My Week, Early winter?
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?
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.
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.
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.
Or pretend to be other species.
But despite being up to my you know what in yellow-rumped warblers, I did manage to find a few other species of birds.
This next shot of a blue jay isn’t very good….
…, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s time for a shower, and visiting my mom in the nursing home.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then, it was down the hatch.
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.
Next up (or down), a couple of real turkeys playing peek-a-boo with me in the weeds.
I persisted and got a fair shot showing the colors of the 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.
While waiting for the robin to grab a grape, I spotted a whitetail doe watching me watch the robin.
When I got to the park, I took a few photos of the trees in some sunshine for a change.
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.
My first photo of a junco this fall.
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.
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.
I know that I already posted a photo of a robin, but I like this next one.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was a white-eyed vireo, so I got serious about photographing it, and came away with a few fair photos of it.
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.
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.
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.
Another day, a lot more birds, and not many duplicates, I would say that I am having a good week.
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.
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.
I tried a wide shot with the Beast, but a wide shot with it isn’t very wide.
Then a fox squirrel asked me if he would do for my wallpaper shot of the day, close, but no cigar.
The fox squirrel lost out to a 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!