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

Spring vacation, Alpena, Day 3

Warning! Too many photos ahead!

Also, I’m going to cheat and post some photos from this day in the next post, otherwise, I’d have to split this day into two posts to keep its length reasonable. The subjects were the same, so what day I shot them really doesn’t matter.

Also, this post will continue on with the rather whimsical notion that I have to kick the birds and other wildlife out of my way as I walk along. I’ll be posting some poor photos that I otherwise wouldn’t, but I hope that they give you an idea on the number of birds that I was seeing.

The “sunrise” on day three was much like the previous day, cloudy and gloomy, with a stiff northeast wind. Once again, as I was drinking my coffee, waves of warblers passed through my campsite. But once again, they stayed back in the trees and out of sight most of the time.

After finishing my coffee, I set off down the beach again, this time I was able to sneak up on an eagle.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Of course as soon as it spotted me, it was off.

Juvenile bald eagle taking flight

Juvenile bald eagle taking flight

A few steps farther on, and I popped out of the brush to where I had a view of the bay to the south of the campground, and there were five or six eagles on the sand bars in the bay. I couldn’t get an accurate count, the eagles spotted me as soon as I spotted them, and they all took flight, so here are the bad photos I shot as I tried and failed to get at least one photo of each eagle.

Adult bald eagle in flight

Adult bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

For almost a minute, I was twisting and turning, trying to follow the eagles as they split up and went off in different directions.

While I’m posting bad photos, I may as well get these two “for the record” photos out of the way. Here’s the two adult eagles near their nest.

Two adult bald eagles and their nest

Two adult bald eagles and their nest

And this image of a huge flock of unidentified songbirds passing over me.

Large flock of unidentified songbirds

Large flock of unidentified songbirds

There were birds everywhere, even on the ground near my feet, if I looked closely enough. See if you can spot the bird in this photo.

Can you see the horned lark?

Can you see the horned lark?

If I hadn’t seen them move once in a while, I would have spooked the larks for sure, but I did manage to catch one where it is easily seen.

Horned lark

Horned lark

Looking back at where the eagles had been on the sandbar, the gulls and a crow where arriving to finish off the meal that the eagles had to leave behind when I spooked them.

Scavengers arriving for an easy meal

Scavengers arriving for an easy meal

I spent the majority of the morning and early afternoon walking down the beach to the end of the campground, then walking back to my campsite by going through the woods. Here are the photos that I shot.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Northern parula

Northern parula

Northern parula

Northern parula

Northern parula

Northern parula

IMG_6055

Herring gull in flight

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

Assorted gulls and shorebirds

Assorted gulls and shorebirds

If you look closely at the last photo, you’ll see herring gulls, ring-billed gulls, Caspian terns, and a few unidentified shorebirds. There also looks to be two or three dark headed gulls which would have been lifers for me if I could have gotten photos good enough to make a positive ID.

By the way, all the photos of birds from this day were shot with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens). At one point I went back to my campsite and picked up my tripod and the 1.4 X extender to try to get better photos of the birds in the photo above, but that didn’t work out, the birds were too far away for a quality photo no matter what gear I may have used.

One thing that I thought that I wanted to do on my vacation was just relax, so I took my camp chair and camera out on the beach to just sit and enjoy the day. Even though I dozed off a few times, that only lasted an hour or two, and I was ready for some more serious birding.

So, I drove around Thunder Bay, to Isaacson’s Bay, a smaller bay on the northern shore of Thunder Bay. Once again, the higher water levels of Lake Huron had changed the bay completely.

Issacson's Bay, near Alpena, Michigan

Isaacson’s Bay, near Alpena, Michigan

All the lighter areas in the water were sandbars above the water last spring. Once again, I wished that I had brought my kayak this year.

It wasn’t long before I saw a bird worth photographing, a great egret.

Great egret

Great egret

Great egret shaking

Great egret shaking

Great egret shaking

Great egret shaking

Great egret

Great egret

A few steps farther, and a spotted a colony of endangered dwarf lake iris. They only grow in a few places around the Great Lakes, and mostly in Michigan. A few are found in northern Wisconsin and southern Ontario. So, I went back and got my tripod, other camera body, and macro lens and shot these.

Dwarf lake iris

Dwarf lake iris

Dwarf lake iris

Dwarf lake iris

There must be a trick to getting good photos of these flowers, this is my second year of trying, and my second year of failing. I can’t seem to get the yellow parts of the petals to look as if they are in focus, even though all the rest of the flower looks good. I’ll try again, maybe next year.

Here’s a few more bird images that I shot there along Isaacson’s Bay.

Chestnut sided warbler

Chestnut sided warbler

Black and white warbler

Black and white warbler

Black and white warbler

Black and white warbler

Great egret in flight

Great egret in flight

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Northern Harrier in flight

Northern Harrier in flight

The last one, of the northern harrier, I shot while standing where I had parked after returning to my vehicle. I had struck up a conversation with another birder, “Big Joe” from Roger’s City, a few miles north of Alpena. He was there to do a bird census, and we chatted while we counted and photographed birds flying over or around us.

It turns out that Joe knows some of the birders from the Muskegon area that I run into from time to time, so we had a very long conversation, discussing birds, photo gear, other birders, and field guides.

After Joe left, it was still early enough that I went around part of the bay again, pausing to catch the late afternoon light.

Marsh grass

Marsh grass

I could see flocks of shorebirds in the distance, but never got close to any. My second round was worth it though, for these images.

Sandhill cranes and great egret

Sandhill cranes and great egret

I worked my way closer to the cranes.

Female sandhill crane

Female sandhill crane

Male sandhill crane

Male sandhill crane

Male sandhill crane

Male sandhill crane

Male sandhill crane

Male sandhill crane

Male sandhill crane

Male sandhill crane

I was hoping that the male was preparing to do his mating dance, but I had no luck there, and the female crane didn’t look very impressed by his display from the looks of her.

Sandhill cranes

Sandhill cranes

I could post a few more photos of the cranes and the egret together, but I won’t, other than this photo which I zoomed out for in order to get the mute swan in the frame as well as the cranes and egret.

L to R, mute swn, sandhill cranes, great egret

L to R, mute swan, sandhill cranes, great egret

Returning to the campground, I took another walk down the beach for these.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Eastern kingbird launching into flight to catch an insect

Eastern kingbird launching into flight to catch an insect

Male blue-winged teal with a small shorebird hiding in the grass in the foreground

Male blue-winged teal with a small shorebird hiding in the grass in the foreground

"Fire" moss

“Fire” moss

I don’t know what species of moss that it really is, I called it fire moss because of how it lit up under the setting sun.

Sunset over Thunder Bay

Sunset over Thunder Bay

So, that wraps up another day.

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

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21 responses

  1. Just hearing how much you moved around in one day wore me out! What a fantastic birding day you had, and wow, the Chestnut Sided Warbler. Officially jealous. Add the Sandhill Cranes and double bonus? You’re area is truly a wonderful place to be during migration season.

    June 2, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    • Thanks Emily! I don’t move fast, but give me entire days, and I do manage to get around. I live in Michigan, there are dozens of places that I could have gone and gotten as many or more birds.

      June 3, 2014 at 2:25 am

  2. What a great day of birding and vacationing. That “fire moss” is very interesting and gorgeous. Of course, I always love seeing your great bird captures!!

    June 2, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    • Thank you very much!

      June 3, 2014 at 2:29 am

  3. More fantastic pictures, I especially enjoyed the Northern Parula and the Great Egret in flight.

    June 2, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    • Thanks Susan, I hope that you enjoyed the photos as much as I enjoyed tracking the birds down!

      June 3, 2014 at 2:32 am

  4. You had some great shots in this post. You must have been warn out just going through the pictures you had taken.

    June 2, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    • Thanks Tom! Going through the photos wasn’t nearly as much work as lugging my camera gear six to ten miles a day. 😉

      June 3, 2014 at 2:35 am

      • My knees hurt just thinking about it.

        June 4, 2014 at 6:41 pm

  5. This looks like a birding paradise, and the plants aren’t bad either. It could just be the light throwing the focus on the yellow parts of the iris. I struggle with that on some flowers myself. It’s nice to see such a rare flower.
    I hope to see egrets and cranes someday. The egrets especially look like such beautiful birds.
    I can’t imagine what that moss is but there are some that have a lot of red in them.
    That sunset was worth waiting for!

    June 2, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    • Thanks Allen! I should have made more exposure adjustments for the iris, maybe that would have helped. The area I was in is a birding paradise, and a rare plant one as well, but since I’m not well versed in the plants, I don’t know the rare ones from the more common ones.

      Egret and sandhill crane populations are booming now that they are protected. Several field guides still say that the egrets don’t nest in Michigan, but that’s obviously incorrect, there’s too many of them around. So, you may not have to wait much longer to see either species. The cranes have a very distinctive call, you should listen to it online, as you may hear them before you see them. allaboutbirds.org has recordings, other sites may have them as well. Once you’ve heard thirty to fifty cranes calling as they form their flocks for migration, you’ll never forget their calls.

      June 3, 2014 at 2:47 am

  6. I love the shot of the marsh grass! Really beautiful and the sunset too! What a wonderful place to have a holiday in with all those different birds.

    June 2, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    • Thanks Clare!

      June 3, 2014 at 2:48 am

  7. Such an abundance of different bird species. Looks like a great vacation to me!

    June 2, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    • Thank you! It was a great vacation, I’d like to do it all over again! 😉

      June 3, 2014 at 2:56 am

  8. Wonderful selection of photos. You did so well to capture so many of those eagles and I really enjoyed the sandhill cranes.

    June 3, 2014 at 5:29 am

    • Thanks Brandy!

      June 3, 2014 at 9:12 am

  9. Love those eagles! Great to see the relative size of one with the Canada geese in the shot, too.

    June 3, 2014 at 9:00 am

    • Thanks Lori! Those were “wild” eagles, unlike the “tame” ones that I see around Muskegon that are used to people, so I wasn’t able to get close to these.

      June 3, 2014 at 9:08 am

  10. Nice.

    June 3, 2014 at 11:29 am

    • Thanks.

      June 3, 2014 at 12:47 pm