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

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….

Horned grebe

Horned grebe

…when I have photos like this of the same species saved and waiting for me to have time to post it?

Horned grebe

Horned grebe

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.

Canada goose and goslings

Canada goose and goslings

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.

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

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.

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Wood ducks

Wood ducks

Rose-breasted grosbeak

Rose-breasted grosbeak

Red-winged blackbird

Red-winged blackbird

Common yellowthroat

Common yellowthroat

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

American robin

American robin

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.

Caspian tern in flight

Caspian tern in flight

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. 😉

Eleven species.

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.

Male mallard

Male mallard

Spotted sandpiper in flight

Spotted sandpiper in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Warbling vireo

Warbling vireo

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

Brown-headed cowbird

Brown-headed cowbird

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

JVIS1586

Yellow warbler

Yellow warbler

JVIS1602

Song sparrow

About this time, the rain let up, so I switched to the Beast, which helped a lot to get these next ones.

 

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

Scarlet tanager

Scarlet tanager

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Blue jay

Blue jay

Mute swan

Mute swan

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.

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

Eastern kingbird

Eastern kingbird

Grey catbird

Grey catbird

Common grackle

Common grackle

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

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.

Killdeer

Killdeer

Turkeys

Turkeys

Lesser scaup

Lesser scaup

Bufflehead

Bufflehead

Northern shoveler

Northern shoveler

Common mergansers

Common mergansers

American coot

American coot

Ruddy duck

Ruddy duck

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte’s gull

Gadwall

Gadwall

Tree swallow

Tree swallow

Pie-billed grebe

Pie-billed grebe

American crow

American crow

That makes 46 species, and the next one not only added to the daily list, but my life list as well, a vesper sparrow.

Vesper sparrow

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.

Horned lark

Horned lark

Common raven

Common raven

Snowy owl

Snowy owl

Upland sandpiper

Upland sandpiper

Blue-winged teal

Blue-winged teal

Least sandpipers

Least sandpipers

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs

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!

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25 responses

  1. An impressive accomplishment!

    May 10, 2015 at 10:33 am

    • Thank you Bob!

      May 10, 2015 at 3:02 pm

  2. Well done! Fabulous effort in what were miserable conditions for photography (and human comfort). It’s great to see so many of birds from your country. I’m happy to see a dozen species around my place in one day. Sadly, the feral cats are causing a lot of species destruction. I would love to be able to share more with my blogger friends. I hope the weather is better this week for you.

    May 10, 2015 at 11:42 am

    • Thank you very much Jane! Now that I have that silliness out of my system, I can try for some good photos. Feral cats are a huge problem here, too, I saw another one today. The weather is forecast to improve on Tuesday, when I go back to work. Isn’t that the way it always seems to go?

      May 10, 2015 at 3:06 pm

  3. It seems fantastic to me that you should be able to see so many different birds in one day. I take my hat off to your perseverance.

    May 10, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I don’t think that the number of species that I saw is that impressive, but getting photos of that many was a lot of work.

      May 10, 2015 at 9:35 pm

      • It seemed very impressive to me not only to see them but to capture them too.

        May 11, 2015 at 5:12 pm

  4. That number of birds in one day is amazing, and I didn’t think most of the shots were that bad. I like the two turkeys walking down the road and the snowy owl. The owl alone made it a good day in my book!

    May 10, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    • Thanks Allen! It’s funny, the snowy owl was no big deal to me, since they are a large bird that’s easy to photograph. The bird that I was most excited about was the scarlet tanager, I worked my rear end off to get as good of a shot of it as I did. It’s the same as with flowers, the smaller ones that are harder to see and photograph are overlooked in favor of larger and more shower species.

      May 10, 2015 at 9:46 pm

  5. How marvelous to see and shoot all those birds! Not much to complain about the quality either,

    May 10, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    • Thanks Gunta! I see that many species on nearly every one of my birding trips, this was the first time, and last, that I tried to get a photo of every one of them.

      May 10, 2015 at 9:48 pm

  6. My special treat was the goose with her goslings, a lovely Spring picture.

    May 11, 2015 at 4:27 am

    • Thank you Susan! It’s one of the wonderful things about spring, new life everywhere.

      May 11, 2015 at 4:33 am

  7. How very appropriate that you would make Bird Count Day a photo count day. You covered a lot of ground and got some great shots. Do you think better weather would have gotten you more birds?

    Good luck with your new schedule. For years, my weekend was Tues/Wed. Hard to believe that I never had a regular weekend day off, unless I had requested it as vacation time. I always loved those mid-week weekends. You probably aren’t a big fan of going to the movies, but one of the schedule perks was going to a matinee on Tuesday or Wednesday morning. Nobody there, but me! A little elbow room is a good thing.

    One of these days, it may stop raining. Gives us something to look forward to, eh?

    May 11, 2015 at 7:56 am

    • Thanks Judy! Yes, I had to do it as a photo day, as I can’t ID all the birds that I see on an outing like this from memory. And yes, I would have gotten a few more if the weather had been better. I could have used my longest lens all day to reach out for a few more, and I wouldn’t have spent as much time fooling with poor light and slow auto-focus because of it.

      I think that I’ll love my new schedule, but if not, next quarter I can bid on a different run and schedule. 😉

      Movies? What are those? Oh yeah, the rain can go away any time now, three days off, and three days of rain and fog.

      May 11, 2015 at 1:15 pm

  8. LOVE LOVE LOVE the baby goslings! Awesome big day 🙂 I was out and about too, just no time to post!

    May 13, 2015 at 10:45 am

    • Thank you Sheila! It’s too bad that you don’t post any longer, I miss them.

      May 13, 2015 at 2:38 pm

  9. Congratulations on getting so many shots in one day and also managing to get a lifer into the bargain! Such a pity the weather was so dull and damp and the birds had been spooked by all the attention they had been getting all day. I’m always pleased to get one photograph of a bird so your tally is amazing!

    May 13, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    • Thank you Clare! Shooting photos of birds is difficult unless you practice a lot, and since I have no life, I have lots of time to practice. 😉

      May 13, 2015 at 11:52 pm

      • Ah, don’t say that! I hope your new work schedule will work out okay for you and once you’ve saved a bit of money you may not have to work so long and so hard. You have so much knowledge about the wildlife that surrounds you and the camera equipment you use. You also don’t waste your free time either. I would say you are doing okay! My brother has recently separated from his wife after 33 years together. He is having to work a lot now to find the money to get a house of his own. He was really worried at first that he would be lonely but his friends and family are supporting him and he’ll be fine. It’s hard having to start again when you’re middle-aged but if you have interests and hobbies you will always be able to find friends. He’ll be able to go fishing again without getting nagged!

        May 14, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      • Thanks again Clare. I’t quite simple really, I’ve made choices in my life that few people make, I prefer to be by myself, and spend as much time outside as I can.

        May 14, 2015 at 5:06 pm

  10. So are the owls year ’round visitors?

    May 14, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    • Thanks Lori! The rest of the owls have left, just one is sticking around. It could be a first year owl that’s not ready to mate yet.

      May 14, 2015 at 5:10 pm

  11. Congratulations on photographing so many species in a single day!! And also congrats on the lifer! 🙂 And hey, I liked the ‘lesser quality’ photos, it was like looking at my own blog! 😉 You can’t keep upping the standard bar, Jerry, the rest of us can’t keep up! LOL

    When we went out last weekend, I tried at first to keep count of every species we saw, but soon gave up and tried to just concentrate on new species to add to my 2015 list, but even then Mark and I spent a lot of time trying to remember what we saw! I took a small pad of paper and a pen but we were bad about taking time to stop and write stuff down. Photos are what helped us know what we saw. 🙂

    I’m trying to not be jealous of the snowy owl!

    May 14, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    • Thank you Amy! I’ve tried keeping track of species and the number of each, it never works for me. The birds seem to come in waves, one minute they’ll be everywhere, then I don’t see any for a while. By the time the wave passes, I’ve forgotten half of the birds I’ve seen.

      May 15, 2015 at 12:11 am