My Week, a repeat of last week
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
I got my best photo of a red squirrel so far.
That was a quicky, as I didn’t know how long it was going to stay still, not long.
Most of the older, larger trees have lost their leaves, but this grove of younger trees is showing well.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!