April Fools, The signs were wrong
From all the signs, it looked like we were going to have an early spring here in West Michigan, but the signs were wrong. March may go into the record books as warmer than average, but there were also several extended cold stretches to go with the warmth. Two snowstorms which dropped large amounts of snow passed just to the north of where I live, fortunately, as I’d rather not deal with over a foot of snow at work, or at home. March was also much wetter than average, it seemed like that when the weather was warm enough to enjoy being outside, then it was raining to spoil that.
April isn’t looking much better, the forecast for the first ten days of this month are for well below average temperatures, and well above average precipitation, with some of that precipitation coming as snow, yuck!
Thankfully, while this past winter wasn’t as cold or snowy as the previous two winters were, it appears like this one is going to make up for the mild start by hanging on for an extra month.
If only every day could be like Easter Sunday was, when I had very good light and a wide variety of subjects to photograph, from large birds…
…to smaller birds…
…to some of the first flowers of the year.
I even found a snowy owl, one that didn’t want to pose for me.
Before I could get any closer, it took off, and was promptly attacked by one of the many red-winged blackbirds.
You have to admire the courage of the red-winged blackbirds, they will attack anything that enters their territory, even the large predators like the owl.
Anyway, the owl landed on a piece of the equipment at the Muskegon County wastewater facility, not my favorite setting to shoot photos, and, the owl was really out of camera range. That was a shame, as this one was more animated than most of them that I’ve seen.
I think that it may have been panting in the heat that day, since snowy owls live in the arctic most of the year, it may have found a warm spring day here too warm.
Those two were shot with the 300 mm lens and 2 X tele-converter, and cropped quite a bit. I put the Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter behind the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) to get a little closer.
That was last weekend, on Sunday of this week, this is what I woke up to.
While a couple of inches of snow is really no big deal, and it was beautiful, I really didn’t feel like trudging through it, since it is April, and we’re supposed to be done with the white stuff by now.
Actually, that isn’t true, we do have some snow in April of most years, but here in Michigan, we’ve dealt with so much snow for so long, that we feel as if the snow should be done with by April. This is the reality of April in Michigan.
So, with the weather forecast for the day calling for clouds and possibly more snow here where I live, but a warm front just to the south where I’d find less snow, more sun, and much warmer temperatures, I decided that a road trip was in order.
It was an amazing day weather-wise, with a temperature difference of over 30 degrees Fahrenheit (15 C) in less than 100 miles (160 KM) in distance. Just to the north of where I live, it never got more than a few degrees above freezing and they did get more snow. To the south, where I went, it turned out to be a pleasant, although very windy, day, with plenty of sunshine as the day wore on. The wind proved bothersome, but it was much better than snow. I would have liked to have gotten a better photo of the daffodils, but the wind whipping them around made it impossible.
Still, it was good to see some green grass as another sign that spring will eventually get here.
Beside the weather, another reason that I decided to head south was to photograph the lighthouse at South Haven, Michigan…
…and I climbed a dune there for this photo.
Yes, that’s my brand new pretty blue Subaru in the parking lot, I couldn’t resist it. 😉 That photo also serves as a reminder of why I go to the Lake Michigan beaches during the colder months. In the summer, that parking lot would be full, with thousands of people walking the beach and the dunes.
Anyway, the other lighthouse that I wanted to photograph is the one at the twin cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Michigan. When I arrived there, I found that the lighthouse was undergoing so repair, so the composition that I liked best…
…included the equipment being used during the repairs, so I settled on a tight shot.
Since those two lighthouses aren’t as photogenic as many of the others in Michigan, I didn’t put much effort into the photos, and it shows. Oh well, I’ve crossed them off from my list of lighthouses in Michigan to photograph.
Along the way, I stopped at two state parks, Warren Dunes and Grand Mere to check them out, along with a host of smaller parks and nature preserves that I found during my trip, another reason that I headed south for a change. While most of them showed some promise as far as being places that could yield some good photos, the reality is that I probably won’t return except under similar weather conditions. While I didn’t run into many people on this day, during nicer weather, people escaping from Chicago crowd our southwestern Michigan parks since they are so close.
I have one more landscape photo to add, even though it’s not very good.
That one sort of sums up the landscapes in southern Michigan. I checked several locations out, trying to find a good view of the towing dunes in Grand Mere State Park, that was the best that I could do. In the foreground is the access road that leads to I-94, the expressway that runs between Detroit, Michigan, and Chicago, Illinois, which you can also see in the photo. There’s a sliver of the green waters of Lake Michigan, a small patch of blue water from one of the inland lakes there, and trees everywhere. Try as I did, I couldn’t find an opening in the trees anywhere from where I could see the dunes but not the expressway.
I’ve driven past that spot hundreds of times for work, and had never noticed the dunes before, because the expressway is down in the valley so one can’t see over the trees. It doesn’t help that I get frustrated and choose the wrong lens when I get to a spot like that. Because I chose to shoot with a wide-angle lens, the dunes in the background look less impressive that they really are. If I had used a short telephoto lens, I would have been able to convey how tall and steep the dunes are, but then, I wouldn’t have gotten more than one dune in the frame at a time, nor the inland lake or Lake Michigan. I really need to think those scenes out better before shooting poor photos like that.
I was at the lake that you can just make out in that photo, and the dunes were hidden from view by the trees. But, while at the lake, I shot a few good photos of a flicker.
You can tell that it was bit breezy in this next photo.
Earlier, on my way to the lighthouse in South Haven, I found a kestrel to photograph poorly.
It was hovering over an open field in a city park, right in town. That’s the other great thing about Michigan, wildlife is almost always close by, even in the cities.
I had driven the back roads down along Lake Michigan until I was only a few miles from Indiana, I decided to take a different route home, heading inland, or east, for a while before turning north again. That’s farm country in Michigan, and I was hoping to find waterfowl feeding in the flooded portions of the farm fields. I did, mostly bufflehead…
…and Canada geese.
I was hoping to find a flock of a species of goose that I need for the My Photo Life List project, and at one point, I thought that I had…
…but they turned out to be domestic ducks that had some mallard in them.
I did see quite a few sandhill cranes, but only one close enough for a fair photo.
One of the flooded areas held a pair of wood ducks…
…here’s the male…
…and the female.
It’s amazing the way that they can stick to the shady areas when it was such a sunny day by then, but they are good at not being seen.
That wraps up my trip to the southwestern corner of Michigan. I’m very glad that I decided to take this little road trip, as other than for work, it’s a part of the state that I’ve never visited before. I found some good birding spots, but I doubt if I’ll ever return, unless there’s a similar day as far as the weather. They may be good birding spots, but no better than those closer to where I live. The scenery was better than I had expected, but still not as good as farther to the north, and I relate better to the scenery of northern Michigan, and fewer people there as well.
Oh, one more thing, on my way back home, there was a detour because a very large tree had blown over in the very strong wind that day, completely blocking the road. The detour was no big deal, I only mention the incident because of the wind, so even with sunshine and warmer temperatures, it wasn’t that nice of a day.
It’s mid-afternoon on Monday as I’m working on this part of this post, and the temperature finally climbed above the freezing mark for the day. There were snowflakes in the air as I ran some errands earlier today, and they continued to fall as I kept an eye out for the UPS driver. He’s been here, to deliver the faster, higher capacity memory cards for my cameras that I’ll need while I’m on vacation next month. One of my errands this morning was to the Subaru dealer to pick-up new roof racks for my brand new pretty blue Subaru, as the ones from my old Subaru didn’t fit the new one.
I’m now just about all set for my vacation next month, if the weather will cooperate. I sure hope that it isn’t like two years ago, when there were still a few piles of snow in the woods, and drifts of snow left along the highways.
Well, it’s now very early Thursday, before I head off to work. The weather hasn’t improved even a smidgen, and it may even be worse this upcoming weekend. It may not get above freezing here on Saturday, which is okay in a way, since I have to work. But the forecast for both Sunday and Monday, when I don’t have to work, the forecast is for rain and snow mixed, more yuck! We’ve had at least a trace of snow every day so far in April, and more snow for the month than we got in December. I’m not sure what, if anything, that I’ll do this weekend, I’ll try to think of something.
Luckily, I have a few photos from around home left to fill out this post, from when I thought that spring had arrived.
The weather this year hasn’t fooled just the humans, but the birds as well. When I read through the rare bird alerts that I receive, they are almost totally species of birds that are arriving back here much earlier than they normally do, not some rare migrant that isn’t typically seen in Michigan.
Take this fellow…
…he arrived here well over a month before that species normally does. I’m sorry about the poor photo with the brush in the way, but I heard him singing and didn’t have much time to get a photo before some one walking their dog would spook the towhee away, as I saw them coming as I was looking for this guy. That’s exactly what happened, as expected, the towhee went even deeper into the brush as the person walking their dog got closer.
That brings up another point, I’m going to have to find better places to shoot photos of birds, without as many humans around, if I’m going to take the time to set-up a hide to try to get closer to the birds. That will mean getting off the beaten path more often to find places where it would be worthwhile to set-up a hide and just sit for hours. Eventually, I may end up doing species specific set-ups where my goal is to get the best possible photos of one species, then move on to another species later. But, I’ll have more thoughts on this in later posts, for now, a few more photos to wrap this post up.
Another day of mixed rain and snow driven by strong cold winds out of the north, still more yuck! That’s the forecast for the entire weekend as well, however, things may begin to improve around here towards the middle of next week. I sure hope so, this last blast of winter (I hope) sure has been a cruel April Fools joke on all of us who were looking for spring.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!