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

My Week, Swimming in February?


Yesterday was the sunniest day in a month and a half, today, it’s back to the clouds and snow. However, the snow is forecast to end soon, and there may be more sunshine this afternoon, so I’m in no hurry to get outside.

We have only tied the record for the most snow on the ground in February at 23 inches ( 58 cm), but we have set a record for the most consecutive days of at least 20 inches of snow on the ground, and we’re closing in on the record for most consecutive days of having at least 4 inches (10 cm) on the ground. I’m not sure what the significance of 4 inches is, other than the possibility that it represents that the ground is totally covered.

The local meteorologists are backing off from their predictions as far as how warm it is going to get this coming week, along with lowering the amount of rain that we may receive. As much as I hate to say this, it’s probably a good thing. If we did hit 50 degrees ( 10 C) and had an inch and a half of rain, we’d all be swimming around here. There have been several more buildings collapse under the weight of the ice and snow that we already have, all that rain would make the snow on the roofs of buildings even heavier.

It was nice getting out in the sunshine at Muskegon yesterday, even if it was very cold, and I only got photos of the more common waterfowl there. There were several times when I could see the ducks diving and swimming under the very clear water, I tried for photos, but was too slow. However, it was an amazing sight to see, those ducks sure can move! I had wondered how something as large as a duck could swim well enough to capture fish, not any longer, after seeing the ducks in action, I can say that the fish have to be very wary. I should be more specific, it was the mergansers that were after fish, most of the other species of ducks were diving to the bottom for crayfish and mollusks. However, all of the species zip right along while under water.

Since it’s still snowing, I think that I’ll change things up and do my grocery shopping for the week this morning, then come home and do laundry. Maybe by then, the sun will have come out of hiding.

That actually worked quite well! There were a few clouds that rolled in while I was in the park today, but it was another pleasant late winter day. If only I could get around better I would have come home with more photos than I did.

It was so nice today that I took the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) with me, the first time around here in I don’t remember how long. That’s two days in a row for the Beast, yesterday at Muskegon, then around here today, my arms are feeling it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But before the photos from today, I’m going back to two from yesterday, and I’ll explain why in a minute.

Male white winged scoter

Male white-winged scoter

Male greater scaup

Male greater scaup

Okay, the reasons for starting with those two. Tom (Mr. Tootlepedal) left me a very nice comment to last week’s post about him having to become more serious about photography after reading my blog. I hope that he doesn’t, as I love his photos, but that got me to thinking, maybe I’m getting too serious. I love having equipment good enough to produce those two photos, from the pale blue eye of the scoter, to the green head and yellow eye of the scaup. Both of those photos were well out of the realm of possibility for me with the old equipment that I was using. And then there was this flower from last week, the one that I spent two hours and fifty shots to get.

Macro lens and lighting test

Macro lens and lighting test

One thing that I am doing is trying to learn the limits of how good of a photograph that I can produce using my cameras and lenses. Another thing is that I am quite proud of the equipment that I agonized over purchasing, I want to prove to myself, if not the world, that I did well in my purchases, and I also want to “do them proud” by getting the best photos that I can with them. I don’t want all the time that I spent researching ย my purchases, or the money that I spent, to be wasted.

You can trust me on this, I am not going to spend two hours to shoot one flower, unless it is some very rare flower that I’ll never see again in my lifetime.

I’ve said this before, quality breeds quality, and as my photos get better, there’s that much more motivation for me to continue to shoot photos of the same, or better quality. That said, here are my photos from today, which don’t come close to the level of quality that I would like.

Male northern cardinal eating sumac

Male northern cardinal eating sumac

Male northern cardinal eating sumac

Male northern cardinal eating sumac

The flying bird of the day

The flying bird of the day

Unfortunately, I can’t control the weather, or where the birds decide to perch, so I’ll have to do the best that I can, knowing that the really great photos will come with time.

I have to say this about the Beast one more time, it may be large and heavy to lug around, but it is a fantastic lens for birding. I had little hope that the cardinal photo would turn out so well given the light at the time, but they are quite good considering the conditions. I didn’t have to fight the Beast to get a focus on the cardinal either, which was a good thing, the cardinal didn’t stick around long enough for me to play around manually focusing.

Here’s something that I don’t get a chance to photograph often enough, a sunset.



Sunset over "Snow Mountain"

Sunset over “Snow Mountain”

Because I work second shift, I seldom get a chance to photograph sunsets, or sunrises. The first was taken with the Tokina 100 mm macro lens, just as a test shot. I switched to the 15-85 mm for the second one, and caught the ten foot high snow bank on purpose. The sunset turned out to be a bit of a bust, but any color in the evening sky is a rare thing around here.


Cloudy and cold, but at least there’s no snow, yet. That’s forecast to arrive later today, and if the storm totals that they are predicting are accurate, this storm will put us over 8 feet (244 cm) for the season. It will also move this winter into the record books as one of the top ten snowiest winters here on record, we’re in twelfth place right now. And, there’s lots of winter left to go. The number one spot is safe, that record was set back in the winter of 1951-52 at 11 feet (335 cm), and I sure hope that we don’t come close to that record! The temperature here for the month of February has averaged 10 degrees below average so far, and February is typically our coldest month of the year.

Yup, it’s been a long, cold, snowy winter, that’s for sure. Oh well, there’s nothing that I can do about it but whine, bundle up, and head on out there to face another day of it.

I’m back, and it sure was cold out there today, mostly because of the wind. I’m still feeling chilled to the bone now that I’m back inside. Because of the wind and cold, I walked down the street a mile and back, thinking that it would also be easier on my knee. It was, although I think that the cold bothers it a good deal.

My left knee has improved a great deal, it’s almost back to full strength, it’s my right knee that bothers me the most. Several years ago, I twisted my right knee badly at work, and I don’t think that it has been the same since. Any additional stress or strain seems to bring on another round of pain for a week or two. It’s getting better, I can walk straight on level ground without it hurting, but any lateral loads from walking on an uneven surface, or twisting the knee causes it to hurt. I have figured out what I’m doing at work that puts the most stress on my knees, and I’m going to stop doing it, even though it will slow me down a little. I have a meeting with my boss scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, and I’m going to tell him flat-out what I’m going to do.

Even better news is that next week I get a new boss, I’ll be working for the guy who has been the manager of the Lansing branch since I started working for this company. After a rocky start, we get along fine now, I have discussed my plans with him, and he agrees that I should slow down. Of course that’s because he’s seen how I unload the trailer there at Lansing, and he’s been worried that I would run one of his drivers over with the carts that I unload from the trailer.

Well, enough of that, back to my walk today, although there’s really not much to say since I just walked down the road and back. I did see a few birds, but they were rather quiet today. I think that they are busy stuffing themselves ahead of the approaching storm. I did see a Cooper’s hawk screaming through the trees in search of prey, but it was too fast for me to get a photo. I didn’t shoot a single photo today, so I’ll include one from Saturday at Muskegon.

Male common goldeneye

Male common goldeneye

And, to use it up, here’s one of a fox squirrel that I shot two weeks ago while playing around with the Beast and Tamron extender.

Fox squirrel munching lunch

Fox squirrel munching lunch

That’s full size, the way it came out of the camera, do you think that I’m taking this close up thing too far? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Back to the weather, several more buildings have collapsed over the weekend, including a church recreational facility, this is getting serious! The storm that was supposed to be hitting my area about now is slow in getting here, so maybe we won’t see as much snow as they said. I’m not looking forward to driving in it tonight, or walking in 6 inches of heavy, slushy snow tomorrow. Then, we are forecast to get a brief warm up for the rest of the week, that will be nice to say the least, no matter how long it lasts. I can see that some of the piles of snow have been shrinking slowly due to the sunshine that we’ve had, it would be nice to see them shrink even more with some warmer temps!


Well, that storm that was slow to arrive yesterday was just taking its time to get wound up to drop a lot of snow here.

We set the record for the most snowfall for the date at just over 6 inches, which in turn set the record for the most snow on the ground ever in February at 25 inches, shot us well past 8 feet of snow for the season, we’re closing in on 9 feet now, and bumped this year up to the eighth snowiest winters on record. That number one spot is now looking as if we could in fact break that record with over a month of winter left.

The only good things about the storm yesterday is that I got in a couple of hours of overtime, so at least I earned a little more in my paycheck for next week. And, the snow was light and fluffy, rather than the heavy wet snow that they had predicted, so it will be a little easier to walk through.

Today, it’s warmer, with a little sun, but windy, and it’s going to be tough getting around in all this new snow. To tell you the truth, despite the warmer temperatures and the sunshine, between how late that I worked last night, and all the new snow, I’d just as soon stay inside today. I’ll probably end up just walking up and down the road today, that is, if I feel safe doing so. I won’t know until I get out there.

I’m back. An odd thing happened today, when I stepped out the door and turned my camera on, the battery was dead. I thought that I had just charged it recently, either I was mistaken or the cold took its toll on the charge. Anyway, it’s a good thing that I had purchased a spare.

I walked down to the subdivision that I have been walking through to access the county park, but those roads hadn’t been plowed, so I walked down the main road and back for my walk. Not much to report, other than there’s a lot of snow on the ground.

Snow almost covering a split rail fence

Snow almost covering a split rail fence

Other than that, the highlight of the day was dodging the slush and salt spray kicked up by passing vehicles. Too bad, it was actually a very nice day today, the best we’ve had in over two months, sunny and warm for a change. It’s probably just as well that I couldn’t get around very well today, I have a meeting with my old boss in a few minutes, and if I had spent more time outside, I would have been late for the meeting. So, I’ll add one more photo from Muskegon this past weekend and call it good for today.

Female red-breasted merganser

Female red-breasted merganser


Well, my meeting at work didn’t come off yesterday, the union rep couldn’t be bothered to show up, which has me wondering why I pay union dues. Oh, that’s right, because I am forced to, I have no choice in the matter. Which also explains the crummy service that the unions provide.

Well, before I get going on that rant, or about my job in general, I suppose that I should change the subject. It warmed up nicely yesterday, much warmer than had been forecast, and that warm, sunny weather is sticking around today. It’s a beautiful early spring day, so I’m going to cut this short and get out there and enjoy it while it lasts!

Wow! What a terrific day! I spent way too much time outside, but this is the last of the nice weather, a whopping two days, that we will see for the next two weeks.

I took the L series lens with the Tamron extender behind it today, I should have taken the Beast. But, I didn’t know how good the footing would be on the trails in the park. I was afraid that as warm as it has gotten so quickly, that the snow that has been packed down on the trails would be turning to slush, but that wasn’t the case. Not only is the auto-focus of the Beast more accurate, because I can zoom in closer to the birds, the light meter of the camera reads the exposure for the birds, rather than the background as it does with the L series lens. I played around trying to get good photos of a blue jay, here’s the best of them.

Blue jay

Blue jay

I thought about cropping that one, but I like it full size better. There were plenty of other birds around enjoying this weather…

Dark-eyed junco

Dark-eyed junco

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male house finch

Male house finch

The finch was warming up his vocal chords for spring, he wasn’t quite in full song yet, but he was getting close, and it was a wonderful thing to hear. This fox squirrel was also enjoying the sun.

Fox squirrel soaking up a few rays

Fox squirrel soaking up a few rays

It was so warm that I took my coat off for the walk back home! That made it harder to shoot this hawk, but I managed a shot or two.

Cooper's hawk

Cooper’s hawk

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

Two things that I noticed today, one was that I was going snow blind from the bright sunshine reflecting off from the freshly fallen snow on the ground, the other was that my timing is way off from not having shot many photos the past few weeks.


After two sunny days with temperatures above 40 degrees F ( 4 C), today the weather has taken a turn for the worse. It may get even warmer for a few hours late this evening, but right now, the area is socked in with fog, rain, sleet, and snow. If the weather today were part of an overall warming trend, it would be much easier to take, but it’s not.

By tomorrow morning, we’ll be headed back into the deep freeze, with 40 MPH winds driving another blast of Arctic air into the area, and temperatures falling back to what they have been for most of the winter, well below average.

I would say that I need a change, but I’d better be careful what I wish for. Things were going really well for me up until this winter. I had decided that even though my job is the pits, the schedule made up for the lack of pay and other problems. But, my Subaru getting hit in the parking lot is a financial hit that’s going to be hard to take. Of course it would be much easier if I hadn’t just bought a bunch of photo equipment, but what good is life if you don’t have a little spending money from time to time?

I’ve cut all the other “frills” out of my life, I don’t have a television, so no cable bills, I never eat at restaurants any longer, and so on. My time outdoors and photography have become my one source of pleasure, and I was okay with that. Well, at least I’m done making purchases as far as photographic equipment for a while, but then there’s my knees.

I’ve been taking it much easier on my knees at work, and they are getting much better, but I don’t want to damage them any more than they have been already. I want to enjoy my retirement when it gets here, I don’t want to wind up hobbling around or not being able to get around at all.

I have two weeks of vacation time coming, I had planned on taking one week in May, the other in the fall. However, I’m beginning to think that I should use them both in May, then start looking for a different job, one that I actually like, and not settle for one that gets me by. Most importantly, one that puts less wear and tear on my legs.

Well, that’s still a long way off, and maybe this constant bad weather is affecting my decision, but it’s something that I have been thinking about a lot, and I know that I will continue to do so.

Time to bundle up and see just how nasty the weather really is.

Proving that all things are indeed relative, including the weather, it really wasn’t all that bad out there today, despite the mixed precipitation, clouds, and wind. Compared to the brutal cold that has been the norm for most of the past two and a half months, it was almost pleasant today. I didn’t shoot a single photo, but that’s only because any of the photos that I would have gotten wouldn’t have been good enough to include here.

I have come to the conclusion that the Canon L series 70-200 mm lens doesn’t get along well with the Tamron 1.4 tele-converter. The L series lens is the most finicky lens that I have as far as getting good photos from it, adding the Tamron extender only makes that worse.

I look at the photo of the blue jay from yesterday, and that could have been one of the very best photos that I have ever taken of a blue jay. However, it’s not as sharp as it should have been, or that I would like it to be.

Blue jay

Blue jay

That’s funny in a way, the L series lens is the only “professional grade” lens that I own, yet it’s the lens that disappoints me most often. I said this before, but there are times when I think that professional grade when it comes to photography means difficult to use. That lens has produced some of my very best photos, but they are few and far between.

On the other hand, using the Tamron extender behind either the Beast or the Tokina macro lens has pleasantly surprised me in the quality of photos that they produce, like this one from Saturday, since I don’t have a photo from today.

Male long-tailed duck

Male long-tailed duck

Here’s another from Saturday.

Ring-billed gull

Ring-billed gull

I have a sneaking suspicion that a Canon 1.4 extender would work better behind the L series lens, but at almost twice the price of the Tamron, I’m not about to shell out that kind of money to learn if my hunch is correct. Especially since the Canon extender wouldn’t work with my other lenses.

The difficulty that I have with the L series lens that I already own is one of the main reasons that I am holding off my purchase of a Canon 400 mm prime L series lens for now. Well, that and money, but even once I can afford the long prime lens, I may rent one for a week to see how well it works before I take the plunge.

Besides, I’m beginning to ask myself how sharp is sharp enough when it comes to my photos. The Beast and the Tamron extender are producing some great photos, even though they are not quite as sharp as I may possibly get if I had a better lens, and perhaps camera body.

Female common goldeneye

Female common goldeneye


I’m not going to go, and you can’t make me!

The weather outside is just absolutely horrible this morning, I’m so sick of this! I opened the blinds for a second when I got up, took one quick look, and immediately closed them again.

For the record, it’s really not that cold outside, yet, that will come, it is only slightly below freezing right now. But there are wind gusts approaching 50 MPH ( 80 K/H) driving the falling snow and pushing yet another blast of extremely cold air in our direction.

After three almost spring-like days, I was hoping that we had turned the corner here as far as the weather, but the forecast for next week has us just as cold as it has been for the last three months. Below zero Fahrenheit overnight, and only in the teens above zero for daytime highs for several days next week.

And to think, there were thunderstorms last night. It was so warm that the snow looked like dry ice melting because of the fog being generated by the warm air interacting with the snow. It was quite the sight to see, thick layers of fog rolling off from the snow being lit up by lightning, as a very heavy rain fell.

Even though I’m curious to see how much snow melted the last three days, there’s no way that I want to fight the wind, snow, and ice today, tomorrow will be soon enough. Besides, I know that there will be the puddles left that haven’t completely frozen yet, so it would be a sloppy mess out there if I were to go.

For the past month I have been considering suspending these weekly posts, because I’m not getting many, if any photos on a daily basis, and I doubt if that will change next week. But, I’ve made it this far, so I may as well continue, this winter has to let up sometime soon, doesn’t it?

I’ve some things to do around my apartment that I’ll take care of today to kill some time.

While I was taking a break from my chores, I sat down at the computer to check the news, and decided that not only wouldn’t I go for a walk today, but that I would postpone working tonight as well. There are sections of just about every major highway closed due to wrecks, and I’d rather not fight a semi-truck in this wind all night. Since it’s Friday, I can go in tomorrow or Sunday and do my run when the roads are in better shape.

Since once again, there’s no photos from today, here’s two more from last weekend.

Male red-breasted merganser

Male red-breasted merganser

Mute swan

Mute swan


Since I neither walked or worked yesterday, I managed to get a lot accomplished inside my apartment. When I first moved in here, I thought that it would be a temporary situation, and I just shoved stuff into the apartment, some of which I never unpacked until yesterday. It looks like I’m going to be here for at least another year or two, I used the time yesterday to get more organized.

The weather today, much, much better than yesterday, although it is still very windy, at least there aren’t wind gusts of over 60 MPH as there were yesterday. It’s cold for this time of year, but only about 5 degrees below average, and the sun is shining, which should make it feel half way pleasant today, if I can stay out of the wind.

I was thinking of taking the Beast today, in fact, the thought crossed my mind to take the entire kit that I plan to carry once better weather arrives, but I’m sure that the wind would change my mind soon after I walked out the door. Besides, I’m not sure what the footing will be like for walking today.

We received almost an inch of rain Thursday night into Friday morning, on top of the snow melt from two warm sunny days. All that water, and all the snow on the ground, is now frozen again, with the temperature well below freezing this morning, it could be an icy mess out there. So, I’ll play it safe and take just the L series lens with me until I see how well I can get around.

For the record, we’ve topped 100 inches of snow for the season, we’re very close to the 9 foot mark, and will probably top that this week. We’re sure not going to lose any snow this week, since the temperatures are forecast to be nearly 30 degrees below average for much of the week. Before I go off on how sick I am of the cold and snow, I’ll eat breakfast and make the best of today that I can.

I’m back, and other than the wind, it was rather nice out there today. I almost wish that I had taken the Beast with me, but I was right, the footing wasn’t very good in many places due to the ice. If I had taken the Beast, I probably would have gotten a better photo of Bruiser, the male red-tailed hawk than this one.

Male red-tailed hawk

Male red-tailed hawk

The only way that I know that the hawk in that photo is a male is because after doing the fly by past me, he landed in a tree next to his mate, Bertha.

A pair of red-tailed hawks

A pair of red-tailed hawks

They were really too far away for the L series lens, even with the Tamron extender behind it, but I think that the photos does give you at least an idea how large Bertha is compared to Bruiser.

I wandered around in the park as much as I could, even walking the open paths twice, as the rest of the week will be even colder than today. After three warm days, all the rain towards the end of the week, and a return to below freezing temps, it would be great conditions for snowshoes, but I know that my knees wouldn’t be able to handle them. Besides, I would have to carry them to the park, then find a place to sit down so that I could put them on, and sitting in a snow bank is not an appealing thought. I’d also have to switch back to my Yaktrax for the part of my walks along the roads.

I saw plenty of birds, but they were all hanging around the feeders in people’s yards as I walked through the subdivision, so no photos of them today. Instead I shot a few of the ice formations along the creek.



Ice hanging from branches over a creek

Ice hanging from branches over a creek

Ice hanging from branches over a creek

Ice hanging from branches over a creek

And finally, I tried several close-ups to see if I could get the L series lens and Tamron extender to produce a good one without having to use the tripod.



Pine cone

Pine cone

Not bad, not great, I think that using the tripod is my best bet, but that’s not always possible.

Oh, one more, my favorite fall back subject, a fox squirrel looking rather dejected about the colder weather today.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Well, unless I were to go on about how bad this winter has been so far, and looks to continue being, that’s about all that I have to say this week.

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


21 responses

  1. Laughed out loud at the first scooter photo….Angry Duck.

    Hang in there – spring will come.

    February 22, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    • Thanks Judy!

      February 22, 2014 at 3:58 pm

  2. As always I enjoyed your photos, particularly the Male long-tailed duck!

    February 22, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    • Thank you!

      February 22, 2014 at 5:25 pm

  3. You’ve got a lot of great photos here but I think my favorite is the pine cone. It looks like the seeds sprouted and began to grow before they fell out of the cone, which is something I’ve never seen happen. I think it’s actually a spruce cone but that might be splitting hairs!
    As far as the weather goes I could have written this post. Today was so beautiful I had a hard time coming back home. I know just how that sleepy looking squirrel sunning himself on the branch felt! It’s hard to believe we’re going back to single digit days this coming week. I hope it’s the last cold snap.
    Several years ago I took a bad fall and tore up the rotator cuff in my right shoulder bad enough so they wanted to operate on it. Since I didn’t have insurance at the time I said “No Way” and now I’m paying for that decision with daily pain that over the counter pain killers don’t fix, so I can sympathize with you regarding your knees. I’m in the same boat, not knowing what the future will bring and wondering how I’d live with my most used arm not functioning for 2 or 3 months while trying to live alone. What I do is go out and take pictures and enjoy this fine life that I have and figure that I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Probably not the smartest thing, but right now it’s the only choice. The fact that rest makes your knees feel better would be a hopeful sign that they don’t need replacing, I would think. Hang in there, better days are coming!

    February 22, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    • Thanks Allen, I knew some one would like that cone. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I’m hoping that I haven’t done permanent damage to my knee(s), they seem to be getting better, I sure don’t want to have to have surgery. I hope that everything works out well for you and your situation!

      February 23, 2014 at 12:58 am

  4. Your pictures just keep getting better and better.

    February 22, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    • Thanks Tom, now it is you who is being polite!

      February 23, 2014 at 12:49 am

  5. I love that scoter. He looks like he came straight out of a cartoon!

    February 22, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    • Thank you, that he do!

      February 23, 2014 at 12:49 am

  6. Just 25 days to go… hang in there!

    February 23, 2014 at 12:42 am

    • Thanks, but I don’t think that the seasons are going to turn by the calendar this year.

      February 23, 2014 at 12:48 am

      • Could be, but at least there will be more daylight.

        February 23, 2014 at 1:15 am

  7. It seems you have there a lot of snow. Here, we had snow only for less than 3 weeks. Now it’s cloudy, but not so cold.
    I like your photographs.

    February 23, 2014 at 10:23 am

    • You’re lucky! I live in one of the snowiest places in the eastern United States, and this winter is one of the worst on record. Thanks for the nice words about my photos.

      February 23, 2014 at 12:16 pm

  8. Great ducks, but I’m always a sucker for the Red Tailed Hawks, and so I enjoyed seeing your mated pair together. Good luck with your knees, they sound uncomfortable and I hope rest and warmer weather do the trick. I’m enjoying reading about your experiences with your various lenses, keep on keeping on!

    February 24, 2014 at 12:09 am

    • Thank you, I keep hoping that Bertha and Bruiser will pose for me when I have the long lens with me, but they never do.

      February 24, 2014 at 8:58 am

  9. I love the close-ups! And those shots of the cardinals are really lovely which the soft focus backgrounds. PS, thanks for the mute swan shot. ๐Ÿ™‚

    February 25, 2014 at 8:31 am

    • Thanks Lori, I guess I should post a few more swan photos then.

      February 25, 2014 at 8:42 am

  10. Still can’t believe how close to the scoters you can get. And the long tailed duck photo is fantastic ! I am so sorry to hear you struggle with the weather and your knees. I can understand your pain. You’re certainly heading down the right track by strengthening and learning your knee’s limitations.

    Love the Friday opening. I’ve had several days like that this winter too.

    March 5, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    • Thanks Emily! The knees are much better, and even the weather is improving, so I’m a happy camper again!

      March 6, 2014 at 2:50 am