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

Changing plans

I had intended that this post be of nothing but flowers, but my plans have changed. On Sunday, I went to the Muskegon wastewater facility as I often do, and shot a few photos there. However, the weather was so bad for bird photography that I switched gears and checked out a new to me park near Grand Haven, Michigan that was said to have a spot that offered spectacular views of Lake Michigan to the west, and up the Grand River valley to the east. I’ll add a few details about the park later, but since I promised a post with flowers, I’d better start with one.

Bindweed

Bindweed

Anyway, I arrived at the Muskegon County wastewater facility well before dawn, the dullest sunrise that I have seen in months, so no photos of that. The sandhill cranes are still using my favorite marsh as a place to spend the night, so I hung around there until they took off for the day. I thought that since I’ve been able to get very good photos at ISO 6400 with the 7D Mk II, I’d bump that up a bit to allow me to shoot at higher shutter speeds. That didn’t work out well.

Sandhill cranes in flight at dawn

Sandhill cranes in flight at dawn

Not even Lightroom would remove all the noise, or restore the colors that were lost at the higher ISO settings. But, I didn’t know that at the time, so I also shot this horned grebe with the higher settings.

Horned grebe

Horned grebe

Another thing contributing to the poor quality of the few photos that I shot at the wastewater facility was that fog began to form after the sun rose, again. That’s the second time in a month when the day dawned clear, but fog formed after the sun had risen. I shot these critter photos before giving up on the idea of shooting wildlife.

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

 

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

 

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

 

Turkey

Turkey

Even though there were plenty of shorebirds to be seen, some of them could have been new species for me, the light was so bad that I couldn’t get a decent photo of any of them. So, I decided to go for a short drive around the north end of the facility, to see if I could find anything else to shoot, which is where I found the turkey. I decided to try a few landscape photos while I waited for the fog to burn off.

Along the northern boundary of the wastewater facility

Along the northern boundary of the wastewater facility

 

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Pine plantation on the edge of the Muskegon State Game area

Instead of burning off, the fog grew thicker.

Green in the fog

Green in the fog

Because of the proximity to Lake Michigan, and its influence on local weather, one never knows exactly how the weather is going to be from one minute to the next, and it can also change dramatically in a very short time or distance.

I had just read about a new to me park, an Ottawa County Park, North Ottawa Dunes Park, online this past week. I knew that I wasn’t going to get any worthwhile photos where I was, and because that park is closer to the lake, I thought that the fog may not be present there. At the very least, it would be a chance to check the park out, and see if I should add it to the places that I go on a regular basis.

You may not believe this, after you see the photos that will come later, but North Ottawa Dunes Park is right on the border of Ferrysburg, Michigan. Ferrysburg is one of three small cities, Grand Haven, Spring Lake, along with Ferrysburg, that make up what is known as the tri-cities area along Lake Michigan. The park is 515 acres in a long, narrow strip, that runs from Ferrysburg to the P. J. Hoffmaster State Park to the north, along with butting up against North Beach Park to the west, and the Coast Guard Park to the east. Here’s a link if you’re interested.

http://www.naturenearby.org/visit/north-ottawa-dunes-county-park/

North Ottawa Dunes Park doesn’t have a parking area, you have to park in either the Coast Guard Park, North Beach Park, or the state park, and walk into it. So, I chose to start at the Coast Guard Park, which worked out well. The North Beach Park, being right on Lake Michigan, is a very busy park in the summer, and the walk from the state park to the scenic overlook area would have been too long for me to do carrying all my camera gear.

I saw lots of birds as I began my walk, they were either way up in the treetops, or in areas so shady that no photos were possible, as although the fog wasn’t as thick as it had been at the wastewater facility, it was still present, and it was still a dreary day. I also saw more squirrels than I’ve ever seen in such a small area, but no photos of them, for the same reason, no light.I did catch these two deer napping though.

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

That was right after I stepped on a twig, alerting the deer of my approach. A split second later, and they were on their way.

Soon, I came to the stairway that leads to the scenic overlook, or I should say, the first of two stairways.

Beginning the climb

Beginning the climb

That’s not exactly the angle that I wanted to shoot the stairway at, but it’s the best of my images for showing how steep the dunes are there, and how long the first half of the climb was.

While climbing the stairs, I paused for a second to shoot this chipmunk.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

After making it to the top of the first set of stairs, there was a short section of trail that led to another equally long set of stairs along the edge of a dune blow out.

A dune blow out occurs when the vegetation holding the sand that forms the dune in place dies or is killed, and the wind can then begin to blow the sand around again. Typically, dune blow outs occur because of human interference, either we trample the dune vegetation to death, or we remove the vegetation for one of many reasons, such as sand mining. The blow outs do occur naturally, when a wind storms blows over a number of trees at one time, or there is a landslide because the dunes are unstable.

I didn’t think to shoot a photo of the second stairway, I was too busy enjoying the view.

The Grand Haven Lighthouse

The Grand Haven Lighthouse

As you can see, there was some fog there, but it wasn’t as thick as it had been back at the wastewater facility.

Now then, if you can believe this, that photo, as well as this one…

North Ottawa Dunes Park looking south

North Ottawa Dunes Park looking south

…are from a position where you are looking over the city of Ferrysburg, as well as part of Grand Haven. You can see the stairs on the other side of the dune blow out, as well as the stairs that lead up the other side of it, but you can’t see any of the city.

More amazing, the view to the east, when you’re looking up the Grand River valley, you’re also looking over parts of Ferrysburg, Spring Lake, and Grand Haven.

Looking east, up the Grand River valley

Looking east, up the Grand River valley

That was shot at 50 mm, which is about equal to what the human eye see, here’s the same view at 15 mm…

Looking east, up the Grand River valley, 15 mm

Looking east, up the Grand River valley, 15 mm

…then, I switched to the 10-18 mm lens at 10 mm for an even wider view.

Looking east, up the Grand River valley, 10 mm

Looking east, up the Grand River valley, 10 mm

You can see the trees, you can see the rolling dunes and hills of the valley, but you can’t see anything that would tell you that you were looking across parts of three cities. There was a white water tower that I could just make out with the naked eye, but the fog and low clouds did a great job of hiding it in my photos.

That’s shows several of the things that I love about Michigan. Multiple parks right on the edge of a city, access to Lake Michigan, forests as far as the eye can see, even in the cities, and everything is still fairly green, even at the end of summer.

Here’s a few more of the photos that I shot from the top of the dune.

From the top of the dune 1

From the top of the dune 1

 

From the top of the dune 2

From the top of the dune 2

 

From the top of the dune 3

From the top of the dune 3

 

From the top of the dune 4

From the top of the dune 4

In my last post, I had a photo of a man-made nesting box for peregrine falcons. It’s on the smokestack of the coal-fired power plant that generates electricity for the near-by cities, and is quite tall. Yet it doesn’t appear in any of the photos that I shot from the top of the dune, which is just a short distance from the power plant. The dunes and forests hide everything man-made very well.

I have a few more images to share that I shot from on top the dune, looking down the dune, and out over Lake Michigan.

Looking down the dune 1

Looking down the dune 1

Not bad, but I needed something in the foreground to add depth, and to give every one a sense of how steep the dune is.

Looking down the dune 2

Looking down the dune 2

That’s better, and the polarizing filter helped make those a little better,

Looking down the dune 3

Looking down the dune 3

Looking down the dune 4

Looking down the dune 4

As you may have guessed from how much water we have here in Michigan, boating is very popular, so I shot that one, getting three boats at once. The black specks to the left center of the frame are a flock of ducks flying past.

I’m trying something new here, adding that last photo in a larger size, to see if I can do so and have it appear correctly in my blog. It doesn’t seem to have worked, but I’ll have to check this when it’s published, and also heck the setting for the theme that I’m using.

Anyway, I started back down the dune…

Going down the corkscrew stairway

Going down the corkscrew stairway

…through the cut between the dunes…

Between the dunes

Between the dunes

…starting down the straight stairway…

Down the straight stairway

Down the straight stairway

…and pausing halfway down for this shot.

The green straight stairway

The green straight stairway

I almost forgot, I shot some birds while on the top of the dune.

American crow

American crow

 

American crow in flight

American crow in flight

 

Blue-grey gnatcatcher with something larger than a gnat

Blue-grey gnatcatcher with something larger than a gnat

 

Blue-grey gnatcatcher with something larger than a gnat

Blue-grey gnatcatcher with something larger than a gnat

 

Blue-grey gnatcatcher with something larger than a gnat

Blue-grey gnatcatcher with something larger than a gnat

 

Blue-grey gnatcatcher with something larger than a gnat

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

 

Red-eyed vireo

Red-eyed vireo

 

Red-eyed vireo letting me know what it thought of me photographing it

Red-eyed vireo letting me know what it thought of me photographing it

Whew! I’m glad that I didn’t have to climb back to the top of the dune to be able to post those bird photos, it was a steep climb!

Once I got to the bottom of the dune, I shot two more photos of the woods there.

Mossy trees

Mossy trees

 

Woodland scene

Woodland scene

I also had some better light to catch a couple more of the chipmunks that I saw.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

A few thoughts about Ottawa Dunes Park. I can see that I found a good spot to shoot sunrises at, if they’re going to be good ones. It would be okay for sunsets, but I suspect that the park becomes very crowded during the evening hours in summer, but maybe not so much in the closer months, we’ll see. I’ll try to stop there to get fall foliage photos also. I may even add it to my list of birding places to go, I saw and heard plenty of birds there, but was more interested in the scenery this time. No matter what, it’s great to live in an area with so many parks and nature preserves that I have to pick and choose which ones I like best.

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

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33 responses

  1. What a lot to take in. I loved the stairs, the views from the tops of things and the chipmunks of course. Thanks for showing us round.

    August 31, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! Overtime that I have to climb stairs like that,it makes me think of the post that you did about a year ago about one of your trips abroad.

      August 31, 2015 at 4:52 pm

  2. Wonderful captures~

    August 31, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    • Thank you Cindy!

      August 31, 2015 at 4:53 pm

  3. I love that you’re showing us the stuff you enjoy about your neighborhood. Makes me wish I could head out that way! 🙂

    August 31, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    • Thank you very much Gunta! Way back when I began my blog, it was mostly landscape photos, of the places that I visited. Over time, the birds sort of took over.

      August 31, 2015 at 4:55 pm

  4. Pleased there was a map on the north ottawa dunes site so I could see where it was…my geography is not very good! I love seeing your wild life photos all so different from Wales! I can tell you love it all even the steep climb up those amazing stair ways! Thank you for sharing.

    August 31, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    • Thank you very much! I should include more maps from time to time, I forget that there are new readers all the time who see my posts. I didn’t mind the stairway, it sure beat trying to walk up the dunes through the loose sand.

      September 1, 2015 at 12:33 am

  5. I am glad your plans changed, the photos are really outstanding….Really enjoyed the deer images.

    August 31, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    • Thank you very much Charlie!

      August 31, 2015 at 5:01 pm

  6. I never knew that sand dunes got that big or that so many plants and trees would grow on them. I wouldn’t have guessed the forest shots were of sand dunes if you hadn’t said so.
    Those stairs would have had me doing some serious huffing and puffing, let me tell you!
    The chipmunk shots are excellent, and so are the landscapes.

    Now something unrelated: I told the people from the Smithsonian Institution that I had a blogging friend that knew where there were a lot of sumac pouch galls in Michigan and they’re interested and want to contact you. The trouble is, I can’t find your contact information, so could you email it to me from my contact page or at XXXXXXX.gmail.com?

    They’re nice people who will most likely want you to show them where the galls are unless you can give them very accurate instructions. They’re due here soon.

    August 31, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! The dunes here are close to 200 feet high, not very high by most standards. The Empire Bluffs, farther north, are over 600 feet high. They’re a work out, as it’s all loose beach sand and hard to make progress in. You slide back down almost as fast as you can climb up.

      As far as the people from the Smithsonian, I’d rather not have to contact them, or they contact me. Nothing personal, I work nights, sleep days, and never know when I’m getting out of work. I may work 8 hours one day, 12 hours the next, and that doesn’t leave me much time for anything outside of my normal activities. I’m also going to remove your email address from your comment, just to be on the safe side. My email address shows in the comments that I make, here and on your blog.

      September 1, 2015 at 12:29 am

      • Sorry Jerry, I must have misunderstood what you said when I did a blog post saying the Smithsonian was coming here. I’ll tell them you can’t do it. I’m sure there are many people in Michigan who know what sumac pouch galls are.

        September 1, 2015 at 4:54 am

      • Well, I think that I said that you should send them here because we have plenty of the galls this year. Trouble is, I see masses of them on the sumacs as I’m driving for work, but there’s no way I can remember the exact spots. There’s quite a few around here where I live, on the Fred Meijer/M6 bike trail between Division and Eastern Avenues, but I noticed the leaves with the galls have already begun falling off this past weekend, and I don’t know how many are left on the bushes. Combine all that with my crazy work schedule, and I’m probably not a good candidate to help them out. And that reminds me, there at least were plenty of the galls on the sumacs along the bike trail, but none on any of the sumacs in Creekside Park, which the bike trail leads to.

        Oh, just so there’s no misunderstanding, I removed your email address so the spam-bots wouldn’t find it and attempt to hack your account or use your address to send spam from.

        September 1, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      • Thanks for removing my email Jerry. I wasn’t thinking along those lines.
        I’ll just tell the Smithsonian people that they’ll have to find another way. They seem pretty busy so they probably won’t mind.

        September 1, 2015 at 6:35 pm

  7. This place looks like a very good discovery. The fall pictures should be good too.

    August 31, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    • Thank you Tom! The fall photos will be good if all those trees aren’t oaks, which have little color to them.

      September 1, 2015 at 12:14 am

  8. Definitely looks like an area that merits further investigation!

    August 31, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    • Thank you very much Bob! That will be a place that I go after a rain, as dry beach sand is tough to walk in.

      September 1, 2015 at 12:15 am

  9. Lovely woodland shots! It always amazes me how plants can survive so well living in sand. That long steep stairway up through the dunes is really something! I think after a few visits there you’ll be so fit after that staircase work-out!

    August 31, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! Some of the grasses and other plants are highly specialized to live and grow on the dunes, and they hold the sand in place long enough that trees are able to send roots down deep enough for water. That really isn’t very deep, what with billions of gallons of water in Lake Michigan so close, as well as the sand being permeable.

      September 1, 2015 at 12:21 am

      • We have dunes round our local coast with mainly scrub trees and grasses living on them. Our dunes are nothing like as enormous as the ones featured in your post!

        September 1, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      • Thank you Clare! The dunes around this part of Michigan are nothing compared to those farther north. One of these days, I’ll make it up there to get some good photos.

        September 1, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      • I look forward to it!

        September 1, 2015 at 4:28 pm

  10. Such a wonderful adventure this was. Climbing up and back down the dunes. Indeed I am glad we didn’t have to walk back up again to get the bird pics. I love the staircase going downhill perspective, and a great series of captures.

    August 31, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    • Thank you very much Emily! I got to the second stairway down and thought that I had left a lens cap at the top of the second stairway up, what a relief to find it in my pack and not have to go back!

      September 1, 2015 at 12:22 am

      • PHEW !!

        September 1, 2015 at 8:01 am

  11. I loved how you took us on a guided tour of your walk. I feel like I understand more about the landscape of Michigan from these shots. I rarely see mammals on my walks so the deer and adorable chipmunks are a treat for me. I tend to see more reptiles like lizards here. It’s very beautiful country and really the flora is quite different to what I usually encounter here. Much greener and softer really than our dry eucalyptus forests. You did well to show the steepness of the stairs, Jerry. I’d probably be huffing and puffing up those. 😉

    September 1, 2015 at 5:54 am

    • Thank you very much Jane! When I first began blogging, it was much like yours is, a guided tour of a place that I hiked or a river that I kayaked. I included many more landscape photos back then, but the images that drew the most comments were of the critters I saw, particularly the numerous species of birds. This post was like a throwback to the beginning, and I plan to do more of these in the future. I was huffing and puffing at the top of the stairs, I had to sit down for ten minutes or so before my heart stopped beating so hard that I couldn’t hold the camera still.

      September 1, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      • I enjoy all of your posts, Jerry, whether they be focused on birds you’ve seen, landscapes, a walk or a combination of things. I wish I had more critters, especially birds to include in mine! I noticed with my blog also that people tend to comment more when I include creatures. I’ve had a bad flu recently and won’t have much of anything much to share for a while though. I must go back and check out some of your earlier posts when I have caught up on work.
        I have the wobbly camera problem on many of my walks by the end of them as I am just so tired! 🙂

        September 1, 2015 at 6:32 pm

      • Well, I hope that your bout with the flu is over, and that you’re felling better. The photos in my early posts aren’t that good, as they were shot with a cheap point and shoot camera. I’ll eventually do posts on all those places again, it’s only a matter of time. I find that I shoot far more photos in the beginning of my hikes also, by the time I’m returning to the car, I skip shots that I should take.

        September 2, 2015 at 12:18 am

  12. Funny that this little park has always been tucked in there, and you had not discovered it yet. I never heard of it either, but I’m not much of a beach girl, so that’s not surprising. Loved the shot looking down the dune with the tree on the right – it looks as though it it barely managing to keep a foothold in the dune.

    Funny thing about sumac – I noticed that many of them near Brighton had already begun to turn scarlet. Yikes! Not ready for that!

    I’ll bet there aren’t too many sunset watchers there at any time. We’re all too fat and lazy to climb those stairs for such fleeting pleasure.

    Nice post, Jerry.

    September 1, 2015 at 7:13 am

    • Thank you Judy! I’m not much for the beach either, especially in the summer. I used to visit Hoffmaster and Saugatuk often, in the winter when there’s few people there. I need to go back and shoot some close-ups of some of the trees, some have two and three sets of roots because of the way that sad blows around. Many of the trees are beginning to turn already, I’m definitely not ready for fall yet, although it is a great time for photography.

      You may be right, that not many people would climb the stairs for a sunset, I know that very, very few would climb it for a sunrise. 😉

      September 1, 2015 at 12:53 pm