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

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. 😉

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!

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22 responses

  1. Terrific post!

    May 6, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    • Thank you very much Belinda!

      May 6, 2016 at 3:04 pm

  2. Your photography gets better and better, the turkey vultures were terrific.

    May 6, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! I’m glad that you enjoyed them.

      May 6, 2016 at 11:55 pm

  3. A raft of cracking pictures here. The second butterfly looks quite like our tortoiseshells. Do you have them? I particularly liked the swallows.

    May 6, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! No, we don’t have tortoiseshells here, at least not the same ones that you have. I love swallows, so you may see a few more of them this summer. 😉

      May 6, 2016 at 11:57 pm

  4. I like those landscape shots. For a cloudy day you ended up with plenty of color. Nice color on the wings of that red winged blackbird too!
    I’m surprised you’re seeing butterflies already. I haven’t seen a one here but so far every day of May has been cool and wet.
    I don’t know if those are wood anemones or not without some foliage to go by. Anemones are hard to identify though, even with foliage.
    I’m sorry to hear about your bad leg. I hope it wasn’t anything serious. I guess we have to expect such things at our age but still, that doesn’t make them any easier to take. In any event I hope you’ll be okay all alone on your vacation. I can’t remember if you ever got a cell phone or not, but having one might not be a bad idea.

    May 6, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I’ve found that if I use a tripod so that I can set the camera to ISO 100 that cloudy days are the best for many landscape photos, especially right after a rain. I’ve been missing the first few butterflies that I saw, too busy chasing birds to chase them.

      I suppose that when it comes to identifying flowers that I spend too much time learning to ID birds to learn to ID plants at the same time. It doesn’t help that my memory isn’t quite what it used to be either.

      My legs will be okay once I make it to my vacation and get them back into shape, and yes, I do have a cell phone. I hate to admit it, but with each passing year comes a little more trepidation about going off into the woods by myself for a week at a time.

      May 7, 2016 at 12:08 am

  5. I really enjoyed your post. Beautiful photos. The variety of birds is amazing. Love the flowers and butterflies as well.

    May 6, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    • Thank you very much! I do see a wide variety of birds, that’s for sure.

      May 6, 2016 at 11:57 pm

  6. Fantastic photos- love the colours of the birds, the clarity of the spring flowers and butterflies and the scenic views. Just looked up Wikipedia to find out more about Cutler and where it is. All interesting stuff! Thank you.

    May 6, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    • Thank you very much! I never thought to add a link to more information on any of the things that I posted photos of, I should do more research for the nice people like yourself who read my blog.

      May 6, 2016 at 11:59 pm

  7. What a mix…love the old barn shots and the piping plover..love those too.

    May 7, 2016 at 1:07 am

    • Thank you very much!

      May 7, 2016 at 9:57 am

  8. So happy that you got to see this shipping plovers, and get such terrific photos. They are some of your best.

    The miserable-looking turkey vulture on the chimney made me laugh out loud. He looks like he’s thinking some really dark thoughts.

    It was really surprising to see how slow spring seems to be coming there. Even in Colorado, there seemed to be more leaves on the trees, and here in Kansas, everything seems to be 100% leafed out.

    Hope weather improves for your vacation. may is always kind of an iffy month, but it’s one of my favorites for color, and the sheer joy of spring. Will you be camping?

    May 7, 2016 at 9:01 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! Yes, the vulture on the chimney was looking pretty pathetic, fitting the weather that day. It has been a slow spring, since the first two weeks of April were more like winter than spring.

      I used to always take the first week of May off to go trout fishing, but dealing with snow and ice made it no fun any more. So, I keep moving it back a week every few years, I may end up not going until June eventually. 😉
      Yes, I will be camping, the weather forecast will decide for me whether to bring my tent/cot or full size tent. The full size tent is much better if it rains a lot.

      May 7, 2016 at 10:03 am

  9. I really liked the landscapes not just because the shots are so good (especially the wonderful colour) but because I get to see the countryside where you live. I love the flower shots and the butterflies too. We have just started seeing ours but they won’t rest anywhere for me to photograph them! The bird photos are great – I love them all!

    May 7, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    • Thanks again Clare! I need to work on my landscape photography more, I’m still not very good at knowing how the short lenses are going to translate what I see into an image. I lucked out with the butterflies, it was so windy that they preferred to sit rather than fight the wind.

      May 8, 2016 at 3:49 am

  10. Great photos, Jerry! I love the redwing blackbirds and their colorful epaulets. The turkey vulture up on the chimney reminds me of my friend’s pet Muscovy duck that used to perch on the neighboring chimney and use it for a vantage point for swooping down and attacking passersby.

    May 8, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! The thought of a duck dive-bombing people walking past is too funny!

      May 8, 2016 at 6:17 pm

  11. Wonderful gallery of captures, Jerry! So many beautiful bird shots and love the wooden train trestle and barn photos!

    May 10, 2016 at 8:09 am

    • Thank you very much Donna!

      May 10, 2016 at 11:13 pm