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

Archive for April, 2014

A disappointing day

I went to Aman Park today, hoping to catch the trillium bloom at its peak, no such luck! I think that the weather had a lot to do with it. It was raining a little as I left home, and the rain continued until I had almost reached the park. The clouds held on until mid-afternoon, and it was very windy the entire time.

It’s probably just as well that I didn’t find many flowers to photograph, as I would have gotten extremely frustrated by the wind if I had tried to use my macro lens and tripod. I had a hard enough time shooting handheld at high ISO.

But, when I got to the park, I wasn’t sure what I would find. Most of the flowers are down in a valley along Sand Creek, and I was hoping that the wind wouldn’t be as much of a problem in the shelter of the bluffs above the creek. So, I loaded everything up and set off down the trail. The farther I went, the worse it looked as far as no flowers open, and sure enough, I got down to where the trillium are present in huge numbers, and all I could see were buds. I wandered around a little and had a difficult time finding any flowers that were open of any species. I can’t say for sure, but it looks like almost all of the early spring flowers close up at night and open in sunshine, as I couldn’t even find spring beauties or trout lily open, and they’ve been blooming for almost two weeks.

So, I turned around, went back to my vehicle, and put the second body, macro lens, and tripod back in it, then set off the other direction to look for birds.

I didn’t have much luck with birds either, other than a few bad photos of the same species as what I saw yesterday at Palmer Park, which I still need to do a post on.

And, that reminds me, because of an error on my part, most of you didn’t receive a notice about this post that I finished on Saturday, if you’re interested, you may follow the link if you choose to do so. It includes photos like this one.

Cooper's hawk with lunch

Cooper’s hawk with lunch

Since the weather wasn’t nearly as good today as it was yesterday, here’s the best that I could do.

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

The last two look exactly the same here, but there’s 1/3 stop of exposure compensation difference between the two. I should learn that such minor differences don’t show up here, although they do on my computer.

I played peek-a-boo with a downy woodpecker.

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

As the day wore on, more sunlight began to appear, and a few trillium opened up.

Trillium

Trillium

Trillium

Trillium

Trillium and bee

Trillium and bee

Trillium and bee

Trillium and bee

Trillium and bee

Trillium and bee

Spring beauty

Spring beauty

Dutchman's breeches

Dutchman’s breeches

Dutchman's breeches

Dutchman’s breeches

Hepatica

Hepatica

Dutchman's breeches

Dutchman’s breeches

Spring beauty

Spring beauty

I watched water striders mating, it’s that time of the year!

Water striders

Water striders

And here’s a few more odds and ends.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Floating leaf

Floating leaf

Emerging leaves

Emerging leaves

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fly object

Unidentified fly object

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

I’m not sure, but I think that the chickadee felt sorry for me. He posed for some time, so I shot many photos, but since I have posted so many lately, just this one will do for this post.

I’ve been trying to learn the names of the flowers, but here’s a few that I have yet to learn.

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

That’s it for the images from today. After yesterday’s birding bonanza, today was a little disappointing, but it turned out to be a nice day to be outdoors, even if I didn’t get the images that I had planned on.

I have 70 left from yesterday when I had one of my best days ever as far as photography. I was going to put them into a post of their own, but looking at the weather forecast for this coming week, I think that I’ll wait for a day or two to decide what to do with those photos. It’s forecast to rain everyday this week, with lots of wind, so photos may be few and far between this week. Maybe I’ll use the images from yesterday spread out over the next week.

And, to wind this up, it looks as if I’ll be going back to Aman Park next week in hopes of catching the trillium at their peak. I’ve hit it the last three years, I don’t want to break the string.

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

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Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

 

The Baird’s Sandpiper  is a small shorebird.

Adults have black legs and a short thin dark bill. They are dark brown on top and mainly white underneath with a black patch on the rump. The head and breast are light brown with dark streaks. In winter plumage, this species is paler brownish gray above. This bird can be difficult to distinguish from other similar tiny shorebirds; these are known collectively as “peeps” or “stints”.

One of the best identification features is the long wings, which extend beyond the tail when the bird is on the ground. Only the White-rumped Sandpiper also shows this, and that bird can be distinguished by the feature from which it gets its name.

Their breeding habitat is the northern tundra from eastern Siberia to western Greenland. They nest on the ground, usually in dry locations with low vegetation.

They are a long distance migrant, wintering in South America. This species is a rare vagrant to western Europe.

These birds forage by moving about mudflats, picking up food by sight. They mainly eat insects, also some small crustaceans.

This bird was named after Spencer Fullerton Baird, a 19th century naturalist.

On to my photos: 

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii

Baird’s Sandpiper with a least sandpiper for comparison.

Baird’s Sandpiper with a least sandpiper for comparison.

This is number 154 in my photo life list, only 196 to go!

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

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My Week, one step back?

Monday

After about a perfect weekend, the weather is forecast to go downhill for the rest of the week, starting this evening. In a way, that’s okay, it was really too warm for me too soon yesterday afternoon, the warmest day since October 12th. The forecast for the rest of the week is for cooler weather, which suits me just fine. We could use some rain, and may get a little overnight. That would go a long way towards helping things green up around here.

I wore myself to a frazzle yesterday, I can feel it in my bones today, but that’s okay, it’s a good kind of tired. You’d think that since I walk two to three miles everyday all winter long that I wouldn’t need time to get into shape for longer hikes in the spring, but I guess that old age is catching up to me.

I can see that the new 300 mm prime lens is going to play into my naturally lazy streak, it’s so easy to carry compared to the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) and it does near macros almost as good as the Tokina macro lens. But, almost isn’t good enough, I know that next weekend, when I go to Aman Park for the wildflowers, I’ll be using the Tokina lens on the second camera body, and have it mounted on the tripod as it should be.

It kind of surprises me that I haven’t been seeing any early spring warblers migrating through the area, but they will come, eventually. I should be tracking them on eBird, but haven’t found the time to do so.

I’m back from my walk, but I don’t have time right now to work on this, so I’ll have to do it tonight after work.

I didn’t have time to work on this last night either, so now it’s Tuesday morning, so I’ll just dump the photos from yesterday in here and move on.

Trout lily

Trout lily

Trout lilies

Trout lilies

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Cutleaf toothwort

Cutleaf toothwort

Hyacinth

Hyacinth

Maple flower

Maple flower

Blue jay

Blue jay

I suppose that a few quick words are in order. I’m trying to shoot more flower photos in anticipation of this next weekend when I’ll spend a day in Aman Park photographing even more flowers. I’m trying to get the few species that grow around here “done” so that there won’t be far too many for me to choose from then.

I know that I have posted a few images of the maple flowers, but this is my best so far. I hate to keep working my way up to a really good one, but I never know that’s what going to happen. I could hold off and wait to see if I get better photos, but that doesn’t always happen before the flowers fade, as was the case with the crocus earlier this spring.

I included the blue jay, because it is a male that had just given its mate a bit of food, which is common practice in some species of birds. Two summers ago, I posted photos of a male cedar waxwing giving his mate berries. That behavior is quite understandable in the bird world, as how well that the male is able to provide food for the female on the nest and/or the young birds when they hatch is very important. But, what does that say about human females and their desire to receive gifts from their mate? 😉

Tuesday

Since I’m running behind, just a quick weather report. After some much-needed rain overnight, it’s sunny, but much cooler than it has been the last three days. The forecast for the rest of the week is now for continued cool, even cold weather into next week. Today will be 25 degrees cooler than yesterday, somewhere in the middle would be nice.

I’m back from my walk, and I have decided that it’s time for me to make some decisions, about a number of things.

For one thing, I’m thinking of driving to the park in the morning at least until after my vacation is over. I’m trying to take it easy on my legs by not carrying anything more than just the new lens, but that isn’t helping much, especially since I have been spending the majority of the days on weekends outdoors for the past few weeks. I purchased the Tokina macro lens to get photos of small flowers, but because I’m trying to go easy on my legs, I haven’t been carrying it, and if I don’t have it, I can’t use it.

I started today by taking photos of small flowers that I knew wouldn’t be what I wanted for my blog, well, I could post them, but then, I’d kick myself for not doing things the right way. The flowers are beautiful, but tiny, and they wouldn’t show up well here. I need to use the macro lens mounted on the tripod to get the photos that I would like.

On top of that, the small woodlot at the corner of the apartment complex is being cleared, I believe that there’s going to be a storage facility built on that property. That woodlot was one of the few spots on the walk to and from the park that I would shoot any photos. With the woodlot gone, there’s not much reason for me to walk along the road a mile in each direction other than for the exercise, and right now, my legs need rest, not exercise.

You see, this all started as I thought about how many photos of the maple flowers that I shot, and the few that I posted, before finally getting a good one, the one in this post. I could hold off posting any photos of a subject until I did get a good one, but a much better plan would be to get a good one on my first attempt. I know how, but I get lazy, or come up with an excuse such as it is too windy to bother taking the time to do it right. Well, I should either do it right or not at all.

So today, after taking photos of the tiny flowers that I won’t post, each time I photographed something, I asked myself “Is that the best you can do?”. Most of the time, the answer was no.

Here’s a series of images as an example. I noticed the cedar waxwings in a pine tree, and shot this first photo.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

But that one was not alone, there was a small flock of them in the tree, many of them huddled together.

Cedar waxwings

Cedar waxwings

I started to walk away, then I asked myself if I could do better, and the answer was of course, so I went back, stopped down the aperture for more depth of field, and shot this one.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

It may not appear that there is much difference between the two photos here, but full screen, there’s a huge difference, the waxwings are all entirely in focus in the second photo, while some of them are a bit blurry in the first.

Hopefully, I’ll continue to ask myself that all important question with each photo that I shoot, so that I can post fewer, but better photos, like these two.

Willow catkins in the sun

Willow catkins in the sun

Vinca minor, or myrtle

Vinca minor, or myrtle

But, despite my new attitude, there will be times when I have to shoot fast, at least until going for the highest possible quality becomes second nature. Here’s an example from today.

I had seen an eastern phoebe in the distance, and was working toward it, and a few other birds, when the phoebe landed on a branch where I had a fairly good view of it, and it had a beetle in its beak.

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

The phoebe smashed the beetle into the branch repeatedly to kill the beetle.

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Then turned the beetle so that it could be swallowed head first.

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Then, it was down the hatch!

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

After it was all over, I had time to fine tune the focus for this photo.

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Again, there may not seem to be much difference in the photos here, but there sure is full screen! But, I didn’t want to take a chance on missing the action by playing with the focus as the phoebe was eating.

Wednesday

I’m finally getting caught up, I could use a few more hours in every day lately.

I have given the idea of driving to the park at least some days more thought, and I think that today, I will drive. Yesterday wouldn’t have been a good day for macro photos, as the wind was quite strong, and even the shortest of plants were swaying in the wind. So, I think that until after I get back from vacation, what I’ll do is to check the weather forecast, if it looks good for macro photography, I’ll drive to the park. If it doesn’t look good, with either clouds or wind, then I’ll do the full walk instead of driving.

Driving to the park will not only save me wear and tear on my legs, but also “wasted” time, the time it takes me to walk to and from the park each day. One thing that I’ve learned is that good macro photos takes time to get the set-up correct, or I’m better off not bothering to try them.

The alternative would be to try to alternate what I try to photograph each day. Bring one of the long lenses one day, then the macro lens and tripod the next, and do that repeatedly. The problem with that is that I would miss photos like the one of the phoebe eating the beetle, or a migrating species of bird. Besides, there are times when the new 300 mm lens would be the right lens to use on the tripod for near macro photos.

I can carry all my stuff, I’ve done it, in fact, for a week, I did just that. But, strapping an extra ten pounds of photo gear to myself doesn’t help my legs to recover. I’d rather not start my vacation with tired, worn out legs, even though I do plan on spending some of my time just relaxing for a change.

Anyway, enough whining, time for food and photos.

Well, I’m back, and I’m disappointed. I did drive to the park, and I discovered a few benefits to doing so, the major one is that I’m not walking two miles on pavement. I’ll bet that I walked almost as far today as I do on a typical day starting from home, but today, since I walked on ground rather than the sidewalk, my legs feel fine. I was gone longer than I normally am, and did two and a half laps around the park.

Also, on a day like today, when it started out frosty, but warmed up quickly, I could throw the clothes that I shed into my vehicle, and not have to carry them around along with my photo gear.

My disappointment is from my macro photos, there were some fair ones, I’ll post one or two, but I’m finding good macro photos are tricky. If every bad photo is a learning experience, I learned a lot today! Like, if I’m standing on squishy ground, I had better not move while the camera shutter is open, not even to breathe! And, that’s with the camera mounted on the tripod. Also, if a small flower looks like it is vibrating slightly in the wind as I look through the viewfinder, it is, and any photos I shoot at 1/10 of a second for a shutter speed are not going to be as sharp as I want them.

So, here’s my photos from today, starting with an old stand-by, a male cardinal singing with a shadow across its face.

Male cardinal singing

Male cardinal singing

I know that I have posted quite a few photos of red-tailed hawks in flight, but here’s two more, first is Bruiser, the second is his mate, Bertha.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

The reason that I posted those is that I’m beginning to think that when they spot me, they fly over me to check me out. Bruiser normally circles me at a short distance away, Bertha flies directly over me, at low altitude.

Now then, for my two macro photos, and the first barely qualifies.

Spring beauties

Spring beauties

Unidentified bug on unidentified flower

Unidentified bug on unidentified flower

The reason for the second one, even though it is crap is due to the size of both the flower and the bug. The flower was about 1/4 of an inch in diameter, I couldn’t see the bug without my reading glasses on, it was that tiny. That was shot with the Tokina 100 mm macro lens and the Tamron 1.4 X extender behind it. I should have bumped the ISO up from 100 to get a faster shutter speed so that the wind wouldn’t have ruined that photo.

I suppose that the good news is that the combination of the Tokina 100 mm macro lens and the Tamron 1.4 X extender will allow me to photograph even the tiniest of flowers, once I get the hang of it.

Wait, I have one more macro photo worth posting.

Willow catkin

Willow catkin

That was taken using just the macro lens without the extender, and it is also where I learned that I have to be still while the shutter is open, even with the camera on the tripod. I had the camera set to lock-up the mirror, and to use the two second self timer delay so I thought that the camera would be steady while the shutter was open. I would press the shutter release, then step back to make sure that I didn’t bump the camera, but the ground was so squishy that my stepping back caused the tripod to move. Silly me! It wasn’t until I noticed that both the tripod and my feet were sinking in the mud that I figured out why I couldn’t get a sharp photo.

That’s all for today.

Thursday

Cloudy, mild, and breezy this morning, with the chance of a few sprinkles of rain, so I won’t be trying any macro photography today. I have to say this about the week so far, despite the dire weather forecasts for this week, in reality, it has been quite pleasant. I hope that the meteorologists are just as wrong about next week as they were about this one! They are predicting temperatures in the 40’s next week, with quite a bit of rain, but that’s what they were originally forecasting for this week, but it turned out to be seasonably cool with just a little rain, we could use more.

The weather forecast for this weekend are looking good for a trip to Aman Park for the spring flowers. Hopefully, I’ll put what I learned yesterday to good use and come back with images worth posting.

It really surprised me yesterday as far as how good my legs felt after my walk, since I avoided walking on pavement by driving to the park, rather than walking. But, since I’m not going to be lugging all my gear today, I’m going to walk to the park, but avoid the pavement and walk in the grass whenever I can to see if that helps.

I did get a couple of photos of a mourning cloak butterfly yesterday, but I’m not going to post them, as I missed the exposure slightly. But, I should say that the new 300 mm lens is great for insects that size! I was able to stay back from the butterfly far enough not to spook it, yet nearly fill the frame with it. The images would have been great, if I hadn’t over-exposed them a little.

Time to get going.

What an odd day! It did sprinkle lightly most of the time while I was outside, but that’s usually good weather for seeing birds if not photographing them. But today, I saw very few birds at all. It was too cool for butterflies, and too cloudy for any of the spring flowers to have opened for the day.

So, to get it over with, my two photos from the day, one is fair, the other is crap.

Female red-winged blackbird

Female red-winged blackbird

Male brown thrasher singing

Male brown thrasher singing

The only reason for posting the thrasher is because he was singing away like crazy today. And, isn’t that the way it goes, on nice sunny days, they stay low and hidden in the thickest of brush, on a cloudy, rainy day, he perches right out in the open to sing, as if he knows that I can’t get a good photo of him on such a day. No matter what, it is a joy to hear him in full song!

My vacation starts two weeks from Saturday, and I’m beginning to get a little concerned about the conditions that I’ll have. There’s still snow on the ground in some of the wooded areas, and some of the lakes are still frozen over. Well, I suppose that I could look on the bright side of things, at least there won’t be any skeeters or black flies!

I need to pick up a couple of items before I go, a fishing license, a new duffel bag, and something to store water in. I’m planning on doing at least some camping out in the woods, not in a campground, so I need to be able to pack water. Other than that, I’m set other than packing everything up and into my Forester. Oh yeah, I’ll need to go to the bank for some cash, as the Michigan DNR doesn’t accept debit cards at the campgrounds that I do stay in.

If worst comes to worst as far as weather, I can combine some day trips from home with as much time up north as the weather allows. That, or I could work my way north as conditions improve. We’ll see, there’s still two weeks to go.

I think that it’s time to start a check list to make sure that I don’t forget anything.

Friday

I’ve been fooling around some waiting for the overnight rain to clear out this morning before I go for my walk today. It will be cloudy when I do head out, and I’d call the temperature seasonable for the end of April.

I’ve started my shopping list of things that I need for my vacation, and have added a few small items such as spare lantern mantles, I think that I used my last one last fall. Better safe than sorry! When I go grocery shopping this weekend, I can buy the food that I’ll be taking on vacation that can be frozen, so I’ll have that done and out of the way.

Over the next week, I’ll get all my gear sorted and ready to pack, it will be the busy time of anticipation before the big event really gets here, and I’m so looking forward to two full weeks away from work and being out in the woods all day, every day!

Well, enough of that, time to get moving.

I’m back, and let me change the weather report slightly. It was cloudy, but it was unseasonably cool, even though there was no wind until I was almost finished with my walk. I could see my breath most of the time.

Other than it being cooler today, the weather was much the same as yesterday. Then, there were very few birds around, today, they were all over the place.

The weather the past two days has exposed a weakness in the new lens and extender, that combination is never fast to auto-focus, and the past two days, I’ve missed more shots than I’ve gotten due to how slow that the combination is in low light. I’ve noticed the same thing before, and even in good light, they are slow to auto-focus. I was able to get a few good flying bird images this past weekend, but there were several times that I considered removing the extender and just using the new lens by itself.

I don’t think that I have tried this replacement lens without the extender, I really should. The lens that failed was much quicker to auto-focus without the extender than with it.

Or, I could take the Beast, which is much better at getting the birds, however, it can’t do this as well as the new lens.

Box elder tree flowers

Box elder tree flowers

If I limited myself to just birds as subjects of my photos, then I would have been better off with Canon’s 400 mm prime lens, but I don’t limit myself, so the 300 mm lens is better for me.

Okay, for my other photos from today. I’m going to start with a pair of mallards for two reasons, one, is to show how little water that it takes to make a mallard happy. The second reason is that just before these two moved into the drainage ditch, I saw them feeding on the nightcrawlers on the pavement next to the ditch. Maybe it’s just robins that turn up their beaks at an easy meal.

Female mallard

Female mallard

Male mallard

Male mallard

Next up is a poor photo of a cedar waxwing. That’s to remind me to tell you that the poor waxwings were being chased out of most of the trees that they tried to perch in by robins that have nested in the trees. I didn’t know that female robins on the nest were so territorial, but they were chasing the waxwings out of “their” trees. Maybe it’s because the waxwings landed in numbers, and often, very close to the robins’ nests.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

This next series is to remind myself to tell you that I was wrong about the chickadee chewing into a cedar fence post last week, as I thought that the chickadee was excavating for a nest. It wasn’t, the chickadees have chewed their way almost completely through the fence post that I saw one chewing on last week. And, I watched again today as several chickadees chewed on a number of the fence posts, it must be that they are finding insects inside the fence posts.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

I know, too many, but I love chickadees, and I love the green background in these! And, these are only cropped slightly, I love seeing larger than life chickadees on my computer screen!

My last photo of the day is another red squirrel, one of these days I’ll get a really terrific image of one.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Saturday

Well, just what I didn’t need to have happen happened last night at work. I grabbed the handle of one of the carts that I have to roll off from the trailer, and the cart wouldn’t budge. So, I gave it my all, and ripped the metal handle off from the cart, with the welds that hold the handle on the cart breaking,  because the cart didn’t want to move. I went flying across the trailer, and ended up in a heap on the floor, with a sore knee and ankle. I hate my job!

Before I go off on a rant about my place of employment, I’ll change the subject slightly. I had planned on going to Palmer Park today, as it is close to home to save on gas for my vacation in two weeks. If I were smart, and I’m not, I’d stay home to let my leg rest, but it is too nice of a day to sit home. After this past winter, the last thing that I want to do is sit home, even though I could start preparing for my vacation if I did.

I thought about doing some drive by birding in the Muskegon area, that would be easier on my leg, and there have been reports of some early wading birds being seen in the area. Last night while driving for work, I could see a few small wading birds around some of the small ponds and large puddles in the Holland, Michigan area, which is about forty miles south of Muskegon. I couldn’t ID the birds from the truck, but I could see that they were present.

But, going to Muskegon would require gas, and I’m trying to save every penny that I can so that I’ll be able to splurge a little while on vacation.

So, I guess that I’ll go back to my original plan and head over to Palmer Park. The trails there are unpaved for the most part, which I’m finding is easier on my legs. I don’t have to be in any hurry, I have all day to hobble around as much or as little as I want to, and there are several places where I can sit along the trail and let the birds come to me. I may not cover much ground, but at least I’ll be outside to enjoy this fine weather!

That reminds me, the weather forecast for this week was for rotten weather, but it has turned out to be quite nice, although slightly cooler than average. Two days ago, the forecast for next week was for temperatures twenty to thirty degrees colder than average, but the meteorologists have already begun backing off from those predictions. It looks cool and wet, but not nearly as bad as their first forecasts predicted.

Well, that’s enough for now, I’m going to eat breakfast, then go out and soak up some sun.

I’m back, and I shot nearly 300 photos. It took me six hours to cover 2/3 of the ground that I normally cover at Palmer Park. Part of that was my going easy on my bum leg, part of it was that the birds and other things wouldn’t leave me alone. Here’s three quick images from today as a teaser, even though I’m tossing more of the images than I thought that I would, there will still be too many for this post.

Cooper's hawk eating lunch

Cooper’s hawk eating lunch

Male ruby-crowned kinglet

Male ruby-crowned kinglet

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher nest building

It was about the perfect spring day, so I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

I’ll keep working on the rest of the photos from today, they will appear shortly. I don’t know if I’ll lump them in with the flower photos from tomorrow, or do two separate posts.

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


Easter Sunday 2014 Part II

Sunday

It’s Easter Sunday, and I was up at dawn to greet the morning. That has me looking forward to my vacation, when not only will I be up before dawn, but I’ll be outside with either a camera of fly rod in hand as the sun pops up over the horizon. Two weeks of peace and quiet, just me and the critters.

I posted the first batch of photos in a post yesterday, which you can see here. You can also follow that link if you’d like to read where and how I shot many of these photos, but the short story is that I went for a long hike in Kent County, Michigan’s Millennium Park. For the most part, the following photos are self-explanatory, so few words will be needed. I’ll start with what I think is the best photo of mallards that I have ever taken, and I’ve taken a lot.

Mallards

Mallards

On the other end of the quality scale are these photos of a pair of chickadees doing their “mating dance”. Both the male and female will perch, begin chirping loudly, as they first spread their wings, then begin flapping furiously, not to fly, but to display to one another. I’m sorry for the quality of these photos, but the chickadees picked a shady spot to perform their dance.

Black-capped chickadee mating dance

Black-capped chickadee mating dance

Black-capped chickadee mating dance

Black-capped chickadee mating dance

Black-capped chickadee mating dance

Black-capped chickadee mating dance

Millennium Park has several working oil wells within the park, here’s an interesting photo, of a mute swan feeding in front of one of the working wells.

Mute swan and oil well

Mute swan and oil well

I won’t include my thoughts on this, I’ll leave it for you to ponder.

A short distance away, I found a flock of blue-winged teal back in a swamp, but I was only able to get bad photos, like this one.

Male Blue-winged teal

Male Blue-winged teal

I was able to watch a robin building her nest. First, she brings a beak full of dried grass to the nest….

American robin building a nest

American robin building a nest

…takes a look around to see if she’s being watched…..

American robin building a nest

American robin building a nest

…then, she lowers herself into the nest as she spins around to distribute the dried grass around the inside of the nest.

American robin building a nest

American robin building a nest

Later, she’ll add mud to the inside of the nest to hold the grass together.

The next photo isn’t very good, but I’m using it to remind me to say that brown creepers sing a beautiful little song, which is what this one was doing as it raced up the tree limb.

Brown creeper singing

Brown creeper singing

Here’s a few for Mr. Tootlepedal.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

I’m not sure, but I think that the nuthatch was checking to see if the end of my lens was a hollow log.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

Then, it struck a pose for me.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

I found a pair of blue-winged teal not in a swamp.

Male blue-winged teal

Male blue-winged teal

Female blue-winged teal

Female blue-winged teal

Male blue-winged teal

Male blue-winged teal

While I was sitting on a log taking a break, I heard a noise behind me, and turned to see this butterfly stalking me!

Part of a butterfly

Part of a butterfly

When it saw that it had been noticed, it broke off its attack, and flitted off to find another victim instead. 😉

Here’s a couple of photos of muskrats.

Muskrat with lunch

Muskrat with lunch

Muskrat drying itself

Muskrat drying itself

After being so close to a kingfisher on Saturday, I was hoping to get close to one on this day, but it was back to photographing one from across a pond.

Female belted kingfisher

Female belted kingfisher

I was able to practice my bird in flight photography, and from the looks of these photos, I need all the practice that I can get.

Double-crested cormorants in synchronized flight

Double-crested cormorants in synchronized flight

Ring-necked duck in flight

Ring-necked duck in flight

Ring-necked ducks in flight

Ring-necked ducks in flight

Bufflehead duck dive bombing a goose

Bufflehead duck dive bombing a goose

Bufflehead ducks in flight

Bufflehead ducks in flight

Bufflehead ducks in flight

Bufflehead ducks in flight

Bufflehead ducks in flight

Bufflehead ducks in flight

I’m going to wrap this up with a good photo, a cottonwood tree catkin.

Cottonwood tree catkin

Cottonwood tree catkin

I have two photos of a mystery bird that I was going to post, it’s a large wading bird with a long bill, and larger than a yellowlegs or any other wading birds that I’m familiar with, it has a bright white rump, but I haven’t been able to ID it yet.

So, that’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Easter Sunday 2014 Part I

Sunday

It’s Easter Sunday, and I was up at dawn to greet the morning. That has me looking forward to my vacation, when not only will I be up before dawn, but I’ll be outside with either a camera of fly rod in hand as the sun pops up over the horizon. Two weeks of peace and quiet, just me and the critters.

It;s probably not good for me to spend so much time alone, but I have come to the conclusion that I don’t really fit in with human society. Actually, I’ve known that for some time, but for some reason, I feel compelled to try from time to time.

The group that went on the “nature walk” yesterday were mostly photographers first, and nature lovers second, or were using the walk as an excuse to shoot photos. I’m more of a nature lover first, who tries to convey my love of nature through my photos.

I love birds, but, I don’t want to sit in a blind behind a 20 power spotting scope all day trying to rack up big numbers, or impress others with the rare bird that I managed to see. Yes, I like getting a lifer from time to time, but as long as I’m around the birds and can watch and listen to even the common species singing, that’s really all that I need.

I love fishing, but my goal is not to land more or bigger fish than any one else, it’s my time to relax and become one with the river that I’m fishing in, and the nature that surrounds the river. If I land fish, or a big one, that’s nice, but as long as I’m out there standing in a river, it’s enough to make it a great day.

I love walking in the woods, but my goal isn’t to cover a set distance, or to complete it in as little time as possible, I want to stroll around taking in the nature that surrounds me. At the end of the day, I want to remember what I’ve seen, heard, and smelled, not how far or fast I went.

I was going to go on at length on these topics, as well as nature and my views on religion, but I don’t have the time to type all of that. For you see, I went to Aman Park early this morning to check on the progress of the wildflowers, and things are coming along just fine, next weekend should be spectacular! I knew that it was going to be a long day, so I carried just the new 300 mm prime lens with the extender. I’ll add very few of the images that I shot there today, because I’ll get even better ones next weekend when I take my tripod and the Tokina macro lens and do things right.

I did just a short loop at Aman Park, then, I went back to the Millennium Park where I was yesterday to do some more “exploring” there. As I said in my last post, I could see areas that I thought would hold wildlife, but they were some distance from the parking lot. I looked for a parking lot closer to the less developed part of the park, but they don’t allow parking in the parking lot that I wanted to park in, go figure.

So, I went back to the main parking lot from where I started yesterday, and walked the mile and a half across the butt ugly part of the park to get to the woods and wetlands. Of course, that meant a mile and a half back to the parking lot again once I was done walking around the good part of the park. So that was three miles just to get to and from where I would have otherwise started my walk. Needless to say, I carried just the new lens again, which actually worked out well. I have no idea how far that I walked in total between the two parks, but it was enough so that my legs are telling me to take it easy tomorrow!

My opinion of Millennium Park has changed some, I got quite a few good photos there today, but I’m not going to walk the three miles back and forth across an old gravel pit to get to the good parts, at least not very often, not when I can get photos of the same species without that boring walk at other places.

Anyway, for the photos. I’ll start with a few from Aman Park first.

Harbinger of spring?

Harbinger of spring?

Red squirrel eating breakfast

Red squirrel eating breakfast

Moss

Moss

Black morph of the grey squirrel

Black morph of the grey squirrel

Black morph of the grey squirrel

Black morph of the grey squirrel

Snowdrop?

Snowdrop?

Bloodroot?

Bloodroot?

Interesting patterns on a log

Interesting patterns on a log

??

??

Harbinger of spring?

Harbinger of spring?

???

???

???

???

???

???

Sycamore seeds?

Sycamore seeds?

Sycamore seeds?

Sycamore seeds?

Old habits are hard to break. For years, up until I began this blog really, I never really cared what the names of most flowers were, I just knew that they were pretty, and that I liked them. I’m trying to get better at identifying them, but the small spring flowers are like the small wading birds, they all look-alike to me. 😉

On top of that, my memory isn’t what it used to be either. I know that I could scroll through the posts that Allen, who does the New Hampshire Garden Solutions blog has done in past years to refresh my memory, but I don’t have the time or energy to do so tonight.

I really am trying to be ruthless in not posting too many photos, but, that’s not working out too well. For one thing, it seems as if everyday when I go out, I come back with better photos than the day before. Or, I come back with photos that may not be great, but they are of interesting behavior on the part of some bird or other critter.

Hardly a day goes by now that I don’t at least think about going back to the beginning of the project that I’m working on to photograph every species of bird regularly seen in Michigan and start over. But, I won’t. I do have some better photos of double crested cormorants to put into the post that I’ve already done on that species, as you are about to see.

Double crested cormorant

Double crested cormorant

How they are able to perch on tree limbs with those giant webbed feet is beyond me, and when one turned around while perched, it looked as if it might fall.

Double crested cormorant

Double crested cormorant

Double crested cormorant

Double crested cormorant

Notice his buddy paying no attention to what’s going on in that last one.

Double crested cormorant

Double crested cormorant

Whew! Both feet firmly holding on to the limb again. I’m so proud of myself!

Double crested cormorant

Double crested cormorant

Double crested cormorant

Double crested cormorant

This goose and the ducks were watching to see if the cormorant would fall.

Canada goose and ring-necked ducks

Canada goose and ring-necked ducks

I got some fair flying waterfowl images.

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

The male lesser scaup was showing off for the female, she looks totally unimpressed!

Lesser scaup

Lesser scaup

Lesser scaup

Lesser scaup

More fair flying waterfowl photos.

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

And, a red-tailed hawk made a couple of passes over me.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I don’t think that a hawk would take on a cormorant, but this cormorant wasn’t taking any chances, he kicked it into high gear!

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Lesser scaup

Lesser scaup

You may have noticed that I titled this one part one, I still have many photos from today that I’d like to post. Some are poor quality, of a pair of chickadees doing their mating dance, but I’ve never posted photos of chickadees doing their mating dance, so I’ll have to include them in Part II, along with the best mallard photo that I’ve ever gotten.

So, that’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


My Weekend, Saturday at Millennium Park

I overslept a little this morning, well, I woke up at my usual time, looked at the clock, and went back to sleep. I’m a bit miffed at myself for doing so, I feel as if I am wasting the best part of the day. But, on the other hand, it felt good to sleep in for a change. Especially since I worked late last night, then did my grocery shopping on the way home.

Today, I’m going to attend my first outing with the Meetup photography group that I joined several months ago, and we’re going on a nature photo walk in Kent County’s Millennium Park. This will be my first time at this particular park, so it will give me the chance to check it out to see if I want to add it to the list of local parks that I visit frequently.

There’s going to be 16 people for this walk if every one shows up, that’s really too many for me to expect to get close to very many birds, but it should still be good, we’ll see.

I’m back, and 16 people didn’t show up, it was 60, as two other groups also joined in. That was way, way, too many people, but still, it was a good day.

I arrived almost three hours early and set off to the east from the parking lot. I wasn’t impressed, as the area was once a gravel mining operation, so it had been bulldozed flat, and not enough time has elapsed since then for much topsoil to form. So, there are few trees, and only the hardiest of plants of any kind. The lakes are man-made lakes created when they dredged gravel. But, nature is slowly reclaiming the area.

I could see terrain better suited to my tastes in the distance, but I didn’t have time to make it that far before I had to turn around to meet the group.

Also, the park was extremely busy, with walkers, joggers, cyclists, and people rollerblading doing their things. By the appointed time for the group to meet, the parking lot was full, with cars lining the road for some distance in both directions from the parking lot.

Still, I had a pretty good day.

I started out carrying the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) and managed to find a few birds to photograph.

 

Killdeer on nest

Killdeer on nest

Common grackle

Common grackle

I saw a flock of double crested cormorants across the lake.

Double crested cormorants

Double crested cormorants

And a sharp-shinned hawk, but I must have missed when I thought that I switched the OS off, for there’s ghosting in this photo, and when I went to turn the OS back on, I found that it wasn’t off. Oops.

Sharp-shinned hawk in flight

Sharp-shinned hawk in flight

Double crested cormorants

Double crested cormorants

The lakes also held a few bufflehead ducks.

Male bufflehead

Male bufflehead

Buffleheads landing

Bufflehead landing

On my way back to the parking lot, I found an observation deck in a great spot between two of the man-made lakes, with ducks flying back and forth between the two, and right past the deck.

Buffleheads in flight

Bufflehead in flight

Male bufflehead in flight

Male bufflehead in flight

But my best shot was ruined by some tall grass that got in the way.

Buffleheads in flight

Bufflehead in flight

I could see sitting on that observation deck for hours, happily shooting ducks as they fly past me!

Along with an occasional cormorant.

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

When I arrived back at the parking lot, I switched to the new prime lens and extender, and shot these while talking to members of the group as they arrived.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Then, we were giving a list of things to look for, a scavenger hunt of sorts, and the group set off in search of things on the list. The list wasn’t a list of species or anything like that, but of things like colors, shapes, and textures. Not really my thing, but here’s a couple of photos that I shot towards the list.

Sharp

Sharp

Circle

Circle

I also managed a few critters.

Garter snake

Garter snake

I was about as close to a perched kingfisher as I have ever been, the problem was that it was on the other side of a fence.

Belted kingfisher

Belted kingfisher

Drat!

I also fooled around with a tree swallow for a while. I could get a great photo of its plumage.

Tree swallow

Tree swallow

But if I got rid of the shadow across its face, then I lost the color of its plumage.

Tree swallow

Tree swallow

Double drat!

To make up for it hard time that the swallow was giving me, this killdeer posed nicely for me.

Killdeer

Killdeer

Okay, to sum things up.

I think that Millennium Park has potential, if I park in one of the other lots closer to where the landscape hasn’t been spoiled by gravel mining, as I found plenty of things to photograph as I got close to the edges. That is, if the entire park isn’t as busy as the portion that I checked out today. The only way to know for sure is to give it another try. I found the one observation deck, and could have spent the day right there. However, there are two others in the wilder part of the park that I would also like to check out.

Also, the jury is still out on the Meetup group. As I said, there were three groups combined today, the Meetup group, a group from the Grand Rapids Library, and a Facebook group. Sixty people on a nature walk is beyond ridiculous, so I hope to attend a few outings with just the Meetup group before I decide whether to stay, or leave. I have suggested an outing next weekend to photograph the wildflowers in Aman Park, we’ll see if they approve it, and how that goes.

One more thing. The first photo in this post, of the killdeer on the nest was shot with the Beast. The very last photo of the killdeer was shot with the 300 mm prime lens and extender. There’s not very much difference in image quality between the two of them. I’ve noticed that the Beast seems to be getting sharper, maybe it’s jealous of how much of the time I’ve been using the new lens? 😉

Well, that’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


My Week, savoring the spring?

Monday

The weather today and tomorrow is forecast to be rather dismal, that’s okay, I’ve shot and posted too many photos already of late. I also have to take my Forester in for its scheduled service tomorrow, so I may not get a walk in.

I should throw in a shameless plug for B & H Photo., the company that I purchased the new prime lens and tripod from. Not only do they have good prices, but the customer service in handling the defective lens was excellent! While I would still prefer to buy from the local camera store, but for big-ticket items, I may do more shopping with B & H.

But, my big-ticket purchases are about over with, the only thing on my want list as far as actual photo gear is a 10-20 mm super wide-angle lens. Other than that, I have just a few bits and pieces left to complete my kit.

It’s been about one year exactly since my old Nikon died, and I started assembling the Canon gear that I am using now. I put many hours of research and weighing the pros and cons of each purchase, and I think that the images I’m getting from the new gear made all that time worthwhile.

I bounced back and forth for a year deciding which prime lens, the 300 mm or 400 mm, that I should purchase, and for a while, even considered doing without a long prime lens. I’m very happy with my decision to purchase the 300 mm for its close focusing ability, along with its reach when using it with the Tamron extender. The 300 mm lens is the perfect complement to both the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) and the Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

In my opinion, the Beast is close to the perfect lens for serious birding. It may not be quite as sharp as the 300 mm prime, but it always gets the bird. Its auto-focusing is fast and precise. But, it’s heavy and cumbersome to carry if I’m carrying anything else.

The Tokina 100 mm macro lens is superb as a macro lens for small subjects that I can get close to, but the 300 mm lens’ close focusing ability makes it easier to use for larger subjects out of reach of the Tokina.

The 300 mm prime lens with a 1.4 X tele-converter fills the bill of an excellent all around lens for my daily walks when I’m carrying other gear with me, or for longer hikes when carrying the Beast leaves me arm weary. It will also be my lens of choice on days like today, cloudy, gloomy, with occasional rain, as it is somewhat weather sealed, and easier to protect from the elements than is the Beast.

Now, all that’s left for me to do is to put these excellent lenses to work getting the images that they are capable of delivering!

Two observations before I get to the photos from today. One, the weather was nasty! It’s getting colder by the hour, with a stiff northwest wind blowing the cold air this direction. There’s snow in the forecast for tonight, but it felt as if it could start snowing at any minute, in fact, there were a few pellets of sleet mixed in with the rain at times.

Two, and I brought this one up in the past. We received a good amount of rain overnight, enough so that some of the paved areas in the park were covered in nightcrawlers, some dead, some still alive. There were robins pulling nightcrawlers from the ground within just a few feet of the pavement, but not one picking up the bountiful supply on the pavement.

Most wildlife is very opportunistic when it comes to food, so why don’t robins eat the nightcrawlers that are on the pavement, or any other birds for that matter. I have seen turkeys eating the worms on the pavement from time to time, but never a robin. I wonder why?

Okay, on to the photos, I’m only going to post a few from today, and save some in reserve for tomorrow, since I’ll be at the Subaru dealer at the time I normally walk.

As long as the cedar waxwings are around, I’ll continue to photograph them.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

And, as you can see, there’s a lot of them around, or at least there were.

Cedar waxwings in flight

Cedar waxwings in flight

I was surprised to see all the smaller flocks join together and fly off like that, but as I lowered the camera after that shot, I saw a small raptor fly over. I couldn’t tell if it was a Cooper’s hawk or a sharpie. But, it seems to me that the waxwings made a better target of themselves by flying, rather than staying hidden in the trees. But, I’m not a bird, so what do I know?

I spotted a fox sparrow perched fairly close to me, but try as I may, I could not get a clear shot of it, despite trying several angles.

Fox sparrow

Fox sparrow

Fox sparrow

Fox sparrow

Fox sparrow

Fox sparrow

Fox sparrow

Fox sparrow

The last one is full frame, not cropped at all. How I wish that the twig crossing the sparrow’s bill wasn’t there! Oh well, another species that I’ll have to add these photos to in the My Photo Life List project.

The next two photos aren’t very good, but they are of an American Kestrel, the first of the year for me, and the first time that I’ve spotted one here at home!

American kestel

American kestrel

IMG_1641

American kestrel

The thought crossed my mind that this may have been the raptor that I had seen earlier, but no, being of the falcon family, the wing shape is completely different from that of hawks, and the raptor I had seen earlier was definitely a hawk.

One last note, now how cool would it be if a pair of kestrels took up residence around here giving me more chances to photograph them? I have a few bad images, because they are so small, not much larger than a dove or pigeon, and they keep their distance. I’m surprised that I got as close to this one as I did.

Well, that’s it for today, time for a shower, then a visit with my mom.

Tuesday

I’m back from the Subaru dealer after getting the scheduled service done on my Forester. I could probably sneak in a walk before work, but that would be pushing it, as I also stopped at the camera store on my way back home and picked up a holster style bag to carry the second body and an extra lens with me when I do walk.

Since there aren’t any photos from today, here’s a couple of images from yesterday.

Male american goldfinch

Male american goldfinch

British soldier lichens as shot

British soldier lichens as shot

British soldier lichens cropped

British soldier lichens cropped

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

All those were shot with the 300 mm prime lens using the Tamron 1.4 X extender behind it.

I have enabled the “Like” button again for my posts, since I received so many comments about it being disabled. I was trying to save time having it disabled, but oh well, I have to go with the flow.

Back to the holster bag, why don’t these things come with instructions? It has an array of straps and attachment points, but which straps go where? And why? It’s going to take me a while to figure this thing out. As a last resort, I can always attach it to the military style belt that I already have, but first, I want to see if what the bag came with will work as well or better.

Okay, I went to the LowePro website and checked out a video there. It was a promotional video, but in showing the features of the bag, I figured out what went where and why. It looks like it’s going to do exactly what I want it to do as it comes. I can get the second body and both of my short lenses in it, along with the spare battery, SD card, and filters, with a lot of room left for more small items. I think that it will be a winner, especially since my brother loves his.

Walking around inside my apartment, the holster bag rides very well, much better than my regular camera bag., but the real test will come tomorrow.

Oh, by the way, I picked a great day to have my Forester serviced. We received several inches of snow overnight that’s sticking around, along with a stiff cold wind as well. I don’t feel so bad about missing a day of walking when the day is a throwback to February. 😉

Wednesday

Yesterday was the coldest April 15th on record, the high temperature reached only 35 degrees Fahrenheit. We may have also set a record low temperature for today, I won’t know until later, but we were one degree short of the record when I checked.

Most of the snow from yesterday is gone, there are just a few patches of the stuff left in areas that are shaded all day.

I purchased the holster bag yesterday because I have my vacation coming up next month, and I wanted a good way to carry the second camera body, at least one of my short lenses, and a few essentials with me, and the case that I already had just didn’t cut it. The new one seems like a winner, I can get the spare body and two short lenses in it, along with all the essentials that I could need while out in the woods.

This is going to work out well, for now, I can use the old case to hold the 70-200 mm lens, and whichever of my two longer lenses that I’m not going to carry. All my gear will be safe and secure, which is a good thing. There’s no way that I could carry it all at one time for any distance, so having all my stuff in two bags will be okay.

While at the camera store yesterday, I checked out the Sigma 10-20 mm lens that I’m planning on purchasing one of these days, it looks like another great lens to add to my collection,  but there’s no hurry for me to do so. The lens is sharp and produces great color, but that’s more of a play toy than a lens that I just have to have. Since I now have a way to safely carry my 15-85 mm lens, I should do more playing with it from now on. That will give me a better idea as to whether or not I’ll purchase the wider lens.

Photography wise, I’m all set for my vacation, I have one or two small items that I have to buy as far as camping gear, but that’s it. I am so looking forward to having two full weeks off from work and out in the woods!

And, speaking of out in the woods, the temperature has made it to about the freezing point, so I suppose that it’s time for me to get moving, be back later.

Okay, I’m back, and it was a great, albeit somewhat chilly day. I thought that I had gotten photos of a lifer for me, but no such luck. Turns out that the bird in question was just a puny hermit thrush acting a little strange.

However, that brings up something that I wanted to add here anyway, how great it is to live in West Michigan. My daily walks are done in a small county park on the edge of the suburbs, not a nature preserve or wilderness area by any means.

Last fall, I began reporting a few of my bird sightings to eBird once a week, or if I see a species that I think is somewhat special. Of the dozens off species that I have reported, the only one that came back as a rarity is the white-eyed vireo that I spotted last fall. Bald eagles, not rare. American Kestrels, not rare. And so it goes.

I’ve gotten photos of a half a dozen species of birds for the My Photo Life List project right here at home. as I said before, I think that most of the State of Michigan is a birding hotspot going by what gets reported to eBird.

Today was no different, there were plenty of birds about to photograph, and I’ll start with a pair of house finches working on their nest for the spring. The male would bring items to the nest….

Male house finch

Male house finch

…and the female…

Female house finch

Female house finch

…would wait while the male started working what he had brought back into the nest, then she would go in and re-arrange his work.

I re-stocked my supply of cedar waxwing images.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Now you can all say that you saw a photo of a cedar waxwing’s tongue!

I caught a goldfinch trying to escape having its picture taken.

American goldfinch leaping into the air

American goldfinch leaping into the air

I have photos of a great blue heron and a herd of deer, but they were all too far away for really good photos, so I won’t bore you with those, I’m sure that I’ll do better on a later date.

How cold has it been the past two days? This cold!

Ice along the creek

Ice along the creek

Bertha did a fly by for me, you can tell that this isn’t the same hawk as before, this one isn’t missing any flight feathers.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

It was about the same time that I spotted the puny hermit thrush, and chased it around for a while.

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

While chasing it, I found the original nuthead.

Is this where the name "Nuthead" originated?

Is this where the name “Nuthead” originated?

I also spotted a winter wren while chasing the thrush. Let me tell you, there are many species of birds that are difficult to photograph, none more than any of the wrens. They stick to brush piles, down inside the brush piles most of the time, and the wrens only pop out for a quick look around from time to time. I spent at least ten minutes watching the wren, and I use the word watching loosely, waiting for it to come out into a relatively open area. Most of the time, I was seeing flashes of the wren between branches as it moved around in the brush. I missed it the first few times, either the camera and lens focused on a twig or leaf in front of the wren, or I was too slow on the shutter.

In a way, I was glad that I didn’t have the Beast with me today, my arms would be dead from holding it up, and trying to move it as quickly as the wren moved. I saw the wren poke its head up between two branches, I shot, the wren was already diving back into the branches.

Part of a winter wren

Part of a winter wren

My patience sort of prevailed though.

Most of a winter wren

Most of a winter wren

On the opposite end of the difficulty scale are the gulls. They’re large, slow, and make good practice subjects for flying bird shots.

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Although, I have to say that I did well on these next two, any bird coming straight at you is tough to catch just right.

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Well, that’s all the photos from today.

One more thing though, I wore the new holster bag today, and it worked great! While chasing the thrush and wren through the brush, I didn’t have a problem with the holster getting snagged by the brush all the time like my regular camera bag has always done. The holster bag has a shoulder strap, plus a waist belt to hold the bag right up tight to the body, and its smaller size makes it less of a target for brush. So far, so good.

Wednesday

Before I get started on today, I have one photo left from yesterday to post. Since I now have a good way to carry the second camera body and my two short lenses, I made use of that yesterday for this photo.

British soldier lichens

British soldier lichens

That was taken handheld using the Tokina 100 mm macro lens. The 300 mm prime lens may do near macros, but it can’t beat the Tokina for small subjects!

And, a thought from yesterday as well. While chasing the smaller birds, especially the winter wren, I considered removing the extender from behind the 300 mm prime lens to enable me to get “on target” a little quicker than I could at 420 mm. In a way, the Beast has a small advantage, in that I can zoom out a little as I attempt to follow smaller birds in thick brush. But, the downside, as it always is with the Beast, is its weight as my arms get tired of holding it up for extended periods of time.

I can see myself taking the time to remove the extender if I come on a flock of small birds in thick brush when I am very close to the birds, as I was yesterday.

Now then, for today, it’s partly sunny, cool, and breezy this morning. I’m hoping for a repeat of yesterday, with better photos, of course. I’ll take the new lens with me as I want more time learning it, although the Beast would be a good choice on a day like today.

The replacement 300 mm prime is everything that I hoped that it would be and more, but the more that I use it, the better I will get with it, as I learn what works and what doesn’t, along with becoming more familiar with the buttons that control the IS mode, and turning the auto-focus on or off. For my style of photography, shooting while on the move, being able to make any setting changes quickly is an important component of being able to get the photo that I’m hoping for.

The controls of the Beast are second nature to me now, I don’t have to fumble around trying to find the right switch for what I want to do. It’s the same with the camera bodies, I’ve used them enough so that I don’t have to look for the controls to make setting changes, unless the changes I want to make require going into the menu system.

Oh well, enough prattling on for now, it’s time to get a move on!

With warmer air being blown into the area, it was hazy today, so many of my photos weren’t up to my new standards.

If I was able to get close to something, then the images are good.

Daffodil

Daffodil

Dark-eyed junco

Dark-eyed junco

The daffodil was shot with the Tokina macro lens, it does do a better job up close than the 300 mm prime lens does, and yes, I shot the same flower with both lenses.

However, by using the 300 mm lens, I was able to get my first butterfly photos of the year.

Mourning cloak butterfly

Mourning cloak butterfly

Mourning cloak butterfly

Mourning cloak butterfly

Not great, but a fence prevented me from getting a good photo.

Anyway, with the haze, and the sun being behind a layer of mid-level clouds most of the time I was out there, these are more typical of what I was able to get.

Willow catkin

Willow catkin

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Eastern towhee

Eastern towhee

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

I’ve been taking a break at the far end of the park each day since the weather has been nice. One of my reasons for doing so is to give the critters time to calm down after I’ve just walked past them, and so that I can choose a time to start back when there hasn’t been anybody else walking past where I hope to find the birds again.

I had only taken a few steps after my break today, when a pair of sharp-shinned hawks zipped past me. I missed getting good photos, they were too close, and too fast for me. But, it was as if there wasn’t a bird within a mile after the sharpies went past me, for a good 10 minutes, there was almost total silence. Then, one by one, the birds began making noise and moving again. That’s when I got the photo of the towhee.

At one point, the winter wren from yesterday was giving the towhee pointers on how to frustrate would be photographers, but in the photo that I tried for, the wren was out of focus, and the towhee was too obscured by leaves and brush for me to use it. Now that would have been a photo I’d have been proud of if I had pulled it off!

Friday

Spring has returned once again, and it looks like it will stick around this time. The weekend is looking good, although there may be some rain on Easter Sunday.

Last night, I received a notice that the Meetup camera group that I “joined” several months ago is going to have an outing tomorrow (Saturday) at a county park near where I live, so I’m going to tag along. It will be the first meeting that I have been able to attend, due to my schedule, or interests.

The park where the outing is taking place is Kent County’s largest park, known as the Millennium Park, and I’ve never been there since it officially became a park. Its claim to fame is that it the east end of the park used to be the notorious Butterworth dump, one of the first EPA Superfund sites. I won’t go into the full history of the area, but once the pollution was finally cleaned up, the county was left with land no buyer would touch, so they turned it into a park.

Here’s a blurb about the park from the county’s website.

Millennium Park is a unique, ambitious project to reclaim 1,500 acres of heavily used land for public recreation. The park encompasses rolling terrain and extensive wetlands and lakes southwest of Grand Rapids, between Johnson Park and John Ball Park. Its land is rich in natural resources, featuring woods, wildlife, fish and waterfowl. Facilities within the park now include a six-acre beach and splash pad, nearly 20 miles of trails, and other diverse opportunities for recreation. Touching Grand Rapids, Walker, Grandville and Wyoming, Millennium Park is one of our nation’s largest urban parks.”

I’ve been meaning to check this park out in the past, but have never gotten around to it yet, so even if the Meetup is a bust, I’ll put the time to good use. I saw a number of rare bird reports from the park over the winter, but this past winter wasn’t the time to check out any new places, so now will be a good time, before the summer crowds show up.

The Meetup doesn’t start until 2 PM on Saturday, I’ll be wandering around much earlier than that. I’ll return to the parking lot for a lunch break, then, join the group for as long as they hang around.

I haven’t decided on what to do on Sunday yet, I’ll wait to see how the weather is going to shape up. I may return to the Allegan State Game Area, since that’s to the south, and the rain in the forecast is predicted to be to the north of here.

Well, time for breakfast.

It was one of those days. My best bird photo of the day is of one of my least favorite species, a brown headed cowbird.

Male brown headed cowbird

Male brown headed cowbird

A little later, I heard one of my favorite species of birds, a brown thrasher, singing its fool head off, but I could not get the lighting right.

Male brown thrasher

Male brown thrasher

Male brown thrasher

Male brown thrasher

For those of you not familiar with thrashers, they are related to mockingbirds and catbirds, they take snippets of many different species of bird songs, and weave them together into a symphony that is an absolute joy to listen to. So, I may not have gotten the photo that I wanted, my time spent trying was well worth it as I was able to listen to him for some time.

Before the light went completely bad, I got a slightly better photo of a willow catkin.

Willow catkin

Willow catkin

Since tomorrow promises to be a long day, I carried just the new 300 mm prime lens with the extender today, and with better light today, and less wind, it did better than the Tokina did yesterday. But, If I had the Tokina today, I’m sure that it would have edged out the new lens.

Soon after that photo, the clouds rolled in for most of the rest of the time I was out there, but I managed a few good images.

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

Female yellow-bellied sapsucker

Female yellow-bellied sapsucker

Dark-eyed junco with lunch

Dark-eyed junco with lunch

Cottontail rabbit hiding

Cottontail rabbit hiding

Female American goldfinch checking out a robin's nest

Female American goldfinch checking out a robin’s nest

I don’t know what the goldfinch was up to, I had just seen the robin building the nest in that photo a few minutes before that photo was taken. Maybe the goldfinch was checking construction methods of other birds? 😉

Spring is officially here!

May apple plant

May apple plant

Unknown flower buds

Unknown flower buds

Trout lily

Trout lily

There’s soon going to be wildflowers blooming everywhere!

A quick check of my archives tells me that next weekend, I’ll be going to Aman Park for the awesome displays of trillium and other wildflowers. Two years ago, the peak bloom was April 15th, but that was a very warm spring. Last year, I hit the peak on May 4th, but we had a cool, wet spring last year with record flooding in April. Next week is forecast to be slightly warmer than normal, and since the trout lily are about a week ahead of trillium, I should hit the peak next weekend, let’s hope that the weather is good!

And finally, when I’m chasing smaller birds in thick brush, I am going to have to remove the extender from the 300 mm prime lens. It doesn’t auto-focus quickly enough for the small birds that are constantly moving, it proved that on the winter wren, and the ruby crowned kinglets that I’ve tried to photograph the past two days. Darn, and I thought that it was about the perfect lens. 😉 I know that I would have gotten photos of the kinglets if I had been using the Beast, I’ve used it enough to know how fast it is in those conditions. I’m hoping that removing the extender speeds up the 300 mm prime, it should, we’ll see.

I’m going to call this one finished, since I’ll be out all day tomorrow, and possibly Sunday. I’m sure that I’ll come back with too many photos, and readers have said that they prefer shorter posts.

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


Red-necked Grebe, Podiceps grisegena

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Red-necked Grebe, Podiceps grisegena

 

The Red-necked Grebe is a migratory aquatic bird found in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Its wintering habitat is largely restricted to calm waters just beyond the waves around ocean coasts, although some birds may winter on large lakes. Grebes prefer shallow bodies of fresh water such as lakes, marshes or fish-ponds as breeding sites.

The Red-necked Grebe is a nondescript dusky-grey bird in winter. During the breeding season, it acquires the distinctive red neck plumage, black cap and contrasting pale grey face from which its name was derived. It also has an elaborate courtship display and a variety of loud mating calls. Once paired, it builds a nest from water plants on top of floating vegetation in a shallow lake or bog.

Like all grebes, the Red-necked is a good swimmer, a particularly swift diver, and responds to danger by diving rather than flying. The feet are positioned far back on the body, near the tail, which makes the bird ungainly on land. It dives for fish or picks insects off vegetation; it also swallows its own feathers, possibly to protect the digestive system.

The Red-necked Grebe is a medium-large grebe, smaller than the Great Crested Grebe of Eurasia, and the Western and Clark’s Grebes of North America. The adult is 40–50 cm (16–20 in) long with a 77–85 cm (30–33 in) average wingspan, and weighs 692–925 g (24.4–32.6 oz). In breeding plumage, it has a black cap that extends below the eye, very pale grey cheeks and throat, a rusty red neck, dark grey back and flanks, and white underparts. The eyes are dark brown and the long, pointed bill is black with a yellow base.

The Red-necked Grebe flies with its long neck extended and its large feet trailing behind the body, which gives it a stretched-out appearance. The relatively small wings are grey with white secondaries, and beat very rapidly. Its small wing area means that the grebe is unable to take off from land, and needs a lengthy run across water to gain the speed needed for take-off. Like all grebes, the Red-necked is an expert swimmer; it uses its feet for propulsion underwater, and steers by rotating its legs, since its tail is too short for this purpose.

This is one of the most vocal grebes during the breeding season, but, like its relatives, it is mainly silent for the rest of the year. It has a loud, wailing or howling display call uooooh, given by a single bird or a pair in duet, by night or during the day, and often from cover. Long sequences of up to 60 consecutive notes may be delivered during singing encounters between rival territorial birds. A great variety of quacking, clucking, hissing, rattling and purring calls are also given, with much individual variation.

Breeding takes place in shallow freshwater lakes, bays of larger lakes, marshes, and other inland bodies of water, often less than 3 ha (7.4 acres) in extent and less than 2 m (6.6 ft) deep. The Red-necked Grebe shows a preference for waters in forested areas or, further north, in shrub tundra, and favours sites with abundant emergent vegetation, such as reed beds. The best breeding habitat is fish-ponds, which have an abundance of food in addition to meeting the other requirements. The American subspecies is less tied to a high aquatic plant density, and sometimes breeds on quite open lakes.

All populations are migratory and winter mainly at sea, usually in estuaries and bays, but often well offshore where fish are within diving reach near shallow banks or islands. The preferred passage and wintering habitat is water less than 15 m (49 ft) deep with a sand or gravel bottom, scattered rocks and patches of seaweed. During winter, birds typically feed alone and rarely aggregate into flocks, but on migration, concentrations of over 2000 individuals may occur at favored staging sites. Migration is usually at night, but may occur during the day, especially when over water. This is particularly noticeable in autumn on the Great Lakes, when up to 18,000 birds may pass Whitefish Point on Lake Superior; these are thought to be Canadian breeders heading for the Atlantic Ocean to winter. This easterly route is longer than that to the Pacific, but avoids the Rockies.

On the breeding grounds, the Red-necked Grebe feeds mainly on invertebrates including adult and larval aquatic insects, such as water beetles and dragonfly larvae, crayfish and molluscs. Fish (such as smelt) may be important locally or seasonally, especially for the American subspecies, and crustaceans can constitute up to 20% of the grebe’s diet. Birds breeding at the coast often make foraging flights to inland lakes or offshore areas to feed.

Aquatic prey is obtained by diving or by swimming on surface with the head submerged, and terrestrial insects and their larvae are picked off vegetation.

Like other grebes, the Red-necked Grebe ingests large quantities of its own feathers, which remain in the bird’s stomach. Feathers are not only swallowed by adults, mainly during self-preening, but are often fed to the young, sometimes within a day of hatching. These feathers soon decompose into a felt-like, amorphous mass. The function of the feathers in the stomach is unknown, although it has been suggested that they help to protect the lower digestive tract from bones and other hard, indigestible material.

On to my photos:

 

Red-necked grebe

Red-necked grebe

Red-necked grebes

Red-necked grebes

Red-necked Grebes

Red-necked Grebes

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

This is number 153 in my photo life list, only 197 to go!

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

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My Weekend, Feathers and Flowers

Sunday

It’s somewhat early on Sunday morning as I struggle to find something new to write here.

The replacement 300 mm prime telephoto lens arrived late Friday afternoon after I left for work. I was outside the door for the apartment office waiting for it to open yesterday so that I could get my hands on it. When I did, I went up to the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve and wandered around until the weather got too bad for even me. It was a good thing that I went prepared, which surprised me, that didn’t use to be the case. I had a rain jacket and the dry bag with me to protect myself and my camera and lens respectively. That was even though the forecast had predicted that the rain would hold off until evening.

The day started sunny, but the clouds rolled in soon after I started my hike, and by mid-afternoon, there was a steady, moderate rain falling. I really wanted to stay out longer, but the rain drove all the critters to cover, so I packed it in. It turned out to be a good thing that I did, for just after I got back home, I saw news reports of severe thunderstorms rolling through the area that I had just left, complete with 85 MPH winds.

I should do a post on just yesterday, as most of the photos that I shot were excellent, if I do say so myself. However, even though the photos are great, they are of the same old same old for the most part. I may still do post on yesterday, but if I do, I’m going to disable the “Like” button on that post. In fact, I may well disable it from here on in.

I almost went on a rant about the drive-by “likers” but I deleted what I had begun. I’ll just say that you shouldn’t be surprised if you no longer see the “Like” button for anymore of my posts.

Anyway, there’s a front draped over the area, the same front that brought the rain and storms yesterday. Right here where I live, there have been occasional showers, but not very much rain all told. To the north, they are getting hammered by wave after wave of storms. To the south, just a few miles, it’s been much warmer, with no rain.

So, if I were to go somewhere today, my best bet would be to go south, but, as changeable as the weather is, I think that I’ll just wander around here today.

Now then, about the replacement lens, WOW!

I thought that the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) produced great photos, and it does. I thought that the first 300 mm prime lenses produced even better photos, and it did. But, the replacement lens does even better if you can believe that.

I’m loving the new lens already, as it’s great having a lighter, easier to manage lens than the Beast for longer hikes. And, the new lens goes from shooting photos of subjects as close as close to me as at my feet, to being a great long lens for subjects in the distance. But, I’ll save my raves for the new lens for later.

It does have its quirks, Up close, and off in the distance, it auto-focuses extremely well, but there’s a range in the middle where I found that I had to help it out a little at times. Not always, but once in a while. I’ll see if that continues as I use the lens more.

I know why the lens performs as it does, in their efforts to make a lens that focuses very quickly, the engineers at Canon designed the lens so that very little movement of the focusing mechanism is required to make large differences in the focus of the lens. In simple terms, the focusing is fast, but touchy. If it’s off just a bit, it shows as being way off in any photos that you take.

So, I either tweak the focus manually, or force the camera into the servo mode of focusing, and I get sharp images, really sharp images!

Well, enough of that for now, I think that it’s time to eat breakfast, and then head on out for the day to see what I can find around here.

Once again, I found too much! I’m trying to be ruthless as far as deleting photos and not posting all of them that I shoot, but that’s getting harder everyday. I’ve been through the photos that I shot the last two days numerous times, and I still have way too many left, 80 to be precise. Some are of common subjects, but I can’t bring myself to delete them, as they either demonstrate how sharp the new lens is, or they are of those subjects engaged in interesting behavior.

Part of the reason for that is the new lens, I’m blown away by how well it does even under really bad lighting. I’ve also been pushing it to see just what I can get away with as far as critters partially hidden, as well as flying birds, and other things. All I can say is that I can no longer blame my equipment for crummy photos.

The new 300 mm prime may not be quite as good as the Beast is at getting birds trying to hide, but it’s close. And, what a one-two punch these two lenses make! The Beast is solid and dependable, it always gets the bird, the new lens may miss one now and then, but the images it produces makes up for any missed shots, at least so far.

So, where do I start, since I haven’t posted any photos of one of these for a while, I suppose this is a good place to start, a muskrat bringing fresh grass to its den.

Muskrat

Muskrat

Then, how about a female mallard that I rudely awakened.

Female mallard

Female mallard

I don’t know what it is about robins, they position themselves in some awkward positions for no reason that I can fathom.

American robin doing weird things

American robin doing weird things

Then, a couple of signs that spring is here.

Spring

Spring

Crocus

Crocus

Some one asked me about getting close to turkeys, this is how close I get, as this photo wasn’t cropped at all.

Turkey

Turkey

The next two are part of the “torture” test for the new lens.

Immature red-winged blackbird and pussy willows

Immature red-winged blackbird and pussy willows

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Next, the flying mallard test.

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

The bird in the bush test.

Female American goldfinch preening

Female American goldfinch preening

The bird ID test. 😉

Yellow-rumped warbler, rear view

Yellow-rumped warbler, rear view

Yellow-rumped warbler, front view

Yellow-rumped warbler, front view

I know that I’ve posted many chickadees lately, but here’s one tunneling into a fence post to make a nesting spot.

Black-capped chickadee excavating a nesting place

Black-capped chickadee excavating a nesting place

Black-capped chickadee excavating a nesting place

Black-capped chickadee excavating a nesting place

Black-capped chickadee excavating a nesting place

Black-capped chickadee excavating a nesting place

I thought that chickadees used old woodpecker holes, but this one was chewing its way into the fence post as you can see from the debris.

How can I do a lens test and not shoot a photo of Fred the friendly fox squirrel?

Fred the friendly fox squirrel

Fred the friendly fox squirrel

The female yellow-bellied sapsucker has arrived.

Female yellow-bellied sapsucker

Female yellow-bellied sapsucker

As have the white-throated sparrows….

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

…and the field sparrows.

Field sparrow

Field sparrow

Field sparrow

Field sparrow

I was able to sneak up on this warbler, it took it a second to realize how close I was.

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler taking flight

Yellow-rumped warbler taking flight

I don’t know if this is a lichen or a fungus, but it was interesting.

Lichen or fungus?

Lichen or fungus?

No day would be complete without a waxwing.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

But, it was a sparrow kind of day.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Chipping sparrow looking for its mate

Chipping sparrow looking for its mate

Who soon joined the first one on the ground.

IMG_1460

Chipping sparrow

Not only is the new lens sharp, I love the color I get with it!

Crocus

Crocus

Crocus

Crocus

Back to birds for a while.

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Bruiser, the male red-tailed hawk did a fly by so I could test the new lens.

Male red-tailed hawk in flight

Male red-tailed hawk in flight

Male red-tailed hawk in flight

Male red-tailed hawk in flight

Male red-tailed hawk in flight

Male red-tailed hawk in flight

Which caused this red squirrel to remain hidden.

Red squirrel hiding

Red squirrel hiding

Red squirrel hiding

Red squirrel hiding

Those of you who don’t care for snakes may want to look away.

Garter snake

Garter snake

Garter snake

Garter snake

Garter snake

Garter snake

I was tempted to put that last one in the slideshow that runs at the top of the post, but I was afraid that it would scare a few people off. 😉

With some sun, I was able to play with my exposure settings for turkeys, since they are a difficult bird to photograph well.

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

Turkey

I should have removed the extender from behind the lens for those last three so that I could have gotten the entire turkey in the frame. 😉

And, to wrap this up, a couple of more flowers.

daffodil

daffodil

Maple flowers

Maple flowers

Sorry for so many, but I shot over 200 today just playing in the park that I walk everyday. But, with four first of the year species of birds, the first flowers of spring, and everything else on top of testing the new lens, and I just couldn’t stop myself.

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


My Weekend, Saturday

Okay, I decided to do a stand alone post for each day this weekend, mostly because I shot so many photos.

I went to the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve, and I was a little disappointed by how few birds or spring flowers I saw. The weather was the major reason for few birds. It was sunny when I arrived, but soon the clouds rolled in. Later, it began to sprinkle first, then rain moderately hard for the rest of my time there.

It felt hot and muggy when I arrived also, the type of feeling that one gets when severe weather is on the way, and that’s what happened this day. I had just left, when a powerful storm moved through the area with winds over 80 MPH. I’m sure that the critters could feel the storm coming, they normally do, and they take cover early.

Still, it was my first day out with the replacement 300 mm prime telephoto lens, and it really wowed me! Not only is it even sharper than the first 300 mm lens was, the auto-focus is much more accurate. And, to top it off, it does so well in very poor light that I’m going to throw in a few photos that I probably wouldn’t normally include, as they are of ring-necked ducks in the rain, and I’m amazed at how good they are. You’ll also be able to see how versatile the new lens is, I’ll include photos that I shot of subjects literally at my feet, as well as birds in the distance.

So, here’s the first photo I shot with the new lens, of a dandelion right outside my apartment door as I was loading my gear in my vehicle.

Dandelion

Dandelion

I’m not going to prattle on about the rest of the photos, they are what the captions say that they are. 😉

Sandhill crane in flight

Sandhill crane in flight

Immature male red-winged blackbird

Immature male red-winged blackbird

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Spring peeper

Spring peeper

Spring peeper

Spring peeper

Spring peeper "peeping"

Spring peeper “peeping”

Canada goose on the run

Canada goose on the run

Lichen

Lichen

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Lichen

Lichen

Male northern cardinal singing

Male northern cardinal singing

Bee

Bee

Lichen

Lichen

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Ring-necked ducks in the rain

Ring-necked ducks in the rain

Ring-necked ducks in the rain

Ring-necked ducks in the rain

Painted turtle and reflection

Painted turtle and reflection

Flies feeding on sugar maple sap

Flies feeding on sugar maple sap

Ring-necked ducks in the rain

Ring-necked ducks in the rain

Ring-necked ducks in the rain

Ring-necked ducks in the rain

Ring-necked ducks in the rain

Ring-necked ducks in the rain

So there aren’t any award winners in this batch, they do show what the new lens is capable of even under some very poor weather conditions. You’ll get an even better idea of what the lens is capable of in tomorrow’s post.

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