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

From around home, before the 7D Mk II

I’m way behind in posting again, or still, which ever way you prefer to look at it. But, I’m having tons of fun right now, when I have time off from work, getting out and shooting loads of photos. There’s just so much to photograph this time of year, with new flowers and birds appearing almost daily.

In some ways, I’m a bit torn, do I only post my best photos, or do I post the not so great photos that are interesting, even if they aren’t the best that I can do? Should I continue to post multiple photos of the same species of birds and other subjects that I love, or do I go for as much variety as I could? Trying to decide what to put in a post, and what to leave out is becoming more difficult, especially with the backlog of photos that I have saved to post. Here’s an example, I’ve posted too many photos of mallards already, but they have so much personality, how do I stop myself from posting photos such as this one?

Male mallard being goofy

Male mallard being goofy

That one has been saved on my computer for nearly a month, but it still cracks me up every time that I view it.

You may think that with a brand new 7D Mark II that I’d be running around using it for everything, and in a hurry to show all the readers of this blog the resulting photos. Maybe it represents a turning point for me as far as photography, but I’ve been using the 7D only sparingly so far. I am beginning to see it, and all my photo gear, as a tool to be used for what it’s best at. I’ve gone to the Muskegon area twice since I purchased the 7D, and both times I had it set up for birds in flight with the 300 mm lens on it. On both trips, I had one of the 60D bodies with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) on it, and shot the majority of the photos on both trips with it, rather than the 7D. I will say that I’ve seen flashes of brilliance from the 7D already, as far as how quickly and accurately it can auto-focus, particularly on moving subjects.

I’m still learning the 7D, whereas I’ve been using the Beast on a 60D body for two years now, I know what that combination can do, and how to get the shot when I need to. I can see that the 7D does turn out better images, but, using Lightroom, I can bring what comes out of the 60Ds up to about the same level, which is pretty darned good in my opinion.

Male red-winged blackbird

Male red-winged blackbird

Even during the times that I’ve been carrying the 7D as my main wildlife camera, I still carry one of the 60D bodies for macros and landscapes.

Crocus

Crocus

On one day in particular, I saw few birds, so the 7D got little use, but it was a fine day for flowers, sunshine and no wind, so almost all the photos I shot that day were with the 60D. But, I’ll get to that when I get to the photos from that time period, the photos from this post are all from before I got the 7D. These still date back to the early spring, when the bee from several posts back was rolling in crocus pollen.

Bee covered in pollen

Bee covered in pollen

I may have been better off to delete the majority of the photos that follow, as the weather wasn’t the greatest on many of the days that I shot them. But, they are a record of my spring this year, so here goes.

I’m constantly amazed by what I see through the macro lens when I turn it towards something I see growing on the side of a tree.

A miniature jungle of moss and lichens, perhaps a slime mold?

A miniature jungle of moss and lichens, perhaps a slime mold?

We’ve had plenty of rain this spring, but it’s been coming down in torrents when it does rain, with long dry spells in between. That’s made finding lichens and mosses a bit of a challenge. I should also add that there was snow falling three days last week, it melted as fast as it fell, but it was cold enough for snow.

Anyway, you never know what you’re going to see around here.

Rooftop Canada goose

Rooftop Canada goose

Mallards following the goose's lead

Mallards following the goose’s lead

You wouldn’t think that a critter that can fly…

Canada goose in flight

Canada goose in flight

…would feel the need to perch on a roof to enjoy the view, but when it happens, I always do a double take because it’s not something that I expect.

Speaking of the unexpected, one early morning as I was walking the bike path that runs along the expressway, about a dozen small songbirds came flying out of the brush straight at me, in a big hurry, something that doesn’t usually happen. A few seconds later, a Cooper’s hawk went blasting past me, I turned, but didn’t have time to zoom in…

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

…so you get an idea that the places that I walk around home aren’t exactly a wildlife preserve. I did get zoomed in and cropped the next photo of the hawk.

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

But speaking of wildlife preserves, I’m signed up to get daily rare bird reports through eBird, and the number of reports that come from the area of the apartment complex where I used to live is staggering. In some ways, I wish that I still lived in the old apartment, seeing so many species of birds around there is what got me into serious birding. But, the management at the old complex went downhill in a hurry, and the place was really overpriced for what the apartment was. Besides, I do pretty well around here, and on weekends, I manage to track down plenty of birds elsewhere.

The man-made lakes in the area of the old apartment is what seems to attract many of the rarer birds to that area, but I’ve done well enough around the new apartment, capturing shots of birds that prefer open grassland, like this meadowlark.

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

It’s so good to hear their song again, after the long cold winter that we had. In fact, it’s great to hear all the birds singing!

American robin singing

American robin singing

American goldfinch singing

American goldfinch singing

Northern cardinal singing

Northern cardinal singing

Northern cardinal singing

Northern cardinal singing

IMG_7418

Red-winged blackbird singing

 

American robin singing

American robin singing

Chipping sparrow singing

Chipping sparrow singing

Northern cardinal singing

Northern cardinal singing

American goldfinch singing

American goldfinch singing

If there wasn’t so much background noise around here, I’d have shot a few videos, so I could record their songs, because hearing them sing is one of the reasons that spring is my favorite season.

There are some advantages to shooting photos of the more common species of birds around here, they make great practice subjects as I test new settings and techniques out in photography. Also, I’m able to observe them closely, and learn more about them, even if I don’t always shoot photos of what I learn. For instance, I never knew that flickers drummed on dead tree branches the same way that other woodpeckers do, until I saw one doing so.

Northern flicker drumming

Northern flicker drumming

It would pause for a few seconds to give out its distinctive call….

Northern flicker calling

Northern flicker calling

…then go back to drumming again.

Speaking of woodpeckers, here’s a few more.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker in flight

Pileated woodpecker in flight

Pileated woodpecker in flight

Pileated woodpecker in flight

Sorry about those last two, the pileated was really too far away, but while I’ve heard them, and caught glimpses of them, I haven’t been able to get close to them for a while now. That may change, or at least I hope that it does.

Speaking of getting close to my subjects, the fox squirrels are getting so used to my being around that they allow me to get too close to them.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

So do some of the mallards.

Male mallard

Male mallard

Male mallard

Male mallard

Male mallard clowning for the camera

Male mallard clowning for the camera

Male mallards up to something

Male mallards up to something

I never did figure out what those three were up to, but I could tell that they were up to something, you never know with mallards.

I did shoot a few good photos for this post, besides just interesting ones.

Female brown-headed cowbird

Female brown-headed cowbird

Male brown-headed cowbird displaying for a female

Male brown-headed cowbird displaying for a female

Male brown-headed cowbird

Male brown-headed cowbird

But, I wish that they had been of a different species of bird, other than the parasitic nesting cowbirds. The female cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other species of birds, which almost always results in the death of the young birds of the “host” species. Cowbirds laying eggs in bluebird nests is what led to the sharp decline in bluebirds.

One of these days, I’ll get a really good photo of one of these, a brown creeper.

Brown creeper on the move

Brown creeper on the move

They’re always on the move, and they blend in so well with tree bark that the creepers are hard to spot. It looks as if the bark is moving. I chased that one around for a while, to get this photo.

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

On another day, I chased this one…

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

…it paused for a second, and I thought that I had it…

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

…but you can see that it had just begun moving again as I tripped the shutter…

Brown creeper catching a flying insect

Brown creeper catching a flying insect

…to snatch an insect out of the air…

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

…which the creeper ate on the run, of course.

Speaking of what birds eat, there’s a reason that robins are so plentiful, they have evolved to fit into nearly every type of habitat. We think of them as the quintessential suburban birds, pulling worms from manicured lawns, but they do equally as well in the “wild”. They have a varied diet that consists of both insects and vegetation, and you can spot them in the deep woods, scratching through the leaf litter for insects, in bushes eating berries, or in grassy fields chasing down insects.

American robin with a snack

American robin with a snack

One of these days…

American robin taking flight

American robin taking flight

…I’ll get better at catching those moments also.

Oh, before I forget, several posts back, or in a comment to some one, I mentioned finding lichens growing on a piece of discarded carpeting. Well, for what it’s worth, here’s a photo of those lichens.

Lichens

Lichens

Here’s a few other lichens that I shot on a frosty morning, just because I liked the light, colors, and textures.

Frosty lichens

Frosty lichens

Even though I’ve put too many photos in this post already, I have just a few more to go, starting with a red squirrel.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

When I think of spring, this is one of the images that comes to mind, even though I have already posted several similar photos, a male cardinal in a tree singing in hopes of attracting a mate.

Male northern cardinal singing

Male northern cardinal singing

One of these days, I’ll get “The Shot” of a cardinal in full song, just like one of these days, I’ll be in the right place at the right time to capture a spectacular sunrise or sunset, rather than at a wastewater treatment facility. 😉

Goose at dawn

Goose at dawn

That’s just a teaser of what I hopefully will be shooting more of in the future, sans the power-lines and poles, and other man-made objects in the scene.

I’d better stop here, or this post will go on forever!

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

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19 responses

  1. I’ve never had the sort of patience you describe when it comes to playing with new “toys”. Your squirrel buddies are simply too cute for words. It’s obvious they like having their picture taken by you!

    April 29, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    • Thanks! Sometimes I surprise myself how patient I can be, but that’s also how I get the squirrels to pose. 😉

      April 30, 2015 at 8:27 am

  2. Well I think that you got the balance of photos pretty well right for this post. Although it was not a great picture because it was so far away, I liked the flying woodpecker shot because it conveys so exactly how they look when the fly.

    I am impressed by your squirrel wrangling skills.

    April 29, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    • Thank you Tom! I had to include the woodpecker, as they are still rare here this far south. Wrangling fox squirrels doesn’t take much work, they are quite tame, red squirrels are a different story.

      April 30, 2015 at 8:31 am

  3. The mallard made me laugh! I also liked seeing the goose and duck on the roof as I often see our geese standing on top of our hedge – you would think that would be difficult with webbed feet. There was even a photo of a goose on top of a local church tower in our church magazine! Strange behaviour!

    April 29, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    • Thank you Clare! Ducks and geese do have limited ability to grasp things with their feet, but it is very limited. You don’t expect to see either ducks or geese on a building or a hedge.

      April 30, 2015 at 8:34 am

      • 😀

        April 30, 2015 at 11:24 am

  4. If I had to pick a favorite it would be your goofy mallard, just too cute for words, and perhaps a once in a lifetime photo. I also enjoyed your fox squirrel very much, all the photos were great!

    April 29, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    • Thank you very much! The shot of the duck was cute, but not a once in a lifetime shot. They look up like that quite often.

      April 30, 2015 at 8:36 am

      • I will hope to see it for myself someday.

        May 9, 2015 at 2:41 am

  5. Well, I loved the goofy mallard shot! It makes me laugh too. I quite like the quirky shots as well as the “perfect” ones. Speaking of quirky shots, the 2nd fox squirrel picture also makes me smile. They are just too darn adorable and funny looking! The goose on the roof is also amusing.
    Thanks for the lichen pictures. As you know, I always find it interesting.
    I love all the singing bird pics. Except for the fact that you’d scare the birds away before you could take a picture (not saying that you have a bad voice) I can imagine you might be singing with joy at the moment since you are having so much fun, Jerry! Will we get a video/pic of you singing too? 😉
    The final dawn pic was a beautiful way to finish. It doesn’t matter that it has power lines!

    April 30, 2015 at 12:55 am

  6. What a wealth of wonderful pictures, my favourites, as always, are the ones of the fox squirrel, the sunrise was pretty good too.

    April 30, 2015 at 3:53 am

    • Thank you very much Susan!

      April 30, 2015 at 8:37 am

  7. Love shot after shot of the choir. Hearing the blast of birds in the morning is one of my favorite parts of camping. Nice to see them so well represented.

    April 30, 2015 at 9:05 am

    • Thank you Judy! The great thing about this time of the year is that a new voice joins the choir nearly every day. The birds singing at dawn is also one of the reasons that I love to camp as well.

      April 30, 2015 at 2:30 pm

  8. OK, what’s on that roof that all the waterfowl have taken such a liking to it?!!! Love that duck couple, too! PS, he’s probably looking for a hawk, my guess. 😉

    May 4, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    • Thanks Lori! The only thing on the roof that I know of is the view.

      May 4, 2015 at 4:00 pm

  9. I thought those crocus shots were awesome and I loved all the squirrel close-ups, they made me laugh out loud!

    As for what photos you should post, I think it’s less about the variety or rarity of the birds/animals and more about whether the image speaks to you or evokes an emotion of some sort. That’s more important to me than image quality most times. If a photo makes you smile or sigh with pleasure or brings to mind a happy memory, then those are the best photos of all. 🙂

    May 4, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    • Thanks Amy! For both the kind words and the very sound advice on what photos I should post!

      May 5, 2015 at 5:28 am