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

Catching up, trips to Lost and Reed’s Lakes

Before I get started on the subjects of this post, the other day, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology posted a short video clip about a grey catbird’s ability to mimic the sounds of other birds. If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you’ll know that catbirds and brown thrashers are two of my favorite species of birds, for the way that they take snippets of the songs of other species of birds and blend those snippets into a symphony of bird songs.

So, I’m going to try something new for me, I’ll try to put the video clip in my blog for every one to check out.

I hope that it works!

Okay, about my trips to the two lakes that I made since I’ve been back from vacation, and trying to catch up with my postings.

It was quite warm a few Sundays ago, so since my favorite naturally air-conditioned spot is Lost Lake, I thought that a day there was in order. Anywhere along the shore of any Great Lakes is ten to twenty degrees cooler than just a few miles inland this time of the year. The water temperature of Lake Michigan is still only in the upper thirties, so any breeze off the lake is nice and cool!

I picked Lost Lake, as it is not only cool, but there are many rare plants growing around it. I was a week or two too early, so I didn’t find many plants to photograph. I found even fewer birds, this great blue heron is my only bird photo from around the lake.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

I did shoot a few landscapes, just for the greenery.

Lost Lake, Muskegon State Park

Lost Lake, Muskegon State Park

Lost Lake, Muskegon State Park

Lost Lake, Muskegon State Park

Lost Lake, Muskegon State Park

Lost Lake, Muskegon State Park

If there’s water around in the summer, there’s probably dragonflies around to shoot.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

I had taken my macro lens and tripod along in anticipation of shooting flowers and plants, but I forgot to bring the LED light that I use for macro photography with me, so these aren’t very good. I shouldn’t even post them, but I worked my butt off trying to get these as I fought a stiff wind blowing the flowers around!

Unknown, in the woods near the lake

Unknown, in the woods near the lake

Violet

Violet

Sundew

Sundew

Moss?

Moss?

Bladderwort

Bladderwort

Bladderwort

Bladderwort

Pitcher plant flower

Pitcher plant flower

I meant to tip the flower of the pitcher plant back to get a photo of the underside, but some other people came along about that time. I had all my photo gear sitting on the observation deck overlooking the lake, and didn’t think it wise to leave it there unattended. It probably would have been okay there, the people were birders, and we struck up a conversation, and by the time that they left, I had forgotten about the pitcher plant, darn!

Here’s a few of the other things that I found.

Grey squirrel, black morph

Grey squirrel, black morph

Cinnamon fern?

Cinnamon fern?

Snapping turtle

Snapping turtle

Although I didn’t get many photos, I had a thoroughly enjoyable day there, spending a lot of time relaxing on the observation deck.

When I did decide to leave, I swung over to the Muskegon Lake channel to see if there was anything there worth photographing, nothing as far as wildlife, other than a few mallards and mute swans, and I’ve posted enough photos of them for a while. I did try out my new lens on the Milwaukee Clipper though.

The Milwaukee Clipper

The Milwaukee Clipper

SS Milwaukee Clipper, also known as SS Clipper , and formerly as SS Juniata, is a retired passenger ship and automobile ferry that sailed under two configurations and traveled on all of the Great Lakes except Lake Ontario. Milwaukee Clipper is the only US passenger steamship left on the Great Lakes.

Her story begins on 22 December 1904, in Cleveland, Ohio, at the shipyards of the American Shipbuilding Company. Christened Juniata when launched, she was built for the Anchor Line, the Great Lakes marine division of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Her sister ships are the SS Tionesta and SS Octorara.

The ship is 361 feet (110 m) in length, 45 feet (14 m) in beam, a depth of 22 feet (6.7 m), with a gross tonnage of 4333 tons. She carried 350 passengers in staterooms at 18 knots. As originally built, she had a riveted steel hull and a magnificent wooden superstructure. For the Pennsylvania Railroad, she carried passengers and freight between Buffalo, New York and Duluth, Minnesota until 1915.

That year, the anti-monopoly Panama Canal Act, which forbade railroads from owning steamships, went into effect. Divesting its marine divisions, the Pennsylvania Railroad sold its Anchor Line along with four other railroad-owned company fleets, to the newly formed Great Lakes Transit Corporation. Under this flag, she carried passengers along her old routes  for another 20 seasons. Juniata was laid up in 1937 after the closing of the Chicago World’s Fair.

The Juniata sat idle in Buffalo until being sold in 1940 to be rebuilt and used as a passenger ship on Lake Michigan. Juniata was extensively modernized at the yard of the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company. Her boilers upgraded from coal to run on fuel oil, but she retained her original quadruple expansion steam engine. The old cabins and wooden superstructure were removed and replaced with steel to meet the new maritime fire safety standards created after the disastrous SS Morro Castle fire off Asbury Park, New Jersey in 1934. The streamlined forward stack is false and does not ventilate engine exhaust. It is a signature of naval architect George Sharp, whose ideas regarding fireproof ships were first incorporated into Juniata. This stack became standard on many new ships that were to come. Sharp is credited with three historic vessels, Milwaukee Clipper, SS Lane Victory, and NS Savannah.

The modernized ship featured air-conditioned staterooms, a children’s playroom, a movie theater, a dance floor with a live band, a soda fountain, bar, cafeteria known for its cuisine, lounges and sports deck, and capacity to carry 120 automobiles. On June 3, 1941, she made her maiden voyage from Milwaukee to Muskegon. As Milwaukee Clipper, she steamed between Muskegon and Milwaukee, as well as excursions throughout Lake Michigan visiting various other ports, for 29 seasons. She was also called the “Queen of the Great Lakes” and carried around 900 passengers and 120 automobiles in the summer. The amount of oil used varied per round trip, but was approximately 5,500 US gallons (21,000 l; 4,600 imp gal). On week days she made two round trips that took 7 hours each way, using three of the four boilers. On weekends, she made three, six-hour round trips on all four boilers. The crew lists were between 105 and 109, with around 55 of them in the steward’s department alone to take care of the 900 or so passengers on board. There are stories from former crew members about how they would “lose count” as to how many were actually on board. If you were there, apparently you did not get turned away. The cost per person in the 1950s was $3.33 and $8.00 extra for an automobile, with an extra 75 cents charged to travel in the forward Club Lounge and to use the forward deck.

After shooting a photo of the old “Queen of the Great Lakes”, I turned around to see the modern version coming into the Muskegon harbor.

The Lake Express

The Lake Express

The Lake Express

The Lake Express

And, I shot this one because it showed what a nice day that it was.

Fun times

Fun times

 

Reed’s Lake

Last Sunday, after getting yet another rare bird alert from eBird about a species of bird that I would like to photograph having been seen there, I decided to bite the bullet and go to Reed’s Lake.

Reed’s Lake is in East Grand Rapids, a suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It isn’t far from where I live, but I try to avoid that area as much as I can. No, it’s not the bad part of town, just the opposite, East Grand Rapids is an affluent area. However, the roads there are the pits, in both the way they’re laid out, and their condition. I think the residents prefer it that way to keep the scum (like me) out. 😉

Reed’s Lake used to be the home of Ramona Park, a trolley park much like Coney Island, but on a much smaller scale. Reeds Lake is also the home of the Grand Rapids Yacht Club, so it’s a busy lake, especially on weekends.

So despite all the negatives, I decided to check the area out considering how many rare bird alerts come from there.

I had just parked my Forester, and was walking into the park when an osprey flew over me, and out over the lake.

Osprey in flight

Osprey in flight

That was kind of cool! I had heard that both eagles and osprey are seen regularly there, but I never saw an eagle, or one of the black terns that had been reported there, and were the reason for my visit there. I did see lots of tree swallows though.

Male tree swallow

Male tree swallow

And there were dragonflies.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

As well as a beautiful damselfly.

Damselfly

Damselfly

I had been watching a pair of tree swallows bringing insects back to their young, which were in a hollow tree.

Male tree swallow

Male tree swallow

Every time I had seen the male enter the nest, he had come back out head first. So, I held the camera on the opening in the tree to catch him exiting the nest, and he came out butt first.

Male tree swallow

Male tree swallow

At least I was able to get a so-so shot of him taking off.

Male tree swallow taking flight

Male tree swallow taking flight

The female was watching all this happen.

Female tree swallow

Female tree swallow

An eastern kingbird was also doing its part to reduce the insect population.

Eastern kingbird

Eastern kingbird

It turns out that there is an extensive system of trails on one end of Reed’s Lake, that also runs to nearby Fisk Lake. But, I hadn’t put insect repellent on, so I did only a very short segment of the trail, in woods so thick that it was almost as dark as night there along the trail. Because of the very low light, these next photos are poor, but good enough for this post.

Muddy red squirrel

Muddy red squirrel

Muddy red squirrel

Muddy red squirrel

Forget me nots

Forget me nots

Wild garlic

Wild garlic

After killing several thousand skeeters, I left the woods, and got back out into the sunlight for these.

I’ve done this before, and the results aren’t as dramatic here as they are on my computer, but I never learn, so I’m going to try again. A wild iris, with just a small shaft of sunlight hitting it, and I went down 1/3 of a stop for each image. I like them all, but I would like to put the background from the third image behind the iris in the first two, to see how that would look.

Wild iris

Wild iris

Wild iris

Wild iris

Wild iris

Wild iris

Just a few more to go, starting with a cedar waxwing gathering fluff for its nest.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

A tree swallow in flight.

Tree swallow in flight

Tree swallow in flight

An eastern box turtle wandering by.

Eastern box turtle

Eastern box turtle

And finally, a song sparrow gathering a beak full of bugs to take back to its young.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

I’m almost caught up now in posting, so hopefully I won’t be posting as often as I have been. It’s also late on a Saturday night, after I spent a good deal of the day wandering around the local park, shooting more photos of flowers, so I’m about out of gas. I’m returning to Lost Lake tomorrow, hopefully there will be more flowers in bloom this time, including some of the orchids.

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

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24 responses

  1. magic

    June 15, 2014 at 12:37 am

    • Thanks

      June 15, 2014 at 12:45 am

  2. Thanks for posting the video. That was pretty incredible. I really enjoyed it.

    June 15, 2014 at 1:28 am

    • Thanks! I visit allaboutbirds.org regularly for help in identifying birds. I liked them on Facebook, so I get a notice there whenever they post a new video. In addition, they do webinars on how to ID birds, which have helped me a lot. You may want to check it out.

      June 15, 2014 at 8:50 am

  3. Thank you for this great post. May be the catbird mimics just for fun, may be there is a reason for this 🙂

    June 15, 2014 at 3:57 am

    • Thank you, you may be right!

      June 15, 2014 at 8:50 am

  4. Such a lot of great photography, I loved the great blue heron and the story behind the picture of the Clipper, I am fond of ferries.

    June 15, 2014 at 4:19 am

    • Thanks Susan, I wasn’t sure if I should post that much history of the Clipper, I’m glad some one liked it.

      June 15, 2014 at 8:51 am

  5. Like the video – great idea. This may have been one of your best posts ever. The dragonfly photos are terrific, especially the one that’s a straight-on shot. Thanks for this week’s lesson.

    June 15, 2014 at 7:05 am

    • Thanks Judy! Since I sprang for the space upgrade from WordPress, I can now post videos. I may have to read the video section of the manual for my camera now, and shoot a few of my own. 😉

      June 15, 2014 at 8:54 am

  6. The video worked well. I wish a couple of cat birds would move into my yard.
    That white unknown flower is a starflower (Trientalis borealis) and the moss is white cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum). The fern does look like a cinnamon fern.
    I like the muddy squirrel. At least he got his nut.
    I think any of the three shots of the yellow iris would suit me. I find that I’m having to underexpose more and more these days for some reason, sometimes as much as two full stops.

    June 15, 2014 at 8:12 am

    • Thanks Allen!

      If catbirds did move into your yard, it would be like having a flock of various birds singing in the bushes, which is why I love to hear the catbirds. On the other hand, they have fooled me a few times, I hear what I think is a new species of bird to me, but find out that it’s just another catbird singing the other bird’s song.

      It’s summer, the sun is high in the sky, so the light is much stronger than at other times of the year. At least here, we haven’t had many hazy days to diffuse the sunlight either, so I’ve been going down in exposure all the time also.

      June 15, 2014 at 9:01 am

  7. In a brilliant post, I think I liked the flying tree swallow best as I know just how hard they are to photograph.

    Like Allen, I almost always underexpose flower pictures. The photo editor seems better at brightening than darkening pictures in general as long as the detail is there.

    June 15, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    • Thanks Tom! Getting a good photo of any swallow is tough, as quickly as they change direction, and doubly tough to get the exposure right. One of these days I’ll get a good one though.

      Having learned photography shooting mostly slide film, I typically underexpose everything other than birds against a bright blue sky, but I’m going lower all the time this year.

      June 15, 2014 at 8:12 pm

  8. A really great post, especially the video. Oh, and I loved the muddy squirrel too!

    June 16, 2014 at 3:42 am

    • Thanks Clare! I may have to begin shooting a few videos of my own now that I know that I can insert them in my blog easily.

      June 16, 2014 at 8:43 am

      • I look forward to it.

        June 16, 2014 at 12:20 pm

  9. Nice dragonfly photos! I loved the muddy red squirrel, it made me laugh! And I thought the sundew was exquisite. Of your three yellow iris photos, I like the second one best. 🙂

    June 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    • Thanks! It’s not everyday that you see a muddy squirrel. The image of the iris that you picked is probably technically the best of the three, but I would have liked to have gotten the darker background of the third photo behind the iris as it appears in the second.

      June 17, 2014 at 2:36 am

      • It’s funny because I kept scrolling back up to them, trying to figure out WHY I chose the second one, and I couldn’t really say an exact reason. I guess I liked how the light shone on the one part of the flower particularly in that one? I can’t say. Maybe it’s just because it was in the middle! LOL

        June 17, 2014 at 8:02 am

  10. 1) I love catbirds–thx for that fascinating link! and 2) I’ve never seen a muddy squirrel, how bizarre!!!

    June 17, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    • Thanks Lori! I do run into the unusual on occasion, like the muddy squirrel.

      June 18, 2014 at 2:50 am

  11. Your wild garlic photo is exquisite, timeless. It could be a detail from a centuries old painting.

    June 19, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    • Thank you!

      June 20, 2014 at 2:09 am