Millennium Park, October 11th, 2014
Kent County’s Millennium Park is a unique, ambitious project to reclaim 1,500 acres of heavily used land for public recreation. It is the largest park close to where I live, and a good spot for birding. I’ve been there a couple of times before, so I won’t go into great detail about the park in this post.
I did check the online maps before I went though, and had decided to check out a different section of the park to start my day there. When I arrived, I couldn’t find the parking lot for that section of the park, so I parked along the road to do a quick check of that section.
I had just started down the trail, when I spotted a tiny raptor crossing the sky above me, but I was too slow to get a shot of it. As I was looking around, hoping that the unknown raptor would appear again, I saw this squirrel laying flat on the crossbar of a power pole. I thought it strange for a squirrel to be out there in the open with no food around, and when the squirrel started moving, I found out why it was acting so strangely, it was drunk.
It must have been eating fermented berries and not feeling very well. 😉
A few feet later, a cedar waxwing that posed for me, but in a shadow.
The trail I was on looped around a small pond drained by a small creek. As I was walking near the creek, I heard something crashing through the brush on the other side of the creek. I caught a glimpse of a deer, and managed to get to a relatively open spot before the deer to wait for it.
The was the second of two shots the bucks stood for before he took off back into the thick stuff. But, that was enough to convince me that I needed to spend more time in the area, and that I should find a better place to park than along the road. I paused along the way for this flower.
And, the drunken squirrel had made it to the top of the power pole.
That seemed like a poor place to sober up, for there was a red-tailed hawk perched near my Subaru when I returned to it.
And, after I found a parking lot on the other end of that part of the park, as soon as I started down the trail, I found another hawk, this one was hiding.
I know, far from my best hawk photos, but I still thought it strange for the drunken squirrel to be on top of the power pole with so many hungry predators all around it.
Next up, a species of bird that I find it very hard to get a good shot of, a brown creeper.
Not only are they always on the move…
…they stay on the shady side of trees for the most part…
…and their color blends in well with tree bark. I must have worn this one out, for it perched behind a few leaves and actually stayed there.
I watched for quite a while, waiting for it to come out into the open, but it didn’t move until I tried to get a good angle on it so there wouldn’t be the leaves in the way, then it was gone.
Next up, a monarch butterfly. I shot a few images of it with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens)…
..then, I started to walk away, since I have posted too many photos of monarchs lately. But, I made myself go back, switch to the second camera body with the Tokina macro lens on it, and shoot way too many more photos of the butterfly.
I have many more, but I won’t bore you with all of them now, I’ll dole them out over several posts.
The part of the park I was walking in was a newer addition to the park overall, and the trails didn’t go far. So, I headed over to the core of Millennium Park to check that out.
It wasn’t long before I managed a shot of a white-crowned sparrow.
I got to the narrow isthmus of land between two man-made lakes and spent some time watching the double crested cormorants that perch on the far side of one of the lakes.
Well, that one isn’t perched, but these two were squabbling over a choice perch.
There was a pair of mute swans.
Then, I spotted two small birds flying up into the trees near the cormorants, pausing for a while, then swooping down to catch something.
They were merlins, a lifer for me, or at least I suspected that they were. This image isn’t great, but it does help me nail down my identification of the pair of falcons as merlin.
The checkerboard pattern under the wings confirms my hunch, along with their small size. Another lifer on my list!
While I was shooting more photos of the merlin, a cormorant came crashing into a tree.
I am happy to report that the cormorant survived the crash, but it was touch and go there for a few seconds. 😉
Anyway, here’s a wide view of the far end of the lake.
That one, and the next few photos were all shot with my newer 10-18 mm lens, more for practice than anything else. I say practice, because I’m still not very good at being able to tell what an image shot from my two short lenses will look like when I view them full size on the computer. But, I’ll go into more detail on that in a later post. I thought that this oak tree would be a piece of cake, but other than capturing its color, it really isn’t a good photo.
In almost every review that I’ve seen of the 10-18 mm lens, they included an image shot with the lens pointed almost directly at the sun, and I’ve been amazed by the photos. I assumed that they had been doctored, now, I’m not so sure. The blown out area in the top center of this photo is from the sun, but somehow, the rest of the image came out very well as far as the exposure.
Arriving at an old railroad trestle that has been converted into a walking/cycling bridge over the Grand River, I shot this one. There’s very little barrel or other distortion that normally comes with lower cost super wide-angle lenses. I almost wish that the lens had a little distortion, so you could tell that I was using a 10 mm lens. 😉
The subject matter, the Grand River, isn’t great in these next two, but I’m happy with how they turned out, which is better than what the scene looked to the naked eye. The green leaves looked dull and washed out in real life, The lens and camera deepened the colors and added some contrast.
Just a short distance from the bridge, I hit a bird bonanza, all of these were shot as I stood in one place.
This red squirrel was on the other side of the trail and must have been there in the open the entire time I was shooting birds.
I decided to take a few steps closer and then crop this image.
As you can probably tell, it was a fantastic day, I think the red squirrel was sitting there soaking up the autumn sun. It isn’t often that one sits still for very long. Speaking of not sitting still….
…I tried for some time to get a good shot of the sapsucker, but most of them looked like this.
The sapsucker would not sit for me to get a good photo. But, a little farther down the trail, I spied a yellow-rumped warbler feeding on berries….
…the warbler spotted me…
…and struck a pose for me.
But, the wind moved something around which either change the exposure, or was between myself and the warbler, which is why the last one looks a bit odd. Things worked out okay, the warbler moved to a better spot for this one.
This next one was another short lens practice shot, but I think that it marks a change in the way that I shoot landscapes, even though it’s a ho-hum photo.
When I first got to where I shot that one, there were ripples on the water from the wind, and there were reflections of the clouds obscuring the reflections of the trees. That didn’t stop me from shooting several poor photos though. Then, I stopped to think about what I was doing, and what I wanted the scene to look like in an image. I waited for the wind to die down, and for the clouds to move so their reflections weren’t mixed with the reflections of the trees, and I’m actually happy with the way that one came out. The subject isn’t special, but that image is a huge improvement over the first few images I shot there. It could be that there is some hope for me yet. 😉
Next up, a song sparrow that paused for a photo…
…before hopping down to the ground to eat.
I got back to where the cormorants hang out, and decided to get some practice shooting flying birds.
This one was directing traffic.
There were a few turtles watching the cormorants.
Two more flight photos.
On my way back to my car, I got this juvenile pied-billed grebe.
If its head and bill look too large for its body, it’s because the grebe was already beginning to sink into the water to hide from the big bad photographer. 😉 A grebe’s first choice is to dive away from danger, their second choice is to run across the surface of the water. They only fly when they are forced to because the first two options won’t do.
To wrap this one up, a shot of the other grebes close to where the one above was, but these were on the other side of the lake, frolicking in the late afternoon sun.
A great day to be outside, the merlin were a lifer for me, and a good selection of other birds to photograph, what more could I ask for?
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!