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

Lake Michigan birding March 22nd, The long boring version

It’s Sunday afternoon as I start this, the wind is howling like banshee outside in advance of the snow that’s forecast to arrive later. I’m sure glad that I got my walk in early this morning!

But, that is this weekend, the weather was just about as cold as it was yesterday and today last weekend when I went to the Lake Michigan shoreline. I arrived in Grand Haven just as it was beginning to get light. I had planned to go back and get better images of the breakwater and lighthouse while the lights were on for some time, ever since I tried shooting the scene handheld several weeks ago. There wasn’t as much ice left on the breakwater as there had been before, but I still set-up my tripod and camera to capture the scene anyway.

Grand Haven breakwater at dawn

Grand Haven breakwater at dawn

That’s the HDR version, otherwise, the photo is practically devoid of color, other than the white lights. I shot several series of photos to get that one HDR image, and I was about to fold the tripod up to put it away, when I saw the sunrise beginning to show signs of being a good one, in the other direction. So, despite my fingers going numb from the cold, I set-up to shoot this one, more for practice than anything else. I haven’t done much night photography since I switched from film to digital, and I thought that the practice would be just the ticket.

Sunrise over Grand Haven from Grand Haven State Park

Sunrise over Grand Haven from Grand Haven State Park

The only reason that I’m including that one is so that you can see what Grand Haven State Park is like. The yellow lines on the pavement denote the “campsites”. You should see that park in the summer, the “campers” are packed in there like sardines! Yet, that campground is almost always full, just because it is right on the beach. Not my cup of tea in any way, shape, or form.

I knew that there wasn’t time to drive to a more scenic spot, so I did the best that I could from that location.

Grand Haven, Michigan sunrise

Grand Haven, Michigan sunrise

Then, much to my surprise, the red in the sky extended well past me to the west, over the breakwater, so I turned around again for this one from my last post.

Sunrise at the Grand Haven breakwater

Sunrise at the Grand Haven breakwater

Okay then, time for me to prattle on a little. As you know, I’ve had my new iMac and Lightroom for just over a month, and I’m continuing to learn new things all the time. One thing that I’ve learned, and this may sound silly, is to not sit as close to the computer screen as I used to when I still used the old laptop. The display of this new iMac is huge, when I’m working on a photo in Lightroom, the image is a little larger than an eight by ten print, which shows all the flaws in an image even before I crop the image at all. Taking a cropped image up to that size makes it look as though the quality of the image is the pits, but it isn’t really as bad as it appears to be.

And, there is so much to learn in Lightroom, I found another series of tutorials online, these are from Adobe, the company that publishes Lightroom. They are much shorter than the two tutorials that I posted links to in the past, these average about twenty minutes long. However, they sure pack a lot into a very short time, I’m glad that I started with the two longer videos from B&H Photo to get to know Lightroom, now, I can almost keep up as I learn new tricks for using it in these videos from Adobe.

And, there are so many tricks to learn in Lightroom, not just editing photos, but storing, organizing, and finding the exact photo that one is looking for. There’s often several ways to accomplish any task, so the learning continues.

Lightroom is an amazing program, but I’d rather not turn this blog into yet another “how to” blog about Lightroom, there seems to be plenty of sources for tips about using it already available.

News flash, I came home from work on Monday afternoon after working a fourteen hour shift, only to find that my apartment had been flooded again, this time by a pipe that burst in my neighbors apartment. This flood was much worse than the one back in January, the damage from which they had never gotten around to repairing yet. Just as well, they would have had to do most of it all over again.

To make a long story short, I spent three nights in motels, two nights at my expense, one night on the company that I work for expense, as I did an overnight run to southern Ohio since I couldn’t stay in my apartment anyway. So, that’s the reason I was late replying to comments here, and got behind on other people’s blogs. Sorry, I had no internet access for most of this week. That’s also put me way behind in my blogging.

As it happened, I worked close enough to what I can legally work for a week by Thursday afternoon, that I have Friday off, and don’t have to return to work until Monday evening, a nice long Easter weekend for me. I went for a walk in the morning, talked to the maintenance supervisor about how the repairs had or had not been done, and I’ve been doing some major cleaning since then. A maintenance person showed up to do the last of the needed repairs, but most of the clean up of my property remains for me to do. The only thing the maintenance people care about is the company’s property, the carpeting and drywall, my stuff is my problem. Oh well, at least nothing was damaged.

Now then, back to the trip at hand.

Because it was still so cold out, I drove to several spots in Grand Haven where I could scope out the Grand River and other waterways, including Harbor Island, using my binoculars to see if there were any waterfowl or other birds worth trying to photograph. The only photos that I shot during this portion of the trip were of the first killdeer I’d seen this spring.

Killdeer

Killdeer

I drove to the north, to the Mona Lake channel and Lake Harbor Park to see what, if anything there was worth photographing. I found the first song sparrow of the year there.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

A few common mergansers.

Common mergansers in flight

Common mergansers in flight

Common merganser

Common merganser

My first American coot of the year.

American coot

American coot

Although it was still a bit early for good light for photography, as you can see. I walked the trail along the Mona Lake channel to the Lake Michigan shore, pausing to shoot one of the last American tree sparrows of the spring, as these will be heading north to their breeding grounds soon.

American tree sparrow

American tree sparrow

Most of the ice on Lake Michigan had melted, but what was left had been piled up along the shore by the wind, so I shot a few photos, using the wrong lens.

Spring ice on Lake Michigan

Spring ice on Lake Michigan

Spring ice on Lake Michigan

Spring ice on Lake Michigan

Spring ice on Lake Michigan

Spring ice on Lake Michigan

I shot those using the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), but I wished that I had taken one of my short lenses with me for those photos, to give you all a wider view of the icebergs on the lake.

Anyway, as I was walking back to the parking area, I saw a juvenile bald eagle flying in my direction. I was watching it through tree branches as it approached, so I couldn’t start shooting as soon as I saw it, but that worked out well, for I had time to get the camera and the Beast set-up for when the eagle cleared the trees.

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

That wasn’t cropped at all, that’s how close to me the eagle flew as it cleared the trees.

The eagle continued on, out over Mona Lake, I could post a few more not as good shots of the eagle as it did, but then something happened that was more interesting. One of the many gulls hanging around the area began attacking the eagle.

Gull attacking a bald eagle

Gull attacking a bald eagle

Gull attacking a bald eagle

Gull attacking a bald eagle

The eagle turned around, flying back in my direction, with the gull hot on its tail.

Gull attacking a bald eagle

Gull attacking a bald eagle

Gull attacking a bald eagle

Gull attacking a bald eagle

Who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll catch something like this happening when there’s good light so my photos will be better. But, that’s the way it goes for me. I guess that I’m luckier than most, as I see these things more often than most people, but seldom in good light. I do find it interesting that on one day, the eagles will be chasing the gulls, looking for an easy meal, the next day, the gulls will be chasing the eagles away. How do they decide who is going to chase who each day?

Anyway, my next stop was the Muskegon Lake channel, then it was on to the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and I’m not going to add any of the few photos that I shot at either of those locations. The light was still poor, and the things that I saw weren’t that noteworthy.  That changed at the next stop, the Bear Lake channel to Muskegon Lake.

That’s not one of my usual stops, as there’s no public access there, other than the parking lot of the Bear Lake Tavern. Since it was still relatively early on a Sunday morning, the tavern was closed, so I stopped to shoot a few photos of the mallards there. The weather was finally getting better, and playing with the mallards seemed like a good way to get some practice.

Male Mallard

Male Mallard

Male Mallard

Male Mallard

Since I had all my camera gear with me in my car, I had switched to using one body with just the 300 mm L series lens on one body, and the 70-200 mm L series lens on the other, as I could easily get too close to the mallards with either lens.

I was a bit surprised to see a pair of Pekin ducks there…

Pekin ducks

Pekin ducks

Pekin ducks

Pekin ducks

Pekin ducks

Pekin ducks

…and I was even more surprised when this guy came out from under one of the boat ducks along the channel to pose for me!

Male wood duck

Male wood duck

Male wood duck

Male wood duck

Male wood duck

Male wood duck

So, I hung around the area, shooting the mallards, the wood duck, and a few gulls that showed up, trying various lenses and settings for these.

Male mallard

Male mallard

Male wood duck

Male wood duck

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

Female mallard/black duck hybrid

Female mallard/black duck hybrid

Female mallard/black duck hybrid

Female mallard/black duck hybrid

Male mallard

Male mallard

Male wood duck

Male wood duck

Male wood duck

Male wood duck

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

The last two images were shot with the Beast, as I had switched back to that lens as I prepared to leave.

My last stop of the day was the portion of Muskegon State Park on the north side of the Muskegon Lake channel. The only photos that I shot were of a male northern cardinal as he sang.

Male northern cardinal singing

Male northern cardinal singing

So, I switched my camera over to shoot video, for those of you who have never heard a cardinal’s song.

Not great, but do you know how hard it is to hold a camera with the Beast on it stationary at 500 mm when pointed nearly straight up and at arm’s length?

So, that wraps up another one, it’s early on Saturday morning now, I have my apartment in a livable condition for now, although I still have a lot of work left to do. But, I’m going to take this morning off, and head to the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve to see what I can find there while the weather is fairly nice. The forecast is for rain/snow mixed tomorrow, that’s apartment cleaning weather.

That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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24 responses

  1. Thank you for the video of the cardinal song! They sound as pretty as they look. I should record some of my native birds for you. I am sure you would like the bell birds and the whipbirds although I guess you have probably heard them many times before on Australian movies or nature documentaries.
    So sorry to read that you still have a lot of cleaning up to do. How depressing that must have been to come home to after long driving shifts! I am glad none of your computer or camera equipment was damaged.
    Despite ducks and gulls being common I never get sick of looking at great pictures of them. The colours, sheens and patterns are lovely and it’s always fun to observe their behaviour. I am still surprised by how beautiful your male wood ducks are.
    I noticed a few of your shots have blue sky in them! It seems that cloudy skies have been the norm for a long time for you. I hope you eventually get a nice run of good weather!
    I am often amused by the turn taking that different birds have when chasing each other away in the sky. Some of the tiniest birds often seem the most determined and fearless sometimes when chasing larger birds. Some days they are the meal while other days the pursuers!
    I hope you enjoy your walk this morning before the bad weather sets in again tomorrow. Thanks again for sharing your great photography with us.

    April 4, 2015 at 8:40 am

    • Thank you very much Jane!

      I hope to do more videos as time goes on, I love standard photography, but video adds movement and sounds to the photos I shoot, which is good.

      I have renters insurance, so I wasn’t too worried about my property, it was just a big mess and hassle to deal with.

      We did have much more sunshine than usual, as much as we get in the summer months. But, don’t mistake that sunshine for warmer temps, as it snowed today, and more is predicted for tomorrow, although it melts as fast as it falls.

      April 4, 2015 at 11:14 pm

  2. And the sunrise shots are lovely!

    April 4, 2015 at 8:41 am

  3. Wonderful shots, glad nothing got damaged in the second flood…we had a flood in our flat, 2 days before we got married…not fun.

    April 4, 2015 at 8:49 am

    • Thank you very much! I can’t imagine the chaos that having a flooded flat just before your wedding may have caused.

      April 4, 2015 at 10:32 pm

      • And as a omen of this discussion, we had another last night in the house….hehe.

        April 5, 2015 at 9:28 am

      • Sorry to hear that!

        April 5, 2015 at 6:35 pm

  4. I am in love with the mallard shot with the water breaking over his back. Once again, you caught a perfect moment.

    But, you do have the most rotten luck with apartment selection. Happy that none of your own stuff was damaged. Its hard for me to imagine what it would be like walk in to such destruction. (At least in your writing), you seem to have taken it pretty calmly. Hope this is the last time you have to put up with that crap.

    Can’t wait to see what you’ll come up with on a long weekend without work. If you were here in Evansville, you’d probably be shooting waterfowl. Man, did we have storms roll through here yesterday!

    April 4, 2015 at 8:57 am

    • Thanks Judy! I get lucky once in a while, but the shutter lag in my camera doesn’t help capturing the perfect shot.

      I learned a long, long time ago that going nuts when something happens doesn’t help the situation. It’s best to stay calm and rational.

      I ade a run down to Indy last week, the lakes and ponds in Indiana were filled with waterfowl on their way north, so I’m hoping that I catch a few of them this week.

      April 4, 2015 at 10:35 pm

  5. It doesn’t seem fair that you’d have to pay for that motel room Jerry. It’s not your fault the pipe burst.
    The sunrise shots are beautiful. I’ve got to get out there earlier!
    Imagine that wood duck prancing and posing like that. I wonder if he is learning not to fear humans by hanging out with the mallards.
    Nice to hear the cardinal. There is one in the neighborhood that stops by and sings now and then. It’s a wonderful song!
    I hope you had good luck today.

    April 4, 2015 at 9:38 am

    • Thank you Allen! I didn’t think it fair that I pay for the motel either, but that’s the (cheap) way they do things here. The good thing is that the company reimburses me twice what I paid for the motel when I did the overnight, so I really only paid for one night, but still.

      Sunrise has always been my favorite part of the day, it’s nice to be able to see a few more of them now.

      Your comment about the wood duck learning from the mallards got me thinking just how smart mallards are. They are the most hunted species of duck in North Amaerica, yet they know when they are safe and when they’re not. I ran into some really wild ones today, almost as bad as the typical wood ducks are.

      I did have a good day, my best photos of a tree swallow so far, and a bunch of mosses or liverworts that I found but had never seen before.

      April 4, 2015 at 10:49 pm

  6. So sorry about the damage to your apartment, what rotten luck. Loved your sunrise pictures though and you did a splendid job on all those ducks.

    April 4, 2015 at 9:55 am

    • Thank you Susan! Luckily, nothing of mine was damaged, it just needs to be cleaned up after they repaired the drywall and left the mess for me to clean.

      April 4, 2015 at 10:50 pm

  7. Sorry to hear about the flooding (again)! It’s good you got to be away for part of it.

    April 4, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    • Thanks Gunta! It was good to get away from the mess, but I’d rather not go through that again.

      April 4, 2015 at 10:51 pm

  8. Those are some beautiful sunrise photos, Jerry, especially that last one of the breakwater. Sorry to hear about the flooding problem. Workign 14 hrs and finding a mess is no fun.

    I like those wood ducks. These ornate and unusual birds always look more like beautifully carved and painted statues than real ducks. Great photos!

    April 4, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    • Thank you Lavinia! I’ve had the worst luck here, a fire in an apartment upstairs forced us out for a day, now, two burst pipes in four months. I’d look for another place to live if moving wasn’t such a hassle.

      April 4, 2015 at 10:53 pm

  9. I am sorry to hear about the flooding…

    As usually, I enjoyed all your photos (except those with ice because I don’t want to remember winter).

    Hope you will have nice weekend with good light and nice subjects.

    I have never heard a cardinal’s song so thank you for this video.

    April 4, 2015 at 4:34 pm

  10. You certainly must be strong to get such a steady video shot at arms length. I shan’t challenge you to any arm wrestling matches when you come to Scotland at last.

    April 4, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    • Thanks Tom! My arms may be strong, but my eyes have become weak with age, which is why I have to hold the camera at arm’s length to see the screen. 😉

      April 5, 2015 at 12:35 am

  11. So sorry to hear about your apartment flooding again! Hope all will be returned to normal soon.

    Loved the sunrise scenes — really nice! I especially liked the second lighthouse shot with the lights on and the very rosy glow in the sky. Beautiful!

    I really enjoyed all the duck shots, too. The Pekin ducks are so fluffy looking!! I’ve never seen a wood duck out of the water before, so that was cool to see. I was sure hoping to see more waterfowl up north this past weekend but all the lakes are still too frozen over. Hopefully over Mother’s Day weekend!

    Thanks for the shots of the song sparrow. I got some fairly dismal photos of a sparrow along the lakeshore where we saw the swans and your photos helped me identify that what I saw/shot was a song sparrow!

    Hope you enjoyed your weekend off, Jerry!

    April 6, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    • Thank you Amy!

      All the holes in the drywall are fixed, all the water is gone, I still have some cleaning and re-organizing left, but I had to do that anyway.

      I lucked out on the sunrise, for once, things went better than planned, with the rosy sky extending to the west far enough to appear with the lights.

      Song sparrows are one of the first of the migratory sparrows to return in the spring, you can’t mistake their song, even though they look like many other sparrows.

      I had a very relaxing, yet productive weekend, I wish every one could be like this one was.

      April 7, 2015 at 1:21 pm

  12. Hope you have had a very happy Easter, Jerry and no more flooding. What a hassle! I really enjoyed all the bird shots and the video and recording of the Cardinal was wonderful. Beautiful sunrise pictures too!

    April 6, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    • Thank you Clare! The flood is just a (bad) memory now, the mess is gone, time to move on.

      I’d like to record more videos of birds singing, but I need to find a place where there’s less background noise than most of the places I go. I’ll have a video of the mating displays of hooded mergansers in a post soon, when I have time to get to that post.

      April 7, 2015 at 1:23 pm