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

Archive for November, 2013

My week, Thanksgiving

Sunday

It’s 19 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 C) as I type this on Sunday morning, I’m in no hurry to head out into the cold. That’s especially true since I overslept this morning, and it was already light when I woke up. If I had been up before dawn, I may have braved the cold to see if I could get photos of a buck, now I’m thinking that I’ll try later afternoon instead of early morning. At least it will be warmer then.

I think that I’ll go to the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, I should be able to change my body’s schedule enough on my third day in a row off from work to be up extra early for the trip. It is 2 1/2 hours to get there, farther than I would like to drive for just a day trip, but the weather forecast is still looking too cold to camp, and I haven’t found a place to camp nearby yet anyway. The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is just outside of Saginaw, Michigan, and not far inland from Saginaw Bay, which is why the refuge attracts the large numbers of waterfowl that it does. But, I’ll have more about the refuge in the post that I do on it, so there’s no need for me to ramble on at length now. Other than to say that I’ll use this upcoming trip to scout the area to see if it will be worth the drive for future trips.

One reason that I’m previewing the trip later in the week is that I have been debating whether to go to a nearby park today, or just do the extended version of my daily walk.  In all likelihood, I won’t see any other species of birds at any of the parks close to me than I would see here, it’s that time of year. However, there are a few species that I may find at Palmer Park that I’ve never seen around here, plus, there’s a better chance of seeing deer, so I guess I’ll head over there as soon as I finish breakfast.

I’m back, for the second time. I did go to Palmer Park, I thought that since the pain was gone from my legs that I would give the Cabela’s brand boots another shot. I made it to the end of the boardwalk and back, and decided that those boots are the ones that had caused my leg pain before. I was tempted to keep going, but then I thought why should I subject myself to pain, I can feel it coming already. So, I came back home, and changed to my old shoes again. I think that the Cabela’s boots don’t have enough arch support in them from the way they feel compared to my older shoes, time will tell.

Since not much was going on in Palmer Park for the short time I was there, I decided to just do the extended version of my daily walk here. There was even less going on here, other than the snow. The lake effect snow we were forecast to get yesterday showed up today instead.

One other thing before I get to the few photos from today. This morning as I was getting dressed, I added a layer as I would during mid-winter. I was telling myself that I was a wimp for wearing so many layers in November, but the thermometer was stuck at mid-winter readings, so I wasn’t a wimp after all. It was cold! It’s still cold!

OK, for the photos from today, starting with the few I shot along the boardwalk at Palmer Park.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Those were the only two songbirds that I got close to, I had better luck with a few mallards that I tracked down after seeing this one fly past me. I didn’t have time to change any camera settings, so I’m surprised that it came out as well as it did.

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

And, here’s two photos I took of the mallards not flying.

Mallard pair

Mallard pair

Male mallard

Male mallard

I didn’t get close to any of the few birds that I saw around here either, but I didn’t try particularly hard either. I think that most of the birds were raiding the many feeders that people have in their yards for the birds. So, I shot an odd mushroom…

Starfish mushroom

Starfish mushroom

…and a shot to show how cold that it has been.

November ice

November ice

Well, I think that I will research places to go birding closer to home, and the birds themselves, as I try to get heat back into my body.

Monday

Cloudy, windy, cold, with the first few flakes of snow from another storm beginning to fall. I’m tired of winter already, even though it hasn’t really started yet. That’s mostly because of the way that the cold weather has come crashing down to stay. It would be different if we had gotten a cold shot with a nice light snow, then warmed up again for a while before the next cold snap. Not this year, it was if some one flipped a switch and the weather went from very nice to mid-winter in less than a week. The only bright spot has been that there have been a few days with the very cold wind straight out of the north, so where I live hasn’t gotten dumped on by lake effect, and there have been a couple of sunny days since the cold arrived. No sense whining about it any longer, the weather isn’t going to change, so I may as well get something to eat, bundle up, and face the cold head on.

If there’s an upside to the cold, it’s that I have picked up the pace of my walking since it turned cold. I’ve been dawdling this past summer and fall, so I haven’t been getting as much exercise as I should. That wasn’t the case today, with the wind and cold, I did my walk in less than half what has become my usual time. It helps speed things up when I’m not stopping to take photos. I did shoot one today, it more or less sums the day up well.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

If you look closely, you can see snowflakes streaking through the frame, as well as stuck to the squirrel. I have a bad feeling that this is going to be a long, cold, snowy winter.

Tuesday

I’m afraid that today may be a repeat of yesterday, as the weather hasn’t changed much, it’s still cold, snowy, and windy, with a little freezing rain thrown in to make it totally yucky outside.

Over the summer months, I got into the habit of getting outside for my walk as quickly as possible in the morning so that I could walk during the coolest part of the day. That isn’t as important this time of year. 😉 I need to take my time and let it warm up a little before venturing out. There may not be much of a difference in temperature, but every little bit helps.

Hmmm, maybe starting later in the morning is the key to seeing more birds? I sure hit a birding bonanza today, even if I didn’t see any lifers. I should have taken the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), but who knew?

I tried to get at least one photo of every species of bird that I saw, and failed miserably, partially because the 70-200 mm L series lens just isn’t as good at picking birds out of the brush as the Beast is. Still, I did fairly well.

Golden-crowned kinglet

Golden-crowned kinglet

Red-breasted nuthatch

Red-breasted nuthatch

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

Considering the weather, I don’t think that those are all that bad. I did delete photos of a few other species, most noteworthy was Bertha the very large red-tailed hawk and what I assume was her mate. I shot that photo from about 400 yards away from the hawks as they sat perched in one of their favorite trees to hunt from. The photo did show how much larger Bertha is than the other hawk, but it wasn’t good enough to bother posting it, I’ll do better one of these days.

I missed or deleted the photos of 11 other species of birds than the ones I have posted, either they were blurry due to the birds being in motion, the L series lens focused on something other than the bird, or the exposure was off because of the low light today.

While I was following the brown creepers around, I saw another bird working through the piles of fallen branches under the trees the creepers were in. It was the Carolina wren, but I missed a shot of it, partially because the creepers would come down from the top of a tree to start working its way up another, and partially because of this guy.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

I did much better with the chickadees.

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

That’s it for the day, and a good day it was.

Wednesday

It’s one of those days that can deceive you here in Michigan, it looks sunny and pleasant outside, but that means that the wind is out of the north, bringing very cold air into the region. Just 45 miles from where I live, it is snowing very heavily, an inch or two per hour, and they’ll get close to a foot of snow by the time this lake effect event is over. It’s only 22 degrees (-6 C) with a brisk north wind making it feel much colder than it really is. Oh well, I’ll enjoy the sunshine anyway. I have already swapped the L series lens for the Beast on my camera, hoping to see as many birds as yesterday.

Well, I didn’t see as many birds today, not by a long shot, but I did get good photos of Bertha, the large red-tailed hawk and of her mate too. But, first things first.

As soon as I stepped out the door of my apartment, a flock of geese flew overhead, and I shot a few photos of them, just for practice. Those photos came out OK, but I got better ones later, so there’s no need to post the early ones.

I saw few other birds on my way to the park, or even in the park for that matter, but I did find a fox squirrel eating maple seeds.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Maple seeds seem to be one of their favorite foods, as I see the fox squirrels eating them all year round when the squirrels can find them.

Then, the geese made a pass over the park, I think that they were looking for open water, since all the ponds have frozen over. My bird in flight settings worked very well on the geese, especially with some snow cover on the ground to reflect light back up at the geese.

Canada goose in flight

Canada goose in flight

I think that most of the songbirds that I saw yesterday were either in the deep brush to stay out of the wind, or at bird feeders, as other than a robin…

American robin

American robin

…and a blue jay…

Blue jay

Blue jay

…I saw very few birds. I did see Bertha the large hawk and her mate early during my walk, but they were across a field from me, and between the sun and myself, so there was no reason to try for a photo, then.

I was almost all the way back to the apartment complex when Bertha crossed the road ahead of me, and perched in a tree, just out of range of the Beast for a good photo. She didn’t stay there long though, and she came straight at me to cross back to the other side of the road.

Female red-tailed hawk in flight

Female red-tailed hawk in flight

Female red-tailed hawk in flight

Female red-tailed hawk in flight

Female red-tailed hawk in flight

Female red-tailed hawk in flight

Sorry about that last one, I heard her screech (you can see her beak is open) and I shot out of instinct even though I saw the branches between us. She was calling to her mate, but I didn’t know that, I found an opening to shoot through, and got a couple more good shots of her. None of these first three were cropped at all, she was that close to me. These next three were cropped slightly.

Female red-tailed hawk in flight

Female red-tailed hawk in flight

Female red-tailed hawk in flight

Female red-tailed hawk in flight

Female red-tailed hawk in flight

Female red-tailed hawk in flight

Then her mate came into view, I was hoping to capture them together, they obliged!

A pair of red-tailed hawks in flight

A pair of red-tailed hawks in flight

Unfortunately, the male was just out of the depth of field of the Beast, so he’s slightly blurry. He’s the hawk on top, Bertha is the lower one. You can see that she is considerably heavier and stockier than he is. She also has a wider wingspan as well. The male that I assume is her mate is slightly larger than the average red-tailed hawk, and yet she makes him look small. That was the only shot that I could get of the two of them together.

That’s it for the photos from today. Not many species, but some very good photos of the geese and hawks.

I’ve changed my mind about going to the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge this weekend. It’s too far to drive for a one day trip this time of the year. I’ve checked the species that I can expect to find there, and there are two or three that may show up there and not in Muskegon over the winter, that’s not worth five hours on the road, or the gas to make the trip. I’ve also checked maps of the area, there’s a truck stop just a few miles to the west of the refuge, and a Meijer’s store just to the north, both of which I can park my Forester at and sleep in the back of it. Come spring, when there is a much better chance of seeing species of birds that seldom if ever are seen on this side of the state, then I’ll make a weekend of a trip there.

If I were to make the trip this weekend, then I would have to stay home the other 3 days, and I’d rather make better use of my four days off. That may be questionable though, I think that my boss has ideas of me running part of a run tonight, then the other part on Saturday or Sunday, fat chance of that!

I think that either Friday or Saturday I’ll go to Muskegon, depending on the weather. One day this weekend, I’ll go to Pickerel Lake, and maybe sneak in a day at Roselle Park also.

Thursday

A Happy Thanksgiving to all! although you’ll be reading this after the holiday.

I didn’t get home from work until the wee hours this morning, and before I put myself into a funk, I’ll change the subject.

There’s a minor snowstorm working its way across the region this morning, white Christmases are great, white Thanksgivings, well, I could do without them. 😉

I could take some time and space to count my blessings, of which there are many, but the only one that really counts is that my mother’s Alzheimer’s has progressed the way that it has. This sounds terrible, she’s a vegetable, but she’s a happy vegetable. She’s beyond the point of recognizing people, and it’s been a couple of years since she has been able to form a coherent sentence, but she’s comfortable and seems very happy in her own little world. Seeing how harshly that disease strikes some people, all one can do is hope that the slide into oblivion is as painless as possible, and that’s the way it has gone for my mom.

I’m back from the long version of my daily walk, and there really isn’t much to say, other than just when I think that the weather couldn’t get any drearier, it does. Luckily, that didn’t seem to bother many of my neighbors. Since today is a holiday, and there is fresh snow on the ground, there were kids and entire families out playing in the snow this morning. That’s always nice to see! That’s also one of the many things that I am thankful for, I have very good neighbors here where I live now.

I shot very few photos today, and only saved three, and they aren’t that great.

Floating milkweed seed

Floating milkweed seed

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

Since it was so gloomy outside, I only took the L series lens today, and left the Beast safe and warm.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. The Beast is a great lens, but the L series is just a tad sharper, with slightly better contrast and color reproduction. It’s funny that I notice that more on days like today than like yesterday in the sun. The Beast did a great job on the hawks, but I can’t help but wonder if those photos would have been even better if I had a long L series prime telephoto. Well, one of these days we’ll find out, but I’m in no hurry, especially not after looking at the squirrel and hawk photos from yesterday, taken with the Beast. Since I have come up with settings for birds in flight that work so well with the Beast, my next purchase will be the Tokina 100 mm macro lens, which has the reputation of being one of the sharpest lenses on the market today.

I may shoot more photos with a long prime telephoto than with a macro lens, but I don’t need one as badly since I have the Beast. I have to base my purchases on need, and while I won’t shoot as many photos with a macro lens, that’s the lens I need the most. The three lenses I have now cover most everything extremely well, up to the point of close-ups. Maybe if I’m good, Santa will bring me the Tokina for Christmas. 😉

Friday

I was up early today, waiting to decide where to go for the day. It’s still cold, but we may get above freezing today for a change. Tomorrow may be a few degrees warmer. My best chance for sunshine would happen if I traveled southeast, but there aren’t any great birding spots in that direction that I know of. They got six inches of new snow yesterday at Muskegon, which will make getting around there slightly more difficult, and there’s a better chance of clouds in that direction. (Northwest) However, Muskegon is a sure thing as far as seeing birds, and lots of them though. Pickerel Lake is to the northeast, that would be a good bet, but tomorrow, it would be even better with a better chance of sun and warmer temps. So, I have decided, I’ll spend a relaxing day of birding in the Muskegon area, then hit Pickerel Lake tomorrow.

Being new to serious birding, I’ve noticed that there aren’t as many reports coming in to any of the reporting websites as there has been all year, up to the last month. I suppose that makes sense, as the fall migration is over. It may be due tot he holidays approaching as well. From the few reports that are coming in, it could be a good winter for some species of birds that typically winter farther to the north. There are already a few reports of snowy owls coming in, along with some species of gulls that usually show up later in the winter, if at all, from what I can tell. If the birds are right, it could be that we’re in for a long, cold, snowy winter.

Well, the sun’s coming up, time to get a move on!

Maybe going to Muskegon wasn’t the wisest choice as far as finding the best weather, but I did find and photograph golden eagles, so the trip was well worth it!

I couldn’t believe that the lagoons had frozen over already at the wastewater facility, but I guess it’s that time of year.

At one time, I had eight bald eagles in sight, that’s not a record by any means, but still, it’s cool when you can see so many in one place!

I took a few photos of the scenery with body #2 and the 15-85 mm lens, but I’m not entirely happy with the early ones, which I had hoped would come out well. I forgot to switch to the low light settings, so the colors in those photos don’t show as well as I would have liked. But, I did learn an important lesson. I’ve been stopping that lens down too far for many of my landscape photos, and diffraction was more of a problem than I thought. I used mid-range apertures yesterday, and most of the photos I shot are super sharp, as good as any that I’ve seen as far as sharpness.

The most memorable parts of the day weren’t the sights, it was the sounds. There had to have been over 10,000 Canada geese in one large flock, and hearing them all honking at one time when an eagle would fly over was something I’ll never forget. Nor will I forget the sounds of the flock of tundra swans passing overhead.

Saturday

Cloudy and cold again this morning. I’m tempted to return to Muskegon in hopes of tracking down a golden eagle and getting better photos than I did yesterday, but that would be pushing my luck. So, I think that I’ll eat breakfast, and go to Pickerel Lake today, for a nice long walk in the woods.

Well, it was a typical winter day around Pickerel Lake today, even that lake was frozen over already.

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

I tried shooting the dead tree a dozen different ways, and none of them really worked. Between the shadows in the foreground, and the fact that I got the background too sharp ruined what I was trying for, so I settled for this shot of the frozen lake with the tree to add some interest.

Anyway, with the lake frozen over, there were no waterfowl left there, which means that the only species of birds that I found were the common winter residents. That’s what this week has been all about up until today, since I put the eagles and other “exotic” species from yesterday in to a post of their own. That won’t stop me from posting more though. 😉

Male northern cardinal eating grapes

Male northern cardinal eating grapes

Male northern cardinal eating grapes

Male northern cardinal eating grapes

Male northern cardinal eating grapes

Male northern cardinal eating grapes

Since I already posted many chickadee photos, I’ll only add one from today.

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

I found a flock of kinglets, but they gave me fits trying to photograph them, they never sit still!

Golden-crowned kinglet in flight

Golden-crowned kinglet in flight

Golden-crowned kinglet in flight

Golden-crowned kinglet in flight

Golden-crowned kinglet

Golden-crowned kinglet

Golden-crowned kinglet

Golden-crowned kinglet

I jumped a pair of mallards near one of the ponds, which for some reason hadn’t frozen over completely yet.

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

To round out the winter resident theme, a bad shot of a tufted titmouse.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

And a white-breasted nuthatch.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

I also was able to get some fairly good shots of a female pileated woodpecker.

Female pileated woodpecker

Female pileated woodpecker

Female pileated woodpecker

Female pileated woodpecker

Female pileated woodpecker

Female pileated woodpecker

That’s it for the birds, now you’ll have to suffer through a few of my artsy shots. 😉

Colorful berries

Oriental bittersweet berries

Stark

Stark

Seeds

Seeds

Lots of starkness

Lots of starkness

All of the artsy shots other than the very last one were shot with body #2 and the 15-85 mm lens so that I would have some more practice with that set-up shooting snowy scenes. The Beast shot the last one.

As you can see, the sun broke through the clouds, and it turned out to be a great day.

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

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Muskegon, The eagles were golden, even if the weather wasn’t

Another trip to Muskegon, more photos of a species that I needed photos of. I just wish that the weather had been as nice as what had been forecast.

Instead of partly sunny, it was cloudy and cold, with fog in the morning, and haze in the afternoon. The weather made bird photos more difficult, but it also provided some opportunities for some scenic shots, which I’ll get to shortly.

But first, the trophy photo of the day, a golden eagle.

Golden eagle in flight

Golden eagle in flight

That was one of the last photos of the eagle that I shot, here’s two of it perched.

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

Golden eagle

Now, back to the beginning. On the way to Muskegon, I stopped several times to take photos of the snow stuck to the trees, looking very festive for the holiday.

Snow scenes

Snow scenes

Snow scenes

Snow scenes

Snow scenes

Snow scenes

Snow scenes

Snow scenes

Arriving at the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility, I was greeted by first one….

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

…then a second….

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

….Bald eagle in flight. Some sun sure would have helped those!

The deer were out feeding.

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

There were plenty of mourning doves to be seen.

Mourning doves

Mourning doves

The crows were busy harassing eagles.

Crow harassing a juvenile bald eagle

Crow harassing a juvenile bald eagle

Crow harassing a juvenile bald eagle

Crow harassing a juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Crow harassing a golden eagle

Crow harassing a golden eagle

There were bald eagles on the ice fighting over a kill.

Juvenile bald eagles

Juvenile bald eagles

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagles

Bald eagles

Bald eagles

Bald eagles

Bald eagles

Bald eagles

Bald eagles

Bald eagles

Most of the ducks were either gone because the lagoons had frozen over already, or they were laying low because of the number of eagles around, but I did catch this female blue winged teal.

Female blue winged teal in flight

Female blue winged teal in flight

The Canada geese must think that there’s safety in numbers.

Thousands of Canada geese

Thousands of Canada geese

The noise from all those geese was deafening at times, especially when an eagle came close to them!

The snow wasn’t melting very fast.

Snow scene

Snow scene

That didn’t bother this hawk…

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

or these turkeys.

Turkeys

Turkeys

Even though I knew it would still be cloudy there, I decided to stop off at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve to see what I could find there.

Snow covered berries

Snow covered berries

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

Mute swan in flight

Mute swan in flight

Ring billed gulls

Ring billed gulls

Female house finch

Female house finch

Female house finch

Female house finch

Female house finch

Female house finch

Tundra swans in flight

Tundra swans in flight

Tundra swans in flight

Tundra swans in flight

Hearing the flock of tundra swans was even more memorable than seeing them! Here’s a link to All About Birds where you can listen to the tundra swans if you like. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Tundra_Swan/sounds

I decided to make one more stop, the channel from Muskegon State Park, stopping to shoot yet another bald eagle on the way.

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Arriving at the channel, I discovered what Santa does on his days off, he goes fishing.

Santa Claus on holiday

Santa Claus on holiday

There were a few birds around as well.

American crow

American crow

White winged scoter

White winged scoter

White winged scoters

White winged scoters

Male red breasted merganser

Male red breasted merganser

Female red breasted merganser in flight

Female red breasted merganser in flight

Female red breasted merganser in flight

Female red breasted merganser in flight

Female red breasted merganser in flight

Female red breasted merganser in flight

Male red breasted merganser

Male red breasted merganser

Sunshine, almost

Sunshine, almost

Muskegon Coast Guard Station

Muskegon Coast Guard Station

With that, I decided to call it a day and head back home to sort photos. I wish that the weather would have been better, but any day with multiple eagles is a good one!

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


Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii

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.

Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolniis

The Lincoln’s Sparrow  is a medium-sized sparrow.

Adults have dark-streaked olive-brown upper-parts with a light brown breast with fine streaks, a white belly, and a white throat. They have a brown cap with a grey stripe in the middle, olive-brown wings, and a narrow tail. Their face is grey with brown cheeks, a brown line through the eye, and an eye ring. They are somewhat similar in appearance to the Song Sparrow.

Their breeding habitat is wet thickets or shrubby bogs across Canada, Alaska, and the northeastern and western United States; this bird is less common in the eastern parts of its range. The nest is a well-concealed shallow open cup on the ground under vegetation.

These birds migrate to the southern United States, Mexico, and northern Central America; they are passage migrants over much of the United States, except in the west.

They forage on the ground in dense vegetation, mainly eating insects and seeds.

They are very secretive. Their song is a musical trill, but this bird is often not seen or heard even where they are common.

This bird was named by Audubon after his friend, Thomas Lincoln, of Dennysville, Maine.

On to my photos:

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

This is number 134 in my photo life list, only 216 to go!

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

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My Week, Stormy

Sunday

I am headed out the door shortly for a very early morning walk. There’s severe storms in the forecast for later today, so I’m going to try to make it back home before the storms hit.

Well, I’m back, I got rained on, the wind did its best to blow me into the next county, but I managed to finish before the strong stuff arrived. Since the weather wasn’t very good for photography, I shot only seven photos total, and I’m going to post three or four.

As I was nearing the expressway that I cross under, I looked over and saw a deer standing on the edge of the field there, and as I was getting the camera ready, a second deer stepped into view as well.

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

Given the weather, and the fact that all the deer that I had seen the day before were under cover so to speak, I thought that these two were behaving oddly, but I continued on.

I did the long version of my daily walk, seeing many birds, but they were the same old same old, so there was no reason to expose my camera to the elements, especially since there was almost no light under the clouds.

I didn’t mention it last week, but my right leg has been hurting for the past few days. I don’t know if one of the new pairs of boots I am breaking in are responsible for that, or why, but I seriously considered taking the day off as far as walking. I probably should have, because I ended up hobbling home again today. I was hoping that going back to an older pair of shoes would help, but it hasn’t.

The pain in my leg is rather odd, it feels as if I have a deep bruise on the outside of my right shin, but there’s no bruise or swelling there, just pain. Oh well, no pain, no gain.

Anyway, as I was on my way back home, I passed the spot where I had seen the deer earlier, and one of them was laying down right out in the open. I thought that really odd, since it was raining off and on all morning. I thought that maybe the deer had been struck by a car and had managed to make it that far, so I investigated further. Nope, that deer and the rest of the deer there were just fine.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

For the first few years that I started taking nature photos, the last two were about typical of the photos that I got of deer. Trying to get good photos of them standing became my goal, now standing deer are easy for me, I’d like to get a good photo of them on the run with their “flags” up.

That’s it for now. I have some chores around home to tackle, and I’m going to get a hair cut today. No matter what the weather is like, I’m not going to do any more walking today, but if the storms set up correctly this afternoon, I may drive over to Grand Haven and see if I can get some good photos of the storms rolling in off from Lake Michigan.

Monday

We had storms yesterday, that’s for sure, but they weren’t the photogenic type that you can see from a distance. The thunderstorms were imbedded within a solid band of rain, so I didn’t bother going anywhere to try to photograph them. I stayed home to finish my chores, and rest my leg. The winds that came with the storm were impressive, the winds that followed behind the storms were even more impressive. It’s still rather blustery outside this morning, with the wind pushing colder air into the area. The temperature has dropped 20 degrees from what it was yesterday at this time, and it’s only going to get colder. With the heavy cloud cover today, along with the wind, I doubt if I will bring back many photos today.

I brought back one photo, its claim to fame is that it is of a tree that managed to keep most of its leaves despite the 60 MPH (96 K/H) winds yesterday.

Tenacious tree

Tenacious tree

With the wind still very strong today, the few birds that I saw were in the thickest brush that they could find, I think that they were afraid of being blown to parts unknown if they tried to fly out in the open.

I had to clear fallen branches off from the sidewalk and walking paths along the way, there were many signs of the winds from both the storms and the front from yesterday. At least we didn’t suffer the destruction and loss of life as they did a few hundred mils south of here in Illinois and Indiana, where strong tornadoes wiped out entire towns.

Resting my leg yesterday seems to have helped, I did have some pain left in my right leg, but it didn’t slow me down as it has been doing. I think that the problem is due to my having worn the Cabela’s brand boots while working. I have to pull the carts off from the truck by pulling them as I walk backwards, and I have to get up a pretty good head of steam to get the carts over the dock plates. Not only that, but the carts are poorly designed as far as pulling them the way that I have to, I have to take stutter steps or the carts hit my legs as I pull them backwards. I don’t think that the Cabela’s boots were designed for some one running backwards in the manner that I have to. We’ll see. I’ll wear my old shoes both at home and at work until my right shin is back to normal, then, I’ll wear the Cabela’s boots while on my morning walk.

Since I don’t have any more photos from today, but I do have a few odds and ends left from my vacation in Michigan’s UP in September, I’ll post a few of those as filler, rather than do any more posts on that trip. I’ll start with a couple of photos of the retired Coast Guard icebreaker, the Mackinaw.

Retired Coast Guard Icebreaker The Mackinaw

Retired Coast Guard Icebreaker The Mackinaw

Retired Coast Guard Icebreaker The Mackinaw

Retired Coast Guard Icebreaker The Mackinaw

Retired Coast Guard Icebreaker The Mackinaw

Retired Coast Guard Icebreaker The Mackinaw

If you’re interested in learning more about this ship, here’s a link to more information.

The United States Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw WAGB-83 was built as part of the war effort during World War II to meet the heavy demands placed on industry for an increase in production of war materials. Tremendous increases in the movement of iron ore, limestone and coal for the nation’s steel mills were particularly necessary. In order to keep tonnage on the move into the winter months on the Great Lakes, an icebreaker was needed. Congress authorized construction of Mackinaw on December 17, 1941, ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Funds were provided from a Special Presidential Fund used to expedite desirable projects. The hull was launched March 4th, 1944 and Mackinaw was commissioned on December 30th, 1944. Cheboygan, Michigan remained her home port her entire life.

You know, I think that posting photos of the Mackinaw right after the weather that we had this weekend is rather fitting. November has always been the worst month of the year as far as loss of ships and lives on the Great Lakes, including the SS Edmund Fitzgerald which sank in a Lake Superior storm on November 10, 1975, with the loss of the entire crew of 29.

Here’s a list of some of the more memorable November storms that have swept the Great Lakes.

On November 11, 1835, a southwest wind-swept across the lakes, taking numerous vessels. This was still early in the life of commercial shipping on the Lakes, so most of the losses were on the lower lakes where settlements were greatest.

The 1905 Blow

The storm on Lake Superior is also commonly refereed to as the Mataafa Storm after the most significant shipwreck caused by the disaster. The storm started as a one-day blow. The last of the season shipping was trying for one last load. The storm signals were hoisted and most ships were still in port when the rain began, becoming heavy. Turning to snow, it was driven by 60 mile-per-hour (96 km/h) winds at Duluth. Only the Charlemagne Tower had been out on the lake and ran for Portage, Michigan. Over the next two days, the weather moderated and by November 25 (Saturday), it had cleared and ships once again moved out onto the lake. A total of 29 ships were damaged or lost in the storm leading to 39 fatalities.

The Big Storm (1913)

In 1913, from the ninth of November through the twelfth, all five lakes were turned into cauldrons of rolling water by a unique combination of weather patterns. Before the four days ended, 13 ships went under and many more were driven ashore. Two hundred forty-four men lost their lives. The largest loss of ships was on Lake Huron.

Armistice Day blizzard (1940)

The Armistice Day Blizzard was a winter storm that occurred on November 11–12, 1940 which brought heavy snow and winds up to 80 mph. The lake freighter, SS William B. Davock, sank with all 33 hands in Lake Michigan south of Pentwater, Michigan. The SS Anna C. Minch, foundered, broke in two and sunk nearby with the loss of all 24 crew. A third ship wrecked on a reef in the same area, the Novadoc. Two crew were lost and the rest were rescued two days later by the tug Three Brothers. Two smaller boats also sank bringing the total death toll on the Lakes to 66.

Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (1975)

Once again it was a November storm that took the lives of men and their ship. It was November 9, 1975 that the Fitzgerald was downbound to Detroit with a load of taconite. The Arthur M. Anderson joined her on Lake Superior and was downbound for Gary, Indiana. As they were crossing Lake Superior the winter storm blew in. Winds were reported in excess of 50 knots (58 mph/93 km/h) with waves running up to 35 feet (10 m). The next day, Monday, November 10, eastern Lake Superior was still experiencing winds of 50 knots. That afternoon the Anderson reported being hit by a 75-knot gust. By 3:30 pm the Fitzgerald reported a minor list and top-side damage, including the loss of radar. The Fitzgerald was leading, but slowed to close the distance between ships so that it could be guided by the Anderson, who still had radar. Just after seven that night, the last radio contact from the Fitzgerald said that they were still managing. By 7:20 p.m. there was no more contact and the Anderson no longer saw the Fitzgerald on radar. Fitzgerald sank in Canadian waters 530 feet (160 m) deep, approximately 17 miles (15 nautical miles; 27 kilometers) from the entrance to Whitefish Bay near the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Well, I’ve gone a bit far astray here, but I may do that from time to time, especially over the winter months when I don’t get very many photos or have other things to write about.

Tuesday

A sunny but chilly start to the day. The wind has died down some, finally, as it is below freezing, and the wind would only make it feel colder than it is already.

I’ve been checking the Michigan DNR’s website, looking for places fairly close to home for places to visit over the Thanksgiving weekend. Since it’s in the middle of gun deer season, my options are somewhat limited, as I’d rather not be on public land open to hunting. It would be nice to know what the weather was going to be like, but that’s still a long way off. I also have to face the fact that the bird migration is over with, except for waterfowl, and that will be the case until next spring. I have plenty of time to worry about that, time for a walk.

With some sun today, it was very pleasant despite the chilly start. I shot this photo intending to crop down on the bright leaves, but I like it much more full size than cropped.

Abstract nature

Abstract nature

Another shot that I really like, even though the chickadee is facing the wrong way.

Chickadee scout

Chickadee scout

The wind wasn’t nearly as strong as what it has been the past few days, but it was still strong enough to mess up the crest of this cedar waxwing.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

And I shot a couple of photos of Mourning doves, which have been staying well out of camera range most of the past summer.

Mourning doves

Mourning doves

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

I’m getting spoiled by my new camera gear, I would have been ecstatic with these photos while I was using the old Nikon, now, it was a ho hum kind of day.

I’m going to have to get away from paying so much attention to birds, at the expense of the rest of the natural world out there. I do a fair job of that when I carry all my gear, or at least take the second body and a short lens with me. Back when I had the Nikon and just a 70-300 mm lens, I did an even better job of shooting a wide variety of subjects. But, I continued to add new species of birds to my list, even though I hadn’t really begun to keep a list. It was seeing and photographing so many different species of birds that led me to start the My Photo Life List project in the first place, and since I started that, birds have become my obsession, which isn’t good.

I should carry the second body every day while I do my daily walk, but I tell myself that anything that I would see on any given day would be there the next day too. But, that is seldom the case. I could try leaving the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) home, but I have shot around 25% of the new to me species of birds while doing my daily walk, so it is very hard for me to talk myself out of carrying it.

It also seems like overkill to carry two camera bodies and lenses just around home.

But, I may have to start doing that, as long as the weather allows. I’m going to be much more careful with my new gear than I was with the old Nikon, I’ve got too much money invested in the new stuff to chance ruining it. During the really cold snaps and/or blizzards, I may leave the good stuff home and go back to carrying the Powershot that I keep as a back up.

I don’t know if I have written about this before, but one of my many crazy ideas is to get something like a pull golf cart, stroller, or one of the baby carrier wagons that you can pull behind a bike to carry all my photo gear in. I told my brother that, he thought that I was joking, but that’s what he just did, bought a three-wheeled baby stroller, and converted it to carry his gear in. It works very well. I think that next spring, when the garage sales start again, I may have to see what I can find as far as a cart of some kind.

Wednesday

Another sunny, yet chilly day today. At least there’s no snow yet, that’s forecast to arrive in time for the weekend. It’s not looking great for the Thanksgiving weekend either. Oh well, I’ll do a day trip or two and call it good. That reminds me, I had better keep an eye on gas prices the next few days, and fill up my Forester before the price spikes up for Thanksgiving.

Looking outside or checking the weather forecast, you would have thought that today was a repeat of yesterday, sunny and pleasant, but that wasn’t the case today. The wind made it feel much colder than it really was, and it was already quite frosty to begin with.

Frosty

Frosty

I wasn’t going to post that photo, I shot it with the Beast, and that type of photo isn’t the Beast’s forte, it does much better on these types of photos.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

For about the thousandth time, I should have taken the other body, a short lens, and my tripod with me for the frost photo, when will I learn? Probably never, because today was not a day to be standing around in the wind, fooling around with my equipment to take a so-so frost photo.

Besides, the Beast does these shots so well.

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

OK, I really haven’t written about carrying all my gear over a thousand times, yet. It just seems like it. 😉

I’ve only had the new stuff for six months now. I’ve thought about doing an updated review of the equipment that I purchased this spring, but the truth is, most readers aren’t interested in that. I will say this though, I’ll stick to my recommendation that people in the market for a camera should begin by shopping for lenses first. After they decide on the lenses that best suit their needs and budget, then go with the best camera body that they can afford to buy, even if that body seems to be a lower end model when compared to the lenses that they plan to use on it. The optics in the lenses form the image, the body only records that image.

I’m extremely happy with my gear, it fits my needs well. Yes, the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) is a beast, but it is worth lugging it around for the close-ups of birds and other critters that I am able to get with it. The 70-200 mm L series lens is extremely sharp along with great color and contrast, the 15-85 mm does almost as well, without the need to tweak the focus as I have to with the L series lens up close. My photos continue to improve as I learn to tweak the 60 D body to get the best results that it is capable of delivering.

Best of all, I have put together my kit of two bodies and the three quality lenses for less than half the cost of one top of the line body or long telephoto lens. Even after I add a macro lens and a lighter long lens to use as walk around lens instead of the Beast, I’ll be at about half the cost of one top of the line item.

Thursday

Cloudy and milder this morning, a good ten degrees above the freezing mark for the first time this week so early in the day.

I haven’t written about this in a while, but a few years ago, an oil pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy Company ruptured due to defective installation which was done before Enbridge purchased the pipeline. The rupture occurred about 60 miles from where I live, and much of the oil that escaped from the pipeline ended up in the Kalamazoo River.

Enbridge did everything that the EPA asked of them, and it was about this time of year last year, that the regional EPA officials announced that the clean up was complete, and congratulated Enbridge for doing a fine job of the clean up.

Then, some one higher up in the EPA said wait a minute, not so fast, we can force Enbridge to pay even more in fines and clean up pollution that occurred long before the oil spill. So, for most of this year, Enbridge has been working to continue the clean up of the Kalamazoo River, even though much of what has been removed from the river bottom was left there by the paper mills that used to line the Kalamazoo River, including PCB’s.

The section of the Kalamazoo River where the oil spill happened was already a Federal Superfund site because of the pollution left from the paper mills, and the Feds have been dredging other sections of the Kalamazoo River for the last decade.

So, towards the end of this past summer, the EPA ordered Enbridge to dredge an impoundment on the Kalamazoo River known as Morrow Lake, and gave Enbridge a deadline of December 31st to complete the dredging. However, the branch of the EPA that issues permits for dredging operations has not issued Enbridge a permit for the dredging, so Enbridge asked for an extension of the deadline, which was rejected by the EPA. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place! If Enbridge goes ahead with the dredging, they face fines for doing so without a permit. If they don’t dredge, they face fines for failing to meet the deadline.

Morrow Lake was already on the EPA’s list of places to be dredged to remove the existing contamination, they are using the oil spill to force Enbridge to clean up very minute amounts of oil left from the spill that would be left behind during a normal clean up in order to get Enbridge to remove the PCB’s and other pollutants that had put the Kalamazoo River on the Superfund list in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, cleaning up the Kalamazoo River is a good thing, I’m all for it. But, the companies responsible for the pollution should be the ones to pay. What really burns my butt is seeing a company under orders from the Federal Government to do something being fined for doing what they have been ordered to do by the government.

The EPA has ordered the dredging, it’s the same agency dragging its heels in not issuing the required permits for the dredging it has ordered. It’s a game that the government plays to extract more money out of companies that try to follow the law. Enbridge is going to face fines no matter what they do, even though they are trying to do the right thing, and that’s not right. The EPA should grant the requested extension until a reasonable time after they issue the permits.

Time for a walk.

A very pleasant morning walk, with just a slight breeze and cool, not cold temps. I brought the medium length lens and my tripod today, planning on some close-ups of seeds and berries since the clouds softened the sunlight making it a good day for such photos. But, I forgot to bring my reading glasses, which I need to confirm the focus when using live view and manual focus. Oh well, there will be plenty of chances for those photos over the coming weeks.

Since I didn’t bring the Beast, of course I saw a species of bird that I would have loved to have had it with me for.

Male pileated woodpecker

Male pileated woodpecker

I played peek-a-boo with it as it went round and round the tree until it gave up trying to hide and posed for a few photos.

Male pileated woodpecker

Male pileated woodpecker

Male pileated woodpecker

Male pileated woodpecker

I’ve been seeing more and more cats in the park, today, there were two at the same time, with half a dozen fox squirrels barking at the cats, and alerting all the birds of the danger. With that going on, I saw very few birds, and none within the range of the lens I was using.

Later in during my walk, I saw a Cooper’s hawk zoom across the upper field, and still later, I saw “Bruiser”, the oversize red-tailed hawk that lives around here. I switched to my bird in flight settings and got one shot of Bruiser, but with the light the way it was today, that photo isn’t worth posting. It’s sharper than I expected, but +2/3 EV wasn’t nearly enough of an adjustment to the exposure, and I didn’t have time to go any higher before the hawk disappeared into the trees.

I’ve written a little about the one much larger than average red-tailed hawk around here, I have now named it Bruiser in case you haven’t noticed, at least temporarily. It really is about 25% larger than the average red-tailed hawk, and it’s fairly easy to tell it apart from the others around here because of how large it is. In all likelihood, it is probably a female, so maybe I should change its name to Bertha or something similar. What the heck, I’ll post the photo even though the exposure is off.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Of course with no other hawk in the frame to use to judge the size of Bertha, she looks like your typical red-tailed hawk.

You know, that brings up something else, how enlightening it can be to walk the same place daily.

Back at the old apartment complex, I got to the point where I could recognize several of the red-tailed hawks there by the variations in their coloration. Here, I can tell Bertha by her size. I have noticed that there is one very light-colored red-bellied woodpecker around here, as compared to the others, like this one.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Then, there’s “Scarface”, the goldfinch that had been injured and has a scar across its face. I have seen it a few times, and it is easy to ID it even in a small flock because of how the light plays on the scar.

It’s taken a year, but I can now identify a few individual critters within a species. I had forgotten about that, it’s something I’ll have to keep in mind and work on.

My legs are feeling much better since I went back to my old shoes both at home and work. If my legs feel as good tomorrow, I’m going to start wearing the Cabela’s brand boots while walking and see how that works out. I’m almost positive that the pain was caused by the way that I have to pull the carts backwards at work.

The clouds today are in advance of a weather system headed this way, which is forecast to arrive this evening. It really isn’t much of a storm, especially not when compared to the storms last weekend. That storm blew through so quickly that the lake effect machine didn’t get a chance to get fired up. This next system is going to change that, it will be strong and slow enough to prime the lake effect machine, with on and off snow showers continuing from Friday all the way to at least Thanksgiving Day.

So, I’ll be sticking close to home this weekend for sure, maybe next weekend as well.

Friday

Cloudy, dreary, foggy, with drizzle, just an all around yucky kind of day. At least the temperature is still above freezing, but even that is forecast to change by this afternoon.

Sorry, but the weather today, and the forecast for next week have me feeling a little bummed out this morning. I’ll have four days off from work next weekend for the holiday, and was hoping for some good weather for a photo excursion of some type, but that’s looking mighty grim right now. The weather forecast for the next week is for high temperatures at or below freezing, clouds, and on and off lake effect snow squalls, especially along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Up until this spring, that forecast wouldn’t have left me down in the dumps the way that it has, but with the new camera gear, I was looking forward to getting good photos. In the past, the photos I shot were secondary to just being outdoors, now, that has been reversed, I’ve been spending more time outdoors for the purpose of getting good photos.

Oh well, I’ll think of something, I hope, time for a walk.

I’m back, and between the time that I wrote what I did earlier in the morning, and the time that I got outside, the wind had come up to blow the fog away. The wind brought colder air and snowflakes with it, the temperature dropped five degrees while I was walking, even though it felt like more. It has to be the weather causing my bad mood today, as it has also put the birds in a bad mood as well.

Grumpy gull

Grumpy gull

I had shot a few photos of the gull to remind myself that no matter how gloomy the weather is, there are always subjects to be photographed. I don’t think that the gull is a photographer, so I don’t know why it was so grumpy this morning.

There may be a silver lining to winter weather and not spending as much time on photography. With the cold and wind, I set a much faster pace than I normally do, I would have been back home much sooner, which would have left me bored and craving a smoke. So, I walked farther than I usually do, adding part of the west leg of my weekend route to my walk today. Walking farther and faster will probably help me lose weight, which is a good thing.

The part of my walk that I added today is more sheltered from the wind, I hoped to find more birds there, and I did. I jumped a flock of around 20 mourning doves and a few tweety birds, but didn’t get any photos.

So, I suppose that I’ll add a couple more of the leftovers from my UP vacation.

Just a river

Just a river

Fall reflections

Fall reflections

Foggy morning on Emily's Lake

Foggy morning on Emily’s Lake

Foggy morning in the woods

Foggy morning in the woods

I’ve got the battery for my camera charging so it will be ready to go this weekend, I think that I’ll do the extended daily walk tomorrow, then see if I can bag a buck at Palmer Park on Sunday.

Saturday

I feel like such an idiot!

I woke up this morning to sunlight streaming into my apartment, but how could that be? The weather forecast had told me for a week that we were going to be in the middle of a lake effect snow event this morning. There is a dusting of snow on the ground, hardly enough to mention. That’s what I get for believing the weatherman!

I let myself get all bummed out over nothing as far as not having a plan for the long Thanksgiving weekend coming up. I’m sure that it is snowing right along the shores of Lake Michigan, but the wind is out of the north, which will keep the snow there and not blow it  inland.

Since all the snow and clouds in the forecast for next weekend is of the lake effect variety, all I have to do is head east to get out from under the clouds, which would make a trip somewhere in that direction worthwhile. So, I have decided that for one day next weekend, I’ll head over to the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge and do some birding and make it a scouting expedition for future trips there as well.

Time for food and a long walk!

The one thing that the meteorologists had correct was the wind, it was nasty during the parts of my walk when I was out in the open. and, a couple of times large dark clouds blotted out the sun, and even spit some snowflakes from time to time.

It’s been a couple of years since I did a post on microclimates, today was a great example of what they are. It was well below freezing today, with ice covering any puddles left from earlier rains, and the snow wasn’t melting for the most part. However, as I was leaving the park, I stopped on the south side of the building that holds the restrooms. Being out of the wind, with the sun shining on me, it felt a good 30 degrees warmer than it did just a few feet away. It was so warm there in that spot that I watched insects crawling on the masonry wall of the building. I hadn’t walked more than a hundred yards away, and it was if I was in a blizzard, with wind-blown snow stinging my cheeks.

Lake effect snow or rain is a great example of a large scale microclimate, the spot in the sun on the south side of an unheated building is a great example of a small scale one. I could feel heat radiating from the masonry wall of the building, heat which it had absorbed from the sun. It was toasty there against the building, which is why the insects hadn’t been frozen.

Anyway, the wind was so strong that even geese were having trouble making headway against it, I shot a few photos, but it doesn’t really convey what I would like them to, so there’s no reason to post them. Besides, I have better photos from today.

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

Last burst of color?

Last burst of color?

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

And my “catch” of the day, a downy woodpecker eating berries.

Downy woodpecker eating berries

Downy woodpecker eating berries

Downy woodpecker eating berries

Downy woodpecker eating berries

Downy woodpecker eating berries

Downy woodpecker eating berries

Downy woodpecker eating berries

Downy woodpecker eating berries

Downy woodpecker eating berries

Downy woodpecker eating berries

Downy woodpecker eating berries

Downy woodpecker eating berries

Downy woodpecker eating berries

Downy woodpecker eating berries

I was lucky that there was as much sun as there was, as the downy wasted no time filling its crop with the berries. It plucked and swallowed approximately 10 berries in less than 30 seconds, I was afraid that the photos would be too blurry to use as quickly as the downy was moving.

Those photos aren’t in order either, I arranged these so that it looks like the woodpecker is selecting and eating one berry, but the action was too fast for a series of photos of it eating one berry.

So, that’s about it for the day, and for the week, just one thing left to do, insert the lyrics of a song having to do with the outdoors for my song of the week. This week, it’s Canned Heat’s “Going up the country”

I’m going up the country, babe, don’t you wanna go?
I’m going up the country, babe, don’t you wanna go?
I’m going to some place where I’ve never been before.

I’m going, I’m going where the water tastes like wine.
Well, I’m going where the water tastes like wine.
We can jump in the water, stay drunk all the time.

I’m gonna leave this city, got to get away.
I’m gonna leave this city, got to get away.
All this fussing and fighting, man, you know I sure can’t stay.

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


Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

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.

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

The Red-eyed Vireo is a small American songbird, 13–14 cm (5.1–5.5 in) in length. It is somewhat warbler-like but not closely related to the New World warblers.

Adults are mainly olive-green on the upper parts with white underparts; they have a red iris and a grey crown edged with black. There is a dark blackish line through the eyes and a wide white stripe just above that line. They have thick blue-grey legs and a stout bill. They are yellowish on the flanks and under-tail coverts (though this is faint in some populations).

This bird, not always seen, may sing for long periods of time; it appears to be endlessly repeating the same question and answer. It holds the record for most songs given in a single day among bird species. More than 20,000 songs in one day.

The breeding habitat is open wooded areas across Canada and the eastern and northwestern United States. These birds migrate to South America, where they spend the winter. The Latin American population occur in virtually any wooded habitat in their range. Most of these are residents, but the populations breeding in the far southern part of this species’ range (e.g. most of its range in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia) migrate north as far as Central America.

Red-eyed Vireos glean insects from tree foliage, favoring caterpillars and aphids and sometimes hovering while foraging. In some tropical regions, they are commonly seen to attend mixed-species feeding flocks, moving through the forest higher up in the trees than the bulk of such flocks.

They also eat berries, especially before migration, and in the winter quarters, where trees bearing popular fruit like Tamanqueiro or Gumbo-limbo will even attract them to parks and gardens. Fruits are typically not picked up from a hover, but the birds often quite acrobatically reach for them, even hanging upside down.

The nest is a cup in a fork of a tree branch. The Red-eyed Vireo suffers from nest parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird  in the north of its range, and by the Shiny Cowbird  further south.

On to my photos:

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

This is number 133 in my photo life list, only 217 to go!

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

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My Week, The Iceman Commeth

Sunday

As is my normal routine, I’m sitting here early on a Sunday morning, pondering the possibilities of the day, and the upcoming week. After spending a windblown day at the Ionia State Recreation Area yesterday, I’d like to spend a quiet day in the woods someplace, but that isn’t going to happen. Not unless I were to travel out-of-state a considerable distance. The wind is forecast to be lighter than yesterday, but not by much, so I suppose that Pickerel Lake will be as good as anywhere to go today.

The high winds make wildlife uncomfortable, all species, as all their senses are affected for the worse. The noise, the movement of plants swaying in the wind, and the scent streams being ripped apart by the high winds all play a part in causing all wildlife to react to high winds in one way or another. Seeing all the species of birds that normally forage up in the trees foraging on or near the ground yesterday was just one example of that.

The weather forecast for the week calls for windy weather almost everyday, with some much colder than average temperatures starting tomorrow and lasting through mid-week. I may be walking through snow, but I suspect that the forecast is somewhat overstated as far as cold and snow, we’ll see.

Both of the pairs of boots I just bought are OK, but neither are as comfy as my old New Balance. I swear, the next time I find a pair of hiking boots as good as they were, I’m going to stock up on them by purchasing several pairs as soon as I’m sure that they are going to hold up well.

Today, I’m going to do something that I haven’t done in a couple of years, I’m going to splurge and stop for breakfast at a restaurant on my way to Pickerel Lake. I hope that my stomach can handle it. 😉 (It can’t, as I found out this morning)

I’m back, I had a great day that deserves its own post, and I can now add one more thing to my list of things I will probably never do again, eat breakfast at a fast food place. I’m not going to bash any particular chain, I think that it’s more a matter of my system not being used to all the food additives any longer. The more that I have gotten into eating my own cooking, the more that my system rebels if I eat fast food. I’m not even sure that I could handle food from a sit down restaurant these days.

Monday

It’s raining out this morning, with the snow predicted to arrive around noon. I’m not ready for winter to arrive this early! Luckily, this cold snap is forecast to be short-lived, with nicer weather returning before the weekend.

Speaking of this weekend, gun deer season opens on Friday, I’ll have to be more selective in choosing a place to hike until December 1st, as I would rather not get shot, nor spoil some one’s hunt.

I wore the new Keen boots again yesterday, by the time that I got to the half-way point of my hike, I was feeling it in my big toes, especially when going downhill. But, by the time that I was heading home, my toes were actually feeling better, so there is hope. I really like the Keens except for being tight on my big toes, as it is very easy to walk quietly in them.

That makes me wonder, is it my ability to walk as quietly in the woods as I do the reason that I am able to approach wildlife closer than other people can?

I think that walking quietly is part of it, but it is also that I “fit” into nature better than most humans, I act as if I am part of nature rather than a passing visitor.

I’m hungry, and the weather isn’t going to get any better, so I think that it’s time to get moving.

Well, I’m back, I shot one photo just to shoot something.

Raintree

Raintree

There was moderate rain falling in a moderate wind, with moderate temperatures, kind of a ho-hum day as far as anything today.

There were large flocks of robins, starlings, and goldfinches around, but it isn’t as if I need a bad photo of any of those. I also saw a few other species, such as cardinals, blue jays, and woodpeckers, but again, because of the weather, I made no effort to photograph any of those either.

Tuesday

The cold has arrived, brought here on a north wind. With the wind straight out of the north, it’s a frosty but sunny morning, as the lake effect clouds are held right on the lakeshore and there’s nothing to drive them inland. It could be a good day for photography if I can find anything to photograph.

I feel a predicament coming on, I know that I’m not going to find many things to photograph around home here over the winter, and I’m going to want to travel both days on the weekend. But that means I’ll be spending more on gas over the winter when I should be saving money for next spring and summer. I’m finding myself thinking of places to go next year already, but if I’m broke, I won’t be able to do the things that I would like to next spring.

If I were smart, I’d stay home more over the winter, and if I were really smart, I’d find a part-time job on the weekends this winter, even if that meant curtailing my outdoor activities until next spring. Well, that’s all stuff to think about while I’m out walking and enjoying the sunshine, even if it is cold.

I’m back from my walk, and I have decided to do what I do best and put off any weighty decisions until later. 😉 At least until I see how much money I save by having quit smoking. I had planned on dedicating that money to purchasing more photo equipment, but there’s no rush with winter coming.

Speaking of winter coming, it was here last night, leaving a dusting of snow, but the sunlight today is still strong enough that most of the snow was melting.

With the cold snap, the flocks of robins, goldfinches and starlings here yesterday were gone today. They’ll be back, it is forecast to warm up again by the weekend, but with rain.

OK, it’s towards the middle of November, there were patches of snow on the ground, Creekside Park is closed for the winter, yet the contractors who mow the grass showed up this morning to do their thing.

Slow-mo snow mow

Slow-mo snow mow

I don’t have any idea what the contract that the County has with the lawn service, but that seemed like a complete waste of gas to me, and we wonder why gas is still over $3 a gallon.

I hope that you noticed the patches off snow on the weeds in the foreground, as that’s the only snow photo that I saved, and I tried to make the photo as pretty as possible as well, capturing a little color from the trees. Here’s a little more of the little color left around here.

Name this color

Name this color

Name this color

Name this color

I also found a red squirrel not in motion, which is a rarity worth photographing.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Other than the squirrel, all the photos from today were taken on my way back home. As I was walking home, I was thinking of how many times in the past that I have written that I seem to find more things to photograph if I start out each day shooting a few photos just for the heck of it, even if they are so mundane that they will be deleted when I get home. I decided that I needed an attitude adjustment as far as photography. I’ve been heading out here at home doubting if I would see anything worth photographing, and on many days, that’s what has happened. I told myself that I need to get back into doing things as before, taking photos early, whether I think they will be worth saving or not.

So, seeing a small flock of mallards in the pond across the street, I shot a photo.

Mallards keeping one eye open

Mallards keeping one eye open

I used to post way too many photos of mallards when I lived at the other apartment complex, and other places, so I have resisted photographing them this past year for the most part. Within seconds of shooting that photo, a male cardinal posed very nicely for me.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

I mean really nicely!

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

It may have been a coincidence that I was telling myself that I needed to change my attitude and then the cardinal posed for me, but I don’t think so. That’s the way it has always gone for me, a great attitude results in at least good photos. Now, I need to remember that tomorrow morning.

I just checked the weather online to see what I’ll have to face while driving for work tonight, and some spots right along Lake Michigan have received over a foot of snow since it started yesterday evening. Less than an inch fell here, and it’s been sunny all day, that’s the lake effect for you, nice weather here for a change, and a potent snowstorm less than 60 miles from here.

I think that I’ll take the backdoor in and out of South Bend tonight and avoid all the snow.

Wednesday

Another cold, but sunny day today, I haven’t been outside yet, but from the weather report, the wind won’t help the temperatures at all today.

Thinking about this coming weekend, the alternative to today’s weather may not be very appealing to me though, as we’re forecast to have heavy rains (again) starting late Saturday and all of Sunday. Cold and sunny, or warm and rainy, it’s hard to choose which is better or worse than the other. The forecast does make one thing easier though, I’m not going to drive somewhere to walk in a heavy rain, so I’ll be staying home and walking here on Sunday. I may go to Palmer Park on Saturday to hunt a big buck if the rain holds off until late in the day as they are predicting.

I’ve written about the new Keen boots I recently purchased, other than my toes, my feet love the Keens. But, I haven’t said anything about the Cabela’s brand Twin River boots that I also purchased, even though I have worn them more.

They are 100% waterproof, they fit well enough, and are fairly light. I don’t know how to describe them well, other than to say that they are okay. They don’t hurt my feet in any way, yet the fit doesn’t seem quite right either, but that may be because they only have a few miles on them so far. I guess that I would say that I like them, but I don’t love them the way that I loved the New Balance boots that I wore out. If I ever find hiking boots that I love as much as I loved the New Balance boots, I’m going to order several more pair as soon as I’m sure that I love them, so that I won’t have to try to find a suitable replacement for them. I think that both pairs of the boots that I just bought would feel a lot better to my feet if I had better socks to wear with them. The socks that I have now are about worn out, time to go shopping again. But first, a walk.

I’m back from my walk, and attitude is everything. I started out telling myself that it didn’t matter how many hundreds of photos I have of any particular species of birds, that I would go ahead and shoot a few more, even if they were eventually deleted. You have to take photos…

Red bellied woodpecker

Red bellied woodpecker

…to get good photos.

Red bellied woodpecker

Red bellied woodpecker

Fox squirrel dozing in the sun

Fox squirrel dozing in the sun

What that squirrel was doing, dozing out in the open, was rather dangerous, as you’ll see later. But, with the tree to block the cold wind, and some bright sunshine, the squirrel had a toasty perch, even if it was exposed to these guys and gals.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

My set-up for flying birds works really well. I probably should go to one full stop of positive exposure compensation, but hawks aren’t the only species I hope to use that set-up on.

I thought that it was strange to see the hawks hunting in the woods the way that they were, more on that later, but first, some photos of my favorite birds.

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

Black capped chickadee

I know, too many photos of them, sorry, but I love watching and listening to them. They have kept me company for many hours while sitting out in the woods during deer season, and during my hikes since I’ve quit hunting. Finding myself surrounded by a flock of them this morning, I just stood there, enjoyed the show and continued to photograph them, I even managed a shot of one of them in flight.

Black capped chickadee in flight

Black capped chickadee in flight

That’s full frame, not cropped at all, here’s the cropped version.

Black capped chickadee in flight

Black capped chickadee in flight

The robins were back again, in huge numbers, but I only shot one.

American robin

American robin

It was the same with the goldfinches, they were back in numbers, but I only shot one.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

On my way towards home, I spotted one of the hawks perched low in a tree.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

I’ve gotten better shots of them, and this one was perched in a spot where the lighting wasn’t the best, but I shot a few more just for the heck of it. It was then that I saw that the hawk had killed a poor little red squirrel, and was guarding it…

Red-tailed hawk with its kill watching another hawk circling

Red-tailed hawk with its kill watching another hawk circling

…from another hawk circling overhead…

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

It’s hard to see the red squirrel in the talons of the hawk in the second photo, but that was the best I could get.

I added two and two together, and I think that I came up with four, the reason that the hawks were hunting in the woods. The first squirrel that I photographed was dozing in the sun, I’ll bet that the red squirrel was also. I can’t picture a hawk as large as a red-tailed capturing a red squirrel any other way, at least not in the woods. Maybe if a red squirrel ventured out in the open, but they seldom do that. I have to believe that the red squirrel made the fatal mistake of taking a nap out in the sun, while the hawks were looking for napping squirrels. ( I took many more photos of the hawks hunting in the woods today, but I didn’t post them all)

Nature isn’t always pretty, but the hawks have to have something to eat.

That’s all for today.

Thursday

Cold and sunny again today, cold isn’t unusual in November, but this stretch of sunny days certainly is. November is typically one of the cloudiest months here in West Michigan.

There’s a battle going on inside of me right now, my body is telling me in a hundred different ways how much it loves the fact that I’m no longer attacking it with the nasty crap in cigarettes. At the same time, parts of me want a smoke so badly that it would be very easy to cave in for a day, if I had any smokes around here. One way that I am preventing myself from back sliding is that I have been keeping my emergency stash of cigarettes in the truck that I drive for work. I’m too cheap to pay Michigan prices for cigarettes, I’ve always bought them in Indiana on my way to or from our South Bend branch, and I’m not going to run out to a store to buy a pack at the prices they charge here.

I’d better get something to eat and go for my walk, as it is always easier for me to not smoke while outdoors.

It felt a lot better outside today than yesterday, the wind gusts weren’t as frequent, nor did they last as long as they did yesterday. I expected to see at least as many birds as yesterday, and I suppose that I did, by looking towards the bird feeders stationed in the subdivision to the west of the park. The birds must not follow a set schedule as far as what times of day that they visit the feeders, and when they hang out in the park, for I walk about the same time every day.

While pickings were slim, what photos I did get turned out well.

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

Cat dozing in the sun

Cat dozing in the sun

The cat must have been looking for mice, not birds, as it was a long way away from where the birds have been for the past two weeks.

It was a great day for a walk, even if there wasn’t much wildlife, I paused several times just to relish the warmth left in the fall sun.

I was almost all the way home when I saw the shadow of a large bird flying what had to be almost directly above my head. It was a great blue heron, and for some reason, it landed next to the pond within the apartment complex, even though most of the pond is frozen over. A great blue heron is almost always a good photo subject, even in poor light.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I could tell from the heron’s actions that it wasn’t going to stick around long, and as I was switching to my bird in flight setup it took off, but stayed low and hidden by the trees, so no heron in flight shot. But, since I was there, and there was a small flock of mallards in the corner of the pond which hasn’t frozen over yet, I couldn’t resist a few photos.

Female mallard

Female mallard

Mallards

Mallards

Male mallard

Male mallard

Female mallard

Female mallard

I’ve shot hundreds, maybe thousands of photos of mallards, but the one of the male mallard has to be one of the very best that I have ever gotten. The last shot of the female isn’t too shabby either. Maybe I’ll have to shoot a few more mallards from time to time just to mark my progression as a photographer. 😉

Friday

A mixture of clouds and a little sun today, it’s warmer than it has been, but the wind is forecast to increase in strength ahead of another cold front headed this way.

The weather forecast for this weekend is not looking good, Saturday morning will be OK, but Sunday is looking like a complete washout, with strong to severe thunderstorms in the afternoon. That’s OK, I have some things to catch up on around the apartment that I can do on Sunday.

I’m sure that by now, every one is tired of hearing about my struggles to quit smoking (again), so I’ll skip that today, and head on out for a walk.

I’m back, it was a very good day. I started shooting early…

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

..and often…

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

None of the photos so far were cropped at all, and on top of getting close to the critters today, the light was very good as well. However, the brown creepers have what has to be about the best camouflage in the bird world, watching them is almost like watching bark move, so I cropped the next one down in an attempt to show what they really look like.

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

At the same time as I was shooting those, I was also shooting these.

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

None of those were cropped, and neither were these.

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Those were all shot before I made it to the park, where the birding was even better, even though I didn’t get as close to as many birds there. I’m only posting the one shot of the brown creeper that I cropped today, all the rest are as they came out of the camera using the Beast. Otherwise, I’d have 60 photos to post from today.

One home owner that lives on the border of the park had hired a tree trimming service to cut down some of the branches and trees on their property, and I’m sure that the tree trimmers at work pushed some birds into the park that otherwise would have been back in the woods farther. Several other home owners were out raking or blowing leaves as well, which pushed even more birds my way. So, here are my uncropped photos from in the park.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

Blue jay

Blue jay

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

But, as good of a day as I was having, I missed what would have been the shot of the day, and the shot of the year, maybe a lifetime. As I was walking along the edge of the woods, I came face to face with an adult male sharp-shinned hawk less than 30 feet away from me. I froze, the Sharpie froze, for an instant, then it flew back into the woods a short distance, where the brush between us ruined this shot.

Sharp-shined hawk

Sharp-shined hawk

In a way, you can tell how close I was to the Sharpie when I first saw by the bad photo, that was taken after the hawk had flown away from me a little. I’m 99% certain of my ID as a Sharpie, as close as I was to it when I first spotted it, and with an unobstructed view of it. It was too small to be any of the resident Cooper’s Hawks, with a darker cap than any of them have as well.

That’s the first confirmed sighting of a Sharpie here for me, hopefully this guy will stick around and give me a few more photo ops.

If you remember, back on Tuesday I gave myself an attitude adjustment, as far as telling myself to go back to photographing subjects, even if I have hundreds of photos of them saved already. The results, my personal best photo of a chickadee in flight, one of my personal best of a junco, my personal best of a male mallard, and today’s crop of uncropped photos.

It Wayne Gretzky who said that “You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take”, how true.

Saturday

It’s cloudy and seasonable as far as temperatures today, the big storm is forecast to hit tonight and tomorrow. It’s already way too late for a reasonable expectation of seeing any big bucks over in Palmer Park this morning, but that’s where I’m going anyway. Be back later.

I’m back. I was correct, it was too late for any bucks, but I was a bit surprised to find the few deer that I did see hunkered down as if the storm was about to hit. I thought that I would find a few out feeding before the storm. Here’s a great way to forecast the weather, when you see deer picking sheltered places to lay, you know a storm isn’t far off.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

Were you able to spot the deer in all three photos?

The birds were somewhat more obliging, it seemed as if I were in the middle of a flock of tweety birds that followed me around most of the day. (Tweety birds are what we used to call the chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, woodpeckers, and other small birds that form loose flocks of mixed species during the winter months.) They were certainly out feeding in advance of the storm, but, most of them stayed up in the treetops, and/or just out of range of the Beast. Since most of the photos from this week are of tweety birds, I’ll only post a few of the nuthatches from today, since I missed all of them earlier in the week.

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

The light only got worse as the day wore on, soon after noon I gave up birding and worked on camera settings for low light photos with the landscape body. I didn’t find much color left on the trees, but the fallen leaves along with what were left on the trees gave me plenty of opportunities to play.

November in the Michigan woods

November in the Michigan woods

November in the Michigan woods

November in the Michigan woods

November in the Michigan woods

November in the Michigan woods

November in the Michigan woods

November in the Michigan woods

November in the Michigan woods

November in the Michigan woods

My last photo of the day is of a pair of mallards, on the other end of the quality spectrum from the earlier photos. This one was a test of the Beast in beastly conditions, shot at ISO 1600, f/6.3, and a shutter speed of 1/100 handheld zoomed to 500 mm.

Mallards standing on water

Mallards standing on water

To finish this off, I’m going to start something new. Many of my fellow bloggers include a quote in their posts, and the thought of doing that has crossed my mind on occasion. However, I’m going to do something a bit different, putting the lyrics to some of my favorite songs having to do with the outdoors and nature into these weekly posts. And to start things off, there’s no song more fitting than “Give me the good earth” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band…

Give me the good earth that I was born on,
Give me the sunshine, the grass and the trees.
Give me the open skies that I can dream on,
Give me the flowers, the birds and the bees.

Give me the good earth to lay my head on,
Give me the mountains, the cool summer breeze.
Give me the forests, deep river valleys,
Give me the oceans, the fish and the seas.

I don’t need to know about the things that lay beyond my life
I don’t need to know about the things that I don’t need

Give me the good earth to rest my mind on,
Give me the rainfall that fills empty streams.
Give me the life, the hills and the meadows,
Give me the seasons and the changes they bring.

I don’t need to know about the things that lay beyond my life
I don’t need to know about the things that I don’t need

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


Garden Peninsula birding

While on my vacation back in September, I visited Michigan’s Garden Peninsula, as that’s where the Fayette Historic State Park is located, which was the subject of a previous post. It was while I was at Fayette SP that I noticed hundreds of warblers in the trees around the park.

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. Many of the smaller birds won’t cross bodies of water if they can not see land on the other side. 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.

I checked the eBirds hotspots map, and found that while very few entries had been made from Michigan’s Garden Peninsula, some of the islands in Wisconsin, along with the tip of the Door Peninsula were very active hotspots in Wisconsin. That tells me that my theory is correct, that the migrating birds do island hop their way to Wisconsin.

Map of the Garden Peninsula and island chain

Map of the Garden Peninsula and island chain

So, here are a few of the photos of birds that I shot during my very short visit to the Garden Peninsula. Not all the photos are good, there’s a few clickers in the batch, but this post is intended to show the wide variety of birds that I saw there. I’ll start with an American Kestrel that I spotted along the road as I was leaving Fayette State Park.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

There are several Lake Michigan access points on the Peninsula, including a township park at Sac Bay, where I shot this crow getting a drink.

American crow drinking from Lake Michigan

American crow drinking from Lake Michigan

Some of these photos were shot in the Portage Bay State Forest Campground, I’m afraid that I didn’t pay enough attention when I uploaded the photos, as they are mixed up as far as when and where I shot them.

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Back to the Kestrel again.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

I think that you’ll get the idea that I am trying to convey here, just from the photos.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Gull diving for food

Gull diving for food

Bald eagle buzzing mute swans

Bald eagle buzzing mute swans

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Mute swan and unidentified waterfowl

Mute swan and unidentified waterfowl

Birds aren’t the only subjects that I found worth photographing.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

lichen

lichen

???

Sow thistle?

The next few were shot while on the short Bog Lake hiking trail, which starts and ends at the Portage Bay SFCG.

Pileated woodpecker in flight

Pileated woodpecker in flight

Black-throated green warbler

Black-throated green warbler

Black-throated green warbler

Black-throated green warbler

Female hooded merganser

Female hooded merganser

Water striders and leaf

Water striders and leaf

Female hooded merganser

Female hooded merganser

And finally, two photos taken from my vehicle as I was starting the trip back home.

Sandhill cranes

Sandhill cranes

American pipit

American pipit

In my travels around the peninsula, I noticed an osprey nest on top of a power pole. While I was eating supper in a local establishment, I was talking to several people about the birds I had been seeing and asked if the osprey nest was active. I then got to hear the story of how when the osprey first began building a nest on the pole, the utility company had tried to discourage the osprey for fear that one of the osprey would be electrocuted but they would not be discouraged, and that the utility finally gave in and let the osprey build their nest on the pole, then rerouted the power lines around the one pole that the osprey built their nest on. I didn’t see the osprey, as it was the last week of September, and they had already migrated south by then.

The best times of the year to visit the area would be April and September to view the birds migrating up the peninsula in the spring, and down in the fall, but I’m sure that there would be plenty of summer residents to keep a person occupied as well. I would make the Garden Peninsula one of my regular birding places if it wasn’t so far from where I live, but I’m sure that I’ll be going back from time to time while on vacations over the coming years.

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


Lapland Longspur, Calcarius lapponicus

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.

Lapland Longspur, Calcarius lapponicus

The Lapland Longspur, also known as the Lapland Bunting, is a passerine bird in the longspur family Calcariidae, a group separated by most modern authors from the Fringillidae (Old World finches).

It breeds across Arctic Europe and Asia and in Canada and the northernmost USA. It is migratory, wintering in the Russian steppes, the southern USA, Northern Scandinavian arctic areas and down to coastal Southern Sweden, Denmark and Great Britain. This is the only Eurasian species of the longspur buntings, and while it probably did not evolve there, it has been present in Eastern Europe for at least about 30,000 years.

The Lapland Longspur is a robust bird, with a thick yellow seed-eater’s bill. The summer male has a black head and throat, white eye stripe, chestnut nape, white underparts, and a heavily streaked black-grey back. Other plumages have a plainer orange-brown head, a browner back and chestnut nape and wing panels.

It breeds in wet areas with birch or willow, and or bare mountains, and winters on cultivated land or coasts. The bird is often seen close to the tree line, and likes to feed in mixed-species flocks in winter. Its natural food consists of insects when feeding young, and otherwise seeds. The nest is on the ground. 2-4 eggs are laid.

The food habits of the Lapland Longspur are quite simple: mostly seeds in winter and arthropods in the summer, when they are feeding their young.

During the winter, the longspur feeds on seeds. They pick them on the ground, rarely feeding directly on plants. They will forage around the same area for a period varying between a few minutes and an hour, then fly away looking for a new foraging area. Their seed diet is composed mainly of seeds from grass, foxtail, cultivated millet, crabgrass and wheat. During the breeding season, the birds migrate to the north, where their diet switches to arthropods. Nestlings are only fed arthropods, which also constitute the diet of the parents at that time of the year (June to July). The birds often catch insects in mid-air, but does forage through vegetation when climatic conditions prevent the insects from flying.

On to my photos:

Lapland Longspur, Calcarius lapponicus

Lapland Longspur, Calcarius lapponicus

Lapland Longspur, Calcarius lapponicus

Lapland Longspur, Calcarius lapponicus

Lapland Longspur, Calcarius lapponicus

Lapland Longspur, Calcarius lapponicus

Lapland Longspur, Calcarius lapponicus

Lapland Longspur, Calcarius lapponicus

Lapland Longspur, Calcarius lapponicus

Lapland Longspur, Calcarius lapponicus

Lapland Longspur, Calcarius lapponicus

Lapland Longspur, Calcarius lapponicus

This is number 132 in my photo life list, only 218 to go!

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

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Pickerel Lake in November

On Sunday, November 10, 2013, I went to the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve for a day of birding, and photographing anything else that caught my eye.

The weather today was much better than yesterday at the Ionia State Recreation Area, much sunnier, and the wind wasn’t as strong, although it was still blowing hard enough to put a bite in the temperature when I was out in the open and exposed to it. One of the reasons that I selected Pickerel Lake for today is that it is surrounded by wooded hills that help to block the wind. And, it took a while today for the clouds to break up, I thought that it was going to be another dark dreary day when I first pulled into the parking lot.

I started out as I always have there at Pickerel Lake, and headed to the larch swamp, because that’s where I saw the most birds most of the time, but that was late summer, early fall. Today, other than a few chickadees and woodpeckers, I wasn’t seeing birds.

On top of that, most of the needles have fallen off from the larch trees already, but I found a few photo ops.

Larch

Larch

Larch

Larch

Just a pond

Just a pond

I walked the entire woodland trail and other than seeing a muskrat….

Muskrat

Muskrat

…and evidence that its cousins, the beavers, had been in the area recently….

Chew marks on a fallen tree

Chew marks on a fallen tree

…the only bird photo that I got was of a cedar waxwing.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

But, it was a beautiful day, and when I got to the bench on the back side of the lake, I sat down to take a long break and admire the view, first at 15 mm…

Pickerel Lake in the sun

Pickerel Lake in the sun

…and at 500 mm…

Pickerel Lake in the sun

Pickerel Lake in the sun

While I was taking the break, a couple walked up to me, and we began chatting. They were birders as well, and they told me that they had seen hooded mergansers, and other ducks that they couldn’t ID, in one of the bays on the lake. Since I had walked the woodland trail, I hadn’t seen any waterfowl, other than a few geese and mallards on the very first part of my walk.

So, rather than continue around the rest of the lake, I went back the other way, taking the lakeside trail this time. The views were very good….

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

…and I soon spotted a juvenile bald eagle hunting over the lake.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

My bird in flight pre-sets worked pretty well if I do say so myself.

Spotting a chipmunk hiding in a berry bush, I couldn’t resist trying for a photo.

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

The Beast really can pull off the nearly impossible shot as far as the auto-focus being able to pick wildlife out of the brush. Here’s the cropped version of the munk.

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

Soon after that, I spotted the mergansers.

Male hooded merganser

Male hooded merganser

A pair of hooded mergansers

A pair of hooded mergansers

Male hooded merganser

Male hooded merganser

Female hooded merganser

Female hooded merganser

I shot many more than just those of course, and I have updated my previous post on this species in the My Photo Life List series with more photos if you’re interested.

I saw the other ducks that the couple that I had talked to hadn’t been able to ID, they were ring necked ducks, so I set off to stalk them for a photo, or two, or three.

Along the way, I spotted a pie-billed grebe..

Pie-billed grebe

Pie-billed grebe

…another pair of mergansers…

Female hooded merganser

Female hooded merganser

Male hooded merganser

Male hooded merganser

Female hooded merganser

Female hooded merganser

…I was setting up to take photos of the ring-necked ducks by leaning up against a tree to steady the Beast, when a flock of mallards that I hadn’t seen, nor had they seen me approaching, spotted me and took off…

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

Out of habit, I shot the mallards first, then I saw that the ring-necked ducks had been spooked by the mallards, and that they were taking off also.

Ring-necked ducks in flight

Ring-necked ducks in flight

That was just a few of a very large flock.

Ring-necked ducks in flight

Ring-necked ducks in flight

Ring-necked ducks in flight

Ring-necked ducks in flight

A few of the ring-necked ducks stayed just in range of the Beast.

Ring-necked ducks

Ring-necked ducks

I had been much closer to the main body of the flock of ring-necked ducks , but my walking up on the mallards had been my undoing. Oh well, better luck next time.

I walked back past the parking lot to as far towards the east end of the lake as I could go. For some strange reason, the county has a turnstile installed on the trail that forces every one to go one way only, or at least you’re supposed to. I could see how that could be a good thing, but they have it installed very close to the end of the loop if you go the right way around, but where it is let’s you walk quite a way the wrong way before you get to the turnstile. No big deal, just strange, and it didn’t hinder my photography any.

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

While standing near the turnstile, I saw yet another pair of mergansers, more mallards, a belted kingfisher, and a few other birds, including a few crows.

American crow

American crow

It looked to me as if the crow was eating a snail, but I couldn’t tell for sure at that distance. Soon it had company though.

IMG_4506

American crows

American crows

I even got a couple of good photos of one of the flock.

American crow

American crow

American crow

American crow

American crow in flight

American crow in flight

It was around 3 PM by then, meaning I had been there for about five hours, so it was time to head for home to sort through the photos, and work on this post.

It’s funny, I went to Pickerel Lake the first few times expecting to see waterfowl and wading birds, but found songbirds instead. Today, I went looking for songbirds, and found waterfowl. But, no matter what type of birds, I had found a few, and even better, had a wonderful day today.

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


My Week, a repeat of last week

Sunday

A couple of short items before I really get started. One, the theme that I am using now seems to be getting better at choosing the worst photo from a post to add to the slide show at the top of the page. According to the documentation with the theme, it is supposed to use the first photo that I upload into a post for the slide show. So, I have been going to great lengths to attempt to get a good photo for the slide show, with little success of late. Of course the ultimate answer is to stop taking bad photos, or at least stop posting them, but that’s not going to happen. It does tick me off though when it chooses ones like it did for last week’s post, of the downy woodpecker and Carolina wren, which was horrible.

I may start reposting one of the best photos from the previous week to start each one of my new posts from now on to get a good photo in the slide show.

I have received my order of two pairs of boots from Cabela’s, and just as I thought, the Keens are great, but I think that the pair of Cabela’s brand Twin Rivers Hikers are even more comfortable than the Keens. That’s saying a lot, but, as good as both pair feel, neither are as comfy as the old New Balance boots that I wore out. I did a six-mile hike in those the first time that I wore them outside, I’m not going to take that chance with either of the new pairs of boots, I’m going to break both pair in with shorter walks.

Now then, for the weather in October, it was split down the middle. The first two weeks were generally sunny and warm. The last second half of the month was cloudy and wet. From Oct. 1-12, we had only one day that didn’t reach 70. Those 12 days were 8 degrees warmer than average. For the first two weeks of October we had a whopping 67% of possible sunshine and the average wind speed was 6 mph. From Oct. 15-31 we had just 21% of possible sunshine and the average wind speed was 9.3 mph. From Oct. 19-29 we didn’t have a single day warmer than average. Overall the month was 2.1 deg. warmer than average. Grand Rapids had a trace of snow on the 23rd, but some spots in the lakeshore counties had 1-3″ of snowfall. Rainfall in October totaled 5.46″, the 10th wettest October ever and 2.2″ above average. We had measurable rain on 16 of 31 days of the month and four other days with a trace of rain.

The weather forecast for this week is close to a repeat of last week, cool for both weekends, warmer with heavy rain mid-week.

I have submitted some of my recent bird sightings to eBird, it’s funny, my report of a bald eagle and the rest of the birds I’ve seen around here went through with no problem, except the white-eyed vireo. I received an email from some one who volunteers to confirm sightings of rare birds asking for more details and/or a photo, which I have sent in to confirm my sighting. We’ll see if my ID of the bird in question is correct, and I’ll let you know one way or the other. But still, I can’t get over the fact that a bald eagle here isn’t rare, but a white-eyed vireo is.

White-eyed vireo

White-eyed vireo

It’s also pretty cool that some of my first reports to eBird includes the sighting of a rare enough species to warrant confirmation by one of their expert volunteers.

Enough gibberish for one morning, time to head to Muskegon for some serious birding.

Monday

Of course my trip to Muskegon yesterday warrants its own post. I got photos of another lifer for me, rough-legged hawks, and I also shot many more photos of a pair of peregrine falcons, a red phalarope, juvenile red-headed woodpecker, and that just scratches the surface. I had changed my plans and didn’t hike Hoffmaster SP to start, but you will be able to read why in the post that I do on that trip.

My sighting of the white-eyed vireo has been confirmed, photos don’t lie, not usually anyway.

I have a dentist appointment tomorrow, I doubt if I will get to do my walk, but that’s still up in the air right now.

I’m back from my walk today, I think that I may have shot 6 photos, I’m not sure as I haven’t downloaded them from the camera yet.

The weather was cloudy and cool, the wind today had a bite that I haven’t felt yet this fall, just a hint of what’s to come. The forecast for today was for “filtered sunshine”, a nice euphemism for cloudy, but if you look hard, you can see a bright spot in the clouds.

I didn’t see many birds to photograph anyway, so the dreary day really didn’t matter. I’m going to spend the rest of my time today working on the post for yesterday birding in Muskegon.

Tuesday

It’s cloudy outside as I type this, I have the rescheduled dentist appointment at noon today, that really messes up my chance for a walk. If I were to run into a flock of birds worth photographing, I’d be late or miss the appointment. So, I’ll work on the photos from Muskegon this morning, and have everything ready for when I get home from the dentist so that I can slip in a walk before work this afternoon.

Wednesday

I did manage a quick walk yesterday, and it proved worthwhile. I have also finally downloaded the photos from Monday, I’ll get to the photos shortly.

First, I want to thank every one who sent encouragement my way as far as quitting smoking, it helps more than you will know. I received more positive feedback at the dentist’s office yesterday, when they took my blood pressure, I was surprised that it was as low as it was. My blood pressure had dropped 20 points from what it has been averaging the last few years in just two days of hardly smoking at all.

I know that I said that I had stopped completely, I’m using Mr. Tootlepedal’s suggestion of telling myself that I am an ex-smoker, which helps, and I only cave in and have one or two per day when the cravings get really bad. It’s getting easier not lighting up all the time, and the few times that I do cave, the cigarettes are horrible, and I ask myself why I lit the darn thing in the first place.

It’s a relatively warm morning today, but there’s a steady light to moderate rain falling which is going to stick around most of the day. So, there’s no need to be in any rush to get going. Therefore, I have time to post a couple of photos from Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Muskegon color

Muskegon color

Muskegon color

Muskegon color

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

Color on Monday

Color on Monday

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Eastern towhee

Eastern towhee

There, I’m all caught up with both photos and the news, time to go out and get some more, but that could be tough the way the weather is today.

I didn’t shoot a single photo today, even though I had taken my camera with me. The rain was moderately heavy the entire time I was out, and the wind was strong enough that I considered pulling the drawstring of the hood of my rain jacket tight to prevent the hood from being blown off from my head all the time. Most of the birds were hunkered down in the thick brush to stay out of the weather, the one exception was the “giant” red-tailed hawk that was perched in its favorite spot for a while. That hawk is 25% larger than any of the others around here, or any others that I have seen for that matter. It sticks out like a sore thumb, but I am positive that it is a red-tailed hawk as I see it often and have photographed it on occasion.

Since I have no photos to sort or upload, I think that this afternoon will be a good time for me to spend some quality time with the manual for my camera again. I tend to take a very methodical approach to things, taking one step at a time until I am sure that I have mastered something before moving on. There are so many options available to me on the 60 D that I work with one at a time, in part so that I can remember how to get to the setting I am working with in the menu. I have two camera bodies now, one is dedicated to wildlife, and the other to landscapes and close-ups. It’s time for me to work on saved settings for bird in flight photos using the wildlife body. I’m doing better with those, but with some tweaks to the settings, I think that I can do better, and I have the option of saving one complete set up with my camera, so that’s what I’ll do this afternoon.

Thursday

Wow, Thursday already, I’d better be making plans for the weekend. I think that a return to Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve will be good for Sunday, as it’s been a while since I’ve been there, and I’d like to see the larch trees turning yellow.

It’s actually sunny this morning, but with that has come some of the coldest air of the season, we had a hard freeze overnight. That was on top of over an inch of rain again yesterday, that’s two weeks in a row when we had one day that either set, or came close to setting, a record for the most rain on that date.

I did go through the manual for my camera, and the settings for it, and have saved a set-up just for birds in flight. I love the exposure solutions that the Canon 60 D comes up with in program mode for all around photography, it does a very good job of balancing the exposure triad, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, to produce good photos of stationary objects. The hybrid auto-focusing mode, where it focuses on something until the camera detects movement, then switches to servo mode to track the movement works very well for birds in the brush, but there have been times when it hasn’t switched to servo quickly enough to track a bird in flight, and the bird is out of range before the camera makes the switch.

So, what I have done is set the ISO to 800 rather than let the camera adjust it automatically, and set the aperture to f/7.1, I hope that combination will give me the highest possible shutter speeds to freeze the movement of birds in flight. I have also set it up to use all 9 focusing points, rather than just the center point, and use the servo mode of auto-focus, in hopes that it will do a better job of tracking the moving birds.

I saved all those settings to the customizable position on the mode control dial, so all I have to do is turn the dial, and all the settings should be good to go. I can go back to the program mode for stationary subjects. I won’t have to change each individual setting each time, everything will be changed in one fell swoop.

I really should have done this long ago, but like I said, I tend to be methodical, and take one step at a time. I could have done a better job of the falcons and hawks that I photographed in Muskegon on Sunday. One reason that I didn’t do this sooner is that I couldn’t decide whether to use that setting for landscape or moving critter photos before. Now, with two bodies, that isn’t an issue any longer.

So, I think that I’ll get something to eat, put the Beast back on the camera since it is sunny today, and go out and see if I can find some flying birds to try it all out on.

Well, I’m back, and the birds, what few that there were, didn’t cooperate with me very well. I did manage a couple of shots of a red-tailed hawk under the worst lighting conditions of the day. I learned enough from those shots to know that ISO 800 is higher than I want. I can also stop the aperture down slightly as well.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

That was shot at a shutter speed of 1/3200 second, which is faster than I really need, even this next one was at 1/2000 second.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I have discovered one other thing, I can edit the settings while I am taking the photos of course, but to edit the saved set-up, I have to change every setting to the way that I want them, then overwrite what I have already saved, I can’t pick and choose what to change and what to leave as is.

Tomorrow is forecast to be sunny also, so I’ll try again tomorrow with the new settings.

My other photo of the day is this one of a fox squirrel.

Fox squirrel on the run

Fox squirrel on the run

The only reason for that one was that the squirrel was under the bumper of my Forester when I stepped outside. I tried to get a photo of that, but as soon as I raised the camera, the squirrel was off to the races.

I don’t know if it was the twenty degree drop in temperature since yesterday, or the cold wind out of the northwest today, but I saw very few birds, not even the flocks of geese that have been flying back and forth for the past two months. Isn’t that the way that it goes, I get ready for flying birds, and they all leave. Other than a handful each of robins and goldfinches, along with a few resident species, it was slim pickings today.

It was a year ago that I moved into this apartment, and I remember that for the first few months, I didn’t find many things, birds or otherwise, to photograph. If I remember correctly, I didn’t even resurrect my series of posts about my daily walks until late winter.

There are subdivisions on either side of the park that I walk in, and there are quite a few people in those subdivisions that feed the birds, so during the winter, the birds flock together near their favorite feeder(s). We’ll see how it goes, but I may end up suspending the weekly summaries of my daily walks for the winter. “Cloudy, cold, no birds, and no photos” will get boring fast, and that may be what this will become. We’ll see.

Friday

Sunny and cold, another hard freeze last night, along with some lake effect rain and snow. That makes me glad that I don’t work first shift, the morning news was all about the rash of car wrecks as people have to learn to drive in the snow again. I had to drive through the snow squalls last night, but it hadn’t gotten cold enough to get slippery yet.

With the sunshine, any snow that fell around where I live is gone, it could be a great day for a walk.

My brother purchased the version of the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm) to fit his Pentax camera a couple of days ago, it will be interesting to compare photos and notes. He hasn’t had a chance to really try it out yet, but his set-up seems to do better at extremely close photos, well, down to the close focusing capabilities of the Beast, which is about 8 feet.

By the way, my brother lives in South Carolina, where he has flowers and insects to photograph this time of year, it almost makes me want to move down there. That is until summer rolls around, and he tells me how hot and humid it is there. I think that I’ll stick right here for now.

I have noticed that at least the first of the two Canon 60 D bodies that I have does not auto-focus well down to the close limits of any of my lenses. I may have to switch the roles that I have set for my cameras, as I thought that body number two did better at close-ups than body number one. There’s no hurry, but it’s something for me to consider.

I’m back from my walk, and I found a few more flying birds to test my saved set-up on today, in fact, as soon as I stepped outdoors, a few gulls made willing test subjects.

Gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

I’m pleased with these, but then, gulls are easy. However, I think that I’m very close with my set-up now, as I also had a chance to test it on a hawk later during my walk.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I think that I am going to make one more adjustment, then probably call it good. There’s a reason that I want saved settings for birds in flight, if you remember, back in March of this year, I shot many photos of a flock of bald eagles at Mona Lake. I want to be ready for another chance to photograph the eagles if they flock up there again this spring. I hope to have purchased a 400 mm prime telephoto lens by then, but I can get by with the Beast, it does OK if I switch the OS off and use the correct settings for birds in flight.

For the record, I shot those at ISO 640, an aperture of f/8, +2/3 EV, and shutter speeds between 1/1250 and 1/2000.

The +2/3 EV was a little much for the gulls, and maybe not quite enough for the hawk, but it is a good starting point to get a usable shot in a hurry if I need to, then adjust from there if I have time.

I did find a few other subjects to photograph today as well, starting with a goose.

Canada goose

Canada goose

That was taken during the same timeframe as the gulls in flight. I wanted to see how quickly I could make the switch back and forth between stationary birds, and those in flight. It works well!

My other photos for the day…

Peaceful

Peaceful

I would have liked to have included more of the trees over the mallards, but that would have also meant more of the apartment building in the background would show as well. I found a female cardinal that I think was eating ragweed seeds.

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

I got my best photo of a red squirrel so far.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

That was a quicky, as I didn’t know how long it was going to stay still, not long.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Most of the older, larger trees have lost their leaves, but this grove of younger trees is showing well.

More color

More color

And the last photo for the day is a so-so one of a Cooper’s hawk. I shot this one at the same spot as the red-tailed in flight, once again to practice going back and forth between saved settings. It is also a good example of why I need saved settings, as I had forgotten to go back to using just the center focus point for auto-focus yesterday when I tweaked the saved settings, so the camera was using all 9 focus points, hence the hawk is slightly out of focus.

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

Using all 9 focus points for birds in flight speeds up the auto-focus, as I don’t have to try to keep the center point on the bird, which can be difficult. As long as the camera “sees” something at any of the focus points, it locks in on it. But, when a bird is back in the brush, the camera may choose the wrong focus point when using all 9, which is why I generally use only the center one. If my brain was crying out for nicotine, I may have noticed that I had all nine focus points activated for the Cooper’s hawk photos.

That’s about it for today, other than once again, there were very few birds around today.

Oh, one other thing, I went back through some old photos for one purpose this week, and some of my older posts to this blog today to find the one about the eagles at Mona Lake, and this may sound as if I’m bragging, but my photos show a huge improvement over what I used to post. I sure used to post a lot of really bad photos, I feel as if I should apologize.

Saturday

Somewhat of a change in plans this morning, I’ve got a full tank of gas in the Forester, new hiking boots to break in, and a severe case of wanderlust this morning. I’ve been wracking my nicotine starved brain trying to think of someplace that I haven’t been to lately, but still fairly close to home, and I have decided to head east for a change, rather than west or north as I usually go, and go to the Ionia Recreation Area today. It’s been a few years since I’ve been there, so I have no idea what I’ll run into.

Well, the number one thing that I ran into was the wind, I knew that it was going to be windy, but had no idea that it was going to be so windy that most birds stuck to the ground.

Ring billed gulls

Ring billed gulls

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

OK, the weather forecast had said that the wind was going to die down during the day, wrong, it had also said that it would become sunny, or at least partly cloudy, wrong again. It was the brightest out when I first arrived, and from there, the clouds thickened and lowered, and the wind sounded like the roar of a jet engine most of the time. I had chosen Ionia, as it’s in the Grand River valley, somewhat protected from the wind, I can only imagine what it was like along the Lake Michigan shore.

Despite the winds and clouds, it was a good day, not that I shot many photos, but the woods were quite pretty with all the new fallen leaves covering the ground.

Ionia State Recreation area in the fall

Ionia State Recreation area in the fall

Sessions creek

Sessions creek

Sessions creek

Sessions creek

I took the Beast, of course, and also the second body with the 15-85 mm lens, which is what I used on those last three photos.

The bridge over Sessions Creek washed out several years ago, and while crossing the creek today by walking across the rocks, I learned that the Keen hiking boots I just purchased aren’t 100% waterproof. They weren’t advertised as waterproof, so I have no room to complain there, but there’s not enough room for my big toes, so I am going to complain about that, some.

I did the 4 mile long trail around Sessions Lake, and I should have stopped there, as my feet felt fine after that. But, I went off to explore a trail along the Grand River, and that was a little farther than I should have gone. I think that the Keens will be fine after I’ve worn them a few times, on shorter walks for the time being. 😉

My other photos for the day.

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

That last photo, and a few other attempts at photographing birds, are what convinced me to give it up for the day. For the record, the shooting info for the red squirrel, ISO 1600, f/6.3 (wide open for the Beast) and a shutter speed of 1/160 second while zoomed to 500 mm. It was so dark and dreary that there simply wasn’t enough light for any photos. I followed a brown creeper up the trunk of a tree, and the fastest shutter speed that I saw was 1/60 second, there was no way that I was going to get a good photo, so I didn’t bother to try.

It was good going back to Ionia and reconnecting again, I had forgotten what a nice place it is for a long walk/hike. I’m sure that I’ll be going back in the next few months, as it is 25 miles or so to the east of where I live. There are many days when the lake effect clouds are breaking up in that area when it is still completely cloudy here. Less snow falls there as well, because the lake effect has a harder time staying intact that far inland.

I have to go grocery shopping yet tonight, so I’m going to end this here.

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