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

Happy belated Thanksgiving!

I had already begun working on this post before hand, but since it’s now Thanksgiving Day here, I’d like to begin by wishing every one a Happy Thanksgiving! I should also start out with a couple of photos to fit the holiday.

Turkeys

Turkeys

 

Turkeys

Turkeys

Continuing on from my last post, when it comes to winter, it isn’t the snow and cold that I mind as much as the fact that there are fewer things to photograph, so I can’t shoot photos like these.

Monarch butterfly on an aster

Monarch butterfly on an aster

 

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

However, I will attempt to refrain from whining about winter anymore, at least until the true winter weather arrives here. 😉

We had a warm, wet Thanksgiving day here, and I had the day off from work, so I tried to take advantage of it. However, I was the last driver to return to the terminal in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning, so after getting some sleep and then eating breakfast at around noon, I was late getting started on my walk for the day. There was an off and on rain falling, more on than off, so the day was quite gloomy to begin with. By 3 PM, it was too dark to shot any photos at all, but I did thoroughly enjoy spending most of the day outdoors. I spotted a splash of color in these lichen earlier though.

Unidentified lichens

Unidentified lichens

I also played a few games with this hawk, it may be Bruiser, but I haven’t seen much of him or his mate, Bertha, this past year, so I’m no longer able to identify the individual hawks around home. However, this hawk…

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

…acted a lot like Bruiser, looking in one direction, then taking off…

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

…in the other direction.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

I was a bit slow with the camera there. 😦 I may have gotten too close to the hawk as well, since it more than filled the frame as it took flight, as you can see. That’s always a problem with larger birds, I hadn’t quite gotten close enough for a good portrait shot of the hawk, but when it took off, I was too close to it to get good photos of the action.

Speaking of action, it was so gloomy yesterday that when I found an American tree sparrow taking a bath…

American tree sparrow bathing

American tree sparrow bathing

…the shutter speed was down to 1/100 second…

American tree sparrow bathing

American tree sparrow bathing

…so even at ISO 6400…

American tree sparrow bathing

American tree sparrow bathing

… I wasn’t able to freeze the motion of the sparrow as it splashed around playing in the water.

By the way, before I forget, as I was photographing the hawk, I also spotted this fox squirrel hiding motionless nearby, keeping its eye on the hawk.

Fox squirrel hiding

Fox squirrel hiding

Since that’s not a very good photo of the squirrel, here’s a slightly better one from earlier this fall.

Fox squirrel sunbathing

Fox squirrel sunbathing

That brings us to the portion of this post where I talk about how I’m working to get better images, and some of the things that I’m doing.

One thing is that I no longer shoot photos of every critter that’s even close to camera range, I wait until I’m close enough to something so that I have a reasonable expectation of getting a food image. Then, instead of snapping a photo or two of it, I shoot more photos of same critter. The squirrel above is an example of why. There’s a shadow on the squirrel, just below its eye, but of the 6 or 7 photos that I shot of that squirrel, the shadow is the least objectionable in the one that I posted, because the wind was blowing the branch that cast the shadow around so that it landed on the squirrel in different places at different times. It works much the same way with birds, as they are always moving.

What I used to do was try to time when the best moment to press the shutter release was as the birds twitched and turned as they looked around.

Male House finch

Male House finch

What I do now is shoot in low-speed continuous mode for a short burst of photos, then pick out the best photo of the lot. So, instead of the photo of above, which is okay, I get one like this…

Male house finch

Male house finch

…which is a bit better because the finch turned its head towards me a little more. I shoot more photos of fewer subjects, but I get better images as a result. I should also thank the finch for having moved to a more photogenic spot, as this is one of the first photos of him that I shot.

Male house finch

Male house finch

Another tip that I’d like to pass along came from one of the videos that I watched, even though I haven’t figured out why it helps as much as it does yet. The tip is to get your eye really close to the glass of the viewfinder, or as the presenter in the video said, you have to stick your eyeball right into the viewfinder. It works, maybe by pressing the camera tighter to your face to get your eye closer to the viewfinder helps you steady the camera better? Like I said, I don’t know why it works, but it does, doing that has helped me get sharper images.

Of course, that tip won’t help you if you’re using a camera that doesn’t have a viewfinder. 😉

Since the folder that the finch photos were in is now almost empty, here’s the rest of images from that folder.

Late fall colors

Late fall colors

 

More late fall colors

More late fall colors

 

Late fall dandelion

Late fall dandelion

I went for a walk around home on the day after Thanksgiving, it was another wet, gloomy day, and I ended up saving just three photos, so here they are.

The transition

The transition

 

Still life

Still life

 

Still life 2

Still life 2

The only thing noteworthy about the last two is that I moved some dead leaves and other things out of the frame so that the view of the colored leaves wasn’t obstructed as much. Usually when I move things around, the results aren’t that good, I end up making the scene worse instead of better. Maybe that’s all in my head.

Anyway, I have plenty of leftovers from this summer left to be posted, so it’s time to get on with those photos. These were all shot at various locations in the Muskegon area. I’ll start with one as I was starting to use the polarizing filter for waterfowl photos.

Pie-billed grebe

Pie-billed grebe

As I’ve written in the past few posts, the filter really makes an improvement in my images most of the time by cutting the glare from the water, even for shorebirds.

Sanderling

Sanderling

 

White-Romped sandpiper

White-rumped sandpiper

I wasn’t sure if that was a white-rumped sandpiper at the time I shot it, but I was sure that these were whitetail deer, it’s easy to see how they got their name.

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

I always try to keep my ducks in a row, I had to speed up the last female some to get her in line. 😉

Mallards in a row

Mallards in a row

Despite their name, ravens aren’t common this far south in Michigan, so seeing one is always special. You can tell them apart from crows by the raven’s oversized bill.

Common raven inflight

Common raven in flight

It isn’t often that you see a vulture swooping this low to the ground either.

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Laughing mallards are always fun to listen to.

JVIS6426

Laughing female mallard

I’ve posted better photos of greater yellowlegs in the past, but this one was one of the few that I saw this fall, so I think that I should include it.

Greater yellowlegs

Greater yellowlegs

This was one of the first lesser scaup to show up this fall, now there are hundreds of them, and I usually don’t bother to shoot any of them.

Female lesser scaup

Female lesser scaup

This next one is an “if only” shot. I had great light, and the phoebe landed close to me, if only there hadn’t been the branches in the way.

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

I tried to get a good photo of two dragonflies at one time…

Dragonflies

Dragonflies

…but it didn’t work, so I shot this one to make up for it.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

This next one is of the reflections of the leaves and sky in one of the ponds at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve.

Reflections

Reflections

I haven’t posted many photos of mute swans lately, so here’s three, starting with the male…

Mute swan

Mute swan

…who was joined by his mate…

Mute swans

Mute swans

…but their youngster wouldn’t join in for a family portrait.

Juvenile mute swan

Juvenile mute swan

I was able to get a little closer to another pie-billed grebe at a later date, but it didn’t give me enough time to get the polarizing filter dialed in.

Pie-billed grebe

Pie-billed grebe

Finally, a juvenile white-crowned sparrow, even though I’ve posted a few of them lately. They’re only around for a few weeks in the spring and fall as they migrate through the area, so it will be several months before I see any of them again.

Juvenile white-crowned sparrow

Juvenile white-crowned sparrow

Well, it’s now Saturday, almost Sunday in fact, as I put the finishing touches on this post. I spent the day in the Muskegon area again today, and I shot nearly 400 photos. Of those, I’ll probably end up posting only 20 to 30 of them at the most. Most of the birds seemed to be extra wary today, so I wasn’t able to get close to most of them, including eagles, several species of hawks, and of course, thousands of ducks. But, I learned a lot today, both about bird behavior, and what my photo gear is capable of. But, I’ll save that for when I get around to posting the photos.

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

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25 responses

  1. beauty fulls

    November 28, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    • Thank you very much!

      November 29, 2015 at 12:16 am

  2. The first 2 photos of the turkeys….looks like they were quietly and carefully walking as far away as they could from the Thanksgiving festivities!

    November 28, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    • Thank you very much Mary! Turkeys are always wary, maybe because they’re often on the menu. 😉

      November 29, 2015 at 12:17 am

  3. Your photographs of the red tailed hawk are wonderful, I marvelled at your shots.

    November 29, 2015 at 2:40 am

    • Thank you very much Susan!

      November 29, 2015 at 8:42 am

  4. Funny to see your photos with fall colors – seems like its been gone forever already. When it’s over, it’s over, eh? Does it take you a long time to id your bird photos? I’d be hard pressed to tell a sanderling from a white-rumped sandpiper, although I always enjoy any photos of the little shore birds (is that the correct term?)

    Good post.

    November 29, 2015 at 8:37 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! I spent days pouring over the photos that I shot the first time that I ran into the variety of species of shorebirds there at Muskegon, and even then, I made some wrong identifications. It gets easier the more often you see them, and part of it is the size of the bird, which is hard to judge in a photo. Watching their behavior helps as well. The sanderlings stick together in a flock as they run around picking up food. The sandpipers are more methodical, working an area slowly as they look for food. Also, the sanderlings are grey and white, and the white-rumped sandpipers are brown and white, so even though they are about the same size, those two species are relatively easy for me to tell apart, now.

      November 29, 2015 at 8:51 am

  5. I’m surprised that hawk didn’t see the squirrel. I’d love to know what that squirrel was thinking right then.
    I don’t recognize that lichen but it looks like a beauty!
    I like the row of ducks and those are fine shots of the turkeys and deer.
    It rained all day here yesterday and now that it’s dark when I get home from work rain on the weekend is not a good thing, so I feel your pain. It looks like all your snow melted though, so that’s a good thing!

    November 29, 2015 at 8:38 am

    • Thanks Allen! The hawk would have had to be able to see through the tree to spot the squirrel, it was because I was off to one side of both of them that I could see them both. And, I know what the squirrel was thinking, “I’d better not move, or the hawk will see me!”

      Sorry that you had rain on the weekend, but the overall good weather pattern is going to stick around for a few more weeks. Not to rub it in, but we’re averaging over twice as much sunshine than we normally have in November, so I’m a happy camper!

      November 29, 2015 at 8:58 am

  6. Incredible photos.Regards

    November 29, 2015 at 10:26 am

    • Thank you very much!

      November 29, 2015 at 10:32 pm

      • You welcome.

        November 29, 2015 at 11:54 pm

  7. I absolutely love the Sanderling shot! The colours are exquisite and each feather is so clear! The weather at this time of year does limit the amount of photography you can do that’s for sure! I hope you had a very happy Thanksgiving – I am glad you were able to get out for a walk despite the wet weather.

    November 29, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! The weather for Thanksgiving and the day after may not have been great for photography, but Saturday and Sunday were fantastic! Best of all, I spent all of both days outside.

      November 29, 2015 at 10:36 pm

      • How wonderful. We have had almost non-stop rain and high winds. Very dreary 😦

        November 30, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      • So I’ve heard. The weather has been so bad for your area that it has made the news here, I hope that the weather improves there soon.

        December 1, 2015 at 2:57 am

      • Thank-you Jerry! It’s quiet at the moment and very mild but more storms due at the weekend.

        December 1, 2015 at 3:41 pm

  8. I liked the upright stalk of your first fall colour series the best in this post but I am enjoying your thoughts on taking better pictures a lot so the whole post was interesting.

    November 29, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! More than anything else, I’m learning to do the small things correctly, they may be small, but they add up.

      November 29, 2015 at 10:41 pm

  9. I like it much better when the critters cooperate. Of course you seem to have the patience to wait them out or to learn what they might be expected to do next.

    November 29, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    • Thank you very much Gunta! I prefer it when the critters cooperate also, but that’s a rare thing. That’s when patience does pay off.

      November 29, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      • I think you hit the nail right on the head! I don’t seem to have an overabundance of that magical stuff called patience! 😉
        sigh

        November 29, 2015 at 10:43 pm

  10. The sparrow bathing was adorable and as usual I find your furry critters incredibly cute. The colours in the leaf pictures are quite rich and startling! Very appealing, Jerry. The sharpness and detail of the hawk is most impressive. Thanks for another very enjoyable post. The pictures are always a visual treat. 🙂

    November 30, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    • Thank you very much Jane! Your kind words are great encouragement for me to continue doing things the way that I have been, except for working on improving my images even more.

      December 1, 2015 at 3:09 am