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

Catching up after my vacation, Part I

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been back to work for two weeks after my vacation. I’ve kept busy taking photos since I’ve been back, maybe too busy.

To begin with, since I’ve forgotten to add this up til now, there was still some ice left on Lake Superior into the first week of June. The Lake Michigan water temperature at the southern mid-lake buoy is just 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3 C), although the water is warmer than that near the beaches. All of the Great Lakes have continued to rise at a rapid rate this spring as a result of the run-off from the heavier than average snowfall over the winter. Some areas in the upper peninsula of Michigan received nearly 30 feet of snow this past winter, which puts the 11 feet that we got here in Grand Rapids to shame.

The spring bird migration is over for the most part, there’s still a few stragglers passing through. As I go for my daily walks now, there’s just a few species of summer residents around, robins, starlings, red-winged blackbirds, and so on, along with the year-round residents. All of them are busy building nests and raising their young, so I leave them be for now, there’s little reason for me to bother them.

The late spring wildflowers have come and gone also. But, there are more summer flowers blooming every day now, as we transition into summer. I have found one good thing about posting from behind, it gives me several opportunities to get a good photo of a species of flower and delete the photos that don’t make the grade. That is, if the flowers continue to bloom long enough. There have been a few that have only lasted a day or two.

I have been trying to use the Tokina macro lens more often, with very limited success. It’s not the fault of the lens, it’s that I haven’t learned the finer points of macro photography yet. I’ve been trying to wait for days when the light is good and there is very little wind, but those days are few and far between. So far, my attempts to time wind gusts have failed, and I’ve ended up with blurry photos due to the wind and long shutter speeds.

My natural inclination is get it right, right now, but my more reasonable side has kicked in. It won’t be an earth-shattering failure on my part if I don’t pick up macro photography right this instant. As long as I learn as I go, so what if it takes me a year or two to really master a very tricky type of photography. That, and the new 300 mm L series lens does a more than adequate job on flowers and larger insects.

There’s more that I would like to ramble on about, but I have two weeks worth of photos that I haven’t posted yet, and if I were to type out all of my thoughts, I’d never get caught up. But, there are two related things that I must say.

One, is that the number and variety of songbirds that I’m seeing in the park that I walk everyday is way down from last year. No meadowlarks, bluebirds, or Savannah sparrows have nested here this year at all, and the numbers of orioles, grosbeaks, and other species is down from last year, when they seemed to be everywhere. This year, there’s just a few.

Since this is just my second year here, I’m not sure why that is. It could be a cycle, since there were so many last year, they may have spread out more this year.

Secondly, I’ve been seeing very few great blue herons anyplace that I go, and that includes up north, the Muskegon area, and all the other marshes and lakes that I’ve been to this year. I’ve seen a few, but they have become a rare sighting this year, and I have no idea why that is.

So with that said, it’s time for some photos.

Highbush cranberry flowers

Highbush cranberry flowers

I’m not sure if the flower in the next photo is lilac or not. It looked somewhat like lilac, and it had the same wonderful scent, but it doesn’t look exactly like the other lilac bushes around here.

Lilac?

Dwarf Korean Lilac?

Here’s a flower that I’m sure of, a may-apple.

May apple

May-apple

I spotted these flowers growing in the shade on a cloudy day.

Unidentified shade loving flowers

Unidentified shade loving flowers

The next few days were sunny, but very windy, so I didn’t bring the macro lens and tripod with me, but I shot a few photos of the flower above with the 300 mm lens, hoping for a good one. It was hard to find one of the flowers in the sun, and if I did, it was white, not the pale blue that you can see in the flowers above.

Unidentified shade loving flower

Unidentified shade loving flower

Unidentified shade loving flower

Unidentified shade loving flower

Unidentified shade loving flower

Unidentified shade loving flower

By the time that we had a sunny day with little wind, the flowers were past their prime, and beginning to turn brown, so I won’t post the images from my macro set-up. But, that’s what I get for waiting. The flowers may not be wildflowers, they could be “escapees”. The trail where I saw the flowers runs next to the farm market that I shop at when they are open. In the spring and summer, the farm market also doubles as a garden center. I often find flowers that aren’t wild growing in the area because the flowers have escaped from the market one way or another.

Early in my walk one morning, I spotted a flicker looking for ants in the grass in the apartment complex.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

At the same time as I was trying to get closer to the flicker, a pair of geese were approaching it from the other side. The poor flicker wasn’t sure whether the geese or myself presented the greatest threat.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

The flicker decided that it was better off looking for less crowded places to look for food.

Northern flicker and Canada goose

Northern flicker and Canada goose

I shot this bird’s foot trefoil with the 300 mm lens.

Bird's foot trefoil

Bird’s foot trefoil

And this photo came from the Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Bird's foot trefoil

Bird’s foot trefoil

The first photo was cropped considerably, the second one not at all.

Here’s another oddity, I’m not sure what this is. The cane which this growth had sprouted from looked like a typical thorny plant like a blackberry or bramble, but the leaves don’t look like they should.

????

????

I wonder if the growth that I saw is due to something like witch’s broom or something similar. All the other canes that had been growing from the same roots seem to be dead, and the same growth pattern seen in the photo continues, I’ll shoot an update photo soon.

Here’s a few images that need no other explanation other than the captions.

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Flowering grass

Flowering grass

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red pine flowers

Red pine flowers

American robin

American robin

Flowering tree

Black locust tree

Flowering tree

Black locust tree

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Eastern kingbird

Eastern kingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbird landing

Ruby-throated hummingbird landing

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Jack pine flowers

Jack pine flowers

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Red-winged blackbird attacking a turkey vulture

Red-winged blackbird attacking a turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

I have one or two more posts worth of photos to use up, including images like these.

Chicory

Chicory

But, those posts will have to wait a day or two.

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

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19 responses

  1. That’s a bit unsettling that you’re seeing less birds. Hope it’s not something ominous causing it. Interesting how the different lenses capture quite different shades of color of the Bird’s foot trefoil.

    June 9, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    • Thank you! I’m not sure about the birds, as I said, it’s only my second year here, last year could have been the odd year with so many. The difference in colors in the trefoil are due to both getting the exposure exact in the second photo, and that they also darken a little with age.

      June 10, 2014 at 3:01 am

  2. What a feast of lovely pictures.

    June 9, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    • Thank you Susan!

      June 10, 2014 at 3:01 am

  3. Always interesting to see the wide variety of things that catch your eye. Love the RW blackbird getting after the turkey vulture.

    June 9, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    • Thanks Judy, but if posted a photo of every thing that caught my eye, there’d be 100 photos in every post. 😉

      June 10, 2014 at 3:02 am

  4. I loved the swallow tailed butterfly and the chicory best out this feast of photos.

    June 9, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I’m sure that you’ll be seeing a few more of both before the summer is over.

      June 10, 2014 at 3:08 am

  5. Your iffy lilac is a lilac but it’s probably a dwarf Korean lilac. They bloom just after common lilacs and everything about them-leaves, flowers, height-is smaller. The leaves aren’t as heart shaped either.
    I don’t recognize that pale blue shade loving flower, but it’s a nice one.
    That does look like it might be witch’s broom on the blackberry, and the white flowered tree is a black locust.
    I’ve only seen two great blue herons this year and that is odd. I haven’t seen any of the smaller ones.
    What I do in wind is either try to block it with my body or hold the plant or leaf or branch with one hand while getting the shot with the other. There is always a lull in the wind though and I often just wait a bit and start shooting as it is dying down. I’ve heard of people using small bamboo stakes and twist ties to hold plants but I’ve never gone that far.
    I’m still amazed by what that 300mm can do with flowers. The shot of the chicory is excellent. I’m not seeing any of them here this year either.

    June 9, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    • Thanks Allen! There’s just too darned many of closely related species of flowers for me to ever remember them all. 😉 I never knew that there was a dwarf Korean lilac, but your description fits, so that’s what those flowers must have been.

      I’m not sure what’s up with the herons, I know that I’m not seeing as many of any birds around home, but the numbers are good everywhere else, except for the herons.

      I’ve tried holding the plants in the wind, but that doesn’t work well for me for some reason. I have found that in some cases, I can use the Gorillapod that I use to hold the LED light in place to also brace the plants to steady them.

      That 300 mm lens is almost like a macro lens, I’m loving it for flowers and larger insects! The chicory flower is the only one that I’ve seen so far, but I’m sure that more will follow.

      June 10, 2014 at 3:18 am

  6. Beautiful photos! I love the chicory and the flowering grass. Is that a tiny spider on the top of the jack pine flowers?

    June 10, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    • Thanks Clare! Yes, it’s a tiny spider on the jack pine, but I didn’t see it until I blew up the photo on my computer, or I’d have tried for a close up of it.

      June 11, 2014 at 2:39 am

  7. Your flower photos are really popping ! Wonderful captures Jerry.

    June 10, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    • Thanks Emily!

      June 11, 2014 at 2:40 am

  8. For some reason my favorite of these photos is your unidentified fungal object – it almost looks as if you could feel the ridges if you touched the photo. I also really liked the two shots of the pine flowers.

    Interesting what you said about the birds – here I saw orioles for a much longer amount of time than I ever have before. In past years, orioles would come through and only stay one, maybe two, days. This year I had them for at least two weeks, which was a real treat! The same up north, we had orioles for the entire time between Mother’s day and Memorial day, again that was unusual for us – also in much larger numbers than past years. I will have to keep an eye on the heron situation up north.

    June 10, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    • Thanks Amy! I have to say that the mushroom came out even better than I had expected.

      The bird population, other than herons, seems to be above average everywhere but near where I live. It could be that there will be more late arrivals after the long cold winter.

      June 11, 2014 at 2:43 am

  9. Fantastic capture of the red-winged blackbird going after that turkey vulture. As you have said before, the re-wings are fearless!

    June 13, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    • Thanks! In the post I just published, I have a photo of a red-wing plucking hawk feathers.

      June 13, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      • Oooooh, will have to view that post first chance I get, when not on iPad or mobile, how exciting for you!

        June 13, 2014 at 2:59 pm