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

Archive for August, 2013

My Week, making plans

Monday

Well, last week was very warm, and I’m proud of myself for not whining about it too much. But, I don’t know how much longer I can hold out, this week is forecast to be worse, and next week, even worse yet. That is, if the long-range forecasts are correct, and I’m hoping that they are not.

I have some photos from yesterday’s trip to Muskegon, taken while I fooled around on the Lost Lake trail, I’ll have to look at them again to see if they are worth doing a post about.

Since I’m going on vacation in a month, I’d better stick closer to home until then to save money on gas. I think that my vacation is going to be more costly than I first thought. I checked on the cost of taking the Pictured Rocks tour boat, and it’s now $36, and there are several places that I am planning to go that have similar fees.

That means that I’ll be staying home for the Labor Day weekend, that’s OK, after fighting the crowds up north a couple of weeks ago, I have no desire to repeat that fiasco!

At the rate that the trees around here are changing color and/or dropping leaves, I hope that there’s some color left up north when I go. I’ve been noticing that I can see farther into the woods again the past two weeks, since so many leaves have fallen already.

I’d better get moving before it gets so hot outside that I melt!

Well, I didn’t melt, it started out quite pleasant under a heavy cloud cover and a good breeze. Of course the heavy cloud cover and good breeze limited my opportunities for photos, but I managed a few. They’re not my usual style, but that’s OK, I’m trying to expand my horizons.

I shot this chicory flower because it looked pink to me, but in my photo, it looks more blue.

"Pink" chicory

“Pink” chicory

With very little light to work with, I went for a softer look than I normally do, it was the same with this crown vetch.

Crown vetch

Crown vetch

I shot a few photos of a male goldfinch feeding his offspring, but they aren’t worth posting, I can do better. The only other bird that I shot was this white dove.

White dove in flight

White dove in flight

Other than possibly egrets, the white dove was about the only species of bird that would have photographed well against the dark clouds. The white doves aren’t a native species, they are pigeons that have been bred to be white, and used during ceremonies where they release “white doves”. Since they are captive birds until they are released, few of them survive more than a week or two in the wild. The vanity of mankind continues to harm innocent animals.

I found this snake crossing the road, and stood there to make sure that it made it safely across without getting run over by car or bike. Since I was standing there anyway, I shot this photo.

Garter snake

Garter snake

And my last photo of the day is one that fuels my desire to have a good macro lens.

Grass or sedge?

Grass or sedge?

To the naked eye, the “spikes” looked solid, but after blowing it up, I see that they’re not. Just like the photo of the grass flower last week, there are many times that our eyes can’t see the details in small plants and insects. I’d love to have a macro lens so that I could really get close.

Maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t have a macro lens, I’d be blowing up everything to see what it looks like close up. 😉

That’s it for today. I’ll work on my vacation plans for a while, then visit my mom.

Tuesday

The big news! The weather forecast has changed, it is still going to be hot, but not unbearably hot like the long-range forecast had been saying. There is also a good chance of rain for two of the three days for the upcoming Labor Day weekend, so it’s just as well that I’ll be staying home.

We had some rain overnight, so it is cloudy and humid as I type this, but hey, it’s still summer, so warm and humid is to be expected.

I’m getting better at using live view and the camera mounted on the tripod. It’s a good thing, there were very few birds around today, even the finches seem to be flocking up and getting ready to head south.

You have to wonder what the trigger is for birds to do that, and how they find each other to form the flocks. I have no idea, but they seem to.

It can’t be temperature, it’s been warmer during the last week than the month preceding it. It has to be the amount of sunshine, that’s all I can think of.

Anyway, I’m going to start with another “pink” chicory. I saw this one early on in my walk when the overcast was still making it very dark, I thought that I would get a better shot on my way home when there was more light. But I shot this to make sure that I remembered the flower on my way back.

Pink chicory

Pink chicory

My plans were foiled. I did remember that flower on my way back, I had the camera on the tripod and ready to get a better photo, but on my way home, it was blue! I don’t know if that has to do with the light, or how long the flower has been open, or why they change color, but they do.

I shot a so-so photo of one of the juvenile finches.

Juvenile American goldfinch

Juvenile American goldfinch

That reminds me, a little housekeeping chore. I love the new theme I’m using, and I like the slide show at the top of the posts. But, I am going to have to start changing the way that I do my posts, because I can’t select which photo from a post goes into the slide show. It’s always the first one that I upload to a post. I thought that I could change it by selecting a photo as the featured photo, but that doesn’t change the slide show. So, from now on, I am going to post a good photo to each post to start, even if it is way out of chronological order.

With that out of the way, back to photos. I was checking on some flowers to see when or if they would be ready to shoot, and I found this wasp, so I had to shoot a few photos of it.

Wasp

Wasp

Wasp

Wasp

In one of those strange things that plants do, one of the highbush cranberry has begun to flower again, even though the bush is loaded with ripe berries from the first round of flowering.

Highbush cranberry flowers

Highbush cranberry flowers

As I approached the footbridge over the creek, I came eye to eye with a young great blue heron. The heron lunged under the bridge to hide, so I stood there for a while to see what it would do. It had chosen a poor spot to escape from, so I wondered how it would get itself out of the mess it had made for itself. In just a few seconds, the heron came out from under the bridge, checked me out, and headed upstream.

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Not wanting to spook the heron, I backed off, and resumed my walk along the path that runs parallel to the creek. I hadn’t gotten very far when guess who appeared?

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

The heron had landed on a branch over the creek, and was really checking me out, as if it were curious about me.

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Right after that last shot, the heron decided that I was one of those evil humans its parents had warned it about, even if I did make beeping and clicking sounds, and he departed for safer hunting waters.

Where’s the Cooper’s hawk when you need one?

Starlings

Starlings

Unlike all the other species of birds, the starlings are becoming more numerous everyday. I can’t help but wonder if the increasing number of starlings has something to do with the other species leaving. The area where I walk can only support a set number of birds as far as available food, if the starlings eat it all, then there’s little for the other birds.

Anyway, back to flowers. I found another chicory that looked pink, and had the camera all set up and ready to go before this flower changed color on me.

Almost pink chicory

Almost pink chicory

Nearby, I found these two flowers as well.

From the mint family?

From the mint family?

Moth mullien

Moth mullein

Well, that’s all from today, not a bad haul despite the gloomy weather.

I still had trouble with the flowers moving when using the live view, even though the breeze was light today. I can see that it will really work well under the right conditions. I can get the focus exact, as long as the plants aren’t swaying in the wind.

Wednesday

More rain overnight, heavy rain at times in places. That’s OK, we needed the rain.

However, that has resulted in another day of heavy overcast this morning. The one good thing about the heavy overcast is that it holds the temperatures down while I’m walking.

On the birding front, I saw fewer species than since last spring today. The flocks of goldfinches are getting larger, as are the flocks of starlings. Fall is coming whether we like it or not. I haven’t photographed many of the all year resident birds this summer, as I knew that they would be all that there would be to shoot over the winter.

As for the flowers, nothing new today, but I made yet another attempt at a pink or purple chicory.

Chicory

Chicory

This one was bi-colored, which is why I shot it. That shot still doesn’t show the pink or purple very well, I suppose that I could try adjusting the white balance of my camera, but it really isn’t worth it.

I guess that three days of cloudy skies is getting me down, I’d better get over that soon, because once November gets here, the clouds will be constant until March. It could be the change of seasons also, this summer has been close to perfect, and I’m not ready for it to go yet.

The long-range weather forecast for September is in, and it has me worried. It shows a cold snap the week before my vacation, then very nice the week of my vacation. Since those long-range computer models are never correct, I would say that if they predict nice weather this far out, I’ll probably have crappy weather while on vacation. 😉

I could go on one of my right-wing extremist rants over those who say that health care is a right, and what that really means, but I’m not sure that I want to go there. What the heck, I’ll do the short version.

Health care is a service, or product, delivered to you by another person or company. The services are delivered by doctors and nurses, the products are the drugs and medical equipment produced by others.

Saying that health care is a right sounds so very good. But what it means is that you believe that you are entitled to the services and goods delivered or produced by others at no cost to you. What health care is a right really means is that those in the health care industry are your slaves that you can force to work for you at no cost.

Having the government step in doesn’t change that equation, it only changes the slavery aspect from slavery on a personal basis, you own the slave, to an institutional form of slavery where the government owns the slave and forces them to produce for you.

Any one who thinks that government slavery is a good thing is just wrong-headed, it never works well for very long. The slaves rebel eventually, and that’s what will happen in the health care industry, it won’t be pretty.

Well, enough of that.

Thursday

Four more days of the heat and humidity to endure, then fall-like weather is forecast to settle into the area, starting on Labor Day. It wouldn’t bother me a bit if this were the last heat wave of the summer, and it looks as if that is a possibility. At least there’s sunshine today, which I am going to enjoy despite the fact that the sunshine will make it feel warmer while I’m out for my walk.

Gas prices have done their holiday weekend spike upwards, another good reason for me to stick closer to home this weekend. It will be nice to have three full days off from work, even if I don’t travel anywhere special.

I think that I’ll do the long version of my daily walk on Saturday, that will give me time afterwards to catch up on housework and do laundry. Sunday, I’ll go over to Palmer Park, it is heavily wooded so it will be the one of the coolest areas locally, and I may see a few warblers migrating through. Then on Monday, I’ll hit Pickerel Lake again and see what I can find there. Sounds like a plan!

Now, it’s time for breakfast, then go out and face the blast furnace.

I’m back, but the birds aren’t. I saw scant few today, even the flocks of goldfinches and starlings weren’t around. I’m still waiting for a few of the late summer flowers to hit their peak, so I shot very few photos today. I’m going to start with one that I have photographed often this summer, Queen Anne’s Lace, just because I like this one.

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace

I found a white butterfly to chase around for a while, and managed to get one good shot of it.

White butterfly

White butterfly

The next three photos are of two caterpillars that I found on the same plant, it looks to me that they were just starting the process of creating the chrysalis that protects them while they undergo the pupal transformation into a butterfly through metamorphosis.

Caterpillar entering the pupal stage

Caterpillar entering the pupal stage

Caterpillar entering the pupal stage

Caterpillar entering the pupal stage

Caterpillar entering the pupal stage

Caterpillar entering the pupal stage

I’m sorry that I couldn’t get better photos, but the caterpillars choose locations where they are hidden from possible predators. Making things more difficult was a fence that prevented me from getting to the best spot to take the photos from. I’ll have to check the vine that they were on to see if they have formed a chrysalis, and if so, check everyday to see if I can catch the butterflies emerging.

I thought that the new theme that I’m using always added the first photo that I upload to a post as the photo that goes into the slide show at the top of the page. But, when I did the post on the Pewees, it used the last photo, the one with a leaf partially obscuring the bird, argh! It’s a conspiracy! It takes the worst photo of the lot to use in the slide show! I wonder how it knows?

That’s about it for the day, as I’m feeling a bit under the weather and could use a nap before work tonight.

Friday

Just three more days of the heat and humidity to go, including today. For some reason, this heat wave hasn’t affected me as much, maybe it has to do with attitude? Maybe it has affected me, and that’s the reason that I needed a nap yesterday? Don’t know, don’t care.

I don’t want to see summer come to an end, with the birds leaving, and no more flowers or insects to photograph. On the other hand, I do much better in cooler weather, so I’m looking forward to that with the coming of fall.

I haven’t done an update as far as the water levels of the Great Lakes, that’s because they have been holding steady this summer after the dramatic rise this spring. The levels are still low, however, not nearly as low as this time last year.

Time for a walk.

I’m back. Oh man was it hot out there today! Even with a good breeze blowing, it was so hot that I stayed in the shade as much as possible. I’m coming close to complaining, so I had better drop this line now.

I saw very few birds again today, I think that birding is about done around here except for a stray migrant or two from time to time, and the all year residents.

I don’t know if this is related to fewer birds around this area or not, but the number of grasshoppers around here has skyrocketed over the past two weeks. These things are everywhere now!

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

There have been a few around all summer long, but now they are flying out of the grass in waves as I walk through the fields.

Given how many photos I shot of birds carrying grasshoppers back to their young this summer, I tend to believe that the drop in the number of birds at the same time the numbers of grasshoppers exploded is related to at least some degree.

I looked for the caterpillars from yesterday, but I didn’t see them. I may have missed the right vine, I’ll check again tomorrow.

I did find a monarch butterfly.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

But, I couldn’t catch the shot that I wanted, better luck next time.

I did shoot another photo of a turkey vulture in flight for practice, and as a way of learning what exposure settings work best.

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

That was shot with the 70-200 mm L series lens and + 1/3 EV. I should really go some place where I see many birds in flight, the species doesn’t matter, put the beast (Sigma lens) on the camera, and shoot as many shots as it takes to learn how to get good bird in flight photos with it, even if I delete all the photos that I shoot. I’m getting close to being zeroed in with it, but I still have a way to go. The L series does a good job, but I have to crop more than I would like with that lens.

My only other photos from the day are these two.

Skipper

Skipper

Skipper and friend

Skipper and friend

They aren’t great, but what the heck, I like them.

Something that I am giving serious thought to is discontinuing my cell phone service completely. Right now, I’m paying almost $50 a month to Verizon for the privilege of ignoring 4 or 5 scammers (telemarketers) a day. (A big thanks to the government for allowing the phone companies to make cell phone numbers public, and not enforcing the no call list law!)

99%  of the time, the calls I make or receive are related to work. I have a cell phone from my employer that I keep in the truck in case of emergencies on the road. There’s really no reason for me to duplicate that with my own phone. I could put the $50 a month that I’m paying now to much better use.

I heard that there’s going to be a one dollar a month tax increase on cell phone plans, with that money going to make sure that every one in the US has Internet service. Didn’t Bill Clinton and Algore fix that back in the 90’s? That’s right, the tax increase at that time was just for universal internet service, this tax increase is going towards universal high speed Internet service.

I cancelled my land-line years ago when I bought my first cell phone, now, I may become one of the few people in the US with no phone service at all. I will certainly be one of the few people who aren’t obsessed with a phone! I had a smart phone, it had a lot of great features that I liked, but it wasn’t worth the cost to me.

Anyway, enough from today, tomorrow is the start of a 3 day weekend, I am going to relax and enjoy all three days of it!

Saturday

I was up early this morning, too early really, but it’s a holiday weekend, so I don’t have to work tonight.

We had some rain overnight which has cooled it down a little, thankfully, but the really cool air is still forecast to arrive on Monday. It looks like I’ve survived another heat wave, and without whining too much this time.

Maybe I didn’t weather the weather as well as I thought that I did. I haven’t felt great the past few days, today, my legs were aching when I started my walk. Since I have poor circulation in my legs, varicose veins and such, aching legs aren’t unusual. But they were worse today, with the ache in my right leg going all the way to my hip.

I walked along the road to start, as I always do, but when I got to the bike/walking path, I turned left to do the long version of my daily walk. I looked up to see this.

Juvenile red-tailed hawk

Juvenile red-tailed hawk

Seeing it spread its wings and leap into the air, I shot, cutting off its head, nice timing, idiot! But, it wasn’t totally my fault, look how much closer the limb that blocks the hawk’s head is to the limb he was perched on in the first shot. The darned trees are conspiring against me. 😉

Headless Juvenile red-tailed hawk leaping into flight

Headless Juvenile red-tailed hawk leaping into flight

I kept the camera on him and got one more shot before he disappeared.

Juvenile red-tailed hawk in flight

Juvenile red-tailed hawk in flight

I should have gone down another third in EV, as if I had the time.

Anyway, I got just a little further down the trail, and a sudden wave of feeling sick in every way that one can feel sick swept over me. More than anything, I wanted to lay down and sleep, not good.

I stood there for a few minutes until some of those feelings went away, but I decided to turn around, and just walk the park to start where there are restrooms, water, and help if I had gotten really sick.

I managed a few photos of grasshoppers despite not feeling well.

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

It was this kind of day, partly sunny, with debris clouds left over from last night’s storms.

Sky

Sky

I like everything about that shot other than the exposure, and believe me, I was adjusting away over the course of half a dozen shots trying to get the exposure correct. I think that I would have had to resort to an HDR composite to get the exposure exactly how I wanted it.

While in the park, I sat down and took a long break, hoping that I would feel better afterwards. I did, for a while. I was even thinking of doing the long version when I started back walking, but that idea soon passed. I did shoot a few more photos.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Pokeweed berries

Pokeweed berries

Viceroy butterfly

Viceroy butterfly

As I was walking down the hill out of the park, I began to feel much worse again, so when I got to the road, I headed back home.

I think that I may have let myself get dehydrated this past week in the heat. I haven’t been drinking any more water than I normally do, up until this morning, even though I have been losing a lot more water than normal. I was very thirsty as soon as I started walking, and drinking more than I normally do. It was shortly after I drank a good sized slug of water that the first wave of feeling sick hit me, and that pattern continued. Being dehydrated would also explain why my legs ached more than usual today, also.

I’m feeling much better now after more water and some rest. Even my legs feel better. If I still do this evening, I’ll do the part of my walk that I cut out today. That’s not a bad idea, I’ve never walked around here in the evening to see what wildlife was around during that time of day.

But, since this is getting quite long, I’m going to end it here.

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

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Eastern Wood Pewee, Contopus virens

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.

Eastern Wood Pewee, Contopus virens

The Eastern Wood Pewee is a small tyrant flycatcher from North America. This bird and the Western Wood Pewee were formerly considered to be a single species. The two species are virtually identical in appearance, and can be distinguished most easily by their calls.

Adults are grey-olive on the upper parts with light underparts, washed with olive on the breast. They have two wing bars, and the primary remiges are long, giving the wingtip a slim and very pointed appearance. The upper part of the bill is dark, the lower part is yellowish. The songs are basically a mournful whistled pee-a’wee given in a series, which gave this bird its name, and a “we-aww” with a rising note at the end.

Their breeding habitat is deciduous, mixed woods, or pine plantations in eastern North America. These birds migrate to Central America and in the Andes region of northern South America. They feed on insects and other arthropods. Wood pewees wait on a perch at a middle height in a tree and fly out to catch prey in flight, sometimes hovering to pick it from vegetation.

Eastern Wood Pewees arrive relatively late on breeding grounds. They are rarely seen on their breeding grounds before the last days of April further south. They migrate south at a more usual time, leaving sometimes in late August but most often in September.

Eastern Wood Pewees makes an open cup nest made of grasses, bark, and lichen, attached to a horizontal tree branch with spider webs. Nest sites range in height from 15 to 60 ft (4.6 to 18 m), but average around 30 ft (9.1 m). Common nest trees used include oaks, pines, birches, and maples. The female lays almost always 3 (sometimes 2) translucent-white eggs with brown flecking concentrated towards the larger end of the ovate egg. Males are territorial and defend the nesting area aggressively, often fighting with neighboringpewees and even pursue attacks on other species (e.g., Least Flycatchers, American Robins, Chipping Sparrows, Red-eyed Vireos, etc.). Males can sometimes be polygynous, mating with two females, simultaneously.

The eggs hatch in 12–14 days and both parents bring food to the altricial nestlings. Nestlings typically fledge 15–17 days after hatching, often ending up on the ground during the first flight out of the nest. The adults will perch on a nearby branch and call out to the nestlings, keeping contact and providing them with food until the young are able to fly to join them.

On to my photos:

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

Eastern Wood Pewee

This is number 121 in my photo life list, only 229 to go!

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

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Muskegon birding trip, the leftovers

On Sunday August 25th, I made yet another trip to Muskegon to do some birding. I have already published one post of mostly photos from this trip, but I have quite a few left over that I would like to share, both shorebirds, and a few from around Lost Lake later in the day.

At one point during the day, I sat in the rocks along the bank of one of the lagoons at the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility and let the various shorebirds come to me. That worked very well, as I was able to get many good close-ups of the shorebirds that way. My biggest problem was getting just one species of bird in the shot at a time, well, besides trying to ID the shorebirds, so I have a number of photos with two or more species in my photos. I’m going to post a few of those, and I’m not going to ID the birds in these photos.

Shorebird

Shorebird

Shorebird in flight

Shorebird in flight

Shorebirds

Shorebirds

Shorebirds

Shorebirds

Shorebirds

Shorebirds

Shorebirds

Shorebirds

Shorebirds

Shorebirds

Shorebirds

Shorebirds

Shorebirds

Shorebirds

I shot a series of photos of a shorebird bathing that I have yet to positively identify. It should be easy, since the bird has a slightly upturned bill, but so far, no luck. But, the photos are fun, so I’m including them here.

Shorebird bath

Shorebird bath

Shorebird bath

Shorebird bath

Shorebird bath

Shorebird bath

Shorebird bath

Shorebird bath

And now, a few from the time that I spent at Lost Lake in Muskegon State Park.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Cardinal flowers

Cardinal flowers

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

IMG_1127

Unidentified warbler

I have to give a shout out to my Canon 60 D and the Sigma 150-500 mm lens after the shot of the warbler. The warbler was in deep shade, but I had the camera pointed almost directly at the sun for that shot. The photo may not be great, but that camera/lens combination continues to amaze me as far as what I can get under extremely difficult conditions!

Unidentified flowering object

ladies tresses (Spiranthes,)

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

I feel a bit guilty for not identifying most of what I am posting, but you’ll have to take pity on me, please. I’ve shot over 400 photos of about twenty species of shorebirds in the last two weeks, and I’m still working to ID a few of the species that I’ve photographed. For the most part, they all look the same, small brownish birds with long bills. The differences between some species is minimal, so I’ve had my work cut out for me. I have most of them done, but I’m IDed out right now.

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


Still another Muskegon birding trip, the raptors and more

On Sunday August 25th, I made yet another trip to Muskegon to do some birding. Most of the photos that I shot were of shorebirds, but I managed a few really crummy shots of some raptors, and other birds. I’m going to post them despite the fact that they aren’t the best that I have taken, as this blog still serves as a record for the things I see when out and about.

I am now firmly convinced that there is something in the air at the Muskegon Wastewater treatment facility that adversely affects photography. As long as I am upwind from the actual treatment part of the facility, my photos aren’t too bad, but I can still see some loss of sharpness. Downwind of the treatment area, my photos get really bad in a hurry, unless I get extremely close to the subject I am shooting. I’ve also gone other places after the wasterwater facility, and my photos from those places are sharp.

Anyway, now that I have made my excuses, here are the photos, starting with a northern harrier in flight.

Northern (Hen) Harrier in flight

Northern (Hen) Harrier in flight

Northern (Hen) Harrier in flight

Northern (Hen) Harrier in flight

Northern (Hen) Harrier in flight

Northern (Hen) Harrier in flight

Those would have come out a little better if I had the time to switch the optical stabilization of my lens off, which is true of most of the bird in flight photos that I’m posting here.

Next up, a couple of a great blue heron in flight.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

I saw a few juvenile bald eagles, but only managed a few shots of them.

Juvenile bald eagle landing

Juvenile bald eagle landing

Juvenile bald eagle landing

Juvenile bald eagle landing

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

There was a mixed flock of several species of shorebirds in one corner of one of the lagoons today. Every time that some one passed by, the flock would fly off, only to return a few minutes later. I watched that happen a few times, and it gave me an idea. The next time another birder drove past and spooked the shorebirds away, I sat down in the rocks along the bank, and waited for the flock to return. It didn’t take long for a few to return.

Shorebirds landing

Shorebirds landing

With small brown birds coming at me, I wasn’t paying as much attention to what was going on as I should have, for one of the small brown birds coming at me turned out to be one of the main reasons I decided to return to Muskegon today, a peregrine falcon.

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

The photos are terrible, but photographing the falcon was like trying to photograph a jet fighter doing a fly by, but at 75 feet, those things are fast!

A passing crow thought that my pitiful attempts to shoot the falcon were funny.

Laughing crow

Laughing crow

Laughing crow

Laughing crow

Later in the day, I spotted a flock of turkey vultures on the ground, and these photos are the ones that convinced me that being downwind to the treatment area really does mess up photography. I was right on top of these, the shots should have been as sharp as a tack! But, they aren’t.

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

I found a pair of common ravens perched in a tree, these photos came out slightly better.

Common raven

Common raven

Common raven

Common raven

One look at their beak will tell you that they aren’t crows!

Here’s another crow for comparison.

American crow

American crow

I don’t think that I’m going to bother with a post of the photos of shorebirds from today. They are the same species as last week, except for this short-billed dowitcher.

Short-billed dowitcher

Short-billed dowitcher

Short-billed dowitcher

Short-billed dowitcher

Short-billed dowitcher

Short-billed dowitcher

I have about 150 photos of the shorebirds from today, most of them better than the photos from last week. Hiding out in the rocks paid off nicely. But, being shorebirds, they all look the same, and the same as last week’s post. So that’s all folks.

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


My Week, baby steps.

Saturday

I started out on Saturday morning birding with the Muskegon County Nature Club. That is worthy of a post of its own, which you can read here, if you haven’t already seen it. But, after they gave up for the day, I wasn’t ready to return home to the heat, or to leave the woods, so I headed to Lost Lake for the afternoon. That’s generally worthy of a post of its own, but I found very few flowers, nor could I catch many birds in the open. Besides, it’s hard to see birds while napping! I had gotten up just after 6 AM, way too early for me, but I had to meet the birding group at 8 AM, so I dragged my butt out of bed to make it, almost. I was a few minutes late, as I had to stop on my way to shoot this guy.

Red-shouldered hawk

Red-shouldered hawk

For some reason, that reminds me of something else. I had entered a photo contest sponsored by the Blandford Nature Center, which I did a post on recently. I entered one of my photos of a water-lily, it came in second, to a photo of the center’s resident bobcat, in a cage, not exposed very well, and somewhat fuzzy. Oh well, that’s the way popularity photo contests go.

Anyway, I was already tired by the time I began my hike back to Lost Lake. It isn’t far, a mile if I remember correctly, but I didn’t take my tripod, so as to save carrying some weight. Bad idea, but it will take me some time to completely change my ways, and do everything the right way. I sure could have used the tripod, as all the flowers I did find, save one, were very small, and in difficult places to get a good photo of them. I did the best that I could with the 15-85 mm lens, but the tripod would have made these much better.

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Water lily

Water lily

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Small aster of some kind?

Small aster of some kind?

Well, make that two flowers that were large, the water lily, and these cardinal flowers that I really needed the tripod for.

Cardinal flowers

Cardinal flowers

Cardinal flowers

Cardinal flowers

Cardinal flowers

Cardinal flowers

I needed more depth of field to get everything in focus, but couldn’t get it without going so slow on shutter speed that the images would be blurry.

I said that I napped, when I got back to Lost Lake, I laid down on one of the benches and took a little snooze, this was the view that I had before dozing off.

Canopy

Canopy

It was so pleasant there, cool, with the breeze coming off from Lake Michigan, and quiet, other than the sounds of birds and squirrels. There’s no better way to beat the heat than a shady spot near Lake Michigan. After my short nap, I headed over to the eagle nest to see if they were around, on the way there, I shot these.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

I actually saved a few more, but after the photos that I got on Sunday, there’s no reason to post them. Oh, and the eagles have flown! The nest was empty, but I hung around for a little while to see if any of the eagles returned, as they sometimes do, but I had no luck there. So that wrapped up a pretty good day.

Sunday

After the trip to Muskegon yesterday, I was going to limit the number of photos that I shot today. I may have to do that more often, as you will see. I’m not going to post all that I shot, but it was a considerable number. First though, I’m going to start with two rather ho-hum shots, petunias, and a growth that I found on the underside of sumac leaves.

Petunias

Petunias

Is this a gall of some kind?

Red pouch gall

I’ve spent a lot of time around sumac, but I’ve never seen these growths on them before. I saw several, all on the same tree, but couldn’t find any others. I would assume that it’s a gall of some type, but that’s a guess on my part.

As luck would have it, in his weekly Saturday post, Allen who does the New Hampshire Garden Solutions blog, had a small blurb about these galls, which is where I learned what they are.

Now for the goodies, starting with a ruby throated hummingbird.

Female ruby throated hummingbird

Female ruby throated hummingbird

Female ruby throated hummingbird

Female ruby throated hummingbird

Female ruby throated hummingbird

Female ruby throated hummingbird

Female ruby throated hummingbird

Female ruby throated hummingbird

Female ruby throated hummingbird

Female ruby throated hummingbird

Female ruby throated hummingbird

Female ruby throated hummingbird

I wish that I could find a male that would pose like that, but they’re all too busy chasing each other around as they are very aggressive at defending their territories.

While I was shooting her, I could hear this next bird chirping away, it took me a while to spot it, but I got him.

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

I was trying to work closer, and to where I had a clear view of him, when from right behind me I heard a voice say, “It’s beautiful, is it a bluebird?”, and with that, he was off. The joys of walking in a public park, oh well, I got more than enough great photos of him as it was. I still have shorebirds to ID from Saturday, so that’s it for today. It may end up being a short post this week. I have to visit my mom tomorrow, then a dental appointment on Tuesday, and sometime this week, I need to take my Subaru in for its regular service.

Monday

I finally had to break down and close the windows of my apartment yesterday during the heat of the day, it has cooled off overnight though. That’s an unusual August in Michigan, I went at least two full weeks, maybe three weeks with the windows open all the time.

The forecast is for hot and muggy during the middle of the week, but I’ll try not to complain too much. These last few weeks have been the best summer that I can remember.

As I said, I went to Muskegon on Saturday and joined the field trip of the Muskegon County Nature Club. They are nice people, but on average, a lot older than myself, and very few of them are photographers. While out in the field alone, I have run into some other members of that group who are photographers, and that I got on well with. But, I found out that it’s rare for them to join the field trips. After having been on one, I can understand why.

Also there on Saturday was a group from Grand Rapids, and they are much closer to my age, in fact, they have a number of members who are quite young. There are also more photographers in the Grand Rapids group, and their field trips are geared more towards photography, so I think that I will go on one of their upcoming field trips, and see how that goes.

In the near term, I think that I’ll return to Muskegon again this weekend. The weather is forecast to be hot, and it’s always cooler near the big lake, and it’s the best birding spot in this part of Michigan.

A quick check of the photos that I have saved for the My Photo Life List project shows that I am just twenty species short of half way done towards completing the list I’m working from. What a major milestone that will be! I may have to go back to posting to that series twice a week for a while, it would really be something to me to make it halfway through the list in one year, since I started in January this year.

Enough of that, time for a walk.

I’m back, and it’s getting warm out there, warm enough that my eyelids were sweating. 😉

Most of the resident summer birds are gone, even the eastern kingbirds have left. So, I was quite surprised to see a pair of Baltimore orioles fly past me, sorry, no photo. But, it points out that bird migration is such an unpredictable thing, the resident orioles have been gone for weeks, yet birds from even farther north are passing through the area now.

I suppose that there is some logic to that. The birds that travel farther north arrive at their home range later in the year, and because of that, breed, nest, and raise their young later in the year as well. Still, you would think that the residents would hang around until the food supply began to diminish, so that they would be in better shape for their trip south.

I did manage a few photos, starting with one from last night actually, the nearly full moon.

Moon

Moon

I was working on my blog last night, looked out the window, saw the moon, and realized that I had never tried the Sigma lens out on a moon shot, not too shabby.

Anyway, my walk today was like most days, a little of this and a little of that, nothing special until I was on my way back, I’ll get to that in a second here. In the meantime, enjoy these two shots of regular guests here.

Turkey

Turkey

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Sorry for so many shots of the finches lately, but I’m training a few of them to pose for me. I get a little closer each day, eventually I’ll get THE shot of a goldfinch that I’m looking for. The turkeys I shoot any time that I catch one out in the sun, they are very wary birds, and quite colorful if you catch them in the right light.

The only thing out of the ordinary that happened today occurred as I was on my way home. I looked ahead of me to see a Cooper’s hawk gliding just inches above the path.

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

I haven’t seen any hawks around here lately, not even the red-tailed hawks that nested across the street from the park, so it was good to see a raptor around here again. The hawk landed on the ground ahead of me, what it was hunting for, I have no idea. I’ve never seen one actually make a kill, but I have seen them flying very low before, maybe they cruise along low to remain unseen by their prey, then swoop up to make a kill? It would be a good tactic, since most other birds of prey swoop down, and therefore the Cooper’s hawk’s prey may not suspect danger from below.

I remember having them almost hit me back at the old apartment complex, they would be flying very low through the trees just as the one above was doing, and the hawks and I would “meet” while rounding corners of the sidewalks. If you were to go back through the archives of my blog, you’d find some very blurry photos that resulted from those encounters.

Hmm, that brings up a couple of other things. At the old apartment, I would see the hawks of all species there using the updrafts created by the air heated by the sun beating down on pavement to gain altitude. I would see the Cooper’s hawks gliding just inches above the streets and sidewalks. I wonder if the heated air rising off from pavement helps them to glide that low with minimal flapping of their wings? I’ll also bet that it is a lot easier for them to spot prey while they are gliding along a man-made opening like the path or sidewalks.

Anyway, I was going to try and get closer, but a jogger coming from the other direction spooked the hawk, and I never saw it again.

That’s it for today, time to get cleaned up and visit my mom. I don’t know if I’ll have time for a walk tomorrow, I have a dental appointment at noon.

Tuesday

No walk today, I got home very late last night, actually, early this morning. Two big traffic jams caused me to not get home until 2 AM. I have the dental appointment at noon today, so between sleeping in later, and having to be there at noon, I am going to miss a day for the first time in nearly a year. That’s OK, my legs have been feeling tired the last week or so, maybe a day of rest will revitalize them.

I don’t want it to sound as if I am an expert on hawks, hardly, but I do think that there is something to what I observed yesterday. Hawks are very intelligent birds. The red-tailed hawks at the old apartment complex would show up on Wednesday afternoons, as the lawn service mowed the grass on Wednesday mornings. The hawks would pick off the rodents injured by the lawn mowers, and/or find the ones that were exposed with the grass being shorter.

So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Cooper’s hawks would use paved paths and sidewalks for hunting purposes. They have to receive some lift over pavement to help them stay aloft with minimal use of their wings, and they have a clearer sight path to possible prey in the opening of the path. In the “wild”, I see them either perched low in trees, or hurtling through the woods in search of possible prey.

Dashing through trees to catch birds is a dangerous way to hunt. In a study of more than 300 Cooper’s Hawk skeletons, 23 percent showed old, healed-over fractures in the bones of the chest, especially of the wishbone. So the hawks probably like having a clearing close to the edge of a wooded area where they can fly without the danger running in to anything.

Next up, my vacation. I am submitting a request for the last full week in September, and it should be approved, no problem. I hope that the trees retain their leaves until then, so that I can capture some good landscapes with the fall foliage in full color. The way things are going this year, that may be iffy, but typically, the first of October is the peak for color in northern Michigan.

Speaking of landscapes, I realized something over the last two weeks. While I was up north at the Sleeping Bear Dunes, I was shooting objects, more than true landscapes, which is why my heart wasn’t truly into it. The reason that I love flora and fauna photography so much more is that those photos are of things that I “discover” myself. I hunt them down to photograph them, not so with the subjects that I shot on the trip up north.

This past weekend, while at Muskegon, I “discovered” the clouds reflecting off from one of the lagoons there, I am inserting that shot here, even though I have already posted it before.

Reflections on a great day

Reflections on a great day

It still isn’t as good as I would have liked it to have been, but it was impossible for me to get the exact angle that I wanted. If there had been a hill to stand on to get me higher above the water, I could have tilted the camera down more, which would have produced a better photo. I did try tilting down from where I was, but the foreground was rather ugly, as you can see. I tried zooming in to cut the foreground out, but then, I lost the grand scale of the view.

But, the point to all this is that I worked this shot, unlike the photos taken on the trip two weeks ago. The difference being, this is something that I “discovered”, I wasn’t walking up to a known landmark and snapping a photo. I put more effort into the photo above than I did in all of the ones from the trip up north combined, and it shows, at least I think that it does.

I’ll have to keep that in mind whenever I try landscape photos. I know that when I take my vacation that I’ll be shooting a few landmark type photos, I’ll need to work on those, rather than settling for a postcard type shot. But, the biggest lesson that I re-learned is to seek out beautiful landscape besides those that are landmarks. Yes, at one time I knew that, but it was something that had slipped from my memory over the years.

One more thing for today, on my way home from the dentist, I stopped at the camera shop and checked on a few things, primarily a split prism focusing screen, but that store doesn’t carry them. I’m not willing to take a chance on a $20 knock-off from China, even if it is that cheap. I may switch over to the live view for macro shots, which is the only time I need help with focusing anyway. With the camera on the tripod, that won’t be a problem. It’s worth a shot, or two, or three. 😉

I also checked on a couple of other things, nothing worth babbling on about.

Wednesday

The heat continues to build, and it’s only forecast to get worse over the next week, possibly longer. Because of that, I’m not going to carry the beast with me for the next few days, just the two shorter lenses. That is, unless I begin seeing migrating birds passing through the area.

I was going to photograph some flowers on Monday, but didn’t feel like taking the time to switch lenses, because it is much harder to do so with the beast on the camera. Its weight and size demand that I find a solid spot to set things down on, and with dew covering the grass that morning, the ground wasn’t an option. I rationalized my decision not to change lenses by telling myself that the flowers will be better subjects later in the week when there are more of them open to choose from. What it really boiled down to is that I was too lazy that day to make the effort. Carrying just the two shorter lenses removes at least one of my excuses for laziness.

I’m back, I was all set to try to photograph some of the flowers using the live view while the camera was mounted on the tripod, but there was a stiff wind from the southwest that’s pushing the hot air in. I played with the live view mode yesterday after I returned from the dentist, I think that it will work well for stationary subjects, and that the camera has to be on the tripod for it to work well. Now I need to find stationary subjects.

I did attempt a few handheld shots as I would normally do, they’re nothing special, so they’ve been deleted.

I probably should have just deleted these next two, I’ve posted many shots of hawks in flight, and most of them show the hawks much closer than these two. However, these are the sharpest shots of a hawk in flight that I have gotten, and that’s saying something.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

How strange is it that I go for nearly a month without seeing a hawk here at home, then see a Cooper’s hawk on Monday, and a red-tailed on Wednesday?

The red-tailed was circling the field, and moving a little closer to me with each circle. I thought about just standing there to get a closer shot, but if the hawk would have followed the same pattern of circles that it had been making, by the time it had gotten closer to me, the light would have been all wrong. So, I took a chance and walked down the trail to be in a better position, but as soon as I moved, the hawk broke off from the pattern it had been flying, and headed somewhere else, darn.

I stood for a while at the same patch of wildflowers going to seed where I have been “training” the finches and the male indigo bunting to pose for me, just so that the birds would become more used to my presence. I did shoot one photo of the male bunting, I’ll post it, what the heck. It’s not as good as my earlier ones, but I don’t have any other photos from today to post.

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

The main reason for posting that one is a test of sorts. Since I have changed themes, and I’m posting larger photos, the disk space that each photo required was higher. So, I have begun to reduce the quality of the photos slightly more to cut down the file size of each photo. The bird is nothing special, I almost deleted that shot. However, how sharp the plants were in the original version really caught my eye. That makes this a good photo to judge whether or not I’m losing too much sharpness at the new settings for quality that I’m using. It isn’t as sharp as the original, but it’s OK for my blog. I don’t want to post full quality photos anyway. I just read another blog about how some one had stolen the content of one of that blogger’s posts, and that the thief had posted that content as their own.

Thursday

A line of thunderstorms moved through the area last night, bringing some much-needed rain! The winds were so strong at one point last night that I had to slow down a little because the wind was blowing the trailer around behind me. I can tell you, that’s not a comfortable feeling!

All day yesterday, the meteorologists were telling us that there probably wouldn’t be much, if any rain last night, wrong again!

As for today, the clouds have lingered on, and with the rain, the humidity has shot up, a lot. There wasn’t much of a breeze, so I thought that I would try shooting flowers in the live view mode to see how well it worked. However, the light was so dim today that shutter speeds approaching a full second would have been needed at the apertures that I would have wanted for any photos. I’ve never had good luck shooting with those long of exposure times outdoors, there’s always enough movement in the subject to cause the photos to be blurry, even when using a tripod.

There were a lot more people in the park than I expected, given the weather. And, the people there today were in groups, wandering all around the park. When the young mothers bring their children to the park to play on the playground equipment, it only bothers the birds in that area. With groups of people all over the park, I never got close to a single bird, well, not close enough for a photo.

I only shot one photo for the day, only so that I could say that.

Hairy sunflower?

Woodland sunflower

It isn’t even very good, but it is the only one that I even attempted.

Since there were no other photos, or a lot to talk about as far as my walk today, I had typed a long dissertation on photography, but, it was too long, and too technical for this post, so it has been removed to appear in another post in the future.

Friday

Well, I did it, not very well, but I tried. What I’m talking about is setting the camera up on the tripod, and shooting in live view to get the focus perfect. That’s going to take some practice, but I can see the possibilities there. On the plus side, switching to live view and using the 10X magnification does allow me to get the focus more precise than auto-focus does. On the down side, when zoomed in 10X, I missed on the composition and exposure that I wanted. But, changing the way that I do things is going to be like baby steps, learning as I go.

I’ll insert the photos, then continue to prattle.

Downy lobelia

Downy lobelia

Downy lobelia

Downy lobelia

Downy lobelia

Downy lobelia

Downy lobelia

Downy lobelia

Boneset

Boneset

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I found using live view to be somewhat of a pain in the rear, mostly because this was the first time that I used it. I quickly figured out that the way that I normally make any adjustments wasn’t going to work. For example, scrolling through the exposure solutions that the camera came up with to pick the combination of aperture and shutter speed that I wanted to use. Using live view required that I switch to the aperture mode and set the aperture that way. No big deal.

I would set the camera and tripod in place, and use auto-focus to get the focus close. Then I would switch the to manual focus, enable the live view, zoom in, and then manually tweak the focus.

I think that I should have tried zooming to 5X to start, I also need to read the manual again. I didn’t necessarily want what I was focusing on to be the center point of the photo, but I wasn’t sure if, or how, I could change that. I knew that if I focused on a spot, then moved the camera for the composition that I wanted, that I would lose the focus.

Somewhere in there, I forgot to switch from partial spot metering to center weighted, so my exposures are off a little. I stood there trying to remember what else I had to change, but it escaped me at the time.

OK, enough babbling, I’m not a brook. The biggest thing is that it worked, what I wanted in perfect focus came out in perfect focus, now it’s just a matter of putting what I learned today into practice.

I went back to playing human tripod for these next few.

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

St. John's wort

St. John’s wort

Caterpillar

Caterpillar

Berries

Berries

I made one other mistake when trying the live view, I used the 15-85 mm lens rather than the L series, the lens that the live view would be even more useful for. However, two things struck me while using the 15-85 mm. One was that the focusing ring on that lens is very narrow. I’d never had to manually focus that lens before, the auto-focus works so well, or so I thought.

That was the other thing that I noticed, the auto-focus that I used to get close looked perfect in the view finder, but when I zoomed in 10X in live view, that lens did require a slight amount of tweaking of the focus.

Anyway, I’m going to stick around here tomorrow and do the extended version of my daily walk, and begin planning my vacation next month. Then on Sunday when the heat is forecast to return with a vengeance, I’m going to go to Muskegon for the day to escape the heat.

Saturday

I learned quite a few things today, things that I should have already known. There will probably come a time in the future when I saw exactly the same thing about exactly the same things. I’ll get to those as I go.

It’s warming up around here, it wasn’t too bad today, but it’s only going to get worse for  at least the next week. I’m going to do my best not to complain, but looking at the forecast and seeing the high temperatures and the humidity levels, that may prove to be impossible.

I did the long version of my daily walk today, and heard very few birds. There haven’t been many singing for well over a month, but I usually hear a few chirps or alarm calls now and then, but there were even less today than normal. I saw even fewer birds, I may have to resort to shooting mallards again.

Shady characters

Shady characters

I could shoot more fungi, something that I haven’t done much with my new gear.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

OK, one of the things that I seem to need to relearn almost daily is that if something catches my eye to make me think about photographing it, then it is worth getting the best shot I can.

Flowering grass

Flowering grass

I saw a few of those, but I couldn’t see the tiny purple flowers with my unaided eye. I took the shot above as a throw away shot of sorts, just to see what it would look like blown up on the computer. After doing so, I wish that I had put more effort into getting the best shot that I could.

I did try very hard for these next few, but the bees wouldn’t sit still for me.

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

Honey bee

Honey bee

Honey bee

Honey bee

I learned that trying to shoot in the live view mode when there is any wind at all is an exercise in futility. Getting set up and making the necessary adjustments to the camera went much better today. But, I would get zeroed in on a flower, then the slight breeze blowing from time to time would start the flower I had chosen dancing like Gene Kelly in his prime.

I learned that when flowers stop moving in the wind that they never return to the exact spot that they were before the wind moved them. That required me to start the process of getting the precise focus over again right from scratch.

I learned that flowers can be perfectly still for many minutes, as long as you have your camera pointed at a different one.

I learned that as soon as you point your camera at a flower that hasn’t moved in five minutes, it will begin dancing at the exact moment that you are ready to press the shutter release.

I think that you get the idea. Here’s the rest of the photos from today, minus all the blurry ones I shot in live view.

Leaves

Leaves

Seeds

Seeds

Spider web

Spider web

Sedge seeds?

Sedge seeds?

Since this post is already too long, and with too many photos, I’m going to end it here. Since I’m going to Muskegon tomorrow, be prepared for at least one post full of shorebirds. 😉

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


Barred Owl, Strix varia

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.

Barred Owl, Strix varia

The Barred Owl is a large typical owl native to North America. Best known as the Hoot Owl for its distinctive call.

The adult is 40–63 cm (16–25 in) long with a 96–125 cm (38–49 in) wingspan. Weight in this species is 500 to 1050 grams (1.1-2.3 lbs). It has a pale face with dark rings around the eyes, a yellow beak and brown eyes. It is the only typical owl of the eastern United States which has brown eyes; all others have yellow eyes. The upper parts are mottled gray-brown. The underparts are light with markings; the chest is barred horizontally while the belly is streaked vertically. The legs and feet are covered in feathers up to the talons. The head is round and lacks ear tufts, a distinction from the slightly smaller Short-eared Owl, which favors more open, marginal habitats.

Outside of the closely related Spotted Owl, this streaky, chunky-looking owl is unlikely to be confused over most of the range. The Spotted Owl is similar in appearance but has spots rather than streaks down the underside. Due to their fairly large size, the Barred Owl may be confused for the Great Horned Owl by the inexperienced but are dramatically different in shape and markings.

Breeding habitats are dense woods across Canada, the eastern United States, and south to Mexico, in recent years it has spread to the northwestern United States, having gradually spread further south in the west. The species is particularly numerous in a variety of wooded habitats in the southeastern United States. Recent studies show suburban neighborhoods can be ideal habitat for barred owls. Using transmitters, scientists found that populations increased faster in the suburban settings than in old growth forest.

The Barred Owl’s nest is often in a tree cavity, often ones created by pileated woodpeckers; it may also take over an old nesting site made previously by a red-shouldered hawk, cooper’s hawk, crow, or squirrel. It is a permanent resident, but may wander after the nesting season. If a nest site has proved suitable in the past they will often reuse it as the birds are non-migratory. In the United States, eggs are laid from early January in southern Florida to mid-April in northern Maine, and consist of 2 to 4 eggs per clutch. Eggs are brooded by the female with hatching taking place approximately 4 weeks later. Young owls fledge four to five weeks after hatching. These owls have few predators, but young, unwary owls may be taken by cats. The most significant predator of Barred Owls is the Great Horned Owl. The Barred Owl has been known to live up to 10 years in the wild and 23 years in captivity.

The Barred Owl is a very opportunistic predator. The principal prey of this owl are meadow voles, followed by mice and shrews of various species. Other mammals preyed upon include rats, squirrels, rabbits, bats, moles, opossums, mink, and weasels. A Barred Owl was photographed in Minnesota in 2012 predaceously grabbing and flying with a full-grown domestic cat, a semi-regular prey item for the Great Horned Owl but previously unknown to be taken by this species. Birds are taken occasionally and commonly include woodpeckers, grouse, quails, jays, icterids, doves and pigeons, and even domestic ducks. Less commonly, other raptors are predated, including smaller owls. Avian prey are typically taken as they settle into nocturnal roosts, because these owls are not generally nimble enough to catch birds on the wing. It occasionally wades into water to capture fish, turtles, frogs and crayfish. Additional prey include snakes, lizards, salamanders, slugs, scorpions, beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers. Barred Owls have been known to be attracted to campfires and lights where they forage for large insects. Prey is usually devoured on the spot. Larger prey is carried to a feeding perch and torn apart before eating.

The Barred Owl hunts by waiting on a high perch at night, or flying through the woods and swooping down on prey. A Barred Owl can sometimes be seen hunting before dark. This typically occurs during the nesting season or on dark and cloudy days. Of the North American owls, only the Burrowing Owl is more likely to be active during the day. Daytime activity is often most prevalent when Barred Owls are raising chicks. However, this species still generally hunts near dawn or dusk.

The usual call is a series of eight accented hoots ending in oo-aw, with a downward pitch at the end. The most common mnemonic device for remembering the call is “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all.” It is noisy in most seasons. When agitated, this species will make a buzzy, rasping hiss. While calls are most common at night, the birds do call during the day as well.

On to my photos, the first two were shot with my old Nikon during a winter rain/snow squall, the rest were shot with my Canon 60 D:

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred owl

Barred owl

Barred owl

Barred owl

Barred owl

Barred owl

 

This is number 120 in my photo life list, only 230 to go!

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

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Yet another Muskegon birding trip Part II

On Saturday August 17th, I made yet another trip to Muskegon to do some birding. The difference between this trip and all of my others is that this time I wasn’t alone. This was a field trip put on by the Muskegon County Nature Club, which I am thinking of joining.

After this trip, I’m not sure that I am cut out for group birding yet. I also found out that there is a Grand Rapids group that is very similar, so I think that I should check it out as well.

On to the photos!

Greater yellowlegs

Greater yellowlegs

Killdeer

Killdeer

Pectoral sandpiper

Pectoral sandpiper

Two least sandpipers and a Baird's sandpiper

Two least sandpipers and a Baird’s sandpiper

Least sandpiper

Least sandpiper

Yet another lifer for me, Wilson’s Phararopes.

Wilson's Phararopes

Wilson’s Phararopes

Wilson's Phararopes in flight

Wilson’s Phararopes in flight

I’m not sure what was going on here, but the Great blue heron and the gulls seemed to be performing a ballet.

Heron and gull ballet

Heron and gull ballet

Heron and gull ballet

Heron and gull ballet

Heron and gull ballet

Heron and gull ballet

Heron and gull ballet

Heron and gull ballet

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Another lifer for me, Nelson’s sparrows.

Nelson's sparrow

Nelson’s sparrow

Sandhill crane

Sandhill crane

Sandhill cranes in flight

Sandhill cranes in flight

And to show you that I can shoot something other than birds, I present this one for your consideration.

Reflections on a great day

Reflections on a great day

But even a reflection shot looks better with a bird in it. 😉

Bonaparte's gull in flight

Bonaparte’s gull in flight

At least four lifers for me, I lost count, and better photos of many of the species that I’ve already photographed, it was an excellent day!

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


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Yet another Muskegon birding trip Part I

On Saturday August 17th, I made yet another trip to Muskegon to do some birding. The difference between this trip and all of my others is that this time I wasn’t alone. This was a field trip put on by the Muskegon County Nature Club, which I am thinking of joining.

After this trip, I’m not sure that I am cut out for group birding yet. I also found out that there is a Grand Rapids group that is very similar, so I think that I should check it out as well.

Anyway, I was a little late meeting up with the group, because I stopped on my way to shoot this hawk.

Red shouldered hawk

Red shouldered hawk

I could give you the boring story of introducing myself to members of the group, and how we drove around from spot to spot while looking for birds, but I won’t, I’ll get right to the photos.

Spiderwebs covered in dew

Spiderwebs covered in dew

Unidentified flying object

Unidentified flying object

Unidentified flying object

Unidentified flying object

Unidentified flying object

Unidentified flying object

Baird's Sandpipers

Baird’s Sandpipers

Baird's Sandpiper

Baird’s Sandpiper

Here’s a lifer for me, I wish that the photos were better.

Black-bellied plover surrounded by "peeps"

Black-bellied plover surrounded by “peeps”

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Gull in flight

Gull in flight

Dunlin

Dunlin

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Stilt sandpiper

Stilt sandpiper

Here’s another lifer for me, a Bonaparte’s gull.

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte’s gull

I am going to end part one with this shot of a great blue heron in flight.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

You’ll want to see part two, for more of the extremely difficult to ID shorebirds, and the heron and some gulls performing a bird ballet!

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


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My week, you can never go home again?

Saturday

On Saturday, I went up to the Leelanau Peninsula.

You can read the good side of the day here for the Leelanau Peninsula, and here for the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

I spent a considerable amount of time there in the 1970’s, mainly hunting and fishing. That’s hard to believe these days.

I’m going to attempt to limit my negativity, as it is a beautiful area, but that’s going to be difficult.

The area was known as a fruit-growing area, with dozens of orchards dotting the landscape. Because of the moderating influences of Lake Michigan, that part of Michigan leads the nation in the production of tart cherries, and ranks high for the production of other fruit, such as apples, sweet cherries, and pears.

In the late 1970’s two things happened which changed the face of the area forever, the creation of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and the influx of a large number of rich liberals Yuppies.

The park was authorized on October 21, 1973. The park’s creation was highly controversial because it involved the transfer of private property to public. The Federal government’s stance at the time was that the Great Lakes were the “third coast” and had to be preserved much like Cape Hatteras or Big Sur, which are National Seashores. The residents living in what is now Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore believed they were stewards of the land and did not want it to be overrun by tourists. The Government eventually won out using strong-arm tactics to force local residents out of their homes and businesses.

I had come to know a few of the people in the area, they were not at all happy about being forced out of their homes, and/or losing their livelihood. The government then let out contracts to concessionaires to run businesses much like the locals had run, such as canoe liveries. The government denied permits to the locals, and awarded the contracts to outside people who had the money to bribe donate to the correct political party in power.

The Yuppies moving into the area was very much like what I read about is going on in the Jackson Hole, Wyoming area these days.

The Yuppies looked down their noses at the locals, whom they referred to as hicks or hillbillies. Any one who hunted or fished was a redneck. The rich liberals did their best to drive both the hicks and rednecks away. They also took over the local governments by promising one thing, and doing another. (Sound familiar?) What they promised was to preserve the rural character of the area, and the natural beauty. What they did was to use local zoning ordinances to hamstring the local farmers and tax them out of existence. (Sound familiar?)

Of course, Yuppies are motivated by one thing, money! So, if any one waved enough green under their noses, those people were allowed to build any monstrosity anywhere. Instead of rural farmland, now there are mega resorts, huge gated communities, and some of the ugliest buildings ever designed by man as a blight on the ridges to the northeast of Traverse City.

This weekend was the first time that I’ve been there in years, it’s nothing like it used to be at all. And the crowds! I couldn’t get to many of the places that I wanted to photograph because there was either nowhere to park, or lines of traffic a quarter of a mile long or longer waiting to get to a place to park. I swear, I could have walked down the Platte River all five miles from the M 22 bridge to the mouth of the river where it empties into Lake Michigan without getting my feet wet by walking on the tubers, kayakers, and canoeists on the river. The Crystal River was only slightly less crowded.

Those rivers are being destroyed by that volume of people, but the government doesn’t care as long as they get their cut of the profits from the concessionaires.

Turns out that the local hicks and hillbillies were correct, that the area has become overrun with tourists.

Yes, I feel like a hypocrite for doing a couple of posts about how beautiful the area is, then complaining about how crowded it has become in this one. But, like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, it’s one place that every one should see once in their life. Besides, the crowds will soon tire of the crowds, the area will no longer be trendy, and eventually, the crowds will thin out.

Something else happened up there as well. All day long I saw small things, birds and flowers, that I wanted to photograph, but for the most part, didn’t. I didn’t really have the time if I wanted to hit all the landscape photo ops that I had planned on.

I got to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse not long before sunset. I shot a few photos, but was going to wait for slightly better light, then shoot a few more. While waiting, I jumped a doe and two small fawns in the woods near the light. While chasing them, I found a trove of wildflowers that were begging to be shot. Having some time to kill, I did so.

???

???

???

???

Grey-headed coneflowers

Grey-headed coneflower

Whitetail doe and fawns

Whitetail doe and fawns

I sat down on a bench to wait for the light, and it hit me like a ton of bricks, I love photographing flora and fauna much more than I do landscapes, and always have. Don’t get me wrong, I like shooting landscapes, but it isn’t my first love. That probably explains a lot. You may not guess that though after looking at the photo of the deer. They were in shade so deep that I had trouble seeing them with my naked eyes, I cranked in a full stop of exposure compensation, and took a shot. I’m surprised that the photo turned out as well as it did.

But I digress. There I was, sitting on the bench thinking about how much more I had enjoyed myself the last half hour chasing deer and shooting flowers than I had all day long fighting the crowds. Since I had planned on staying overnight, I was trying to think of places to start out in the morning, but drew a blank. I decided that I had enough of fighting crowds, and that I would enjoy myself more anywhere other than in the swarm of humanity I had dealt with all day. So, I didn’t even wait to see what the light would do at sunset, I packed it up, and headed for home.

Sunday

One or two more things from yesterday. I used to consider the Leelanau Peninsula to be my second home, since I loved it there, and spent so much time there. Now, I consider the Pigeon River Country to be my second home, even though the scenery pales in comparison to the Leelanau area.

There are lessons to be learned from those two places and the way that they’ve changed over my lifetime. Leelanau has become everything that it shouldn’t have become, a huge money driven tourist trap of sorts. What used to be old family farm houses are now trendy shops, boutiques, or art galleries. Many of the orchards have converted to, or added vineyards, which isn’t a bad thing at first glance. But, now you have thousands of tourist taking the winery tours, and getting crocked at all the wine tasting stops, then driving like the drunks that they are.

The Pigeon River Country has been allowed to revert back to its wild state for the most part, as a result, very few “nature lovers” ever visit the area, and there are fewer people visiting now, then back in the 1970’s.

Oh well, I’ll have to ponder a little longer on all of that. For my walk today, not much was going on, but I managed a few shots, starting with a turkey vulture in flight.

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch in flight

Male American goldfinch in flight

Butterfly

Butterfly

Monday

In a change of my typical routine, I overslept this morning rather than waiting for Wednesday. That could be because the heavy cloud cover has kept it almost as dark as night, and some very welcome rainfall has been falling this morning. So, I’m fooling around this morning waiting for the rain to clear the area, which looks to be over with for at least the time being.

My mistake, the rain had fooled me into thinking it was over, just long enough to get outside. Not that it mattered, I suspected as much and was prepared.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the show that a scantily dressed attractive young woman put on for me in the park today. I don’t know if it was a police sting looking for Johns, or a real hooker, but it sure made the day a lot more interesting than normal! Sorry guys, no photos, this is a family blog.

Other than that, it was an enjoyable walk in the rain, that didn’t leave me much to prattle on about. Besides, I’ve devoted too much space to this past weekend’s trip, so I’ll cut today short to make up for that.

Tuesday

The sunshine has returned, and it has turned even cooler than it has been, the first shot of fall weather. Too bad that it won’t last but a couple of days. They are forecasting a heat wave of sorts for next week, so I’m going to enjoy this shot of cool air while it lasts!

The birding forecast for this weekend is looking good as well, with a good many shorebirds being seen in Muskegon, along with a few raptors that I could use photos of. I’ve already made the arrangements at work to do half my Friday run Friday night as I usually do, then go home, and finish it up on Sunday. That will let me get some sleep Friday night so that I can be in Muskegon early to join with the Muskegon County Nature Club to go on their field trip with them.

I should be making plans for the long Labor Day weekend, but after fighting the crowds and traffic this past weekend, I’m considering sticking close to home. When I visit many of the places that I go around here, I see very few people, and I could use that right now. Besides, I can save money staying home.

Time to get a move on.

After this past weekend, I came up with the title for this post. After my walk this morning, I added the question mark.

For the newer readers of my blog, up until last fall I lived in an apartment complex where I was able to photograph many herons, geese, ducks, and swans. I thought that those days were over, other than mallards and an occasional goose around here, but I was wrong.

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Much to my surprise, there was a young heron fishing in one of the small ponds here. So, I found a good spot where I was somewhat hidden, and started filming the action. As you can see, the heron made a nice catch early on.

Then, for no reason that I could fathom, the heron charged a flock of mallards resting on the bank of the pond.

Juvenile great blue heron charging mallards

Juvenile great blue heron charging mallards

Once the heron had the mallard’s attention, it waded right past the flock as if they weren’t there.

Juvenile great blue heron wading past mallards

Juvenile great blue heron wading past mallards

As soon as the heron was past them, the mallards all dove into the pond…..

Mallards going for a community swim

Mallards going for a community swim

Splashed around a little….

Bath time

Bath time

…then just as quickly, went back on shore.

Dip over, time to get back on shore

Dip over, time to get back on shore

Dip over, time to get back on shore

Dip over, time to get back on shore

Dip over, time to get back on shore

Dip over, time to get back on shore

In the meantime, the heron had made another catch.

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Whatever it was, it must not have tasted good to the heron, for the heron bent back over and released whatever it was back into the water gentle as you please. I’ve never seen a heron practicing catch and release before. 😉

I was hoping that the heron would continue around the pond closer to where I was, but I had no luck with that.

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron taking off

Juvenile great blue heron taking off

Juvenile great blue heron in flight

Juvenile great blue heron in flight

It was kind of nice shooting some of my old favorites again, and I was thinking that I would have to change the title of this post, when I came to the next pond, and another heron.

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

I had watched the first one fly off into the distance, there’s no way that this is the same one. Besides, this one posed nicely for me, none of these are cropped.

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

Juvenile great blue heron

It was just like old home week at my other apartment!

For the technical details, all those were shot with the 70-200 L series lens, minus 1/3 EV, and ISO 100. I may have stopped the aperture down a little too far in those last shots. The camera was set to program mode as is usual, but I was dialing the shutter speed down to stop down the aperture for more depth of field to make sure that I had the entire heron in focus. I’ve had trouble getting all of larger birds in focus before, and I didn’t want it to happen today. I think that the photos would have been a touch sharper if I hadn’t adjusted as much. I think that I got the shutter speed a little too low. But we’ll see, I’m sure that I’ll get another chance.

I probably should have shot a few at -2/3 EV as well, I forgot that the camera was still set to center weighted metering mode for shooting the landscapes this past weekend.

A week or two ago, I took the slight amount of extra contrast that I had the camera set to render out of the settings, as I found that when I got the exposure correct, I was getting a little too much contrast. Our eyes tend to mistake contrast for sharpness, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. So, anyway, between having the camera set to center weighted metering, and having taken that little bit of extra contrast out, I should have gone down another 1/3 stop on the EV for a little more contrast in these.

I’ve set the camera back to partial spot metering, which works much better for birds and flowers, most of the time. Using partial spot metering, I can go down 1/3 stop and keep it there for everything other than birds against the sky.

Sorry about the last few boring paragraphs, but typing that stuff out helps me to remember what I am doing and why, and to make sure that I check all my settings from time to time.

Wednesday

Another perfect day weather wise, I’m getting spoiled. Cool sunny days, and crisp overnight temperatures are not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the weather in August here in Michigan, but that’s what we’ve had. There’s even less wind today than there was yesterday, so maybe I’ll be able to get a few shots of flowers today. There’s a few late season flowers about to open soon, and I could do a better job of a few that I shot last week.

I’m back, and things were interesting in the park today. No hookers today, but there were guards from the mental hospital up the road rounding up what I think was a walk away from the facility. I didn’t pay enough attention to what was going on to be positive, but that what a glance in the direction of the guards and a person who didn’t seem very cooperative from time to time suggested.

I’m probably not being politically correct calling the facility a mental hospital, sorry. I don’t know the correct term as prescribed by the PC police these days. I do know that the doctors there saved my ex-wife’s life, and that the patients there are nothing to be wary of for the most part. I’m sure that there are a few dangerous patients, but for the most part, the patients are good people in a bad situation in life.

I also noticed that some of the play groups don’t play well together. It humorous in a way. Group A will be at the playground in the lower part of the park when group B arrives. Group A will then pack up and move to the playground in the upper part of the park. Group B will then follow Group A up there, at which point, group A will return to the lower level. I don’t stick around long enough to see how many times they will move, but it seems like they would be able to either work out their differences, or divide the park between the two groups rather than chase each other around. I never will figure people out.

Anyway, I shot a few photos worth posting today. I’ll start with the bugs.

White butterfly

White butterfly

Bee's eye view of a bee

Bee’s eye view of a bee

Neither of those shots came out exactly as I intended, but they are close enough.

Now, the blooms. I found some downy lobelia blooming in the sun, the other shots I have posted lately were taken in deep shade. So, I needed to take a test shot or two of the first of the flowers opening for when the plant is in full bloom.

Downy lobelia

Downy lobelia

I’ve also posted many photos of Queen Anne’s lace of late, but these shots were too good to pass up.

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

I don’t want to brag (too much) but I think that I pulled off something very tough to do in those last two. The white flowers against a dark, almost black background makes those shots high contrast, but I was able to soften the sunlight to the point where the photos look like a low light shot. The photos are sharp, yet the overall photos have the appearance of a soft focus shot. So, I came up with high contrast/sharp photos with the appearance of being soft light/soft focus at the same time. They may not wow, but I think that those are the two best photos that I have ever taken, technically and artistically.

Here’s a flower I haven’t photographed lately.

Dandelion

Dandelion

And, the goldenrod is just getting started.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

I’ll wrap today up with the birds, all male American goldfinches. They are everywhere this time of year.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

I’ll bet that there’s at least one in this mass of wildflowers.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Yup, sure is.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Sorry that I’m posting so many shots of the finches lately, but they’re one of my favorite species of birds. They are as cheerful and even comical as chickadees, but with a beautiful song, and brighter colors. Besides, since so many species of birds are already headed south from what I can tell, I’m running out of birds to photograph.

Thursday

We’ve been flirting with record low temperatures overnight the past few nights, but haven’t set a new record yet. It’s too bad that this pleasant weather is only going to last through the weekend, before the heat returns next week. This has been a string of phenomenal weather as far as I’m concerned, so I’m going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

I’m all fired up for this Saturday, when I’m going birding in Muskegon once again. Not only are the shorebirds there in numbers, but people have seen merlins and peregrine falcons as well. I have to remember to give the UV filter on the Sigma lens a good cleaning before I go. In fact, I should do that this morning before I go for my walk, then use the Sigma lens today for any birds, just to get used to using it again. It’s been a few days since I’ve had it on the camera. It’s been a joy to carry just the two shorter lenses the past two weeks, but it’s time to get used to carrying and using the beast again.

Okay, I’m back, and I not only did I carry the beast, but I also put it to good use, at least I think so. Since it’s been a while since I used it, and there was a flock of geese in the complex, I started out by shooting a shot of a headless goose, just in case I didn’t see anything later on worth photographing.

Headless Canada goose

Headless Canada goose

Canada goose with head

Canada goose with head

As is usually the case, I spied a couple of things that I wanted to change lenses for, but I had forgotten the case for the Sigma, so I had no way to carry it off from the camera, so I made do with it.

Rabbit's foot clover

Rabbit’s foot clover

Purple wildflower

Purple wildflower

That reminds me, the forecast was for calm winds for the next few days, which was totally wrong. There was a stiff southwest wind blowing this morning that continues to blow now. Anyway, after those shots, I got down to some serious birding for a change, starting with a rather grumpy goldfinch.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Maybe he didn’t like having some one photographing him as he preened?

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Next up is a catbird, nothing spectacular, but there’s two reasons I shot this. One was to get the best shot that I could under trying circumstances, the other was because this catbird was one of a half-dozen species of birds hanging out under one small bush. I also got shots of a song sparrow and goldfinch there, but missed the robins, starlings, and English sparrows. Why all those birds were packed in together, I couldn’t tell, there must have been something there that they were all feeding on.

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Next up is a male cardinal that I see on almost a daily basis. He does not like to have his photo taken, as I have chased him around several times. He’ll get behind a branch, start singing, and the second I work my way around to get a clear view of him, he moves so that there’s something between us. I think that I posted photos of him in action before. I got him singing today!

Male northern cardinal singing

Male northern cardinal singing

Then to really tick him off, I cropped another photo down so that every one has a good look at him.

Male northern cardinal singing

Male northern cardinal singing

A little later, this guy came hopping down the path towards me, stopping off now and then for a bite to eat. Since he was headed my way, I just stood there and shot a photo every few hops until I got these two.

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

On my way back, I saw a couple of cedar waxwings fly out of a honeysuckle bush to perch in a tree overhead. I was about to shoot a photo of one of them in the tree, when I spotted movement in the honeysuckle bush. This cedar waxwing dropped down into the open for this shot.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

That’s not cropped at all, when I first got him in the viewfinder, I couldn’t get a focus lock because he was too close. So, I stepped back half a step, and got this, just before he flew off to join the others in the tree above. I shot a few photos of them in the tree, and they came out fairly good, but there’s no reason to post them after that shot above.

I think that it was a good idea to take the beast today, and to warm up on the earlier photos of the birds that I have posted today. I’m not sure that I would have been able to get that last one without “warming up” on the earlier ones. I think that I’ll bring the beast tomorrow as well, along with its case, so that I can get better photos of the flowers, along with more practice for the birding trip on Saturday.

One last thing, I am deleting photos now that I would have loved to have gotten with my old Nikon. The heron from yesterday is a great example, I shot over a dozen photos of it, and they were all better than any I had taken with the Nikon. But, they’re not as good as I can get with the Canon, so there’s no reason to post, or save them. It was the same with the birds today, I deleted more photos than I posted, not that there was anything wrong with them, but I can do better, so into the recycle bin they go.

Friday

Yesterday I posted with a poll for my regular readers to vote for how I should continue this blog, the results were overwhelmingly in favor of switching themes, so I have. At least for the time being. I really like this new theme that I have chosen so far, but it’s time to see if I can get my photos to display larger.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

I think it will work! I know that I said that I would give it a week before I decided, but almost every one who does read my blog and comment regularly have cast their votes already, and I wanted the waxwing to display as large as possible. It’s not everyday that I get that good of a shot!

I like the drop down menus that this theme allows, I plan to make good use of that in the future.

I know that I’ll fill up my free space quicker using this theme, but I also knew that I’d have to start shelling out for more space eventually anyway.

I also realized after I posted the poll that if I switched over to a new blog, that the posts for the My Photo Life List project would end up spread over two different blogs. That idea didn’t appeal to me at all, neither did all the work of transferring the posts and pages that I have completed over to a new blog.

And finally, it will be good to have everything under one roof so to speak. I had been leaning towards a new blog, I glad that most people who voted changed the direction I was leaning in. 😉

Now then, the weather continues to be better than I could hope to expect for the end of summer. I haven’t shut my windows in weeks, although I’m afraid that it will change this weekend.

I’m back from my walk, and I have some very good photos to sort through to decide which ones to post.

There are advantages to living close to the local airport. I was walking along, deep in thought, but I could hear an airplane behind me. That’s not unusual at all, it happens many times a day while I’m walking. However, eventually the drone of four huge piston engines worked its way through my thick skull, and I turned around to see this.

The World War II era B-17 bomber "Aluminum Overcast"

The World War II era B-17 bomber “Aluminum Overcast”

I had read in the news that this plane was going to be at the airport this weekend, and I was slightly ticked off that I didn’t turn around sooner for a better shot. I lucked out though, it did another fly by a bit later on.

The World War II era B-17 bomber "Aluminum Overcast"

The World War II era B-17 bomber “Aluminum Overcast”

The World War II era B-17 bomber "Aluminum Overcast"

The World War II era B-17 bomber “Aluminum Overcast”

Back at the honeysuckle bush from yesterday, I got a shot of a waxwing swallowing a berry, even though it isn’t as good as the photo from yesterday, I’m going to post it anyway.

Cedar waxwing swallowing a berry

Cedar waxwing swallowing a berry

And, to make up for the low quality of that shot, here’s one of the waxwings perched in the tree above.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Even though I have posted many photos of these of late, I’m posting yet another.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

The Sigma 150-500 mm lens may not be as sharp as my two shorter lenses, but here’s a few odds and ends to show that it’s no slouch either.

Pokeweed "fruit"

Pokeweed “fruit”

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Now comes my catch of the day! A series of photos of a red squirrel eating berries. The lighting couldn’t have been much worse, but anytime you get close to a red squirrel sitting still, it’s a keeper.

Red squirrel eating berries

Red squirrel eating berries

Oops, dropped my berries!

Red squirrel eating berries

Red squirrel eating berries

Ah, one left!

Red squirrel eating berries

Red squirrel eating berries

Red squirrel eating berries

Red squirrel eating berries

Red squirrel eating berries

Red squirrel eating berries

Now then, to wrap this up, a female goldfinch. I see her nearly everyday while I take a break, she must have a nest in the bushes behind the bench I sit on.

Female American goldfinch AKA "The Jailbird"

Female American goldfinch AKA “The Jailbird”

I have noticed that the males tend to feed mostly on thistle seeds if they can find them, the females go for chicory seeds more than any others right now. I wonder if that has to do with feeding their young?

Since tomorrow is my birding trip with the Muskegon County Nature Club, and I have a lot to do to get ready for the trip, I’m going to wrap this one up here.

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


Should I? Or shouldn’t I?

I have been thinking of changing themes, so that I can post larger versions of my photos here. I like the current theme, and it may not always look like it, but I’ve chosen which photos to post at times to go with the theme that I’ve been using. If all my old posts retained the old theme, I think that it would be much easier for me to make the switch.

There is another option as well, that is to start a new blog using a theme better suited for the photos that I take these days right from the beginning. That would also give me a fresh start as far as how much space I have to upload photos without having to pay WordPress for my blog. I’m rapidly closing in on 50% of the allotted space that I get for free. It will be easy enough for the people who regularly read my blog to make the switch, as I would post links here to the new one for them to follow.

So, I thought to myself, “Why not do a poll and let my readers decide?” so that’s the reason for this post. I’ve set the time limit for the poll to one week, and after that week, I’ll go with the results of the poll.

That’s it for this one, thanks for taking the time to vote!