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

Lane’s Landing, Muskegon, taunted by hummers

The Sunday before last was hot and humid, so I left early for a birding trip to the Muskegon area, starting at Lane’s Landing. Lane’s Landing is within the Muskegon State Game Area, and it has become one of my favorites places for birding.

Almost as soon as I had finished showering in insect repellent, I found this song sparrow to warm up the camera, Beast (Sigma 150 -500 mm lens), and myself. Β I don’t know if it’s just me, but I always seem to get better photos if I shoot a few right away after I’ve turned the camera on. I have no idea why that would be, maybe it’s just one of my superstitions, but I’ve gotten to the point where I always shoot a few photos as soon as I turn the camera on, even if I just turn around and delete them. Anyway, here’s the sparrow.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

I hadn’t taken more than a few steps down the trail when I spotted a male ruby-throated hummingbird.

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

You can tell it was a male by the spot of red on its neck. I’d love to get a really good photo of one of the males, that wasn’t it, and neither were these.

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

The little bugger was really out of the range of even the Beast, but you can see he was sticking his tongue out. In fact, he seemed to be having a lot of fun taunting me.

The little bugger was really out of the range of even the Beast

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

The females and juvenile hummers will pose nicely for me.

Female or juvenile Ruby-throated hummingbird

Female or juvenile Ruby-throated hummingbird

Female or juvenile Ruby-throated hummingbird

Female or juvenile Ruby-throated hummingbird

But not the males, here’s another one teasing me.

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

Male Ruby-throated hummingbird

I should do what most people do to get the really good photos of hummers, put up a feeder for them, and wait for them to show up. Then, I may even get a good photo of one in fight, rather than this lame attempt.

Ruby-throated hummingbird in flight

Ruby-throated hummingbird in flight

But, I’m a pig-headed fool that would rather track down “wild” hummingbirds in their natural habitat and shoot poor photos of them.

That’s why I’ll never be one of the famous nature photographers, although, I’m not sure that the really famous ones should be called nature photographers any longer. A good many of them shoot most of their photos in zoo-like parks, places where guides have built blinds near nests, or bait animals to come close to pre-built blinds. Doing those things may result in great photos, but I’m not sure that it qualifies as nature photography, it’s more like shooting models in a controlled environment where the photographer doesn’t need any outdoor skills to speak of, and seldom has to deal with poor lighting, as the blinds are placed in advance in spots where the lighting will be as good as it gets.

Oh well, before I get started on a really long rant on that subject, here’s a few of the birds that I saw between the hummers. I’ll start with this chipping sparrow that was pointing the way to the common gallinules that I shot on this trip.

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Male common yellowthroat

Male common yellowthroat

Male common yellowthroat

Male common yellowthroat

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Unidentified flycatcher

Unidentified flycatcher

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Male common yellowthroat

Male common yellowthroat

I got to the part of the marsh where I found the gallinules, or moorhens.

Common gallinules in a marsh at Lane's Landing

Common gallinules in a marsh at Lane’s Landing

That was shot at 150 mm to give every one an idea of what I have to work around at times. The gallinules are those black spots behind the reeds. By picking small openings between the reeds, I was able to zoom in and get photos to crop down to this.

Common gallinule

Common gallinule

Not great, but it’s a start, and at least I can make a positive ID from the photos that I got. I would have liked to have gotten closer, but the adult was well aware of my presence, and would head for cover whenever it could see me clearly. So, we played hide and seek for the photos that I did get.

I thought about going back to my Forester, grabbing the tripod, and setting up with the 1.4 X extender behind the Beast to see if I could get better photos, but I’ve had mixed results with the extender used with the Beast. For close-ups, that set-up works great, but for distant shots, I’ve had a hard time getting sharp photos. So, between that and the heat, I decided that I’d wait for another day to try that out.

I had planned to go all the way to the Muskegon River while I was at Lane’s Landing, but when I got to the wooded area, I was met by a wall of mosquitoes that weren’t deterred the least by the insect repellent that I had put on. As hot and humid as it was, I thought that I had sweated enough to reduce the effectiveness of the repellent, but I had brought the bottle with me for just such an occasion. I re-applied more repellent, but it hardly slowed the skeeters down at all, so I turned around and headed back. On the way, I shot these.

Least flycatcher

Least flycatcher

This common yellowthroat would sing a little…

Male common yellowthroat singing

Male common yellowthroat singing

…then preen to make himself more attractive…

Male common yellowthroat preening

Male common yellowthroat preening

…then sing some more.

Male common yellowthroat singing

Male common yellowthroat singing

There were dozens of goldfinches gobbling down thistle seeds,but I could not get the light right for a good photo, so I tried something more artistic, it didn’t work.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

This pewee posed nicely for me.

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

I saw several monarch butterflies….

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

…and I tried very hard to get THE shot of one with the light shining though its wings.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Close, but I hope to do better.

A catbird singing is always worth a photo!

Male grey catbird

Male grey catbird

And to wrap up the Lane’s Landing portion of this post, a female common yellowthroat that also posed nicely for me.

Female common yellowthroat

Female common yellowthroat

Female common yellowthroat

Female common yellowthroat

She even waved goodbye as I was leaving.

Female common yellowthroat

Female common yellowthroat

As hot as it was, I decided to head over to the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility to see if I could find any shorebirds. My thought was that since the birding there is done from inside a vehicle, I could run the AC and be comfortable as I drove around slowly looking for birds. That almost worked.

I spotted a pair of upland sandpipers before I had left the main entrance road at the wastewater facility, so I stopped to shoot a few photos.

Upland sandpiper through the heatwaves

Upland sandpiper through the heatwaves

Upland sandpiper through the heatwaves

Upland sandpiper through the heatwaves

Because of the heatwaves rising up from the ground, I couldn’t get a good photo, no camera or lens, no matter how good, ever could. It’s impossible to get a good photo in atmospheric conditions the way that they were that day unless you can get very close to your subject.

I decided that since the open area around the wastewater facility was out as far as photography, that I’d continue on to the wooded area north of there that’s also part of the Muskegon State Game Area. I shot this along the way.

Spotted sandpiper and red-winged blackbirds

Spotted sandpiper and red-winged blackbirds

I hung out in the wooded area for a few hours, walking slowly in the heat, and pausing often, but I think that most of the wildlife had found deeply shaded places to sit out the heat of the afternoon. I did shoot these.

Unidentified flycatcher

Unidentified flycatcher

Unidentified yellow flower

Unidentified yellow flower

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

I did do some playing around with camera settings, trying different things, which I’m putting to good use now, but the photos that I shot while there aren’t worth posting, here, or have already appeared in past posts.

I probably should have taken a nap and tried later in the evening, but, it since it was a Sunday, I decided to head home to sort through the photos I had taken instead. It was a good day in spite of the heat and skeeters. Most of my trips to the Muskegon area are, and most result in another lifer for me as far as birds.

The fall migration of shorebirds has begun, so I’ll be returning soon, possibly this weekend if the weather is more conducive to photography.

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

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24 responses

  1. I take it that you are a professional: these are stunning!

    July 31, 2014 at 10:50 am

    • Thanks Simon, but I’m just a hobbyist that enjoys photographing nature as I see it.

      July 31, 2014 at 1:30 pm

  2. I think many professional nature photographers probably started out in their back yards, but I agree that some seem to have lost touch with their subject.
    We’re having quite an insect year here too, with mosquitoes leading the pack. The worst ones though, are those tiny ones that try for your eyes. They’re everywhere this year.
    I think your unidentified fungi are in the amanita family, which includes destroying angels and death caps, so don’t put any in your stew!
    The yellow flowers look like a helianthus, but I’m not sure which one.
    I’m glad that you’re seeing monarch butterflies there. I’ve only seen two or three. Those are great shots of him!

    July 31, 2014 at 11:31 am

    • Thanks Allen! I think that with most wildlife photographers, their expenses for equipment and travel become so high that they have to get the money shot almost every time that they press the shutter release.

      The gnats that go for the eyes were very bad around here earlier this year, but I’m seeing fewer of them, they’ve been replaced by deerflies. 😦

      No need to worry about what I put in my stew, I’d never add any mushroom that I found in the woods, even though I’ve been shrooming with an expert a couple of times.

      July 31, 2014 at 1:46 pm

  3. Lots of wonderful shots, I liked best the yellowthroats and the butterflies. Thanks for putting yourself through it to take the pictures for us.

    July 31, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    • Thanks Susan! Despite my occasional complaints, it’s what I love to do.

      July 31, 2014 at 1:31 pm

  4. Love the hummers! And you did catch the iridescence on the male’s throat–lovely! And thanks for sharing the monarch pix, too. It’s great to see them around!!!

    July 31, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    • Thank you Lori! One of these days I’ll get a good photo of a wild male hummer.

      July 31, 2014 at 1:31 pm

  5. I think your hummingbird photos are pretty good considering they are so darned hard to photograph at all and don’t usually sit still for long periods of time. I also think the monarch butterflies are great. Just about every butterfly I’ve tried to get close to this summer flutters away before I can focus on it!

    July 31, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    • Thanks Amy! I’m not sure which are harder to photograph, hummers or swallows, because they’re both so quick.

      When I’m shooting insects, I focus from a distance, and then slowly inch my way towards them shooting as I go until they do fly off. They seem to hold better that way, and you get the closest shot that you can. Just don’t trip as you move forwards. πŸ˜‰

      July 31, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      • Funny you should say that because I have a twisted pelvis and a huge curve in my lower spine, so I actually trip quite a lot! πŸ™‚

        July 31, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      • Sorry, I had no idea. I mentioned not tripping because I get lost in the viewfinder of my camera as I creep up on things, and have almost tripped because I pay no attention to what’s on the ground.

        August 1, 2014 at 1:46 am

      • Haha, no apology necessary. I think it’s funny when I do it. I still laugh inside when I think about back when we got our wii fit. I did the body test thing and of course my center of balance is off and the stupid game actually said to me “wow, you are really off balance, do you trip a lot when you walk?” I laughed and thought why yes, yes I do. LOL I don’t fall very often though! πŸ˜€

        August 1, 2014 at 6:56 am

  6. You must have been furious to be tormented by the hummers. Thanks for unleashing the Beast on them.

    PS – don’t stop ranting. If you do, I’ll probably quit reading your blog. Love your thought process…

    July 31, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    • Thank you very much Judy! I couldn’t get mad at the hummers, it’s as if it’s a game we play, and they’re too cute to get mad at anyway. And, you don’t have to worry, I can’t stop myself from ranting after I hear how some “wildlife” photographers get the photos that they do.

      August 1, 2014 at 1:57 am

  7. I agree with Judy – I just love it when you rant! I also agree with Susan about the yellowthroats and the Monarch butterflies. Nothing original to say I’m afraid except I’m a fan of your photography and look forward to all your posts.

    July 31, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    • Thank you Clare! Originality isn’t required, just a love of nature. πŸ˜‰

      August 1, 2014 at 1:58 am

  8. I was going to say that I don’t think that you are working hard enough as a sort of poor joke but then I thought that you might take me seriously and work even harder. I don’t want you wearing yourself to a shadow because we would miss your posts if you had to take a rest.

    July 31, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    • Thank you Tom! But, not to worry, there’s no rest in sight for me. I’ve been gaining wight somehow, and I’ve been trying to find ways to spend even more time outdoors.

      August 1, 2014 at 2:00 am

      • The gaining weight somehow may possibly relate to eating, probably because you are ravenous after doing so much. It’s a hard life.

        August 1, 2014 at 6:24 pm

      • My gaining weight has to do with my slowing down while walking to get better photos, I eat the same amount as before, too much much!

        August 2, 2014 at 10:52 am

      • It’s a problem.

        August 2, 2014 at 5:31 pm

  9. Astonishing pictures,the beauty of nature.

    August 1, 2014 at 12:19 am

    • Thank you! I’m glad that you enjoyed them.

      August 1, 2014 at 2:02 am