My Week, what a choice!
I was up at 5 AM, just because I could be, and I’m sitting here drinking my coffee, looking forward to the day to come. There have been sightings of waterfowl and other birds over in the Muskegon area that I could use for the My Photo Life List project, but I’ve decided that I’m not going to go and chase them today. I have gotten “spoiled” in a way, I see very little reason to photograph birds while they are in their dull fall plumage, I’d rather wait and catch them next spring when they are in breeding plumage. That, and I’m almost a little burned out on birds right now.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not backing away from the challenge that I set for myself of trying to photograph every species of bird regularly seen in Michigan, not at all. Maybe it’s been too easy so far? I keep adding to the list on a regular basis, and I have enough species photographed and saved on my computer to last into the spring if I continue to do one species per week. I’ve posted 129 species so far, with the photos I have saved, I can make it to 166 species, just 9 short of half way finished with the list that I’m working from. I see no reason to “push” right now, as I’m almost positive that I’ll be adding to my saved list before I run out of photos to post.
I still see the challenge that I set for myself to be one of the best things that I have ever taken on in my life, I am learning so much as I am working on it. My sense of accomplishment grows with each species I check off on my list. However, I’ve been missing the photos that I haven’t been taking since I started the challenge, I never intended this to be only a bird blog, and that’s what it has been becoming. I have shot a few other things, mostly flowers when they were available, but I’ve passed on many other subjects.
For one thing, the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) isn’t a great all around lens. The extremely short depth of field when it’s zoomed all the way in on something makes photographing many subjects well nearly impossible. I should leave the Beast home from time to time, but I never know when a new to me species of bird is going to appear, and I’d kick myself (very hard) if I missed one. I have another camera body and other lenses, but I’ve found that trying to carry everything is a royal pain, and having all the camera gear hanging from me interferes with my ability to photograph anything well, especially birds moving around in the brush.
The changing of the seasons hasn’t helped, how I was carrying everything doesn’t work now that I have to wear more clothes to stay warm. And it seems that everything manages to get all tangled up together when I do carry everything. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have almost strangled myself when the strap for the tripod carrying bag has gotten caught on a branch and the hood of my jacket at the same time, and I seldom carry the tripod.
There’s got to be a better way!
I’ll find one, eventually. I know that I’m not finished buying lenses, so there’s no reason to be in a hurry to come up with something right now. That, and there’s always tomorrow, as far as photographing things. So far, I haven’t missed a shot of a lifetime by not having the right gear with me at the time, for one thing, I probably will never see the opportunity for the shot of a lifetime where I normally go.
Then again, I could be wrong about that last statement. I may have missed the shot of a lifetime this morning, a good size whitetail buck standing between some very beautifully colored trees. Oh well, that’s what I get for trying to do things the right way.
I made it to Palmer Park right at sunrise, and was using the camera body set up for landscapes and the 15-85 mm lens, and even using the tripod. I had the camera dangling from my neck as I started to set the tripod up when the buck walked out of the trees and posed for me. By the time I dispensed with the tripod and made a few adjustments to the camera in hopes of having a prayer of getting a shot of the buck, it was gone. I had left the wildlife body and the Beast in my Forester, I wanted to concentrate on getting good photos of the trees. I don’t know how well any shot I would have gotten with the Beast would have been, there wasn’t much light, but I would have gotten something, and the Beast has pulled off some very difficult shots in the past.
Anyway, I am my own hardest critic when it comes to my photos. When I got home and was sorting through my photos from today, I almost deleted them all as they weren’t perfect. I have since posted them in a post of their own.
After the sun came up over the trees, the light went all weird on me. I did end up deleting all the foliage shots from around 9 AM until early afternoon. In fact, all my wildlife shots came out poorly in that same time frame, and I don’t have a clue as to why, other than that’s just the way that it was. I deleted a higher proportion of photos today than I have in months. For example, I shot photos of a red-bellied woodpecker out in the open, and they came out underexposed by quite a bit, and a red-bellied woodpecker is an easy bird to photograph. But, once the sun came out, I had a pretty good day.
I did salvage a couple from the morning.
The only reason that I saved the next one was because of the red topknot.
Far and away, my best photos came in the afternoon.
I think that the woodpecker thought that I was going to try to steal the bug it had found, for it began running up the branch it was on.
It took me some time and a few bad shots….
But eventually, I got a good one.
I really don’t know what’s happened at Palmer Park as far as birds. Other than yellow-rumped warblers and robins, which are everywhere right now, and the woodpeckers, there really aren’t very many birds any longer. But then, I started going to this park to chase deer, not birds, the birds that I did find were a bonus of sorts.
Partly cloudy and cool this morning. I’ve spent too much time fooling around, so I had better get a move on! I’m back, I didn’t shoot many photos today, as most of the birds were missing, and there was very little else to photograph. I did see a few pathetic flowers hanging in there despite the cold snap last week, but with the wind today, there wasn’t much of a reason to attempt any photos. I did find a few birds though, starting with a flicker.
I think that this next one is one of the worst action shots that I have ever posted.
That one was shot all the way across the expressway, but, I thought it interesting. I don’t know what’s up with the Cooper’s hawk, but it has become very territorial the last month. It was attacking the turkey vulture, which just happened to fall in line behind a medium size songbird which I can’t ID. A couple of weeks ago, I posted photos of this, or another Cooper’s hawk attacking one of the resident red-tailed hawks. I wonder if the Cooper’s hawk is trying to stake out a territory for next spring? Speaking of red-tailed hawks, this one escaped the Cooper’s hawk’s wrath today.
It dawned on me today that I haven’t been posting many photos of cardinals, so here’s a shot of a female.
Since Monday is my short day for the week, I’ll leave it at that. Time for a shower, then visiting my mom in the nursing home.
A cool, cloudy start to the day, clouds will be a constant until next spring, or close to it, you’ll all be bored with my whining about the clouds all too soon. But, that’s the price we pay for living near one of the Great Lakes. Last spring, I pondered relocating to the Muskegon area to be closer to the lake, and the wildlife there, but then I remembered that it is even cloudier there, with a lot more snow in the winter. So much for that idea.
Speaking of Muskegon, if the weather forecast for this Sunday holds, I think that it will be a good day for my monthly birding trip there.
Speaking of the weather forecast, there’s the possibility that I may skip my walk on Thursday this week, as the forecast is calling for heavy rains and winds that day. I like walking in a light rain, but they are predicting 1 to 2 inches of rain driven by 30 MPH winds, that’s too much of a good thing. 😉
Back to Muskegon, since I have the new tent/cot, I looked into campgrounds in the Muskegon area so that I could spend the entire weekend and not have to drive back and forth, with little luck. There’s the state park, but at $26 per night, it would be cheaper for me to drive back and forth. I looked into a few private campgrounds, none looked very inviting, if they are even open this time of year. It was funny, reading the online reviews of one of the private campgrounds, all the reviewers gave that campground negative reviews, save one. The negative reviews were all because of the drunken rowdies staying there, the one guy who gave that campground a positive review did so because they allowed him to play his radio and bring booze.
If by chance we have an entire weekend that’s nice, I may head up to Ludington State Park for a weekend. That’s a great spot for birding, I love the trails there, and I may even be able to slip in some kayaking as well. Ludington State Park offers off-season rates of $12 or $16 per night, much more affordable for a quick weekend trip.
Well, time for breakfast and a walk.
I’m back, it was an OK day, a little of this, and a little of that. I was checking out one of the brightest colored trees in the park….
…when I noticed one of the Cooper’s hawks in the dead tree close to the one I photographed.
Not great, but at least you can tell that it was a Cooper’s hawk. Earlier I had seen one of the red-tailed hawks in the same area, but I didn’t see the two hawks close to each other.
I was going to try to either get closer to the Cooper’s hawk, or catch it in flight, but my plans were spoiled when some one parked almost under the tree the hawk was in and slammed their car door shut. The hawk took off, but stayed low between the trees until it disappeared from sight. So, I went back to shooting colorful leaves.
There was a blanket of thin mid-level clouds today. All morning long, the light was changing quickly, I was surprised at how much difference in light there was from just a few extra wisps of clouds in front of the sun, and how much difference that made to how the leaves appeared.
I managed to get photos of two species of birds that I haven’t posted many photos of lately, a male cardinal…..
…and a mourning dove.
It seems as if the last wave of migrating birds has left the area, as all that were left today were the year round residents and the die-hard species that stick around most of the winter, like the goldfinches.
After dozens of attempts to photograph how pretty the field to the east of the park is, I think that I managed to do a good job of it today.
I’ve always tried to get that photo from the other side of the ball diamonds to keep the fences out of the shot, but then I was shooting from too low a level. I had even climbed the back of a park bench trying to get up higher, but that didn’t work. I had also tried to not show any of the houses on the other side of the field, but today, I told myself that they didn’t matter, take the shot anyway. I did try to crop the fences out of the photo, but it didn’t look right with out something in the foreground.
In some bad environmental news, a breeding population of grass carp has been found in a tributary of Lake Erie in Ohio, which means they will be or are already in all the Great Lakes soon. If they haven’t been able to keep the grass carp out of the Great Lakes, then there’s not much hope of keeping the Asian carp out either. That will be really bad news!
In some better news, the Sappi paper mill in Muskegon was imploded over the weekend, so it is gone forever. I feel sorry for the people who lost their jobs when the mill shut down, but there will no longer be the air and water pollution from that source any longer.
Consumers Energy has also announced that it is phasing out the B. C. Cobb coal-fired power plant on the shores of Muskegon Lake over the next few years, which is also good news.
Cloudy and cool again this morning, the forecast for tomorrow is still for heavy rains and winds as first a warm front, then a cold front move through the region. I may skip my walk tomorrow if the rain is as heavy as they are predicting. In the meantime though, I had better get a move on, as I slept in late and have been fooling around for too long this morning, while hoping for a little sun.
As I was eating breakfast, the sun did come out, and it turned into a very pleasant day! It got warm enough that I took my jacket off about half-way through my walk. It was so nice that I lingered longer than I have been of late.
Even though I’ve posted a few photos of robins lately, I’m going to start with another, because how can I not post a photo this good?
Next up is another cardinal that I caught eating grapes.
There were a few species of birds feeding on the grapes along with the cardinal, I shot photos of a white-throated and song sparrow, but they didn’t turn out as I would have hoped, so I’m not posting those.
I saw both a Cooper’s and a red-tailed hawk again today, but they were both out of range of even the Beast, so I didn’t get any photos. Even though I saw them within a few minutes of each other, and in the same area, the Cooper’s hawk didn’t chase the red-tailed away like it has been doing of late, maybe this was a different Cooper’s hawk.
I shot several photos of fox squirrels gathering nuts for the winter, but I’ve posted enough of them lately, but I also got a fair photo of a red squirrel today.
They are such hyper-active bundles of energy that it is hard to catch one sitting still, and even when their feet aren’t moving, they do still move. That one was barking at me as I was photographing it, and when they bark, their entire body vibrates, so I’m surprised that the photo came out as sharp as it did.
When I changed themes a couple of months ago, I had to start saving the photos that I use for the blog in a larger size to get the photos to load into the slide show at the top of the page correctly. Some of the photos that I have saved for the My Photo Life list project are the smaller versions that I used to use for my blog. So, even though it is rare for me to photograph English sparrows, I know that the photos of them that I have saved for the project are the small versions, hence the following two photos today.
I thought about trying a few more photos of the fall colors, but with the warmer weather, there was a lot of haze in the air today, too much for any photos.
Early on during my walk today, I blew several shots of a blue jay in flight because I couldn’t get the Optical Stabilization on the Beast turned off quickly enough for the photos. On my way home, I found another blue jay eating pine seeds, and tried again, with limited success.
Since I’m on the topic of blue jays, I learned this year the they are considered a migratory species of birds because some of them do migrate to the south over the winter. Since I’ve seen blue jays all year round, I always assumed that they were year round residents. Some of them are, but some of them aren’t. It’s the same with crows, a few do stay in this area over the winter, but many migrate south.
The more I learn, the more I find out that there is to learn.
The rain is here! We may very well set a record for rainfall for this date by the end of the day. There’s a couple of good things about the rain, we needed it to start with, the band that’s over the area this morning is lighter rain than overnight, and we’re in the warm sector of this storm system right now. Once I finish my coffee, it looks like I’ll be able to get my walk in today. I may not get many photos, but you all know by now that I enjoy a walk in a light rain.
I tried to add a list of recent bird sightings by using a widget from eBirds to my blog last night, but I couldn’t get it to load. I think that I would have to upgrade to the premium package to add that widget. I’ll probably have to add more storage space for photos next year, when I do, I will upgrade to the premium package.
I’ve considered listing all the species along with a count that I see each day, but I think that would be boring for most readers. Besides, I’d have to take notes during my walk, or I’d forget things, and I really don’t have the time during my walk for that.
Another of my crazy ideas, if I were to win the lottery, not only would I set up a wildlife refuge for nature photographers to use, but I would also hire an assistant to follow me around and take notes.
Well, I’d better get going before the next band of heavy rain arrives.
You know, I was kidding last week when I wrote about adapting one of the umbrellas that you wear as a hat to my tripod for photography in the rain. That may not be as much of a joke as I thought that it was. Even if I weren’t going to try that, I think that a full size umbrella is in order. The more photos that I take while it’s raining, the more potential that I see for some really good photos, at least of stationary subjects.
Both of those, and all shots today for that matter, were taken with the wildlife body and the 70-200 mm lens, handheld. I had almost taken the landscape body and either the lens that I did take, or the 15-85 mm lens, but I didn’t want to expose the equipment to the rain, which never let up.
But before I prattle on about photography in the rain at length, a few words and photos about the birds today, they were everywhere. Not only that, but a few of them seemed to have been fooled by the warmer temperatures today, they were acting as if it was a warm spring rain, singing and engaging in territorial battles. I saw robins chasing robins, which isn’t unusual, but they were also chasing house finches and starlings, which isn’t normal. And when the robins were chasing other species, the chases weren’t short little “get away from me” type chases, the robins were running the other species ragged, chasing them all around the park, and for quite long distances. There were other robins playing in the puddles as if it were spring also.
Between the bird activity and all the singing I heard going on, the birds almost fooled me into thinking that it was spring. But, that’s not the only way that a bird tried to fool me today.
I was walking very slowly along the edge of the woods in the lowest part of the park, amazed at the number of species of birds that I was seeing along the edge. One of the species I saw was a Carolina wren, and even though the light was horrible, I decided to try for a photo if the wren perched in the open. I watched the wren fly to a tree limb that was covered in a tangle of vines, and I got ready in case the wren appeared in the open. A bird did appear from under the limb from where I had seen the wren land, I got a focus lock on the bird and shot, but it wasn’t the wren, it was a downy woodpecker.
I was seriously thinking that I had been hallucinating about the wren, when it also worked its way around to the top of the limb, so I shot a bad photo of the woodpecker and wren in the same frame just to prove to myself that I hadn’t been seeing things.
That limb doesn’t look large enough to hide two birds in the same spot at one time, but it was, for the wren, when it appeared, was much lower on the limb than where I had seen it land. Where the woodpecker had come from, I have no idea.
I shot two other bird photos, although in this first one of a cardinal, the bird is almost secondary. I liked the way the seeds hung down from the limb and the water drops, the cardinal was just an excuse for a photo.
And, the other bird shot is of a pair of male red-winged blackbirds.
The resident red-winged blackbirds left this area back in August, so that shot was to record them being here this time of year, and I liked the way that the water was beading up on their backs, especially the one to the left in the photo.
OK, it’s back to the autumn colors in the rain. I took a few photos just for the learning experience today, I really need to get serious about photography in the rain, as I love what I can get even when I’m just playing around. But, I can’t get serious until I come up with a way to protect my equipment in the rain.
Here’s a series of three shots, the first is as it came out of the camera, not cropped at all.
BTW, you can see several robins in the foreground there, they really were everywhere today.
Anyway, here’s about the same shot, but cropped slightly.
And finally, heavily cropped top and bottom for an almost panoramic view.
One thing that I’m learning is to keep as much of the sky out of the photo as I can get by with. No matter how dark the sky is to my eye when I shoot, it comes out too bright in my photos. I wish that I had a graduated neutral density filter to play with for these kinds of photos. The other thing is that I’m going down 2/3 to one full stop EV to get the contrast and color saturation that you can see in these photos.
Granted, the field is pretty, but with the ball fields in the foreground and the subdivision in the background these are hardly award winners. They do show me what is possible however, and what I learn here can and will be applied if I ever find myself faced with shooting landscapes in the rain somewhere when the view is better. Once again, I wished that I had brought the landscape body along, or made the wholesale adjustments required to the wildlife body that would have made these even better. But then, I would have had to use the tripod.
If you’d like to see a fantastic collection of photos taken under what many people would say are less than ideal conditions, you may want to check out this blog post done by Bluebrightly.
Cloudy and much cooler today, I won’t be getting by wearing just a rain jacket today as I did yesterday. There’s a break in the rain large enough for me to get a walk in without getting rained on, but more rain is forecast for this afternoon and tomorrow when the lake effect kicks in.
I’ll be every one has been waiting with bated breath to learn if we broke the daily rainfall record for Halloween, yes, we did. The other big weather story this morning is the wind, there are gale warnings out on the Great Lakes.
I’d be all gung-ho about trying some photos of the fall colors again today, except for the wind. I did the recent post of photos that I had almost deleted, one of the reasons that I had deleted so many photos that didn’t make it into that post was the wind. I am learning how to adjust for low light and rain, but, those shots require long shutter speeds. That’s the trouble that I had on Sunday, when the wind was moving the leaves around, and entire trees were swaying in the wind, I lost all the sharpness that I was going for in the photos I did delete.
That reminds me, one of these days I have to stop at the camera store and pick up another quick release plate for the tripod that I have so I can have one on each of the camera bodies. I’ve been holding off because I’m not completely happy with the tripod that I have, but, I’m stuck with it for the foreseeable future, so I may was well break down and get the second plate.
Time for a walk while I ponder places to go over the Thanksgiving weekend.
I’m back, and I’m still debating whether to post any of the photos from today, not that there are many to choose from. The four that I have saved from today look very much like the other photos from this week, two shots of the fall foliage, and two of birds, a red-bellied woodpecker, and a white-breasted nuthatch.
The county has closed the park for the year, that’s really no big deal, what it means is that they have winterized the restrooms and locked them, and closed and locked the gates to vehicular traffic. It does mean that there will be fewer people in the park until next spring, I had the park almost to myself today.
The birds seemed to realize that there weren’t as many people in the park, and they spread out more, but getting photos in the very poor light wasn’t even worth trying most of the time. I think that the light today was the worst it has been since I purchased the Canon camera. The birds seemed to realize that as well, and taunted me by flying a lot closer to me than they usually do.
And, there were plenty of birds around doing the taunting, everything from golden-crowned kinglets to one of the red-tailed hawks, although, it looks as if the migratory sparrows have left for at least the time being.
What the heck, since I lingered so long and worked so hard to get the two bird photos that I saved, I may as well post them.
You know, I’ve really gotten spoiled by the performance of the camera gear that I have now, neither of those shots would have been possible with the old stuff I used to use.
I have been thinking about what to do and where to go over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend coming up soon. A lot will depend on the weather, if it is warm enough, I’d like to go camping and try out my new tent/cot, but that’s a slim possibility. I’ve been checking other good birding spots, but they’re all over on the east side of Michigan, and there are very few campgrounds on the east side of the state. I really don’t care for that side of the state either, until you get up north farther.
Muskegon County is the best birding spot on the west side of the lower peninsula, which is good for me, as it is close to where I live. But, there are a half a dozen spots on the east side that are even better, because that side of the state is better for migrating birds, they don’t have to cross long stretches of open water of Lake Michigan like they do on the west side of Michigan. There are other reasons as well, there are species where Michigan is the western or northern edge of their range for one.
It’s hard to believe, but there are wildlife refuges that are almost in sight of metropolitan Detroit that attract more species of birds than the far less developed areas here on the west side of the state. But I don’t like the metropolitan Detroit area.
If I am going to get photos of every species of bird known to frequent Michigan, I’ll eventually have to suck it up and make some trips over to the east side of the state. Maybe next spring.
One of the things holding me back is the lack of places to camp, but, I was able to sleep well enough in the back of my Forester while on vacation, so I may have to do that when I go towards Detroit. I would hate to go to the east side as a day trip, it’s 2 1/2 hours to get there, and another 2 1/2 hours back, that kind of shoots a big hole in a day trip. So, I think that when I do head to the east side, I’ll plan on sleeping in a rest area in the back of my Forester. Hey, it will be just like driving truck over the road again, the things I’ll do to get a photo of a bird. 😉
I stopped off at the camera store on my way to work yesterday, and picked up a second quick release plate for the tripod. This wasn’t the same store that I have purchased my cameras or lenses from, but it is close to home and on my way to work. I would typically go off on a rant about how bad the second store is, but I’ll just say that there is nothing to recommend shopping there other than it is convenient.
The quick release plate that I bought isn’t produced by the manufacturer of the tripod, which is probably a good thing. The new one is more robust and of a much better design. I think that eventually, I pick up another one, and retire the original to the scrap heap, where it really belongs. On second thought, I’ll save it and use it on my Powershot, not that I use that camera very often any longer.
Taking my entire kit with me on my daily walks seems like so much overkill, so being able to mount either camera to the tripod will cut down on how much I take with me on those walks. But, having two camera bodies proved their worth while I was on vacation last month, and I’m sure it will in the future as well. Maybe even tomorrow, when I go to the Muskegon area.
Normally I go to the county wastewater treatment facility to start, as that’s not only the best place see find waterfowl and shorebirds, but it is the closest birding spot to me that is north of Muskegon proper. I think that tomorrow, I’ll change things up, and start at P. J. Hoffmaster State Park, which is south of Muskegon, and where I can get a good long hike in. The bird counts there may be lower, but there are species of migrating birds that use Hoffmaster that wouldn’t be found at the wastewater facility, as Hoffmaster is heavily wooded and the wastewater facility isn’t.
There’s been two species of birds spotted in the area recently that I would like to get photos of, merlins and Wilson’s snipe. I may be jinxing myself by listing them before I go, but so be it. I’ll hike the north end of Hoffmaster SP, then see how much time remains. Then, either hit the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve on my way to the wastewater facility, or go directly there before heading home.
It will be nice to hike Hoffmaster again, and there are more chances for me to find subjects other than birds to photograph.
The rain has ended here, at least for a while, and the sun is even trying to burn through the clouds, so I’m going to get a move on and do my walk before the rain returns again.
Well, I did it again, I had the wrong lens at the wrong time, I guess you could even say that I did it twice in one day.
Since there was a good chance of more rain, I started out with just the 70-200 mm lens, and saw mostly birds that I could have really used the Beast for, but I did manage to catch a few birds and other things with that lens.
I wasn’t going to actually shoot that one, I was just following the turkey with the camera, and the colors looked so good that I hit the shutter release.
The longer I walked, the more the sky cleared, as you will see.
I finished the west leg of my extended daily walk, and the day had become so nice that I thought that it would be a good idea to return to the apartment and swap the Beast for the 70-200 and go after birds. You know what happened, don’t you?
Yup, before I had even gotten back to the trail to do the east leg of my walk, including the park, the clouds were rolling back in, and there were few birds to be found.
Other than the flock of hen turkeys, I saw few other birds, but I really could have used a shorter lens for a wider view of sun, clouds, and fall colors.
The gaps in the clouds allowed the sun to really light up the trees, for a few seconds at a time. I had to be quick, quicker than I was for this next one.
Did you see how the trees to the right in that last shot were in the sun, all of the trees had been as I started lifting the Beast up, and getting ready to shoot that shot. I could see the light dimming as I pressed the shutter release, darn.
So from then on, I shot just as quickly as I could, but I still could have used a shorter lens to capture more of these scenes.
This next one really burned my biscuits, as there was a line of trees with yellow leaves, and a few of the reddish-orange trees, if only I had taken a shorter lens I could have gotten the entire line of yellow with a few of the red trees in the foreground, but, the light may have well have been gone before I had made the switch. I really should have brought both bodies with me. I could have gotten a great photo, rather than this very good one.
Anyway, I did the best that I could with the Beast, which is really quite good, but I can’t help but think of all the ones that “got away” because that was the only lens I was carrying. I could go on at length about how I should carry everything all the time, but what gets me is that I have days like this walking a little park on the edge of suburbia. I’ve shot birds from as small as hummingbirds and gnatcatchers, all the way up to bald eagles and great blue herons, and I never know when I will see what, and that goes for flowers, insects, and on days like today, fall foliage under dramatic skies.
Anyway, that wraps up the day, and the week. Tomorrow is birding near Muskegon, wish me luck, if you would please.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!