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

Archive for May, 2014

Spring 2014 vacation, around home, day 3

This is the third batch of the photos that I shot around where I live. There will be more flowers than birds, including the tulips, finally. 😉

All the images were taken with my newer 300 mm prime L series lens with a Tamron 1.4 X extender, and shot handheld. I’m not completely used to using a tripod yet, I still find it easier to shoot handheld, moving around slightly until I get the best light and composition that I can. I have trouble visualizing that as I’m setting up my tripod, what I may start doing is use the long lens to “see” the shot that I want, then set up my tripod and the Tokina macro lens to actually shoot the shot.

Wild geraniums

Wild geraniums

Wild geranium

Wild geranium

Future dandelions

Future dandelions

I did get a lifer, an Estes bird!

An Estes bird

An Estes bird

Lilacs

Lilacs

Wild cherry

Wild cherry

Here’s the series of tulip photos that I’m quite proud of, I think that I did a pretty good job with these.

Tulips

Tulips

Tulips

Tulips

Tulip

Tulip

Tulip

Tulip

This one’s not bad either.

Goat's beard

Goat’s beard

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow wondering if it can eat any more

Barn swallow wondering if it can eat any more

Star flower

Star flower

Star flower

Star flower

I sat down on a bench in the shade to take a break, and it was only a few seconds before Bruiser, the male red-tailed hawk came by, as he was being mobbed by red-winged blackbirds. I still haven’t swapped all my dedicated settings between my two camera bodies, so I didn’t have my saved bird in flight set up to use, I had to adjust manually for these, which is why they are slightly overexposed. Sorry for so many of these, I probably should have deleted a few more, but that’s me.

Red-tailed hawk attacked by red-winged blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk attacked by red-winged blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk attacked by red-winged blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk attacked by red-winged blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk attacked by red-winged blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk attacked by red-winged blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk attacked by red-winged blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk attacked by red-winged blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk attacked by red-winged blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk attacked by red-winged blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk attacked by red-winged blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk attacked by red-winged blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk attacked by red-winged blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk attacked by red-winged blackbirds

Lilac

Lilac

Blue jay

Blue jay

Canada goose performing yoga on top of a building

Canada goose performing yoga on top of a building

Finally, my best photos of a six spotted tiger beetle. I have no idea how these came to be named what they are as I see no resemblance to a tiger at all, I don’t name them, I just photograph them. 😉

Six spotted tiger beetle

Six spotted tiger beetle

Six spotted tiger beetle

Six spotted tiger beetle

 

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

 

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Spring 2014 vacation, around home, day 2

This is the second batch of the photos that I shot either around where I live, or the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve last week while I was on vacation. I don’t think that too many words are needed for these, the captions should suffice.

I’ll start with one of my favorite species of birds, even though I’ve posted many images of them lately, a grey catbird in full song.

Grey catbird singing

Grey catbird singing

I’ll still be posting photos of birds all summer, for those people who were worried that they’d see no more bird photos here, but I hope that the ones I do post will be better than this next one.

Chestnut sided warbler singing

Chestnut sided warbler singing

Or this one, the only reason I’m including this is because it was a lifer for me, but it took off before I could shoot more than this poor image, so I’m not able to ID it.

The one that got away

The one that got away

This little chickadee was making sure that it got my attention so that I would photograph it. I did, as you can see, and I have more images of the chickadee, but in the poor light of that day, those aren’t worth posting.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

A few of the other things that I saw, no words required.

Unidentified ferns

Unidentified ferns

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

Shelf fungi?

Shelf fungi?

Interesting tree

Interesting tree

One of the ponds at Pickerel Lake

One of the ponds at Pickerel Lake

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

From the viburnum family?

From the viburnum family?

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle

Canada goose goslings

Canada goose goslings

White campions

White campion

I found two very young fawns, the photos are only fair, as I didn’t want to get too close to them, so I had to shoot through the grass.

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Every spring, well-meaning people think that when they find fawns alone like this that their mother has either abandoned the fawns, or been killed. That isn’t the case, the fawns have no scent that predators can pick up to lead the predator to the fawns, and the fawns are so well hidden that it’s hard for anything to spot them. Trust me on the well hidden part, if the first one hadn’t stood up, I would have walked right on past them.

Anyway, the mother will leave the fawns where they are well hidden, then move a short distance away so that no predators following her scent will find the fawns. It’s nature’s way of protecting the helpless.

Many birds and animals use similar tactics to protect their young, with the adults leaving the young, which seems cruel. But by doing so, the adults make themselves the target of any predators, leaving the young to hide motionless and soundless in cover while any predators follow the adults.

A few more that need no help from me.

Lily of the valley

Lily of the valley

Apple blossom

Apple blossom

Shagbark hickory leaves

Shagbark hickory leaves

Fir tree cones

Fir tree cones

Yellow violet

Yellow violet

Fruit tree flowers

Fruit tree flowers

Leaves

Leaves

Here’s another example of a young animal that most people (or predators) would have missed, a young cottontail rabbit. If I hadn’t seen an ear twitch, I would have missed the bunny.

Baby cottontail rabbit

Baby cottontail rabbit

Blue jay

Blue jay

Another mass of miniature mallards

Another mass of miniature mallards

I didn’t get to the tulips, that’s OK, I’ll post those soon enough. I think that the photos from this post are the “weakest” of my week, other than the fawns.

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

 


Spring 2014 vacation, around home

I didn’t stop shooting photos when I got back home for the time between when I was near Grayling, Michigan and when I went back up to Ossineke, Michigan. I walked my normal daily walk on a few days, went to Pickerel Lake one day, and Muskegon for two days, well, that includes the time after I returned from Ossineke, too.

It’s mid to late spring around here, a transitional time, and the photos that I post will reflect that. The spring bird migration is all but over with, and soon, there will be just the same old summer resident birds to photograph around here. However, there are new flowers and insects appearing daily, some lasting just a few days, some linger throughout the summer.

As spring gives way to summer, I’ll be posting fewer images of birds, and more images of flowers and insects. I’ve been going through the hundreds of photos that I have taken around here this past week and deleting a good many photos of birds, so hopefully, I won’t be boring every one with dozens of images of the same species of birds over and over. I can’t say that I won’t do that with flowers now. 😉

It’s a great time to be living in southern Michigan right now, the lilacs, honeysuckle, and some members of the viburnum family are in bloom, filling the air with their wonderful fragrances! Soon, they will give way to wild roses, and other equally fragrant blooms.

I’ve been trying to use the Tokina 100 mm macro lens more often, but I’ve been thwarted by the wind on most days. We’ve had swings in the high temperatures of almost 40 degrees up and down over the past two weeks, and the only way that air masses can change that quickly is with stiff winds moving them in and out. The forecast is for a week of fairly stable weather for the next week, so maybe I get more chances to use that lens. The 300 mm prime lens does a superb job on flowers, but I often have to crop more than I would like to get the desired results. And, because I have to be five feet from my subject, it limits how I can compose my photos.

I suppose I should do a few housekeeping chores here. I have enough photos for three posts from around home, and two from the days that I went to Muskegon. I also have 280 images that I shot while in the Ossineke area, but that number will be cut down dramatically as I go through them more. There’s a lot of bad shots of eagles and sunsets in that number, along with multiple images of the same species of birds, especially the Lifers that I saw, along with the better photos for posts that I’ve already done in the My Photo Life List project.

And speaking of that, I’ve had a fairly good spring as far as adding to the number of saved photos for use in future posts in that series. I’m closing in on 200 species of birds, and with any luck, I’ll go over 200 by the time that the next winter arrives. I did two posts a week in that series while I was on vacation, I may skip this week, then go back to one a week from then on.

I’ll still have to photograph birds, especially the smaller ones, as it takes practice to find them in the brush, and time when to press the shutter release. I think that this series of photos that I wouldn’t normally post if I had gotten a good one will show. That means the that the images in this post will be out of order, but so be it.

Wilson's warbler

Wilson’s warbler

Wilson's warbler

Wilson’s warbler

Wilson's warbler launching

Wilson’s warbler launching

Wilson's warbler

Wilson’s warbler

I’d like to promise that those are the last bad photos that you’ll see here, but I won’t make promises that I know that I can’t keep. 😉

There should be plenty of other subjects to shoot, and plenty of days with sunny weather, so that I won’t have to try to photograph birds in low light unless I see something special from now on.

Although, there are a few photos that I shot while it was raining on day that I would like to share, as just like trying to catch small birds on the move, one has to stay in practice shooting in poor conditions.

Palm warbler in the rain

Palm warbler in the rain

Hermit thrush in the rain

Hermit thrush in the rain

Momma mallard sounding the alarm

Momma mallard sounding the alarm

A mass of miniature mallards

A mass of miniature mallards

Okay, I’ve said before that I want to move towards quality over quantity, and I’ve been trying to do that. I now have a great deal of confidence in my photo equipment, enough to know that I can pull off almost any shot if I have to. But, there’s another change taking place as well, my confidence as a birder is growing as well.

I’ve only been serious about identifying birds for a little over two years now, some of the species are very hard to ID. I’ve now seen my name attached to several rare bird alerts from eBird, which for some reason, has helped me gain confidence. It turns out that birds that I thought were rare are really quite commonplace, and every time that I see one, it gets easier to ID them. And, it isn’t just by how they look, it’s also how they act, and their songs, which makes the entire process of picking which birds to try to photograph even easier as I go along.

Over the last two years, I’ve learned where to go and when, and I’ve also learned that given how much time I spend outdoors, I am going to get the birds eventually. These last two weeks has been a huge leap for me as far as birding as well. I was able to get very good photos of two northern parulas in just 4 days, and they are supposed to be tough to get. Here’s one from on my trip.

Northern parula

Northern parula

But, I don’t want to go off on a tangent right now, so back to the photos from around home.

First year male Baltimore oriole

First year male Baltimore oriole

Male house finch singing

Male house finch singing

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch singing

Male house finch singing

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering crab

Flowering crab

With a couple of images of flowers, it seems like a good time to throw in the few that I shot with the Tokina macro lens.

Tulip

Tulip

Wild strawberry

Wild strawberry

Apple blossom

Apple blossom

Dandelion

Dandelion

And now, a few flowers shot with the 300 mm prime lens.

Tulip

Tulip

Redbud

Redbud

Redbud and fly

Redbud and fly

Lilac

Lilac

Lily of the valley

Lily of the valley

Flowering crab

Flowering crab

Flowering crab

Flowering crab

If only everyday could be like this one in the next photo was!

Creekside Park

Creekside Park

Creekside Park

Creekside Park

The last two were taken with the 15-85 mm lens, and I still would like an even wider lens. That hit home while I was shooting landscapes up north. I know that I said that I wanted a Sigma 10 to whatever it was lens, and I may still end up with one. However, Canon has just introduced a EF S 10-16 mm lens at a reasonable price, around $300. But, wasn’t available yet the last time I was at the camera store. I’m in no hurry, I’ll wait for the reviews to come out, then see what the true cost will be. I know that the lens hood is extra, so the Canon lens may not be that much cheaper than the Sigma I had been looking at. But, that’s another post, someday down the road. Back to the photos.

A few of birds all fluffed up to ward off the cold last week.

Eastern kingbird

Eastern kingbird

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

I know that I just inserted a catbird image, and that the next one is blurry, that’s because a catbird had picked up a leaf and was waving it around wildly, the second time that I have seen them do that.

Grey catbird waving a leaf

Grey catbird waving a leaf

I don’t know if leaf waving is part of their courtship display, of if they do that to prevent us from getting a good photo. 😉 But, the one in the photo above paused to take a look around after the leaf waving.

Grey catbird waving a leaf

Grey catbird waving a leaf

No matter what the reason, this red squirrel that was watching me watching the catbird, thought the entire thing was quite funny, especially since he was partially hidden from me as well.

Laughing red squirrel

Laughing red squirrel

Well, I think that I’ve gone on long enough for this one.

I have plenty more photos to go, and most of them were taken on much nicer days than what the photos in this post were, including some images of tulips that I am quite proud of.

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

 


Another quick update

I’m back again, it was another four great days up north, this time I stayed at the Ossineke State Forest Campground where I had stayed last Memorial Day weekend. I was really torn about coming home a day or two early, but I’ve wanted this vacation to be all about relaxing. By coming home a little early, I avoid the traffic of the holiday weekend, and it gives me time to unpack, clean, and put my camping gear away. Besides, I’ve found that four 16 to 18 hour days of chasing birds wears me out even if I eat better. 😉

Overall the weather was fair, although very windy for the first two days, with a mixture of complete overcast to totally sunny times for much of my time up there.

I got a lifer, a northern parula, if you see all of the  so-so photos of it that I took, it will look like a northern parula.

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

And, I was able to get photos of a species that I had seen before, but never photographed, Caspian Terns.

Caspian tern

Caspian tern

Not bad, an hour after I arrived, I had photos of one of the terns and you can even see its tongue, I’m getting good at that. 😉

Mostly, I was able to get better photos of birds that I’ve already done posts on in the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on.

Okay, I’m going to go into some detail concerning camera gear, so you may want to skip this part.

As you may know, I recently purchased a 300 mm prime L series lens. When the auto-focus is dead on, the lens is astounding as far as the results that I get. However, it is seldom dead on.

After talking to the Canon rep last weekend, I’ve been using the rear button auto-focus most of the time, even though that ties my thumb up so that I have a harder time making exposure adjustments. That does seem to speed the lens up, and it tracks flying birds better that way, as this series of images of a northern harrier (hen harrier, or marsh hawk) will show.

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

But, for small birds in the brush, the new lens is hit or miss, with far too many misses, like this shot of a black-throated blue warbler which should have been very good.

Black-throated blue warbler

Black-throated blue warbler

I was so ticked off at the new lens after reviewing my photos each night that on the third day, I went back to the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens). It may not have the absolute quality of the new lens, but 95%of the photos that I shoot with it are at minimum, good photos, unless I’m the reason the photos aren’t good.

Horned lark

Horned lark

Semi-palmated plover

Semi-palmated plover

You can even see the plover’s slightly web feet, which are what gave it its name.

(all of these photos and more will be added to the posts already done in the My Photo Life List project)

So, I’ve been in a quandary, what should I do?

I love the Beast for its reliability, see a bird, get good photo of bird, but it’s still a beast to carry, and it doesn’t close focus well.

The new lens can produce better photos, about one out of twenty when it comes to small birds, but it’s light, easy to carry, and does great on flowers, insects, and flying birds.

I have even gone so far as to carry both lenses with me on very short walks, but I’m not tough enough to do that for any more than a mile or so total. And then, I don’t bring either of my short lenses with me for these types of photos.

Sand Cress

Sand Cress

Lake Huron shore near Rockport State Park

Lake Huron shore near Rockport State Park

It was too nice of a day to stay home today, so I went to the Muskegon area with my first stop at Lane’s Landing to look for the prothonotary warbler that I saw earlier this week. I had no luck finding it, but I did get better images of great crested flycatchers.

Great crested flycatcher

Great crested flycatcher

On my way back to my vehicle, I was weighing the pros and cons of the two lenses I’ve been writing about, and what I should do. I won’t recount the entire debate That I had with myself, I’ll only say that I came to the conclusion that I have to make the new lens work and work well, I paid too much for it not to use it, and the Beast is still a beast to carry.

Long time readers may remember that I have two Canon 60 D bodies, one that I have set for wildlife, and the other is set for landscapes and macros. I also have another L series lens, a 70-200 mm.

I’ve also had trouble getting the 70-200 mm lens to auto-focus accurately 100% of the time on the wildlife body, it seemed to function better on the second body when I purchased the second body and tested my lenses on it.

So, I decided that I would bite the bullet and change all the settings on the landscape body over to use it on birds and go to the Muskegon Lake Nature preserve to give that combination the torture test.

The Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve is almost all very thick brush, made even worse for photography now because all the brush is beginning to leaf out. I went looking for small birds lurking in the shade or hiding behind branches, as all I wanted to do was to test was the auto-focus of the new lens on the second camera body.

Wilson's warbler

Wilson’s warbler

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Warbling vireo

Warbling vireo

Cedar waxwing eating flowering tree flowers

Cedar waxwing eating flowering tree flowers

Common yellowthroat

Common yellowthroat

Unidentified sparrow

Unidentified sparrow

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

The difference in performance between the two bodies with the new lens was amazing! There were a few clinkers, but no more than I would have expected if I had used the Beast on the body that I use for wildlife, and I’m not sure if the Beast could have pulled off the warbling vireo photos that I shot.

But, just a few photos aren’t a good enough test, however, I do think that some how, for some reason, the second body performs better as far as auto-focusing with the L series lenses. As soon as I put the focusing spot on a bird and used either the shutter release or the rear button, the lens snapped into focus on what I had put the spot on. It didn’t hunt like it normally does on the first body, nor did it focus on other things in the frame. That was especially noticeable in the low light photos that I shot.

So, I’ll do more testing of the new lens on the second body, and the Beast on that body as well, and see how things work. I should really bite the bullet and swap all the settings in both bodies right now, as the auto-focus isn’t that important for landscapes shot with a wide lens stopped down for depth of field, and I always manually focus for macros. In fact, I think that’s what I’ll do when I get the time.

Right now, I’m gong to get caught up with the posts that you’ve all done while I was up north.

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


American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus

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.

American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus

The American Bittern is a wading bird of the heron family.

It is a large, chunky, brown bird, very similar to the Eurasian Great Bittern (Botaurus stellaris), though slightly smaller. It is 58–85 cm (23–33 in) in length, with a 92–115 cm (36–45 in) wingspan and a body mass of 370–1,072 g (0.816–2.363 lb).

Although common in much of its range, the American Bittern is usually well-hidden in bogs, marshes and wet meadows. Usually solitary, it walks stealthily among cattails or bulrushes. If it senses that it has been seen, the American Bittern becomes motionless, with its bill pointed upward, causing it to blend into the reeds. It is most active at dusk. More often heard than seen, this bittern has a call that resembles a congested pump.

Like other members of the heron family, the American Bittern feeds in marshes and shallow ponds, dining on amphibians, fish, insects and reptiles.

This bittern winters in the southern United States and Central America. It summers throughout Canada and much of the United States. As a long-distance migrant, it is a very rare vagrant in Europe, including Great Britain and Ireland. This bird nests in isolated places with the female building the nest and the male guarding it. Two or three eggs are incubated by the female for 29 days, and the chicks leave after 6–7 weeks.

On to my photos:

 

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

This is number 158 in my photo life list, only 192 to go!

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

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Spring vacation 2014, the 4th day

It was raining lightly off and on when I woke up on Wednesday morning, another very dark and dreary day. As I drank my coffee, I pondered where I should go and what I should do, as I hoped that the weather would improve. I was surprised by the rain after the sunset the night before, but I was in northern Michigan, where it doesn’t take much for it to rain.

Being near  the “tip of the mitt” as the area is known, a small area of land surrounded by two of the Great Lakes, it is a maritime climate there.

Anyway, I did my morning tour around the campground and came up with these photos, starting with a red squirrel’s antics.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

I had seen and heard bird calls coming from a marsh behind my campsite, so checking the marsh out, I found this.

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

Returning to my campsite for more coffee, I found that a pair of geese were thinking of joining me.

Canada goose

Canada goose

I looked towards the river and saw a pair of common mergansers headed downstream and set off after them, hoping to get to a bend in the river before they did. On the way, I spotted this wood duck, but since he had seen me, I thought my best option was to continue after the mergansers, and then to try to sneak up on the wood duck later, after he had settled down.

Male wood duck

Male wood duck

In the very poor light, this was my best image of one of the mergansers.

Male common merganser

Male common merganser

But when I stepped into an opening for that photo, the wood duck saw me again, and took off, so I never did get a better photo.

But, the geese were still feeding in my campsite.

Canada goose and my Forester

Canada goose and my Forester

Here’s the rest of the photos from the morning.

Black-throated green warbler

Black-throated green warbler

Yellow-rumped wabler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Juvenile male American redstart taking flight

Juvenile male American redstart taking flight

Blue jay

Blue jay

While hiking the Mason Tract the day before, I learned that there is a dirt road that runs parallel to the pathway and that there are several points where there are parking areas where the pathway and road come very close together. I had chosen one of those points to turn around at the day before, and that’s where I picked up from on this day.

I did the last three miles (and back) of the Mason tract pathway, I didn’t do the Thayer’s Creek loop, as it was closed due to high water over the bridge that spans Thayer’s Creek, or at least that’s what the signs said.

Once again, I saw just one other person the entire time that I was hiking and sitting, it was if I had the entire Mason Tract to myself! I did even more sitting than on the previous day as well, since the weather had improved a little over the day before, it was almost sunny for short periods of time.

Unidentified fluttering object

Unidentified fluttering object

Garter snake

Garter snake

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Blackburnian warbler

Blackburnian warbler

Unidentified flitting object

Unidentified flitting object

Colt's foot

Colt’s foot

It looked like a dandelion to me, but the stem looked different, and there were no leaves at the base, so I believe that I have seen my first colt’s foot.

Swainson's thrush

Swainson’s thrush

Swainson's thrush

Swainson’s thrush

Sedge?

Sedge?

Unidentified

Unidentified

Black and white warbler

Black and white warbler

Black and white warbler

Black and white warbler

Oven bird

Oven bird

Hepatica

Hepatica

Porcupine

Porcupine

Porcupine

Porcupine

Porcupine

Porcupine

Brown thrasher

Brown thrasher

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

I think that you can see that the clouds had really thickened up again by the time that I had finished my hike for the day. On my way back to my campsite, I listened to the weather forecast for the next few days, and every station had the same forecast, rain and snow for the next three days. It even sprinkled a little on my way back to the campground.

So, I wimped out, when I arrived back at Goose Creek where I was staying, I packed up and headed home. I had already spent three days in rainy weather, and even though I don’t mind hiking in the rain, and the temperatures weren’t going to be much below freezing, three more days of gloomy weather were not what I had been looking forward to. I knew that I wasn’t going to spend the entire two weeks of my vacation camping, so it seemed like a good time to come home, shower, and resupply for my next trip north.

Which, as this is published, I will be on. I’m getting ready to leave as soon as I finish this, I’ll be spending a few days near Alpena, Michigan chasing birds, then go from there as the mood strikes me.

In fact, I feel as if I should apologize for the quality of this post, as I am rushing through it so that I can be on my way. I’ll respond to comments when I return home.

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


Spring vacation 2014, the 3rd day

It was raining lightly off and on when I woke up on Tuesday morning, another very dark and dreary day. As I drank my coffee, I pondered where I should go and what I should do, as I hoped that the weather would improve. It did, for a little while anyway.

I decided to go hiking and birding, my plan was to locate and check out the Wakeley Lake Foot Travel Area, a United States Forest Service nature preserve in the Huron Manistee National Forest. But, being the silly goose that I am, I hadn’t written down the directions on how to get there. I had remembered seeing signs for it in the past, and I  thought that if I went to the area it was in, that I would see the signs again. I didn’t, but the Mason Tract is in the same area, and I had only hiked the southern end of the Mason Tract trail, so I thought that this day would be a good one to  hike more of that trail, since it is one of my new favorite areas. Here’s a little about it from the Michigan DNR’s website.

Mason Tract: A 4,493 acre special management area along the South Branch of the Au Sable River designed to protect the quality fishing waters of this area. The Mason Tract originated from acceptance of a 1500-acre gift from The George Mason family in 1954. Over time, additional acreage has been acquired from the US Forest Service and private individuals through land exchanges. The Mason gift was contingent the area be used as a permanent game preserve, no part shall ever be sold by the state, and no camping be allowed in the area for 25 years. The State of Michigan has continued the no camping restriction in the Mason Tract. The only camping allowed is within Canoe Harbor State Forest Campground, located at the north end of the Tract on the Au Sable River. The Mason Tract offers quality fishing, hunting, and canoeing opportunities. The Mason Tract is home to the pristine Mason Chapel. The Mason Family constructed the Chapel in 1960 to provide fishermen with a place of reverence and has developed into a popular tourist attraction. The Mason Tract also contains the Mason Tract Pathway, which is used for hiking and cross-country skiing. Mountain biking on the Mason Tract Pathway is prohibited via a Director’s Order.

The Mason Tract Pathway is a little over nine miles in length if you take the direct trail, almost twelve miles long if you take the Thayer’s Creek loop and campground loop which is far too long for me to do in one day by myself, as I would have had to hike all the way back to my vehicle, doubling the length of my hike. So, I decided that since I had done the south third of the trail, that on this day, I would start on the north end and hike three miles in, then four miles back, by taking the campground loop on my way back. I saw one other person during my entire hike, they were doing just the campground loop.

Here are a few of the photos that I shot while there.

Lincoln's sparrow

Lincoln’s sparrow

The sun was almost breaking through the clouds at that point, but they soon thickened up again for the rest of my hike.

Oven bird

Oven bird

Not a great angle, but it was the best of many oven bird photos that I shot.

In a reverse of what normally happens, I got an image of a black-throated green warbler flying towards me.

Black-throated green warbler in flight

Black-throated green warbler in flight

As I was going to shoot a photo of the warbler perched, I was distracted momentarily by this guy.

Unidentified fly object

Unidentified fly object

Then I returned to the warbler.

Black-throated green warbler

Black-throated green warbler

I’m not sure if this next plant is a species of moss or not.

Moss?

Moss?

Moss?

Moss?

I was able to get better photos of a blackburnian warbler than what I had saved on my computer for when I do a post on them in the My Photo Life List project.

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

I could hear a tanager singing and calling, and as I tried to locate him, he flew to directly over my head to pose for these rather poor photos, but I’m including them for the record.

Scarlet tanager

Scarlet tanager

Scarlet tanager

Scarlet tanager

Just a species of mushroom that I saw frequently while up north.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Despite the poor weather, I was able to get some better images of a Nashville warbler, this one showing its brown crown, which they don’t always do.

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

I was surprised by how tame the chipmunks were, and how close I was able to get to them.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

I saw many of these butterflies, but couldn’t get a photo of one with its wings spread.

Unidentified fluttering object

Unidentified fluttering object

And finally, this junco for the record.

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

This is my opinion, for what it’s worth, I would skip the part of the Mason Tract Pathway from the north parking lot to past the campground loop, unless you want to be able to say that you’ve done the entire pathway. The nearly one mile of trail from the parking lot to the junction of the campground loop is rather boring northern Michigan open jack pine scrub and not very scenic.

The campground loop is very nice, with a good view of the river (sorry, I didn’t take a short lens) and two small wetlands around springs that feed the river. I would hike that again many times.

Even better is from the campground south, that’s the true Mason Tract, and you get the feeling of being in an unspoiled wilderness!

A great feature of this pathway is that they have placed benches at each of the signposts along the trail, making convenient rest stops spaced out along the way. There’s a map at every signpost, although not all the maps have the distances on them. But, that’s a small detail. It was so nice to sit out in the woods with no one or no sounds other than nature all around me. I may not have taken many photos, but it was a very enjoyable day!

On my way back to my campground, I saw the signs for Wakeley Lake, so I had to stop. Even though I had already hiked seven miles, I did the short one mile beaver pond loop at Wakeley Lake.

I had seen the evidence of woodpeckers everywhere I had gone, I had heard them, including a pileated, but this is the only one that I was able to get a photo of the entire time I was up north. Strange, very strange.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

It was raining again by then, a small thunder shower was passing just to the south, so the photos aren’t very good, but here’s the rest from Wakeley Lake.

Chestnut sided wabler

Chestnut sided wabler

Chestnut sided wabler

Chestnut sided wabler

Trumpeter swan

Trumpeter swan

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

The Wakeley Lake area is a federal facility, and there’s a $5 fee to access it. That irks me, as there are no real improvements there, they charge the $5 just to access a wilderness area? But, I broke the law and didn’t pay, I wanted to get a feel for the place to see if it was worth returning to at a later date.

I would say that it is, so the next time, I will pay, and hike more of the trails there, even if I disagree with the government charging us to access what our tax dollars have already paid for.

After returning to my campground, and eating supper, I did my tour of the campground at dusk, and found this.

Female wood duck

Female wood duck

Female wood duck

Female wood duck

Female wood duck

Female wood duck

The night before, she and her mate had perched in the same tree, but that was while I was fishing, and didn’t have my camera with me. Argh!

A few minutes later is when I shot these, seen in a previous post.

Evening at Goose Creek campground

Evening at Goose Creek campground

Evening at Goose Creek campground

Evening at Goose Creek campground

After that, there was nothing to do but eat supper, and turn in for the night. It’s too bad that the owls didn’t do the same. I had heard them before, but on this night, they decided to use one of the large white pine trees that I had my tent/cot set up under to use as a rendezvous point. I have to tell you that I woke up to some strange sounds that had me scratching my head trying to figure out what was making the sounds. It sounded as if whatever was making the sounds was in or on my tent!

It wasn’t any of the classic sounds that owls typically make, it almost sounded like a canine’s bark, and I wondered if there were coyotes outside of my tent. But then, I heard the second owl answering the barks of the first one from off in the distance with a plain hoot, and getting closer each time it hooted. Eventually, both owls ended up in the tree over my tent, and I’m not sure, but I think that they were making owlets over where I was trying to sleep. Whatever they were doing up there, they sure were noisy! Eventually they flew off, and I was able to get back to sleep.

I had considered getting up, going for my camera and a flashlight, and trying for photos, but I doubted if it would be worth the effort. I listened to the sounds of owls of common Michigan species on eBird to try to identify the sounds, but couldn’t. The plain hoots that I heard could have been made by several species, but I’d be lying if I tried to make a positive ID. My best guess is great horned owls, but that’s only a guess.

I’m heading back up north this morning shortly after this is published, so I may not get around to replying to comments you may leave until next week.

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


Glaucous Gull, Larus hyperboreus

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.

Glaucous Gull, Larus hyperboreus

 

The glaucous gull is a large gull which breeds in the Arctic regions of the northern hemisphere and the Atlantic coasts of Europe. It is migratory, wintering from in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans as far south as the British Isles and northernmost states of the USA, also on the Great Lakes. A few birds sometimes reach the southern USA and northern Mexico.

This species breeds colonially or singly on coasts and cliffs, making a lined nest on the ground or cliff. Normally, 2–4 light brown eggs with dark chocolate splotches are laid.

This is a large and powerful gull, very pale in all plumages, with no black on either of the wings or the tail. The term glaucous describes its colouration. Adults are pale grey above, with a thick yellow bill. Immatures are very pale grey with a pink and black bill. This species is considerably larger, bulkier and thicker-billed than the similar Iceland Gull, and can sometimes equal the size of the Great Black-backed Gull, the largest gull species. They can weigh anywhere from 960 to 2,700 g (2.12 to 5.95 lb), averaging 1.55 kg (3.4 lb) in males and 1.35 kg (3.0 lb) in females. These gulls range from 55 to 77 cm (22 to 30 in) in length and can span 132 to 170 cm (52 to 67 in) across the wings. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 40.8 to 50.1 cm (16.1 to 19.7 in), the bill is 4.9 to 6.9 cm (1.9 to 2.7 in) and the tarsus is 6 to 7.7 cm (2.4 to 3.0 in). They take four years to reach maturity. The call is a “laughing” cry similar to that of the Herring Gull but deeper.

These are omnivores like most Larus gulls, and they will eat fish, insects, molluscs, starfish, offal, scraps, eggs, small birds, small mammals and carrion as well as seeds, berries and grains.

 

On to my photos:

 

Iceland gull

Glaucous Gull, Larus hyperboreus

Iceland gull

Glaucous Gull, Larus hyperboreus

Iceland gull

Glaucous Gull, Larus hyperboreus

Iceland gull

Glaucous Gull, Larus hyperboreus

JVIS2293

Glaucous Gull, Larus hyperboreus

This is number 157 in my photo life list, only 193 to go!

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

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A quick update

I’m running behind on getting my posts done from the four days I was up north, and I’ll get further behind the way that things are going around here. This post will be more words than photos and focused mainly on my camera gear, so if you’re easily bored, you may want to skip this one, although I’ll have to throw in a few photos.

A quick overview of what’s been going on in my life since I returned home, but before I begin, I have bitten the bullet and purchased more storage space from WordPress, so that I’ll be able to continue to post photos.

On Thursday, the weather was miserable, with temps in the 40’s, along with wind and rain, but I still managed a lifer, a blue headed vireo.

Blue headed vireo

Blue headed vireo

On Friday, with only slightly better weather, I went to the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve, and shot a ton of photos of migrating birds, including another lifer, a Cape May Warbler.

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

On Saturday, the local camera store where I have purchased the majority of my photo equipment had the reps from most of the manufacturers whose equipment they sell in the store for the day to answer questions. That’s the boring part, I’ll get back to that later, other than to say that I learned a lot in an hour talking to the one knowledgeable member of the sales staff ably assisted by the Canon rep.

After that, I went to a wetland near the store to test what I had learned.

House wren blinking

House wren blinking

And despite some ominous looking clouds at times….

Yikes again!

Yikes

Yikes!

Yikes again!!

…I went to the local park to further test my new knowledge.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

On Sunday, I went to the Muskegon area, visiting several places within the Muskegon State Game area, along with the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and got another lifer, a blue winged warbler.

Blue-winged warbler

Blue-winged warbler

That, along with a few other (dozen) of the species that I see more often, including a yellow warbler showing me its tongue….

Yellow warbler

Yellow warbler

…and a juvenile bald eagle.

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Okay, on to the boring bits. (There will be a few more photos, I promise, some may even be good)

I said that on Saturday that I went to the local camera store to talk to the Canon rep, I learned more about the technical aspects, mainly software related, what the camera can and can’t do, and most importantly, the why behind it all.

My main question was why couldn’t I get the new 300 mm prime lens to auto-focus as accurately on birds as does the Beast. (Sigma 150-500 mm lens).

As you may know, every brand of camera has a processor, or computer in it, as do almost all, if not all, of the lenses on the market these days. There’s a lot that happens when you press the shutter release of a modern camera half way down, including starting the auto-focus system to go into action, along with exposure control, the camera alerting the lens what aperture the lens should set itself to, white balance adjustments, and so on.

So, the first thing that I learned was that the button on the rear of my 60 D body that I thought was the focus lock was really a button to make the camera and lens auto-focus only, and not to “talk” to each other about anything else, until they achieved a focus lock.

All the other communications between the body and lens slows down how quickly that they can work to get a focus lock when you press the shutter release half way down.

Oh boy, another button to play with! Now I need a few more fingers. 😉 Actually, using the rear auto-focus button is quite easy in practice. I’m not sure that using it speeds things up that much, as I lose a little time pressing the shutter release after the camera alerts me that it has achieved a focus lock, but it seems to. It also seems slightly more accurate, on Saturday, I would have said the difference was 80% better, but after Sunday, I would drop that to 25%. That’s mainly due to the differences in lighting and subjects between the two days. The rear button auto-focus helps, but doesn’t solve the problem.

After this morning, I’m not sure if all the problem is really the auto-focusing of the new lens after all, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

My problem is made more difficult because I’m using a Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter with the 300 mm lens. Optically, the Tamron extender is great, but it doesn’t speak the exact same language as the Canon body and lens do. I think that I received an honest answer when I asked if I would see better performance if I used a Canon extender and was told that I would see a slight increase in performance, and that a Canon extender wouldn’t totally solve the problem.

Next up, high ISO. The weather and lighting were so poor on Thursday that for the first time ever, I set my camera to go as high as ISO 6400. The images I got weren’t the same as if I had been able to shoot at ISO 100 by any means, but there wasn’t as much sensor noise as I had feared that there would be. I asked about that on Saturday, and if the 300 mm prime lens could or would make a difference.

The short answer is yes. One thing that I have really liked about the new lens is how clear, as well as sharp, everything looks in my photos when I use it. The Beast comes very close to matching the new lens in sharpness, as you will soon see, but the images are still not quite as clear as the new lens produces.

That clarity, or, the technical term is resolution, of the new lens, is what cuts down on sensor noise at high ISO settings when I use it. The imperfections in the glass of the lenses give the sensor something to “read” as it records a photo, causing more noise than if the glass were truly perfect, which no glass is. But, the better the glass used in a lens, the less sensor noise will be apparent in your photos.

Side note to all the well-meaning people who warned me about sensor noise being bad with a Canon 60 D body, thanks, but you didn’t know what you were talking about. I wouldn’t say that ISO 2500 is all that high, but this photos was shot at that setting this morning. And, most of the photos that I have taken at ISO settings above 3200 have come out well enough that I’m happy with them. I guess it’s a matter of how much sensor noise one can tolerate, along with the quality of lenses used.

Grey catbird blinking

Grey catbird blinking

And, that was shot with the Beast, not the new lens!

Okay, another piece of the auto-focus problem that I have with the new lens is its higher resolution (clarity) and because Canon programs their lenses to “see” smaller things in the frame when auto-focusing than what Sigma does from the looks of my photos. Often, there’s a twig or leaf in front of the bird that I’m trying to photograph, and the obstruction is in focus when I use the new lens, but the Beast doesn’t “see” the obstruction, and focuses on the larger subject, the bird behind it.

But, there’s more to it than that, I think that exposure settings come into play as well, especially after a little more testing that I did this morning. I took both the Beast and the new lens to the local park that I walk each morning, and put them through some testing, building on what I had learned Saturday, and in practice since then.

Unfortunately, I didn’t swap lenses back and forth on the same subjects, but I noticed one thing right away. The Canon body stops the Beast down to a smaller aperture than it does the new lens, whether or not I’m using the new lens with the extender. That gives the Beast a larger depth of field to assist in getting more in focus than the new lens. I manually opened up the Beast to the same settings that I see when I use the new lens, and I got twigs and leaves in focus, but the bird behind them out of focus, just what I get with the new lens. Hmmm.

Anyway, my shots with the new lens, not using the extender.

Tulip

Tulip

Tulip

Tulip

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

???

???

Crab apple blossoms

Crab apple blossoms

Unfortunately, the birds wouldn’t play nice while I had the new lens on, but here’s what I shot with the Beast this morning.

Song sparrow singing

Song sparrow singing

Crab apples blossoming

Crab apples blossoming

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Brown headed cowbird

Brown headed cowbird

Tulip

Tulip

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

Nashville warbler

American robin

American robin

Morel mushroom?

Morel mushroom?

Leaves

Leaves

Savannah sparrow

Savannah sparrow

Savannah sparrow

Savannah sparrow

Savannah sparrow singing

Savannah sparrow singing

Toad hiding

Toad hiding

Song sparrow singing

Song sparrow singing

So, now I find myself in a bit of a quandary, despite everything that I’ve written in this post, the Beast is simply better than the new lens at getting photos of small birds in thick brush. I got so frustrated with the new lens yesterday at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve that I took the extender off from the new lens and tried that set-up for smaller birds trying to hide. It helped a little, but not that much.

But, I was blown away by the sharpness of the photos that I did get.

American robin

American robin

Warbling vireo

Warbling vireo

They are super sharp, but are they really that much better than what the Beast produces?

Part of the reason for all this is that I missed a Prothonotary warbler on Sunday, as the new lens with the extender was too slow, and by the time I got the warbler in focus, it took off. I’m not positive that I could have gotten the photo with the Beast, but I would have had a better chance with it than the new lens.

Well, that and the fact that I hiked six to eight miles a day while I was on vacation, and I was sure glad not to be dragging the Beast with me that far. However, there were times when I wished that I had taken the Beast as I was fighting the new lens to get a good photo of a bird.

But, my problem is the same as always, I go from trying to get a warbler in a thicket of brush to shooting an eagle circling over me, and there’s no ideal lens for both, not to mention all the other subjects that I photograph.

I’m going to have to use the Beast when I go on a serious birding trip like Muskegon on Sunday, even if I miss the close focusing capabilities of the new lens for blooms and bugs. And, even if the Beast doesn’t do birds in flight as well as the new lens does.

I think that I can play with the new lens around here some more, to learn how to get it to focus the way that I would like it to. And, stop the lens down a little whenever I can to get a greater depth of field. I do know that the new lens performs much better in low light than the Beast as well.

But, if I go on any longer, I’ll be repeating myself as I think all of this through.

Now then, to completely change the subject, the weather is forecast to clear up Wednesday, and be nice right through the weekend, so I’ll be headed back up north Wednesday morning. I have groceries to buy and such to get ready to go, so I have to concentrate on that.

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


Spring vacation 2014, the 2nd day

It was raining lightly off and on when I woke up on Monday morning, a very dark and dreary day. As I drank my coffee, I pondered where I should go and what I should do, as I hoped that the weather would improve. It didn’t, instead, the rain picked up to a steady, moderate rainfall. I didn’t feel like trying to cook outside in the rain, and I sure didn’t feel like eating my soggy cooking in the rain either.

But, I had planned somewhat for bad weather, that’s why I chose Goose Creek campground to stay in for at least the first few days, it’s only a few miles west of Grayling, Michigan. Hartwick Pines State Park is just a few miles north of Grayling, so I decided to run into town, get something to eat, then start my day at Hartwick Pines.

One reason, besides the weather, is that I have always seen evening grosbeaks at Hartwick Pines, and I needed photos of them for the My Life List project that I’m working on. Another reason is that Hartwick Pines State Park is one of the crown jewels of Michigan’s excellent state park system. Here’s a bit of the history of the place from the Michigan DNR’s website.

With an area of 9,672 acres, Hartwick Pines is one of the largest state parks in the Lower Peninsula. The park’s rolling hills, which are built of ancient glacial deposit, overlook the valley of the East Branch of the AuSable River, four small lakes and unique timber lands. The principal feature of this park is the 49-acre forest of Old Growth Pines which gives the park its name. This forest is a reminder of Michigan’s past importance in the pine lumber industry as well as a source of inspiration for the future of our forests. The park is rich in scenic beauty and because of the different habitats it encompasses, there is ample subject matter for the sports person, photographer, or naturalist throughout the year. The park is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. year round.

The Story Behind The Pines In 1927, Karen Michelson Hartwick purchased over 8,000 acres of land, which included 85 acres of old growth white pine, from the Salling-Hanson Company of Grayling. Mrs. Hartwick was a daughter of Nels Michelson, a founding partner of the Salling-Hanson logging company. A short while later, Mrs. Hartwick donated the land to the State of Michigan as a memorial park to be named for her husband, the late Major Edward E. Hartwick of Grayling. Edward Hartwick had died overseas during World War I. Also wishing to commemorate the logging history of the region and of her family, Karen Hartwick requested that the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum be built in the park.

In 1934 and 1935, a Civilian Conservation Corps work crew located within the park built two log structures to house this museum. Today, the museum uses exhibits, artifacts, and photographs, to recreate the atmosphere of a logging camp and tell the tale of the “shanty boys” who turned Michigan’s vast forests into timber. Period settings depicting a bunkhouse, mess hall, blacksmith shop, camp office, and van (store) give the visitor a sense of what logging camp life was like.

Mrs. Hartwick was also involved in the naming of two of the park’s lakes. Nels Michelson had a team of oxen which he used for skidding logs out of the forest. They were named Bright and Star. Karen Hartwick requested that the former Alexander Lakes be renamed in their honor. The state board of geographic names felt that there were already too many Star Lakes in Michigan, but they settled on Glory instead, and our Bright Lake and Glory Lake became named after logging oxen.

In November of 1940, a fierce wind storm struck the area of the park and removed nearly half of the old growth pine. Today, only 49 of the original 85 acres remain standing.

Since that was written, more wind storms, disease, and old age have taken their toll on the old giants which once stood in the park, there are just a few remaining now. However, it’s still a magnificent feeling to stand under one of the giant white pines that do remain, and look up in awe as they seem to go on forever, reaching almost to the clouds.

But, I couldn’t figure out how to capture that in a photo, I’m not sure it can be done in a stand of trees like they are.

I’ve been through the logging museum a few times, it is well worth a visit in it’s own right if you’re ever in the area. So, I’ll start with a few photos of the larger equipment outdoors to give you a little feel for the place. I’d have taken photos in the museum buildings, but they had school tours going through them, and all the displays are behind glass, and it’s hard to get good flash photos shooting through glass.

Used in road building

Used in road building

Crane used to lift logs onto sleds in the winter

Crane used to lift logs onto sleds in the winter

"Big wheels" used to transport logs in the summer

“Big wheels” used to transport logs in the summer

How the wheels were held in place

How the wheels were held in place

I did find the evening grosbeaks, and a few other critters.

Male evening grosbeak

Male evening grosbeak

IMG_4310

Blue jays forming a battle line

Male evening grosbeak

Male evening grosbeak

Female evening grosbeak

Female evening grosbeak

Assorted grosbeaks

Assorted grosbeaks

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

On my way out, I stopped at the visitor’s center to thank the employees for doing such a great job with the park, as they are always very helpful and knowledgeable. I started chatting with one of the employees, and he gave me a tip on the location of a bog that had been on part of the hiking trail system in the park, but the boardwalk through the bog had fallen into disrepair.

Unfortunately, there were two decades when our Michigan DNR, which oversees our park system, was severely underfunded, and many needed repairs weren’t done. Hopefully, that has changed with the new system of funding our parks that we have here in Michigan now. But it will be years before the DNR is able to catch up on the maintenance, although you can already see major improvements.

Anyway, I found the bog, I didn’t find any birds, but what a place! I have a feeling that Allen, who does the New Hampshire Gardening Solutions blog would go crazy if he ever saw that bog, the plants amazed me, and I know little about them.  I want to go back later in the year when the plants are flowering! Here’s a very small sampling of what I found.

Pitcher plants

Pitcher plants

Unidentified

Unidentified

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

Marsh marigolds?

Marsh marigolds?

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object and fungus

By then, it was pouring down rain between thundershowers. Not exactly great weather for photos, or photography equipment, which is why I got so few photos.

I did stop at Bright and Glory Lakes between downpours.

Bright lake, not looking very bright

Bright lake, not looking very bright

Female common mergansers

Female common mergansers

Two headed female common merganser ;)

Two headed female common merganser 😉

A little green

A little green

The rain let up a little, so I tried fishing the east branch of the AuSable River for a while, but couldn’t even turn a brook trout.

So, I did a little exploring by car, as there are so many places I have yet to find, and here’s what I came up with as far as photos.

Turkey in the rain

Turkey in the rain

Killdeer

Killdeer

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper and solitary sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper and solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Arriving back at the campground, I noticed one benefit to all the rain, jelly mold showing up on the railings next to the river. So, in a break between rain showers, I set up my tripod, and did further testing with the Tokina macro lens, starting with a test shot.

Jelly mold

Jelly mold

This next one is as close as I can get with just the Tokina lens.

Jelly mold

Jelly mold

And, this is as close as I can get with the 1.4 X extender behind the lens.

Jelly mold

Jelly mold

I must have bumped the tripod when I added the extender, since I didn’t get the exact same molds as in the second shot, but these were about the same size. None of the photos were cropped at all. I used the LCD panel light for lighting, and for the first time ever, I had it turned up as high as it would go as far as light output, and I could have used more.

After that, there was nothing to do but eat supper, and turn in for the night.

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