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

Archive for October, 2013

Bank Swallow, Riparia riparia

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.

Bank Swallow, Riparia riparia

The bank swallow is a migratory passerine bird in the swallow family. It has a wide range in summer, embracing practically the whole of Europe and the Mediterranean countries, where it is known as the sand martin, part of northern Asia and also North America. It winters in eastern and southern Africa, South America and South Asia.

The 12 cm long bank swallow is brown above, white below with a narrow brown band on the breast; the bill is black, the legs brown. The young have rufous tips to the coverts and margins to the secondaries.

The bank swallow appears on its breeding grounds as the first of its family, starting towards the end of March, just in advance of the Barn Swallow. In northern Ohio, they arrive in numbers by mid-April, about 10 days earlier than they did 100 years ago. At first, they flit over the larger bodies of water alone, in search of early flies. Later parties accompany other swallow species, but for a time, varying according to weather, the birds remain at these large waters and do not visit their nesting haunts. The bank swallow departs early, at any rate from its more northerly haunts. In August, the gatherings at the nightly roost increase enormously, though the advent and departure of passage birds causes great irregularity in numbers. They are essentially gone from their breeding range by the end of September.

Their food consists of small insects, mostly gnats and other flies whose early stages are aquatic.

The bank swallow is sociable in its nesting habits; from a dozen to many hundred pairs will nest close together, according to available space. The nests are at the end of tunnels of from a few inches to three or four feet in length, bored in sand or gravel. The actual nest is a litter of straw and feathers in a chamber at the end of the burrow, it soon becomes a hotbed of parasites. Four or five white eggs are laid about mid-late May, and a second brood is usual in all but the most northerly breeding sites.

On to my photos:

Bank swallow or sand martin

Bank swallow or sand martin

Bank swallow or sand martin

Bank swallow or sand martin

Bank swallow or sand martin

Bank swallow or sand martin

Bank swallow or sand martin

Bank swallow or sand martin

Bank swallow or sand martin

Bank swallow or sand martin

Bank swallow or sand martin

Bank swallow or sand martin

This is number 130 in my photo life list, only 220 to go!

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

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Almost deleted Fall foliage photos

I went to Palmer Park this morning, specifically to shoot photos of the fall foliage before it is gone. I arrived at the park right at sunrise and started shooting. During the course of the day, I shot just over 100 photos, many were duplicates as I bracketed the exposure to make sure that I got good ones. However, when I downloaded them to my computer, I wasn’t happy with any of them, and considered deleting them all.

I changed my mind after reading another blogger’s post, then going back and looking at my photos again. These aren’t as bad as I first thought that they were, I am my harshest critic. There’s really no reason for further words on my part, the photos are of the fall foliage, so here they are.

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

IMG_1288

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

Palmer Park, Wyoming, Michigan

I learned a few things today. One, I should have gotten to the park before actual sunrise and been shooting even earlier than I was. Pre-dawn light worked much better than the light right after the sun rose over the trees, until later in the day when there was some sunshine and blue skies to work with.

Two, after getting up at 5:30 AM, hiking 6 miles, and coming home tired and hungry, that a good meal and a long nap makes my photos look a lot better. 😉

Three, I have to stop judging my own photos so harshly. They may not be the best in the world, but these aren’t bad, and there’s a couple that are actually good.

Four, you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. I can’t control the amount of color that there is to the leaves, nor the lighting on a given day. All I can do is give it my best and hope that it’s good enough.

Five, I have to learn that what I see in the small LCD display of my camera is not what the full size photos are going to look like. That’s what led to my disappointment in the photos themselves, these looked super good on the camera display.

I hope that you have found a least of couple of these that you like.

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


My Week, Early winter?

Sunday

I’m sitting here drinking my (early) morning coffee, trying to decide where to go hiking today. Checking the local weather forecast, the meteorologists are starting to use some nasty four and five letter words in their forecasts, words like snow and sleet for later this week. This is also the second week in a row that they are predicting at least some precipitation every day for the entire week. Welcome to fall/winter in West Michigan, you know that it’s coming, but one is never quite ready for it.

I was also thinking about better ways of carrying at least part of all my camera gear with me, and then it hit me, there’s no reason to carry most of it from now til next spring. There’ll be no flowers or insects to photograph in the coming months, my photos will be of birds mostly, and either the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) or the 70-200 mm lens work well enough for them, so there’s really no reason to carry any more than one body and lens with me except on special trips.

One real answer is to continue to save money for a long prime telephoto to use while hiking rather than carry the Beast all the time. I love the way that the Beast performs, but it is my major headache when it comes to carrying my photo gear.

Anyway, I slept in my new tent/cot last night, it sure is comfy! It definitely beats sleeping on the ground in a tent or in the back of my Forester. It would be overkill, but I could set it up inside my full size tent if I were to camp in one place for a week or so, rather than sleep on the ground. I’ll leave it set up for a while yet, it still has a heavy chemical smell, but that’s going away over time.

I’m still deciding where to go today, there’s Palmer Park, which is close, and there’s always the possibility of good deer photos, but it’s been terrible for birds since last spring. There’s Paris Park, but it’s rather small, Aman Park can be good, I guess that I’ll decide over breakfast.

Am I going nuts?

Fox Squirrel

Fox Squirrel

I decided over breakfast to go to Palmer Park, and only take the Beast with me for birding. It was a foolish decision on my part, the woods there were beautiful!

We had thunderstorms roll through last night, with reports of wind and hail damage, so I kind of assumed that most of the most colorful leaves would have been blown off from the trees. I was wrong.

Fire in the morning

Fire in the morning

Red

Red

Yellow

Yellow

Brown in green

Brown in green

Red and green (Not Red Green from the TV show)

Red and green (Not Red Green from the TV show)

Afternoon fire

Afternoon fire

Not only were the trees beautiful, but for much of the day, the light would have been perfect for some wide shots if I had brought my short lens with me. Oh well, there’s always next year.

Before I get to the birds, there was this guy poking around the edge of one of the swamps when I first arrived at the park.

Oppossum

opossum

OK, I went for birds, and I brought back birds, but nothing of note, more of the same that I’ve been seeing for the last month, but I’m going to post a few anyway.

Once again, the most numerous species of birds were the yellow-rumped warblers. Once again, there were so many of them that it was hard to track down any other species most of the time. They even do tricks.

Acrobatic yellow-rumped warbler

Acrobatic yellow-rumped warbler

Or pretend to be other species.

Yellow-rumped warbler pretending to be a sparrow

Yellow-rumped warbler pretending to be a sparrow

But despite being up to my you know what in yellow-rumped warblers, I did manage to find a few other species of birds.

Female hairy woodpecker

Female hairy woodpecker

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

IMG_3472

Male downy woodpecker

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

This next shot of a blue jay isn’t very good….

Blue jay

Blue jay

…, I kept it to remind me that it was this jay and a few of his buddies that let me know that this Cooper’s hawk was coming.

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

The ruckus that the jays made alerted me something was up, the hawk came swooping in to land a very short distance from me. I took half a step to the side and shot, but the hawk flew off before I could get the exposure dead on for other photos.

There were several large flocks of kinglets in the park, mostly golden-crowned, but there were a few ruby-crowned as well. I missed all of them, so you’ll have to settle for these.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

I had forgotten how quick those little buggers are, they make chickadees look like sedated snails.

I saw wood ducks in one of the ponds, but they saw me first, and disappeared into the reeds around the pond. I walked to the end of the trail that runs past the ponds, took a break, then went back to try again. The wood ducks saw me first again, and disappeared into the rushes again, their eyesight has to be incredible, I don’t have as much trouble sneaking up on any other species of bird as I do wood ducks.

Along with the wood ducks was a flock of mallards, which would also disappear into the rushes whenever some one walked the trail next to the pond.

I decided a change in tactics was in order. I found a spot well away from the pond and in the woods, and sat down against a tree to wait the wood ducks out. After a few minutes, a lone male mallard swan out of the rushes into the main body of the pond. A few minutes after that, a pair of male mallards did the same. They must have been the lookouts. One at a time, or in small groups, the mallards came out of the rushes, and swam over to the edge of the pond nearest to me. I think that they knew I was hiding out. But, they soon began cavorting around as mallards do, so I hoped that the wood ducks would think that it was OK to come out and play too. They didn’t, for one thing, there were other people walking the trail, the faster the person on the trail passed, the less the mallards reacted to the person. But eventually, the mallards started back into the reeds again, so I took this parting shot.

Mallards

Mallards

You can see by the leaves and shadows in that photo that I was at least somewhat hidden, but it didn’t help. I’m sure that the ducks got a good laugh at my expense.

I probably put too many photos from today in here, but the weather forecast looks grim for photography this week, so I may not get many more to post.

Monday

More rain overnight, it’s cloudy and cool this morning, with the rest of the week forecast to be much the same, only cooler still. It’s funny, we had a wet, cool spring that saw record-setting rainfall amounts along with record flooding back in April. Then, as if some one had flipped a switch, we went straight into a very pleasant summer and early fall, now that switch has been flipped back, and we’re back to cold and rainy.

I may not have hit the fall colors at their peak while I was on vacation, but at least I had excellent weather for the week. If I had gone a week later, the colors would have been better, but I would have been dealing with rain for most of the week.

From my crazy idea files. After trying and failing once again to get good photos of wood ducks, a few things come to mind. I could, and probably should, invest in some camouflaged clothing. However, unless one dresses from head to toe in camo, and have camouflaged every piece of gear that they tote, I’ve found it to be less effective than no camo at all. The critters seem to spot any portion of a person not covered in camo, conclude that the person is up to no good, and keep their distance. I’ve considered one of the portable hunting blinds, but I doubt that they would work well if I were to set it up and attempt to use it just minutes later, as the critters would head for cover while I was setting it up. Besides, those things are too expensive for what they are.

So, if I were to ever win the lottery, I would buy a large tract of land and create a nature preserve with nature photographers in mind, with blinds located at strategic places around the preserve, all set up, and ready to use. That would include some elevated blinds in wooded areas to make photographing birds that stay in the treetops easier. I have very elaborate plans floating around inside my head, as it gives me something to think about while I’m driving for work and bored to tears, but I won’t bore you with all those plans.

Time for food and then a walk.

I’m back, and I’m a bit bummed out by the weather. For just being outdoors and walking, I prefer a day like today, when it’s cool, cloudy, and windy, over a hot sunny day in the summer that drains all my energy. However, I’ve got all this relatively new photography equipment, and I have been enjoying learning how to get the best out of it immensely. I’m afraid that the learning process is going to be put on hold for the course of a long West Michigan winter for the most part. There will be a few good days for photography, but they will be few and far between until next spring.

Some bad news to me, it looks as if New Balance has all but abandoned the hiking boot market. I have worn out yet another pair of shoes, so I went online to look for some new boots for over the winter, with New Balance being my preferred brand due to fit, and the none of the few boots that they are producing now come close to matching the old pair that I’ve worn out. In fact, there were other people questioning New Balance as to why they had ceased producing the boots that I loved so much, because the other people had loved them as much as I did. So, I suppose I’ll have to try another brand, but there aren’t many options in my size.

I do have a pair of Redwing brand boots, but they are heavy, clunky, and not nearly as comfortable as the New Balance boots were. I guess that I will bite the bullet and wear the Redwing boots until I can get someplace where I can try boots on. That usually proves difficult, as most places do not stock footwear in the size that I need.

Oh, my photos for the day, I had almost forgotten them, as they were terrible for the most part. I’ll post two of the least bad, just because they are of house finches, and I haven’t posted many photos of them lately.

House finch taking off

House finch taking off

House finch eating lunch

House finch eating lunch

It’s time for a shower, and visiting my mom in the nursing home.

Tuesday

Cloudy and cool again this morning, for the last week, the temperatures have been averaging about ten degrees below average, when for the first two weeks of the month, they ran about the same amount above average. So the month will go into the record books as about average, but that doesn’t really tell the story. We also went from above average sunshine, to well below average.

It’s been snowing in many of the places that I visited in the UP last month while on vacation, better them than me. 😉

I have a dentist appointment tomorrow afternoon, so I’d better not forget that.

Other than that, I don’t have much to say this morning, so I suppose that it’s time for food and then a walk.

I’m back, there were a few tiny breaks in the clouds from time to time today, I tried to photograph a few of the brightly colored trees that remain, but I was too slow most of the time. It was almost like trying to photograph birds, I’d see the sunlight hit a tree, pull the camera up to my eye, and as I’d be setting the exposure and composing the shot, a cloud would come along to block the sun. I did manage two so-so shots that I saved.

Autumn colors

Autumn colors

Autumn colors

Autumn colors

I think that the last shot gives you an idea how small the breaks in the clouds were, the trees are in bright sunshine, while the field in the foreground is in the shade.

Yesterday, when there was almost no light to work with, there were many birds in the park, but today when the light was better, there were very few. Isn’t that the way it always goes?

On Sunday, I got the shot of a yellow-rumped warbler that I labeled as the warbler pretending to be a sparrow. It was hopping around on the boardwalk with its feathers all fluffed out to make it look as plump as a sparrow. Today, I caught one pretending to be a goldfinch.

Yellow-rumped warbler pretending to be a goldfinch

Yellow-rumped warbler pretending to be a goldfinch

I say that it was pretending to be a goldfinch because it was perched on the stalk of a wildflower eating seeds, just like goldfinches do. Apparently, the warbler wasn’t happy being photographed eating seeds, for it copped an attitude after that first photo.

Yellow-rumped warbler with attitude

Yellow-rumped warbler with attitude

That’s it as far as photos from today.

I have taken down the tent/cot that I had set-up in the living room. I also put it up and took it down a couple of times to see how well it went. It is a work out, not because it is complicated, but because the thing is so heavy. But, that’s what I need, something heavy and heavy-duty, as I still weigh 270 pounds according to the recently re-calibrated scale at work. I still have twenty to thirty pounds to lose, but I’m making slow and steady progress in the right direction. I would love to get back down to 240 pounds, which is what I weighed most of my life, but as long as I get below 250, I’ll be happy.

I’m smoking less all the time while I’m losing weight. I’d quit cold turkey, but I’m afraid that my weight would skyrocket again as it did the last time that I quit. As long as I am losing weight, and cutting back on the number of cigarettes that I smoke each week, I consider myself to be on track. I’ve come a long way from 350 pounds and over two packs of smokes a day, and both goals are in sight, which makes it easier all the time.

Back to the tent/cot, it weighs 60 pounds, and it is always in one piece, so you’re always dealing with all the weight as you pack it in its carrying case, or unpack it. It will be perfect for car camping, I can have it set up in five minutes now, fly included. I sure wouldn’t want to have to carry it very far though.

Wednesday

Just when I think that I have this new theme that I’m using figured out so that it puts the photo I want into the slide show at the top of the page, it reverts back to making its own choice of photos to use. It’s beginning to get on my nerves, as it manages to pull the worst photo of the lot out of the post and put that into the slide show.

I drove through the first snow squall of the season last night, luckily the snow didn’t accumulate, but it was coming down hard for a while. We haven’t had a hard frost yet this fall, but I’ve seen snow falling, at least there’s a bit of a warm up in the forecast for next week. There’s still rain and snow falling right along the Lake Michigan shoreline, but here, 40 miles inland, the sun is out. So, I’d better get a move on and get out there before the clouds return. Especially since I have a dentist appointment this afternoon.

As I was eating breakfast, I received a call from the dentist’s office cancelling the appointment, which worked out well. With some sunshine today, I went crazy taking photos, not many good ones, it was a day to play. It all started with this starling eating berries.

Starling

Starling

Then, it was down the hatch.

Starling swallowing a berry

Starling swallowing a berry

Next up (or down), an ICBM. (Inter Conifer Ballistic missile)

Actually, it was a red-bellied woodpecker that was eating berries a short distance from the starling, but when I tried to photograph the woodpecker, it dive bombed me.

Red-bellied woodpecker in flight

Red-bellied woodpecker in flight

Next up (or down), a couple of real turkeys playing peek-a-boo with me in the weeds.

Turkey

Turkey with head up

Turkey

Turkey with head down

I persisted and got a fair shot showing the colors of the turkey.

Turkey

Turkey

Next up is a robin that had been eating grapes until I aimed the camera at it, it must have been a ham, because rather than continuing to eat, it posed for me instead.

American robin

American robin

While waiting for the robin to grab a grape, I spotted a whitetail doe watching me watch the robin.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

When I got to the park, I took a few photos of the trees in some sunshine for a change.

Fall colors

Fall colors

Fall colors

Fall colors

Fall colors

Fall colors

Fall colors with a bonus male northern cardinal

Fall colors with a bonus male northern cardinal

I could have zoomed in more on the cardinal, but I thought that the wider shot showed how well that they blend in with the leaves this time of year.

The rest of the photos from today are birds, starting with a female house finch.

Female house finch

Female house finch

My first photo of a junco this fall.

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

Yesterday, I posted photos of a yellow-rumped warbler eating seeds just like goldfinches typically do, today, I caught a goldfinch looking for insects in the trees, just like a warbler typically does.

American goldfinch pretending to be a warbler

American goldfinch pretending to be a warbler

American goldfinch pretending to be a warbler

American goldfinch pretending to be a warbler

American goldfinch pretending to be a warbler

American goldfinch pretending to be a warbler

There’s been a large flock of the goldfinches hanging around here the last week or so, most of them were eating seeds, but a good number of them were up in the trees looking for insects today.

The eastern phoebe is sticking around yet.

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

I know that I already posted a photo of a robin, but I like this next one.

American robin

American robin

Shortly after that, the wind had increased in strength to the point where it was strong enough to move the clouds from the Lake Michigan coast inland to my area, so I finished my walk under a cloudy sky. Along the way, I caught the ICBM preparing to launch again.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

I know that I posted too many photos from today, but given the variety of species I was able to capture, and what the birds were doing, I just had to post them. Besides, it’s going to be feast or famine as far as photos for the next few months, depending on the weather.

Thursday

More snow overnight, it’s a lot more fun walking in the first snowfall of the season than it is driving through it! 😉

It’s very cloudy and very cool this morning, almost cold enough for the snow to accumulate, but not quite. The weather forecast for the weekend is looking grim, so I’ll be sticking close to home again. At least it is supposed to warm up a little, not that it really matters to me, I’m more interested in the cloud cover, precipitation, and wind than I am in the temperature when deciding where to go and what to do on a weekend.

I’m back from my walk, and sticking around home isn’t so bad, as I got a lifer today, which I will get to in due time. There maybe some birding hotspots that are hotter than others in Michigan, but I still say that most, if not the entire state is a birding hotspot. I may get more species of birds more rapidly in other parts of the state, but for walking a little park on the fringes of the state’s second largest metropolitan area, I’m doing pretty good here.

I also lucked out in that as I was finishing breakfast, a hole in the clouds opened up above this area. I could see heavy clouds all around, but I had sunshine for my walk, which I tried to make the best of, starting with a downy woodpecker.

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

I had covered much of my walk without seeing any species of birds that I hadn’t posted quite a few photos of lately until I had walked past a wooded corner that often holds birds. I heard the song of a wren coming from where I had just walked past, and since I could use better photos of all the species of wrens, I turned around and went back. I found a very uncooperative Carolina wren.

Carolina wren

Carolina wren

Carolina wren

Carolina wren

I stood next to the thicket that the wren was in for some time, as I could see it moving around in the brush, and I hoped that it would make a mistake and perch where I had a clear view of it. No such luck, eventually, I heard it singing again, it had slipped out the back of the thicket and was singing from the other corner of the woodlot. So, I stared moving again, and before I had taken three steps, I saw another small bird in the thicket that the wren had been in. From where I was standing, my first thought that was it was a Nashville warbler, but I put the Beast on it to be sure. I saw a flash of a color pattern that I didn’t recognize, so I pressed the shutter release out of instinct.

White-eyed vireo

White-eyed vireo

It was a white-eyed vireo, so I got serious about photographing it, and came away with a few fair photos of it.

White-eyed vireo

White-eyed vireo

Another lifer for me, at least as far as photographs!

I’ve posted a few photos of white-throated sparrows recently, and here’s a two more.

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

I’ve been posting so many lately as they are just migrating through the area on their way south for the winter. It won’t be long until they are no longer around, and I won’t see them until they pass through the area next spring on their way north again. Even the crows are flocking up and heading south.

A murder of crows flying south

A murder of crows flying south

My last photo from today is of a chickadee, even though they’re year round residents. But, when I get a shot like this, I have to take it, and post it.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Another day, a lot more birds, and not many duplicates, I would say that I am having a good week.

Friday

Another night of driving through snow squalls last night, the snow was accumulating in places last night, to the point where the roads were getting slick, and there were quite a few accidents because of that.

It’s cool and cloudy again this morning, with a few breaks opening up in the clouds. There’s a good chance that the clouds are going to dissipate even more, so I’ve been fooling around here at home hoping that they do. You know what they say about a watched pot, the same holds true of clouds when you want them to break up.

Well, I’m back from my walk, what a great day it turned out to be!

It started out on the chilly side, cloudy, and with a stiff wind making it feel much colder than it really was. As far as birds, no unusual or somewhat rare species today, the most interesting thing today was how many finches there are in the park, both house finches and goldfinches. I took a bad photo of a dozen of them together in a tree, but a dozen was just the tip of the iceberg. If the photo had been better, I may have posted it, but it was nothing special, so I deleted it.

Even though I didn’t get many photos, it was a great day. There was a point when the sun came out, the finches were chattering away, I was in a spot sheltered from the wind, I could feel the sunshine warming me from the inside out. To make things even better, I could smell the smoke from some one’s wood stove mixing in with the scent of pines from the woods I was standing near, it was heavenly!

I did shoot one photo of a goldfinch.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

I was well on my way back home, and I still hadn’t really hit my target of a wallpaper worthy photo for the day, I was afraid that I was going to have to use a photo of a goose that I shot to check the camera settings as I started my walk.

Canada goose

Canada goose

I tried a wide shot with the Beast, but a wide shot with it isn’t very wide.

Autumn in Michigan

Autumn in Michigan

Then a fox squirrel asked me if he would do for my wallpaper shot of the day, close, but no cigar.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

The fox squirrel lost out to a red-bellied woodpecker.

Red-bellied woodpecker eating berries

Red-bellied woodpecker eating berries

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

I don’t know if that last berry was too tart, or otherwise didn’t taste good, for the woodpecker gave the remaining berries a closer inspection.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

It’s possible that the woodpecker was just taking some time to plot what it was going to pull on me. It snatched a berry, then blasted off to another branch to gobble the berry down before I could get the camera back on it again, then, he shot me this rather smug look.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

What the woodpecker didn’t know was that I had been quick enough to get a fair shot of it as it tried to escape my lens.

Red-bellied woodpecker in flight

Red-bellied woodpecker in flight

If only I had been a little quicker with the Beast and been able to keep the woodpecker closer to the center of the frame, the last one would have been the wallpaper shot for the day. As it is, I have chosen the photo of the woodpecker with its eyes half closed.

I’ve been really lucky this week, getting at least some sunshine almost everyday. That’s almost amazing considering how cloudy and rainy it has been, we’ve had at least a trace of precipitation every day for the last twelve days. I hope that my luck holds this weekend.

Saturday

Cloudy, rainy, and very windy this morning, although the wind is slacking off a little as I type this. There were wind gusts over 60 MPH (96 Km) overnight along the Lake Michigan coast, and many power outages have been reported. The wind hasn’t been as strong here, but still, it wouldn’t be fun walking in 30 MPH wind gusts. So, I’m waiting for the wind to die down a little more, and hopefully, there will be a gap in the bands of rain that’s been falling.

In the meantime, I ordered two pairs of hiking boots yesterday from Cabela’s. One pair is their brand of Gore-tex boots, the other is a pair of Keens. The company that I work for will reimburse us up to $100 for work boots, so one pair will become my winter footwear for work. The Keens were discounted over 50%, a real steal, especially if they turn out to be as great as the Keen sandals that I love so much. I don’t really like wearing the same footwear for work as for hiking, but if I can get two pairs of boots for $50, I’ll make do to save the money.

I’m back from my walk, what a great day for a hike, what a great day for watching wildlife, what a rotten day for photography, but that’s life. Since it was such a bad day for photography, I did the extended version of my daily walk.

The wind was still quite strong, the clouds never relented, but I missed most of the rain. What rain that did fall hit me as very large drops that seemed quite hard. Nature is amazing, take something as common as raindrops, they come in different sizes, sometimes you hardly notice the drops as they land on you, other times they can sting like you’re being poked with pins. The raindrops today were like marbles falling on me.

I don’t know why, but I love being outdoors in weather like today. I walk taller, and at a faster pace, but I stop more often to make up for that. I have more energy, and just feel better all around.

Since I had doubts as to whether I’d be able to get any good bird photos today, I shot a few of the colorful trees. It has surprised me, but to get good photos on a dark and gloomy day like today, I have to go down with the exposure compensation, not up as I would have thought. Here’s two from today, both shot at -1 full stop EV.

Fall colors

Fall colors

Fall colors

Fall colors

Sorry, I couldn’t get the shot that I wanted as far as the colors without including the sign.

I wish that people wouldn’t let their cats roam free.

Calico cat

Calico cat

I had been seeing good numbers of birds, mostly robins and yellow-rumped warblers, but all the usual suspects were present today, with one notable addition.

I got to the top of the hill to enter Creekside Park, and looking over the field, I saw a raptor in flight. That was no big deal, I see both Cooper’s and red-tailed hawks there very often. However, the one today looked bigger than a red-tailed, but that still didn’t cause me to pay more than passing attention to the one today. There’s one red-tailed hawk around here that is about 25% larger than the average ones, so that’s what I thought that I was seeing. Even when it struck me that this raptor’s wing beats looked much more fluid than a red-tailed hawk’s, I still didn’t pay much attention to it.

I walked a short way farther, and when I looked up, the raptor was headed straight for me, so I decided what the heck, I don’t have anything else to photograph, I’ll give it a go. I cranked in a full stop of positive exposure compensation, got the raptor in the viewfinder, and saw that it wasn’t a hawk at all.

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

It was an eagle, and if I had shot that somewhere else, I probably wouldn’t even post that photo, but seeing as how I saw the eagle less than a half a mile from my apartment, I think it warrants being included here.

That’s the second time in the year that I’ve lived here that I’ve seen an eagle flying over the park. Add to that the Carolina wren and the white-eyed vireo from earlier this week, and that’s three sightings of rare birds all within a mile of where I live this week. I’ve gotten at least half a dozen lifers while on my daily walk this past year, not bad.

It’s funny, as I was starting my walk today, I bumped into an older gentleman who I see on occasion, and he was saying that most people walk around with their heads down, and never notice any part of the natural world around them. So true!

Anyway, that about wraps this week up. The weather forecast for tomorrow has improved some, but it’s still iffy, so I think that I’ll go back to Palmer Park tomorrow to see if I can get some better photos of the trees, and to chase the wood ducks around some more.

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


Wilson’s Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

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.

Wilson’s Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

The Wilson’s Warbler is a small New World warbler. It is greenish above and yellow below, with rounded wings and a long, slim tail. The male has a black crown patch, depending on the subspecies, that mark is reduced or absent in the female. It breeds across Canada and south through the western United States, and winters from Mexico south through much of Central America.

The Wilson’s Warbler is a small passerine, ranging from 10 to 12 cm (3.9 to 4.7 in) in length, with a wingspan of 14–17 cm (5.5–6.7 in) and a mass of 5–10 g (0.18–0.35 oz). It has a plain green-brown back and yellow underparts. The male has a small black cap.

The breeding habitat is fairly open woodland with undergrowth or shrubs and thickets in moist areas with streams, ponds, bogs, and wet clearings. Wilson’s Warbler breeds in northern Canada and the western US; it winters in overgrown clearings and coffee plantations, forest edges, deciduous forests, tropical evergreens, pine-oak forests, mangroves, thorn-scrub, riparian gallery forests, brushy fields, and mixed forests . At all seasons, it prefers secondary growth, riparian habitats, lakes, and boreal forests with overgrown clear-cuts.

Wilson’s Warbler is an insectivore, feeding primarily on insects gleaned from leaves and twigs, or caught by flycatching. Some of these insects include beetles, bees, or caterpillars. The Wilson’s Warbler is an active forager, moving rapidly through shrubs, on the ground, and sometimes in taller trees during the winter. Feeding birds often twitch their tails or flick their wings nervously.

Nesting generally begins in early March in west coast populations, and extends into August in the northern range. The female does the majority of the nest-building.

The cup nest is typically constructed of vegetation and lined with grasses and hair. It is often sunken into moss or sedges at the base of shrubs. The clutch varies from 2 to 7 eggs, which are creamy or off-white with fine reddish spots. The eggs hatch at 11–15 days and the young fledge at 8–13 days; adults care for them for several weeks.

On to my photos:

Wilson's Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

Wilson’s Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

Wilson's Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

Wilson’s Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

Wilson's Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

Wilson’s Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

Wilson's Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

Wilson’s Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

Wilson's Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

Wilson’s Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

Wilson's Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

Wilson’s Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

Wilson's Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

Wilson’s Warbler, Cardellina pusilla

This is number 129 in my photo life list, only 221 to go!

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

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My Week, at peace with nature

Monday

I’m sitting here on a Monday morning after a great weekend of being outdoors chasing birds, and thinking how great it is to be at peace with nature. It also occurs to me how much of that peaceful feeling comes from being at least a little knowledgeable about nature. I’m finding that nature photography gives me about the same feeling inside as fly fishing does, becoming one with nature, while always learning at the same time.

One can not be a good fly fisherman for trout unless one is a keen observer of everything nature, from the weather, the behavior of wildlife, the insects near the river, the mood of the fish, everything plays a part, nature is one giant web woven together of many seemingly different pieces.

So it has become with my photography, I spend more time watching than photographing, and that in turn, leads to better photos.

That in turn leads to a calm peaceful feeling that up until now, I’ve only know while standing in a river with a fly rod in my hand.

It’s not that nature is always quiet or peaceful, to the contrary, it is often noisy, and there’s the continuous struggle for survival taking place. In the wild, it’s eat or be eaten.

So why does spending so much time in nature lead to such a peaceful feeling in me, it will take a greater mind than I possess to figure that one out, perhaps Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, or John Muir did, but that I haven’t read enough of their works to learn the answer to that question.

Without really realizing what I’ve been doing in my life, I now live a lifestyle that could be said is much like that of Thoreau while at Walden Pond. It works for me.

Well, enough deep thoughts for one day.

Today is forecast to be the last of the great weather that we’ve had around here, basically all summer long. We had a few short heat waves, but for most of the summer and all of this fall, the weather has been excellent. The forecast is for much cooler weather, with rain for the next seven days at least. Cooler doesn’t bother me, I like cool, even the rain doesn’t really bother me, I like walking in the quietness of a rainy day. But, I’m sure that rain will limit my photographic output, but even that doesn’t really bother me.

It is time to get out there and enjoy the sunshine while it last though, be back later.

I’m back. I set off with every intention of photographing the last wildflowers of the year while there was sunlight and before the cold snap hit. Too late, most of the wildflowers disappeared over the weekend, and the wind played havoc with my attempts at any close-ups of flowers. This isn’t a flower, but it’s as close as I could come today.

Dew on a burgundy blade of grass

Dew on a burgundy blade of grass

There were many changes to the landscape over the weekend, many of the leaves fell from the trees, and most of the flowers were gone, so I got a work out from carrying all my camera gear for nothing.

I’m going to have to start carrying just part of my kit or something, I’m not sure what the answer is quite yet. I noticed on Saturday, while birding at Roselle Park, that having all the extra stuff draped off me as if I were a Christmas tree interferes with my ability to shoot photographs while using the Beast, especially moving targets, or in thick brush.

Yesterday at Muskegon, I carried just the Beast, I was never very far from my vehicle, as I did a series of relatively short walks near the lagoons and around small woodlots there, and I found photographing birds much easier, imagine that.

I have had some success carrying just two cameras with me, but I’m not sure that’s the answer.

Having a camera bag over one shoulder, and the bag holding my tripod over the other shoulder, with both of them shifting around as I move, and getting tangled up in the brush is a royal pain while trying to hold a camera with the Beast attached steady.

I have some ideas, some of them may sound crazy, in fact, I’ve been thinking of doing a post on just some of the crazy ideas that I have swirling around in my head. Those ideas go way beyond camera gear and how to carry it, believe me, they could make for a humorous post.

Another thing that I put my finger on today is that using the Beast to shoot flying birds works much better at lower angles. It’s hard to hold the Beast steady while it is pointed nearly straight up. I shot a number of photos of a turkey vulture today, too many really, but I need the practice.

Here’s my best (sharpest) photo of the day.

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

And here’s two that I shot with the vulture almost straight above me, so that the Beast was nearly vertical.

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

The last one isn’t too bad, I had realized how shaky I was with the Beast pointed straight up, and tried doubly hard to hold it steady for that one.

The photo that I have chosen as the wallpaper on my computer for the day is this one, even though it really isn’t a very good photo.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

I chose that one for the look of surprise in the woodpecker’s eye as it realized that I was standing less than 15 feet from it, needless to say, it didn’t stick around long after that shot. I do love sneaking up on critters!

I could post a technically better photo of the woodpecker, but there’ll be plenty of chances for them later on, when they are one of the few species of birds left around here over the winter.

I did shoot a few more photos of palm warblers, but I posted enough of them last week, and they may show up later this week, so I’m not going to bother with them now.

I was going to attempt to photograph the blue jays in flight carrying acorns outside my apartment when I got back, but I was interrupted by a neighbor just as I was going to switch lenses. He asked me if I photographed birds, or knew anything about them, for he had seen a large brown bird that he thought was a hawk perched on the roof rack of a car in the parking lot. He pointed to my Forester, must be that one of my hawk buddies came looking for me. 😉

The neighbor had tried to photograph the hawk with his point and shoot, but the hawk didn’t stick around long enough. That would have been a photo that I would have liked to have seen! He and I ended up talking wildlife and photography for quite some time, so no blue jay shots today.

Tuesday

Another morning of sipping my coffee, listening to the geese passing by, and a few other birds calling from time to time. The clouds are starting to roll in ahead of the rain that’s expected for this afternoon, which will put an end to this string of absolutely fantastic weather we’ve been having. Not only has it been mild for fall, but we’ve seen much more sunshine than we do in an average autumn, almost 50% more. It’s the middle of October, and we still haven’t had frost here yet, and it’s only been in the last week that I’ve worn a jacket while on my daily walks, other than a rain jacket when it has rained.

One of the tidbits of information that Brian (I got the name wrong before) of the Muskegon County Nature Club passed on to me on Sunday was that the time of the year that you see a migrating bird can be as useful in identifying it as the field marks. Birds are very predictable in their migration, which in the dark recesses of my brain, I knew. Think the swallows of Capistrano, or the buzzards of Ohio, two examples of how predictable birds can be as far as their migration patterns. My mom would mark her calendar each spring when the hummingbirds and Baltimore orioles would return, so she would know when to get the feeders ready for their return in future years.

Well, just what I didn’t need, a major hassle has reared its ugly head, the automatic payment to the nursing home that my mom is in didn’t go through this month. The nursing home “upgraded” their computer system, which is where the problem most likely occurred, but it still means that I have to dig through my mom’s stuff and find her checkbook, then drop off the payment to the nursing home, along with verifying the account and balance. Why me?

I’ll get back to how predictable bird migrations are at a later time, but I’m going to eat breakfast, then go for a walk before I tackle the nursing home problem.

I’m back from my walk, I’ve dug through the boxes that I never unpacked when I moved, and I’ve found my mom’s checkbook. I still have to run the check to the nursing home, but I’m taking a break for water and to cool down before doing that.

A question, why is it that when you go looking for something, it is in the bottom of the bottom box in a stack? I couldn’t have buried my mom’s checkbook any deeper without using a jack hammer to take out the floor of my apartment.

Since I have a few moments, I’m going to insert the few photos from today, even though they are junk.

I tried one shot of a blue jay carrying an acorn, but after that, I told myself that I didn’t have time to play, and that I had to move along.

Blue jay in flight with an acorn

Blue jay in flight with an acorn

I can shoot flowers faster, as I don’t have to stalk them, just pick a good specimen and shoot away, but the wind caused me problems today.

Spotted knapweed

Spotted knapweed

Chicory

Chicory

This one’s for Emily, two species of birds in one shot.

Two bluebirds and an English sparrow

Two bluebirds and an English sparrow

A flying great blue heron, out of range, but still good practice. I went up 1 1/2 EV for this shot, I think that’s the most that I’ve ever intentionally over-exposed a photo. That should also give you an idea how gloomy it was today.

Great Blue Heron in flight

Great Blue Heron in flight

Crown vetch

Crown vetch

The light today was dull and lifeless, so my photos came out dull and lifeless. Oh well, I had better get used to that, as dull and lifeless light will be the norm around here for at least the next 4 months.

Two things taken care of today, I dropped the check off at the nursing home, and still had time to renew the lease on my apartment for another year, so that’s crossed off my to-do list.

Wednesday

It’s cloudy and I’ll call it cool this morning, after some much-needed rain overnight. It’s still warmer than average, but that isn’t going to last much longer.

There’s rain in the forecast for the next eight days, but a lot of that will be lake effect rain, quite scattered, and mostly in the afternoons. The waters of Lake Michigan are still in the low 60’s (17 C), and with cold air crossing the lake, it will be cloudy as long as the wind is out of the north or west, with the scattered rain. The forecast for the coming weekend is cooler and wetter yet, one reason that I went birding both days last weekend. The way that it looks now, this weekend will be a good one to stick close to home.

Looking ahead, there’s the long Thanksgiving weekend approaching, I’ll have to start giving some thought as to what I’ll be doing then. It’s firearms deer hunting season then, which severely limits my options. I have my new tent/cot to use, if the weather is nice enough to use it if I decide on a trip somewhere.

I’m back from my walk, it was a day of brainstorms and an epiphany or two.

It was a cloudy, gloomy day as I walked along enjoying the cool weather and fall colors. I wanted to photograph the colors, but I doubted how the photos would come out in such low light, and, I could never line up a shot without getting at least some of the man-made features of the park that I walk in, or surrounding the park, in the photo.

First epiphany, it doesn’t matter, the photos I take while on my daily walk aren’t going to be award winners anyway, so why shouldn’t I shoot what I see, even if there is some sign of human existence in the shot? So, I started shooting.

Fall

Fall in Michigan

That led to the second epiphany of the day, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more”!

That has nothing to do with where I live, but it applies to my camera and lenses. I couldn’t believe how bright the colors of the leaves looked when I viewed that photo on the LCD display of the camera.

I love my little Powershot, but being a compact digital camera, its low light performance is crap. The Nikon D50 that I wore out wasn’t much better in low light situations, that photo would have been terrible if taken with the Nikon. However, as you can see, the Canon 60D did very well with this shot, I was impressed when I reviewed it on the LCD screen of the camera.

The small LCD screen has fooled me before, as far as proper exposure, and how sharp a photo is, but one thing that I’m learning is that if I can get a shot that looks good on the small screen, I can also make adjustments to the camera to get the photos to look good on the computer as well.

Here’s another wide shot from today.

Fall in Michigan

Fall in Michigan

These two are OK, but I can do better! I should have taken and used my tripod to be able to reduce the ISO and to stop down the lens for more depth of field which I couldn’t do holding the camera. These were shot at about the limits of what I can do handheld. The shutter speed for both photos was around 1/100 second, with the 70-200 mm lens wide open at f/4, and an ISO of around 320 if I remember correctly.

I should have used the second body set up for landscapes and the 15-85 mm lens as well. And, with the adjustment options that I have with the 60D, I think that there are even more things that I can do to improve on these. We’ll see if those brainstorms that I had today work as well as I hope that they do. 😉 I’ve already made adjustments to the second camera body for tomorrow, and I will take it and the tripod along for more testing.

There were plenty of birds in the park today, but with the dreadful light and intermittent rain, I only took one photo, of a robin feeding on pokeweed berries, just because I’ve never seen robins eating pokeweed before.

American robin

American robin

And, my final photo of the day is junk, but it’s fun too.

Canada geese and fox squirrels

Canada geese and fox squirrels

I’m probably just wasting space with that one, but it was taken not far from the door of my apartment. I have looked out the window to come face to face with geese, squirrels, and other birds and wildlife from time to time. I may not live near the stunning scenery that other bloggers I follow do, or the more exotic wildlife, but this is home, and it is what it is.

I walked home in a windblown mist, my kind of day, oddball that I am. I don’t know why it is that I enjoy that type of weather as much as I do, but I do. Part of it is coming back to a warm, even cozy apartment, but I just like being outside in bad weather for some strange reason. I did an entire post on that subject early on in my blogging, so I won’t prattle on about that any longer, other than to say that I just closed the windows in my apartment a little. They had been fully open for the past month or so. It’s cooled off enough that I have the windows a quarter of the way open now. It won’t be long and even I will have to close them completely.

Thursday

Very cloudy, cool, and rain this morning. I won’t be trying any landscapes with the second body mounted on the tripod today, and here I was stoked to see what I could come up with. It may very well be that I won’t come back with any photos at all today, as there’s no gaps in the rain when I checked the radar a few minutes ago. It’s so dark due to the thick clouds that I had no idea what time it was until I checked, and it’s much later than I thought. Oh well, it’s been a marvelous summer and early fall, so I’ll try not to complain about the constant cloud cover that will be around for the next five months, not too much anyway.

I’m back from my walk, and it could just be that clouds will no longer be an excuse that I can use for my bad photos.

I changed my mind this morning while eating breakfast, I told myself that it was too dark for birding, that I may as well take the landscape body and short lens and shoot a few shots handheld to see what effect the setting changes I had made would have on my photos on a day like today. I may be on to something!

Michigan fall in the rain

Michigan fall in the rain

The rain did add a foggy look to most of my shots from today, I did much better when shooting at short to medium range.

Michigan fall in the rain

Michigan fall in the rain

I saw a number of hermit thrushes today, and when I managed to get fairly close to one, I took a chance even though I had just the 15-85 mm lens with me.

Hermit thrush on take off

Hermit thrush on take off

Too bad that the thrush started to fly off just as I pressed the shutter release, but that’s the breaks. I went back to shooting more colorful (and stationary) subjects.

Sumac

Sumac

Michigan fall in the rain

Michigan fall in the rain

Michigan fall in the rain

Michigan fall in the rain

OK, so there’s no award winners in the shots from today, I’m still amazed at how well these turned out given the absolutely horrid weather conditions for photography today. Had I used the tripod, and stopped the lens down to f/8 or f/11, I think that these would have been even better, I know they would have been better. But, I didn’t want the camera and lens exposed to the rain and fog any longer than necessary. I wished that I had an umbrella to block the rain so that I could have used the tripod.

Another of my crazy ideas, I wonder if I could adapt one of those small umbrellas that you wear as a hat to the tripod for use on days like today? Now wouldn’t that be a sight to see, me standing out in the rain shooting photos with a little hat umbrella over my camera? 😉

That still wouldn’t deal with the fog though, but it is an idea.

I’m beginning to understand what all those adjustments that I can make to my camera are for, and how other photographers can get great photos under “bad” lighting. Of course it helps a great deal to be using a camera that actually responds to the adjustments that I make and does turn out good photos.

Just for the record, none of the photos have been edited other than cropped. I didn’t resort to “juicing” the colors to get them to look that vibrant, the colors in the photos are very close to what I was seeing in real life.

Friday

I haven’t done a Great Lakes water level update in a while, as the rate of increase slowed over the summer, after some dramatic increases this spring, because of the record rainfall that we received. Here’s the short version, all five of the Great Lakes are up an average of 12 inches (30.48 centimeters) since last year, with the highest increase occurring in Lake Superior which is up 15 inches (38.1 centimeters). Only Lakes Huron and Michigan are significantly lower than average now, the other three are near or above their average levels. This represents a total increase of 20.84 trillion gallons (78.89 trillion liters) of water into the five Great Lakes in the past year.

It’s cool with a little sunshine trying to burn through the clouds and fog left over from last night. I’m almost disappointed that it isn’t cloudier. 😉 I wanted to play around with getting good fall foliage shots in the rain again.

I know that the shots I’ve posted so far this week are nothing special to most people, but they are to me. I’ve seen some great photos of autumn colors taken on cloudy days and/or while it was raining, and had always wished that I could do as well. I thought that I was the reason that I couldn’t match what others could do, but it turns out that it was the equipment I used. That’s an excuse that I try very hard to avoid, as it’s too easy to do that, than to learn how to use the equipment properly. I always keep the old saying, “It’s a poor carpenter who blames his tools” in mind whenever I have difficulty with something, but I think that another old saying applies equally, “You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear”.

Well, enough of that, time for a walk.

I’m back, I was actually a little disappointed that there was bright sunshine today, as I wanted to build on what I had learned the last two days as far as photography in the rain. I didn’t know it when I shot the photos that I did today, but I managed to get a few that show how important it is to learn how to adjust the setting of a camera, and use a tripod more often.

I’ll start with this photo of a robin. This was shot with the camera body set up for wildlife using the 70-200 mm lens.

American robin

American robin

Same body, same settings, zoomed in closer.

American robin

American robin

I looked across the field from where the robin was, and saw a little color that I thought was worth trying to get a photo of. I used the same lens, body, and settings for this shot.

Fall in Michigan

Fall in Michigan

But then, I decided to try out the second body, set-up for fall colors, using the 15-85 mm lens, and mounted on the tripod.

Fall in Michigan

Fall in Michigan

The first landscape shot is OK, but it looks a little washed out, and not as sharp as it should be. That’s even though the 70-200 mm lens is a tad sharper than the 15-85 mm lens used for the second shot. I used auto white balance for the first, and manually set the white balance for sun in the second. I used program mode for the first, aperture for the second. It amazes me how much difference that a tweak here and there in the camera settings can make such a large difference in virtually identical equipment. I should probably list all the differences in set-ups between the two bodies, but I think that the results are dependent on the particular camera that one is using.

That, and using the tripod, by mounting the camera on it, I was able to stop the lens down to f/20, while the first shot was taken at f/10 handheld. I didn’t expect that kind of difference!

But what I find most interesting is that the set-up for wildlife that worked so well for the robin did such a poor job of the foliage in the landscape photo, even the foliage in the robin photo came out extremely well.

OK, since I didn’t use the same lens from the same spot and I didn’t shoot at the same angle in each photo, it isn’t really a true test, or is it? The differences I see in those two photos are the same differences I see whenever I compare my wildlife settings to my landscape settings when it comes to landscapes.

I really haven’t tried it the other way around, using the landscape setting for wildlife, as I usually have the short lens on the landscape body. However, since the “stock” camera settings had to be changed in order to get good wildlife photos, I would assume that if I used settings on the other side of “stock”, as I use for landscapes, that the results would be less than ideal.

My other photos for the day, grapes dangling from a maple tree.

Grapes in a maple tree

Grapes in a maple tree

On the way home, I looked up to see a pair of Cooper’s Hawks circling together.

Cooper's hawks

Cooper’s hawks

A flock of starlings decide to move out of the area.

Starlings

Starlings

Then, the two hawks were joined by a third, but I couldn’t get all three in the frame at one time, one was always too far from the other two.

Cooper's hawks

Cooper’s hawks

Eventually, one broke away from the other two and did a fly by for me.

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk in flight

Rain is forecast to move back in for later this afternoon and tomorrow, in a way, I’m looking forward to it. I don’t want to lose my train of thought as far as photography in the rain. I’ve saved the changes I’ve made to my set-up so far, but they still need more tweaking.

Saturday

What a day, and I don’t mean that in a good way necessarily. I checked the weather first thing this morning as I always do, and it was hard to tell what the day was going to be like. The forecast was for increasing rain, but looking at the radar and satellite , it looked like there could be some sunshine later in the day.

So, I did another post about my trip to the UP, keeping an eye on the weather while doing so. I couldn’t decide whether to go to one of the local parks in the area, or just do the long version of my daily walk, and I couldn’t decide whether to try for photos of the colors, or go birding. As iffy as the weather looked, I decided against birding with the Beast, which was probably a mistake. If I had held out longer, it would have been a great day for birding, but I didn’t.

Instead, I opted for the long version of my daily walk here and carrying the two short lenses, both camera bodies, and my tripod. At first, it looked as though the light rain that was falling was about over with, and that the skies would clear. That didn’t last long, as it soon began raining hard again.

Mallards in the rain

Mallards in the rain

I shot a bunch of very bad photos that I knew better than to try in the first place, but I wanted to see if the adjustments I had made for the weather worked, the jury is still out on that question.

Just about the time that I got to where I could have shot photos worth shooting, the rain stopped, and the clouds began to break up, almost instantly. The problem was, that all the shots worth shooting were to the south of me, and with the low angle of the sun this time of year, I would have been shooting straight into the sun. I did mange one photo as the light changed.

Autumn color

Autumn color

I was rather frustrated by the weather, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong camera settings. So, I sat down under the picnic shelter in the park and took a long break. That helped my attitude a little. I decided to spend the rest of my walk birding, even though I didn’t have the Beast with me, and I could have used it.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

While I was at Roselle Park last weekend, I saw more bluebirds in one place than I have ever seen before. I think that the entire flock that had been in Roselle Park last week had moved to Creekside Park today. I saw flocks of ten to twenty at a time flying past me, mostly out of range, but not all of them were smart enough to avoid my camera.

Eastern Bluebird in flight

Eastern Bluebird in flight

However, I still had the ISO locked at 100, so the first photos weren’t very good. I realized my mistake just in time to catch one of the stragglers flying past me.

Eastern Bluebird in flight

Eastern Bluebird in flight

My last three shots of the day, and week, are just close-ups of some common subjects.

Red leaves

Red leaves

Sumac drupe

Sumac drupe

I may have to rethink how much I reduce the quality of the photos that I post, the photo of the sumac here isn’t nearly as sharp as the original.

Oak leaves in the sun

Oak leaves in the sun

I thought that the oak leaves looked like a bouquet of flowers in real life, I suppose it’s the fact that photos are only two dimensional is the reason that my photo doesn’t look the same as what I saw.

Well, another week in the books, I’m not yet sure where I’ll be going tomorrow, as I have no idea what the weather will be like, and neither do the local meteorologists. 😉

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


My vacation in the UP, Fayette Historic State Park

When I left off this series, I was in the Porcupine Mountains, and running very low on energy. It was Thursday morning, and I was as far from home as I could be and still be in the State of Michigan, so I decided that it was time to turn for home. That would give me time to recharge a little, stop for some real food for the first time that week, and make a stop on Michigan’s Garden Peninsula, which is where Fayette Historic State Park is located.

I’ll start with a few facts and figures about the park from the Michigan DNR’s website.

Fayette Historic State Park houses a Historic Townsite, a representation of a once bustling industrial community. On the second Saturday of August the annual Heritage Day is held in Historic Fayette Townsite. The event celebrates the “hey-day” of Fayette as a bustling iron smelting company town. Activities for the day include period displays, food, and music. For more information contact the park.

Once a bustling industrial community that manufactured charcoal pig iron from 1867 to 1891, Fayette offers visitors the unmatched serenity of a Lake Michigan harbor, white cliffs and verdant forests. This well-preserved museum village features 20 structures including the furnace complex, charcoal kilns, machine shop, office, hotel, town hall, company store, superintendent’s house, and employees’ homes.

 A modern visitor center, museum exhibits and walking tours recall another time when Fayette was a noisy dirty company town with an immigrant population that shared daily hardships, joys and sorrows. Located in Fayette State Park, Fayette Historic Townsite is administered by the Michigan Historical Museum System in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Located within the Historic Townsite is the Snail Shell Harbor. approximately 300 feet of lineal dock provides overnight or day use boating opportunities. The protected waters of Snail Shell Harbor are deep enough for larger pleasure crafts.
Scuba diving is allowed in Snail Shell Harbor during certain times of the day. A fee and use permit is required for this activity so all divers may participate. All submerged artifacts are to remain in place and nothing is to be removed from the harbor bottom.

I do enjoy history, so this was a must stop during this vacation, which was a scouting trip in a way for future vacations when I can spend more time in each area. I will definitely be returning to the Garden Peninsula for the birding, but more on that later, first up is the main attraction of Fayette Historic State Park, the iron smelting complex and the “ghost town” surrounding it.

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

In this next photo, the smelting complex is to the right, you can see the harbor and limestone cliffs in the middle, and then some of the town’s buildings to the left. This was an ideal place for an iron smelting operation, with a safe harbor for shipping ore to the smelting operation, and iron from it. The limestone was quarried to use in the smelting operation, and the forests surrounding the area were cut to be turned into charcoal for use in smelting the iron ore.

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Most of the interior displays were behind glass partitions, making photographing the displays almost impossible, but here’s two shots from inside one of the buildings that weren’t glassed off to give you an idea of what’s inside the buildings.

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

While walking through the wooded section of the park, I couldn’t help but notice hundreds of migrating birds in the trees overhead. The only lens I had with me was the 15-85 mm, so I couldn’t get a close up of any of the birds, but I shot this one to remind myself of having seen so many birds.

Unidentified warbler

Unidentified warbler

I thought that rather strange at first, since the Garden Peninsula is a peninsula after all, and I wondered if the birds had made a wrong turn in their migration. Then I remembered that there is a chain of islands extending from Michigan’s Garden Peninsula to Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula, so I began to form a theory that the birds were working their way south down the Garden Peninsula, then would “island hop” to Wisconsin. Later research confirmed that theory.

Fayette Historic State Park

Fayette Historic State Park

This cedar tree expressed how I was feeling.

Smiling cedar

Smiling cedar

The limestone cliffs at Fayette State Park

The limestone cliffs at Fayette State Park

The superintendent's house

The superintendent’s house

Inside the superintendent's house

Inside the superintendent’s house

Even though I had to shoot through a glass partition, I had to take this photo to show a little of the interior of the superintendent’s house.

Inside the superintendent's house

Inside the superintendent’s house

Then it was on to the smelting complex itself.

Furnace complex at Fayette State Park

Furnace complex at Fayette State Park

Informational sign

Informational sign

Informational sign

Informational sign

Inside the casting room

Inside the casting room

Inside the casting room

Inside the casting room

One of the furnaces

One of the furnaces

One of the furnaces

One of the furnaces

Charcoal kiln

Charcoal kiln

Charcoal kiln

Charcoal kiln

What it looked like in operation

What it looked like in operation

Informational sign

Informational sign

What it looked like in operation

What it looked like in operation

Oven

Oven

Informational sign

Informational sign

Informational sign

Informational sign

I’ve only scratched the surface here as far as what there is to see within this park. I wish that I could have posted more photos from inside the buildings, as that’s where you can get the best insight into how people lived, worked, and played back when Fayette was a bustling little town.

Other than just a paragraph about birding, I haven’t touched on the recreational opportunities that one can partake in while in the area. There’s camping within Fayette Historic State Park, along with a boat ramp for boating or fishing. There’s world-class fishing in Bay DeNoc for smallmouth bass, trout, and salmon. I’ve never kayaked Lake Michigan in that area, but I plan to in the future, as there are more limestone cliffs in the area that I would like to see, and there are several other nearby places to launch a kayak, other than the state park. There’s hiking and cross-country ski trails within the park, and nearby areas. But, I’ll have a little more about the Garden Peninsula in a future post. For right now, here’s a map of the area.

Map of the Garden Peninsula and island chain

Map of the Garden Peninsula and island chain

I selected the view in the map above to show how the Garden Peninsula ends in a chain of islands that extends south to Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula, which is where Green Bay, Wisconsin is located. Ships plying the Great Lakes and were bound for cities in the area, like Fayette when it was still active, Green Bay, Wisconsin, or Escanaba, Michigan have to navigate through the islands to make it to those ports. Many ships were lost in the area, and there are several museums and lighthouses in the area that serve as monuments to the ships and men who lost their lives in those shipwrecks. I didn’t have time on this trip to explore any of them.

That about winds this one up. I fell in love with the Garden Peninsula while I was there, and where Fayette Historic State Park is located. I feel as if this post is extremely lacking, as I only had time to do a quick tour of the historic buildings, but very little else in the park.

I also stopped in Fairport that evening for more birding, there’s a township park on Sac Bay with a few trails that I strolled, seeing eagles and hundreds of migrating birds along the shores of Lake Michigan.

I spent the night at the Portage Bay State Forest Campground, which is on the other side of the Garden Peninsula, across from Fayette State Park. Some of the photos from there have already been posted in previous posts that I’ve done on my vacation to the UP.

So, I suppose this is as good of a place as any to end this one.

Here are links to the previous posts I’ve done on my vacation to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

My vacation in the UP, the highlights

My vacation in the UP, Sunrise, sunset

My vacation in the UP, the bridges

My vacation in the UP, Tahquamenon Falls State Park

My vacation in the UP, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore by land

My vacation in the UP, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore by boat

My vacation in the UP, the Keewanaw Peninsula

My vacation in the UP, Porcupine Mountains

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


Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

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.

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

The Short-billed Dowitcher like its congener the Long-billed Dowitcher, is a medium-sized, stocky, long-billed shorebird in the family Scolopacidae. It is an inhabitant of North America, Central America, and northern South America. It is strongly migratory; it completely vacates in breeding areas during the snow-bound months. This species favors a variety of habitats including tundra in the north to ponds and mudflats in the south. It feeds on invertebrates often by rapidly probing its bill into mud in a sewing machine fashion.

The body of adults is dark brown on top and reddish underneath. The tail has a black and white barred pattern. The legs are a yellowish color. The winter plumage is largely grey. This bird can range from 23 to 32 cm (9.1 to 13 in) in length, 46 to 56 cm (18 to 22 in) in wingspan and 73–155 g (2.6–5.5 oz) in body mass.

Their breeding habitat includes bogs, tidal marshes, mudflats or forest clearings south of the tree line in northern North America.

These birds nest on the ground, usually near water. Their nests are shallow depressions in clumps of grass or moss, which are lined with fine grasses, twigs and leaves. They lay four, sometimes three, olive-buff to brown eggs. Incubation lasts for 21 days and is done by both sexes.

The downy juvenile birds leave the nest soon after hatching. Parental roles are not well-known, but it is believed the female departs and leaves the male to tend the chicks, which find all their own food.

They migrate to the southern United States and as far south as Brazil. This bird is more likely to be seen near ocean coasts during migration than the Long-billed Dowitcher. This species occurs in western Europe only as an extremely rare vagrant.

These birds forage by probing in shallow water or on wet mud. They mainly eat insects, mollusks, crustaceans and marine worms, but also eat some plant material.

On to my photos:

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

Short-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus

This is number 128 in my photo life list, only 222 to go!

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

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Muskegon Birding, I always get the bird

How do I top a day like yesterday at Roselle Park in Ada? Simple, I go to Muskegon, where I always get my bird. It’s better than getting skunked!

Skunk in the grass

Skunk in the grass

Muskegon is my favorite place for birding, as regular readers here know. I was thinking about that today, there have been so many times that I’ve read online about a certain species of bird being sighted there in Muskegon, and during my next visit, I manage to track one down. It started back when I went to see if I could find Mike the snowy owl, and that continued today.

I may not always get all the species of birds that I would like to, but I have always managed at least one, today didn’t end that streak. One of the species I went after was red-headed woodpeckers. They used to be regulars at the feeders at my parent’s house when I was growing up, no more. This magnificent species has declined severely in the past half-century because of habitat loss and changes to its food supply.

Red-headed woodpecker

Red-headed woodpecker

These birds don’t act quite like most other woodpeckers, they’re adept at catching insects in the air, and they eat lots of acorns and beech nuts, often hiding away extra food in tree crevices for later, as you’ll see in the photos.

Red-headed woodpecker adding to its stash of nuts

Red-headed woodpecker adding to its stash of nuts

Red-headed woodpecker adding to its stash of nuts

Red-headed woodpecker adding to its stash of nuts

Red-headed woodpecker

Red-headed woodpecker

OK, let me go back to the beginning. I did a quick tour of the lagoons at the wastewater facility, and found a few birds to photograph.

A few waterfowl

A few waterfowl

There were thousands of waterfowl in the lagoons, which I more or less ignored. All the ducks were in their fall plumage, so I didn’t want to waste time chasing them. I’ve learned to wait for spring for some birds, ducks especially. But, I found a few other subjects to photograph around the lagoons.

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

American crow

American crow

American crow

American crow

American pipit

American pipit

American pipit doing yoga

American pipit doing yoga

American pipit doing yoga

American pipit doing yoga

American pipit

American pipit

Sorry for so many of the pipits, but the yoga shots cried out to be posted.

I then headed for the north end of the wastewater property, which is mixed farm fields and woodlots. Almost the moment that I shut the door of my Subaru, I was photographing birds.

Red-breasted nuthatch

Red-breasted nuthatch

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

I walked right on the edge of the woodlots, and it was there that I almost stepped on the skunk above. That photo wasn’t cropped at all. That’s the second time that I’ve been only a few feet from a skunk and not been sprayed, I’d better start paying attention, my luck may not last.

I won’t post all the birds that I saw, as some would be repeats of yesterday, and others that I have been posting photos of a lot recently. I will put this one in though, a flock of sparrows, note the two in flight to the left of the photo.

White crowned sparrows

White crowned sparrows

They were in the brush under the red-headed woodpeckers as I was photographing the woodpeckers, all the birds in sight kept me hopping!

What the heck, I’m going to throw in this bad shot as well. It’s of two bluebirds in flight, sort of.

Eastern bluebirds

Eastern bluebirds

The reason that I’m posting that very bad photo is the story behind it. One of the bluebirds was perched, I was just lining up for a shot of it, when the second one flew up and bitch slapped the first with its wing, which caused the slappee to set off in pursuit of the slapper. I can’t say as if I’ve ever seen that before.

Having gotten the red-headed woodpecker, and since I wasn’t seeing anything special there at the wastewater property, I thought it would be a good idea to check out the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, as I haven’t been there since this spring.

I hadn’t gone far, when I spotted a bird in a net.

A netted bird

A netted bird

Brian J. from the Muskegon County Nature Club was banding birds, hence the nets. I stopped and chatted with him for quite a while, I could have cheated and gotten two lifers had I been so inclined. He netted a Tennesee and Orange-crowned Warbler while I was there, neither of which I had seen before.

I left Brian to his work, then set off for a stroll around the preserve, here’s what I came up with.

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s hawk decided to do a few yoga movements as well.

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk doing yoga

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk doing yoga

Puffball

Puffball

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

Flower

Flower

This next one is a juvenile white-crowned sparrow…

Juvenile white-crowned sparrow

Juvenile white-crowned sparrow

…this is what the adults look like, quite a change.

White-crowned sparrows

White-crowned sparrows

I’m going to finish this one off with a few photos of a Nashville warbler making a meal of a caterpillar’s cocoon.

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

I did make a serious effort to find one of the lifers for me that Bruce had banded earlier, with no luck. They were probably moving fast to get out of the area after being netted, although Bruce said that he often catches the same birds multiple times. That’s OK, I got the woodpecker which was one of my goals for the day, so I was a happy camper. I stopped back at the nets and talked to Brian for quite a while, and learned more about birding in that time than in any of the books that I’ve read. Great guy, I’ve bumped into him before, and he’s always willing to share his knowledge!

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


Birding Roselle Park in near Ada, Michigan

On Saturday, October 12, 2013, I headed over to Roselle Park which is near Ada, Michigan to do a little birding. I’ve been to Roselle Park once before, a couple of years ago when I kayaked the Grand River, which forms the eastern boundary of the park. I grew up not more than five miles from Roselle Park, it used to be the Ada Beef Company property, and my mother sometimes purchased our meat there. My how things have changed!

In the last post that I did in the My Week series, I said that for the most part, the entire state of Michigan is a birding hotspot, and I’ll stand by that. However, there are some hotspots even hotter than others, and Roselle Park is one of those. It has a little of about every type of habitat that a bird could want, prairie, marsh, swamp, mature trees, seedlings, and saplings. Most of all, it has edges between all the different types of habitat, and all wildlife loves edges, birds included.

Even before I arrived at the parking lot, I saw flocks of geese flying over the park, and from the moment that I pulled into the parking lot, I was seeing birds. However, getting good photos proved difficult at first. I had been in no hurry to get to the park, but the low sun angle this time of year, and so rather uncooperative birds were giving me fits.

But before we get to the birds, here’s a couple of wide shots of the park.

Roselle Park, Ada, Michigan

Roselle Park, Ada, Michigan

Roselle Park, Ada, Michigan

Roselle Park, Ada, Michigan

I had barely made it out of the parking lot before I saw red-winged blackbirds, chickadees, and this Nashville warbler.

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

The photos from today vary in quality considerably, but I’m going to post the best shot of each species that I could ID. I shot many photos of birds that I couldn’t identify, I’ll throw a couple of those in later.

Golden-crowned kinglet

Golden-crowned kinglet

Ruby crowned kinglet

Ruby crowned kinglet

Swamp sparrow

Swamp sparrow

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

I had started out on the south loop of the trail system there, planning on hiking the full length of the park. I was carrying all my camera gear with me, and it was a warm day by summer standards, a very hot day by mid-October standards. I had already drank well over half of the bottle of water that I had taken with me, although I had more in my vehicle, in the parking lot.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

So, I decided to head back to the parking lot, drop off most of my camera gear, grab more water, then do the north end of the park.

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

Canada geese in flight

Canada geese in flight

That worked out very well, as the light was improving as the day wore on, and there were fewer people in the north end off the park. Most of the trails wind through the open fields and around the marshes, so there was little shade to use to escape the heat of the day. I was glad that I had shed the extra gear. I was carrying one body with the Beast attached, and the other body with the 70-200 mm lens on it, just in case I needed to shoot a close-up of something.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

I came to a segment of the trail that follows a tiny stream, and passes through a wooded area. I’ve seen great quantities of yellow-rumped warblers in other places, but nothing like the number that I saw on this day!

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

They were everywhere I looked, it wasn’t unusual to see three of four airborne, and several more perched. Mixed in with the yellow-rumped was a large flock of bluebirds.

Eastern bluebird

Eastern bluebird

I know that I’ve never seen so many bluebirds in one place before, I would estimate that there were over 100 of them, and I won’t hazard a guess as to how many of the yellow-rumped there were in the woods.

I ran into another birder about that time, and we walked and talked for a short distance, amazed at the sheer numbers of warblers and bluebirds we were seeing.

Here’s a photo of what the wooded area of the park looked like. There’s probably 50 or 60 yellow-rumped in this shot, although you can’t pick them out.

Wooded trail at Roselle Park

Wooded trail at Roselle Park

I saw all five of the common species of woodpeckers in Michigan, Flickers and downy, hairy, red-bellied, and pileated woodpeckers, but got only a photo of one of the red-bellied woodpeckers perched.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

I thought that these sandhill cranes were going to land in the field near me, but they didn’t.

Sandhill cranes in flight

Sandhill cranes in flight

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Here’s a blooper for you, a pileated woodpecker in flight, sort of.

Pileated woodpecker in flight

Pileated woodpecker in flight

It was much more comfortable in the shaded area in the north end of the park, and I decided to sit down, take a break, and enjoy the great fall day. I found a great spot in the woods along the Grand River for my break.

Roselle Park, Ada, Michigan

Roselle Park, Ada, Michigan

I had just set both cameras down, when a Carolina wren materialized out of nowhere, not more than 5 feet from me, and out in the open. I made a grab for the Beast, but then realized that the wren was too close for it, so I grabbed for the other set up, too late, the wren realized its mistake and flew off to the thick stuff to scold me for trespassing in its territory.

Other birds were more receptive of having their photo taken.

Eastern pheobe

Eastern pheobe

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I was hoping for an eagle to come soaring over the Grand River, but no such luck on this day. I did see one when I kayaked that section of river a couple of years ago, so I know that they’re around. Like I said, I grew up just a few miles from Roselle Park, but I never saw an eagle until I was in my late teens, and it was in a very remote part of Michigan’s upper peninsula. 40 years from when I saw my first eagle, and they are now nesting almost in sight of where I grew up.

I think that I’ll throw in a few more photos of the yellow-rumped warblers, just because I can, and also because I caught them feeding on berries.

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Birds weren’t the only things that I found worth photographing, here’s a few of the other things I saw.

Bindweed and bumblebee

Bindweed and bumblebee

Maple leaf

Maple leaf

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

Kayakers on the Grand River

Kayakers on the Grand River

Milkweed seeds and a little color

Milkweed seeds and a little color

Preying mantis

Preying mantis

Preying mantis

Preying mantis

grass

grass

Asters

Asters

I know that this is getting quite long, as far as photos, but here’s a few fun ones.

You looking at me?

You looking at me?

Here's what I think of that

Here’s what I think of that

Just a bird

Just a bird

Anybody home?

Anybody home?

I’m going to wrap this up with two more photos. First, another shot of a yellow-rumped, since they were so numerous…

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

…then, this eastern phoebe, just because I love this photo.

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

That’s about it for this one, other than a few final thoughts.

I was at Roselle Park for the greater part of the day, it is an excellent place for birding. I did my best to photograph as many species of birds that I could, but my efforts came up way short, as I only scratched the surface of the number of species I saw in my photos. I will definitely add Roselle Park to the list of places that I visit often, in the spring and fall. Since most of the trails are out in the open, I’m not sure that I would like it there as much in the middle of summer, although I’m sure that it would be a great place for birding then.

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


My Week, Coming through in waves

Sunday

I was so busy last week that it didn’t really hit me until now, it’s back to the old grind for a while.

I set up my new tent cot yesterday afternoon. There were a few hitches as I got it set up, but even with the hitches, it still went up in less time than my full size tent. Needless to say, there’s no head room, it’s like crawling into a coffin in a way, but, it’s actually quite roomy inside. I fit in it, stretched out to my full 6 foot 6 inches, and it holds my weight with no complaints.

The cot base is very comfy by itself, once I throw my foam sleeping pad and sleeping bag on top of it, it will be almost like sleeping in my own bed, certainly more comfortable than the ground or the back of my Forester. I think that once I get used to setting it up and taking it down, that it will take me about 5 minutes either way, 10 minutes top, from opening the back of my Forester, to being completely ready for the night, including the fly.

I am glad that it didn’t arrive just in the nick of time for my vacation though, it has a very strong chemical odor to it, I think it’s from the waterproofing or the fire proofing. I’ll leave it set up in my living room for a few days to air out.

It has some very nice touches on top of being practical as well, like built-in pockets to hold things that you want to keep handy, and cup holders, I can’t wait to try it out. I’m not sure that I would want to camp in one spot for a week in it, but for trips like my last vacation, or long weekends, it will be perfect.

I may have missed the peak of the fall color while on my vacation in the UP, but I sure did hit the weather right! I had great weather, with sunny skies and mild temperatures all week-long. Whenever I checked the regional radar to see what’s headed my way this past week, I saw waves of showers crossing the UP, a trend that continues this morning. We set a daily rainfall record here on Saturday at 1.69 inches (43 mm), with much of that falling in the predawn hours. The forecast is for more scattered showers through Tuesday, which is OK by me, we needed the rain, and could use more.

I see that I goofed and published the wrong draft last night, sorry, it’s been a while since I’ve done that. So some of you may find the first part of this sounds like a repeat.

I’m up early, which has been a waste, as there’s scattered rain showers about the area. I may go for a short walk this morning, then go for a longer on this afternoon, when hopefully the weather will be better.

I’m back from what I hope will be two walks today. I did the short version of my daily walk as I do on weekdays. It drizzled most of the time I was out there, but I did shoot a couple of photos of fall colors to see how they would turn out.

But, shooting those reminded me of a few things.

Digital photography is great! Not only can you see your photo immediately, but the photographer is in complete control of the finished photo. Back in the days of film, most serious photographers shot slide film if they were shooting in color. Not only was slide film superior to print film, but you didn’t have to worry about the lab that developed slides trying to undo you “mistakes”

If you shot print film, you were at the mercy of the lab that developed and printed your photos. Unless you did your own darkroom work, or used a custom (expensive) lab, if you under or over exposed a photo for effect, in most cases the person printing your photos would try to do you a “favor” by fixing your “mistake” to have the print come out looking as if the negative had been properly exposed based on the lab person’s tastes.

Once photo labs switched to digital printing, if anything, that got worse, as the machine that printed your photos would attempt to turn out cookie cutter photos as far as exposure.

In the last two weeks, I’ve gone as far as +1 full stop and -2 full stops in EV to get the photos I wanted, that’s a range of three full stops, and the photos at the ends of that range would not have come out as I intended if I had prints developed from negatives. A lab would have tried to adjust the photos taken at the ends of that range to make the prints look “right”. I’m loving digital photography more everyday!

Rather than sit around the apartment with nothing to do while waiting for the rain to end, I started the fall cooking season. It’s cooler now than this morning when I woke up, so I prepared everything for a casserole to throw into the oven later this evening.

I love experimenting with what I can whip up as a casserole or in the slow cooker. One of my favorite concoctions started as the world-famous green bean casserole. I like it, but it doesn’t really seem like a meal, so I add a pound of ground beef and an onion that I brown, and a box of pasta, today it was rotini. And, as an added kick, I use both cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup to make it more interesting. It made enough to fill both my casserole dishes, far more than I can eat in a week. No problem, I freeze the leftovers in individual serving size containers. If it remains cool, next weekend will be scalloped potatoes and ham, with a cheddar cheese bonus. That way I can alternate meals by what I pull out of the freezer.

I ended up deleting the three photos that I had saved from this morning, I did much better when I walked the extended version of my daily walk in the afternoon. My plan worked to perfection, the sun was just breaking through the last of the rain clouds as I started round 2.

Clouds be gone

Clouds be gone

Clouds be gone

Clouds be gone

The sunshine made the fall foliage look much better than this morning’s shots.

Autumn splendor

Autumn splendor

Autumn splendor

Autumn splendor

Autumn splendor

Autumn splendor

Those were all shot using the 15-85 mm lens.

The Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) must have read my last post and knows that I’m thinking of getting a long prime telephoto, because it sure picked it up a notch today!

Autumn splendor

Autumn splendor

It also worked well for this downy woodpecker. I see them pecking away at weeds and even on the ground at times, but I’ve never gotten a good shot of them doing it. I don’t think that they’re comfortable out in the open like this.

Downy woodpecker working a corn stalk

Downy woodpecker working a corn stalk

There were thousands of robins attacking the berry trees. Apparently, robins like diversity in their diet, for they would feed on one berry bush for a while, then go to a different species of bush to continue feeding on the berries from those bushes.

American robin eating berries

American robin eating berries

The Beast also did well on this flying hawk.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Except for every shot that I got of the hawk with its wings up. I’m not sure, but I think that the white underside of the hawk blended in with the grey clouds in the background, and that lack of contrast between the hawk and the clouds threw the auto-focus off a tad.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

This next one was shot at ISO 1600, 1/200 of a second, handheld with the Beast zoomed to its full 500 mm!

Juvenile American goldfinch

Juvenile American goldfinch

If only the Beast wasn’t such a beast to carry.

I tried to get artsy for this next one, I’m not sure if I like it or not.

Autumn splendor

Autumn splendor

And finally, the Beast did well on this female mallard in flight too.

Female mallard flying in the fading sunlight

Female mallard flying in the fading sunlight

Needless to say, I think that I hit my target of getting a wallpaper worthy photo everyday, the hardest part today was deciding which of several to use.

Monday

Cloudy, cool, with off and on rain, according to the radar, there’s one tiny shower parked right over the area where I live that hasn’t moved for several hours. How lucky could I be? Certainly not as lucky as I was yesterday, and I don’t have time to wait the rain out today, it’s my day to visit my mom, and it’s also back to the grind day.

So, while I’m drinking my coffee, I’ll throw in a few more thoughts about the government shut down.

Every other president and senate majority leader of the senate in the history of this country knew that they wouldn’t get everything that they wanted in a budget and were willing to negotiate. However, President Obama and Harry Reid seem to think that they can blame the Republicans in Congress for this shut down to score political points for the 2014 elections, so those two are willing to shut down the government. They say flat-out that they won’t negotiate with the Republicans in the house, and in the same breath, accuse the Republicans as being the intransigent side in this fight, and the parrots in the media just go along with that without question.

I suppose what really burns my butt is the way that the media just goes along with whatever the Democrats say, which I have a hard time figuring out. The Democrats will attack any reporter who doesn’t go along with the Democrat line, as in a recent exchange between a CNN reporter and Harry Reid. The reporter asked Reid if he would take up a separate funding bill to keep the National Institute of Health open by asking if in doing so, it could save the life of one child. Reid’s reply was “Why would I want to do that?” and then he proceeded to question the reporter’s intelligence for asking that question.

I don’t get it. Harry Reid comes out and says that he is willing to let people die rather than compromise or even negotiate, and attacks the reporter for asking a question, yet the media fawns over the Democrats.

As one senior official in the Obama administration said, they don’t care how long the government is shut down, they’re winning. Meanwhile, we the people are losing!

Oh well, time for a walk to cool off.

I was right, I couldn’t get lucky two days in a row. At first it looked like the clouds were going to thin out, but that didn’t last long. When I got to the southwest corner of Creekside Park, I was hit by an explosion of birds. There were hundreds of robins, dozens of flickers, blue jays, finches, woodpeckers, and most of the more common bird species around here. But, just as I got to the birds, the rain got to me.

Since neither the Beast nor the 60D camera body are weather sealed, I had brought a rain jacket along just for such an emergency, even though I was already wearing a waterproof jacket. (BTW, today was the first time I’ve worn a jacket here at home since this spring) I wrapped the camera and lens up in the spare rain jacket, but that made photographing birds just about impossible. If I had seen a lifer, I would have made an attempt, but since all the birds I saw were common species, I didn’t want to risk my photo equipment.

I did shoot a flicker just as the rain started.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

I could have shot another photo of a fox squirrel peeling a walnut, but I didn’t.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Well, maybe I did, I couldn’t stop myself. 😉

That’s about all for today. I’ve got some stuff to do around home, and a dentist appointment tomorrow, so tomorrow’s entry may be short as well.

Tuesday

If I get a walk in today, it will be a short one after I return home from a dental appointment.

Well, I did get a walk in after my dental appointment, albeit a slightly shorter than normal one. I even managed a few good photos.

Monarch Butterfly on asters

Monarch Butterfly on asters

White

White

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Once again I will say that the Beast seems to have stepped it up a notch, all those shots were taken with using it.

The Beast is an excellent lens, so you must be wondering why I would want to spend the money on a long prime telephoto, sometimes I wonder that myself. But, the answer is in two photos that I didn’t post.

One was of a goldfinch as it took off from a branch. I had just gotten a focus lock on the goldfinch as it leapt  into flight, but the Beast is so heavy that I couldn’t move it quickly enough to follow the goldfinch at all, so I have a great photo of it in flight, sans head.

The other photo I’m not posting is the first one of the red squirrel. I was trying to shoot as quickly as I could, I was swinging the Beast into position for the shot, got a focus lock, and shot a photo. But, because of the inertia from the weight of the Beast as I was swinging it into position, the squirrel ended up on the very edge of the photo. I was fortunate the squirrel stuck around for a second shot.

Neither of the missed shots that I haven’t posted are a big deal by themselves, but they represent the problem that I have trying to use a lens as heavy as the Beast when shooting action shots or when trying to get a shot quickly, it’s too darned big and heavy. It does get really good photos when everything goes right though, so that’s why I’ll be in no hurry to add the prime telephoto to my kit.

Wednesday

Another boring photography note, if any one remembers, when I purchased the second 60D camera body, I noted that I had trouble getting its battery to charge. Last night, I received a service notice from Canon on that subject. According to the service notice, the LP-E6 battery packs used in several Canon camera bodies may not charge properly the first time they are plugged into the charger, or if you fully discharge the battery. It goes on to tell the user to try starting the battery charging several times, and that should do the trick, if not, return it for service.

I wonder if I’ll get a service notice about the auto-focus of the 70-200 mm L series lens?

I do know that purchasing a spare battery came in handy while I was on my vacation, for the first time since I have been using the 60D, I got a low battery warning, and had to switch to the spare battery. That was after over 800 photos, with about half shot using live view, which drains the battery much more than using the viewfinder.

It’s cool and sunny here right now, with the high temperature forecast to be about 70 degrees (21 C) this afternoon, absolutely fantastic October weather! We still haven’t had a widespread frost this far south, and certainly not a killing freeze, and, neither is in the forecast for the next week.

I may go birding in Muskegon this weekend, I still haven’t decided. I suppose that I could return to the Allegan State Game area, but it is hunting season for small game and archery deer, so I don’t know if Allegan would be a wise choice. I don’t mind hunters, but I’d hate to spoil some one else’s hunt. I still have several days to decide where to go.

Speaking of going, it’s time for me to get going on my daily walk.

I’m back, on my way out, I thought to myself that with good light and no wind, that today would be a good day to get photos of what will be the last flowers of the year. So, I was making note of where I saw the best looking specimens to photograph on my way back.

Dew covered daisies

Dew covered asters

Chicory and bumblebee

Chicory and bumblebee

I got to the park, and all that changed.

Eastern bluebird

Eastern bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

It looked to me as if the bluebirds, of which there was a fair-sized flock, were eating the buds of the tree that they were perched in. That’s not remarkable, I’ve witnessed bluebirds eating vegetation before. What was remarkable was all the other species of birds in the same area. The bluebirds were joined by robins towards the top of the tree, and there were also a few small warbler size birds as well, but I couldn’t get a shot of any of them. In the understory beneath the tree, there were these birds, which I thought were northern waterthrushes, turns out that they were really palm warblers in their non-breeding plumage, along with other species.

Northern Waterthrush?

Palm warbler

There were other species below the bluebirds as well, but I missed them while chasing the warblers. In fact, the park was full of migrating birds today.

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

I did pause from shooting birds for this shot.

Milkweed seeds

Milkweed seeds

As I was about to sit down and take a break, I spotted a Cooper’s hawk harassing one of its red-tailed cousins.

Cooper's hawk harassing a red-tailed hawk

Cooper’s hawk harassing a red-tailed hawk

I hadn’t had time to switch the OS of the Beast off for that pass, so it isn’t as sharp as I had hoped, but I did for the next two, although they weren’t as dramatic.

Cooper's hawk harassing a red-tailed hawk

Cooper’s hawk harassing a red-tailed hawk

Cooper's hawk harassing a red-tailed hawk

Cooper’s hawk harassing a red-tailed hawk

After the last shot, the two of them disappeared behind the trees for a while, although the red-tailed did make a return visit later.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I also got better shots of a bluebird later as well.

Eastern bluebird

Eastern bluebird

Eastern bluebird

Eastern bluebird

My biggest problem today was making quick identifications of the many birds that I saw, and picking the right ones to attempt to photograph. There’s the old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together” but at least when it comes to migration time, I would expand that to almost all birds flock together, no matter what species they are. There are a few species that do travel alone, like loons, but songbirds especially seem to believe that other old adage, there’s safety in numbers.

Before I forget, I saw a couple of red-winged blackbirds today near the bluebirds, and I haven’t seen a blackbird around here in a couple of months. The migration is on, and going full strength from what I’ve been seeing the past few days. So, it looks like I’ll be carrying the beast everyday for a while so that I don’t miss too many of the migrants coming through here.

Thursday

Seeing all the species of birds migrating yesterday has me all fired up to do more birding, so it looks like a trip to Muskegon is in order this weekend.

I still have a couple of more posts to do about my vacation, but they can wait for a few days. I’ve been posting too frequently lately, I need to slow down a little. That goes along with the Photo Life List project that I’m doing, I am nearing the half way point as far as the number of species that I have photos of, now that will be a major milestone! I have enough species saved to last me well into next spring if I continue to post one species per week. That’s OK, as some of the photos saved aren’t that great, posting once per week gives me the chance to get better photos of some of the species, and of course, new species that I shoot. I can continue to post once per week with good photos, and by the time I’ve used them, both this fall and next spring’s migrations will give me more opportunities to add to my collection.

Something hit me this morning, birding is another of the hobbies that people pursue that is both very rewarding, and very frustrating at the same time. I could list a few of both the rewards and frustrations of birding, but that’s not my point. What I’m getting at is why do humans take on challenges that they are likely to fail at as hobbies?

Take golf for example, even a good round of golf is likely to leave one feeling a little frustrated, as no one hits 100% of their shots 100% correctly. You’d never see any other species of animal engaging in an activity that there’s a better chance of failure than success, but we humans do that all the time. Apparently, we like to fail, in fact, I would say that at least some humans have a need to fail. Why else would some one willingly choose to become a politician or a meteorologist. 😉

Well, enough of that, as today was a fail on my part, although not an epic fail. My photos from today have me scratching my head trying to figure out why they didn’t come out as well as I had thought that they would. The light seemed great today, although there was some haze when I looked off in the distance, but I was shooting close-ups for the most part. Here’s a few examples.

Soapwort

Soapwort

Asters

Asters

I shot a few other flowers as well, but I’m not happy with the results, so those photos were deleted.

I saw a robin very close to me, the light was right, in the viewfinder it looked like I was about to shoot THE perfect photo of a robin, but here’s what I got.

American robin

American robin

Don’t get me wrong, that hasn’t been cropped at all, and it’s an excellent photo, but it looked even better in the viewfinder. The light was perfect, the robin had good color, as did the grass for a background, the exposure settings looked great, everything did look perfect in the viewfinder, and yet I can’t put my finger on why this photo looks a little dull compared to what I saw when I shot it. The exposure is dead on, it’s sharp enough, so I don’t know why it doesn’t pop as I expected it to.

Anyway, yesterday I saw a bird that I thought was a northern waterthrush, turns out that it wasn’t. I got better photos of one of the same birds today, they are palm warblers.

Palm warbler, non-breeding

Palm warbler, non-breeding

The streaks on the chest and the lack of the chestnut cap are what threw me.

There weren’t as many birds today as yesterday, but I don’t shoot only birds.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Yesterday, Emily who does the Hoof Beats and Foot Prints blog did a post of photos that she shot with a film camera, seeing a film on the surface of the creek, I couldn’t resist this shot.

Photo of film, not on film

Photo of film, not on film

What can I say, I’m easily amused.

That’s it for the photos from today.

I still have the tent cot set up in my living room, I think that I’ll try sleeping in it this weekend to see how comfortable it really is. It still has a strong chemical odor, but not anywhere nearly as bad as it was when I first set it up.

Friday

The weather continues to be about as close to perfect as it can get! Cool, crisp nights, and pleasantly warm during the day, with clear skies for the most part. That will change this weekend, of course. I think that I won’t go to Muskegon on Saturday as I was planning, but stick closer to home. One weather forecast has clouds moving in tomorrow morning, with rain just after the noon hour, the other has the rain holding off until evening. I suspect that the first, with the rain moving in sooner is correct. Either way though, I’m not going to drive to Muskegon to shoot photos while fighting the weather, even though I was able to get usable photos in the rain the last time that I was there.

Another thing factoring into my decision where to go this weekend is that I have been checking out the eBird website in-depth this week, and by using the hotspot map, I have found several places closer to home that are very good birding spots. The good areas around here are more my “style”, walking and hiking rather than drive by birding as is the Muskegon County wastewater facility. Although, the past few times that I’ve been there, I’ve done a lot more walking, and it seemed to have worked for the raptors, shorebirds, and songbirds, not so well on the waterfowl. But, I have most of the waterfowl photos that I need, I only have a few species of them to go.

Anyway, I’ll pick a spot tonight when I get home from work after checking the weather forecast, hit a local area on Saturday, and maybe head to Muskegon on Sunday. Besides, other than a few species of birds that prefer the big water found in the Muskegon area, I’m not sure that it matters that much where I go. Like I said, there are a couple of birding hotspot very close to where I live, and I’ll bet that if I added up all the species of birds that I have seen while doing my daily walk that it would be close to 100 species, maybe even just over 100 species. This is Michigan, the entire state is a hotspot for birding from what I’m learning.

When I was on vacation two weeks ago, one of my stops was the Fayette Historic State Park, which is located on what is called the Garden Peninsula. That’s a finger of land that protrudes south into Lake Michigan, and located off the end of the peninsula is a chain of islands that extend all the way to Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula, which is the Green Bay area. As I was checking out the historic buildings in the park, I noticed flocks of birds in the trees over my head. Everywhere I went on the Garden Peninsula, I found flocks of migrating birds, and plenty of residents as well.

I formed a theory, that since most small songbirds won’t migrate over open water if they can’t see land ahead of them, that the birds were working their way down the peninsula, then they island hop to the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin. That’s one of the reasons that I began checking the eBird website, to confirm or shoot down my theory. There are very few birding reports from the Garden Peninsula, but, several of the larger islands that are technically in Wisconsin, along with the tip of the Door Peninsula are major birding hotspots in Wisconsin, which tells me that my theory is correct. There are so many great birding areas in Michigan, that no one has “discovered” how great the Garden Peninsula is for birding.

The thing is, eBird can only show you places where people report the birds that they see, if no one makes any reports to the website from a particular location, you have no way of knowing how good of a spot it may be. Places develop a reputation as being good birding sites, which attracts other birders, and soon, that place becomes a birding hotspot.

Anyway, one of the points that I’m trying to make in my long-winded way is that much of the state of Michigan is a birding hotspot, whether or not it shows up on the eBird website. I think that the diversity of species that I have photographed the last few years near both of the apartment complexes that I have lived in are proof of that.

Well, I’m back from my walk, and if I were to begin reporting the species of birds that I see in Creekside Park to eBird, it would become a hotspot, maybe.

I saw plenty of birds today, both common residents, and rather uncommon migrants, but have almost no photos to show for it. Why do people walk up to me while I’m holding my camera in the ready position and insist on striking up a conversation that scares away all the birds that I was ready to photograph?

I was standing next to what I call the wildflower patch, although the flowers are gone, the plants are setting seeds, which of course attracts seed eating birds. There were several species of sparrows in the wildflower patch today, I got a poor shot of a migrant white-throated sparrow.

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

I continued standing there with my camera in the ready position, waiting for another of the sparrows to pause where I had a clear view of it when I heard a voice from behind ask me if I was watching the birds. At that point, every one of the sparrows took off for the adjoining woods, so my reply was “Well, I was”. The woman who asked didn’t take the hint, not that it would have mattered anyway, since all the birds I had been watching were gone, and she continued to babble away. I did my best to ignore her, which some people would consider rude.

A short time later, I carefully worked my way out onto the FOOTbridge that spans the creek. The brush along the creek had a good number of birds in it, and I had the camera ready in hopes that I would get a clear shot of at least one. About that time, some old coot decided to cycle across the FOOTbridge to take a shortcut so he wouldn’t have to cycle as far to get his daily exercise. The FOOTbridge is just wide enough for a pedestrian, and is made of loose planks held in place by a channel on both sides of a steel frame. So when the cyclist rode across the FOOTbridge, he nearly struck me, and the noise of the loose planks thumping around in the channels scared away every bird in sight and beyond. Yet he seemed rather ticked that I didn’t reply to his attempts to strike up a conversation. He’s darned lucky that I didn’t throw him off from the FOOTbridge!

Needless to say, I was in a rather foul mood by then, so I decided to sit down on a nearby bench and take a break while calming down to try again. I had just sat down, when a caravan of vehicles pulled into the park, with each vehicle disgorging hoards of screaming brats. That one I couldn’t figure out, the park has been nicely quiet for the most part since school began, so why there were so many kids out of school, I have no idea. But, I could see that today was not going to be a good day for birding. I would have shot flowers, but there was a stiff breeze today, which made that difficult, and I didn’t want to fight the wind any more than I wanted to fight the people in the park.

I did manage a few other photos today, despite all the obstacles I faced. The first is of a blue jay with an acorn in its beak.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Blue Jays love acorns, and they hoard them much the same way that squirrels do. There was a flock of the jays going to a stand of oak trees, where they would grab an acorn, then fly off to hoard the acorn somewhere else. I tried to get shots of them in flight, but none of my photos came out well. I’m not sure why, this photo of a turkey vulture came out well.

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

As did this shot of a Cooper’s hawk soaring over the park.

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

I think that the blue jay in flight photos that I tried came out fuzzy because of how small the jays are, and how close to me they were. I had a hard time keeping the Beast on the jays as they flew past me. Thinking about it now, I should have tried the 70-200 mm lens, I had the time to switch, as there was a steady stream of jays flying back and forth to the oak trees, and I was close enough to their flight path to have gotten a good shot at 200 mm, since I had the Beast set at around 300 mm in my attempts that didn’t turn out. Next time I will!

Well, I hate to end this on a rather down note, but these types of days happen from time to time. There will be enough good days soon enough that I will have forgotten all about the difficulties today. Hopefully, tomorrow will be one of them. 😉

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