My Week, signs of spring?
No signs of spring yet this morning, just more of the same old winter. A weak system moved across the area last night, dropping a couple more inches of snow, just what we didn’t need. The temperature outside is cold by January standards, so I don’t think that I would be wrong in calling it brutally cold for March. Of course it’s cloudy, although over the past two weeks we’ve had more sunshine than the previous two months combined.
I’d really like to walk somewhere other than around home, but there’s not much point to driving someplace right now. As soon as the calendar flipped over to March, we set the record for the most snow on the ground for the month of March at 20 inches, and we’re going to add to that record over the next few days. I haven’t seen it as an official record yet, but I would assume that we’ve set the record for the most snow on the ground so late in the winter season as well.
There are a few local parks that I could go to that get enough people walking on a daily basis that there would be well packed trails to walk on, but I’d still be limited by the weather as far as the photo gear I would take, and what there would be to see, so there’s really no reason to waste gas getting to any of those parks.
It’s kind of funny, while walking around here I have noticed that the other people who I see walking at the same time all look as though they are walking on a balance beam that are used in gymnastics. There’s these narrow paths of hard packed snow to walk on, step just a little to either side, and it’s like falling off the edge of something, and you end up knee-deep in snow. I’m sure that I look the same to them as I try to stay on the packed paths.
You may find this hard to believe from what I’ve written so far today, and my last few posts for that matter, but I am trying to stay positive. Spring will be late this year, but it will eventually arrive. There are few places as beautiful as Michigan in the spring, but being stuck in this purgatory of endless clouds, cold, and snow makes it hard to look forward most of the time.
Since it’s cloudy and cold, I think that I’ll go to the grocery store before going for my walk, as the weather may improve a little by the time I take care of that little chore.
I’m back, and you’d think that I had planned the way that things worked out. Oh wait, I sort of did.
I went to the store, and when I got back home, the sun was just breaking out of the clouds. But, it was cold, really cold, I debated with myself if I would even go for a walk. I put the groceries away, fooled around inside for a while, but the sunshine was too much for me to resist, so off I went.
I was hoping to catch the waxwings and/or robins eating the crab apples again, but no luck there. I think that they had already had their fill and were chatting after breakfast.
Then, they spread out a little in the tree, and snoozed in the sun.
It felt warm by the time that I got to the park, so warm that I left my gloves off and even considered unzipping my coat, but I slowed down my pace instead. Still, it was only around 13 degrees F, but it felt much, much warmer than that in the sun and very little wind.
The robin kept one eye on me at all times.
With the sun, the birds were out and about, a few were even within range of the L series lens and Tamron extender, but if I had known that it was going to feel as warm as it did, I would have brought the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) instead for even better photos.
I fooled around in the park, taking many more photos of the same species, but I’m going to hold off from posting those right now.
Just as I was leaving the park for the walk back home, a band of clouds moved in, and it began to feel as cold as the thermometer said that it was.
On my way home, I spotted Bertha, the large red-tailed hawk preening while perched in a tree along the road, she was really out of range, but I shot a few photos anyway.
She spotted me, and rewarded me with a nice fly by!
I got home, went through the batch of photos that the ones I have posted came from, and then checked my Email. I had a rare bird alert from eBirds, letting me know that an American wigeon had been seen just a few miles from where I live. So, I slapped the Beast on my camera with the Tamron extender behind it, and off I went to shoot a few bad photos.
Not great, but they are good enough for the My Photo Life List project if I have to use them. I even got a bonus lifer, a northern pintail!
As you may be able to tell, it was snowing when I was photographing the ducks. It was also noteworthy that both of the rare ducks seemed to be trying very hard to keep trees or branches between myself and them, even though I was shooting from around 100 yards away from them.
The photos from today maybe crap, but I’ve broken the ice and have usable photos, now if what usually happens does happen again, I’ll get better photos shortly. Maybe even tomorrow, for I have to drop my Subaru off at the body shop tomorrow to have the fender replaced. The body shop isn’t far from where I saw the wigeon and pintail, so I may swing past that spot on my way back if there’s some sunshine.
All in all, a very good day!
Sunny, but bitterly cold once again this morning. We dropped to -8 F, just one degree short of tieing the record for this date. The good news is that this was the last of the super cold mornings for the foreseeable future as far as the weather forecasts are saying. We may even get above freezing by the end of the week, although that’s still 10 degrees colder than average. It will feel like a heat wave!
I have to drop my Subaru off at the body shop this morning, and since it’s near where I saw the wigeon and pintail yesterday, and since it’s sunny this morning, I think that I’ll swing by and see if I can get better photos. It’s also the day that I visit my mom in the nursing home, so I may not get a walk in. I won’t mind it too much if I don’t, as cold as it is today.
I’m back from my photo excursion, and it didn’t go that well. The wigeon and pintail were in a slough off from the Grand River, and most of it had frozen over during the night. Both the Pintail and wigeon were still there, but the pintail stayed out of sight behind a snow bank for all but a few seconds while I was there. I managed a few more bad photos of the wigeon before my fingers froze. The first is a photo not cropped at all, the second is severely cropped.
In addition to the brush and trees that I had to shoot through making life difficult for me, there was a mist rising off from the water due to the extreme cold, so none of the photos I took came out as sharp as I wanted.
I had taken my new tripod, but I didn’t use it, between the cold and that both the wigeon and I were always moving, I didn’t feel like trying the tripod. There will be better days for me to test the Beast and Tamron extender together on the tripod.
I may have been able to get a short walk in, but it’s just too cold for me today after getting chilled to the bone watching the wigeon earlier. The temperature is up to 4 degrees F just after noon as I type this.
I’m going to take a long hot shower to thaw out, then go visit my mom. Since the photos from this morning aren’t very good, here’s one from yesterday.
While I was taking a shower yesterday and trying to thaw out yet again, I decided that I would put a temporary “rule” in place for the rest of this winter, I’m not going to go for a walk unless it’s at least 10 degrees F. Hopefully it will warm up enough so that I don’t have to invoke that rule, but I’m tired of getting chilled to the bone as often as I have this winter. Of course I could start wearing another layer of clothing, but I’ve had enough days of the extreme cold this winter, it’s just no fun any more.
Just for the record, our high temperature yesterday was 15 degrees, in the late afternoon.
With this shot of cold air, 90% of Lake Michigan is frozen over again, so there should be fewer clouds, and no lake effect snow for a while. Ice cover on Lake Michigan has reached a record extent for March. Monday’s analysis by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory shows total ice concentration on Lake Michigan at 90.1%, the most ever recorded in March.
I say that even though it is cloudy with a little light snow this morning, but that’s from a weak system moving through the area, not lake effect.
Now, for the good news! The eight to ten-day weather forecasts are predicting temperatures around the freezing mark from tomorrow on. That’s still ten degrees below average, but it’s a huge improvement over the twenty to thirty degrees below average that have been the rule the past week! Maybe we’ve finally turned the corner and I’ll be seeing more signs of spring from here on out.
I’m back from my walk, and I didn’t see any signs of spring today, just this end of a limb that looks like I feel, weather-beaten.
I suppose that you could call my walk today a work day. The county lost the battle keeping the sidewalk plowed quite some time ago, there are sections of it that have drifts three to four feet deep, so I’ve been walking on the plowed shoulder of the road to and from the park. But, I think that if it warms up as forecast, the shoulders of the road are going to be like skating rinks many mornings, with temperatures above freezing in the afternoon, but below freezing overnight.
Since a few people have tried walking the sidewalk, and have packed the snow down a little, I thought that today would be a good day to add my efforts to making a trail on the sidewalk. So, rather than walk in the park, I worked on making the sidewalk a viable option for walking. It was a lot of work, but I made it down a mile and a half and back again.
I don’t think that it made much difference where I walked today, as I saw and heard very few birds today, or any other critters for that matter. I think that part of it is due to the fact that I had waited until the temperature had climbed above my new minimum criteria for walking, it was 12 F when I left my apartment. At least the wind was light, and as hard as I worked making a trail, I didn’t freeze any part of my anatomy today.
Since there was just the one photo from today, here’s a series of a robin eating a crab apple from Sunday. What’s interesting about this series is that I caught the robin flipping the berry to get it aligned the right way before swallowing it. Unfortunately, the photo from the series as the robin swallowed the crab apple is out of focus, for some reason the auto-focus picked up on the twig in front of the robin for that photo. But, here’s the rest of them.
Well, that’s it for today. Tomorrow may be cloudy as well, as another weak system passes through, but then we are supposed to get several very nice days in a row! If that happens, I’ll be hanging around outside for as long as I can!
It was cloudy and cold when I got up as another weak system passes to the south of where I live. I’ve been fooling around inside while waiting for it to warm up a little, and hoping for some sunshine. It’s getting brighter outside, so my plan may be working.
The really good news is that today is the first day of a warming trend that has temperatures getting near or above freezing for a week, maybe longer, so we may finally begin to lose some of the snow around here! I’d better go check it out!
My plan almost worked, the clouds moved off to the south while I was out there, the wind slacked off to next to nothing, and it felt good to be out there. However, the birds must not have gotten my memo telling them I would be starting a bit later, or they got it and ignored it. 😉
I thought that I would see and/or hear quite a bit of bird activity, but it was rather quiet until I got to the far end of the park. I hadn’t shot a single photo, but then this female cardinal decided to pose for me.
But, that was the only bird that I was able to get close to in the park. I did see what I think was one of the Cooper’s hawks flying along the creek, but it was in the trees, so I never got a good look at it, or a photo.
I did find a flock of house finches though, along the road near the apartment complex.
I know that I bad mouth the L series lens from time to time because the auto-focus isn’t as accurate as my other lenses, but when it nails a shot, it really does an outstanding job, as in that last photo. The finch almost looks fake, or as if I had pasted it into the photo because of how sharp that photo is.
Speaking of sharp photos, a couple of weeks ago, I posted a photo of an interesting evergreen cone that I saw. That photo was OK, but I knew that I could do better.
I’ve been dying to use my new Tokina 100 mm macro lens more, but as cold as it has been, I haven’t had a chance to. So today, I picked up one of the cones and brought it home. That way I could put my new Manfrotto tripod to work as well. That set-up, of the Manfrotto tripod, my second camera body all set-up in advance for use on the tripod, and the Tokina macro lens is an absolute joy to use, and produces results like these.
I wasn’t that concerned with composition or much of anything else other than getting a chance to use my new gear together to stay prepared for when I get to use it outdoors. Maybe I’ll have more time to play around for a better photo this weekend, but as good as the weather forecast is looking, that may not happen. If it’s as nice as they say, I’ll be fooling around outside instead.
Sunny, but a cold start to the day, we were down close to zero again overnight, but temperatures are recovering quickly with the sunshine.
We’re setting a number of records on a daily basis for such things as the amount of snow on the ground and ice on the Great Lakes, but I won’t bore you by listing them all. The one thing that really stands out to me is the fact that we’ve had at least four inches of snow cover for 87 days consecutive days, and we’ll go well over 90 days with as much snow on the ground as there is. That’s three full months of at least 4 inches of snow cover.
The good news is that we’re beginning to lose some of that snow, but with the long-range forecasts calling for below average temps for the rest of the month of March, it will be quite a while before all the snow is gone. That’s okay, otherwise we would be swimming around here if all the snow melted quickly.
More good news, by changing the way that I move the carts at work, my knees are really starting to come around. My left knee is back to normal, and my right knee is improving with every day. An added benefit is that I make a little more money also, since it takes me a little longer each night to complete my run.
So, things are looking better around here, I’m tempted to take the Beast with me today, but I think that I’ll hold off until tomorrow. It’s still cold, and there’s a breeze to make it feel colder still, so what’s one more day?
I never thought that I would be looking forward to lugging the Beast around with me, but I am. It does so well getting good bird photos. Even more, I’m looking forward to giving my new macro set-up a real work-out outside! Well, there’ll be time for that later, right now, the temperature has climbed above 10 degrees F, so it’s time for a walk!
I’m back. I know that scientists have a formula that they use to compute the wind chill factor, air temperature X – wind speed Y= wind chill, but there’s something more to the wind chill than just the numbers. The numbers weren’t that bad when I began my walk, but by the time I got close to the park, I had to cover most of my face with my neck gaiter because it felt so cold today. Fortunately that didn’t last long, as the wind slacked off, and the bright sunshine caused the temperature to rise dramatically. It went from feeling like one of the coldest days of an already very cold winter to feeling like an early spring day in just a couple of hours.
Yes, it felt so good after a while that I fooled around a lot longer than usual today. I wish that I could do the same thing tomorrow when it will be even warmer, but my Subaru has been repaired, and I can pick it up tomorrow, which is really great news. I think that I’ll hit Aman Park on Sunday, since the weather forecast is looking so good. The change of scenery will do me good.
Since I was out there longer than usual, I came home with more photos than usual as well. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want to save a few for another post that I should do.
Back in the early days of my blog, I did a series of posts about how I get so close to wildlife, and since it’s been a while, I should do another on that theme. Especially since Emily of Hoof Beats and Foot Prints has asked how I’ve been getting so close to some of the ducks lately. The short version is to not act like a typical human, but to act as if one is a part of nature, but I should explain that at length.
Anyway, here’s a few of the photos from today.
I couldn’t get the exact angle on the crow that I wanted, nor a completely clear view of it, but I think that those are fairly good photos of a tough to photograph bird.
There were several cardinals singing throughout the park today, this is the only one that I could get even half-way close to because of the snow.
While I was trying to find a better view of the cardinal, this fox squirrel started following me around, just begging me to take its picture.
I did finally get a slightly better view of the cardinal while he was singing.
This blue jay was doing some singing as well, if you call the noises that blue jays make singing.
The blue jay followed me for a while as well.
Somehow, I always manage to catch them with their wings folded.
On my way home from the park, Bruiser decided to tease me by flying right along a powerline so that the powerline ended up in all the photos of him that I shot today. But, they’re darned good photos of him, so I’m including them, powerline and all.
You can see in the photos that he was keeping an eye on me and trying to keep the powerline between us.
Well, that’s all I have time for today, since I was outside for so long.
Sunny and a little warmer today, we could actually make it well above freezing for the first time in nearly a month!
Before I can go for my walk, I have to go to the body shop and pick-up my Subaru, it will be great to have it back again! I’m also going to take care of one other errand while I’m out, which is a shame with the weather as nice as it is today.
I’ve already switched to the Beast on my camera in anticipation of a good day for photography. I may not have much time to write here when I get back, but it’s Friday, and I can work on my blog over the weekend. Tomorrow, we’ll have a weak storm moving through the area, but Sunday is looking good, albeit a little cooler than today.
I may have to rethink going to Aman Park Sunday, that park is closer to Lake Michigan, so there’s even more snow on the ground there than there is here. I should go to the east instead, but I’m not familiar with many parks in that direction. Well, I have some time to think about that, it’s time to get a move on now.
I’m back from both picking up my Forester, and from my walk. I think that because I was later in doing my walk, I didn’t see many birds today, despite some splendid weather. It was so warm that I had to remove my coat. I think that most of the birds had gotten their bellies full earlier, and had found a warm, sunny spot to snooze for a while. I didn’t get the quantity of photos that I had expected, but the few that I did get has sent me thinking again. I’ll get to that in a minute, first, here’s today’s photos.
All of those were shot with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) and I am very happy with the quality of those photos. The photos of the junco and tree sparrow were shot under less than ideal conditions as far as lighting, and they still came out fairly well.
Now then, here’s the photo that has gotten me thinking of what lens I should purchase next.
The Beast is a great lens, no doubt about it! I think that I have one of the presets of my Canon 60 D body dialed in just about perfectly for the Beast. But, the Beast is still a beast to lug around all day, especially if I am toting my other equipment with me at the same time.
I had planned on saving for a 400 mm L series prime telephoto, to use on long hikes instead of the Beast. I had put purchasing that lens on the back burner, and I’m glad that I did.
Here’s why, this photo was shot with the 70-200 mm L series lens using the Tamron 1.4 tele-converter behind it.
Same squirrel, similar conditions, and there’s almost no difference in the quality of the photos, if anything the Beast produced the best photo.
Okay, the Beast has optical stabilization, which I am sure helps me to get as good of photos as I do with it, the 400 mm L series lens doesn’t have it, which is one of the reasons I put buying that lens on the back burner. I’m sure that the OS is the main reason that I can get shots like this one handheld using the Beast and Tamron extender together handheld at 700 mm.
Speaking of the Tamron 1.4 tele-converter, I purchased that to use with the Tokina macro lens, as I had read that the two of them together made a great macro set-up, and it does. However, I have been extremely pleased with the Tamron’s performance behind all of my lenses.
So, I have decided to switch my future purchase again, back to the Canon 300 mm L series prime telephoto lens that I had been considering before. That lens has image stabilization, and it will auto-focus when using the Tamron extender behind it, while the 400 mm lens won’t. With the extender the 300 mm lens becomes a 420 mm lens that will also close focus down to less than five feet. That set-up will be much lighter and more compact than the Beast for long hikes, I won’t lose much as far as reach, and I’ll also have IS as well. It will also focus at just over half the distance of the 400 mm lens for use in photographing butterflies and dragonflies.
The 300 mm lens may not have quite the same reputation for sharpness as the 400 mm, however, how sharp is sharp enough is a question that I am asking myself more often these days. It’s hard to imagine much sharper than what the photos that I’m getting now are. I’m not even sure if it will be quite as sharp as the Beast, but at just over half the weight of the Beast, it will be much easier to carry for a long day of hiking.
But that’s a long way off, for the time being, I’ll be lugging the Beast with me.
Well, it’s cloudy, and I’ll call it cool this morning. The temperature is right at the freezing point this morning. The clouds are left over from another weak system that passed through the area last night, but instead of dropping snow, this last system treated us to a little rain. We lost quite a bit of snow yesterday and even overnight, but there was so much to begin with that even though I can see that a lot of snow melted, it hardly made a dent in the total that was on the ground to begin with. That’s okay, things are looking up!
I’m back from the longest walk that I have done in the past two months. It’s incredible how much snow and ice melted in the last twenty-four hours, what’s even more incredible is how much that there is left. I would guess that we lost three to six inches of snow from the way that it looked, yet losing that much barely made a dent in what’s on the ground. Oh well, it will be gone eventually.
Hmmm, I see that I repeated myself again, that’s what I get for not reading what I wrote before my walk after I get back.
I took the L series lens with the Tamron extender today, as I also brought my new tripod along as well, hoping to see a few lichen worth photographing, but I had no luck on that count. The good news though is that as light as the new Manfrotto tripod is, it’s very easy to carry. I know that I paid too much for it, or did I? If it’s light enough to carry, I’ll end up using it more often, and get better photos because of that.
It was a poor day for photography, the clouds hung around the entire time I was out, and it there was a little fog trying to form from the moisture of the melting snow, but the light wind kept the fog in check for the most part.
First up, three blue jays that were up to something, I’m not sure what. They were chasing each other all around the park for a while, I don’t know if their antics had something to do with mating or what.
Something has begun to eat some of the highbush cranberries, I suspect rabbits, since the berries missing from the bushes were all close to the ground.
I thought that this tree trunk would make an interesting black and white photo.
Next is the pattern left in ice after a leaf melted its way through the ice.
A male cardinal, just because.
As I was exiting the park, this Cooper’s hawk made a nice fly by for me.
It occurred to me on the way back home that it had been a nice winter day, and in most years, that would have been true. It was just about what the average winter day is like around here, we could have used a lot more days like this one this past winter, rather than the constant extreme cold. It looks as if even though it’s going to remain cool, at least the brutal cold is over with for this season, I sure hope so.
That’s about all for this one, thanks for stopping by!