My Week, The Iceman Commeth
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I also found a red squirrel not in motion, which is a rarity worth photographing.
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.
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.
I mean really nicely!
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.
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…
…to get good photos.
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.
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.
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.
That’s full frame, not cropped at all, here’s the cropped version.
The robins were back again, in huge numbers, but I only shot one.
It was the same with the goldfinches, they were back in numbers, but I only shot one.
On my way towards home, I spotted one of the hawks perched low in a tree.
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…
…from another hawk circling overhead…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 😉
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…
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.
At the same time as I was shooting those, I was also shooting these.
None of those were cropped, and neither were these.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!