Going back in time, Muskegon area, April 19, 2015
After my last post, which included several poor images due to the rain and fog, along with my quest to rack up a large number of species of birds just to see how many I could get, I was ruthless in selecting better images for this post. Not that there aren’t a few clinkers here and there, but overall, the images are much better. I see from the date that I’m still nearly a month behind in my postings, that helped me to weed through the photos for this post as well.
It’s been so long ago that my memories of the day have already begun to fade away, I’m not sure, but I think that the was the first weekend after I had purchased the new Canon 7D camera body. I put the 300 mm lens on it, and thought that I had it set-up fairly well for bird in flight photos, but it turns out that I was wrong. Not that it didn’t work well for birds in flight, but as I have used the camera more, and learned more about the auto-focusing system, the settings I used on this day were far from optimum for action photos.
I mounted the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) on one of the 60D bodies, and carrying both cameras, set out looking for birds at Lane’s Landing, in the Muskegon State Game area. I arrived as planned, just after daybreak.
The low light made it challenging to get good bird photos, even though they were out and about to greet the day.
A pair of geese flew past me, so I grabbed the 7D and turned it loose shooting way too many photos of the geese, but I was testing my settings for the day. That wasn’t a good idea, for the camera hadn’t finished writing all the images to the very slow memory card I had in the camera when a great blue heron flew past me, following the geese. The camera buffer was still almost full, so I only got a few shots of the heron before the buffer was full again, here’s one of the better photos.
In some ways, it’s a good thing to be behind in posting these to my blog, as I can look back and see what I did wrong, and I know what I’ve learned since then. Getting to know the 7D has been a real learning experience, and I feel that I’m just coming to grips with what it can do now, a month later. But at the time, I didn’t know just how little I knew, so I continued to shoot away whenever any bird flew close enough for me to test the camera out.
Since I had just upgraded from the 60D, I was using the settings that I had learned worked well for it for my settings in the 7D. I can’t say that those settings were totally wrong, but close to it, the 7D is an entirely new ballgame compared to the 60D, as far as its capabilities, and the settings I should be using to get the best out of it. However, I don’t want to get too technical, as I did in a previous post.
So, I walked the trail that leads to the Muskegon River from the parking area at Lane’s Landing, carrying the Beast in my hands, with the 7D and 300 mm lens slung around my neck. If I saw a perched bird, I used the Beast…
…and if a bird flew past me, I’d set the Beast down on the ground and grab the 7D…
…to shoot shots like that one.
It works well enough, if I have the time to set the Beast down somewhere safe, and if I have the time to make the switch, as I did when I noticed a large, lanky bird flying towards me.
I find it just a bit odd that there aren’t more osprey around the area, as it seems like it would be the perfect habitat for them, with the open waters of Lake Michigan, Muskegon Lake, the Muskegon River, and other bodies of water close by. Maybe it’s because there are so many bald eagles in the area already? It would be great to see more osprey, as they are still rare here in west Michigan.
Anyway, I continued to the river and back, shooting these on my way.
I was a week or two too early for many of the migrating birds, so I didn’t find much to photograph there at Lane’s Landing. It was much the same at the headquarters of the Muskegon State Game Area, even though I walked farther there than I have ever walked before. Most of the birds and other subjects that I found to shoot were within sight of the headquarters building and parking lot, like these tree swallows checking out a nesting box.
Sorry for so many photos of the swallows, but they are one of my favorite species of birds, and difficult to get a good photo of, or at least it used to be. I seem to be doing quite well with them this spring, as you will see.
Here’s a species that I see often, but it’s another that I have trouble getting good photos of, bluebirds. Like wood ducks, I see them, but can never get close to them to get a really good photo, so these will have to do.
I shot those while I was standing in the parking lot of the headquarters, and chatting with two conservation officers from the Michigan DNR. They found my efforts rather humorous, a couple of great guys.
I’m going to throw in a little side note here. I have the new iMac, new to me software in Lightroom, and the new 7D camera, and I’m in seventh heaven! There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t learn something new about at least one of those items, often it’s more than one thing. I love to learn, so that’s making this a lot of fun to me, but I am so tempted to do post after post of me telling you of what I’ve learned. I’ve already done too much of that in the past, so I’m holding back even though it’s hard for me.
Anyway, back to the post at hand. Since this trip was before the spring migration got into full swing, I hadn’t seen many birds on this day. So, I headed over to the wastewater treatment facility, where I knew that there’d be at least waterfowl to photograph. I may as well begin this segment out with the worst photo from the day that I’m going to post, a pair of bald eagles hiding in the trees.
Since the ice is off the lakes, the eagles that overwinter near Muskegon have returned to their summer homes, so I see fewer of them now. What I can’t figure out is why the last few times that I have seen them, they’ve been hiding back in the tree branches like songbirds do. Oh well, it’s still a thrill to see them even if the view is obscured.
Okay, now for the waterfowl from the day.
This mallard was reaching up and nipping the buds off from the bush above him.
It’s no wonder that there are mallards everywhere, they’ll eat just about anything that doesn’t eat them. 😉
I still had the Beast on a 60D body, and it seemed as though every bird began to move at about the time I was almost ready to press the shutter.
People think of grebes and coots as ducks, but they’re not. They don’t have webbed feet as true ducks do, as you can see in these photos. They have fleshy appendages on their oversized feet that are similar to the webbing of a duck’s foot, but both grebes and coots still have individual toes. Both species also have very small wings, so it takes them a great deal of effort to get airborne. You know that they are very skittish when you see them take off and fly, both of them would rather swim from danger than fly if possible.
Of course the birds that I would have liked to have seen fly wouldn’t, so I can’t show you the blue wing patches that gave this species its name.
The rarest bird of the day was this female Lapland longspur.
I wish that it had been a male, I could use photos of a male in breeding plumage, but the only times I’ve seen this species before has been in the fall when the sexes look similar.
The second rare bird that I got was a peregrine falcon.
I was hoping that it would land and perch for some close-ups, but no luck there.
These are the only birds that wanted their portrait taken.
Even the turkeys were running away from me.
It’s been just over two years now since I replaced my old Nikon with the first of two Canon 60D bodies, and began collecting lenses to use with them. During those two years, I’ve been prattling on about photography and gear more than nature.
It’s been just about a month now that I’ve had the new 7D Mk II. I’m not going to say that I have it all figured out yet, far from it. Canon has a 56 page manual on how to get the most from the auto-focus system alone, it’s that complicated. However, I can already tell it’s as close to perfect for me as there is on the market right now. It’s going to allow me to get the shots that I’ve been missing with the 60D, as far as action shots.
All the pieces of the photography puzzle are coming together nicely right now, I have one large piece to go, along with some accessories to pick-up over time, but I think that my posts where I go on and on about photography are nearing an end, and I’ll be getting back to blogging about my observations of what I see in nature.
This little guy probably says it best, “It’s about time!”
That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!