My Week, itching to go!
A few thoughts about this past weekend. I feel bad about not putting more effort into getting better photos of the wildflowers at Aman Park yesterday, but I just wasn’t feeling it. It would have been too much like work to have battled the wind any more than I did, and I want my photography to remain a fun hobby, and not become a chore.
The second thought has to do with the small wetlands that I visited, I’m such a lucky guy! I go stumbling around doing things the wrong way, and manage to come home with four relatively rare birds. In fact, the daily rare bird alert from eBird this morning is from my reported sightings on Sunday.
I have to say that it’s pretty cool to see my name attached to the rare bird sightings, but I had better be careful and not allow myself to get drawn into the world of serious birders. They are a different breed, and I won’t fit in their clique, not at all.
I met the guy who verifies the rare bird sightings in this area for eBird on Saturday, and I could tell that it irked him that I had seen a white-eyed vireo in this area before he had. Why else would he have even remembered my name or that sighting if it hadn’t bugged him? And yes, when he walked up to me, he asked if I was Jerry, and when I replied that I was, he immediately brought up the vireo sighting. They are so competitive, and I do it just for fun, which is what I think bothered him the most.
I say that I do it just for fun, I really do it out of my love of nature, and the fact that I live in a state like Michigan that has so much nature to be seen, and access to the nature. I don’t want that to change either, I want to find the birds on my list to show what a great state that I live in, how much wildlife that we have, and as a reason to wander around with a camera, not to beat any one else or to rack up big numbers.
I’ll let other people spend long hours behind a spotting scope hoping to score a major sighting, then I’ll follow them up and shoot a few photos, as I’m too lazy to put the hard work that it takes to find the rare birds in the first place. 😉
There’s one more reason that I’ve taken on the project of trying to photograph every species of bird regularly seen in Michigan, and that is an attempt to keep my mind sharp, as well as to learn more about nature. Identifying birds is tricky at times, and it takes mental skills to do so, and I’ve learned so much already in the little over a year that it has been since I began my project.
Well, enough of that prattle, time to head on out to see what I can find today.
I’m back, another day, another lifer, at least as far as photos. I know that I have seen, and probably photographed magnolia warblers before, but when I checked my list, I don’t have that species checked off. I may have seen them before I became as serious about identifying birds as I am now.
Now, I wish that I had taken the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) with me, rather than the new 300 mm prime lens, as the prime lens didn’t achieve a good focus lock for any of my shots of the male warbler, and missed the female completely. But, the day that was forecast to be pleasant and sunny turned out to be cool, cloudy, with occasional sprinkles of rain, so I left the Beast home where it would be safe and dry.
I may have been able to try a few more photos of the warblers, but I got distracted by several juvenile white-throated sparrows in the same area, which I mistook for white-crowned sparrows at first, until I got some close-up images.
I’m going to relate my day today back to what I was writing about before I left, not wanting to become a serious birder. I see them standing back from the birds, and using high-powered binoculars and/or spotting scopes to survey an area, then move on.
That seems like a cold, sterile way of birding. Me, I like to get right in the middle of the birds and feel their life force all around me. I was in my glory the past two days at the small wetlands, there were several times that I thought that birds were going to collide with me as I worked my way through the brush, now that’s cool!
So it was today, by getting in the thicker stuff where the birds hang out, I was able to get these photos.
If you noticed, the bird that I labeled as a juvenile white-throated sparrow doesn’t have the yellow lores (area between the beak and eyes) that the second sparrow has. That’s what threw me for a while, the lack of the yellow lores.
And, that reminds me of a conversation that I had with Bruce, the guy who counts and bands birds in the Muskegon area, about how much and many variations that there are in individual birds of the same species. That also makes many birding field guides that have only one photo of the prototypical example of a species less of a help than they could be if they included a few of the known variations. But, that comes with experience, something that I accumulate a little more of everyday.
I have a few other photos from today, not great, but they were my attempts to get a usable photo in the worst of conditions.
I probably should save photos like the last ones for my own edification and not post them, but I want to pass on what I’m learning to do. Crank up the exposure compensation and forget about the background. And besides, the photos of the oriole are my first for the year, and you can see that it was feeding on something in the cottonwood catkins, or the catkins themselves.
I didn’t do a post in the My Photo Life List last week, and I won’t this week either, despite the fact that I now have five new species besides the ones that I had saved. What I’ll do is finish a few of them this week, but schedule them to be published while I’m on vacation. So, don’t be surprised when I don’t reply to comments right away. And, that reminds me, I now have photos of enough species to put me over half-way finished with the project right now. All the photos may not be great, but I have them, and can always update the posts with better photos in the future.
You know, that’s quite an accomplishment, getting photos good enough to positively identify over half of the species of birds regularly seen in Michigan in just over a year! I have my vacation coming up, I’d be shocked if I don’t add to my species total during those two weeks, and I sure am itching to go!
It’s late, I worked late, slept in late, and now I’m pressed for time, so this will be short.
The weather today is what had been forecast for yesterday, a wonderful day.
The weather forecast for next week, the first week of my vacation is looking very good as well, I think that the weatherman was trying to give me a heart attack by predicting snow for the middle of next week.
I have two full weeks off, so I’ll do my laundry, cooking, and packing on Saturday, and start north on Sunday. That’s something I would probably do anyway, as doing that, I avoid the weekend traffic and crowds. I still have no set plans as to where to start, but it’s looking like I’ll spend the first few nights along the upper Manistee River to do some trout fishing, and possibly go looking for Kirkland warblers.
That’s all for now, I’m going to get outside and enjoy as much of this day as I can!
Well once again, I spent too much time enjoying this fine example of a spring day, and I don’t have much time left to describe the day, other than in my photos. But, before I get to them, I have to say that I can not tell you in words just how much I love this time of year! The days are cool, the nights are nippy, and new life is appearing everywhere!
So, on to the photos, starting with a goldfinch that was alternately eating parts of the flowers he is perched near…
…and singing his fool head off.
There are many flowers in bloom.
If dandelions weren’t so hard to kill, we would probably give them the respect as a flower that they deserve.
I stood in a thorn-bush and fought the wind for these next two, I wouldn’t say that the wind won, I would call it a tie. The photos aren’t as sharp as they could be, but they were the best I could do since the flower never stopped moving.
This is the time of year when many leaves look almost as pretty as flowers as they open.
There were birds about as well.
This next one may be the son of the oriole above from last summer, as it is a first year male that doesn’t have his adult plumage yet.
Now then, a few more words about the weather forecasts. A light wind, as was forecast for today, does not cause this to happen.
A seven mile an hour wind also doesn’t cause flags to fly straight out either, but I didn’t shoot a photo of that. But, I’m sure glad that the meteorologists can’t get the forecast for the day correct, as now they are back to predicting snow up north for the end of next week. I hope that they are wrong, but I had better be prepared, as snow has happened to me before up there this time of year.
One more thing, there may be storms tomorrow morning about the time that I go for my walk, if that does happen, I’m going to do some shopping for a few items that I need for my vacation, as I haven’t gotten around to that yet.
The storms have already moved through the area, and the weather is improving as I type this. It also looks like I’ll have at least one full week of close to perfect for me weather for my vacation. Not too hot, not to cold, and not too much rain. I hope that the latest forecast holds true!
I’m feeling antsy because I haven’t started packing yet, but on the other hand, since I have everything for camping stored in totes and ready to go, I know that other than food, I don’t have much packing to do. It’s just a matter of throwing some clothes into a duffel bag, and then shoving everything into my Forester. I can do all that on Saturday, and be ready to hit the road bright and early on Sunday. If things go my way, I should have my camp set up on the banks of the Manistee River by early afternoon, and I can do some late afternoon fishing.
Sorry, I drifted off in a dream there for a few minutes, time for me to get moving. 😉
I’m back, and the first thing that I have to report is that the park that I walk in during the week, myself, and the photo of the white-eyed vireo that I sent to eBird for verification are all becoming celebrities of sorts.
I bumped into another serious birder this morning, and he knew my name, and that I was the one that reported the vireo to eBirds. He told me that another birder had been at the park earlier in the morning, and had reported over 70 species of birds, so the guy I was talking to had taken an early long lunch from work to stop at the park to check it out. During the course of our conversation, I found out that the photo of mine had made the rounds among the serious birders, who knew that there were so many hardcore birders out there?
Now, I feel almost obligated to come up with another rare sighting to prove that the vireo wasn’t a fluke. 😉
Well, it was, and it wasn’t. It’s not as if I were stalking white-eyed vireos when I saw one, but, I am always on the lookout for new species of birds, so the fact that I am one of the handful of people to have seen a white-eyed vireo in this area isn’t a total surprise, given how much time I spend chasing birds. I may not be that good at identifying them yet, but I can usually tell a new to me species when I see it. The reason that I started carrying a camera with me when I started walking for exercise is that I saw so many different species of birds.
Anyway, I didn’t see any rare birds today, just a few of the more common ones around here.
Just as yesterday, I’m going to start with a goldfinch, as I believe that it is the same one as yesterday, as it was in the same tree, but my photos are better today.
And, just like yesterday, he was alternately eating and singing.
I haven’t posted an image of a fox squirrel lately, this one is pretty good in its own way.
I shot a couple of good photos of a turkey vulture, but I think that I’ll skip those today to keep this reasonable. I’ll post one of a female red-winged blackbird instead.
I think that the focusing of the new 300 mm prime lens is getting broken in, as it seems to do a little better each day. I’m not sure that the photo above would have been as good as it is the way the lens functioned when I first got it.
I’m not sure what species of snake that this is, but it was cute.
If you look at the pavement, you can see how short the depth of field is with the new lens and extender in poor light, the focus has to be perfect.
I caught a field sparrow checking to see if I was ready to catch his singing performance, I was.
I posted a couple of photos of white-throated sparrows yesterday to show the variations in color. I have three more from today to both show that the new lens is working better, and also to show what a typical adult white-throated sparrow looks like.
Here’s a cottonwood catkin just beginning to open.
A song sparrow.
And finally, another of my favorite species of bird has returned for the summer, a grey catbird. I had to go in after him, but only the images of him on the ground were cropped at all. The photos may not be great, but, I did get the bird!
I was actually too close to get the entire catbird in the frame at first, and there were small branches between us, but my persistence paid off, now I’ll have to catch him in good light! It was good the hear him singing again. They and brown thrashers both use parts of other bird’s songs in their own songs, it they are a pleasure to listen to.
Time has slipped away from me again, that’s it for today.
I think that every morning this week I have awoken at dawn, which is way too early for some one who doesn’t get home from work until around 1 AM, and then I’ve gone back to sleep. I’ve ended up sleeping in later than I would have liked to, so I’ve had less time for my walk and blogging. The same thing happened this morning. Waking up at dawn is great, I intend to do so everyday for the next two weeks, but it has messed up my week this week.
Today is forecast to be hot, the warmest day since the beginning of September of 2013, eight long, cold months ago. I would probably complain about the heat if we were having this type of weather every day right now, but since it will only last for today, I’ll deal with it.
I’d try some flower macro photos today, but there’s a 30 MPH wind blowing the warm air in this direction. This spring has been very windy most days, the windiest that I can remember. That goes with the roller coaster temperatures that we’ve had, one or two nice days per week, then cool to cold for the rest of the week. It takes a stiff wind to constantly change the air mass over us. The only calm days that I can remember have been on the rainy days, oh well, there’s always next spring.
The forecast for tomorrow is calling for strong to severe storms tomorrow morning, if that turns out to be true, I’ll do my shopping then, along with stopping at the bank for cash for my vacation. The Michigan DNR doesn’t accept credit or debit cards when one pays daily to camp in a State Forest campground, and it is $13 per night, so I’ll need some ones.
Well, I’m just babbling now, time for food and a walk.
I’m back, and it’s late. The park is erupting in birds and blooms, there simply wasn’t time for me to get photos of everything that I wanted to. And, with so many birds that I’m seeing for the first time this year, I had to check the identification of several that I photographed today. Some of the first of the year were easy, like the rose-breasted grosbeaks, but there others, such as black-throated green warblers and pine warblers, that I had to verify what they were. I also tried to not photograph familiar subjects, but I couldn’t stop myself, as you will see. Here’s the photos, I don’t know if I’ll have time to elaborate on them tonight after work or not.
Sorry folks, I didn’t get back to this last night, I have put getting ready for my vacation ahead of working on my blog. I say that even though this morning, I did four drafts of posts in the My Photo Life List project this morning, which are scheduled to be published while I’m on vacation.
It’s been raining this morning, with an occasional flash of lightning, and rumble of thunder, nothing serious, but enough to keep me inside so far. I don’t mind the rain, but the lightning is what keeps me in.
The rain has about ended, and I’m torn as to whether I should go for a walk to see if there are as many birds as yesterday, or if I should do my shopping today. I may be sorry tomorrow, but I’m going for a walk today.
I’m back, and the jury is still out as far as whether walking today was a good idea or not. I know that I have left myself a lot to do tomorrow, but I enjoyed my walk today, despite the weather.
It was very windy (again) as colder air is heading this way, and the dark clouds overhead spit sprinkles of rain from time to time. There weren’t as many species of birds as yesterday, but it was hard to tell since the treetops were swaying so wildly. I did see a few smaller birds up high, along with orioles, but I didn’t bother even trying to get any photos. That is, until I saw a Cooper’s hawk swoop past me to land on a fence.
I have an image of the hawk as it took flight, but it’s not very good, and also a few of the hawk going from tree to tree looking for lunch, but there’s no reason to post them.
Along the creek, I shot a couple of my favorite birds.
I didn’t crop the photo of the cardinal at all, I liked how it looked in the middle of all the new green leaves, although the leaves didn’t come out as well as I had hoped. I included the catbird because it was trying to feed on sumac drupes, but every time it landed in the sumac, the resident robin would chase the catbird away. That turned out okay, because a little later, I found a pair of catbirds in another patch of sumac.
I was fighting both the wind, which was blowing the birds and the sumac around, and the short depth of field due to the very low light and wide open aperture. But then, the second catbird perched in a nearby bush where I could get better photos.
Finally, a trillium to remind me to mention the flowers this spring.
This is only my second year walking Creekside Park, I don’t remember seeing so many early spring flowers last year. It could be that I was too fixated on birds and also that I didn’t have a lens suitable for photographing flowers last spring. It could have been the weather, we had record rains and flooding last April. Or, it could be that I was walking in the wrongs areas in the park, who knows? But, there may not be a carpet of trillium as in Aman Park, but there seems to be more species of flowers here.
That brings up something else. In a way, I’m going to miss mid-spring this year due to the timing of my vacation. I’ll be going “back in time” by going up north, two to three weeks back, if things are as they normally are.
In a normal year, spring is well on its way to early summer around here by this time, but because of the long, cold winter, spring has been late this year. There’s part of me that wants to stick closer to home, as it is just now getting to my favorite time of the year. On the other hand, I need to get away to the peace and quiet of up north, even if it won’t be as spring-like as it usually is.
That’s the reason I try to take a vacation in mid-May, so that I hit spring twice, once here, then again, up there. That’s not going to be the case this year. Oh well, there will be plenty more springs for me to photograph flowers, maybe there’ll be less wind next year. This spring has been a very windy one, and it doesn’t look as if that’s going to change soon.
I slept like a rock last night, it’s so good to know that I have two full weeks off from work. I have a lot to do today to prepare for my excursion up north, so this will be short today.
I have some errands to run this morning, then packing this afternoon, so I don’t know if I’ll have time for a walk or not. The weather is perfect, so I hope to, but may not be able to fit it in.
So, I have a few leftover photos to throw in, then, I’m off.
I have a few posts done that will publish while I’m on vacation, but other than those, I don’t know when I’ll get back to post anything from my vacation. The weather forecast towards the end of next week doesn’t look very good right now, but that’s subject to change. I know that I won’t be spending the entire two weeks up north in one solid block, that I will return home for food and laundry at least once.
So, until I make it back, that’s it for now, as always, thanks for stopping by!