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

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? šŸ˜‰

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 isĀ 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 theĀ 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 gottenĀ 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, Ā because the cartĀ 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!

Advertisements

11 responses

  1. Pingback: A disappointing day | Quiet Solo Pursuits

  2. So sorry to hear about your mishap. Hope you recover fully before your vacation. You did get some marvelous shots, though!

    April 27, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    • Thank you! My leg is doing much better already, a couple of long days outdoors usually helps. šŸ˜‰

      April 27, 2014 at 11:44 pm

  3. I’m wondering how I missed this post?? I like the shots of the eastern phoebe with the beetle. For a while there I didn’t think he’d choke it down. I also like the spring beauties and box elder flowers. I hope your leg gets better quickly. It sounds to me like the carts you describe are overloaded. Isn’t there a weight limit on them? I’m not sure what’s going on but this comment keeps disappearing as I’m typing it. I’ve never seen that before but I’d better post it before it disappears for good.

    April 28, 2014 at 7:00 am

    • Thank you! Yes, there’s a weight limit on the carts, they are filled until I can’t move them. But, don’t get me started on that.

      WordPress is very reliable overall, but it does do strange things from time to time, like your disappearing comment, or it publishing my post early, which is how you missed it.

      April 28, 2014 at 9:13 am

  4. Look after that leg.

    April 28, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    • Thanks Tom, it is doing much better.

      April 29, 2014 at 3:01 am

  5. Hope your poor knee continues to improve. Walking on sidewalks/pavements is no good for joints – you need shock-absorber shoes! All the photos are good – I don’t have a favourite. Regarding the chickadees that fascinated me in your earlier post – could they be pulping the soft wood and including them in their nests? I know nothing at all about chickadees and am only guessing!

    April 29, 2014 at 8:43 am

    • Thanks Clare! You’re right, I do far too much walking on paved surfaces these days, time to get back to the woods. As far as what the chickadees are doing, your guess is as good as any right now, but I’ll keep an eye on them.

      April 29, 2014 at 9:51 am

  6. I Iike your observation about the RTH overflying you to check you out, they do that here, along with the Osprey. Also enjoying reading about your upcoming vacation, and the planning it entails. There’s something fun in anticipating a vacation, vicariously enjoying your planning nudges me into thinking of taking one, myself.

    April 29, 2014 at 11:27 am

    • Thanks! It’s interesting to me that the male circles me, keeping a little distance between us, while the female almost always flies directly overhead.

      I’m actually doing little planning for this one, I’m going to my favorite part of lower Michigan to hang out for two weeks. My last few vacations, I planned to be at a different place each day, and scenery that I intended to photograph, and I ran myself into the ground keeping up with my plans.

      April 30, 2014 at 2:49 am