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

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.

Drunken fox squirrel

Drunken fox squirrel

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.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

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.

Young whitetail buck

Young whitetail buck

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.

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

And, the drunken squirrel had made it to the top of the power pole.

Drunken fox squirrel

Drunken fox squirrel

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.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

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.

Red-tailed hawk hiding

Red-tailed hawk 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.

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

Not only are they always on the move…

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

…they stay on the shady side of trees for the most part…

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

…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.

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

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)…

Monarch butterfly on asters

Monarch butterfly on asters

..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.

Monarch butterfly on asters

Monarch butterfly on asters

Monarch butterfly on asters

Monarch butterfly on asters

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.

White-crowned sparrow

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.

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Well, that one isn’t perched, but these two were squabbling over a choice perch.

Double crested cormorants

Double crested cormorants

There was a pair of mute swans.

Mute swans

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.

Merlin

Merlin

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.

Merlin in flight

Merlin in flight

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.

Double crested cormorant crashing

Double crested cormorant crashing

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.

Lake at Milennium Park

Lake at Millennium Park

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.

Early oak colors

Early oak colors

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.

Into the sun

Into the sun

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. 😉

Old railroad trestle

Old railroad trestle

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.

The Grand River looking upstream

The Grand River looking upstream

The Grand River looking  downstream

The Grand River looking downstream

Just a short distance from the bridge, I hit a bird bonanza, all of these were shot as I stood in one place.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse in flight

Tufted titmouse in flight

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

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.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

I decided to take a few steps closer and then crop this image.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

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….

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

…I tried for some time to get a good shot of the sapsucker, but most of them looked like this.

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

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….

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

…the warbler spotted me…

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

…and struck a pose for me.

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

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.

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

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.

Reflections

Reflections

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…

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

…before hopping down to the ground to eat.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

I got back to where the cormorants hang out, and decided to get some practice shooting flying birds.

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

This one was directing traffic.

Double crested cormorant

Double crested cormorant

There were a few turtles watching the cormorants.

Turtles

Turtles

Two more flight photos.

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

On my way back to my car, I got this juvenile pied-billed grebe.

Pied-billed grebe

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.

Pied-billed grebes

Pied-billed grebes

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!

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20 responses

  1. What a great post – animals, birds, butterflies and flowers – hard for me to choose a favourite but I think it must be the drunken squirrel. I hope it survived OK.

    October 25, 2014 at 3:38 am

    • Thanks Susan! I’d guess that the squirrel made it through okay, they usually do.

      October 25, 2014 at 11:12 am

  2. A Merlin, how cool is that! Nice shot of the creeper! Wonder what that squirrel got into?

    October 25, 2014 at 6:02 am

    • Glad you found yourself another lifer. Like the awkward cormorant landing photo! As always, I’m envious of your great eye – how DO you see all this stuff, anyway?

      October 25, 2014 at 8:31 am

      • Thank you Judy! As far as how I see this stuff, for some reason I remember a line from the old TV series Combat!, “Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut!” which works well for finding wildlife rather than Germans. 😉 It doesn’t hurt to have much better than average eyesight, and having done this most of my life.

        October 25, 2014 at 11:16 am

    • Thanks Bob! I’m sure that the squirrel had found some fermented berries of some type, I’ve seen birds and coons that had gotten drunk the same way.

      October 25, 2014 at 11:13 am

  3. It’s not every day that you get to see a tipsy squirrel. I hope he had sense enough to get down off that pole before those hawks saw him.
    Great shots of all the birds and beasts, and the landscapes too. That train trestle looks just like the ones we have here.
    I like the shot of the reflections. I looks just about perfect to me.
    It looks like it must still be fairly warm there.

    October 25, 2014 at 10:01 am

    • Thanks Allen! I hope the squirrel made it down okay too, the Lord tends to look out for drunks. 😉 I did well enough on the reflection shot, if only the trees had been more brightly colored, it would have been great.

      I was all set to reply to your last post, but you asked a couple questions about exposures, and I don’t have time to answer them this morning, I’m off on another adventure, so I’ll get to it tonight, hope you don’t mind.

      October 25, 2014 at 11:20 am

  4. great snaps !

    October 25, 2014 at 10:44 am

    • Thank you very much!

      October 25, 2014 at 11:20 am

  5. A great post for a great season. I’m having trouble picking a favorite between autumn and spring… I won’t pick a favorite shot because there are so many I liked.

    October 25, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    • Thank you very much Gunta! I do love fall, but spring remains my favorite season, it brings the promise of new life, and a long spell of no snow. 😉

      October 25, 2014 at 5:30 pm

  6. The flying cormorants were impressive but the whole post was full of interest. I am a sucker for squirrels so the basking one in the sun pleased me especially. You must tread very lightly for a man carrying so much gear.

    October 25, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    • Thanks Tom! The extra gear only creates more noise if I get it tangled up in the brush. I do tread lightly, I’ve been out in the woods since I was 6 or 7 years old. As long as you don’t make any human sounds, like heavy footfalls, the critters don’t mind a little noise, as they make noise themselves. I try to sound like them.

      October 25, 2014 at 6:03 pm

  7. Another great post with lots of beautiful shots. I love the way the monarchs orange colour is reflected in the centre of the aster flowers and I like the tree reflection photograph very much.

    October 25, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    • Thank you Clare! Just another day in the woods.

      October 25, 2014 at 8:25 pm

  8. An awesome post about an awesome day! I have to say I felt kind of bad for that poor drunk squirrel!! Great shot of the buck! I can’t believe how those little birds pose for you! I keep praying that will start doing that for me but they haven’t yet! 🙂 I liked several of the flying cormorant shots, very nice!!

    October 26, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    • Thank you Amy! I think that part of the reason that birds sit for me is that I remain cool and calm (most of the time). I think that in the same way dogs sense fear, birds sense a person’s demeanor, and if you’re calm, they will be also.

      October 26, 2014 at 11:57 pm

  9. A merlin!!! So cool! I just check my old Golden field guide and saw that it (used) to only summer in Canada and northern US and then migrate to warmer climes. Do you think it was on its way south? Maybe you’ll get to see more! 🙂

    October 27, 2014 at 9:53 am

    • Thanks Lori! Having seen just a pair of them, I’m no expert. However, they are reported in my region all summer long, so these may be residents that may or may not migrate south. As quickly as they are reproducing again now that DDT has been banned, I’m sure that I’ll see more, it’s just a matter of time.

      October 27, 2014 at 9:59 am