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

Muskegon trip September 14th

This post is about the trip that I made to Muskegon on September 14th, 2014. I hit the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility, Lane’s Landing in the Muskegon State Game Area, and the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve. In other words, one of my typical Muskegon area trips.

The weather forecast was a cool, sunny day, and I was up early and on my way before the sun had come up. Pre-dawn light may be good for landscapes and some other subjects, but not so good for birds when using the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens). I somehow spotted this red-shouldered hawk looking for breakfast as I was driving to wastewater facility.

Red-shouldered hawk

Red-shouldered hawk

Low light is even worse when trying to shoot flying birds.

Red-shouldered hawk in flight

Red-shouldered hawk in flight

So, I arrived at the wastewater facility just as the sun was coming up, but the waterfowl had beaten me there.

A duck hunter's dream

A duck hunter’s dream

Most of the ducks were northern shovelers, blue-winged teal, and mallards, but there were a few others that I’ll get to later.

That reminds me, this post is going to be even heavier on photos than is usual for me, which means way too many, sorry. I shot some of my worst recent photos, and some of my best, the worst were of interesting things, of course. The best were of some more common species, but they’re too good to delete.

Anyway, I drove to what are known as the grassy cells while trying to see any birds in the low light. I found this song sparrow, and hopped out of my Forester for this shot….

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

…while looking for other birds as I stood by my vehicle, I saw this pair of sandhill cranes…

Female sandhill crane

Female sandhill crane

Male sandhill crane

Male sandhill crane

…I couldn’t believe that I had seen the sparrow before I saw the cranes, the light was that low. So, I stood there a little longer, and noticed birds much smaller than the cranes out feeding on the mudflats, a flock of American golden plovers. Here’s my best shot of an adult.

Adult American golden plover, non-breeding plumage

Adult American golden plover, non-breeding plumage

I was able to get photos of a juvenile last year, and there will be a few more of them later, from when the light improved slightly. But, when I returned for the better photos of the juveniles, the adults stayed out of camera range, darn. Maybe next spring I’ll catch adults in their breeding plumage, which is very colorful for a shorebird.

I watched the mudflats for any movement, and noticed that there were also many killdeer running across the mud.

Killdeer

Killdeer

And, a great blue heron flew almost directly overhead…

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

…as what I think was an adult male looked on from the next cell…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…and a third heron rose up out of another cell.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

I think that so many large birds flying over it made this horned lark nervous.

Horned lark

Horned lark

If you remember, I said that the forecast was for sunny skies, but, it had cooled off so much overnight that a thick layer of lake effect clouds had formed which hung around until after noon. I shot this shot just to see if I could pull it off in the very low light.

Double crested cormorant

Double crested cormorant

It turned out better than I had hoped. I went back to the large lagoon where I started, and shot a few of the newly arrived waterfowl.

Blue-winged teal

Blue-winged teal

Horned grebe

Horned grebe

What could be cuter than a ruddy duck with its tail up?

Ruddy duck

Ruddy duck

A pair of them.

Ruddy duck pair

Ruddy duck pair

There was almost a break in the clouds, and I shot these Savannah sparrows then.

Savannah sparrow

Savannah sparrow

Savannah sparrow

Savannah sparrow

I caught a least sandpiper taking a bath….

Least sandpiper

Least sandpiper

…to dry off, it jumped straight up out of the water and flapped its wings, hovering in place.

Least sandpiper

Least sandpiper

A short time later, another was bathing….

Least sandpipers

Least sandpipers

…and the other two you see came running to see if the one taking a bath was stirring up any goodies to eat…

Least sandpipers

Least sandpipers

…but the one taking a bath was splashing so much that the other two decided not to get too close.

I didn’t see as many red-tailed hawks as on my last trip, but there were still a few around.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

There were also a few of the semipalmated plovers around yet, also.

Semipalmated plover

Semipalmated plover

It started getting a little brighter, finally, so I went back to the grassy cells looking for the golden plovers. The juveniles were there close to me.

Juvenile American golden plover

Juvenile American golden plover

Juvenile American golden plover

Juvenile American golden plover

Talk about tough lighting, as you can see, the sun had come out a little, and blue sky was reflecting off from the water. A few seconds later, the clouds blocked out the sun, and the water reflected black clouds.

Juvenile American golden plover

Juvenile American golden plover

Juvenile American golden plover

Juvenile American golden plover

A heron, maybe one of the ones from earlier came swooping in.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

As much as I wanted to hang around waiting for better light, I headed up to the Lane’s Landing area in the Muskegon State Game Area. That could be considered a mistake, for I saw fewer birds there than any other time that I’ve been there. But, there were other things to shoot.

Unidentified blue flowers

Unidentified blue flowers

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

I did see a few cedar waxwings, so I shot one just to say that I was able to get a bird at Lane’s Landing.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Then, it was on to the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve. The birding started out slow there too, so I shot a few other subjects.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

Even though I have a hard time getting a good shot of a monarch butterfly, I thought that I’d try for a double.

Monarch butterflies

Monarch butterflies

Monarch butterflies

Monarch butterflies

But the way the wind was blowing, I gave up and went for a single.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

I started seeing birds.

Caspian tern in flight

Caspian tern in flight

Caspian tern in flight

Caspian tern in flight

Unidentified sparrow

Unidentified sparrow

And, I got what I thought was a relatively good image of a flicker.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

They are wary birds, I seldom get close to them. So, I was shocked when one perched right in front of me, in the open, in good light, and started posing like a model!

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

On the other hand, a juvenile catbird saw that I was about to shoot its picture, and took off running through the foliage…

Juvenile grey catbird

Juvenile grey catbird

…and thought that it had found a place to hide. But, I had the Beast, and there’s no hiding from it!

Juvenile grey catbird

Juvenile grey catbird

I wonder if this counts as a new species, a banded chickadee?

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

I was shocked when the first flicker posed for me, I nearly had a hear attack when a second one did the same!

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

It looked me over, decided that I wasn’t a threat, and then went looking for ants.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

I’m including this next one to show you how well they blend into the grass as they feed on ants, their favorite food.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

This is how close it got to me.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Next up, three images of a viceroy butterfly, because I can’t choose the best of the three.

Viceroy butterfly

Viceroy butterfly

Viceroy butterfly

Viceroy butterfly

Viceroy butterfly

Viceroy butterfly

By then, it was late afternoon, and I was tired. But, there were these tiny white flowers growing on bushes near the parking lot. I tried to get a good photo of one using the Tokina macro lens.

Unidentified white flowers

Unidentified white flowers

But, I was too tired to fight the wind, so I switched to the 10-18 mm lens to get a “flock shot” and about that time, a monarch butterfly landed in front of me.

Monarch butterfly on white flowers

Monarch butterfly on white flowers

I was going to switch back to the macro lens, but the monarch flew off, so here’s the flowers.

Unidentified white flowers

Unidentified white flowers

There were plenty of bees on the flowers, so I decided to see how close I could get with the 10-18 mm lens.

Honey bee

Honey bee

Again, I’m sorry for including too many photos, but I didn’t feel like breaking them up into two posts. I won’t bore you any longer, so this is the end.

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

 

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14 responses

  1. The Ruddy ducks do put a smile on one’s face. Great shots of the Viceroy!

    September 21, 2014 at 5:18 am

    • Thank you Bob! I wish the viceroy had been a monarch, but we can’t have everything. 😉

      September 21, 2014 at 9:12 pm

  2. I know how you must have felt about the weather. They said we’d be sunny all weekend but yesterday we had heavy clouds and today rain. Oh well, you got some decent shots in spite of it.
    The blue flowers are bottle gentians, which you don’t see very often around here.
    I like the shots of the herons and the waxwing, but especially the flicker. I haven’t seen a single cedar waxwing here this year even though the dogwood berries are ripe.
    I think those small white flowers must be Japanese knotweed, but I’m not positive about that.

    September 21, 2014 at 9:11 am

    • Thanks Allen. The waxwings are still feeding on insects, it may be a while before they hit the berries.

      September 21, 2014 at 9:14 pm

  3. Another good day of shooting for you, Jerry. So much variety – hard to pick a favorite, although the ruddy ducks have to be near the top. Stop apologizing for posting lots of photos!!!

    September 21, 2014 at 10:04 am

    • Thanks Judy! Wait until next spring, hopefully I’ll catch the ruddy ducks in their breeding feathers.

      September 21, 2014 at 9:15 pm

  4. You are fortunate to have so many birds in range of your camera and we are fortunate that you make such a good job of shooting them. The flying heron was my pick of the day.

    September 21, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I’m much better at finding and getting close to birds than I am at photographing them.

      September 21, 2014 at 9:17 pm

  5. Wow, what a rich array of beautiful wildlife, and your photos are spectacular! 🙂

    September 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    • Thank you Jet! My photos are good, but nothing spectacular.

      September 23, 2014 at 3:14 pm

  6. How wonderful to see so many herons, and also so many water fowl. The ruddy ducks are so cute! Loved all the butterfly shots, too. We see so many flickers up north but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a photo of one (Usually what I see are their ‘cotton tails’ as they fly away from me!)

    September 23, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    • Thanks Amy! I hope to get better photos of the waterfowl next spring, when they are in their breeding colors. I see flickers all the time as well, but they are tough to get close to most of the time.

      September 24, 2014 at 3:10 am

  7. So many different birds to admire and then the flowers! Setting out before sunrise is also admirable!

    September 26, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    • Thank you Clare! I love being out at sunrise, the early worm gets the bird!

      September 27, 2014 at 2:12 am