be gone.
One last pair of photos.
I know that it was a male by its red eyes, females have brown eyes.
Tomorrow I’m going to Palmer Park, just a few miles from home, at least it will be a change of scenery for a day. I’m going to start putting together a post that will include most of the flower photos from today, and a few from the past few weeks. I’m not sure when I’ll post it yet, maybe tomorrow or Monday.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!