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

More random thoughts from around home

Even though the photos in this post will be ones that I shot around home, I have to start with my day yesterday, as it fits in with the last post, and what I’ll talk about in this post to some degree. It was another day of off and on rain showers, so I went to Muskegon, where I can stay in my car, or close to it, while birding. I was correct, the new backpack is too heavy to carry very far, but it sure was handy to lug all my gear around in only one bag for the first time in years.

I have purchased another backpack, smaller and lighter than the first, I may not get all my gear into it, but I will be able to fit the “must haves” in it, and be able to carry it. I’ll give it a try today, once the sun comes up. Another nice thing about this smaller pack is that I don’t have to undo everything to get to my gear. I set the large one in the back of my Subaru yesterday, opened it up, and left it open until I returned home, as it does take a minute or two to open it up or close it. The smaller one will work fine for day trips, I’ll use the larger one for longer trips, they will compliment each other nicely.

I mentioned in my last post that I’ll be buying the Canon 400 mm f/5.6 L series lens next month, now I’ll tell you why. The Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) is a very good lens, but it weighs over 4 pounds (1.8 Kg) by itself, attached to the camera, it’s over 6 pounds (2.7 Kg), and that’s a lot of weight to carry, and to sling around as I’m trying to photograph fast-moving birds. I’ve said that before, but there’s also another reason I want the 400 mm lens.

My two sharpest lenses are the Tokina 100 mm macro lens, and the Canon 70-200 mm f/4 L series lens. One thing that those two lenses share is a lack of image stabilization. Β I think that the lack of IS is what makes those two lenses sharper than my others. More layers of glass in the IS system has to degrade image quality at least a little, no matter how good the glass is, or computer controlled machines are at grinding the lenses. I’m hoping that the same will be true of the 400 mm lens, without IS, it will be a touch sharper than my other lenses that I use for birding. Since it doesn’t have IS, it’s almost exactly the same weight as the 300 mm L series lens that I have. That, and I get ghosting of birds in flight from the IS system if I don’t have time to turn it off before I shoot the photos. The 300 mm lens is also a tad too short for serious birding, even birds in flight.

Without IS, I’ll use the 400 mm lens on nice weather days, and the 300 mm on really rotten lighting days, and save the Beast for special occasions when it’s the best choice of the three. Without IS, the 400 mm lens should be just the ticket to throw around when I’m trying to shoot birds in flight. I’m hoping that the weather pattern here changes by the time when the new lens arrives, as I’m tired of the rain and shooting photos in low light.

Like I said, it rained off and on yesterday, the forecast is the same for today, along with another dense fog advisory for the morning. That seems to be the story for the past month, if I have time to get outside, it rains on and off, although there have been some sunny spells too, they’ve not lasted for very long.

Wild rose

Wild rose

One other short camera related things that I have to say, sometimes what I thought would be overkill turns out to be just what the doctor ordered. The 60D camera bodies I use have just 9 focus points, one in the middle, then eight more in an oval pattern that seems to work well for composing photos to the rule of thirds. The 7D Mk II body has 65 focus points, which I thought was far more than any one would ever need, but I was wrong. Not only do all the focus points come in handy while shooting birds in flight…

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

…but by selecting the correct points to use, I can get my composition just the way that I want it for other subjects.

Wild roses in bloom

Wild roses in bloom

Nightshade

Nightshade

Iris flowers

Iris flowers

I’m back from my walk this morning, I actually had light that was okay for most of the time. The smaller bag worked well enough, although it’s a tad smaller than what would be best, and I didn’t strap the tripod to it yet. One step at a time, I did walk the entire 5 miles today with the backpack on, once my muscles are used to it, I’ll add the tripod.

Why is that my favorite photos are the ones from my last time out?

Turkey gobbling

Turkey gobbling

Maybe it’s because they are so much better than the ones I have saved.

Crab apple flowers

Crab apple flowers

I have photos going back to when the lilacs were in bloom.

Lilac

Lilac

I put that in just to bring back memories of how good they smelled! It’s the same reason for these.

Lily of the valley

Lily of the valley

Lily of the valley

Lily of the valley

I had to look high and low to find one with its flowers turned up enough to see inside.

Lily of the valley

Lily of the valley

But these were no problem at all.

Geranium

Geranium

Although it took me a few days to find some that were totally dry.

Geraniums

Geraniums

Thankfully, it hasn’t been too warm yet this year, with all the rain we’ve received, if we do get any sunshine, it gets very humid, so humid that the squirrels spraddle out on the tree branches to stay cool.

Fox squirrel keeping cool

Fox squirrel keeping cool

When they aren’t lounging around, you may see them in the treetops filling their belly’s.

Fox squirrel chowing down

Fox squirrel chowing down

I had a photo of a poor, bedraggled deer that I was going to post along with a story. The past two winters have been so hard on the deer in Michigan’s upper peninsula that the state was considering suspending the hunting season for this fall. The deer herd is down by around 40% in the UP, but their were so many protests from hunters and the businesses that rely on the hunters that the state caved, and will allow hunting, but the state won’t issue as many doe or second buck permits as they have in the past. I deleted the photo of the very skinny deer, because it only took a few weeks of good food to get the herd here back to looking fit and healthy again.

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

That one was running around in the field next to the park, either she was confused, or running just for the heck of it. I have photos of her going back and forth, but I won’t bore you with them. But, these two other deer found the antics of the first to be amusing.

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

They soon joined the first, but there’s no reason to post those photos either.

I’ve also deleted a good many poor quality bird in flight photos that I shot while learning the 7D MkII’s auto-focusing system, but here’s a couple that I’ll post even though they aren’t that good.

Male northern cardinal in flight

Male northern cardinal in flight

Male northern cardinal in flight

Male northern cardinal in flight

Male northern cardinal in flight

Male northern cardinal in flight

Those are all of the second of two cardinals that were fighting over that flowering bush as their territory. They were at it for quite a while, over half an hour as I remember. One would pop out of the bush and then dive back into it on the other side, then I’d wait for the second to do the same, but sometimes it cheated and took shortcuts through the bush instead.

Let’s see, what other birds do I have saved?

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Starling

Starling

Starling

Starling

I can’t believe that I’m as far behind as I am and I’m posting photos of starlings, when I could be posting these instead.

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

Yellow-Dumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Eastern meadowlark

Eastern meadowlark

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

Warbling vireo

Warbling vireo

The grosbeaks were taking turns on the nest until a little over a week ago.

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

About the same time that the young grosbeaks fledged, the kingbird was just starting her nest.

Eastern kingbird building a nest

Eastern kingbird building a nest

Eastern kingbird building a nest

Eastern kingbird building a nest

If you’re not familiar with kingbirds, they are just as territorial and quick to defend their nest as any species of bird is. You may know that red-winged blackbirds will attack any size predator, such as a red-tailed hawk…

Red-winged blackbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

Red-winged blackbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

…and even larger birds, a snowy owl near Muskegon in this case.

Red-winged blackbird going after a snowy owl

Red-winged blackbird going after a snowy owl

The kingbirds are just as fearless in their defense of their young.

Eastern kingbird attacking a Cooper's hawk

Eastern kingbird attacking a Cooper’s hawk

I also had photos of a Baltimore oriole chasing a very ragged crow out of its territory, but I decided that it wasn’t good enough to post. It’s amazing to watch the smaller songbirds taking on what seem to be giants to them though.

Anyway, I have room for a few more photos, so here’s a bird that I don’t see everyday.

Black billed cuckoo

Black billed cuckoo

I missed getting a photo of a yellow billed cuckoo while at Lane’s Landing a few weeks ago, and I also missed a least bittern, which really ticked me off, they are hard to see in the first place, and this was a male in full breeding plumage. I missed the cuckoo by playing around too long trying to get the best photo possible, rather than shooting a couple of quick shots, then going for a better one. The bittern was missed because it flew across the path in front of me and disappeared into the marsh before I could react. Oh well, maybe next time.

So, I suppose that I’ll end this one with one of my favorite subjects to shoot, a male mallard posing for me.

Male mallard

Male mallard

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

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34 responses

  1. I don’t know which were better your flowers or your birds. I loved the wild roses and, of course, the fox squirrel.

    June 16, 2015 at 4:09 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! There’s many more of all of them to come.

      June 16, 2015 at 3:55 pm

  2. Such a feast of different bird species, lovely flowers and adorable squirrels! I just can’t pick a favourite, Jerry. I just wish I had some new birds to share with you on my blog. Thanks you for this lovely treat. I’ve just purchased a new backpack too. It is slightly smaller than my old one but has a trampoline mesh back so there is a gap between my back and the main part of the pack, allowing air flow. I feel much cooler when I walk in warm weather now. It also hurts my neck less. Having a comfortable and practical backpack is worth the money I think because we use it so much. πŸ™‚

    June 16, 2015 at 6:01 am

    • Thank you very much Jane! With the arrival of summer here in Michigan, there will be fewer birds, and many more flowers to come. The second camera gear backpack is actually too small for me, since I’m so tall. But, I’ll use it, we have to suffer for our art, right?

      June 16, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      • Heheh…yes, suffering for one’s art is a small price to pay. πŸ˜‰ Actually I got the smallest pack in the trampoline style and it is slightly too big for me. I have the opposite problem. I am very short and have narrow shoulders. The straps have to be tightened up as far as they will go!

        June 16, 2015 at 7:23 pm

  3. Jerry,
    Nice shot of the Black billed cuckoo! In recent years, at least for us, the yellow and black billed cuckoos have been a hard find.
    Bob

    June 16, 2015 at 6:08 am

    • Thank you Bob! The cuckoos have all moved to Michigan this year, they’ve been reported all over west Michigan, when they’re normally rare here.

      June 16, 2015 at 4:00 pm

  4. So many beautiful shots, some of birds I have yet to see. Thank you for sharing.

    June 16, 2015 at 6:43 am

    • Thank you very much! I cheat and use several resources on the internet to help me find the varied species that I photograph.

      June 16, 2015 at 4:05 pm

  5. Amazing number of colors on that turkey – he is glowing!

    Love the shots of the grosbeaks in the nest. Seems like most of the hatchlings around my house must be out if the nest already, as it sure is a lot quieter around here in the morning. I miss all the commotion.

    June 16, 2015 at 7:16 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! The turkey was good, but if he had turned just a few more degrees towards me, I’d have had the turkey shot of a lifetime, as a lot more blue and purple would have showed on his back. The commotion will be back shortly, I see a lot of courting and second nest building going on around here.

      June 16, 2015 at 4:08 pm

      • Umm, I wasn’t even aware that there were two rounds of chicks. Will keep my ears open!

        June 16, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      • Not every species of bird raises more than one batch of young per year, but many do, so don’t be surprised to see more nests being built.

        June 17, 2015 at 12:40 am

  6. Thank you for bringing back wonderful spring memories with the lilacs and lily of the valley! I’m so tired of the melting heat and humidity here on my side of the state – and rain, too!! Ugh. We don’t have central air and haven’t put the window a/c units in yet, so everything in the house is sticky. Blech! So, it was nice to take a trip back to several weeks ago to nice spring temps! πŸ™‚

    Absolutely LOVED the two shots of the nesting grosbeaks!! Those are both awesome! The crab apple flower and the nightshade are also particularly good, too.

    I have been so happy because I have actually kept orioles at my feeders all this time!! I have at least two pair and they must have nested somewhere nearby. The downside is that they are killing me the way they go through live mealworms (which are really expensive!). I tried buying some dried to mix in and they won’t eat them! I spoiled them for too long with the live ones. LOL Anyway, it’s been exciting and I hope to see some fledglings soon. I have never had them this long before.

    June 16, 2015 at 8:18 am

    • Thank you very much Amy! I know that all winter long I wasn’t going to complain about the weather this summer, but this past week, we had 7% of possible sunshine, that’s worse than January! The heat and humidity haven’t bothered me too much yet, as I never get a chance to dry out, the rain has been keeping me cool.

      Orioles like fruit too, but probably not for their young. The young birds need the protein and fat in insects to grow as quickly as they do. I’d like to be able to offer you an alternative to the mealworms, but can’t think of anything that would work.

      June 16, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      • Oh, I don’t mind buying the live ones. I figure it isn’t forever. And I am still feeding them the grape jelly, too. I know that all too soon they won’t be coming around anymore. So far, Mark hasn’t complained about what I am spending. πŸ˜‰

        June 16, 2015 at 8:55 pm

  7. These shots are so beautiful! You have an artists eye.

    June 16, 2015 at 9:36 am

    • Thank you Clare! I don’t have an artist’s eye yet, but I’m working on it, as you see soon.

      June 16, 2015 at 4:12 pm

  8. I sure know and share that feeling of falling way behind on blogging and I don’t even post as many images as you do. πŸ˜‰

    June 16, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    • Thank you very much Gunta! You don’t have to post as many photos, yours are good. I have to go for quantity yet for the time being.

      June 16, 2015 at 4:13 pm

  9. That looks like the rare one legged mallard!

    I know what you mean about the weight of camera equipment. I don’t carry half what you do but when you add the tripods, LEDs, and everything else it does get heavy. For me that takes all the fun out of it. I like to travel light.

    You might not be getting out much but you sure are getting a lot of bird photos, so something must be going your way.

    Your wild rose looks like the invasive multiflora rose. They’re beautiful even if they are invasive, and what a scent!

    I like the shot of the worn out squirrel. I saw a red squirrel doing the same thing the other day.

    Nice shots!

    June 16, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! Actually, I was sitting in the wet grass and mud on Monday, trying to pick the right lens to use for some tiny white flowers, and I thought to myself that I was just like a little kid playing in the mud, having a grand time. It would be nice if all the stuff I carry weighed less, but the days when I see something special are the days when I haven’t brought everything, it’s a rule you know. I’m still thinking about some type of cart or wagon to hold my stuff when walking near home, and a few other places.

      I hate to brag, but the 7D MkII is a birder’s dream come true. If I see it, I can get a photo. I was good with the 60D, the 7D blows that out of the water. I don’t have to chase as many birds to get photos any more.

      I think that you’re correct about the rose, even if it’s invasive, it smells so good that I don’t care. πŸ˜‰

      June 16, 2015 at 4:29 pm

  10. What a feast. The lily of the valley pictures are very good as it is a hard plant to get properly in focus. I’ll have to practice crawling in the mud!

    June 16, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    • Thank you Tom! I didn’t have to crawl in the mud for the lily of the valley, they’re on a slight mound which made things easy for me.

      June 17, 2015 at 12:41 am

  11. TPJ

    Thanks for taking me along on another small strip. Always a pleasure.

    June 17, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    • Thank you very much, glad that you enjoyed it!

      June 18, 2015 at 12:14 am

      • TPJ

        TRIP…. That’s trip!!!!! 😳

        June 18, 2015 at 7:28 am

      • I kinda figured that πŸ˜‰

        June 18, 2015 at 1:39 pm

  12. Was that Mallard standing on something?! I have seen them perch on walls and such from time to time but it’s unusual. And do the Snowy Owls hang out all summer?

    June 18, 2015 at 7:39 am

    • Thanks Lori! The mallard was on the roof of the garage at my apartment building, made for a nice angle. The snowy owls usually leave before spring officially arrives, but this year, one hung around until May.

      June 18, 2015 at 2:49 pm

  13. These last couple of image series have really been top notch, with a terrific variety of styles and subjects. Congrats!

    June 20, 2015 at 10:33 am

    • Thank you very much, that’s high praise coming from you! My wildlife photos continue to steadily improve, and my macro shot have really improved since I’ve had a macro lens for enough time to learn how to use it.

      June 20, 2015 at 2:11 pm

  14. Your site is always a welcome stop, Jerry. So many beautiful and informative photos of your area! We have had a milder than normal finish to winter here. The drought season is underway early though, and soon the pressure of deer looking for anything green will be upon us. By the end of summer, they will be grazing under the windows again.

    June 20, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I had forgotten that summer is the hardest time for deer out west, when it’s so dry. Here, when all their food is buried under several feet of snow, the deer resort to eating tree bark, which doesn’t have the nutrition that they need.

      June 20, 2015 at 2:09 pm