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.
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!
Looking up to start moving again, I had to wait until two families of turkeys crossed the road in front of me.
A little farther down the road, I spotted two great egrets hanging out with the 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.
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.
Not bad, how does it work on a great blue heron you ask?
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.
And once you’re done counting the stationary swallows, here’s a few airborne swallows that need to be counted also.
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.
Then a bald eagle flew past me.
Then, a second eagle following close behind the first.
And I barely had time to draw a breath before a second falcon decided that it wanted to be my friend!
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.
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.
I spotted a deer running across an open field, and decided that the deer would make a good practice subject.
The falcon let me know in no uncertain terms that it was the star of this show!
But, it soon grew tired of posing for me, or got hungry, and left.
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.
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….
…and these interesting 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!