Muskegon Birding, March 8th, 2015
I haven’t made it out very often lately, my work schedule has prevented that. I’ve been working long hours, this week it was 55 hours in five days, so even though the weather has been nice, I’ve been too tired when I get out of work to do any hiking or walking.
I’ve also fallen behind in my blogging, so this post will cover a trip to the Muskegon area way back on March 8th. While I didn’t shoot photos of any new species this time, I did have better light than I did for most of my trips there this past winter. I tried to use some of what I have learned while using Lightroom to shoot better photos in the first place, that, and get the best from my photo equipment.
Overall, I’ve been somewhat disappointed in the performance of the 300 mm L series telephoto lens I have, but when I get that lens to focus spot on, it does an exceptional job!
However, my go to lens for birding is still the Beast ( Sigma 150-500 mm lens) due to its more reliable focusing. So all the rest of the photos in this post were shot with that lens.
The photo of the mallard was shot at the Muskegon Lake channel, where I started on this day. There were plenty of waterfowl around to shoot, like this female red-breasted merganser.
The birding reports from the Muskegon area which showed the common eider and black scoter still there had brought out droves of people looking for them with the arrival of nicer weather. The constant movements of those people kept most of the waterfowl agitated and/or over to the far side of the channel, out of photo range. I tried for a few duck in flight photos, with mixed results…
…the Beast does okay, but it is not a great lens for moving subjects, at least not those that move as fast as ducks do. I should qualify that, the Beast isn’t great for moving subjects if I don’t have the time to switch the optical stabilization mode to action, or off completely for moving subjects on my Canon 60D body. It will be interesting to see how it and the 300 mm L series lens perform on a 7D Mk II body.
Yes, I have decided to upgrade to the better body, but I’ve calmed down about that again since my last post. At that time, I had just returned from a walk during which I had missed many photo opportunities due to the inconsistent focusing of the 300 mm lens. With the return of warmer weather, I’ll be able to carry the Beast more often, which works very well on the 60D bodies that I currently use. Of course, that may change by the time that you read this, I’ll be carrying the Beast around home today for the first time in months when I go for my hike.
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I try to make long-term plans, however, the spontaneous side of me hates having equipment that doesn’t function the way that I want it to, and I’m prone to make hasty decisions because of that. Because of the poor quality of the photos of the Cooper’s hawks mating in my last post, I was very upset at the time I wrote that post. I have to tell myself to calm down, that I have the rest of my life to accumulate better gear, and better photos. I don’t have to get perfect photos every time, although that’s what I try for most of the time. I know that there are going to be plenty of bad photos no matter which camera or end I use, that’s the way that nature photography is, you’re not in a studio where you can control the light and every other aspect of photography.
In a way, I feel as though I’m flying blind at the present time as far as what the quality of my photos really is. I upgraded my computer to the new iMac and began using Lightroom at the same time. Based on what I saw, I’ve changed many of my camera’s basic settings to make my images better because of that. However, everything looks different on this new computer, from my earlier photos to everything else that I view. So, I have to ask myself is it the display, Lightroom, or camera settings, a combination of all of the above, or am I being tricked into thinking my photos have improved. I may have to have a few printed out to see just where I stand at this time. So to that end, I have just ordered 8 X 10 prints of 5 of my best photos from since I began using Lightroom and the new iMac, and changed the basic settings of the camera. Once I see them, I’ll have a better idea where I currently stand as far as image quality. I guess that I’ll put this post on hold until then.
Okay, once again, I am officially amazed. Without a doubt, the prints that I had made are by far the best I’ve ever gotten from any of my cameras, including my old Pentax film camera! These were sharper, clearer, and the color reproduction was almost perfect. I’m not saying those things to brag, but it’s always good to see improvements in something that I love to do, and to know that I’m making progress.
From what I can tell, the settings that I had dialed into the camera to record better jpeg images muddied up (hows that for a technical term?) the images since I have switched to shooting in RAW all the time. That, and I still think that Lightroom does a much better job of converting the RAW images to jpeg for use here, or to print, than the software that came with my camera did at the conversion. No matter what the reasons are, I’m very impressed by the results that I see, both on my computer, and now in the prints that I had made.
So, in addition to the mallard photo above, here are the photos from this trip that I had printed to check on quality.
I also had the recent photo of the eagle printed…
…along with one of the robins from the last post.
Okay then, now that I know for sure where I stand as far as the quality of my current images, time to get back to the task at hand, my trip to Muskegon. And, in doing so, I going to post a poor photo for the record, a bald eagle that was perched on the far side of the channel, keeping an eye on things happening.
The eagle stayed there the entire time while I was there, it would watch the ducks and gulls fly by, and the people coming and going as if it didn’t have a care in the world. It didn’t seem to bother the ducks very much. I got slightly better photos of the common eider.
I have to thank the eider for getting on top of that chunk of ice to give me a better view!
This male long-tailed duck decided to yank my chain…
…for just as the female did the last time I was there, the male rose up…
…and I thought that it was going to dry its wings…
…but he changed his mind about that.
On this trip, a female did dry her wings, and I managed to catch it.
Here are the rest of the images that I shot while at the Muskegon Lake channel.
With the steady stream of people showing up looking for the eider and black scoter, I decided to head over to the other end of Muskegon Lake and hang out at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve for a while shooting song birds.
The snow was still quite deep on the trails, but it was a beautiful day with comfortable temperatures for early March, so I sat down on at a picnic table in the sun to listen to the birds and photograph any that came near.
I didn’t get photos of all the birds that I would have liked to, but it was nice to just sit in the sun and enjoy the day and hear the birds singing for the first time in months!
With the nicer weather, more people began to show up, which kept the birds at bay, but by then, a chilly wind coming over the ice of Lake Michigan and Muskegon Lake had cooled me to the point where it was time to find a warmer spot. So, it was off to the wastewater treatment facility to see what I could find there.
It was early afternoon by then, not the best time of day for birding, but I did find a flock of common redpolls that had stopped there on their way north to feed on the exposed seeds as the snow melted.
Most of the trails and two-tracks were still blocked by the large snowdrifts left from this past winter, which meant that I couldn’t get to many of the best birding spots. I did get a couple of shots of a rough-legged hawk in flight.
There were a few redhead around…
…I don’t know why, but one redhead was hanging out with the greater scaup, so much for birds of a feather. 😉
Since I’m out of practice shooting flying birds, I decided that I would practice on the gulls, I had many to choose from.
The gulls would have just as soon have perched on the ice for a siesta, but there was a bald eagle nearby…
…and every twenty minutes or so, the eagle would soar over the gulls looking for an easy meal, and that would send all the gulls into a frenzy until the eagle had returned to its perch. I tried for photos, but my timing was off, I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I did get lots of practice on the gulls…
…and caught this juvenile eagle as it flew past to see what the adult was up to.
Well, that was it for the day, not a bad day overall, even though I wasn’t able to get anymore lifers on this trip.
I’m publishing this on Sunday morning, before I head out before dawn for another Lake Michigan shoreline trip, and tomorrow in the wee hours of the morning, I head out to do an overnight run for work, so I may not get a chance to reply to comments for a while. Sorry about that, but my schedule these days is rather chaotic, as I never know when or for how long I’ll be working, and the ten hours that I typically have off from work each day doesn’t leave me much time for anything other than eating and sleeping.
That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!