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

Archive for September, 2013

My vacation in the UP, the bridges

While not really nature photos, I couldn’t help but to photograph two of Michigan’s more famous bridges, including of course the Mackinac Bridge, which spans the Straits of Mackinac, and joins Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas.

The other bridge is the Cut River Bridge, which is known as much for the scenery that surrounds it as the bridge itself. I’ll start with a few fun facts about the Cut River Bridge, as provided by an MDOT sign at the bridge.

Cut River Bridge facts

Cut River Bridge facts

Then the bridge itself.

Cut River Bridge

Cut River Bridge

And, a few of the views from the parks on both ends of the bridge.

Cut River Bridge scenery

Cut River Bridge scenery

Cut River Bridge scenery

Cut River Bridge scenery

Cut River Bridge scenery

Cut River Bridge scenery

Cut River Bridge scenery

Cut River Bridge scenery

If only I had timed my trip better and gotten the full color of fall. 😦

Now, for the real star of this show, the Mackinac Bridge.

The Mackinac Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac to connect the Upper and Lower peninsulas of Michigan. Opened in 1957, the 8,614-foot (2,626 m) bridge (familiarly known as “Big Mac” and “Mighty Mac”) is the world’s third-longest in total suspension and the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western hemisphere.

The Bridge, as every one calls the Mackinac Bridge these days, is at least the unofficial boundary point between lakes Michigan and Huron.

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Before the bridge was built, travelers by car had to use a ferry service that ran between Mackinac City on the tip of the lower peninsula, to St. Ignance, on the upper peninsula. Around the opening day of deer season in Michigan, cars full of hunters would line up for miles to wait for the ferry service.

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

The Straits of Mackinac are a busy shipping lane, here’s an upbound freighter passing the St. Helena Island Lighthouse on its way towards the Mackinac Bridge.

Freighter passing the St. Helena Lighthouse

Freighter passing the St. Helena Lighthouse

The height of the roadway of the bridge at mid-span: approximately 200 feet (61 m) above water level.

Freighter coming out from under the Mackinac Bridge

Freighter coming out from under the Mackinac Bridge

A few more facts and figures about the bridge.

Height of towers above water: 552 feet (168 m)

Max. depth of towers below water: 210 feet (64 m)

Depth of water beneath the center of the bridge, 250 feet (76 m)

Total length of wire in main cables: 42,000 miles (68,000 km)

The photos so far where all taken from the south, lower peninsula end of the bridge. As I was crossing the bridge to the UP, the sun began to break through the clouds. The view was amazing, but there’s no stopping on the bridge for photos, so as soon as I had paid the toll, I parked in a viewing area on the east side of the bridge. The trouble was, the great lighting was on the west side of the bridge. I could have driven a few miles to St. Ignance, turned around, and come back on the west side, but I was afraid that the light would change before I could do that. So, I grabbed my camera bag, and ran across 4 lanes of I 75 traffic to get these shots as the sun came out and hit the bridge.

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

I then walked back to my Forester, crossing I 75 on foot again, went into St. Ignance to buy a sub, then came back to watch the sunset….

St. Ignance sunset

St. Ignance sunset

…and photograph the bridge at night, when it is all lit up.

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge at night

Mackinac Bridge at night

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Photographing the bridge at night was a great way for me to learn how to use the mirror lock up and self timer to prevent any camera shake. That served me well while shooting the sunrises and sunsets from the last post.

This is but one of many posts from my vacation, here are links to the other posts I’ve done so far.

My vacation in the UP, the highlights

My vacation in the UP, Sunrise, sunset

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


My vacation in the UP, Sunrise, sunset

Sorting through all the photos I shot last week is a chore, a lot less fun that shooting them in the first place. 😉

I have a number that weren’t taken at any big name location, these will be of the sunset and sunset photos that I shot at the small campgrounds that I stayed in, or while on the road in the evening. I hope that you enjoy them.

I’ll start with two sunset photos that I shot while eating supper in a county park in Negaunee, Michigan.

Sunset over Teal Lake, Negaunee, Michigan

Sunset over Teal Lake, Negaunee, Michigan

Sunset over Teal Lake, Negaunee, Michigan

Sunset over Teal Lake, Negaunee, Michigan

Next up is a series of a sunrise that I shot at Emily’s Lake State Forest Campground, which is south of Houghton, Michigan.

Sunrise over Emily's Lake, south of Houghton, Michigan

Sunrise over Emily’s Lake, south of Houghton, Michigan

Sunrise over Emily's Lake, south of Houghton, Michigan

Sunrise over Emily’s Lake, south of Houghton, Michigan

Sunrise over Emily's Lake, south of Houghton, Michigan

Sunrise over Emily’s Lake, south of Houghton, Michigan

Sunrise over Emily's Lake, south of Houghton, Michigan

Sunrise over Emily’s Lake, south of Houghton, Michigan

Sunrise over Emily's Lake, south of Houghton, Michigan

Sunrise over Emily’s Lake, south of Houghton, Michigan

Sunrise over Emily's Lake, south of Houghton, Michigan

Sunrise over Emily’s Lake, south of Houghton, Michigan

Sunrise over Emily's Lake, south of Houghton, Michigan

Sunrise over Emily’s Lake, south of Houghton, Michigan

I wanted fall foliage shots, this was close to the best I could do.

On M69 in the middle of no where

On M69 in the middle of no where

That is, until I shot these three of a haymarsh along US 2, somewhere west of Escanaba, Michigan.

On US 2 west of Escanaba, Michigan

On US 2 west of Escanaba, Michigan

On US 2 west of Escanaba, Michigan

On US 2 west of Escanaba, Michigan

On US 2 west of Escanaba, Michigan

On US 2 west of Escanaba, Michigan

For this next series, I shot a sunrise over a bay on Lake Michigan, at Portage Bay State Forest Campground. I really like this series, it isn’t the greatest sunrise, but I pivoted the tripod back and forth to catch the sun as it rose over the lake. As the sun would peek a little higher over the lake, I would pivot the camera on the tripod and catch the sunshine as it struck the plants and trees on the shoreline. A time-lapse of sorts, that I am especially proud of. It isn’t the most beautiful sunrise ever captured on camera, but I think that I did a great job of showing how quickly and how much the lighting changes during a sunrise.

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

Sunrise over Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) east of Garden, Michigan

There have been times in my life when I’ve considered relocating to another part of the country, but you know what? Those thoughts have come to an end. I am truly blessed to live in Michigan!

The political and business climate isn’t always the best here, but one thing remains constant, access to some of nature’s most beautiful scenery and wildlife. The residents of Michigan have always placed a high value on not only preserving the natural beauty of the state, but also providing access to nature, which is why Michigan has more public land than any other state east of the Mississippi River, and why our system of state parks and forests is the largest in the country.

I was the only person staying in Portage Bay Campground that night and morning, but, there were plenty of other eyes that saw this sunrise….

Gull at sunrise

Gull at sunrise

Gull at sunrise

Gull at sunrise

Gull at sunrise

Gull at sunrise

Gull at sunrise

Gull at sunrise

Flaming gull

Flaming gull

…not only were there gulls….

The eagle is landing

The eagle is landing

I hate to brag, but having two camera bodies sure came in handy on this morning! While one was set up on the tripod for the sunrise landscapes, I was shooting the gulls and eagle with the other with the Beast attached to it.

That goes along with a shot from the highlight post I did, of an eagle flying over Emily’s Lake as I was setting up to do that series of sunrise photos. Two sunrises, two bad eagle photos, and there’s more to come in future posts as well. But, how cool is it when you can be standing on a beautiful beach all alone, watching a beautiful sunrise, and see eagles flying over with regularity? I do love Michigan!

Here’s a link to part one of the series of posts on my vacation to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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


My vacation in the UP, the highlights

I’m home a day early from my planned vacation. For one thing, I have a huge task ahead of me sorting photos. For another, I also had a lot of stuff to do when I got home, so it made more sense to cut my vacation a little short, and not have to rush around on Sunday to complete everything. And, as I always seem to do, I ran myself ragged trying to hit every spot in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in just one week. By Thursday morning, I was so worn out that I couldn’t even remember how to operate some of the features of my camera.

I was up at first light every morning, and on the go until after sunset, which is when I did most of the distance driving that I did, rather than the short hops between photo ops that I did during the day. You’ll get an idea when you see the photos.

Well, I’m not going to list excuses, but I’m going to post of few of the photos that I shot this week, and I think you’ll see that I was on the go all day, every day. Most of the subjects in the photos required hiking, from 1/4 mile up to 3 1/2 miles one way, 7 miles round trip. I think that I averaged 10 miles per day on my feet.

I slept in my Forester, which saved time messing with my tent. It was cramped, but it worked. Subaru makes a terrific vehicle, I averaged 30 MPG for the trip, which included a lot of twisty, hilly, dirt and gravel roads. The Forester handled the back roads with its typical sure-footed nimble handling due to its excellent all wheel drive system. Enough of the advertising.

I shot well over 1,000 photos, this post will serve as a highlight reel for what’s to come.

Mackinac City Lighthouse

Mackinac City Lighthouse

McGulpin's Point Lighthouse

McGulpin’s Point Lighthouse

Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Bridge

Tahquamenon River sunrise

Tahquamenon River sunrise

Lower Tahquamenon Falls

Lower Tahquamenon Falls

Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Grand Sable Dunes

Grand Sable Dunes

Au Sable Point Lighthouse

Au Sable Point Lighthouse

Chapel Falls

Chapel Falls

Miner's Rock

Miner’s Rock

Munising Falls

Munising Falls

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Teal Lake sunset

Teal Lake sunset

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse

Eagle in the early morning fog

Eagle in the early morning fog

Emily's Lake sunrise

Emily’s Lake sunrise

Just a lake

Just a lake

Fort Wilkins State Historic Park

Fort Wilkins State Historic Park

Rocky Lake Superior shoreline

Rocky Lake Superior shoreline

Lake of the Clouds

Lake of the Clouds

Porcupine Mountains State Park sunset

Porcupine Mountains State Park sunset

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) sunrise

Portage Bay (Lake Michigan) sunrise

Raven in flight

Raven in flight

Spruce grouse

Spruce grouse

Red-breasted nuthatch

Red-breasted nuthatch

Otter

Otter

Flaming gull

Flaming gull

Lapland Longspur

Lapland Longspur

Not bad for just the tip of the proverbial iceberg so to speak.

I’m still deciding if I should post by day of the week that I was up there, or do posts on lighthouses, waterfalls, wildlife, bridges, parks, etc. No matter how I do it, I have enough photos to last me for quite a few posts.

I had wished for more color in the foliage, but green isn’t a bad color for backgrounds, it beats bare trees all to heck.

I had hoped for more wildlife, but one can’t have everything.

So, I need time to sort and organize, I hope that you have enjoyed this teaser of sorts.

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


Bonaparte’s Gull, Chroicocephalus philadelphia

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.

Bonaparte’s Gull, Chroicocephalus philadelphia

The Bonaparte’s Gull is a small gull, larger only than the Little Gull and the Saunders’s Gull among all gull species. Adults are 28–38 cm (11–15 in) long with a 76–84 cm (30–33 in) wingspan and a body mass of 162–270 g (5.7–9.5 oz). They have a black hood and a short thin dark bill. The body is mainly white with pale grey back and upper wings. The under wing is pale and the wing tips are dark. They have pink legs. In winter, the head is white.

In their first summer, the appearance of Bonaparte’s Gull is similar to that in its first winter, but paler due to wear. Fewer than 5% of Bonaparte’s Gulls acquire a dark hood in their first summer, and on those that do, the hood is duller than on breeding adults.

Their breeding habitat is near bogs or lakes in coniferous forest across western Canada and Alaska. They nest in conifers, sometimes on the ground.

They are migratory and most move east or west to coastal waters, also the Great Lakes. They are rare vagrants to western Europe, where they usually associate with the somewhat larger Black-headed Gulls.

These birds forage in flight or pick up objects while swimming or wading. They mainly eat insects, crustaceans and fish. Unlike some other gulls, this bird rarely scavenges.

They are graceful in flight, more like terns. They were named after Prince Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a zoologist and nephew of Napoleon.

On to my photos:

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull

Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull

Bonaparte's Gull in flight

Bonaparte’s Gull in flight

Adult Bonaparte's gull

Adult Bonaparte’s gull

Adult Bonaparte's gull

Adult Bonaparte’s gull

Adult Bonaparte's gull

Adult Bonaparte’s gull

This is number 125 in my photo life list, only 225 to go!

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

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One for the road, a few teasers

The weather this morning was to nice not to go for a walk. I did have to go to the bank for spending cash for my vacation, then I stopped at the camera store for the spare battery for my camera bodies, and I called Cabela’s to check on the status of the tent cot that I ordered. It’s not here, things are looking grim in that respect, looks like I’ll be stuck using my big tent.

Anyway, the teasers aren’t of great landscape shots of the type I hope to get while on vacation, it was these darned flickers.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

There was a flock of the flickers, and they all seemed to be taking a few minutes to preen their feathers. However, they all found places to do so that caused me fits, with either shadows or branches messing up what could have been great shots. As it is, they’re still very good shots, for the most part.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

I had a great view of the last one, but as I was pressing the shutter release, it ducked its head behind the branch, darn.

I actually saw the flickers towards the middle of a very good day of walking and photography, here’s the rest of the photos from today in the order that I shot them, starting with a hen turkey. I don’t photograph the hens very often, as their colors are a little duller than that of the Toms. But, when I can get a head shot of a hen without cropping, I won’t pass it up.

Hen turkey

Hen turkey

I zoomed out for this next one.

Hen turkeys

Hen turkeys

The weather was nice, and since there were a couple of examples of the fall colors to photograph, I did so. I bought the first 60D this spring, I haven’t had a chance to try any fall foliage photos, and I thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of what I saw today to zero in on the correct exposure. I was close.

Fall foliage

Fall foliage

Fall foliage

Fall foliage

Even though the only lens I took with me today was the Beast, I couldn’t resist photographing a few of the last of this years sweet pea flowers.

Sweet peas

Sweet peas

I’ve been trying not to fall back on shooting mallards all the time, but when this dapper dude duck posed for me, I had to photograph him.

Male mallard

Male mallard

There were a number of praying mantises around today, here’s my best shot, which I got by laying flat on my belly, hoping that the cyclists wouldn’t take advantage of my position to run over me. Notice how short the depth of field is when I zoom the Beast to 500 mm.

Praying mantis

Praying mantis

And finally, I’ve been trying all summer to get really close to a male goldfinch for a photo while they’re still in their breeding plumage. I got close to one today, but it has already molted. This one is not cropped at all.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

I cropped this one slightly.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

That’s it for the day.

My Forester is packed other than my food and camera gear, which I’ll pack tomorrow morning. I’ve changed my plans slightly, I’m not going to start as early as originally planned. I’ll wait until Cabela’s opens, give them a call to see if my order arrived, if it has, I’ll stop there as I head out, if not, I’m off for the week.

The weather forecast for the week is looking great! No rain at all until next Friday night and Saturday. The nights are forecast to be frosty the first few mornings, with pleasant afternoon highs, perfect as far as I’m concerned. This is going to be a great week no matter what. It was nice enough today knowing that I don’t have to worry about time or going to work for the next week, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy this week!

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


My Week, the good life!

Saturday

I’m sitting here drinking my coffee, getting ready to head over to Aman Park for the day, and catching up on some of the blogs that I follow. Next week at this time, I’ll be packing for my vacation. Things are going well for me right now, so much better than what they have for the few years, life is good again.

I have my Subaru Forester, rather than the old junk Explorer that I could no longer rely on. I’m in the process of putting together an excellent kit of photo gear, with two solid, dependable bodies, and quality lenses to use on them. I can afford to take a week of vacation, and I’m really going to enjoy it! That’s just the tip of the iceberg, there’s no need to recount everything.

I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to return from vacation with some excellent landscape photos, I have a plan in mind as to where I’m going to go, but those plans may change. You see, it doesn’t really matter if I come home with great photos or not, I’m not going to worry about that, or I’ll spoil my first vacation in years.

I’m going to enjoy my time outdoors away from it all. Modern life imposes more than enough deadlines and commitments on us, there’s no need for me to create more self-imposed ones to that list. It’s been so long since I’ve taken a vacation that I have forgotten that part, up until the past few days. It will be so soothing to walk around in what comes close to a wilderness area again, rather than my daily walks listening to the traffic on the expressway roar past me all the time. To smell clean fresh air, and not the exhaust of vehicles. I really don’t want to hold myself to any type of schedule, or to place unrealistic expectations on this vacation. My life is looking pretty good now, I’d like to keep it that way.

Sunday

I was up before dawn, I love sunrises, much more than sunsets. The promise of a new day, rather than looking back on a day that is coming to an end. Too bad that I couldn’t see the sunrise this morning due to the clouds.

Back when my family used to go camping, I was always the first one up, and I’d be out exploring the new day long before my parents or siblings got up. I was going to be quick in getting something for breakfast and be on my walk already, but there’s rain heading this way, and there’s no way that I could have gotten in my entire walk before the rain arrives.

I may as well relax, and wait for the rain to get here, since I don’t mind walking in the rain. In fact, I like walking in the rain. According to the radar, it’s raining here right now, but when I look out the window, it’s still dry. It’s getting bad when one can’t even trust the radar.

I like this new-found sense of serenity that is coming over me of late, I didn’t complain very much about the past few heat waves, and I’m not even going to go off on a rant about how bad the weather forecasts have been the last two weeks.

Attitude is everything in life, or at least that’s the way that I’m beginning to see things. But, it’s hard to have a good attitude when you’re busting your hump and getting nowhere fast, or even worse, being swept away by the current no matter how hard that you try to fight it. Maybe it’s better to let yourself be swept away and enjoy the ride, and see where the current takes you.

Well, that’s as close as I get to being profound, I think that I’ll eat breakfast, and see where the current takes me today.

I’m back, and I learned today that I can control the weather! It’s true, I swear it!

I can make it rain by simply taking my camera out of its protective covering. I can make the rain stop by putting the camera away. I can control how hard it rains by the hood of my rain jacket. If I have the hood up, the rain will taper off to nothing. When I lower the hood, the rain will increase in intensity.

It’s not only precipitation that I can control, it’s also the wind. No matter how calm it is, all I have to do is point the lens of my camera at a flower, and a good breeze will rise up out of nowhere. I can make the wind go calm again by simply walking farther away from the flower than I have the willingness to walk back to the flower when the wind does die down.

Oh wait, maybe that’s all due to Murphy’s Law, the one that says whatever can go wrong will go wrong. You know, it’s like sitting down to take a break, only to have a hawk come flying over the tree that you’re sitting under, drop down, bank just right in the light, and do a slow half circle around you as you fight the zipper of your rain jacket which has jammed for the first time in the six or seven years you owned it.

Yup, that kind of day today.

I know that with the slide show at the top of the page of the theme that I’m using now that I should start with the very best photo from the day so that it’s the one that gets put into the slide show. I have been trying to do that, but I’d better not try to fool any one that way. So, I’m going to start with my last photo from the day, even though it isn’t the technically best one, but I like this little warbler’s attitude.

Unidentified warbler

Unidentified warbler

It was looking pretty grim as far as getting any photos today, what with the on and off rain, the on and off wind, and not too many good subjects to photograph to be found. So, I shot these two just to have a couple of photos from the day no matter what. I probably should have used one of these in the slide show, but, that’s not me, or my blog. Sometimes the technically best photo doesn’t move me as much as a more interesting one does.

Fall is coming

Fall is coming

Unidentified yellow flower

Unidentified yellow flower

I’ve read Charles Darwin’s book, The Origin Of Species, and I try to keep up with the science of evolution at least to some degree, but can any one explain why there are several thousand species of small white flowers that all look like daisies, and hundreds of species of yellow flowers that all look like the one in the photo above? They all grow in the same areas and conditions, there certainly couldn’t be that many niches in the ecosystem to warrant so many species of the same flowers, could there? You’d almost have to think that God created so many of the same flowers just to keep us occupied trying to learn how to identify them all.

Anyway, the hawk that flew over me when the zipper of my rain jacket jammed took pity on me, and did a couple of fly overs later in the day.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Not bad for photos taken when there was a light rain falling! I saw the hawk make one pass over me, and I set the camera to +2/3 EV just in case it came back. I should have gone up a full stop, but it wasn’t like I had time to evaluate the exposure settings between photos. 😉

My only other photo from today is the first photo of the warbler that I shot.

Unidentified warbler

Unidentified warbler

It sure was a hungry little goomer, if you noticed, it has something in its beak in both shots.

Anyway, that’s all the photos from today, it was a very nice, quiet, enjoyable walk despite the occasional sprinkles of rain.

Monday

The clouds are lingering on. It’s funny how what was forecast on Saturday to be a slight chance of scattered afternoon showers on Sunday turned into an all day rain. I had thought about going for another walk in the evening yesterday, if the rain had ended, but it was still sprinkling at dusk. What’s even funnier is the fact that I’m getting antsy about seeing a forecast for next week while I’ll be on vacation, when I know that any forecast is more likely wrong then right.

That’s even funnier since I know that no matter what the forecast is, I’ll be packing for any type of weather, from snow and cold, to hot and dry. The weather in the UP of Michigan is even more changeable than it is down here in the flatlands. Even a slight change in wind direction can make huge differences in the weather being so close to Lake Superior. I just hope that it doesn’t rain the entire time I’m up there. That happened to me once on an extended fall fishing trip, it rained most of every day that I was up there, I spent a lot of time at laundromats drying clothes that week.

Well, time for breakfast and a walk.

I should start a new feature in my blog, my daily screw up. I make enough of them that limiting myself to choosing one per day would be the hardest part of doing that.

Because of the clouds and gloomy day, I only took the wildlife camera body today, but I had enough sense to take the tripod, knowing that as dark as it was, the tripod would be required for any flower shots. So, I get to the asters that I’ve been wanting to shoot from the tripod, set it up, went to attach the camera, but the quick release plate to mount the camera was on the other body back at home.

I improvised, by resting the barrel of the lens on top of the platform of the tripod, and managed these.

Asters

Asters

Asters

Asters

I’m not 100% happy with either of those, but they did turn out better than I expected considering how I shot them.

My only other photo from today is this wider shot of one of the fields in Creekside Park.

Early fall field

Early fall field

I saw a few birds, but didn’t bother trying for a photo given the poor lighting, the species I saw, and how far away from me they were.

I’m about to do something that I really shouldn’t do. I have a perfectly fine Columbia Bugaboo tent. But, it’s 9′ X 12′ and meant for a family. I have no trouble setting it up or taking it down by myself, and it would be OK for my vacation. However, I’m not going to be staying in one campground for the entire week of my vacation, the way I have things planned, it will be at least four campgrounds.

Having to dry and clean the big tent each morning before I can get on the road is going to seriously cut into the time that I have for other things. So, I’m about to run over to Cablela’s and see if they have one of their tent cots in stock. Since I just depleted my bank account by purchasing the second camera body, I’ll have to charge the tent, something that I didn’t want to do. But, that tent cot will be so much better not only for this vacation, but many of my other trips as well. The time consumed caring for the Bugaboo tent is one of the things that’s held me back as far as doing more weekend camping.

So, that’s it for today.

Tuesday

Well, the Cabela’s store didn’t have one of the tent cots in stock, but I ordered one, it should be here Thursday, Friday at the latest. That’s cutting it close, but I should be OK. It’s so nice having a Cabela’s store in town, I’m saving almost $40 in shipping charges by having it shipped to the store for me to pick up there.

The weather is cool, and the sun is shining here for the first time in a couple of days, so maybe I’ll get a good photo or two this morning. It’s so cool that there were frost warnings for areas just to the north, and I’m going to wear a long-sleeved shirt, now that’s cool.

I learned something new today, there’s such a thing as too much dew on flowers, which I’ll get to in a minute. But first, a goldfinch, to reward it for posing so nicely for me.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Not long after that shot, I came to a patch of small white flowers, I can’t tell you if they are daisies or asters, but they were sparkling in the sun from the heavy dew over night. I shot a few with the Beast, here’s the best of those.

Dew covered flowers

Dew covered flowers

Then I got serious, brought out body II with the 15-85 mm lens on it and shot these.

Dew covered flowers

Dew covered flowers

Dew covered flowers

Dew covered flowers

Dew covered flowers

Dew covered flowers

The dew was so heavy that these photos look as if they’re out of focus, but they’re not. I think that if the flowers had been larger, or if I could have found a single flower, that the results would have been better. But, these grow in tight clusters, so it I couldn’t find one by itself with a good background.

Next up is a mushroom, just because I haven’t been photographing many of them lately, and this one looked interesting.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

I hate to brag on my equipment too much, but this next one is one of those that amaze me. Not because it’s great, but because the Canon body and the Beast (Sigma lens) is able to get a photo as good as this despite terrible lighting.

Unidentified feline object

Unidentified feline object

An almost black cat in deep shade, hiding behind the weeds, could there be a worse subject to try for? Yeah, I know that there are, but still, that was a tough one, and my camera and lens pulled it off much better than I expected. That was shot at 1/100 second, ISO 1600, and the Beast zoomed to 250 mm.

I don’t know if it was a cat, car, or something else that caused the injury to this little guy, but he’s healing well.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

If you look closely, you can see that it has a scar that starts on the top of his head above his left eye and runs all the way to the base of his beak. It looks like it had been a serious injury, he almost lost his left eye, but fortunately, he hadn’t. I shot other photos of him that show the scar better, but because of the lighting in those photos, it did look as if he had lost his eye, and I didn’t want to post those. He acted fine, calling away in the chipper voice that goldfinches use to call to one another, and had been chowing down on seeds just before this photo, so I’m sure the little guy will be OK.

I’m going to finish the day with these two of a monarch butterfly, because these are the last two that I shot today, funny how that works.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Neither of those are “The” shot of a monarch that I hope to get someday, but the last one is close, and they’re both darned good.

I have much to do to get ready for vacation coming up, so I’d better get busy working on those things. I have to leave detailed instructions for the person replacing me that week, and also for my boss and the branch managers, seeing as they don’t have enough sense to think of what needs to be done on their own.

Wednesday

Cloudy and cool this morning, with the possibility of a few sprinkles of rain.

I’m trying to remain calm and not get too stoked about having a full week off from work to go wandering around out in the woods, but as the day approaches, that’s getting harder. The weather forecast, if it is to be believed, is for nice weather during the first half of the week at least.

I was going to carry my complete kit for the rest of this week, just to get used to it. However, with the unsettled weather in the forecast for the rest of this week, that probably isn’t a good idea. I’ll take just the L series lens today, and maybe the rest of the week, it all depends on the weather.

Time for chow.

I’m back from my walk, and I have one question, who turned up the heat? It was cool and cloudy with a few sprinkles of rain when I started, it was hot and sunny before I made back home. So hot, that I’ve shut the windows for the day.

I photographed a few flowers early while it was still cloudy, they came out OK, but I can do better, so there’s no reason to post just OK photos. Besides, I’m have trouble sorting through too many photos of a monarch butterfly that I shot. So, I guess I’ll start with a few of the Alabama Leaning Robin. It was perched in the top of a bush sunning itself as I approached it. As I got closer, it kept leaning over more and more to try to stay out of sight.

American robin

American robin

American robin

American robin

The robin decided that it should keep an eye on me as I walked behind it to continue my walk.

American robin

American robin

American robin

American robin

Any of those qualify as far as meeting my target of at least one great photo for the day. Here’s a couple of almost winners.

Garden spider

Garden spider

Asters

Asters

Well, after viewing over a dozen of the best photos of the monarch, I’ve settled on four to post. That’s really more than I would like, but I can’t decide which of these doesn’t belong here.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

I learned a few things today. I’m never going to get the shot that I want with white flowers in the background. The sun was just starting to burn through the clouds when I shot those, and already I was getting blow out in the white flowers. A darker background would have been better for the butterfly as far as going for the shot I want. I also learned that it’s darned hard to catch a butterfly in flight, and I have a few blurry photos to prove it. 😉

In my spare time this week, I’ve been packing things up for next week. One of the many advantages to having a separate wardrobe for outdoor activities is that I can pack well in advance of when I’m leaving, and, I don’t have to be in a big rush to unpack and wash everything from a trip when I get home. That, and since those clothes aren’t worn that often, they are lasting forever.

When I get home tonight, I’d better put the milk and other food items that can be frozen in the freezer. I would have done that last weekend when I bought it, but I had too much food in the freezer for it to fit. That’s rather strange for me.

I still have a little more stuff to get ready, so that’s it for today.

Thursday

Warm, humid, with showers and thunder showers popping up here and there all around the area.

I overslept this morning, not that I have any set time that I normally get up, but I was surprised when I looked at the time and saw how late it was compared to when I usually get up.

The tent cot that I ordered has been shipped, and should arrive in the store today or tomorrow, so I should be all set to go there. I shouldn’t have made that purchase, but it’s something that will not only work well for my vacation next week, but will be a lifetime type of purchase, something that will get a lot of use over the rest of my life. So, even though I shouldn’t have, I’m glad that I did buy it.

I have a basic plan as to where I’m going to go on my vacation, which I’ll share when I get back from my walk.

I’m back, and I suppose the story for today, besides the weather, is that I am easily amused and will photograph what ever amuses me. I’m going to start with a wide shot that I took just for practice since I don’t have many chances to practice on my daily walks.

Almost a landscape photo

Almost a landscape photo

Now come the shots that amused me, but will probably bore most of you. They are of a fox squirrel in action, finding a walnut and then peeling it.

Fox squirrel with lunch

Fox squirrel with lunch

I think that the squirrel’s jaw was getting tired and needed a break.

Fox squirrel with lunch

Fox squirrel with lunch

Break over, time to go!

Fox squirrel with lunch

Fox squirrel with lunch

OK, cute enough, I didn’t plan on taking any more photos of the squirrel as it scampered off into the woods. However, as I was walking through the woods, I ran into it again.

Fox squirrel with lunch

Fox squirrel with lunch

It ran a short way up the tree to a convenient stub of a dead branch, and began peeling the covering off from the walnut, and spitting the peel at me, I found it too funny not to shoot.

Fox squirrel spitting at me

Fox squirrel spitting at me

Fox squirrel with lunch

Fox squirrel with lunch

Fox squirrel spitting at me

Fox squirrel spitting at me

A little later, when I was walking across the upper parking lot in the park, there were two guys playing with their R/C trucks, and since I never turn down a chance to shoot action shots, you know what happened.

Launched

Launched

I was trying to blur the truck slightly to imply motion, I should have gone slower on the shutter speed.

For the last shot of the day, a turkey.

Turkey

Turkey

I chose the turkey as being the shot to use as wallpaper for the day. None of the photos from today are spectacular, but I could easily rave about how well my camera works under extremely trying conditions, but I won’t.

Instead, I’m going to do a run through of my plans for next week, with the caveat that these are subject to change, depending on the weather, and my mood. I have decided to bring my camp chair with me, and spend some time just relaxing in the woods. That’s something I seldom do much of lately.

Anyway, I’ll be leaving on Sunday morning, the earlier the better to avoid traffic. I’ll make it up to the Straits of Mackinac in the early afternoon. I’ll spend the rest of the day shooting mostly man-made subjects, two lighthouse and the Mackinac Bridge. I’ll be going for some sunset/moonrise photos of the bridge if things go well. I’ll spend the night at the Little Brevort Lake State Forest Campground, which is just north of the straits.

Monday, I’ll head farther north to photograph the Tahquamenon Falls, Whitefish Point, and do a little birding before heading west along the Lake Superior shore. I’m not sure how far I will make it, or where I’ll spend Monday night.

Tuesday, I should arrive at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I’ll take the boat tour in the afternoon, and the rest of my schedule for that area is up in the air, depending on how Monday goes.

Wednesday, up in the air.

Thursday and Friday I’ll be in the Porcupine Mountains to photograph the Lake of the Clouds, and as many waterfalls and landscapes as I can find. I’ll be staying at the Emily Lake State Forest Campground while in that area.

Saturday, I’ll start back towards home, stopping at the Fayette State Park, which includes a restored ghost town from the days of an iron smelting operation.

That’s an ambitious schedule to say the least. I won’t begin to take in everything that there is to see at each of the places I’m going, I know that, but have to keep reminding myself of that fact. Each place that I’m going is deserving of at least a week at least, two would be better. This will be more of a scouting trip for future excursions. I hope that I’ll be able to go back to the schedule I used to have when I was much younger, spend a week in May in the Pigeon River Country for trout fishing, and a week in the UP in the fall for the scenery. A big plus is that I miss the horrific black fly hatches in early summer that way. If you’ve ever been to the UP or southern Canada in June, you know what I mean. 😉 I also miss most of the crowds that way as well.

The job that I have now may not be great, but two weeks of vacation is getting harder to come by as companies cut benefits. As long as I can afford to take my vacations, and a few trips on weekends during the summer, I’ll be a happy camper, literally! I’ll be getting back to living the good life that I used to live before I let other things get in the way.

Friday

Cloudy, warm and humid. It’s been raining on and off for over 24 hours, although more off than on. The humidity level is so high that new showers and thunder showers continue to form, move off, and then more will reform.

I have a good deal of my stuff packed already, just a few more things to go. The weather forecast for next week is looking good, maybe too good. There’s not supposed to be any rain from Sunday until Friday at the earliest, so hopefully I’ll be able to get some good photos while on vacation.

I still haven’t heard from Cabela’s about the tent cot, which has me a bit worried, hopefully, they will pull through before I leave. It was rather silly of me to wait til the last minute to order it, when I’ve had my eye on it for months. Well, live and learn, I sure hope that I don’t have to deal with setting up and tearing down my full size tent everyday next week. If I do, it will have been my own fault.

I’m back from my walk, the bad news is that the dark dreary skies put a crimp on photography. The good news is that I’m learning to get some very good shots in any weather. I hate to post another photo of a fox squirrel, but it isn’t as if I can command the animal kingdom to provide me with different subjects on a rotating basis, I have to shoot what I can see.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Hard to believe that I was dodging raindrops when I shot that one.

Here’s one of my unexplainable observations. When I tried out the second camera body, the 70-200 mm L series lens seemed to perform much better on it than what it had on the first body, as far as auto-focus accuracy and being able to pick a subject out from the fore and backgrounds. Since using that lens on body II, it now seems to work much better on body I, here’s an example.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

As you can see, I didn’t have a clear opening to shoot through, and as dark as it was, I had little hope of those photos being usable. I don’t know why the L series lens continues to improve in its performance, but I’m glad that it is.

I didn’t see many birds today, other than the huge flock of starlings in the park that seems to grow larger everyday. Could this be the reason?

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

It took me a dozen shots to get those three, but it was worth it. I’m getting a better handle on the exposure settings needed for birds in flight on cloudy days all the time. It helps a lot when the birds circle me repeatedly, as this hawk, the red-tailed earlier this week, and the turkey vultures last week all did.

My last shot of the day, this week, and this post is of a song sparrow, just because.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Not a bad week, even if there were only two sunny days this week.

I see that gas prices jumped up 30 cents a gallon, of course, I’m going on vacation, so you had to know that would happen. But, I filled up at the lower price, so I have a little consolation there.

One camera battery is charging for next week, as soon as it is fully charged, I’ll do the second one. Just about everything else except for the food that goes in the cooler is set to go, but I will have to stop at the store on my way home from work for the last food items that I’ll be taking with me next week.

Well, that’s it for today, and for the week. If I go for a walk tomorrow, I’ll be carrying the Poweshot camera, as both of the good cameras are charged and packed for the trip. I won’t be online for the entire week next week, but I do have a


Pectoral Sandpiper, Calidris melanotos

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.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Calidris melanotos

The Pectoral Sandpiper is a small, migratory wader that breeds in North America and Asia, wintering in South America and Oceania. It eats small invertebrates. Its nest, a hole scraped in the ground and with a thick lining, is deep enough to protect its four eggs from the cool breezes of its breeding grounds. The pectoral sandpiper is 21 cm long, with a wingspan of 46 cm.

The Pectoral Sandpiper is a largish calidrid (21 cm in length, with a wingspan of 46 cm) with a grey-brown back, brownest in the summer male, and greyest in winter. The Pectoral Sandpiper has a grey breast, sharply demarcated at its lower edge, which gives this species its English name; this clear dividing line is particularly conspicuous if the birds are turned towards the observer. The legs are yellowish, and the bill is olive with a darker tip.

The juveniles are more brightly patterned above with rufous coloration and white mantle stripes.

It is a very long-distance migrant, and about half of the species breeds in the boggy tundra of northeast Asia, the rest nesting in a range from Alaska to central Canada. The American and most of the Asian birds winter in South America, but some Asian breeders winter in southern and Australia and New Zealand. On migration and in winter, the Pectoral Sandpiper is typically found in freshwater habitats.

These birds forage on grasslands and mudflats, picking up food by sight, sometimes by probing. They mainly eat arthropods and other invertebrates. The male has a courtship display which involves puffing up his breast, which has a fat sac in the breeding season to enhance his performance.

On to my photos:

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral sandpiper

Pectoral sandpiper

Pectoral sandpiper

Pectoral sandpiper

Pectoral sandpiper

Pectoral sandpiper

This is number 124 in my photo life list, only 226 to go!

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

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Aman Park in September

Aman Park is a bit of an odd duck, it is a City of Grand Rapids park, even though it is several miles outside the city limits. Since it’s close to the city, it’s a nice place to go and spend the day walking the trails, looking for birds, wildflowers, and whatever else catches your eye. Aman Park’s biggest claim to fame are the acres of early spring wildflowers, particularly trillium. It’s also a good spot for birding in the spring when the birds, especially warblers, are migrating through the area.

Since it’s September, I knew that I wouldn’t find any trillium, I was hoping for warblers. I saw quite a few, but all the birds were being ornery today, and the warblers were no exception.

Today was also the first day that I carried both of my camera bodies, with one set for birding, and the other for scenery and close-ups. That went quite well for the first day, although not at all as I expected. It was kind of a weird day, I thought that I was “forcing” shots, that is, just shooting things to come up with a few photos at times, or that I was just fooling around at other times. After downloading the photos to my computer, I was surprised at how well I had done.

I had just made to the first bridge across Sand Creek, which runs through the park, when I found a few flowers to start with, so I set the Beast (Sigma Lens) down, and got out body II with the 15-85 mm lens on it for these shots.

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

I liked the background colors, but I also took a better close-up.

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

I packed body II away, crossed the bridge, and found these.

Unidentified berry

Unidentified berry

Well, that packing the second body away each time wasn’t going to work, I could tell that already. So, I carried it around my neck and carried the Beast by the tripod mount, as I always do. That worked quite well, even if it sounds awkward. Oh, I should have gone down a full stop on the berry, I shot that one at -2/3 EV, but the hot pink shell was too hot even at that exposure.

The Beast does OK for things other than birds.

Fall is coming

Fall is coming

But the 15-85 mm is better for close-ups.

Grass seed head

Grass seed head

I was hearing and seeing birds, but getting a photo of any of them proved difficult all day. I thought that this was a ovenbird when I saw it, but it turns out that it is a lifer for me, a worm-eating warbler. It gets its name from the fact that its primary food source is caterpillars, which many people mistakenly call worms.

Ovenbird

Worm-eating warbler

Shot two of rapid fire was of tail feathers as it flew away.

I should have used my tripod more often, I shot this one handheld because I didn’t think that the green flowers would look very good, I was wrong, but that happens a lot.

Unidentified green flowers

Unidentified green flowers

After seeing that photo, I wished that I had set-up the tripod, as I was battling the shade most of the day, not just for that shot. The foliage in the park was a lot more lush, green, and thick than I expected it to be. Here’s a few examples that I shot for the heck of it.

The forest closing in on me

The forest closing in on me

Green

Green

One of the larger clearings

One of the larger clearings

What most of my day looked like

What most of my day looked like

The birds were taking full advantage of all that greenery and doing their best to hide.

Female hairy woodpecker

Female hairy woodpecker

Female Wilson's warbler

Female Wilson’s warbler

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

The birds even had a scout spying on me to let the rest of them know where I was.

The lookout

The lookout

Since the birds didn’t want to cooperate, and I wasn’t finding many flowers, I turned to fungi and oddities. I had to use the flash on this first one.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

While taking a break, I looked down to see these on the bottom of a leaf. I’m not sure if they are tiny mushrooms, or some other type of growth.

Unidentified fungal objects?

Unidentified fungal objects?

This one was large enough that I had no problem seeing it.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

I saw what I thought was a gall on a leaf at first glance, but closer inspection showed me that it was a beech nut that had fallen, and the stem of the “nut” had impaled the leaf seen here.

Beechnut

Beech nut

That must happen regularly, as I found another on a lower leaf.

Beechnut

Beech nut

At one point as I was walking along Sand Creek, I saw a leaf floating downstream, of course I had to shoot it.

Floating leaf

Floating leaf

I stood there for a while, hoping for a red leaf to come floating towards me, instead, I got another yellow one, with two water striders hitching a ride.

Floating leaf and waterstriders

Floating leaf and water striders

Now for the last photo from today. I spotted an interesting fungus from a distance, and knew that I had to get a photo of it. Where it was growing presented a bit of a problem, but I looked the situation over, set-up my tripod for the best angle on some very uneven ground, and started to line the camera up. There were some weeds in the way, so I started pulling them out of the ground to get them out of the way. I was about to reach for another of the weeds when I noticed that it had three leaves. Oh-oh!

I checked the ones I had pulled, three leaves.

I don’t think that I’m allergic to poison ivy, but I wasn’t sure if the weeds I had been pulling were poison ivy, poison oak, or something else. No way that I was going to lay down in whatever it was for a photo, it was bad enough that I was standing in a patch of the three leaved weeds.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

I took one shot, and got the heck out of there. BTW, that was shot at a full second as far as the shutter speed, that’s how dark it was there in the shade.

I went over to the creek and rinsed my hands off as well as I could with plain water, I don’t know if that prevented me from having a reaction to whatever the three leaved plants were, or if they are harmless to begin with.

All in all, a pretty good day, I really enjoyed the cooler weather today, and there really weren’t very many people at Aman Park today. That surprised me, it can be very crowded on the weekends. I didn’t get any spectacular photos, but I got a few good ones, a few interesting ones, and a few fun ones, what more could I ask for?

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


My Week, more planning, and some testing

Sunday

Cloudy and breezy this morning, I’d call it cool, but the humidity seems to be quite high making it feel warmer than it really is. I’m going to do the extended version of my daily walk around home, then work on my plans for my vacation which is coming up shortly.

Clouds and wind are not the photographer’s friend! At least that’s the way that it goes for me. I saw a few flowers that were past their prime, and made a few half-hearted attempts to photograph them. As is usually the case, half-hearted attempts result in half-you know what photos. The only shot of wildflowers that came out well is this one.

Evening primrose

Evening primrose

They were so pretty that I had to shoot them, and I considered switching lenses and using the tripod, but I couldn’t find a good angle that would have given me the background for them that I wanted. So, I did my best with the Beast, knowing that there are many of them around, and I can do better with better lighting on another day.

One other flower photo, just because this one lone flower was the only part of the entire plant that didn’t look dead.

Knapweed

Knapweed

I thought that those two were going to be the only photos from the day, but I was wrong, not that the rest of these are great. But, this was a case where I shot the photos to record something about bird behavior.

Last week, I posted a couple of photos of bluebirds. There were also a few house finches in the same area as the bluebirds, but I thought nothing of it at the time.

But today, as I was leaving the park, I saw what I thought were a couple of bluebirds land in a tree a good distance ahead of me. I was able to get an OK photo of the bluebird.

Eastern bluebird

Eastern bluebird

But if you look to the lower left part of the photo, you can see a male house finch close to the bluebird, here they are together.

Eastern bluebird and house finch

Eastern bluebird and house finch

They both took off right after that shot. But, looking to my left, I saw a juvenile bluebird, and went for a shot of it. The photos of it that I took with the hazy white sky behind the bluebird didn’t turn out well at all, but this one taken after he had landed on the ground to look for a snack is a little better.

Juvenile eastern bluebird

Juvenile eastern bluebird

To my surprise, another house finch landed near the bluebird to see what the bluebird was up to.

Juvenile eastern bluebird and male house finch

Juvenile eastern bluebird and male house finch

The young bluebird subdued his prey, then went off to enjoy its lunch.

Juvenile eastern bluebird

Juvenile eastern bluebird

As soon as the bluebird left, a number of house finches landed in that same spot, as if searching for food. Something spooked them, I don’t think that it was me, since they started out coming straight at me.

House finches in flight

House finches in flight

I would say that I was attempting to one up Mr. Tootlepedal by getting a workweek’s worth of flying birds of the day in one shot, but his photos put mine to shame.

OK, bluebirds are of the thrush family, and their diet is primarily insects. House finches are of course finches, and their diet is primarily seeds. So, why are the finches hanging around and following the bluebirds?

The “rules” as to what each species feed on is not hard and fast by any means, I’ve seen bluebirds eating berries in the early spring when they first arrive here, as there are few insects readily available. I’ve seen finches of all species eating insects, especially when they are raising young. But, I wouldn’t expect finches to follow bluebirds in an effort to find insects, as bluebirds search for “targets of opportunity” rather than heavy concentrations of insects.

If I saw finches and bluebirds together once, I’d think nothing of it, but this seems to be an ongoing thing right now.

I’ve seen relatively smaller birds hang out in flocks of larger birds very often. Wood ducks will “hide” in with a flock of mallards. Mallards will “hide” in a flock of geese, and so on. Is that what’s going on with the bluebirds and finches? That doesn’t seem likely.

The only thing that I can think of is that caterpillars are one of the favorite foods of bluebirds, and many species of caterpillars are plant specific, that is, the caterpillars feed on one type of plant. Could it be that the finches watch the bluebirds to see when a bluebird finds a particular species of caterpillar, and that by that, the finches know where to find the plants that produce the seeds that the finches prefer to eat? That doesn’t seem very efficient to me.

Oh well, it’s one of those questions that only some one like myself who has no real life would even ask.

As happens all too often, I was just about home when the sunshine finally began poking through the clouds. At the same time, a pair of vultures began circling me, at a very low altitude. (Guess what’s coming!)

I wasn’t happy with the shots that posted yesterday of the eagles or falcons, not as sharp as I would have liked, and not exposed properly either. Part of that was because I had adjusted the brightness of the LCD display of my camera, I tried setting it back today, but I have to be able to see it when I try to use it, so I’m going to have to live with it brighter, and adjust the exposure by going up 1/3 stop above what looks good on the display.

Since vultures are colored much the same as eagles, I thought that the two vultures circling me today would make good practice candidates.

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Those were all shot with the optical stabilization turned off, zoomed to 500 mm, not cropped at all, and +2/3 EV. I think that I’m about ready for some more eagles!

Turning the optical stabilization off is the key, that, and good light. I could have backed the zoom down from 500 mm and still filled the frame with the vultures, and the photos would have been even sharper had I done that.

If I can get good bird in flight photos out of the Beast (Sigma lens), then, there’s a lot less reason for me to purchase the 300 mm L series prime telephoto lens any time soon, and I’m getting close, really close! I think that I still have adjustments that I can make to the camera to get my photos of birds in flight even sharper yet when using the Beast.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the weight of the Beast, there would be little reason for me to consider purchasing a long prime telephoto lens at all.

Something just hit me, my current “bad” photos of birds in flight are better than most of my best photos of them taken with my old Nikon! It’s funny how good equipment can spoil a person so quickly.

Why is any of this important? Well, I’m going to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for my vacation in two weeks. And, there are species of wildlife and birds that I would love to get photos of. Here’s a few examples, wolves, moose, otters, and other mammals, sharp-tailed and spruce grouse, as far as birds, just to name a few. I would love to keep the Beast on the camera so I’d be ready for any wildlife.

However, I’ll be shooting mostly landscapes and waterfalls, which will require that I use my shorter lenses, and completely different camera settings. It would be so much easier to have two bodies, one for wildlife, and one for scenery, so that I wouldn’t have to be switching everything back and forth all the time.

Well, I’ve talked myself into buying a second 60D body before I go on vacation, as if there were any doubt. 😉

I’ll leave the Beast on one, with the camera settings all set to go for wildlife, and I think that I will program the user setable mode for birds in flight. I can set the ISO and aperture, and let the camera set the highest shutter speed possible for those settings, and see how that works.

I’ll have the second body set to take scenery shots, with the user setable mode set for use on the tripod.

That way, there’s a lot less chance of me blowing an opportunity for good photos, maybe the opportunity of a lifetime. If I see a wolf, I’m quite likely to forget that I have the camera set wrong for the shot presented to me, if that were to happen.

Then, next spring, I’ll purchase a true macro lens, probably the Tokina 100 mm f/2.8, unless I hit the lotto before then. I may be all set to go as far as equipment by that point, we’ll see.

Not to rush things, but I suppose that I should pick up the second body this week. It will take me at least one night after work to get all the settings the way that I want them. And, I would like to use the second body some to make sure that everything is OK with it before I trust it on my vacation. I don’t know about you, but I’ve read a few horror stories from people who took brand new photography equipment on a vacation of a lifetime. My vacation may not be one of a lifetime, but I prefer not to add a horror story of my own to the list that’s already out there.

Monday

It would be nice if meteorologists could get the 12 hour forecast correct!

I was jolted out of bed this morning by thunderstorms, which were not in the forecast last evening when I checked. I don’t mind the fact that it’s raining, or that there are thunderstorms, but I’d like to know what the weather is going to be like so that I can plan my days. A quick check of the news tells me that there is a severe thunderstorm warning for the area, and a flash flood advisory as well.

OK, I’ve had a cup of coffee, and closed the windows of my apartment to hold the rain cooled air inside today. It still ticks me off about the weather forecasts being at least slightly incorrect the past three days. I probably wouldn’t have gone to Muskegon on Saturday if I had known that there were going to be sprinkles of rain off and on during the morning and early afternoon. I managed some good photos despite the cloud cover, but I would have preferred more sunshine.

Yesterday was much cloudier than forecast, but that didn’t really affect me that much, since I stayed home and walked around here.

I went to bed early last night, planning on getting up early, and getting my walk in before the heat began to build. But, now I’m sitting here babbling away, waiting for the rain to clear the area. There’s one more thunderstorm headed this way that I’m going to wait out.

So, I’ll add a couple more reasons why a second camera body makes good sense. For one thing, it reduces the wear and tear that occurs when using just one body. I shoot a lot of photos, I wore out the shutter of the old Nikon that I had. By spreading the load over two bodies, I’m a lot less likely to send another camera to an early demise. It’s also nice to have a back up, just in case one camera were to quit functioning for some reason. That’s no big deal around home, but it is added insurance when I go on trips somewhere, like my up coming vacation.

Well, that last storm just brushed the area, time to go out and see how much rain did fall.

A lot of rain fell! The creeks were running higher and faster than they have since the spring floods, which is good, we needed the rain.

I hit my target of getting at least one photo good enough to use as wallpaper on the desktop of my computer, despite the dreary weather. Here’s the first.

Oxeye sunflower

ox-eye sunflower

I’m quite surprised how well those held up in the storm, almost all the other flowers I saw today had been beaten to a pulp by the heavy rain.

By getting out there right after the rains had passed, I saw a good deal many more birds than I have of late. However, must of the time they were in shade so dark that photos were impossible. I did squeak out a couple though.

Juvenile song sparrow?

Juvenile song sparrow?

Juvenile song sparrow?

Juvenile song sparrow?

During the time that I was shooting those, there was a catbird posing for the camera, so I turned my lens on it from time to time as a reward for its cooperation.

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Both of those are good, but I like the second one a little better, because the look on the catbirds face, and how well the colors of its feather turned out.

I think that I have prattled on enough over the last two days, and those are the only photos from today. Monday is the day that I visit my mother in the nursing home. I also have to stop at a drugstore to have a prescription filled, and to pick up a few essential items. Since I am out and about anyway, it seems like a good time to make a stop at the camera store as well.

Addendum: I did purchase the second 60D body this afternoon. I had just enough time before work to unpack it, and start the battery charging. However, when I arrived home from work tonight, the battery wasn’t charged. I had placed the battery in the charger that came with the first body, I thought it may have been the problem, so I got the new charger out, and tried it. The battery didn’t begin charging the first few times that I plugged it in, it took some playing to get it to work. It seems to be charging now.

I hope that I didn’t jinx myself by saying that you should test new equipment before going on vacation!

But, this little experience also tells me that having two identical bodies will be much easier than two dissimilar bodies. The two 60D’s take the same batteries and storage devices to record the photos on. I picked up a “slow” 32 GB SD card for the landscape body, and a second high-speed 16 GB card for the wildlife body. In a pinch, all the cards will work in either bodies, as will a spare battery when I get one, the store was out today.

Tuesday

Hot and nasty, and I’m talking about the weather, not my ex. 😉

Places very close to me received 3 to 5 inches of rain from the storms yesterday, not bad for storms that weren’t in the forecast.

With all that rain yesterday, and the heat building in, it was extremely steamy yesterday, and it will only be worse today. I’d be tempted to sit inside and run the AC to stay cool, but I have a new camera to test.

After my little scare with the battery not charging at first yesterday, everything seems OK now. The real test will occur when I have to recharge it.

I have the second body set the same as the first for right now, I’ll use it all this week, then reset what I need to for landscapes and close-ups this weekend, after I’m sure that everything functions as it should.

I’m back from my walk, and I didn’t have the new body set up exactly the same as the older one. I got about half way done with my walk, and I was thinking that either the viewfinder of the new body wasn’t as sharp as the first one, or that the auto-focus was off a touch. Then it hit me, I forgot to adjust the diopter to my eyesight, silly goose! A few seconds at a convenient sign took care of that.

When I sat down to take a break in the shade, and review the photos I had taken so far, I realized that I hadn’t set the date or time, idiot!

I had remembered to set the offsets for all three lenses, and everything else, I think, but now I’m not so sure. I must be close. There’s nothing new here in my photos from today, in fact, I did that on purpose to compare the two bodies and to make sure that I had the settings correct. And, since this was a test day, I thought that I may as well start with something difficult to get the exposure correct on, like these “hot” petunias.

Petunias

Petunias

Notice the difference between the petunias and these leaves, even though the colors are close.

Fall is coming

Fall is coming

I put the polarizing filter on for this next one.

ox-eye sunflower

ox-eye sunflower

I love the effect that the polarizing filter has on these flowers!

The new body also does well on “macro” shots.

Grasshopper

Grasshopper

The only one that I’m not pleased with is this polar tree. I tried the preprogrammed landscape setting for that shot. That’s not to say that the landscape setting doesn’t have possibilities, it may once I try it a few more times. That mode overrides all the presets that I have set up, including exposure compensation, which is where I blew that shot. I had the camera set to -2/3 EV before I changed the mode, and when I changed the mode, the camera reset itself to 0. Oh well, live and learn.

Poplar turning yellow

Poplar turning yellow

I shouldn’t have played around and tried a new to me mode of shooting. I thought for a second or two that I had made a mistake purchasing a second body, as going to landscape mode made most of the changes to the camera settings that I would make for a scenery shot. However, it doesn’t change lenses, nor does it allow the user to change many of the camera settings for creativity or to overcome difficult lighting situations.

I didn’t try the live view on the new body, the wind was too strong today, so I shot this handheld, not a true test, but close.

Downy lobelia

Downy lobelia

No test would be complete without at least one bird. I should have brought the Beast, but it was too darned hot to lug that thing around today. Besides, this second body may never get to know the Beast, so there’s not much reason to test that combo.

Unidentified warbler getting lunch

Unidentified warbler getting lunch

I mentioned that the wind was strong, too strong for a really good shot of this aster.

Aster

Aster

I tried to get a shot of this bumblebee in flight, but it was in no mood to play today, so I shot it on a flower.

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

That’s it for the photos from today, I think that I can safely say that the new body passed the tests even with my screw ups. There are several here that are wallpaper worthy, even if the subjects are recent winners of that award.

I may have saved a few more dollars if I had held out on purchasing the second body, only time will tell. But, having it for two weeks before my vacation starts will let me be sure that I have everything dialed in correctly, and that there are no glitches in this body before going on vacation. There’s a lot to be said for that!

Wednesday

Well, the end of this week’s heat wave is in sight. Yesterday, we tied the record high temperature for the date at 94 degrees (34 C), and it didn’t cool off very much over night. Yes, I broke down and ran the AC.

By Friday, it is forecast to be almost 30 degrees cooler than yesterday, I’m looking forward to that! Right now, I’m headed out the door before the heat and humidity become unbearable.

OK, I step out of the door into bright sunshine, and see just a few white clouds overhead. As I was turning on the camera and checking the settings, I felt water drops hitting me. I looked up, nothing but blue sky directly over me, but a few light grey clouds to the west. It’s so humid that it was raining without rain clouds!

Needless to say, I came back inside and grabbed a rain jacket just in case that continued, but it didn’t.

I was going to post a very poor photo, but changed my mind. It was of a bluebird and house finch together again. However, they were so far away that I had to crop the photo too much for any one to be able to recognize the species of the two. You’ll just have to take my word for the fact that bluebirds and house finches have joined together in a flock. I still have no real idea why to such dissimilar species of birds would do that, but they have. I’ve been witnessing them together nearly every day for well over a week.

I did hit my target of getting a wallpaper worthy photo, several times.

There was a large flock of goldfinches in the park today, but these were migrants, I hadn’t had time to train them to pose yet. But, I managed a good photo or two of members of the flock.

Male American Goldfinch

Male American Goldfinch

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

The males are in the process of molting, soon it will be impossible to tell the males from the females from the juveniles.

That’s it for the birds from today, time for the blooms.

Bindweed

Bindweed

Unidentified sunflower

Unidentified sunflower

Unidentified sunflower

Unidentified sunflower

I knew when I was shooting this next one that I should have set up the tripod to be able to get a greater depth of field in the low light. But, it was so hot and miserable out there that I didn’t feel like playing around. Now, I’m kicking myself for not doing it. This is good, but if I had used the tripod, I could have gotten the center of both the fully opened flowers in focus, and the photo would have been so much better!

Asters

Asters

This next one isn’t really a bloom, but it used to be.

Ex-flower

Ex-flower

That’s it for the blooms, now it’s time for a bug.

Unidentified butterfly

Unidentified butterfly

The butterfly was trying to play hide and seek with me, it had first landed in the open, when it saw me, it hid behind the leaf. I waited until it looked out from behind the leaf for that first shot, then got one more as the butterfly spotted me and crawled behind another leaf.

Unidentified butterfly

Unidentified butterfly

That’s all the photos from today, well, all that I’m posting anyway.

Time for a shower, then suffer through another steamy night at work.

Thursday

Cooler air is moving in!

They are re-paving the parking lots and streets here at the apartment complex, I hope that they finish the parking lot for my building today. It’s been so hot that I’ve run the AC overnight the past two nights, but I’d love to be able to open the windows tonight when I get home. Well, that won’t be a problem, but, I’d like to leave the windows open all night. I won’t be able to if they are going to be working right outside my apartment early in the morning.

I’m back from my walk, and I should subtitle today “I fought the wind and the wind won!”. I also didn’t find very many things to attempt to photograph, other than flowers, and with a stiff wind blowing them around, few of the photos that I did shoot turned out well. I did attempt to photograph the asters using the tripod, but I got so frustrated that I gave up for a while, took a break, then tried again, with the same result. It wasn’t a productive day.

I thought that I had missed my target of getting a wallpaper worthy photo every day, but after cleaning my glasses and the computer screen, and taking a second look at the photos, it turns out that I did better than I thought that I had.

Turkeys

Turkeys

Turkeys

Turkeys

Not too bad, the exposure could have been a little better for their heads though.

I saw the flock of bluebirds and house finches yet again today. I can’t figure that oddball combination out for the life of me. It almost looks as though each finch pairs itself up with a bluebird, and follows it around every place the bluebird goes. I didn’t get a shot of the two species together, but I did get a shot of one of the bluebirds, unfortunately, its companion finch was back in the leaves in this shot.

Eastern bluebird

Eastern bluebird

The best shots from today are of a honey bee.

Honey bee

Honey bee

Honey bee

Honey bee

Honey bee

Honey bee

Considering how the goldenrod the bee was on was moving in the wind, and the fact that the bee was always on the move, I’m surprised that those turned out so well.

Other than that, I don’t have much to say today, I think that I need a nap. I slept well up until the time that they started chewing up the pavement outside of my apartment this morning, and that started earlier than I would have liked. But, I suppose it’s a good sign that they maintain things well around here.

Friday

The really cool, and very pleasant, air has arrived! The forecast high for today is a full 30 degrees lower than our record trying high of 94 F on Tuesday. The only downside to this cool down is the wind, which is pushing the cooler air into the area, and I say that only because the wind will make photographing flowers or insects difficult.

I read an interesting article the other day, wind energy facilities have killed at least 67 golden and bald eagles in the last five years, but the figure could be much higher, according to a new scientific study by government biologists. The study was done in just ten western states, that figure of 67 dead eagles is probably much higher if they had studied all the wind farms across the entire country.

On a related note, the Canadian Provence of Ontario is paying the operators of wind farms not to produce electricity, for two reasons. One, it’s the time of year that birds are migrating, and wind turbines take a significant toll on migrating birds, especially the ones that fly at night. Two, it’s cheaper to pay the wind farm operators the wholesale price of electricity than it is to pay them the higher amount that is the true cost of electricity generated by wind turbines.

Just a little food for thought before I get some real food in my belly and head outside to enjoy this wonderful weather.

Woo Hoo! I was a little disappointed in the photos I shot yesterday, not so for the ones from today. But, I did shoot different subjects for the most part. I didn’t bother trying for any shots of flowers whipping around in the wind today, I shot mostly birds. This clean crisp air that has settled in played a role as well. But, before I get to the photos, it’s Friday, which is battery charging day around here. If you remember, I had trouble getting the battery for the second camera body to charge for the first time. I plugged it in today, no problems, it’s taking a charge with no playing around, whew!

I’m having a tough time deciding which photos to use from today, what a great problem to have! Not that all of them are exceptional, only one or two are, but there’s a few of birds that were playing peek-a-boo with me, and I love those shots even if the you can’t see the entire bird. Besides, it’s Friday, I can insert them all, and call this post finished after today.

So, I’m going to start with a squirrel silhouette, just because I can.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Then, three turkeys milling about.

Turkeys

Turkeys

Turkeys

Turkeys

Since this camera body is going to be used for landscapes and scenery, I thought that the clouds today would make a good test shot for exposure purposes.

Clouds

Clouds

I found a very large spider repairing its web.

Unidentified spider

Unidentified spider

This next one is my worst shot of the day. I was approaching a dead tree that the birds liked for some reason. There were blue jays, starlings, robins, flickers, mourning doves, and other species all in the one tree. I was setting up for a wide shot to get all the birds in that one tree in the shot, when one of the blue jays took off, my finger pressed the shutter release out of habit.

Blue jay in flight

Blue jay in flight

Here’s a robin and flicker hanging out together in that tree.

Northern flicker and American Robin

Northern flicker and American Robin

Here’s just the flicker.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

I would have liked to have gotten closer to the flicker, but it was too high up in the tree for me to be able to do so. No problem, that flicker started calling, and one of its flock mates flew over to another tree, the tree that I was standing next to. The second flicker and I played peek-a-boo for a while, then it rewarded me with some good poses.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

While I was standing there, this robin also struck a pose for me.

American robin

American robin

These next and final two are my favorites from today, I know, I’m weird.

Juvenile rose-breasted grosbeak

Juvenile rose-breasted grosbeak

Juvenile rose-breasted grosbeak

Juvenile rose-breasted grosbeak

I love going in the brush after birds and getting shots like those last two.

Maybe it’s my imagination, but I would say that camera body two is slightly better than number one is, at least when using the L series lens. The higher end cameras have an auto-focus micro-adjust feature that allows you to fine tune the auto-focus of the camera to the lens that you are using. It could be that body two matches up slightly better with the L series lens than body one does. Time will tell on that, but I sure am happy with the results that I’m getting from both bodies.

I haven’t tried the Sigma lens on the second body, there’s no reason to. The first body and Sigma lens have proven themselves to be excellent performers together, and I plan on the Sigma being permanently attached to the first body for wildlife photography. The second body will be for landscapes and close-ups using the L series and 15-85 mm lenses.

I think that I’ll go to Aman Park tomorrow, there won’t be the wildflowers there like in the spring, but I can usually find a little of everything there. It will be a good place for me to start carrying all my gear set up the way that it will be used when I go on vacation the week after next.

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


From the road

As you may know, I drive truck for a living. It’s the most boring job that I’ve ever had, the one redeeming quality besides the fact that I get a paycheck is that at least I’m not stuck inside all the time the way that I was in any other line of work that I’ve done.

I’ve seen quite a few spectacular sunsets while driving, and some impressive storms. For a while, I carried my Canon Powershot compact digital camera along with me, hoping for some good photos. I’ve never gotten any photos of the sunsets, but I do have a few cloud photos that I’ve been able to get, like this thunderstorm building up.

Cumulus cloud

This storm is just beginning to form.

The storm cloud building

The storm cloud is still in the building stage and hasn’t become organized yet.

The updraft begins to take hold

And continues to build.

Getting organized around a central updraft, and the anvil begins to form

There are often other clouds associated with a cumulonimbus cloud that have names, but darned if I can remember them, or find a website that details all the parts of a thunderstorm now that I want to find one. But you can see a “ring” forming around the thunderstorm at the mid-level of the cumulonimbus cloud.

The storm continues to build

Until it builds to a full-blown thunderstorm.

Fully formed cumulonimbus cloud, or thunderstorm

A close up of the anvil.

The anvil of a thunderstorm

It may continue to grow.

A still growing thunderstorm

But then after the storm, a ray of hope.

A ray of hope

Here are a few other storm clouds that I’ve shot while working.

Storm clouds

Storm clouds

Storm clouds

Storm clouds

Storm clouds

Storm clouds

Storm clouds

Storm clouds

Storm clouds

Storm clouds

Storm clouds

Storm clouds

Storm clouds

Storm clouds

When I get really lucky, I see a rainbow.

Rainbow

Rainbow

Rainbow

Rainbow

Rainbow

Rainbow

I know that these photos aren’t great, but I couldn’t bring myself to delete them despite the poor quality, and the distractions in them.

One of these days I’ll get some good shots of storms using my good camera, but until then, these will have to do.

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


Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus

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.

Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus

The Peregrine Falcon, also known as the Peregrine, and historically as the Duck Hawk in North America, is a widespread bird of prey in the family Falconidae. A large, crow-sized falcon, it has a blue-grey back, barred white underparts, and a black head and “moustache”. As is typical of bird-eating raptors, Peregrine Falcons are sexually dimorphic, females being considerably larger than males. The Peregrine is renowned for its speed, reaching over 322 km/h (200 mph) during its characteristic hunting stoop (high-speed dive), making it the fastest member of the animal kingdom. According to a National Geographic TV program, the highest measured speed of a Peregrine Falcon is 389 km/h (242 mph).

The Peregrine’s breeding range includes land regions from the Arctic tundra to the tropics. It can be found nearly everywhere on Earth, except extreme polar regions, very high mountains, and most tropical rain forests. This makes it the world’s most widespread raptor and one of the most widely found bird species. In fact, the only land-based bird species found over a larger geographic area is not always naturally occurring but one widely introduced by humans, the Rock Pigeon, which in turn now supports many Peregrine populations as a prey species. Both the English and scientific names of this species mean “wandering falcon”, referring to the migratory habits of many northern populations.

While its diet consists almost exclusively of medium-sized birds, the Peregrine will occasionally hunt small mammals, small reptiles, or even insects. Reaching sexual maturity at one year, it mates for life and nests in a scrape, normally on cliff edges or, in recent times, on tall human-made structures. The Peregrine Falcon became an endangered species in many areas because of the widespread use of certain pesticides, especially DDT. Since the ban on DDT from the early 1970s, populations have recovered, supported by large-scale protection of nesting places and releases to the wild.

The Peregrine Falcon has a body length of 34 to 58 centimeters (13–23 in) and a wingspan from 74 to 120 centimeters (29–47 in). The male and female have similar markings and plumage, but as in many birds of prey the Peregrine Falcon displays marked reverse sexual dimorphism in size, with the female measuring up to 30% larger than the male. Males weigh 424 to 750 grams (0.93–1.7 lb) and the noticeably larger females weigh 910 to 1,500 grams (2.0–3.3 lb). The standard linear measurements of Peregrines are: the wing chord measures 26.5–39 cm (10.4–15 in), the tail measures 13–19 cm (5.1–7.5 in) and the tarsus measures 4.5 to 5.6 cm (1.8 to 2.2 in).

The back and the long pointed wings of the adult are usually bluish black to slate grey with indistinct darker barring, the wingtips are black. The white to rusty underparts are barred with thin clean bands of dark brown or black. The tail, coloured like the back but with thin clean bars, is long, narrow, and rounded at the end with a black tip and a white band at the very end. The top of the head and a “moustache” along the cheeks are black, contrasting sharply with the pale sides of the neck and white throat. The cere is yellow, as are the feet, and the beak and claws are black. The upper beak is notched near the tip, an adaptation which enables falcons to kill prey by severing the spinal column at the neck. The immature bird is much browner with streaked, rather than barred, underparts, and has a pale bluish cere and orbital ring.

The Peregrine Falcon lives mostly along mountain ranges, river valleys, coastlines, and increasingly in cities. In mild-winter regions, it is usually a permanent resident, and some individuals, especially adult males, will remain on the breeding territory. Only populations that breed in Arctic climates typically migrate great distances during the northern winter.

The Peregrine Falcon reaches faster speeds than any other animal on the planet when performing the stoop, which involves soaring to a great height and then diving steeply at speeds of over 320 km/h (200 mph), hitting one wing of its prey so as not to harm itself on impact. The air pressure from a 200 mph (320 km/h) dive could possibly damage a bird’s lungs, but small bony tubercles on a falcon’s nostrils guide the powerful airflow away from the nostrils, enabling the bird to breathe more easily while diving by reducing the change in air pressure. To protect their eyes, the falcons use their nictitating membranes (third eyelids) to spread tears and clear debris from their eyes while maintaining vision. A study testing the flight physics of an “ideal falcon” found a theoretical speed limit at 400 km/h (250 mph) for low altitude flight and 625 km/h (390 mph) for high altitude flight. In 2005, Ken Franklin recorded a falcon stooping at a top speed of 389 km/h (242 mph).

The life span of Peregrine Falcons in the wild is up to 15.5 years. Mortality in the first year is 59–70%, declining to 25–32% annually in adults. Apart from such anthropogenic threats as collision with human-made objects, the Peregrine may be killed by eagles or large owls.

On to my photos, and I’m going to cheat and used the ones from a recent post for this one, as I deleted the small versions of these photos after I did that post. By doing that, it doesn’t require me to make a second set of copies, or upload the same photos twice:

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

This is number 123 in my photo life list, only 227 to go!

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

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The September birding trip to Muskegon

I may as well face it, no matter what the weather is like, I’ll probably be going to Muskegon to go birding at least once a month for the foreseeable future. I haven’t posted any photos of waterfowl from my last few trips there, as I haven’t seen any new to me species on those trips. But, I’m sure that will change, (I’m starting this post before the actual trip) as more waterfowl are arriving each time that I go there.

Speaking of weather, once again, the forecast was completely backward. It was supposed to be sunny and hot during the day, with possible storms in the evening. It never stormed, but I ran into on and off showers on my way to Muskegon, and that continued for most of the day.

Because of the clouds and sprinkles of rain, I didn’t manage any award-winning photos today, but I worked my butt off to get a few of several species of raptors and shorebirds.

When I exited the expressway, I spotted this hawk and thought that it would be a good chance to adjust my camera settings for the weather.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Looking at the LCD display, I thought that I had the exposure set better than it turned out to be. I guess that I made an oops last week. To see the LCD display better in the bright sun while using live view to focus, I bumped the brightness of the display up a tick or two, and that helped then. I never thought what effect that would have on a cloudy day when I checked my exposure settings. Still, it’s not bad given the weather conditions.

Almost as soon as I entered the grounds of the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility, I saw a raptor on the ground in one of the fields. It was in the same area that I saw the northern harrier on my last trip, and as large and dark as the bird this morning was, I assumed that it was also a harrier. Imagine my surprise tonight when I blew the photo up and saw that the bird was a peregrine falcon!

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Looking up to start moving again, I had to wait until two families of turkeys crossed the road in front of me.

Two hen turkeys and a lot of poults

Two hen turkeys and a lot of poults

A little farther down the road, I spotted two great egrets hanging out with the Canada geese.

Great egrets and Canada geese

Great egrets and Canada geese

And when I arrived at the lagoon where the shorebirds had been on my last trip, I saw that they had been replaced with flocks of gulls, and one lone crow trying to blend in with the gulls.

American crow hiding in a mixed flock of gulls

American crow hiding in a mixed flock of gulls

Gee, crows are known as an intelligent bird, but that one couldn’t have been too bright, it stuck out like a sore thumb.

Last week, I wrote that I should go somewhere with many birds in flight to get more practice using the Sigma lens for photos of the birds, and where you have hundreds of gulls, there are always a few in flight, so practice I did.

Juvenile herring gull in flight

Juvenile ring billed gull in flight

Not bad, how does it work on a great blue heron you ask?

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Not too shabby considering the light.

I won’t bore you with all that I shot. But the practice, and the test shots earlier of the hawk came in darn right handy a short time later. But first, here’s a few tree swallows for you to count.

Several tree swallows

Several tree swallows

And once you’re done counting the stationary swallows, here’s a few airborne swallows that need to be counted also.

Mostly tree swallows in flight

Mostly tree swallows in flight

Yup, the migration is on!

I ran into Ric, the president of the Muskegon County Nature Club while he was busy trying to estimate the number of tree swallows there, he was well over 1,000 when he gave up.

Then, things got interesting, first, one of the peregrine falcons hunting along the edge of the lagoon.

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

Then a bald eagle flew past me.

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Then, a second eagle following close behind the first.

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

And I barely had time to draw a breath before a second falcon decided that it wanted to be my friend!

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

I had one more chance at it before it was directly overhead less than twenty feet off the ground, but the Sigma wasn’t quite fast enough to keep up with the falcon. However, the falcon was kind enough to land on a power pole almost over my head.

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

The falcon hung around a lot longer than I expected it to, we were there for almost half an hour, with me waiting for better light.

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

I spotted a deer running across an open field, and decided that the deer would make a good practice subject.

Whitetail deer at a dead run

Whitetail deer at a dead run

The falcon let me know in no uncertain terms that it was the star of this show!

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

But, it soon grew tired of posing for me, or got hungry, and left.

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

It’s hard to top a peregrine falcon, I would have liked to, but wasn’t able to. I did shoot a few other notable birds though.

Juvenile golden plover

Juvenile golden plover

Male northern shoveler, non-breeding

Male northern shoveler, non-breeding

Northern shovelers in flight

Northern shovelers in flight

Semi-palmated plover, non-breeding

Semi-palmated plover, non-breeding

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Swainson's thrush

Swainson’s thrush

Male wood duck, non-breeding

Male wood duck, non-breeding

Male wood duck, non-breeding

Male wood duck, non-breeding

I did some walking around the small woodlots on the northern edge of the wastewater facility, where it abuts the Muskegon State Game Area, but didn’t come up with any birds, just these wildflowers….

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

…and these interesting plants.

Unidentified plants

Unidentified plants

All in all, a very good day! The golden plover and Swainson’s thrush are lifers for me, and I was able to get somewhat better photos of the peregrine falcons and wood duck.

The waterfowl are arriving by the hundreds, on the other hand, birds like the swallows are about to depart the area for the winter. I’m not a serious bird counter, but I would estimate that I saw well over 5,000 birds today, of about 100 species. Besides the shovelers, there were bufflehead, teal, and ruddy ducks in numbers too great to count, along with the Canada geese which covered some of the farm fields.

The tree and barn swallows numbered into the thousands each, and I wouldn’t want to try to estimate the numbers of gulls or starlings that I saw. My biggest problem today, besides the weather, was trying to determine what all the birds I was seeing were, and whether or not I wanted to attempt to photograph them. That’s a good problem to have when you go birding!

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


My Week, short

Tuesday

A much more pleasant day to start this short work week. I’d complain that the cooler weather won’t last long, but it is September, and all too soon I’ll be trudging through snow on my daily walks. I don’t even mind the snow or cold that much, other than there isn’t much nature to see or photograph in the winter. Oh well, that’s Michigan.

I ran into a fly in the ointment as far as ordering a second 60D body, the prices had jumped back up by the time I had made a decision. There’s still a $200 rebate available, which keeps the price at $700, but I’m going to hold off and see if the price does drop again. It would have been nice to have the second body along when I take vacation in two weeks though.

Well, time to get something to eat, and get moving.

I’m back, and I did it!

Pink, purple, or whatever Chicory

Pink, purple, or whatever Chicory

The secret wasn’t the white balance after all, it was getting the light right, and not adjusting the exposure compensation. I’m not sure what color you would call that, but it isn’t they typical blue of chicory, this is.

Sea of blue

Sea of blue

I’ve tried that shot several times this summer, that’s the best so far, at least I think that it is.

The actual first shot of the day was of this wasp, I tried to catch the light right so that its wings showed blue, but I missed. It’s still a good close-up though, so I’m posting it.

Wasp

Wasp

Then, I played hide and seek with a few turkeys, here’s the best shot.

Turkey

Turkey

Don’t be surprised if you don’t see more shots of these flowers in the future. These just opened up, my shots from today are OK, but I think know that I can do better.

Heliopsis helianthoides (L.) Sweet – smooth oxeye

Heliopsis helianthoides (L.) Sweet – smooth oxeye

Heliopsis helianthoides (L.) Sweet – smooth oxeye

Heliopsis helianthoides (L.) Sweet – smooth oxeye

As more of these flowers open up, I’ll have more subjects to choose from to get the light and everything else the way I want it, plus, I have supreme confidence in my equipment these days. I think that alone accounts for much of the improvement of my photos, confidence in the equipment I use now. I know that the camera and lenses are capable of stunning photos, now it’s up to me to make stunning happen, so I’m willing to put forth the effort that it takes to make stunning happen.

I know that all the photos I attempt may not be stunning, but that’s OK, I’m getting enough of them that are, or are close to stunning, to make me happy, and I know that I’ll always take shots like these, just for something to do.

Grass seeds

Grass seeds

Red bellied woodpecker

Red bellied woodpecker

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

That’s it for today, I can’t believe that tomorrow is Wednesday already!

Wednesday

Still cool and sunny for now, and I’m, loving it. There’s talk of yet another heat wave next week, but it can’t last too long, so I’m sure that I’ll survive.

I have many things on my mind right now, mostly petty, boring things that I won’t bother to type here to bore all of you, so I suppose that it’s time for a walk.

I’m back, and rather than bore you with thoughts on camera gear, how to pay for it, quitting smoking, etc., I’ll bore you with a few photos from today.

There was a bright bluebird sky today, and I didn’t want to let it go to waste. I’ve posted shots of the highbush cranberries before, but I had this great idea today, use the polarizing filter to increase the color contrast between the reds, blues, and greens, it sort of worked.

Highbush cranberries

Highbush cranberries

Highbush cranberries

Highbush cranberries

I wish that I would have thought of using the polarizer back when the leaves were dark green and not fading out! There are possibilities there though, I’ll have to remember that trick. (I did later on today, but that’s a surprise, so don’t tell any one please)

While looking for goldfinches that aren’t around much any longer, I spotted on lone cardinal flower plant in a so-so spot, but I had to try some photos, as I haven’t been happy with the ones that I’ve posted so far. This was a little better.

Cardinal flowers

Cardinal flowers

While checking for more of them, and/or a better angle to shoot from, I had to pause a second to photograph this katydid.

Katydid

Katydid

Then, I shot a few more of the cardinal flowers, here’s the best of the lot.

Cardinal flowers

Cardinal flowers

I warned you yesterday that you may be seeing more of the smooth ox eye sunflowers, and here they come.

Heliopsis helianthoides (L.) Sweet – smooth oxeye

Heliopsis helianthoides (L.) Sweet – smooth oxeye

These are the other photos that I used the polarizer on, I think that polarizers aren’t just for landscapes anymore!

Heliopsis helianthoides (L.) Sweet – smooth oxeye

Heliopsis helianthoides (L.) Sweet – smooth oxeye

It may be hard to top that last one, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t be trying! 😉

I did learn one other thing today, besides that you can use a polarizer on flowers, they don’t work well when you pull up to shoot a passing dragonfly when you have your camera set to -2/3 EV to photograph bright yellow flowers in the sun.

Dragonfly in flight

Dragonfly in flight

I have set a target for myself of getting at least one photo per day that is good enough for me to use as the desktop on my computer. I may not hit that target each day, hopefully due to weather conditions and/or a lack of suitable subjects, and not because of a lack of skill on my part. So far, that’s going well, and it helps me to put forth the time and effort to get those shots. And, I suppose that I should tell you that when I say time and effort, most of that is thought, thinking about what the finished photo will look like when shooting at different angles, and under different lighting, before I take any photos.

Thursday

Cool and clear again, we’re back to the weather that I absolutely love for a few days!

I have to take my Forester in for its second service this afternoon, so I may not have very much time later on after I get back from my walk. I was checking the service schedule this weekend, this thing isn’t going to cost me very much to maintain, another reason to love it. I thought that my WRX was good in that respect, but it was a high performance vehicle that required more service than the Forester does. Live is good, so I’m going to get something to eat, and go outside and enjoy this fantastic weather while it lasts.

Well, I hit my target for the day, at least one photo good enough to use as wallpaper, which I’ll get to in a minute. I’m going to go in chronological order today, just because. I think this is wild lettuce, but, I could very well be wrong.

Wild lettuce???

Wild lettuce???

Then, this punk rocker version of a juvenile northern cardinal landed close enough to me for me to try for a shot or two.

Juvenile northern cardinal

Juvenile northern cardinal

Juvenile northern cardinal

Juvenile northern cardinal

Yeah, the lighting is horrible, and the shots aren’t very good, but he was too cute not to post.

Next, two photos of woodland sunflowers, which were in the running as my target photos for the day, but I can do better than these.

Woodland sunflower

Woodland sunflower

Woodland sunflower

Woodland sunflower

I’ve been waiting for one patch of downy lobelia to get to the point where the buds on the top of the plant were opening, so that I could get the shots I wanted. I think that these are just past their peak, but definitely still looking good. Good enough to set the tripod up, adjust the camera, and use live view for these two.

Downy lobelia

Downy lobelia

Downy lobelia

Downy lobelia

The entire time that I had the camera on the tripod, there were birds all around me. Cedar waxwings, goldfinches, house finches, blue jays, robins, grosbeaks, and more, but of course I couldn’t get any photos of them. Once I was done with the flowers, I did manage to track down one of the eastern bluebirds.

Eastern bluebird

Eastern bluebird

And when it took off, I managed one shot of it in flight, but it isn’t that good.

Eastern bluebird in flight

Eastern bluebird in flight

Birds that are blue in color never photograph well against a blue sky, especially when I don’t have time to adjust the exposure to suit the situation.

I thought that this was a juvenile goldfinch when I spotted it coming at me, now I’m not sure what it is, but it makes a good last photo for the day.

Unidentified flying object

Unidentified flying object

It could be the house finch that was perched near the bluebird.

Well, that’s it for today, time to take a shower, then bring my Forester in for service.

Just a quick update, $60 and change for a full synthetic oil change, replace the air filter, rotate the tires, and other minor services needed, and they threw in a wash, and that was at the dealership. Since the Forester is still under warranty, I’ll continue to have the scheduled services done there, as they are about the same price as any one else. I love my Subarau!

Friday

Another cool, clear, crisp start to the day, almost fall-like, too bad that next week will be a roller coaster of up and down temperatures and humidity levels. Oh well, I’ll enjoy the days no matter what.

It is supposed to be quite warm tomorrow, I may splurge and head to Muskegon to stay cool, and look for more birds. There’s a flock of golden plovers hanging around that I’d like to get photos of.

Well, I may have to go to Muskegon tomorrow in hopes of getting myself out of the funk that I have put myself into. I turned 58 last week, and for some reason, I began looking back at the could haves, should haves, and would haves of my life today. Where I’m at today is not where I expected to be, nor is it where I should be, but, I shouldn’t really complain, as overall, my life is pretty good.

I’d better stop that train now, or this will get derailed and I’ll be forced to explain, which will only deepen the funk. But, the funk affected my photography today. I don’t think that I quite hit my target today, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

That, and one of the chances that I had for a really good shot was ruined by another photographer of all people. I had the camera on a robin eating berries in a bush, waiting for just the right instant to shoot, when the photographer and his model walked right up to where I was standing, which of course scared the robin away. I thought about waiting until they were set for a shot, then walking between them to see how he liked it, but I didn’t. Sometimes it sucks to be a nice guy.

Here’s what I did manage to get today, starting with a bee in flight.

Bumblebee in flight

Bumblebee in flight

I found another praying mantis in the chicory plants, but couldn’t get a good angle on it today, despite trying again on my way back home. Here’s the best two of a bad lot.

Praying mantis

Praying mantis

Praying mantis

Praying mantis

I tried to “adjust” the foliage several times to get a better view and lighting, but each time I did, the mantis would move to another shaded spot.

I have tried to get out of the practice of photographing insects or other wildlife that I see on the sidewalks, paved paths, or the roads. Pavement is a hard background to get the exposure correct for one thing, and it doesn’t look natural for another. But, there are times when you have to do what you have to do, like this brown katydid.

Brown katydid

Brown katydid

On top of the other reasons for not shooting subjects on the pavement, you really need to lay down to get a better angle as well.

Here’s an almost winner. I saw a leaf floating downstream in the creek, and thought that the lighting would make this one a good candidate for hitting my target, but I blew it.

Floating leaf

Floating leaf

My timing, exposure, and just about everything else was off by just a smidge, so this one didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. But, I only had on chance, and not much time to think about what I was doing.

My last shot of the day, and of this post, is of a few Hostas growing along the road.

Hosta flowers

Hosta flowers

I’ve been seeing many more birds the past few days, I almost wished that I had taken the Beast with me today. I missed some bluebirds, finches, and other species because the L series lens isn’t long enough for a good photo under the conditions that presented themselves today.

So, I’ll go to Muskegon tomorrow and get more bird photos than I know what to do with, maybe a few flowers, and I’ll hang around for either a sunset or a storm coming in from over Lake Michigan, if that doesn’t cure a funk nothing will!

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


Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis

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.

Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis

The Savannah Sparrow is a small American sparrow.

This species has a typically sparrow-like dark-streaked brown back, and whitish underparts with brown or blackish breast and flank streaking. It has whitish crown and supercilium stripes, sometimes with some yellow (more often near the beak). The cheeks are brown and the throat white. The flight feathers are blackish-brown with light brown or white border. The eyes are dark. The feet and legs are horn-colored, as is the lower part of the bill, with the upper part being dark grey.

Savannah Sparrows show some variation in size across subspecies. The total length can range from 11 to 17 cm (4.3 to 6.7 in), wingspan ranges from 18 to 25 cm (7.1 to 9.8 in) and body mass from 15 to 29 g (0.53 to 1.0 oz). In the nominate subspecies, the body weight averages 20.1 g (0.71 oz).

This passerine bird breeds in Alaska, Canada, northern, central and Pacific coastal USA, Mexico and Guatemala. The Pacific and Mexican breeders are resident, but other populations are migratory, wintering from the southern United States across Central America and the Caribbean to northern South America.

These birds forage on the ground or in low bushes; particularly in winter they are also found in grazed low-growth grassland. They mainly eat seeds, but also eat insects in the breeding season. They are typically encountered as pairs or family groups in the breeding season, and assemble in flocks for the winter migration. The flight call is a thin seep

On to my photos:

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

This is number 122 in my photo life list, only 228 to go!

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

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Labor Day weekend

Saturday

Let’s see, when I published the last post, I had cut my Saturday walk short because I wasn’t feeling well. After drinking copious amounts of water, and taking a nap, I was feeling much better. I went online to check the weather forecast, and saw that the temperature outside was a full 10 degrees lower that what the morning forecast had predicted. So, I went out and did the part of my morning walk that I had skipped.

I’m going to start with two photos, one done right, the other one not so right. Normally I would start with the worst one, then show the better one, but with my new theme, I have to change my ways.

Praying mantis

Praying mantis

That one was my second attempt, here’s the first.

Praying mantis

Praying mantis

When I saw the mantis the first time, I shot the second photo because I didn’t want to crash through three feet of brush to get to the spot that would produce the better photo. I was quite pleased with myself for having spotted the mantis over 30 feet from me when I first saw it, and getting close enough that it almost filled the frame.

But, I hadn’t walked more than a few yards down the trail when I thought to myself, “Quit being lazy, go back and do it right!”, so I did, which is how I got the first photo.

I brought my tripod, and even used it for a few shots.

Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar

Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar

Grass "flower"

Grass “flower”

Grass "flowers"

Grass “flowers”

Grass "flower"

Grass “flower”

I did a cropped version of the last one, the detail was great, but I didn’t like the over look of the photo, so I went with the wider view here.

One last photo from today.

Blue damselfly

Blue damselfly

Not perfect, but not bad. I had to use manual focus, but didn’t have time to set up the tripod and switch the camera to live view.

But, doing things the right way sure is paying dividends for me as far as the quality of the photos I’m getting overall. Even better is having a camera that responds to doing things the right way, unlike my old camera which didn’t. The better that my photos become, the more likely it is that I am willing to take the time and put forth the effort to get the best photo possible.

I did run into trouble while using my tripod, it is a Vanguard, not the world’s finest by any test. I paid just over $100 for it, the legs seem sturdy enough, but there’s a bit of play in all of the adjustable parts, and I have to be very careful to make sure everything is locked securely. It works fine when I have the 15-85 mm lens on the camera, it’s tolerable when using the 70-200 mm lens, but it would never hold up if I were to mount the Sigma 150-500 mm lens to it. Maybe I’ll win the lottery one of these days and be able to afford a good tripod.

Sunday

If there were such a thing as a day wasted outdoors, today was an example of it, for I have few photos to share. But, no time spent in the woods is ever really wasted, it just wasn’t a good day as far as photography.

It should have been a fair day for photos, I was up at 5 AM, and at Palmer Park just after sunrise, 7:30 AM to be precise. I was up so early because the forecast was for sunny skies early, and rain in the afternoon. I should know better by now, the entire five hours I was in the park, it was cloudy and hazy. Now that I’m home and typing this, it’s sunny.

There were plenty of birds around, but I never got close to any, or if I did, I would have been shooting almost straight up towards a milky white sky. My one bad bird shot of the day is this one.

Male wood duck

Male wood duck

The wood ducks around here are extremely wary. There were a few of them hanging out in a flock of mallards, and I could tell that they were wood ducks because they immediately swam for cover as soon as they spotted me through the brush. Meanwhile, the mallards continued to play, but I didn’t shoot any of them. I shot that at 500 mm, and cropped the photo somewhat to show you how far away from the ducks I was, and I was peering through brush when the wood ducks spotted me, they have incredible eyesight.

Deer, however, do not.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

I shot that one just to see if I could pull it off. I shot that handheld using the beast set at 150 mm and 1/30 Sec. It may not be a shot in the dark, but it was close.

Here’s another that I shot just to see if I could do it.

Falling leaf

Falling leaf

I would say that I was bored, but I really wasn’t, I was a bit disappointed though. I thought that being in the park so early that I would see tons of wildlife, but what do I know. Being in a heavily shaded park on a day with a heavy overcast did work in one way, it was cool, even if my photos aren’t.

There were many interesting fungi around, I passed many of them without trying for a photo since the light was so low. I thought about changing lenses and just shooting the fungi, but Palmer Park is known for owls, and it was an owl kind of day, I thought. No luck there, so in spite of no light, the rest of the photos from today are of fungi.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Wasp nest

Wasp nest

Wait, that’s not really a fungus, it’s a wasp nest, complete with wasps! I gave it a wide berth, then decided to see if I could pull that shot off. Handheld at 1/25 Sec. Not great, but not too shabby either for how little light that there was.

Every photo from today was shot using the beast with the camera setting the ISO to 1600, and the fastest shutter speed of the day at 1/400 of a second. Other than the shot of the wood duck, the beast was set at 150 mm for all the rest. It was that kind of day.

There’s supposed to be a strong cold front headed this way, and passing through the area overnight. The temperatures tomorrow are forecast to struggle to 70 degrees ( 20 C), that will definitely be a change from what we’ve had the past two weeks, and I hope that it happens, as I’m tired of the heat and humidity again, and I may start complaining if the weather doesn’t change soon.

I’m keeping an eye on the radar, if it looks like thunderstorms are heading this way, I may venture out and try my hand at getting photos of lightning strikes.

Tomorrow, I’m heading to Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve again, I hope for better luck then as far as a few birds.

Monday

Well, the storms were a bust, nary a drop of rain in my part of Michigan. It didn’t cool off overnight either.

I spent some more quality time with the manual for my Canon 60D camera yesterday evening, I’m liking loving this camera more everyday, if that’s possible. If I read the manual correctly, there may be a way for me to save all the settings I use when I do close-up photos, and change everything back and forth with the turn of one dial. That would speed things up considerably for me.

I also read some of the online reviews of the 60D that were written when that camera was first introduced to the market. As usual, I find the experts amusing. Their biggest knock against the 60D is that Canon simplified the controls to be more like Canon’s Rebel line of entry-level cameras, and that the 60D has an aluminum and plastic body rather than a magnesium body. Actual photo quality doesn’t seem to matter much to the experts. To them, a camera can only be considered a serious camera if the controls are so convoluted as to preclude the average Joe from being able to navigate his way around the controls.

The 60D shares the exact same sensor as the 7D, which the experts love. The sensor may not be everything, but it is the determining factor as far as the quality of the photo that the camera electronics start with, and therefore plays a major role in the quality of the final photo that we see.

To sum up the reviews that I read, “Great photo quality, but the controls are too easy, just like one of the Rebel line of cameras, so it can’t be for serious photographers”. I like things that are easy to use!

Anyway, the reason that I threw that in here is that as you may know, I would like to have a second camera body. I was going to save towards a 7D, but now I’m not so sure.

The 7D does have features that I would like to have, such as the full metal body and better weather sealing, however, the question is, are those things worth it to me, being on a limited budget. Since Canon has introduced the 70D, I see that online retailers are beginning to discount the 60D bodies, as if Canon was going to discontinue the 60D. If the prices drop much more, I may be better off picking up another 60D as a second body. That would give me the most bang for my limited bucks, and I think that the photos that I am getting from my current 60D speak for themselves.

Right now, I could buy a 60D online for $600, a 7D would cost me close to $1,500. I don’t think that the quality of the photos I would get from the 7D would be twice as good as what I’m getting from my current 60D, and there’d be no learning curve if I had two identical bodies. The cost difference between the two bodies would “pay for” a good macro lens. Things for me to ponder today as I wander around the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve. And, since it is getting a bit light out, I’d better get moving.

I’m back. In a weird quirk of weather, the temperature dropped almost ten degrees from the time I left home to when I got to Pickerel Lake. It was a day of promise!

Striking sunrise

Striking sunrise

Starting down the trail, it wasn’t long before I was seeing wildlife.

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

Eastern poebe

Eastern phoebe

I got to the larch swamp, and ran into a predicament that I run into quite often, what do I shoot, the flowers….

Unidentified flowering object

Turtlehead flowers

..or the birds?

Ruby throated hummingbird

Ruby throated hummingbird

…the flowers…

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

…or the birds…

Unidentified flitting object

Unidentified flitting object

…or the flowers…

Aster

Aster

…or the birds?

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

What I really wanted was that second body, so that I could set it up on the tripod with one of the short lenses on it and photograph the small flowers that the Beast doesn’t perform that well on, and keep one body with the Beast on it to get shots like these.

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified flitting object

Unidentified flitting object

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

In case you haven’t guessed, I decided today to order a second 60D, even if it is an “entry-level camera, fit only for beginners”. I simply can’t turn down an opportuninty to save $300 on a camera body that performs so well for me. Given the wide range of subjects that I shoot on a day like today, the second body will see a lot of use.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Indian pipes

Indian pipes

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

Unidentified flowering objects

Unidentified flowering objects

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Garter snake (For Emily)

Garter snake (For Emily)

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Most of the time, the factor limiting the quality of my photos is the fact that I’m not willing to stop every few feet, set all my gear down, swap lenses, shoot what has caught my eye, swap back to the Beast, then strap all my gear back on myself to continue on. That’s not going to change. The flowers and fungi here would have come out much better if I had shot them with a shorter lens, but it’s too much of a hassle to swap back and forth all the time. If the Beast wasn’t such a beast, it would be much easier to swap lenses more often. But, with its size and weight, I need a solid surface, usually the ground, to set things down on so that I don’t accidentally drop something while swapping lenses.

I’m more than happy with the 60D! With the Beast mounted to it, it does an excellent job of picking small birds out of the foliage, as seen in the first few photos from today. When I use the shorter lenses as I should, it does an excellent job on flowers, insects, and other subjects, as seen in my photos from Saturday in this post.

So, why should I worry about what the experts say?

Well, enough of that babble, time to get this published, then head to Applebee’s for a free steak dinner!

Since I haven’t got this theme completely figured out, I’d better insert a good photo rather than end on that last one.

Unidentified flitting object

Unidentified flitting object

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