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

Another day to play, and a Merry Christmas to all!

I went to the Muskegon County wastewater facility again on Sunday, hoping to track down a snowy owl, a few of which have been seen there recently. I had no luck finding an owl, and it was a relatively boring day there. Yes, there were thousands of geese, but all Canada geese, and thousands of ducks, including the largest flock of northern shovelers that I’ve ever seen. However, I couldn’t get close enough to most of the waterfowl there to get good photos of them. I suppose that this is the best of the lot, only because I seldom get close to canvasbacks.

Male canvasback ducks

Male canvasback ducks

Since I prattled on at length about my camera and the way that I can set-it up to suit what and how I shoot, I won’t say much about that in this post other than to say that I did have a chance to test those settings…

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

…but the hawk would come no closer than that…

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

…my aperture is a touch too wide to get the depth of field needed for a large bird up close as the gull’s wingtip is in focus, but the eye and body is a bit soft in that one…

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

…I need to train the female mallards not to cut in front of the male that I’m tracking…

Mallards landing

Mallards landing

…but overall, the settings work well for flocks of birds at a distance…

Canada geese and mallards in flight

Canada geese and mallards in flight

…whether a mixed flock like that, or all geese like this one…

Canada geese in flight

Canada geese in flight

…and I can see that I’m going to have to fine tune the instant bird in flight settings that I have programmed into the second rear focusing button, also that I really should program one of the three available program modes for the ultimate in bird in flight settings.

I suppose that the really big news from the day was this guy.

Male belted kingfisher

Male belted kingfisher

It’s a testament to how warm it’s been so far this fall that there’s still a kingfisher around here. I just wish that I had happened upon it where the branches weren’t in the way. I wasn’t going to let the chance to get an up close and personal photo, even with the branches, slip away though. As soon as I moved to the right to get a clear view of the kingfisher, it took off as they always do.

I went back to the same spot later in the day, but couldn’t find him again, which is normal. I snuck up through the woods with the 2X extender behind the 300 mm lens all set if he had been there. Since I was in the woods with that set-up, I shot a few photos of the upland birds that I saw as I returned to my vehicle.

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

I had seen quite a few brown creepers the last time I was at Duck Lake, but hadn’t gotten any photos of them then. This one isn’t very good, since the creeper insisted on staying on the shady side of the tree.

It was much the same for the nuthatches as well, they stayed in the shade most of the time.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

 

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

Shooting in low light with the 300 mm lens and 2X extender doesn’t produce great images, but they’re not terrible either. That set-up does need good light for it to produce good images.

White-breasted nuthatch not cropped

White-breasted nuthatch not cropped

I call it playing, but the hour or so that I spent chasing the smaller birds with the combination of the 300 mm lens and the 2X extender was invaluable to me as far as learning how to get the best out of it. By the time I got back to my car, I had that combination tracking birds as they hopped from branch to branch, when from my first tests, I never would have thought it possible to do so. In fact, the brown creeper shot was one of a series of photos shot in burst mode as it hopped its way up the trunk of the tree. It may not be a great photo, but it’s all part of the learning process that never seems to end.

Speaking of the learning process, I returned to shoot the lichens that so many people commented on from an earlier post, this time with some better light. I started out wide, because I like the rock almost as much as the lichens on it.

Lichens on a pretty rock

Lichens on a pretty rock

The 100 mm macro lens I have has three range limiting functions, so I went as close as the first allowed.

Lichens

Lichens

Then, it was as close as I could get at 100 mm.

Lichens

Lichens

I wanted to get closer, so I put the Tamron 1.4X extender behind the macro lens.

Lichens

Lichens

I wanted to show the tiny grey-blue lichens which appear to be just starting to grow on the rock towards the lower left of the image, as well as the other small segments? of the orangish lichens. I tried to go even closer by installing all three of the extension tubes that I have for the purpose of extreme close-up photography, but for some reason, the 60D camera didn’t record a single one of the images that I shot with that set-up, and I’m not sure why that is. I could see an image in the viewfinder, and it sounded as though the camera had shot the photos, but there’s no images and not even a record of my having shot any of the attempts that I made with all three extension tubes. Oh well, another lesson learned. That was a bit ridiculous anyway, as the hood of the lens was almost touching the rock to get the lichen in focus, and I had an extremely difficult time not casting a shadow on what I was trying to photograph.

I probably should have tried a few of the other combinations of lenses, extenders, and extension tubes, but I have limited patience when it comes to shooting the same inanimate subject repeatedly. Perhaps I would have had more patience if the temperature wasn’t just above freezing, and if I hadn’t been kneeling in mud as I shot those. The lichen will be there the next time, so when I take a break from the birds, I can go back and play some more.

The lichens do bring up one other thing though. When I first viewed those photos, I was disappointed in the way that the rock that the lichen was growing on looked in my images. The rock had a slightly pink cast to it, and I could tell that it contained quartz from how sparkly it was when I was shooting the photos. The pink cast and the sparkles weren’t there when I viewed the images, and those are missing from the photos as they appear here.

One of the things that I do in Lightroom is go through my photos and flag all of the ones that I may want to export to use here in my blog. Then, before I export the photos, I view them all full screen to choose the best of very similar photos. So, as I was going through the lichen photos full screen, I could see the pink cast of the rock as well as the sparkles, but when I went back to the regular view in Lightroom, they were gone again. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s something that I notice more often all the time. As my images improve, they now look better viewed full screen than they do in even slightly reduced size within Lightroom, that is, unless the images were cropped quite a bit. Of course you have no way of knowing if that’s true, 😉 but I have to wonder why that is. I’d say that it was a quirk in Lightroom, or if it was just in the images after I exported them in the Jpeg format, then the details were lost in the conversion. Just an observation that probably means nothing.

I have a few other photos from Sunday, starting with a female bufflehead taking flight.

Female bufflehead

Female bufflehead

 

Female bufflehead taking flight

Female bufflehead taking flight

 

Female bufflehead taking flight

Female bufflehead taking flight

 

Female bufflehead taking flight

Female bufflehead taking flight

I also shot a few more photos of a crow.

American crow

American crow

 

American crow

American crow

And, these next three photos are nothing special either, other than they demonstrate why it can be hard to identify ducks at times, it’s all the fault of mallards, who aren’t choosy when it comes to mating.

Female mallard hybrids

Female mallard hybrids

You may have noticed two different colorations of the bills of those ducks, along with a difference in size. They were all hanging out with the mallards.

Mallards

Mallards

And, here’s a close-up of the smallest of the ducks in the flock. She’s part mallard, but I have no idea what the other species was that the mallard had mated with to produce her. You can see by the patterns of her feathers along with her size that she’s not a “pure-blood” mallard. I’m reasonably sure that the larger ducks with the bright yellow bills in the first of these photos were black duck/mallard hybrids.

Female mallard hybrid

Female mallard hybrid

I swear, mallards are going to take over the world eventually. 🙂

Anyway, those are the only photos that I saved for blogging from my trip on Sunday. So, since Christmas is later this week, I’m going to go back in time and post a couple of photos that have a Christmas look to them.

Fox squirrel leaping

Fox squirrel leaping

 

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel begging for the snow to stop

 

Playground #2

Playground #2

 

Snow scene

Snow scene

I’ll admit, I’ll be disappointed that we won’t have a white Christmas here this year. However, looking back at those photos from last winter, I’m not missing the cold or snow measured in feet rather than inches!

Also, the next few images will be my Christmas present to all of you who put up with my long-winded posts and poor photos, a few of my better images from this past year.

Asters

Asters

 

The Muskegon channel at dawn

The Muskegon channel at dawn

 

Killdeer

Killdeer

 

Ring-billed gull

Ring-billed gull

Also, as the sun is about to rise over a new year, I think that this one is fitting.

Sunrise

Sunrise

And with that, it’s time to say Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good year!

Park decoration

Park decoration

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

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28 responses

  1. Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year

    December 22, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    • Thank you very much Scott!

      December 22, 2015 at 3:43 pm

  2. I enjoyed reading your post and looking at the photos, which are very good. Warmest wishes for the holidays and the New Year!

    December 22, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    • Thank you very much!

      December 23, 2015 at 5:02 am

  3. Your photographs of the birds in flight are splendid. Thanks also for the snow pictures from last year, great fun.

    December 22, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! I’m glad that the snow pictures are from last year and not current. 😉

      December 23, 2015 at 5:03 am

  4. I think that lichen might be orange sunburst lichen (Xanthoria elegans.) It’s a beauty whatever it is.
    Nice shots of the kingfisher and flying birds but I think my favorite is the snowy squirrel. I love not having to shovel my roof but your snowy squirrel and landscape shots remind me how beautiful winter can be, and I almost think it would be worth a little roof shoveling to see it.
    For now though it’s warm so I’ll go with the almost tropical sunrise.
    I hope you get some time off and have a Merry Christmas!

    December 22, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I tried to get too close to the lichens going past macro photography, trying for the same results that you’d get with a microscope, and of course that didn’t work. It is beautiful though. I’m not missing the snow very much, after 11 feet of the stuff two years ago, and almost that much again last winter, I’ll take a green Christmas for a change. I’ll have Christmas day off, which means a 3 day weekend, which is still better than when I drove over the road.

      December 23, 2015 at 5:23 am

  5. Beautiful! Merry Christmas~

    December 22, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    • Thank you very much Cindy!

      December 23, 2015 at 5:04 am

  6. Merry Christmas to you Jerry. A wonderful set of flying birds among the gems on display today. As far as your pictures looking different goes, you can’t tell what we see anyway as all our screens may be differently calibrated to yours.

    December 22, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I always forget that there are differences in computer display, and I shouldn’t. It’s only been a few months since I replaced my old computer and was struck by how different my photos looked, so that should have stuck in my brain.

      December 23, 2015 at 5:07 am

      • Still, it how you see your own pictures that is most important. You should be very pleased with what you have achieved.

        December 23, 2015 at 4:18 pm

  7. The sunset was stunning and I really appreciated the superb action shots, great photo series…Have a very merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

    December 22, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    • Thank you very much Charlie! One of these days, I may actually get a bird or two to cooperate with me for a really good photo.

      December 23, 2015 at 5:08 am

  8. I agree with you about those promiscuous Mallards – they definitely will take over the world! I loved the flocks of birds in flight (all so clear!) the kingfisher (despite the twigs) that gorgeous snow scene and the sunset. A very merry Christmas and a very happy New Year to you!

    December 22, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I’ve read an article or two about how some scientists are worried that the promiscuous nature of mallards pose a threat to many other species of ducks, that we may be left with only hybrid mallards.

      December 23, 2015 at 5:11 am

      • A terrible thought!

        December 23, 2015 at 8:51 pm

  9. Wow, the lighting on the Muskegon channel shot is spectacular! Guess that’s why real photographers get up early in the morning! The other thing that really jumped out to me was the bright colors in the first couple of mallard shots. Since the light struck each of them at different spots, it really highlighted their bright colors.

    No snow sucks, doesn’t it? What’s the point of winter without it? (perhaps there are a few folks who would disagree with that, but so what?)

    Merry Christmas to you, Jerry. I hope 2016 finds you just as feisty and having fun with your camera(s). Hope you will consent to take me on one of your Muskegon hikes next year – would love to see the masses of waterfowl firsthand.

    December 22, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    • Thank you very much Judy! Yes, lighting is everything, and sunrise and sunset are the best time of the day for almost every subject. I’ll work on my ducks in flight photos over the winter, in hopes of getting good shots of more than just mallards which about the only species in breeding plumage this time of year. I love ducks because they are so colorful.

      I’m not sure that you’ll be back in the area before the ducks head north in the spring. They don’t hang around in the spring the way that they do in the fall, they have to try to beat the other ducks to claim the best breeding areas. But, anytime you want to head out with me, it’s fine by me.

      December 23, 2015 at 5:37 am

  10. Love the shot of the bufflehead “walking” on water. Wishing you a very merry Christmas, too! What a joy to be getting so much out of the new equipment. Love the way you get into all the nuts and bolts.

    December 22, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    • Thank you very much Gunta! The bufflehead surprised me by going parallel to the shore, rather than directly away from me as they usually do, so I wasn’t ready or my shots would have been better. I’m amazing myself, I make so many changes to the camera settings when I have the time to do so, but I rarely forget to put them back to their default values when I finish with a subject. I even go to the manual mode once a month or so when the lighting is very difficult, but I see no reason to otherwise.

      December 23, 2015 at 5:31 am

  11. Our fave (my daughter looking over my shoulder)–the leaping squirrel! You take the best animal action shots!!! Merry Christmas to you & many more wonderful photos in 2016!

    December 23, 2015 at 4:30 am

    • Thank you very much Lori! Believe me, I’ll keep working on the critter action shots, as they are my favorite!

      December 23, 2015 at 5:26 am

  12. awesome snaps !

    December 24, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    • Thank you!

      December 24, 2015 at 4:05 pm

  13. Love the begging squirrel and Killdeer photos! Happy Holidays, Jerry!

    December 28, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna! A Happy New Years to you also!

      December 29, 2015 at 9:45 am