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

I’m so unbelievably lucky!

So, in my last post I had photos of two of the three bald eagles I saw that day, and also two species of falcons, the merlin and peregrine falcon. What I didn’t get a photo of, and it really bothered me, was of one of three kestrels that I saw that same day. Then, there were at least eight red-tailed hawks, the sandhill cranes, several species of shorebirds, a quite a few ducks around also. I was thinking about that when it hit me just how spoiled I have become.

There are only three species of falcons seen regularly in Michigan, the peregrine…

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

…merlin…

Merlin

Merlin

 

…and kestrels, which I wasn’t able to get a usable photo of that day, even though I have in the past.

Kestrel

American Kestrel

There are five species of falcons that have been seen in Michigan in total, the three mentioned above, along with the Gyrfalcon, which is an occasional winter visitor to Michigan when some of them migrate south from their usual home on the Arctic tundra. Also, one report of a juvenile Prairie Falcon seen four years ago about 100 miles northwest of where I live. That one may have been blown here in a storm, or being a juvenile, it may have wandered several hundred miles outside of that specie’s normal range looking for a territory of its own.

Most people have never seen one species of falcons, I see three in one day, and get bummed out because I didn’t get a good photo of one of the three, just how spoiled am I? Of course the one that I missed is the cutest of the three.

I haven’t been posting any photos of ducks lately, it’s molting season for them, and they all look like female mallards right now, even the males.

Male mallard molting

Male mallard molting

I did a cropped version of that photo, but I like the full size version better, with the mallard on the tan rocks and the green water behind him.

Even the male wood ducks are looking a little drab this time of year, although you can see that this one is beginning to grow new brightly colored feathers.

Wood duck

Wood duck

But when he saw me shooting his picture, he hid the bright feathers and kicked it up to top gear.

Wood duck

Wood duck

I caught this blue winged teal showing some color as well.

Blue winged teal in flight

Blue winged teal in flight

What I haven’t posted many photos of from my trips along the lakeshore, including Muskegon, Grand Haven, and other spots, has been the more common songbirds. I have shot a few photos of them, but I usually tell myself not to bother, I can get photos of them around home. That hasn’t been true this year. For one thing, I don’t have time to walk everyday like I used to, but there’s something else going on as well.

This spring, all the usual songbirds that nest in the park where I walk showed up right on cue. However, very few of them remained to nest here, and I don’t know why that is. Last year, several pairs of Baltimore orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, eastern kingbirds, and other songbirds nested and raised their young here. This year, they all moved on other than one pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks, which I was able to shoot photos of. As soon as the young fledged, they left also. I don’t know if it’s because of predators, particularly house cats running free, or some other reason the birds didn’t stick around.

Oh, while looking through my recent photos to see what to post, I found some of a kestrel from August 13th of this year.

American kestrel

American kestrel

American kestrel

American kestrel

Since I’m back to the falcons, here’s a photo from back during the Memorial Day weekend, shot at Grand Haven, Michigan.

Peregrine falcon in a man-made nesting box

Peregrine falcon in a man-made nesting box

I know that it isn’t a good photo, but it shows one reason that peregrine falcons are increasing in numbers. There are man-made nesting boxes like that built for them in several towns and cities, including Grand haven, Muskegon, and even Grand Rapids.

And yes, I have photos from all the way back in May that I haven’t gotten around to posting yet. Now is as good of time as any to begin catching up, so here goes.

Eastern bluebird

Eastern bluebird

 

Trumpeter swans

Trumpeter swans

 

Juvenile caspian tern

Juvenile caspian tern

 

Two great blue herons in flight

Two great blue herons in flight

 

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

 

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

 

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

 

Grey catbird collecting stuff to use in its nest

Grey catbird collecting stuff to use in its nest

 

Female yellow-dumped warbler

Female yellow-rumped warbler

 

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

 

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

 

Rose-breasted grosbeak

Rose-breasted grosbeak

 

Double crested cormorants in flight

Double crested cormorants in flight

 

Common tern in flight

Common tern in flight

 

Purple martins

Purple martins

 

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

 

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

 

Male common yellowthroat

Male common yellowthroat

 

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

 

Green heron

Green heron

 

Grasshopper sparrow

Grasshopper sparrow

 

Northern rough-winged swallow

Northern rough-winged swallow

 

Vesper sparrow

Vesper sparrow

 

Male orchard oriole

Male orchard oriole

 

Horned lark

Horned lark

 

Eastern meadowlark and red-winged blackbird

Eastern meadowlark and red-winged blackbird

 

Male Eastern towhee

Male Eastern towhee

 

Male Eastern towhee

Male Eastern towhee

Sorry about the poor quality of the towhee photos, it was the only time this year that I saw one in the open, and it was raining at the time. I had the wipe the lens several times just to get those photos.

That reminds me to say that you should always try to get the best possible image in the camera that you possibly can. But, it’s not always easy to do so. One thing that I have learned is that with digital photography, if you’re going to miss on the exposure settings, it is better to over-expose the image than to under-expose it. That’s the exact opposite of what I learned when shooting slide film, you never over-exposed an image, there was no way to save an over-exposed slide. In fact, with Kodachrome, it was recommended that you under-expose what your light meter called for by one-third to one-half stop.

Under-exposing a digital image and trying to brighten it in any software introduces noise that I can’t remove no matter how I try to remove it. On the other hand, software is able to bring down the exposure quite a bit without any adverse effects showing up in the images.

Adding these photos will put me over my self-imposed limit, but what the heck, I’m trying to get caught up here.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

 

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbird

 

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbird

 

Rose-breasted grosbeak

Rose-breasted grosbeak

 

Common yellowthroat

Common yellowthroat

 

Tree swallow

Tree swallow

 

Great crested flycatcher

Great crested flycatcher

All birds, I’m sorry about that. No flowers, insects, or cute squirrels in this post, I’ll have to make up for it in my next one. That will be hard to do though, fall migration has begun in earnest. The red-winged blackbirds that spent the summer here are already gone, as one example. There will be more through here later on, as the ones that spent the summer farther north move through. It’s the same with some of the shorebirds also, more are being reported all the time.

Fall is coming, sooner than what I want, but you can’t change the progression of seasons. There are hints of color in the leaves of some trees already, and fall flowers are beginning to bloom.  I’m going to try to pack in as many photos this fall as I can, because after fall comes winter, and the endless dreary days under lake effect clouds here. I have been making a few plans for the fall, but so much depends on my work schedule that I’m never sure if those plans will come to fruition or not, we’ll see.

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

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22 responses

  1. Oh yes you are lucky…to get close enough and get nice photos too..another form of more lucky! hehe.

    August 28, 2015 at 1:19 am

    • Thank you very much! I suppose getting two out of three falcons in one day is luck.

      August 28, 2015 at 4:16 pm

  2. So many beautiful photos of birds!
    I like them very much!

    August 28, 2015 at 1:51 am

    • Thank you very much Cornel!

      August 28, 2015 at 4:16 pm

  3. What a wonderful selection of photographs of birds, myself I liked the ones in flight best.

    August 28, 2015 at 3:38 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! I promise, more cute critters in my next post.

      August 28, 2015 at 4:17 pm

  4. So many beautiful bird pics but my favourites in this post were the merlin, the yellow warblers, the common yellow throat and tree swallow. Yes, you are lucky to see three species of falcon in one day. I am very lucky to see one and that’s on my more remote walks and usually they are very far away! What a lovely little one the merlin is. It looks quite cute really but no doubt is adept at killing! Nothing wrong with a post exclusively about birds, Jerry! I wish I was about to share as many as you do. 🙂

    August 28, 2015 at 7:07 am

    • Thank you very much Jane! I do seem to have a way with birds, getting close enough for good photos, that helps a lot. I think that the merlin was plucking dragonflies out of the air, I couldn’t tell for sure.

      August 28, 2015 at 4:19 pm

  5. Very nice shot of the Merlin!

    August 28, 2015 at 7:21 am

    • Thank you very much Bob! If you can believe this, I was photographing the peregrine falcon diving at the shorebirds, and when I looked away from the camera, there was the merlin sitting less than 40 feet from me.

      August 28, 2015 at 4:20 pm

  6. How could any falcon be ‘cuter’ than the merlin? Are you sure about that?

    Lots of new birds for me in this post – never new there was a grasshopper sparrow. Wonder how that name came about? I was also struck by the distinctive profiles of some – the rough winged swallow and the horned lark, especially. Always something new to learn in your blog, Jerry.

    One last comment. The early morning light of your birds in flight is spectacular. It just lights up the birds. Thanks for giving up all that sleep.

    August 28, 2015 at 8:09 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! I think the kestrels are cuter, but I’ve seen their blue-grey backs and how it goes with the orangish color on their breast, which I wasn’t able to catch in a photo.

      According to eBirds, “Grasshopper Sparrow takes its name not only from its diet, but also from its insect-like song.”, so there’s how they got their name.

      The great thing about very early morning light is that it is shining up at birds flying above me, so the underside of their wings are well lit. With my silly work schedule, I’m not giving up any sleep to be out at dawn, in fact, I have to wait for sunrise.

      August 28, 2015 at 4:28 pm

  7. Definitely a better shot of the merlin than I! 🙂

    August 28, 2015 at 9:25 am

    • Thank you very much Genevieve! You probably haven’t spent the thousands of dollar for camera gear for bird photography either. 😉

      August 28, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      • True enough but I contemplate buying one very often 🙂
        Keep on taking inspiring pictures!

        August 30, 2015 at 7:44 am

  8. And isn’t it great when you realize how lucky you are? That realization leads to feelings of gratitude and I find myself saying “thank you” a lot.
    It’s funny how some days nature just seems to throw itself at you, and it sounds like your 3 hawk day was one of those. I’ve learned a lot about birds here, so there’s no need to apologize for a birds only post on my account. I do like those squirrels though!
    I think my favorite shot is of the Caspian tern. The water is very unusual in that one.

    August 28, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I usually try to remember to thank any critters that pose so nicely for me, but sometimes I forget to do that. It’s also great to have so many loyal followers whom I get to learn a great deal from their blogs and comments as well.

      Water makes a tricky background, I never know how it’s going to look in the photo. I’ve been using a polarizing filter quite often in bright sun, and that helps. But, the tern was shot too early in the morning to use the filter, so that was just a matter of luck.

      August 29, 2015 at 12:46 am

  9. I think you may be like Arnold Palmer who claimed that the more he practised, the luckier he got.

    August 28, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    • Thank you Tom! I think that applies to most human endeavors.

      August 29, 2015 at 12:40 am

  10. I’m glad you posted the picture of the Merlin again. I like the black stripe through the eye of the Kestrel and the shots of the White-crowned Sparrow, the Common Tern, the Green Haron and that last one of the Common Yellowthroat are my favourites today. I also like your Swallows!

    August 28, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I’ll miss most of these when they head south for the winter, but they’ll be back next spring.

      August 29, 2015 at 12:39 am

      • I’m always rather sad when the birds fly off south. The swifts have gone and most of the warblers. We are fortunate in that we get winter visitors from further north. I always know winter is on it’s way when I hear Fieldfares calling overhead.

        August 29, 2015 at 7:07 pm