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

Archive for May, 2016

Day three of my vacation

Warning! There’s no way that I can stay under my self-imposed limit for photos in one post although I will try to keep them as short as I can. If I included all the photos that I would like, I’d be blogging about my vacation until July.

Dawn of day three of my vacation was a couple of degrees warmer than the previous day, and with a little more color to the sky. So, I shot these while waiting for the coffee to brew.

Sunrise over Thunder Bay, day 2

Sunrise over Lake Huron, day 2

 

Sunrise over Thunder Bay, day 2

Sunrise over Thunder Bay, day 2

I also liked the effect that the early morning light had on the red pines surrounding my campsite.

Dawn at Ossineke State Forest campground

Dawn at Ossineke State Forest campground

Since it was still quite chilly, I thought about driving up to Thompson’s Harbor State Park so that the temperature would have time to rise before I began walking. However, as I was driving north, I decided that I didn’t want to spend that much time on the road, and so I stopped at the Besser-Bell Natural Area instead. That’s just a few miles north of Alpena, rather than an hour drive as Thompson’s Harbor is.

My first goal was to attempt to get a good photo of the shipwreck that’s at the bottom of a small lagoon on the edge of Lake Huron, but that didn’t work out well. I did love the view though.

Lagoon in the Besser-Bell Natural Area take 2

Lagoon in the Besser-Bell Natural Area take 2

In fact, I loved it so much that I shot two slightly different views of it.

Lagoon in the Besser-Bell Natural Area take 1

Lagoon in the Besser-Bell Natural Area take 1

The wind was calm at that time, but the shipwreck was in the shadows from the trees, so it was hard to make out. I went back later to try again, but by then, the wind had come up, so the ripples on the water obscured my view of the shipwreck.

Along the beach, I shot one of the few shorebirds that I saw while on my vacation.

Greater yellowlegs

Greater yellowlegs

And, the shrubs growing on the narrow strip of land that separates the lagoon from Lake Huron held a few birds.

Blue jay

Blue jay

 

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

 

Magnolia warbler

Magnolia warbler

 

Male American redstart

Male American redstart

While I was tracking those birds down, a female common merganser landed in the lagoon.

Female common merganser

Female common merganser

But the photo that I wished had turned out the best turned out to be a dud.

Red-headed woodpecker in flight

Red-headed woodpecker in flight

I then began walking the one mile long trail that circles through the Besser-Bell Natural area. The first third of the trail is through thick cedars, firs, and hemlock trees, along with alders and willows that were filled with warblers and other birds.

This chickadee landed so close to me that not even the 300 mm lens would focus on it at first, I had to wait until it moved slightly to shoot these.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

 

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

And while I couldn’t get that lens to auto-focus quickly enough to catch most of the warblers that I saw, it turns out that I did get a second lifer for me as far as species of birds, a Connecticut warbler.

Connecticut warbler

Connecticut warbler

I thought that it was a Nashville warbler as I shot the photos, a warbler with drab colors, no wing bars, slight eye-ring, but when I went to add keywords to the photos, I took a closer look. The beak was all wrong for it to be a Nashville warbler. The beak of this bird was too long, the wrong shape, and it met the bird’s face at the wrong angle, so doing some checking, I learned that it’s a Connecticut warbler, cool, another species to cross off from my list!

I’m glad that the photo turned out as well as it did, as I missed most of the warblers that I saw that morning. I didn’t know it at the time, but that day set the tone for the rest of my week there. Instead of driving all over trying to visit every park, wildlife sanctuary, etc., I stayed closer to the Ossineke State Forest Campground, and visited the same places multiple times.

On my first visit, I’d take the 300 mm lens with the 1.4 X extender on the 7D body, along with a 60D body and the EF-S 15-85 mm lens to shoot landscapes. Then, when I returned, I carried the 7D with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) and the 60D body with the 100 mm macro lens to shoot better photos of the flowers that I saw.

Not that the 300 mm lens doesn’t do well on flowers…

More odd bluets?

More odd bluets?

…I still don’t know what those are, this one has differently shaped petals, and more of them, than the similar flowers that I saw in other places…

Siberian squill?

Siberian squill?

…but, I think that I’m safe saying that those flowers were Siberian squill, but I’m often wrong when identifying flowers.

I also shot a few picture postcard style of landscape photos, because it was a picture postcard kind of day.

Lake Huron at Besser-Bell Natural Area 1

Lake Huron at Besser-Bell Natural Area 1

 

Lake Huron at Besser-Bell Natural Area 2

Lake Huron at Besser-Bell Natural Area 2

 

Lake Huron at Besser-Bell Natural Area 3

Lake Huron at Besser-Bell Natural Area 3

It was turning out to be a fine day, and I was enjoying every second of it. Instead of getting used to how fresh and clean the air smelled, I was noticing it more all the time, probably because all the crap from my nasal passages and lungs that comes from living in the city and driving truck for a living was getting cleaned out of my system. ūüėČ

I said that the first third of the trail went through some very thick stuff, then there’s a transition zone as you move away from Lake Huron, then about the last half of the hike is through virgin pines and mixed hardwoods. I didn’t find as many birds, but there were a few, along with other subjects to shoot.

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

 

Hermit thrush

Hermit thrush

 

Brain mushroom?

Brain mushroom?

I thought that I had found something special when I saw this red growth along with the moss and lichen, but it turned out to be debris from a maple tree.

Moss and lichen on a branch

Moss and lichen on a branch

 

Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow

 

Maple leaves opening

Maple leaves opening

My next stop was Partridge Point again, to see if I could find the hummingbird again, No luck there, but I did shoot a better photo of the Indian Paintbrush flowers.

Indian paintbrush

Indian paintbrush

As far as birds, I found a few, small ones perched…

Female yellow warbler

Female yellow warbler

 

Common yellowthroat

Common yellowthroat

 

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

…and some large birds in flight…

Great egret in flight

Great egret in flight

 

American bittern in flight

American bittern in flight

…sometimes it was a large bird chased by a smaller bird.

Great egret attack by a red-winged blackbird

Great egret attack by a red-winged blackbird

 

Great egret attack by a red-winged blackbird

Great egret attack by a red-winged blackbird

Wait until you see the series of a red-winged blackbird in action that I shot today, attacking a turkey!

Anyway, at one point I noticed a huge shadow of a bird passing over my head, I looked up to find this.

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

After eating supper in town, it was back to the campground for the evening. Most of the birds that I saw I’ve already posted photos of, so here are the “new” things that I saw.

Hairy woodpecker

Hairy woodpecker

 

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

Thanks to this little guy sounding the alarm…

Grey squirrel

Grey squirrel

…I found this barred owl out hunting well before dusk.

Barred owl

Barred owl

It looked like there would be a good sunset that evening, so I got set-up to shoot it early, and spent the time on the beach relaxing after a great day. I also shot this one to pass the time.

Beach grass at dusk

Beach grass at dusk

When the sun began to set, the sky to the east took on a little bit of color, enough to make a photo worthwhile.

Sunset at Ossineke SF campground

Sunset at Ossineke SF campground

And to the west, the sky over Thunder Bay was even better!

Sunset over Thunder Bay

Sunset over Thunder Bay

So ended an almost perfect day, Little did I know that the next day would be even better!

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

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Day two of my vacation

Warning! There’s no way that I can stay under my self-imposed limit for photos in one post although I will try to keep them as short as I can. If I included all the photos that I would like, I’d be blogging about my vacation until July.

As early as I went to bed the night before, I thought that I’d be up well before sunrise, but that wasn’t the case. When I woke up and looked out of my tent, I could see that the sun was about ready to rise, and that it was quite chilly out there.

One thing about being near the Great Lakes, you learn a lot about microclimates in a hurry. When I checked the thermometer in my almost brand new pretty blue Subaru, it read 33 degrees (1 C), but that was still much warmer than it was a few miles inland away from the relatively warm water of Lake Huron, which was about 40 degrees (4.4 C) while I was up there. There was a hard freeze inland. Conversely, during the warmth of the afternoon, a breeze off from the lake felt chilly, so I was constantly adding or removing layers of clothing depending on how close to Lake Huron I was, and which way the wind was blowing at the time.

Anyway, I got dressed, fired up the camp stove to brew coffee, then set-up to shoot the sunrise.

Sunrise over Lake Huron

Sunrise over Lake Huron

But, I liked this close up better…

Sunrise at Ossinke SF

Sunrise at Ossineke SF

…as well as the early morning sunlight streaming through the pines in my campsite.

Sunlight through the pines

Sunlight through the pines

As I drank my coffee, I waited for the flocks of warblers to pass through my campsite as they had in previous years, but that didn’t happen this year. So, I decided to walk down to the point where I had seen so many birds in previous years. Along the way, I shot this blue-headed vireo…

Blue-headed vireo

Blue-headed vireo

…and this black-throated green warbler…

Black-throated green warbler

Black-throated green warbler

…as well as another song sparrow.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Down at the point, the only shorebird that I found was this killdeer…

Killdeer

Killdeer

…but the common terns kept me amused as one tried to steal a fish from another…

Common terns fighting over a fish

Common terns fighting over a fish

…I think that the one on the stump was teasing the other…

Common tern with fish

Common tern with fish

…which let the one on the stump know that it didn’t like to be teased.

Common tern in flight

Common tern in flight

The common terns gave me lots of practice shooting birds in flight over the course of the week!

Common terns in flight

Common terns in flight

What I really needed was practice shooting smaller birds that don’t stay in any one spot for very long, like the warblers. That was especially true when I was using the 300 mm L series lens with the 1.4 X tele-converter behind it, I was missing more birds than what I managed to get good photos of. I can’t tell you how many times there were when the camera and lens finally focused, on a branch bouncing around because the bird that had been there had moved on.

It wasn’t just the warblers, but they were the worst. Here’s a short video to show you how things normally go for me.

I think that sums it up quite well!

I could go on at length about the advantages and disadvantages on my lenses, but I won’t. I’ll only say that over the week, I used the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) when I thought that I’d be chasing small birds in good light, and that I used the 300 mm lens and tele-converter when I thought that I’d be shooting birds in flight or in low light. The Beast may not produce the best images, but it has a nose for birds and can find and focus on them much more quickly than my other set-up.

Magnolia warbler

Magnolia warbler

Here are the birds that I got on my second pass through the campground.

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

 

Chestnut-sided warbler in flight

Chestnut-sided warbler in flight

 

Female American redstart

Female American redstart

 

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

 

Yellow-Romped warbler

Yellow-Rumped warbler

 

Brown thrasher

Brown thrasher singing

I then decided to drive to Isaacson Bay on the other side of Alpena. Things have changed a lot there also, what used to be acres of mudflats for shorebirds are now underwater, with the bay coming right up to the road in many places. Still, I found plenty to photograph there, starting with these flowers that I thought were bluets, but now I’m not sure.

Bluets?

Bluets?

There was a pair of sandhill cranes there, but they had the sun behind them, so I’m only going to post one photo of one of them.

Sandhill crane

Sandhill crane

I found a large number of the threatened dwarf lake iris…

Dwarf lake iris

Dwarf lake iris

But before I could try for a better photo of them, I got sidetracked by a bumblebee feeding on the nectar of bearberry flowers (Thanks Allen!)…

Bumblebee and bearberry flowers

Bumblebee and bearberry flowers

…at one point, the bumblebee fell off from the flowers…

Bumblebee falling upside down

Bumblebee falling upside down

…but recovered to return to feeding once more.

Bumblebee and bearberry flowers

Bumblebee and bearberry flowers

I remembered to shoot two more photos of the dwarf lake iris.

Dwarf lake iris

Dwarf lake iris

The dwarf lake iris only grow in a few places around the Great Lakes, which is why they are a threatened species of flower.

Dwarf lake iris

Dwarf lake iris

Then, I returned to my vehicle and grabbed the Beast to shoot a few more warblers.

Chestnut-sided warbler

Chestnut-sided warbler

Since they’re so colorful and I rarely see them, I think a few more photos of them would be a good thing.

Chestnut-sided warbler

Chestnut-sided warbler

 

Chestnut-sided warbler

Chestnut-sided warbler

 

Chestnut-sided warbler

Chestnut-sided warbler

Did I say that there were American redstarts everywhere?

Female American redstart

Female American redstart

 

Male American redstart

Male American redstart

 

Male American redstart

Male American redstart

When a turkey vulture flew over, I tried using the settings that I use with the 300 mm lens on the Beast, it worked quite well.

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

 

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

All those (and many, many more) were shot as I walked along the road that runs next to Isaacson Bay.

It was now mid-afternoon, so I decided to check out Island Park in Alpena, which is part of the Alpena Nature Sanctuary. The first thing that I noticed is that they have built a new covered bridge to use to get to the island.

The bridge to Island Park in Alpena, Michigan

The bridge to Island Park in Alpena, Michigan

I found the black terns, but they kept their distance, so this photo isn’t that good.

Black terns in flight

Black terns in flight

I was also surprised to see a deer crossing the river in town in the middle of the day.

Whitetail deer crossing the Thunder Bay River

Whitetail deer crossing the Thunder Bay River

There were tree swallows everywhere.

Tree swallow

Tree swallow

I meant to note which tree these catkins grew from, but I’ve forgotten already.

Unidentified catkin

Unidentified catkin

This male? chickadee was guarding a hollow tree…

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

…while the female? gathered moss to line a nest she was building in the hollow tree.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

It’s been a while since I posted any photos of mallards.

Male mallard

Male mallard

 

Female mallard

Female mallard

That was it for Island Park on that day, I grabbed dinner in town, then returned to the campground to walk it off.

I started by shooting a couple of photos of the swamps in or near the campground.

An Ossineke swamp 1

An Ossineke swamp 1

I think you can see why I think that the skeeters would be bad in the summer there.

An Ossineke swamp 2

An Ossineke swamp 2

This was the evening that I saw the least weasel.

Least weasel

Least weasel

She jumped down off from the log, and I thought that she was gone. No, she popped back up in another spot…

Least weasel

Least weasel

…and struck a few poses for me…

Least weasel

Least weasel

 

Least weasel

Least weasel

…it was then that I decided that I should turn the camera to portrait orientation, but as soon as I moved, she was off again. For the next ten to fifteen minutes, we played a game where she would stick her head out someplace along the log, but as soon as she heard the IS and auto-focus of the camera whirling…

Least weasel

Least weasel

She was off before the shutter could fire and catch her standing still. I have a dozen photos like that last one, she was quick, as quick as any critter I’ve ever seen! I wondered later if the way she acted, appearing in the open for a second or two, was to keep me from finding her young which may have been nearby?

The three remaining photos from the day seem anti-climatic, but too good not to post.

Mourning cloak butterfly

Mourning cloak butterfly

 

Another mini-scape

Another mini-scape

 

A natural representation of a bear

A natural representation of a bear

With hardly a cloud in the sky, I doubted if the sunset that evening would be worth photographing, and with the temperature plummeting, I turned in early that night as well.

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


Good for what ails body and mind

Well, I’m back from my trip to the Alpena, Michigan area, where I spent five very relaxing and peaceful days and nights that were exactly what I needed. Yes, there were some disappointments, I didn’t photograph a single new species of bird, and there were some equipment related frustrations along with the bugs and two chilly nights to deal with. But when I think back on this last week, those things won’t be what I remember, my memories will be of being able to hike all the way to South Point in Negwegon State Park and enjoy the view while breathing in the fresh clean air coming off from Lake Huron, lightly scented with pine and cedar…

The view from South Point in Nowegon SP

The view from South Point in Negwegon SP

…and the glorious sunsets in the evenings.

And while I didn’t make any new bird friends during the week, there were plenty of old friends to photograph better than I have in the past.

Male yellow bellied sapsucker

Male yellow-bellied sapsucker

 

Male red headed woodpecker

Male red-headed woodpecker

And, I may not have gotten any new species of birds, I did photograph this little cutie for the first time ever!

Female Least weasel

Female Least weasel

It’s hard to believe that a critter that cute and beautiful is ounce for ounce, one of the most ferocious predators there is. Don’t worry, there will be better photos of her in a later post.

This past week was exactly what I needed to get both my body and my mental health back in shape. After the health problems that I had with my legs and feet, the five miles to South Point and back weren’t a problem at all, although I would have crawled if I had to in order to see the sights and just enjoy everything about being out in nature in an area where people are few and far between. I may have had better weeks out in the woods before, but never one that meant as much to me as this one did. I find it hard to put into words how true that is, so I suppose that my photos will have to say it for me.

I left home well before sunrise on Monday morning under a cloudy sky that was dropping rain occasionally throughout the first half of the day. As I neared my destination, I stopped off at the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse to stretch my legs and take a break from driving. I’ve photographed the lighthouse before, so I didn’t this time, besides, there was some one else there using a drone to photograph the light, so I didn’t want to spoil his photo shoot. But, I did find this…

Porcupine

Porcupine

…and this to shoot.

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

I arrived at Ossineke State Forest Campground before noon, and in less than half an hour, I had my tent/cot set-up, and I was ready to go looking for birds. However, my first photo from there wasn’t of a bird, it was of sap dripping from a freshly fallen pine that had fallen over the trail, and been sawed to clear the trail again.

Dripping pine sap

Dripping pine sap

Reaching the shore of Lake Huron, I noticed these two mergansers near the shore.

Male common merganser

Male common merganser

 

Female common merganser

Female common merganser

I also noticed even more changes in the shoreline due to the rising water level of Lake Huron, the sand bars that used to hold the shorebirds that I would have liked to have photographed were now under water. So was most of the point of land jutting out into the lake where I had photographed the shorebirds in previous years. More bad news was on the way as well, I didn’t notice a single eagle anywhere in sight, and it looked like the nest to the south of the campground hadn’t been used. Speaking to one of the local dog walkers later that day, he said that the eagles never showed up last year either.

That didn’t mean that I didn’t see any eagles that week, one even flew through my campsite early on Saturday morning while I was drinking coffee, but there was no longer a handy flock to shoot close to my campsite.

I don’t want to dwell on the negative, but I didn’t get the flocks of warblers through my campsite every morning as I had in the past either. That may have been a timing issue, since I was a week later this year, and we had a relatively mild winter, only time will tell. I did get a few warblers in camp, mostly yellow-romped and palm warblers, but those two species were everywhere!

There were also a few of these around, but I never got close to one.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Plenty of these…

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

…and these as well.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

The photos of warblers from this week may not be the greatest, but I amazed myself by recalling what most of the species of warblers that I have seen in the past looked like and how they behaved, for instance, I knew right away that this was a pine warbler.

Pine warbler

Pine warbler

 

Pine warbler

Pine warbler

That’s even though I haven’t seen or heard one in a couple of years.

However, it turns out that I was wrong, I did get a new to me species to add to the My Photo Life list project, a Tennessee warbler.

Tennessee warbler

Tennessee warbler

 

Tennessee warbler

Tennessee warbler

I knew that I had seen this species before, I wasn’t mistaken on that, but it was one of the birds that Brian Johnson was banding at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and I thought that it would be cheating to photograph it while he held it. Now I have photos of one in the wild!

Along with the warblers, there were plenty of crane flies, here’s a photo of one of the many palm warblers deciding which crane fly to eat for dessert.

Palm warbler and crane flies

Palm warbler and crane flies

And, here’s a better photo of a palm warbler.

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

As you may be able to tell, the weather had become quite changeable, it would sprinkle a few rain drops, then the sun would come out again until the next small rain cloud would pass overhead. It made it tricky to get good photos of anything, from these leaves beginning to open…

Alder? leaves opening

Alder? leaves opening

…to this tree branch which I mistook for an owl for a second.

A case of mistaken identity

A case of mistaken identity

I shot a few more birds there at the campground…

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

 

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

 

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

…I suppose you could call this a seascape, even though it’s a shot looking across Thunder Bay on Lake Huron towards the LaFarge cement plant near Alpena…

Looking across Thunder Bay

Looking across Thunder Bay

…I also found these flowers which I meant to look for later but forgot to…

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

…along with this chipmunk.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

I did two passes through the campground, by then, it was the middle of the afternoon, and most of the birds were off taking their siestas for the day. I decided to drive into Alpena and stop at the tourist information location to pick up a brochure about the Sunrise Coast Birding Trail. That’s an idea put together by several of the county tourism groups in the area, they have played on how popular bird watching has become, and put up signs and created a brochure with maps to tell people how to get to many of the best bird watching spots there are along the northern coast of Lake Huron.

I had done a little bit of research before leaving home, and knew that one of the spots was Partridge Point, which was on my way to Alpena. So, I stopped there even though it was the wrong time of day, or so I thought, to scout it before returning one morning or evening. I heard rails, sora, and American bittern calling, but this was the surprising thing that I found.

Indian paintbrush

Indian paintbrush

Actually, acres of Indian paintbrush blooming was one of two surprising things that I found, for feeding on the nectar of the flowers was this guy!

Male ruby throated hummingbird

Male ruby throated hummingbird

 

Male ruby throated hummingbird

Male ruby throated hummingbird

There must not be much nectar in any one flower, because the hummer was moving very quickly from flower to flower, so those were the best photos that I could manage. When the little guy landed to rest, I shot a few more photos of him.

Male ruby throated hummingbird

Male ruby throated hummingbird

 

Male ruby throated hummingbird

Male ruby throated hummingbird

I wanted him to display his bright red throat for a photo, but he gave me the stink eye instead.

Male ruby throated hummingbird

Male ruby throated hummingbird

So did this grackle.

Common grackle

Common grackle

I found a great egret…

Great egret

Great egret

…but it didn’t stick around for very long.

Great egret in flight

Great egret in flight

We’ve had a lot of rain this year so far, so much of Partridge point was too wet to walk in just boots, and I also wanted to make it to the tourism information center before they closed for the day, so I left the birds to go pick up my brochure.

Since I was almost across the street from the Alpena Nature Sanctuary after picking up the brochures that interested me, so that was my next stop, where I found a couple of female red-winged blackbirds willing to pose for me.

Female red-winged blackbird

Female red-winged blackbird

 

Female red-winged blackbird

Female red-winged blackbird

One of the male red-winged blackbirds was too busy beating up a great blue heron to pose for me.

Male red-winged blackbird attacking a great blue heron

Male red-winged blackbird attacking a great blue heron

 

Male red-winged blackbird attacking a great blue heron

Male red-winged blackbird attacking a great blue heron

I missed the shot of the blackbird smacking the heron on the top of the heron’s head, as I wasn’t sure how well you’d be able to see the birds as far back in the reeds as they were.

Then, it was time to return to the campground for one more trip through it from end to end to see what I could find, but it seemed like something was always watching me.

Red squirrel hiding

Red squirrel hiding

 

Grey squirrel hiding

Grey squirrel hiding

I found a flock of these guys to shoot.

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

 

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

I don’t know why, but I never thought of a muskrat living in one of the Great Lakes before.

Muskrat

Muskrat

Off in the distance, there were three great egrets fishing, I managed two in the frame at one time.

Great egrets

Great egrets

A gust of wind ruined this shot, blowing a branch in front of the bird at the wrong time.

Male Common yellowthroat

Male Common yellowthroat

And finally, I though that the patterns in these cedar trees was kind of interesting.

Backlit cedar fronds

Backlit cedar fronds

So, that was the end of the first day. I didn’t stay up to watch the sunset that evening, I was too tired. Also, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky by that time, and it was getting chilly. The forecast was for frost overnight, so I wanted to crawl into my sleeping bag before it got too cold outside.

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


The pleasure is all mine!

It’s finally full-blown spring here in West Michigan, there are flowers blooming…

Apple blossoms

Apple blossoms

…the trees are beginning to leaf out…

Maple leaves

Maple leaves

…and there are birds singing everywhere!

Male rose-breasted grosbeak singing

Male rose-breasted grosbeak singing

I don’t have very much time to work on this post, I’ve been stuck working much longer hours at work than I would like, and, I’m trying to get ready for my week up north.

It looks like the weather will be cool, with the temperature at night dropping down to near freezing the first few days. That’s okay though, it will keep the bugs at bay. The main thing is that next week looks relatively dry, with just one day of rain. I can handle that, in fact, I’ll enjoy it immensely!

I’m not going to leave until Monday, that way I’ll miss the snow and sleet in the forecast for this weekend, and I’ll be able to leisurely pack on Sunday, rather than trying to rush after having worked Saturday. I’ll probably start home next Sunday, which will give me Monday to unpack and do my laundry and other mundane tasks around home before returning to work.

By the way, the apple blossoms and leaves were shot around home here last Monday, the grosbeak was shot at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve last Sunday. Here are the photos that I also had left from Sunday. You may remember the photo of the baby bunny from my last post, I think that these next two photos are of its parents.

Adult cottontail rabbit 1

Adult cottontail rabbit 1

 

Adult cottontail rabbit 2

Adult cottontail rabbit 2

I saw this snail on a partially submerged log, and was hoping that a rail or other bird would find it a tasty lunchtime treat, but no luck there.

Snail

Snail

The Baltimore orioles are back!

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

Have I said how much I love the Canon 7D Mk II? I had been shooting the eastern phoebe from the last post, when I turned around to see this northern harrier being driven out of the area by red-winged blackbirds. By simply changing which rear auto-focus button I used, I was able to get a very good shot of the phoebe…

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

…and instantly switch settings to get this very good shot of the harrier, which has a full crop. It had obviously just eaten lunch and was looking for a spot where it could digest its meal in peace.

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Once the hawk had passed, I went back to the portrait button to catch this cardinal that was trying to lay low while the hawk was in the area.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

If I had known that this chipmunk was going to start running just as I pressed the shutter release, I could have gotten a better photo, they are very quick little critters.

Eastern chipmunk on the run

Eastern chipmunk on the run

Finally, the white crowned sparrows are passing through, here’s one munching on the seeds of a poplar tree.

White crowned sparrow eating poplar seeds

White crowned sparrow eating poplar seeds

Okay, now then, for the photos from around home on Monday.

Sumac leaves opening

Sumac leaves opening

 

Redbud flowers

Redbud flowers

These next flowers look to be in the viburnum family, but I’m not sure, the bush is in some one’s yard that I walk past on my way to the park.

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

The shagbark hickory leaves were just beginning to open, much like a flower, and every bit as beautiful.

Shagbark hickory leaves opening

Shagbark hickory leaves opening

I went for a short walk after work on Friday, and shot these next two.

Shagbark hickory leaves

Shagbark hickory leaves

 

Shagbark hickory leaves

Shagbark hickory leaves

The brightly colored leaves of the red osier dogwood bushes could be mistaken for flowers from a distance.

Red osier dogwood bushes

Red osier dogwood bushes

Standing close to these apple blossoms, I was able to take in their fresh, clean scent, one of the surest signs of spring to me.

Apple blossoms

Apple blossoms

In my last post, I noted that I had finally seen an adult male orchard oriole around home, when for the past three years all I had seen were females and juveniles. Well, here’s the male.

Adult male orchard oriole

Adult male orchard oriole

I also got to hear him singing, it’s a much different song than the Baltimore oriole’s song, much prettier.

Adult male orchard oriole singing

Adult male orchard oriole singing

 

Adult male orchard oriole

Adult male orchard oriole

Speaking of birds singing, here’s a goldfinch doing just that.

Male American goldfinch singing

Male American goldfinch singing

And, a male Baltimore oriole doing the same.

Male Baltimore oriole singing

Male Baltimore oriole singing

They must not fight over territories the way that some male birds do, for I saw two in the same tree, and prepared to catch the battle if it happened, it never did.

Male Baltimore orioles

Male Baltimore orioles

They circled each other at a distance, occasionally singing, but there was no battle.

As I was working to get that poor photo, one of our resident hawks flew overhead.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I didn’t make it to Aman Park for the trillium this spring, nor did I fight the crowds for the Tulip Time festival in Holland, Michigan. I did find one tulip in the park though.

One lonely tulip

One lonely tulip

And on Friday, I shot these two of another lone tulip.

Lone red tulip

Lone red tulip

 

Lone red tulip

Lone red tulip

I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this vacation next week! I keep interrupting my work on this post to check out places to go and things to see. One of the things that I’d like to do is bring my kayak and paddle the Alpena Nature Sanctuary. The Thunder Bay River flows through it, and there are marshes and islands spread out in the 500 acre lake formed by a dam on the river. I remember wishing I had my kayak with me when I visited the park on the edge of the sanctuary, and I also remember seeing and photographing several new to me species of birds there. They even have a path marked by buoys through the marshes and the channels between islands for people who are directionally challenged.

The weather forecast is looking good, after this weekend. My work schedule will play to my advantage for a change. They’re going to have lake enhanced snow showers this weekend, with it beginning to warm up on Monday. I have to work on Saturday, I’ll pack on Sunday afternoon, then head up on Monday. There’s only one day when rain is forecast, but the temperatures should be pleasantly cool, with some sunshine for all the other days. If I get really lucky, there will be a calm day when I can also paddle along the Lake Huron shore from my campsite down around the point where I saw many eagles and shorebirds, but couldn’t get to on foot.

I have some other plans, but not to the extent that I usually do. This vacation is going to be about relaxing, and getting my legs back in shape. I’m going to spend more time in the campground, and less time zipping from place to place trying to see everything that there is to see. For now though, I had better get back to the photos.

Six spotted tiger beetle

Six spotted tiger beetle

 

Lilac

Lilac

I have no idea what this next flower is, other than very pretty. For the first time, I noticed it growing along the road, and the plant looks like it is a vine.

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

I’d say from both the flowers and the leaves that this is a wild strawberry, but I could be wrong.

Wild strawberry?

Wild strawberry?

I have no idea what this is.

Another unidentified flowering object

Another unidentified flowering object

 

Wild geranium

Wild geranium

 

Wood anemones?

Wood anemones?

 

Flowering crab 1

Flowering crab 1

 

Flowering crab 2

Flowering crab 2

 

Flowering crab 3

Flowering crab 3

 

Speedwell?

Speedwell?

Well, that’s it, I have stuff to do in the next two days so that I’ll be ready to leave on Monday!

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


Let’s hope that I timed this right!

If everything goes as I have planned it, next week, I’ll be in northern Michigan for a week off from work. Right now, it’s looking as if the weather will be cool, I can handle that, if it doesn’t rain all the time. Right now though, my timing isn’t very good, I hope that it changes in the next week.

I had just gotten to the point where I was walking again, and then I went and stubbed the little toe on my left foot hard enough to shatter the nail, OUCH! I gutted it out on Sunday though, I didn’t walk any great distances, but I limited myself to just a few short jaunts to get my legs back in shape. Today, which is Monday as I start this, I did the full three-mile walk around home, and I can sure feel it in my leg muscles. This was the first day in over a month that I have walked that far. I’ll have to walk every day this week to be ready for next week. That may mean walking around parking lots as the truck is getting loaded or unload at work, but walking is walking.

Then, there’s my timing as far as posting species to the My Photo Life List project. I had just posted piping plovers with just photos of a chick when the very next day I found a pair of adults. It wasn’t long ago that I published to post on orchard orioles, and I pondered why I saw only juveniles and females around home, but never an adult male. Well, that has changed, I got an adult male here today. I’ll get to him in a while, but for a change, I’m going to begin the photos in this post with the first one that I shot on Sunday morning.

Old barn at sunrise

Old barn at sunrise

I took a different route towards Muskegon to look for landscapes to shoot at sunrise, and that’s one that I came up with, here’s another.

Crockery Creek at sunrise

Crockery Creek at sunrise

Crockery Creek isn’t a very pretty area, as it flows slowly through mostly farm country, but still, I kind of like that one.

It was a cool morning, so I started at the wastewater facility, which also meant that I didn’t have to walk on an extremely sore toe. I planned to shoot a few more ducks, but the only ones that would sit still for a photo were these two lesser scaup.

Lesser scaup

Lesser scaup

I don’t know if the ducks are getting ready to head to their summer breeding grounds or what the deal was, but I couldn’t even got close enough to them to get a photo of one in flight. I even saw ruddy ducks flying, a rare sight most of the time. I did shoot a few photos though. What can I say, I’m a sucker for an interesting cloud pattern reflected from a body of water.

Morning cloudscape

Morning cloudscape

Another species of sparrow has returned.

Savanah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

I saw the first goslings of the spring,

Goslings

Goslings

You’d think that since there are already goslings hatching here that the hundreds of ducks still at the wastewater facility would have been gone long ago, very few of them nest there.

The upland sandpipers returned last week, this week, they’re already preparing their nests.

Upland sandpiper

Upland sandpiper

This mourning dove was looking for twigs to use in a nest, it must be her second brood of the year, they are one of the earliest nesting birds here.

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

With very few opportunities for a good photo, I head just up the road from the wastewater facility to Lane’s Landing. ¬†I had just started walking when I heard a sandhill crane behind me, so I turned around to shoot this.

Sandhill cranes

Sandhill cranes

There were dozens of these guys chasing each other around as they defended their territories.

Male Yellow warbler

Male Yellow warbler

I heard an American bittern, Virginia rail, and the sora again, the only one that I saw were this pair of sora.

Sora number 1

Sora number 1

 

Sora number 2

Sora number 2

 

Sora number 2

Sora number 2

I also heard the marsh wren again, well, actually, I heard three of them, I worked hard to get another poor photo of one of them.

Marsh wren

Marsh wren

As soon as I started moving after shooting the wren, I saw a large bird flying away from me that could have only been the American Bittern. I have already photographed and posted on that species, but still, I’d like to catch one not in flight, as the photos that I did for that post are of one flying past me.

It’s been amazing to me how once I have made a positive identification of a species how that sticks in my brain, and most of the time, as soon as I see another individual of the same species, I know exactly what it is. Case in point, this field sparrow.

Field sparrow

Field sparrow

Just their lighter coloration and “clean” face was enough for me to realize what that bird was, when so many sparrows look identical at first.

I’ve said that I’ve worked hard to get the poor photos of the marsh wren that I have, but that hard work will pay off. It’s the time of the year when the small, very quick birds that spend all their time in the foliage looking for food return to this area. Here’s a few that I managed a photo of on Sunday.

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Blue-grey gnatcatcher

 

American redstart singing

American redstart singing

 

American redstart singing

American redstart singing

 

Red-eyed vireo

Red-eyed vireo

Rose-breasted grosbeaks aren’t tiny little birds, but they do spend most of their time hidden in the leaves. Here’s a series of photos of a female capturing a caterpillar and eating it, slurping it down like a noodle.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak eating lunch

Female rose-breasted grosbeak eating lunch

 

Female rose-breasted grosbeak eating lunch

Female rose-breasted grosbeak eating lunch

 

Female rose-breasted grosbeak eating lunch

Female rose-breasted grosbeak eating lunch

 

Female rose-breasted grosbeak eating lunch

Female rose-breasted grosbeak eating lunch

 

Female rose-breasted grosbeak eating lunch

Female rose-breasted grosbeak eating lunch

 

Female rose-breasted grosbeak eating lunch

Female rose-breasted grosbeak eating lunch

I walked all the way to where the dike is washed out at Lane’s Landing, then back to my car. In the parking lot, I found this guy that I just had to photograph.

Male chipping sparrow

Male chipping sparrow

My next stop was the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and almost as soon as I stepped out of my car, I found a baby bunny to shoot.

Juvenile cottontail rabbit

Juvenile cottontail rabbit

On the first boardwalk along the edge of a marsh, I found Mr. Grumpy’s American cousin.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

He was looking for an out of the way spot to take his afternoon siesta, and never moved while I tied several places to shoot from, trying to get a clear view of him. He must have had a very good morning fishing, as the rest of the birds were still active, one way…

Yellow-Rumped warbler

Yellow-Rumped warbler

…or another.

Brown thrasher chasing a meal

Brown thrasher chasing a meal

 

Brown thrasher eating a meal

Brown thrasher eating a meal

The palm warblers have returned.

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

 

Palm warbler

Palm warbler

I’ve been short on cute, cuddly mammals here lately, so to go with the baby bunny, a grey squirrel…

Grey squirrel

Grey squirrel

…that hammed it up a bit when he heard the shutter going.

Grey squirrel

Grey squirrel

I see now that those two are a bit too blue, I should have warmed them up a little in Lightroom, oops, sorry.

Those photos weren’t cropped at all, that’s the way that they came out of the camera, which brings up something I’ve been thinking about lately.

Yes, I’d like a full frame sensor camera body, but that’s a long way off. I’m almost positive that Canon will upgrade the 5D Mk III to the 5D Mk IV soon, however, I’ll still wait until I purchase one, probably at least a year, maybe longer. I know now how Canon does things. First, they will announce the upgrade, and take orders before it goes into production. Canon will hand out “pre-production” versions to their paid spokespeople, who will all rave about how that camera is the best that Canon has ever built, to fuel demand for it. A few months later, Canon will begin shipping the new model, at full price. After demand wanes a little, they’ll offer a small rebate for a while, and by the time a year or so has passed, they will up the amount of the rebate. So, since I know all of this, I’d be dumb to pay full price when I know that if I wait, the price will come down.

In the meantime, I could buy some of the accessories that I’d like to have for my 7D Mk II, such as a battery grip. I do carry a spare battery for each of my cameras, and the 7D is the only body that has drained a single battery in one day of shooting. So, having a battery grip that holds two batteries isn’t a bad idea. Not only that, but the battery grip allows for the use of AA batteries if you’re out in the boonies and can’t recharge the regular batteries for it.

Another really good feature of the battery grip is that it also has a duplicate set of buttons so when you hold the camera in the portrait orientation, one doesn’t have to fumble around trying to find the auto-focus or shutter release buttons the way that I do now when I was trying to photograph the squirrel. No more bending my thumb around in such a way that I don’t poke myself in the eye when trying to find the auto-focus button the way that I have to now.

Another accessory would be a microphone. That way, when I shot a video of a bird singing, you’d be able to hear the bird I was shooting the¬†video of, without as much background noise. First though, I have to train the birds better.

On Sunday, I had two male catbirds having a singing war, with one of them on either side of me. Catbirds mimic the songs of other birds, taking bits and pieces of the other bird’s songs, and blending it into their own. I posted a video about their ability to mimic other bird’s songs quite a while back. I’ve heard a lot of catbirds sing, but the one to my left was putting all the others to shame, I’ve never heard anything like him before. The only problem was that I couldn’t see him. If I had shot a video, the visual would have been boring, just the green leaves, but the symphony that the catbird was composing on the fly, made up of snippets of other bird’s songs, was simply amazing, I’ve never heard anything like it before. About that time, he moved so I knew where he was, and I could even make him out through the leaves…

Male grey catbird

Male grey catbird

…I broke out into laughter right after that photo, he heard the shutter go off and moved just enough so that I could no longer see his eye. I can’t help but think that he knew darned well what he was doing. That may be just a sign of my warped sense of humor, I love playing hide and seek with birds, doing my best to get a clear view of them as they do their best to remain hidden from the camera.

That brings up another point, how much higher my standards have become for the photos that I post here. Other than the marsh wrens, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a photo with most of the bird hidden from view. The first step was making sure that you could see the bird’s eye. Then it became trying to get the lighting right so that you could see the catch light in the bird’s eye. Now, I try to get close enough with good enough lighting that you can see the bird’s pupil in its eye. That doesn’t always show in my photos here in their smaller size, but when I view these full screen on my computer, you can definitely see the bird’s pupil in each of these next images.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

I think that this chickadee was looking for insects within the cattails, at first, I thought that it was gathering the fluffy stuff for its nest, but it never carried any of it away.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

 

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

 

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Well, I’ve reached my self-imposed limit for photos in one post, and I still have a few left overs from Sunday, plus all the photos that I shot on Monday, so I’ll try to squeeze in one more post this week as I get ready for my vacation next week.

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


Another mixed weekend

The weather on Sunday was dreadful, well, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but it was certainly not nice. With on and off rain, drizzle between rain showers, and a cold northeast wind, it wasn’t a pleasant day for a walk.

Not that I would have gone for a walk even if the weather had been better. I haven’t mentioned it, but I’ve been dealing with some health issues that have made walking for any distance very painful for just over a month now. The good news is that I think that those issues are behind me now, as I finally felt good enough on Monday to do some walking. Now I have to build my leg muscles back up again to be able to walk the three to five miles that I had been walking when I had the chance before the problems began.

The timing of all this was off just a little, I had just posted the post on the piping plover, using the only photos that I had, which were of a juvenile, and then the day after I posted it, I found the adults that I hoped to find last summer.

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Of course I went back and updated that post on this species with these, plus a few more photos of the adults if you’re interested in seeing them.

These will probably be the last photos of a piping plover that you’ll see on my blog, unless I bump into one by accident while walking one of the beaches along the Great Lakes. Since they are an endangered species, I won’t go looking for them specifically again. I feel quite lucky to have good photos of three individuals of a species that numbers less than 7,000 birds worldwide.

Many of the comments from my last post mentioned the bands or rings on the plovers legs. There are so few of this species, that every individual is banded in such a way that the individual can be identified from the color combination and pattern of the bands from a distance. I presume that one of these adults was the mother of the chick that I photographed last summer, and has returned to nest again this year.  If so, it was reported that she spent the winter in the Bahamas, a very long way for such a small bird to fly.

Anyway, the plovers were the last photos that I shot on Monday, I suppose that I should go back to Sunday morning when my weekend began.

Thornapple River

Thornapple River

Since the weather was so poor, and I have noticed some pleasant scenes along the road while driving for work,¬†I¬†thought that it would be a good day to shoot some of those scenes. I like shooting landscapes in poor weather, the light is soft and even, and I’m able to get great color saturation when everything is damp. The downside is water drops on the camera lens when the weather becomes too poor, as it did on Sunday.

Along the highway

Along the highway

Every time that I’d set-up to shoot a photo, it became a race to get the photo before then camera lens attracted more rain drops.

Along the highway 2

Along the highway 2

And of course, whenever I reached a spot that I wanted to photograph, the rain picked up making things more difficult, so I ended up deleting most of the photos that I shot in the morning. I’m still not very good at shooting landscapes, so when I have to rush for any reason, I usually screw up the composition, use the wrong focal length, or find some way of failing to get the shot that I want.

I did stop at one historic landmark close to home though.

John Isaac Cutler's house

John Isaac Cutler’s house

I live near the village of Cutlerville, Michigan these days, it was founded in 1853 by John and Christina Cutler, who moved here from New York. Their son, John Isaac Cutler, built the house in the photo in 1891. Today, a large health care business owns the house and all the land around it, so I suppose that it was fitting to find a turkey vulture perched on the chimney to warm up and try to dry off on such a miserable day.

Turkey vulture recovering

Turkey vulture recovering

Even though I live close to that house, and some of my mother’s side of the family live around here as well, I don’t think off myself as being from Cutlerville, since I grew up and lived most my life on the opposite side of town. But, I found the house interesting, and it made a good practice subject, but what I really like is the landscaping that they did a few years ago.

John Isaac Cutler house and landscaping

John Isaac Cutler house and landscaping

But from that angle, part of the house is hidden, and you can see one of the medical buildings in the background. If you look very closely at the photo, you can even see the vulture still perched on the chimney.

As the day wore on, the rain had stopped, but the wind kicked up quite a bit making it almost impossible to shoot three exposures to create a HDR image without the wind blowing something in the scene around, which ruins most HDR images. I did save this image of a wooden train trestle near White Cloud, Michigan.

Wooden train trestle over the White River

Wooden train trestle over the White River

Also, this farm-yard scene.

Old barn and outbuildings

Old barn and outbuildings

Even with the wind, I just had to shoot this scene.

The Muskegon River valley

The Muskegon River valley

That was shot just outside of Newaygo, Michigan at a roadside park. It doesn’t look like it in the photo, but the slope down to the river is nearly vertical, and it is almost 250 feet (76 M) down to the river from where I was standing.¬†If¬†they didn’t keep the trees cut down so that people could see across the valley, the foliage would hide that view in just a few years. That’s typical Michigan scenery once you get out of the areas that are farmed, rolling hills and miles and miles of unbroken forests. As I’ve said before, the problem is finding an opening through the trees to shoot landscape photos that show how many trees there are here. ūüėČ

That’s what Michigan looked like when the first European settlers arrived. You can almost understand why they didn’t think that it was possible to cut down all the trees in the state, but they came close to it. That steep hill is where they would drag logs to in order to slide them down the bank into the Muskegon River, and then the logs were floated down the river to the sawmills that surrounded Muskegon Lake.

The only other photos that I saved from Sunday are of another vulture that I happened to be close to as it landed.

Turkey vulture landing

Turkey vulture landing

 

Turkey vulture landing

Turkey vulture landing

 

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

I meant the trip on Sunday to be a warm up of sorts, practicing landscapes for when I go on vacation in less than two weeks. It didn’t go well, but that’s okay, I’m sure that I’ll do better while I am on vacation.

That brings us to Monday, with better weather and lighting, I went birding.

Male red-winged blackbird

Male red-winged blackbird

I noticed something in a photo that I shot a few weeks ago, it looked like the male red-winged blackbirds lift the red and yellow feathers on their shoulders as they display for the females. I had to shoot from the back to get these, but it does show what I mean.

Male red-winged blackbird displaying

Male red-winged blackbird displaying

 

Male red-winged blackbird displaying

Male red-winged blackbird displaying

I’d like to get a different angle and lighting to really show what a colorful display the raised feathers make, I should have asked that guy to pose for me in a different spot, as he seemed willing enough to act as a model.

Male Red-winged blackbird

Male Red-winged blackbird

The opposite is true of wood ducks, after getting a few good photos of them over the past year, it’s back to them going into hiding as soon as they spot me. I got one obscured photo of this one as he swam into a culvert to hide.

Male wood duck

Male wood duck

The upland sandpipers have returned.

Upland sandpiper

Upland sandpiper

 

Upland sandpiper

Upland sandpiper

That may look like the same bird in both photos, but it’s not, that was one of several pairs of the sandpipers that saw on Sunday.

I was using the 2 X Tele-converter behind the 300 mm lens for those when I spotted a pileated woodpecker flying past me. I missed on my first attempt to get a photo of it, luckily, it changed its mind as to where it was going, and flew back past me a second time.

Pileated woodpecker in flight

Pileated woodpecker in flight

The reason that I missed the first time was that the camera settings that I have programmed into the second back button auto-focus do not work with the 2 X extender, only the 1.4 X extender, due to the loss of light. I was fortunate that the woodpecker came back, allowing me to switch back to the main back button auto-focusing set-up.

The tree swallows have been back for some time now…

Tree swallow

Tree swallow

…and they are already making use of the new armored bird houses that have been installed at the wastewater facility.

Tree swallows

Tree swallows

However, Monday was the first time that I saw that the barn swallows have returned as well.

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Now that’s blue!

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Back at the clay pond, there were a few double crested cormorants, one pair perched…

Double crested cormorants

Double crested cormorants

…as another flew past them.

Double crested cormorant in flight

Double crested cormorant in flight

The male grasshopper sparrows have returned also…

Male grasshopper sparrow singing

Male grasshopper sparrow singing

…the way that I know that was a male was because he was busy singing to attract a mate.

I went to the headquarters area of the Muskegon State Game Area again, and once again, no birds to speak of. So, my next stop was Lane’s Landing, where the wind played havoc with my attempts to photograph any of the yellow warblers which have returned.

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

Not only were the birds being blown around on the branches that they were perched on, other branches were being blown around to block my view of the birds most of the time, that’s the best that I could do.

I walked all the way back to the swampy area at Lane’s Landing, and the trees in the swamp broke the wind enough to allow me to shoot these three photos.

Red admiral butterfly

Red admiral butterfly

 

Dandelion

Dandelion

 

Unidentified butterfly

Unidentified butterfly

On my way through the marsh the first time, I was frustrated because I could hear several birds that I would have liked to photograph calling or singing back in the marsh, but completely out of sight. On my way back to my brand new pretty blue Subaru, I spent a lot of time tracking down a marsh wren, one of the birds that I could hear singing, and got one very poor photo of it.

Male marsh wren singing

Male marsh wren singing

I worked harder to get that one very bad photo of the marsh wren than I did to get all of the better shots of birds in this post combined.

From Lane’s Landing, I traveled to the beach at Muskegon State Park where I found the piping plovers. As I was walking along the beach in search of them, a pair of Caspian terns flew past me, here’s one of them.

Caspian tern in flight

Caspian tern in flight

Along with everything else going on in my life this past month, I’ve also been trying to work a few extra hours each week to save more money for my vacation coming up. It seems like this spring has flown past so far, and that I’ve missed most of the flowers as they bloom. I have managed a few though.

Cutler toothwort

Cutleaf  toothwort

 

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

 

Wood anemone?

Wood anemone?

 

Wood anemone?

Wood anemone?

 

Apple blossom

Apple blossom

While I have missed many of the early spring flowers, I hope to make up for that this weekend. Sunday is looking very good for a flower photography outing, nice weather with light winds. I hope that the weatherman is correct for a change.

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


Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

The piping plover (Charadrius melodus) is a small sand-colored, sparrow-sized shorebird that nests and feeds along coastal sand and gravel beaches in North America. The adult has yellow-orange legs, a black band across the forehead from eye to eye, and a black ring around the neck. This chest band is usually thicker in males during the breeding season, and it’s the only reliable way to tell the sexes apart. The bird is difficult to see when it is standing still, as it blends well with open, sandy beach habitats. It typically runs in short spurts and stops.

Total population is currently estimated at about 6,510 individuals. A preliminary estimate showed 3,350 birds in 2003 on the Atlantic Coast alone, 52% of the total. The population has been increasing since 1999.

Their breeding habitat includes¬†beaches¬†or sand flats on the¬†Atlantic¬†coast, the shores of the¬†Great Lakes, and in the mid-west of¬†Canada¬†and the¬†United States. They nest on¬†sandy¬†or gravel beaches or¬†shoals. These shorebirds forage for food on beaches, usually by sight, moving across the beaches in short bursts. Generally, piping plovers will forage for food around the high¬†tide¬†wrack zone¬†and along the water’s edge. They eat mainly¬†insects,¬†marine worms, and¬†crustaceans.

The piping plover is a stout bird with a large rounded head, a short thick neck, and a stubby bill. It is a sand-colored, dull gray/khaki, sparrow-sized shorebird. The adult has yellow-orange legs, a black band across the forehead from eye to eye, and a black ring around the neck during the breeding season. During nonbreeding season, the black bands become less pronounced. Its bill is orange with a black tip. It ranges from 15‚Äď19 cm (5.9‚Äď7.5 in) in length, with a wingspan of 35‚Äď41 cm (14‚Äď16 in) and a mass of 42‚Äď64 g (1.5‚Äď2.3 oz).

Flight call is a soft, whistled peep peep given by standing and flying birds. Its frequently heard alarm call is a soft pee-werp, which the second syllable lower pitched.

Piping plovers migrate from their northern range in the summer to the south in the winter months, migrating to the Gulf of Mexico, the southern Atlantic coast of the United States and the Caribbean. They begin migrating north beginning in mid-March. Their breeding grounds extend from southern Newfoundland south to the northern parts of South Carolina. They begin mating and nesting on the beach in mid-April.

Males will begin claiming territories and pairing up in late March. When pairs are formed, the male begins digging out several scrapes (nests) along the high shore near the beach-grass line. The males also perform elaborate courtship ceremonies, including stone tossing and courtship flights featuring repeated dives. Scrapes, small depressions in the sand dug by kicking the sand, are often in the same area that¬†least terns¬†choose to colonize. Females will sit and evaluate the scrapes, then choose a good scrape and decorate the nest with shells and debris to¬†camouflage¬†it. Once a scrape is seen as sufficient, the female will allow the male to copulate with her. The male begins a mating ritual of standing upright and “marching” towards the female, puffing himself up and quickly stomping his legs. If the female had seen the scrape as adequate, she will allow the male to stand on her back and¬†copulation¬†occurs within a few minutes.

Most first-time nest attempts in each breeding season are 4-egg nests which appear as early as mid-to-late April. Females lay one egg every other day. Second, third and sometimes fourth nesting attempts may have only three or two eggs. Incubation of the nest is shared by both the male and the female. Incubation is generally 27 days and eggs usually all hatch on the same day.

After chicks hatch, they are able to feed within hours. The adults’ role is then to protect them from the elements by¬†brooding¬†them. They also alert them to any danger. Like many other species of plovers, adult piping plovers will often feign a “broken wing display”, drawing attention to themselves and away from the chicks when a predator may be threatening the chicks’ safety. The broken wing display is also used during the nesting period to distract predators from the nest. A major defense mechanism of the chicks is their ability to blend in with the sand. It takes about 30 days before chicks achieve flight capability. They must be able to fly at least 50¬†yd (46¬†m) before they can be considered fledglings.

To protect the nests from predators during incubation, many conservationists use exclosures, such as round turkey-wire cages with screened tops. These allow the adults to move in and out but stop predators from getting to the eggs. After the chicks hatch, many areas will put up snow fencing to restrict driving and pets for the safety of the chicks. Threats to nests include crows, cats, raccoons, and foxes, among others. Exclosures are not always used, as they occasionally draw more attention to the nest than would occur without the exclosure. Natural hazards to eggs or chicks include storms, high winds, and abnormal high tides; human disturbances can cause the abandonment of nests and chicks as well. It is best to stay away from any bird that appears distressed to prevent any unintended consequences.

Migration south begins in August for some adults and fledglings, and by mid-September most piping plovers have headed south for winter.

Inconspicuous birds of dry sandy beaches, plovers breed in open sand, gravel, or shell-strewn beaches and alkali flats. Each nest site is typically near small clumps of grass, drift, or other windbreak. In winter, these birds prefer sand beaches and mudflats. Migrants are seldom seen inland, but occasionally show up at lake shores, river bars, or alkali flats. Individuals forage visually in typical plover fashion, employing a run-stop-scan technique. Plovers capture prey by leaning forward and picking at surfaces; they also employ a “foot-tremble” feeding method, causing prey to move and become more conspicuous. Feeding by day and night, they eat a wide variety of aquatic marine worms, insects, mollusks, and crustaceans. Seldom found in large numbers except at a few favored wintering or staging sites where numbers sometimes reach 100 or more, plovers are more typically seen in pairs or in groups of 3 or 4. When approached, they more often run than fly.

The piping plover is globally threatened and endangered, it is uncommon and local within its range, and has been listed by the United States as Endangered in the Great Lakes region and Threatened in the remainder of its breeding range. While it is federally threatened, the piping plover has been listed as state endangered in Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

On to my photos:

These photos were shot in July¬†of 2015 at Muskegon State Park, where a pair of the plovers had nested. The photos are of a juvenile piping plover, I was hoping that an adult would show up also, but since they are an endangered species here in Michigan, I didn’t want to be in the same area as the chick for very long. ¬†I’m sure that I’ll eventually photograph an adult, but I’ll post this one now anyway, then add the adult when I find one.

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Ha, it turns out that the day after I posted this one, I found the adults.

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

 

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

Piping Plover, Charadrius melodus

This is number 196 in my photo life list, only 154 to go!

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

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