The birding big day, my way, in rain and fog most of the day
Okay, I’m jumping way ahead with this post. May 9th was the Birding Big Day, when every one is supposed to go out and count birds. Well, I did it my way, photographing the birds rather than counting. I have two warnings to begin with, I went for the largest number of species that I could get a photo of, and there will be too many photos in this post. On top of that, many of the photos are of rather poor quality, because the weather was horrible for photography, and I was chasing numbers, not quality.
Why else would I post a photo like this….
…when I have photos like this of the same species saved and waiting for me to have time to post it?
Well, it was because I was trying to see how many species of birds I could shoot in one day. Better weather would have helped, in both image quality and number of species, but I think that I did okay.
So, it was raining with a bit of fog in the air as I got ready to leave home, but I was able to get an early start on the birds with this photo, taken outside of my apartment as I was packing my camera gear into my car.
I knew that over near Lake Michigan would be my best bet for racking up the greatest number of species, but on the other hand, I also knew that the places that I usually go would be packed with other birders out for the Big Day bird count. So, I began my quest at Olive Shores Park, near Port Sheldon, Michigan. I had never been there before, I was actually headed somewhere else, but I saw the signs, and decided to check it out.
With the rain and fog, I was using the new 7D Mk II with the 300 mm L series lens on it, since they’re both weather sealed. I missed a few birds because the 300 mm lens didn’t have the reach that I needed, but the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) isn’t weather sealed, and the rain never let up. I did get this photo of a chipping sparrow there though.
Three species so far.
My next stop was the Palomita Nature Reserve, which I saw signs for along the road as I was driving to the first park. The Palomita Reserve is owned by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, is approximately 40 acres in size, and protects the Great Lakes marsh at the mouth of Little Pigeon Creek. I had never been there either, but I’m sure that I’ll return. I’d tell you why, but this post is going to be too long as it is. So, here are the birds that I got there.
Up to ten species, and I was just getting started.
My next stop was Grand Haven, Michigan. I hadn’t planned on stopping at the Grand River channel, but as I was driving past it, I spotted a Caspian tern, so I pulled into the city park there to try for a photo. I got it.
I could say something about the jerks that walked right in front of me, even though I asked them not to, but I won’t. I could also rave about the auto-focusing system of the 7D, but I’ll save that for a later post. 😉
My real goal near Grand Haven was Harbor Island, which I have written about in the past. It was filled with birds, and there, I managed to get these.
About this time, the rain let up, so I switched to the Beast, which helped a lot to get these next ones.
Up to twenty-seven species so far, not that the photos are that great. I wouldn’t have included the last two, and never even would have tried the last one of the swan if I hadn’t been going for numbers.
You can see that the sun came out for a while, but that was short-lived. By the time that I made it to my next stop of the day, the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, the rain and fog had returned. The rain was light, so I stuck with the Beast for these.
Those put me up to thirty-three species for the day, but the rain began coming down harder, too hard for me to be carrying the Beast around unprotected. So, I headed towards the Muskegon County wastewater facility, where I could bird by car, and I thought that I’d be able to really rack up some big numbers there.
However, the weather continued to go downhill, and the birds were more skittish than I had ever seen them there. I think that there had been numerous people there earlier for the Big Day bird count. I had already run into quite a few other birders that day, and I’m sure that the wastewater facility had been hit hard earlier. But, I managed to add a few more species to my total for the day, even though some of these photos are bad, really bad.
That makes 46 species, and the next one not only added to the daily list, but my life list as well, a vesper sparrow.
I had considered packing it in, but the Lifer prompted me to carry on. I didn’t know that I was up to 47 species, I had been too busy trying to get the photos to keep count.
It was getting close to dusk, but the rain let up, so I was able to add these to my list for the day.
So there you’ve it, 54 species of birds photographed on the Big Day. There were a few notable misses, like the common tern or red-breasted nuthatch, but I don’t think that 54 species photographed in a day is too shabby, even if some of the photos are.
In other news, I’ve ordered faster memory cards for the new 7D, that will help a lot.
In work related news, on Tuesday at 2 AM, I start my bid run, which I’ll be doing every day unless the load is cancelled for some reason. Every three months, the company that I work for opens up the dedicated runs that they have available for us to bid on, based on seniority. I lucked out and got one of the runs towards the top of my list. I chose it so that I would work Tuesday through Saturday, with Sundays and Mondays off. That way I can schedule any appointments such as dentist or what have you on Mondays without worrying about my work schedule. It will also mean that I’ll have an entire weekday off from work for outdoor things when the parks shouldn’t be so crowded.
The run that I got can be completed in eight hours if everything goes to plan, and then I have the option of working longer if I choose to, or calling it a day. Two AM may not sound like an ideal start time, but I think it will work well for me. During the week, I should be able to get a walk in after work, and on weekends, I can sleep in, and still be up at dawn, my favorite part of the day.
Anyway, sorry for the poor quality of the photos in this post, but considering the weather, the 7D did quite well.
In reality, this day wasn’t much different as far as the species that I see on any given day, but this time I went for numbers, rather than shooting more photos of fewer species, when I could get very close, and had the best lighting of the day.
I still have photos from three previous trips to the lakeshore area, and a few from around home yet to post. Hopefully, my new work schedule will allow me more time for blogging as well as getting out more than I’ve been able to the last few months.
That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!