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

Muskegon Oct. 12th, 2014 The eagles have landed

This post is about the trip that I made to Muskegon on October 12th, 2014., yes, I’m that far behind in my postings.

I also know that I said that I wasn’t going to be going to Muskegon as often, but I just never know what I’m going to find there, so I can’t stop myself from going back regularly. I suppose the same could be said about where I live, as I shot this rare orange ring-billed gull as I was loading my camera gear into my Subaru.

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gulls are common, but I only see the orange ones at sunrise and sunset, I wonder where they spend the daylight hours. 😉

When I arrived at the wastewater treatment facility, I spotted this heron scoping out the grassy cells, looking for a good area to hunt.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

However, I didn’t linger at the grassy cells. I had arrived early, so I drove to the southeast corner of the east lagoon to get the best possible light on anything that I may have wanted to photograph. That way, I’d have the sun at my back as I checked out the waterfowl in the lagoon.

There was an eagle there that may have had the same idea.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

So, I got out of my vehicle to walk along the lagoon in hopes of sneaking up on some waterfowl, when I heard and saw two eagles fighting. Of course they were to the east of me, so I was shooting towards the sun, the best laid plans seldom work out, and this was another almost winner moment.

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

If only they had been to the west of me, sigh. For as large as they are, they are certainly agile flyers!

This sparrow had been watching the eagles as well.

Savannah sparrow

Savannah sparrow

With the eagles out of sight, I went back to sneaking up on waterfowl, here’s a female ruddy duck next to a female mallard so you can see how small ruddy ducks are.

Female ruddy and mallard ducks

Female ruddy and mallard ducks

And here’s a pair of bufflehead, which are only slightly larger than a ruddy duck.

Bufflehead ducks

Bufflehead ducks

They didn’t stick around long though.

Bufflehead ducks

Bufflehead ducks

Bufflehead duck

Bufflehead duck

I was able to get a fair shot of a northern harrier working the creek that runs next to the lagoon.

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

And these guys were everywhere, as you will see. 😉

American pipit

American pipit

I shot quite a few other waterfowl in the area, but I shot even better ones on my next trip, so I won’t bore you with the fair ones, instead, I’ll bore you with an only fair eagle image.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

It didn’t stick around long either.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Some how, there’s a shadow on its face, I asked it if it could please pose a little better…

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

…thank you! It then flew off in search of the other eagle.

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

My best photo of the day, and it’s of a female mallard, go figure.

Female mallard

Female mallard

And it is even of her butt, why does that always seem to happen? 😉

I found a few Bonaparte’s gulls.

Bonaparte's gulls

Bonaparte’s gulls

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte’s gull

And, I couldn’t resist this pipit that had just waved to me, although I was slow on the shutter.

American pipit

American pipit

The wood duck curse continues to haunt me, as a blade of grass was blown in front of the lens as I shot this.

Wood duck

Wood duck

I had no such problems with this heron though.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

And here’s a female mallard with two blue-winged teal for size comparison.

Blue-winged teal and mallard

Blue-winged teal and mallard

The kestrel was hunting the creek that runs between the lagoons and the grassy cells, I was able to get one of my better kestrel photos of it.

American kestrel

American kestrel

They’re so cute, but tiny little falcons, about the same size as a dove, and very hard to get close to, so I’m happy with that one.

Yet another heron, after a summer when I saw very few, there’s at least half a dozen hanging around the wastewater facility this fall.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I checked the grassy cells, the only shorebird to be found was this killdeer.

Killdeer

Killdeer

So, a couple of the pipits agreed to fill in for the missing shorebirds. 😉

American pipit

American pipit

American pipit

American pipit

American pipit

American pipit

By now, the sun was getting higher in the sky, so I drove along the west lagoon, and spotted one of the eagles duck hunting. I wonder if it had a license. 😉

It’s a hard to see in the small version here, but the eagle was flying low over the lagoon. You can see ruddy ducks with their tails up, and some splashes in the eagle’s path where the ducks were diving out of the eagle’s sight.

Bald eagle duck hunting

Bald eagle duck hunting

I was surprised that these two birds were as calm as they were with the eagle nearby.

American coot

American coot

Horned grebe

Horned grebe

I drove down to the Swanson/Laketon fields, but nothing that I saw or photographed is worth posting here. So, I returned to the area near the headquarters of the wastewater facility, and found both the eagles in one of the large pines there.

Juvenile bald eagles

Juvenile bald eagles

I’m almost positive that these were the same two eagles that had been fighting earlier, now, they were perched in the same tree, a little over a mile from where the fight had taken place.

I got a little closer, and shot these images that I have cropped.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Then, I got even closer for these photos which haven’t been cropped at all.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

I was about to leave, but I decided to shoot a few more pipits before I left.

American pipit

American pipit

American pipit

American pipit

I’m glad that I decided to stay a few more minutes, as the lighter of the two eagles flew off, followed by a large flock of crows which were harassing the eagle. No photos, the eagle stayed below the tree tops. However, the darker of the two eagles remained perched, and the crows were flying right past it on their way to harass the lighter eagle.

American crow flying past a juvenile bald eagle

American crow flying past a juvenile bald eagle

Crows have excellent eyesight, they had to have seen the second eagle, yet not one of them did anything about that eagle, they were all too busy chasing the other one. It was also funny to watch the eagle watching the crows fly by.

I then ran over to the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, but the only bird that I shot was this white-crowned sparrow.

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

So, I’ll throw in a monarch butterfly to fill space, as if I needed to fill space. 😉

Monarch butterfly fighting the wind

Monarch butterfly fighting the wind

I also shot a few landscapes.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

These next two were shot looking almost into the sun using the 10-18 mm lens.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

I don’t understand how that lens gets the exposure correct when shooting in the “wrong” direction, when no other lens that I have ever used would.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

I suppose that I don’t have to understand why that lens performs as it does, I’ll just keep in mind that I can shoot in any direction with it.

So, that wraps up another trip to Muskegon. The next time, which I’ll get around to posting one of these days, I got good photos of at least two species of birds that I’ve seen before, but never gotten images good enough to make a positive ID of the species. The two that come to mind are tundra swans and ring-necked ducks, but there may have been a third species. I also got poor photos of a peregrine falcon harassing a much larger northern harrier. So, I guess that I’ll go back again this weekend to see what I can see.

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

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24 responses

  1. You surpassed yourself with all those splendid eagle shots, I wish I could have seen them in real life like you.

    November 1, 2014 at 4:06 am

    • Thank you Susan, not only for the nice words, but for reminding me that I shouldn’t take what the area where I live has to offer for granted as far as nature!

      November 1, 2014 at 10:24 am

  2. Enjoyed your shots of the juvenile Bald Eagle, as well as those of the other members of the supporting cast.

    November 1, 2014 at 4:39 am

    • Love being able to see the piercing look of the bald eagle. No wonder small critters nearby get nervous. Nice post, as always.

      November 1, 2014 at 7:53 am

      • Thanks Judy! The eagles do look menacing, but having one of them stare at me doesn’t bother me the way that the falcon did when it looked straight down my lens.

        November 1, 2014 at 10:28 am

    • Thank you Bob!

      November 1, 2014 at 10:24 am

  3. I was pleased to see the size comparison of the different ducks. As I know how big a mallard is it was really useful. The shots of the juvenile eagles were wonderful – like Susan, I don’t get to see eagles here.

    November 1, 2014 at 10:48 am

    • Thanks Clare! I generally try to get just one species of bird in each image, but then it dawned on me, most people don’t know how large the birds that I photograph are. I knew that you didn’t have bald eagles there, but aren’t there golden eagles there?

      November 1, 2014 at 7:34 pm

      • Yes, there are Golden Eagles but they are mainly found in the Highlands of Scotland. I read that there are about 431 pairs in the Highlands and the Hebrides. Until ten years ago there was one pair in the Lake District in NW England but though there are conservation measures in force the birds are still persecuted by game keepers and sheep farmers. I would love to go to Scotland to see them and maybe I will one day.

        November 1, 2014 at 8:04 pm

  4. I can’t imagine a much more exciting thing to see in nature than eagles fighting, unless it was a couple of bucks going at it.
    I’m really surprised by the size difference between the ruddy ducks and mallards. They’re tiny little things.
    It was nice of that heron to let you get so close!

    November 1, 2014 at 11:00 am

    • Thanks Allen! I did get a photo of a 6 and a 10 point shoving each other a few years ago with my old Nikon and crappy lens, at dusk, so it isn’t very good. But, I know what you mean. And yes, the ruddy ducks are tiny compared to a mallard, which is a medium large duck. Many of the waterfowl that I shoot are smaller than mallards, and not as easy to get close to as mallards. I don’t know what the deal is with herons this fall, not only did they suddenly appear everywhere, but they are holding tight for me to get close to them.

      November 1, 2014 at 7:40 pm

  5. I enjoy your trips to Muskegon almost as much as you do. Don’t get bored of going there.

    November 1, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I’m going back again tomorrow (maybe today by your time) as there has been a purple sandpiper spotted there.

      November 1, 2014 at 7:41 pm

  6. You really do have a unique eye on bird behavior! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a GB heron from quite that angle! Always love the duck pics, too. Thx for sharing!!!

    November 2, 2014 at 7:16 am

    • Thanks Lori! I’ll have plenty of duck and other waterfowl photos coming up this winter.

      November 2, 2014 at 8:18 am

  7. Fabulous Bald Eagles, tho I’m a sucker for the GBH fledgling. Your fighting Eagles are an amazing capture, even if the lighting wasn’t what you wanted. I captured an Osprey attacking a juvenile Bald Eagle mid-flight a couple of weeks ago in exactly the same lighting conditions, and so I feel your pain, but also know how thrilling witnessing that fight must have been for you. Well done!

    November 2, 2014 at 11:08 pm

    • Thank you Babsje! I must be getting jaded,or serious about getting good photos, as all I could think of as I watched the eagles through the viewfinder was how poor the light was. 😉

      November 2, 2014 at 11:12 pm

      • You’re welcome. And you’re not jaded, just more experienced with Bald Eagles than I am. They’re still very new here, and so my standards or threshold for being “thrilled” are much lower than yours, whereas you worry about a “good” shot of them, I’m elated at “any” photo of them I can mange. I’m still a beginner. 🙂

        November 2, 2014 at 11:22 pm

  8. Unique photography..Regards.

    November 2, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    • Thank you very much!

      November 2, 2014 at 11:17 pm

  9. I love birdwatching! It sounds like you had a great time 🙂

    November 4, 2014 at 6:21 am

    • Thank you, I did!

      November 4, 2014 at 8:42 am

  10. Fantastic photos! The close-ups of the bald eagles are especially wonderful. But I truly enjoyed seeing the juvenile fight. That’s not something you see often in the wild, and I appreciate seeing it here. 😀

    November 4, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    • Thank you very Much! I can still remember that it made headlines thirty some years ago when a nesting pair of eagles were found in Michigan’s lower peninsula for the first time in decades. Now, they’re all over the place. So, as quickly as they are reproducing here, many more people will be able to witness such sights soon.

      November 4, 2014 at 1:51 pm