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

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!

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21 responses

  1. Sorry it was a bit disappointing but I liked the ‘sharp’ picture.

    April 20, 2014 at 2:28 am

    • Thank you Susan, I’m glad that you found the post interesting enough to comment on.

      April 20, 2014 at 7:26 am

  2. Perhaps it’s the photographer getting sharper and not the lens. I have a hard time imagining trailing along with a group of 60. I even find I like being alone the best. Company can be fun, but it’s certainly a distraction.

    April 20, 2014 at 5:04 am

    • Thanks, but I doubt if my skills have improved that much. It was interesting to see what others in the group found interesting, but a smaller group would have been much more to my liking.

      April 20, 2014 at 7:29 am

  3. Very nice Killdeer!

    April 20, 2014 at 6:24 am

    • Thanks Robert!

      April 20, 2014 at 7:29 am

  4. Actually it seems, I know more bird’s names of your area than of my place 😀
    Thank you for showing your photographic work!
    Cheers,
    Michel

    April 20, 2014 at 6:34 am

    • Thank you Michel!

      April 20, 2014 at 7:29 am

  5. Even though the fence was in the way, I still like the belted kingfisher.

    I can see why you would be frustrated trying to shoot at Millennium Park – it is busy. But, in my estimation, it’s a real jewel in the County Park system. There are so few places anymore where a kid can swim in a real lake (not counting Lake Michigan because its a good distance away). But this Park is along the big bike trail, and is easily accessible by car. To me, it’s a great space, made out of an eyesore.

    I’ve seen GB Herons there many times.

    60 people on a walk. Horrendous!

    April 20, 2014 at 8:53 am

    • Thanks Judy!

      I agree with you 100% about the park, it is a great recreational opportunity for many people, and it is reclaiming some much abused land, and letting it revert back to a more natural state. In 50 years, it will truly be a gem. I went back today and found the quieter parts of the park, it wasn’t easy, but I did, and got some great photos, as you will see.

      April 20, 2014 at 9:06 pm

  6. Wow Jerry, for someone who values solitude as much as you do, you’re sure branching out. I have a friend who goes with me every now and then and I find that I don’t get anywhere close to the amount or quality of photos that I do alone.
    You got some good ones though. I like the shots of the flying cormorant and the red tailed hawk. The last shot of the killdeer is funny. He looks as if you startled him.

    April 20, 2014 at 9:02 am

    • Thanks Allen!

      If I had known that there would be 60 people, I never would have gone, the 16 that I did know of was a bad enough number.

      I went back today, and I’d like to delete some of the photos from this post. 😉

      Killdeer always have that deer in the headlights look to them, I’ve got a lens sharp enough to catch it now.

      April 20, 2014 at 9:09 pm

  7. I like it when people give personalities to inanimate objects – my friends and family laugh at me when I do it. ‘There, there’ they say ‘the poor old girl can’t help it’. I have found a friend in you! The swallow’s plumage is gorgeous and I like the way cormorants always seem to enjoy sitting on dead wood. No leaves in the way stopping the wind drying their feathers I suppose. The kingfisher is lovely too.

    April 20, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    • Thanks Clare! I do have an oddball sense of humor.

      April 20, 2014 at 9:10 pm

  8. The swallow problem is familiar. Perhaps you may have a setting where the camera takes three pictures at different exposure very quickly and then you can combine the results.

    April 20, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    • Thanks Tom! My camera won’t do in camera HDR photos, but I could download free software to do the same thing. I won’t though, it goes against my vow never to do any editing other than cropping.

      April 20, 2014 at 9:12 pm

  9. Nice series! I long to see the tree swallow and belted kingfisher myself.

    April 21, 2014 at 10:51 am

    • Thank you, I’ll send a few of each your way. 😉

      April 21, 2014 at 1:36 pm

  10. I particularly liked your photos of “sharp” and “circle”. I would not enjoy a nature walk with 60 people. I’ve never been one for crowds. A walk with one husband and 3 dogs is enough of a crowd for me.

    April 21, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    • Thanks, I wouldn’t have gone had I known that many people would show up, but I live alone, work alone, and spend my free time alone, and I wonder if that’s good for me.

      April 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      • It’s funny, I am a very social person – I can talk to just about anyone, any place – but I have never liked crowds. Even my large extended family can be too much for me when we are all together. I prefer to be with one person at a time, I guess, where I can really focus my attention and listen. Maybe part of it is growing up the youngest in a large family, I often felt overlooked so prefer one-to-one conversations instead. At least you get some social interaction via the blogosphere. 🙂

        April 21, 2014 at 1:48 pm