Muskegon Nov. 2nd, 2014 Ducks and raptors galore
This post is about the trip that I made to Muskegon on November 2nd, 2014, the same weekend as my last post from Pickerel Lake. It was the last nice weekend this year as far as weather, it’s been getting progressively wetter and colder since then. There’s a snowstorm happening outside as I’m beginning this post, and this one is just a warm up for the worse one predicted to hit tomorrow. 😦
I went walking today, in the snow, and did some thinking. I took my vacation this spring towards the end of May. After the long, cold, snowy winter last winter, there were still snow drifts on the ground in places up north. When I went north the first weekend in October of this year, there were snowflakes and sleet falling, although it melted as fast as it fell. However, snow has been falling steadily here for several days, and covering the ground. That means that there only five months this year when I didn’t see some snow on the ground, and only four months between snowfalls. Yuck!
However, this post is about a day when we still had nice weather. So, with good weather and a wide range of species of birds to photograph, you all know what that means, a long post with too many photos. 😉
I’m going to start the photos in this post with one that I did wrong.
What I did wrong was to go for a good shot of the heron first, then as an afterthought, shot this one that almost included the heron and a flock of northern shovelers that had been much closer to the heron.
Also in the same area, a female hooded merganser.
Next up, I spotted a pair of gadwalls swimming up one of the drainage ditches, and I was able to get ahead of them, hide in the weeds above them, and wait for them to get close.
You can tell that the male had spotted me, and the next photo was of him headed back behind the weeds. The female continue on for a few good photos of her, I’ll include one of them.
The male bolted, I got one bad photo of him in flight.
I only included that one because it does show his wing colors, even if he’s out of focus, and I haven’t posted many images of gadwalls.
Next up, a flock of northern shovelers with one female blue-winged teal for a size comparison.
It’s easy to tell the teal from the shovelers, she’s half their size, and of course she has a more petite bill. Here’s a closer shot of her.
And yes, that’s ice on the water, and that was a relatively warm day this November, as you’ll see later when I get to the shots where you can see the heat waves above the ground.
Anyway, here’s a scaup, I can’t tell if it is a lesser or greater, in front of a ring-necked duck. As you can see, they are close to the same size, and also in coloration. But, if you look closely, you’ll see that the scaup has lighter sides, and darker head than the ring-necked.
Sometimes it is easier to learn to ID birds when you see two species together like that. Here’s the ring-necked duck zoomed in and cropped more.
Bufflehead ducks are one of the smaller species of ducks, but they are chubby little things with short, wide wings, as you can see here.
By comparison, the northern shovelers look svelte in flight.
Switching over to raptors, here’s a red-tailed hawk.
I had tried to get a photo of that hawk a few minutes before, but it flew off before I could get a good image of it. So, it surprised me when it landed even closer to me than it had been before. I told it I had been hoping for an eagle.
So, it did its best eagle impersonation for me.
Switching gears again, this time to songbirds, here’s an American pipit with a blue-winged teal in the background.
But, I found the teal distracting, so the pipit hung around until the teal was gone.
Don’t you just love it when the birds cooperate? Speaking of which, I think that this is my best shot of a ruddy duck so far.
I caught her just as she surfaced with a mouthful of food.
I have a still photo of northern shovelers feeding, but, I have also shot a much better video than the one that I had in my last post from Muskegon. In that one, the sound of the IS system in the 300 mm prime lens was all that you could hear. In this one, you can hear the shovelers, since I used the 70-200 mm lens, which has no stabilization system. The shovelers are filter feeders, their bills have about 110 fine projections (called lamellae) along the edges, for straining food from water, and you can hear them this time.
I was hoping that they would get into one of their feeding frenzies, but no such luck.
Not all the birds were so cooperative, I think that this male bufflehead was doing the duck equivalent of flipping me off.
Especially by the way he smirked at me over his shoulder as he and his buddy were swimming away from me.
Here’s an American coot for the record.
The Wilson’s snipe was still hanging around, in nearly the same spot as the last time.
While I was watching the snipe, hoping it would move to a more photogenic area, I spotted a real prize, a male green-winged teal in breeding plumage.
Yes! Another species I can cross off my list of species that I need photos of.
A short while later, I saw an approaching hawk, but I could tell that it wasn’t a red-tailed.
It was a rough-legged hawk, as you can probably tell from the caption. 😉
From where I saw that hawk, to the grassy cells, is well over a mile, but when I got to the grassy cells, I found what had to be another rough-legged hawk. It would hover for a while, drop down, touch the ground, then immediately take off again.
You can see the heat waves rising from the ground in these shots, as well as this one, which I shot at the same time, but in another direction.
Three species of hawks in one day, even if the photos aren’t great, not a bad day.
So, with the atmospheric conditions getting worse, I tried to get closer to my subjects. Here’s a great blue heron modeling the latest in leggings for herons.
While I was watching that heron, another landed on the slope above the first.
I think that the second one showed up to distract me as the first one caught something to eat.
And, as the first heron finished swallowing its catch, the second one flew off, so I missed the action shots.
How many species am I up to in this post? I’ve lost count, but, time to add another, a greater yellowlegs.
In my last post from Muskegon, I jumped ahead and posted a video of Canada geese flying past me, well, here’s the first wave of the geese as they took flight.
It was as the second wave flew past me that I got the idea to shoot the video in the other post.
Time to add another species to the list for today, a horned grebe.
I spotted to adult eagles in a tree ahead of me as I was driving past the lagoons, but when I got there, some one else had exited their vehicle and was trying to sneak up on the eagles. That doesn’t work, so I knew that the eagles wouldn’t be there long. I slid my Forester around, got into position as one eagle took flight, and managed to get one shot of the eagle still perched.
I hadn’t had time to get a good focus on the eagle, and I still hadn’t as it leapt into the air.
I did finally get a good focus lock on the eagle.
One more, just because it’s an eagle.
I was lucky there, when the other person spooked the eagle, it launched almost straight at me at first. Now I know what an eagle’s prey sees!
My best photo of a juvenile bufflehead ever.
A photo of one of the rough-legged hawks perched for a change.
And, a red-tailed hawk nearby to compare to the rough-legged hawk.
I headed back to where I had seen the green-winged teal earlier, hoping that they were in a better spot for photos. I shot these mallards there, yet another species to add to the list for the day.
The teal were still there, but not for long, here’s a male on take off.
The female teal which had jumped into the air first, caught and passed the male.
But, I wasn’t able to catch their distinctive green wing patches, darn, better luck next time.
Should I include another heron? What the heck, why not.
I found the gadwalls again.
That’s it from the wastewater facility. Since I wasn’t seeing anything new, I drove the length of Muskegon Lake to visit Pere Marquette Park for the next few photos, starting with an inquisitive ring-billed gull.
I was going to walk down the breakwater, but it was a bit chilly to get splashed on.
So, I watched some kite surfers for a while instead.
Other than the gulls, there were no birds to photograph, so I looked for other things.
The flag flying over the Muskegon Coast Guard Station…
…makes a fitting prelude to my next photo. Long time readers of my blog have seen this before, but with many new readers, it’s time to post photos of the USS Silversides again. The Silversides is a World War II era submarine docked in Muskegon at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial & Museum. She sank the second highest total tonnage of any sub during WW II, and is now a floating museum, after having been used as a training ship after the war.
The old girl still looks pretty good for being almost 75 years old and having sustained heavy battle damage several times during the war!
Well, another day done, and a fine day it was. I could prattle on longer, but I won’t, this post is long enough already. So, I’ll just say that this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!