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

Muskegon June 26th, My favorite marsh

Doing this second post about my trip to Muskegon on the 26th, which actually covers the first half of my day, seems weird to me. I should do them in order from now on. Anyway, after reading reports that an American avocet and American wigeon had both been seen at the Muskegon County wastewater treatment facility over the past week, caused me to break my vow not to return there until fall. I have photos of an American wigeon, but they’re not great, and I’d never seen an avocet before, so I needed photos of that species for the My Photo Life List project I’m working on.

With my new work schedule, it’s easy to get to Muskegon well before sunrise, so that’s what I did. There weren’t many clouds in the sky to add color to the sunrise, but I still set-up one of my 60D bodies with the EF-S 15-85 mm lens attached, mounted on my tripod, to see what would develop. It was still dark as I was setting up, but I could hear sandhill cranes nearby, so I was hoping for photos of them once the sun rose high enough for wildlife photography.

I began shooting series of photos to turn into HDR images as the sun began to rise, but it did look as if the sunrise was going to be rather boring, as you can see.

My favorite marsh at sunrise

My favorite marsh at sunrise

But, I hung around with the camera still set-up just in case, besides, it was still far too dark for a photo of the cranes. That didn’t stop me from trying though.

Sandhill cranes at dawn

Sandhill cranes at dawn

I even removed the landscape set-up from the tripod, and attached the 7D Mk II with the 300 mm lens on it to the tripod, and tried my very first wildlife HDR image, although the results were not as good as I hoped that they would be.

Sandhill cranes at dawn, HDR version

Sandhill cranes at dawn, HDR version

Then, things got really interesting! As the first rays of the sun hit the dew covered grasses, a mist began to form to create a thin layer of fog near the ground, which the sun’s early rays turned to a bright orange color!

Misty morning marsh

Misty morning marsh

This was enough to keep me hanging around to see what developed next, the sunrise got better.

Misty morning marsh

Misty morning marsh

Then, a whitetail deer came wandering along.

Whitetail deer in the mist

Whitetail deer in the mist

This is when I got so lucky I couldn’t believe it, I only wish that my skills as a photographer would have been up for this shot. The deer decided to look down into the marsh, right behind the flock of cranes, with the orange-pink glow of the sunrise as a background.

Whitetail deer and sandhill cranes at sunrise

Whitetail deer and sandhill cranes at sunrise

Not good, I kept trying though, and finally got this one, the best of the lot.

Whitetail deer and sandhill cranes at sunrise

Whitetail deer and sandhill cranes at sunrise

I didn’t stop shooting with the landscape set-up though, here’s what I think is my best shot of just the sunrise.

Misty morning marsh

Misty morning marsh

I paused from time to time to shoot more photos of the cranes.

Sandhill cranes at sunrise

Sandhill cranes at sunrise

A short break from the sunrise photos for a second or two. Sandhill cranes and herons are relatives, but their behaviors are very different. Herons will perch somewhere in an elevated place, such as a tree, stump…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

(Taken on an earlier trip to Muskegon)

…or man-made object…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…to stay safe from predators.

The sandhill cranes on the other hand, look for marshes or other bodies of water of the right depth so that they can stand in the water away from shore to stay safe from predators, as they are doing in the previous photos.

At sunrise, the herons fly to the water to hunt for fish, frogs, or other things.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Whereas at sunrise, the sandhill cranes fly to dry ground where they forage for insects and the other things that they eat.

Sandhill cranes in flight at dawn

Sandhill cranes in flight at dawn

As you can see, I blew a great opportunity there when the flock of cranes that I had been watching decided that it was breakfast time. I didn’t do any better when the next crane flew off either.

Sandhill crane in flight at dawn

Sandhill crane in flight at dawn

The cranes didn’t have to go far for food, so they never got very high above the ground, all they had to do was fly above the dike that had created the marsh, so I had to shoot fast.

So, if you see sandhill cranes in the water, they are there primarily to rest, although they may eat a snack or two while they stand in the water. They spend most of the daylight hours in open fields looking for food.

Sandhill cranes at dawn

Sandhill cranes at dawn

Sandhill crane

Sandhill crane

Sandhill crane

Sandhill crane

Sandhill crane

Sandhill crane

Sandhill cranes

Sandhill cranes

Sandhill cranes

Sandhill cranes

Now then, back to the sunrise. I tried a few more HDR images, but for some reason, the later ones look as if I faked them. I don’t know why the dark halo around the sun showed up, it must have something to do with how the camera sensor reacts to very bright sunlight.

Misty morning marsh

Misty morning marsh

So, instead of using the wide set-up, I used the 300 mm lens for these.

Misty morning marsh

Misty morning marsh

Misty morning marsh

Misty morning marsh

Misty morning marsh

Misty morning marsh

Misty morning marsh

Misty morning marsh

I probably should have experimented more with other lenses and set-ups, but I was shooting other things with that set-up in between the sunrise photos, and was too busy to play. The 300 mm lens let me keep just the parts of the horizon that were turned the brilliant orange color in the frame for those photos. I didn’t do that in Lightroom. In fact, I played with the color balance in an attempt to tone down the orange a little, but switching to the cloudy or shady setting only made the orange even more pronounced. That’s about what I saw, and it is what the camera saw.

That’s it for the sunrise.

The Muskegon County wastewater facility has been recognized for the efforts that management puts into making the facility a wildlife friendly place.

Sign

Sign

Which is the reason that I’m able to get the photos there that I do, like the American avocet, seen here with a lesser yellowlegs for size comparison.

American avocet on the left, lesser yellowlegs on the right

American avocet on the left, lesser yellowlegs on the right

And here’s the avocet by itself.

American avocet

American avocet

I also tracked down the American Wigeon, but it absolutely refused to turn to face me so that I could get a photo that showed its light stripe on its forehead.

American wigeon

American wigeon

Here’s a few of the other ducks that are still around.

Female northern shoveler and brood

Female northern shoveler and brood

Male lesser scaup

Male lesser scaup

Gadwall

Gadwall

Lesser scaup pair

Lesser scaup pair

Egyptian geese

Egyptian geese

Egyptian goose

Egyptian goose

Egyptian goose

Egyptian goose

And, if you didn’t get enough of the upland sandpipers in the earlier post from a few weeks before, here’s two more.

Upland sandpiper

Upland sandpiper

Upland sandpiper

Upland sandpiper

I could have spent yet another entire day there, but I had orchids to photograph that day at Lost Lake.

I’m sorry for the rather disjointed writing of this post, but I’m getting ready to leave on a trip north to the only national wildflower sanctuary in the United States, Loda Lake to see what I can find there.

That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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31 responses

  1. The sunrise pictures were magnificent, every one of them a winner. You said that they would be good and they were.

    July 4, 2015 at 4:14 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! I don’t know about magnificent, they are good, but thanks for saying magnificent.

      July 4, 2015 at 5:39 pm

  2. Your second “Misty morning marsh” shot is my favorite.

    July 4, 2015 at 7:02 am

    • Thank you Bob! Just another day at the office. πŸ˜‰

      July 4, 2015 at 5:22 pm

  3. Wow! What a feast in this collection. Catching the deer and the sandhills together was quite spectacular.

    Love those sandpipers. So elegant with their long legs.

    Congrats on getting another lifer. Keep chipping away at your list.

    July 4, 2015 at 8:43 am

    • Thank you Judy. Like I told Allen, I’m so lucky that I’m spoiled rotten. Not many people get to see the things I do regularly.

      Got another lifer today, a veery, which is in the thrush family.

      July 4, 2015 at 5:21 pm

  4. That Egyptian goose is a very strange looking bird, but don’t tell them I said so.
    I like all the sunrise shots but my favorites are the flaming orange ones with the white sun. It’s a beautiful landscape and something you don’t get to see everyday.
    I like the deer and cranes in the mist too. That’s another scene that isn’t common, I wouldn’t think.
    Clearly I’ve got to get out earlier in the morning!

    July 4, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    • Thanks Allen! The Egyptian geese are rather strange, but how many people get to see them. They do have pretty colors.

      For what looked like it was going to be a boring sunrise, it sure changed once the mist began to rise and the sun hit it. I doubt if any one could predict that.

      I’m just lucky, so lucky that I’m spoiled. A deer and sandhill cranes close together, in front of a good sunrise. It doesn’t get much better than that.

      I’d suggest starting earlier, but that may not work for you. You’d see more wildlife, but a lot less flowers. So many flowers don’t open for the day until the sun has been up for a while.

      July 4, 2015 at 5:17 pm

  5. What a great morning’s work. The variety of shots is astonishing.

    July 4, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom. The shots in the morning were no work at all, it was carrying all my gear back to Lost Lake for the previous post that was work. πŸ˜‰

      July 4, 2015 at 5:55 pm

  6. Wow! What amazing sunrise and misty shots! I also love the interesting bird shots too. What funny looking faces the Egyptian geese have. Well done! πŸ™‚

    July 5, 2015 at 12:26 am

    • Thank you very much Jane! I hope that this took your mind off from your troubles at least for a short time.

      July 5, 2015 at 2:22 am

      • It certainly did. Thank you. How can one not be “transported away” by such sunrises. πŸ™‚

        July 5, 2015 at 2:24 am

  7. Stunning picture ,the scenes are amazing.Regards.

    July 5, 2015 at 1:33 am

    • Thank you very much!

      July 5, 2015 at 2:21 am

      • My pleasure.

        July 5, 2015 at 10:19 am

  8. in567

    Those misty morning photos are great!

    July 5, 2015 at 5:34 am

    • Thank you very much!

      July 5, 2015 at 6:38 pm

  9. They’re all lovely, but I have to say my favorite misty morning marsh is the second to last where you don’t have the blown sun in the picture… the layers of color are fantastic alone. Great work, Jerry!

    July 5, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    • Thank you Gunta! Judging what the sun will do in a photo under those circumstances is tough. Luckily, I had more practice this morning. πŸ˜‰

      July 5, 2015 at 6:39 pm

  10. Stunning, fantastic captures, Jerry. Much enjoyed catching up with you! I can certainly understand why this is your favorite marsh. Makes me want to get out & start walking and shooting again around my marshes, thank you. πŸ™‚

    July 7, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna! I do hope that you get out with your camera again, I’ve been missing the great photos of yours.

      July 7, 2015 at 4:21 pm

  11. Beautiful sunrise shots! Being able to get good sunrise and sunset shots is a definite benefit to living in the flatlands. Congratulations on the lifer. I also love the reflections in the water of all the birds you photographed – really lovely. I enjoyed learning about the crane and heron behaviour too.

    July 8, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I’d rather live in an area where there were a few large hills so that I could get more depth to my landscape photos, but this is southern Michigan where hills are few and far between.

      July 9, 2015 at 12:00 am

      • I understand! I live in a flat part of the country too. We usually go to hilly places for our holidays.

        July 9, 2015 at 4:36 am

  12. I’m giving you a standing ovation from my living room, as I feel I have completely run out of words! What a marvelous way to spend a morning. Thanks for taking us along. The sunrise shots are incredible, and how wonderful to have the sand hill cranes and the deer! I did not know that about the cranes staying in water at rest time for protection, so along with all your fab photos, I learned something, too! Congrats on adding another species to your life list! I think I would have had a hard time leaving that area when there is always so much to see.

    I can’t wait to see what kind of shots you get at the wildflower sanctuary.

    July 9, 2015 at 9:29 am

    • Thank you again Amy! If you had asked me last year, I would have said that I had just turned a corner and you’d be seeing improvements in my images. Well, I feel the same only more so this summer. I keep learning new little tricks, and more about the way a digital camera’s sensor captures light, and that works to make my photos better.

      The wildflower sanctuary was a bit of a bust as far as flowers, I went there between “seasons” I guess. Load Lake is known for its early spring, and late summer flowers, I wen there on the 4th, right in between. Still, I loved the place, it’s another birding paradise, got another lifer there. And, the fungi and other things to see made up for the lack of flowers.

      July 9, 2015 at 4:58 pm

  13. Those landscape shots are really a huge step up! I mean, I’ve enjoyed your landscape work for a while but these are, like, painterly! Thx for sharing!!! PS, love the ducklings, too. PPS, gottta ask, is there an odor issue there in the summer, is that why you wanted to wait for autumn?

    July 12, 2015 at 11:53 am

    • Thank you Lori! I hope that my landscapes don’t look too painterly, I’m going for as natural as I can get them. There can be an odor issue there any time of the year, it is dependent on the weather. But, I’ve gotten into a rut of going there one day every weekend, and there are other places to be seen and explored.

      July 12, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      • They look beautiful! You are developing your style, that’s all. Re: odor. I guess we should be grateful that photos don’t come with a scratch and sniff option. Yet. πŸ˜‰

        July 13, 2015 at 10:13 am

      • Well, there are times when I’m posting photos of flowers that I wish that there was a scratch and sniff option, so it would all even out.

        July 13, 2015 at 3:50 pm