Lane’s Landing, Muskegon, I got the bird!
Another Sunday, another rather hot and humid day, 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.
Before I get to the sparse details about this trip, a word about the weather here in West Michigan this summer. We’ve been in a pattern where the warmest, most humid days of the week have been on the weekends, a front with rain passes through the area on Sunday night into Monday, then we have had cool, pleasant days during the work week as the heat builds slowly towards the weekend. Almost perfect weather!
I don’t have very much to say in this post, I walked as far at Lane’s Landing as I could before the mosquitoes got too thick as I approached the Muskegon River, then, I did a short tour around the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility, and finished up in a wooded area of the Muskegon State Game Area.
Upon my arrival at Lane’s Landing, I warmed up shooting this juvenile common yellowthroat.
I heard the distinctive voice of a marsh wren behind me, so I turned around for these.
Those aren’t great, I was shooting towards the sun, but at least I’ve finally gotten photos of a marsh wren. Like most wrens, they spend most of their time hidden in the thickest of vegetation. I’ve heard marsh wrens a few times, and I may have even seen them before, but I could never make a positive ID before. The photos may not be great, but they’re a start, and I can cross another species off from my list of birds to photograph. If things go as they normally do, I’ll get better photos the next time I see them.
Anyway, as I shooting the wren, this willow flycatcher was watching me.
I got to the pond where I had seen the common gallinules (moorhens) the last time I was there, but there was only one juvenile in sight.
I installed the 1.4 X tele-converter behind the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) and tried for a better photo, but that was an epic failure. None of the photos I shot were any good. I have to manually focus when the extender is used with the Beast, so I don’t know if I missed the focus, or if using the extender with the Beast is a lost cause at longer ranges. I’m beginning to think that it’s the latter. I shot these two with the same set-up, and they aren’t very good at all.
But, I had a chance to test that set-up later in the day, so I’ll get back to that when I get to those chances. For right now, here’s the rest of the photos from Lane’s Landing worth posting.
That wraps things up for the Lane’s Landing portion of the day, the next stop was the wastewater facility, where I shot these bobolinks.
Since they were relatively close, and I could rest my camera on the door of my Forester, I installed the tele-converter again for this juvenile male bobolink.
Way too soft again! I was wondering how I was able to get such sharp photos of waterfowl using that set-up earlier in the spring, when it dawned on me, the waterfowl were so close that I didn’t have to zoom to the full 500 mm to fill the frame with the birds. But, by then the bobolinks had moved out of range to try that. In the meantime, I found large flocks of shorebirds of several different species.
I didn’t want to do what I did last year, shoot almost 500 photos to try to sort through and ID the birds, so I limited myself to just these two.
It was hot out in the open, and I wasn’t in the mood to ID shorebirds, so I headed to the woods of the Muskegon SGA to keep cool, and was able to get these.
I haven’t seen many bluebirds this year, so it was good to see one. I also saw a family of red-headed woodpeckers, but only this juvenile perched where I could see it.
Right after I shot the monarch, I looked up to see several birds the right size and shape to be red-headed woodpeckers flying overhead. Red-headed woodpeckers feed differently than most woodpeckers, they will often catch insects on the wing. I’ve watched them fly from a branch to pluck an insect from the air, then return to their perch to wait for another insect to fly past. However, the birds that I saw this time were behaving more like swallows, staying airborne as they fed on insects. I’m not 100% sure that the birds were red-headed woodpeckers, but they sure looked like it.
I’m still trying for a really good photo of Dianthus flowers.
I saw this ovenbird, and as soon as it spotted me, it did what they usually do, started running for cover.
This one made a mistake, it had to pass an area in the sunlight on its way to cover, so when it got in the sun, I whistled, and the ovenbird stopped to figure out what was going on.
That gave me time for this shot.
I had to shoot these next few through a tiny opening in the foliage.
The nuthatch would see me, and change positions so that I no longer had even the poorest of views of it. So, I’d wait, the nuthatch would come back into view as it wanted to dig a caterpillar out from under the bark of the tree.
Not great, but, sometimes you have to take what the birds give you, and this nuthatch wasn’t giving much.
On my way out of the state game area, I had one more chance to test using the Beast with the tele-converter, this time using a bald eagle as the subject. Here’s the eagle at 500 mm with the image not cropped at all.
Normally, I would have tried to get closer, or at least a better angle on the eagle, but I decided that I would test my equipment and not worry if the photos were only fair. I was using the luggage rack on top of my Forester as a makeshift tripod. Here’s the cropped version shot at 500 mm.
I then installed the tele-converter for this next one, still using my Forester as a tripod and focusing manually.
I then got my tripod out, set it up, and mounted the Beast to the tripod. I also grabbed my new umbrella to shade the LCD display of the camera, switched to live view to auto-focus for this one.
At that point, the eagle flew off.
Test results, incomplete.
When I mounted the Beast on the tripod, I had zoomed back out all the way to get the eagle in the viewfinder and the tripod adjustments locked down. I switched to live view, using the live view zoom to zoom in 10 X without adjusting the zoom on the lens, silly me. That’s why the last photo of the eagle while it was perched was only 210 mm. By the time I had looked that photo over and realized my mistake, the eagle had flown. Since I didn’t get the OS shut off for the eagle in flight, it’s a crappy photo.
I need a subject that will sit still for 10 or 15 minutes so that I can try to work out all of the variables, but I did learn a little more. One, the Canon 60 D will auto-focus in live view at smaller apertures than it will when trying to auto-focus using the viewfinder. Two, I don’t think that the tele-converter will extend the range that I am able to get good photos at, due to atmospherics, as I’ve said before. Still, it would be nice to know for sure, maybe one of these days I’ll find a willing model that will stick around long enough for me to test it out correctly.
You’d have thought that the eagle would have stuck around to watch the silly photographer fumbling around with his equipment while holding an umbrella for shade, but maybe the eagle wasn’t in the mood to watch a comedy of errors. 😉
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!