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

Waiting on the weather

We’re having a warm summer here in West Michigan this year, and as I mentioned in the last post, it has also been drier than average as well. As luck would have it, it’s early on a Sunday morning as I start this post, and it’s raining outside. I know that we needed the rain, but why did it have to come on the one day of the week when I have the full day for photography?

I braved the heat yesterday to go for a medium length walk around home, and I did manage to shoot a few good photos. There was almost no breeze at all, which made the heat seem worse than it would have otherwise, but that made it a good day to shoot flowers.

Moth mullein

Moth mullein

They say that diffuse light is best for flowers, and I agree that it can be very good, but if one chooses the correct flower at just the right angle, you can also capture how sparkly many flowers appear in full sun.

Asiatic dayflower

Asiatic day flower

Even a flower like the lowly horse nettle.

JVIS9275

Horse nettle

I have a huge backlog of photos saved to be put into posts, which is a good thing in some ways. It means that as I shoot better photos of a particular subject, I can use it, rather than one of the earlier images which may not be as good.

As luck would have it, while I was out on Sunday, I shot a pair of images to compare the same flowers shot in diffused light…

Pickerel weed, diffused light

Pickerel weed, diffused light

…and in full sunlight.

Pickerel weed, full sunlight

Pickerel weed, full sunlight

But, it wasn’t a great test, as the ISO setting of the image in full sun was much lower than the one shot in diffused light. I should have had my tripod with me and set the ISO manually for a better comparison. I probably should have used the macro lens as well, those were shot with the 300 mm lens.

But, since the weather was so changeable yesterday, I had the 15-85 mm lens on the 60D to shoot landscapes if I saw a scene that I thought warranted a photo or two.

Threatening clouds

Threatening clouds

That was shot in the parking lot of the Little Black Lake Park, a new to me park that I’ve never been to before. It’s on the other side of Little Black Lake from the P.J. Hoffmaster State Park, just south of Muskegon. It had just stopped raining there when I shot that, but there were still thunderstorms all around me, so I paced the parking lot for a while. A little later, after I decided it was safe to for me to do so, I walked the park, and shot this image as well.

Little Black Lake

Little Black Lake

It does make putting together a coherent blog post a little more difficult though, as I’m pulling photos from different trips over the course of the past few months. I did weed out quite a few of my earlier photos on Saturday, since it was too hot to be outside for any length of time unless I was sitting in the shade.

I was doing just that while it was so hot on Saturday, siting in the shade, hoping that a few goldfinches would come to feed on the seeds of various flowers that I was close to.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

 

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

I spotted an animal moving towards me in the vegetation that I was watching, at first I thought that it was probably a cat. As it continued getting closer, I saw that it was a fox. I sat very still, and even though I could have gotten a fair shot or two through the brush, I held off, not wanting to alert the fox to my presence with the sound of the shutter going off.

Like most members of the canine family, foxes depend on scent and sounds when they are hunting, and to alert them to danger. I could see that the fox was tracking something, possibly this bunny that I had seen in the area earlier.

Cottontail rabbit

Cottontail rabbit

By then, the fox was less than 20 feet from me, and less than 4 feet from the edge of the vegetation, if it had been tracking that bunny, it would have had to come out into the open to follow the scent trail. I sat very still with the camera half-way to my eye, and guess what happened. A cyclist came by, and despite my signs asking him to stop, he went blasting right on by me, which of course spooked the fox, who took off running across the field.

Red fox on the run

Red fox on the run

I’d better change the subject quickly, or I’ll go off on a rant about cyclists, and I’d better not, as a few of the regular readers and commenters to my blog are passionate cyclists.

Anyway, I thought that I had a good photo of a male cardinal preening, but when I saw the photos, I almost deleted them because it looks as if some one decapitated the poor cardinal and stuck the severed head back on the body in the wrong position.

Male northern cardinal preening

Male northern cardinal preening

It’s funny how different a two-dimensional photo looks when compared to what I saw in three dimensions as the cardinal preened. Here’s a later photo showing that the cardinal was fine, and that it was just a trick of the camera that made it look as if he had lost his head.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Maybe I’m bragging a little here, but all of the poor photos that I’ve shot in bad weather and posted here have been good practice towards being able to get a good photo in such conditions.

On my way to the Little Black Lake Park, before the rain had let up completely, I shot these two photos of a red-shouldered hawk.

Juvenile red-shouldered hawk

Juvenile red-shouldered hawk

I was well braced, but these were still shot handheld at 1/80 second with the 300 mm lens and the 1.4 X extender.

Juvenile red-shouldered hawk

Juvenile red-shouldered hawk

In fact, for most of the day on Sunday, I was shooting in low light, as you can tell from the landscape images earlier in this post.

Little Black Lake Park is supposed to be a good spot for birding, but I saw very few there on Sunday. The only one that I was able to photograph is this song sparrow bringing food to its young.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

Before I began getting serious about birding, it was rare for me to see a song sparrow, now they seem to be ubiquitous, I see them everywhere there’s water nearby.

Song sparrow

Song sparrow

I did see a bird of a different kind as I was waiting for the rain to end completely. This is probably a DC-3 given the color scheme…

DC-3 or C-47 "Goony bird"?

DC-3 or C-47 “Gooney bird”?

…but it could have been a converted version of the C-47, they are essentially the same plane other than slight modifications to the military version. After WW II, many of the C-47’s were sold for civilian use, which makes it tough to tell which variant any one plane is.

The lack of birds was probably due to the weather, I’ll have to return when there aren’t storms in the area.

I did see a few deer, I shot this fawn from a distance, which I normally don’t do.

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

I think that in this image, you can see how small the fawn still is compared to the vegetation.

I almost went back to my car to get my tripod and the macro lens to shoot water drops on the flowers…

Swamp rose?

Swamp rose?

…but the mosquitoes were ferocious!

Water drops on unidentified flowers

Water drops on unidentified flowers

The insect repellant that I have seems to have lost its effectiveness, I don’t know if it’s because it’s a year old, or if it is because I keep it in my Forester, and it has gotten very hot a number of times. After the rain ended, there was no wind at all, which would have made macro photos easier, but also made the mosquitoes worse.

After I purchased a good tripod, I went through a phase when I tried to use it for every macro photo of a flower that I shot. Using the tripod did eliminate camera shake, but it didn’t stop the flowers from moving in the wind, so I became very frustrated and don’t use the tripod as much as I should when conditions are right. As thick as the skeeters were, I’d have gotten frustrated again if I had taken the time to set-up the tripod to shoot those photos.

My next stop on Sunday was Lake Harbor Park, where I shot a few photos of crows. I’m not sure, but I think that the adults were teaching their young how to safely scavenge around humans.

American crow

American crow

Some one posted a link to a video in the comments to my last post about how well crows can solve problems. (Sorry, I don’t know the person’s name, just that their blog is https://lletty.wordpress.com/ )

American crows

American crows

I had seen that video before, but it led me to a full length episode of the program Nature from the BBC on crows.

American crow

American crow

I’ve always known that crows were social and very intelligent birds, but the more scientists study them, the more that they learn just how intelligent they are. If you have a spare hour to watch the video, here’s a link to it.

Here are a few of the other things that I found to photograph at Lake Harbor Park.

Unidentified flowering object

Unidentified flowering object

The mallards there are used to being fed, here’s one coming at me to see if I had food for her.

Female mallard coming in for a landing

Female mallard coming in for a landing

On the other hand, this mother mallard seem very intent on finding wild food for her young, they could barely keep up with her as fast as she was swimming.

Female mallard and ducklings

Female mallard and ducklings

I wish that I could have gotten closer to these trumpet vine flowers, but they were ringed by rose bushes full of thorns, in the low light, it probably didn’t make much difference how close I was able to get.

Trumpet vine flowers

Trumpet vine flowers

With all the close-ups of gulls that I’ve shot and posted, I hardly need to post this one, but I really like it for some reason that I can’t put my finger on.

Ring-billed gull

Ring-billed gull

One male mallard was just beginning to sprout a few new green feathers on its head, it will be a month or two yet before they are back to the colorful ducks most people think of when they hear mallard.

Male mallard going green

Male mallard going green

I remember how hard I used to work trying to get a good photo of a grey squirrel that was black. These days, it’s a piece of cake, even in low light. Either my equipment is much better, or I’ve finally learned how, maybe it’s both. By the way, grey squirrels around here come in two colors, grey, which is how they came to get their name, or black, like this one. Of course it helped that some one left a pile of sunflower seeds for the squirrel to eat, and no, it wasn’t me, I just took advantage of it.

Grey squirrel, black morph

Grey squirrel, black morph

On my way to the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, there were a few young turkeys along the road, so I stopped to shoot a few photos.

Turkey poults

Turkey poults

Here’s their mother.

Female turkey

Female turkey

And, since the mother turkeys usually keep their young well hidden from sight, here’s another photo of the poults, since it’s rare to see them.

Turkey poults

Turkey poults

The mother must have wanted to cross the road very badly, for like I said, it’s rare to see the poults when they are that young, even though turkeys have become very common here.

It was a tough day for birding, even at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve I was only able to catch a few birds. I’ve posted a lot of photos of the marsh wrens this summer, and because they were one of the few species of birds that I found on this day, I’m forced to post a few more. 😉

Marsh wren

Marsh wren

I thought that the photo above would be a good one, but there’s a stick in front of the wren’s face. I was quick enough to get this shot a little later…

Marsh wren

Marsh wren

…before the wren hid again.

Marsh wren hiding

Marsh wren hiding

The only reason I used that last photo is because there was some one standing next to me using a 7D Mk II with a Canon L series 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens with a 2 X tele-converter behind it, and his set-up couldn’t keep up with the wren as well as mine. I considered that same set-up for birding, I’m glad that I chose what I did instead. Also, it is yet another example of how difficult it is to photograph smaller birds well. It doesn’t take them long to hide once they know that they’re being photographed.

One of the other birds that I was able to get a photo of was this young robin that has already learned that mayflies aren’t just for trout. (Trout feed heavily on mayflies when they are available.)

Juvenile robin with a mayfly

Juvenile robin with a may fly

If you’re wondering what mayflies look like, here’s a close-up of one that I shot on an earlier trip.

Unidentified mayfly

Unidentified may fly

They often hold their front legs up like that right after they have transformed from their larval stage to an adult. They’re odd-looking things, even for the world of insects, but the trout, and now I find birds, love to eat them.

Along with being able to get good photos of the black morph grey squirrels, I’m also very pleased that I can get photos of birds with food in their beaks where you can identify what type of insect it is. Like this eastern Phoebe with a dragonfly to take back to her young.

Eastern Phoebe with a dragonfly for her young

Eastern Phoebe with a dragonfly for her young

I’ve been able to photograph several birds with dragonflies in their beaks, I had no idea that so many dragonflies were taken by the birds, since dragonflies are wary and very quick. Anyway, that’s another reason that I love photographing nature, I can learn so much from the photos when they are good ones.

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

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33 responses

  1. Such a pleasure to scroll through so many beautiful photographs but my favourite was the one of Little Black Lake with that wonderful cloudscape above. Sorry about the heat, I hate it over 75 degrees so I wouldn’t last where you live.

    July 29, 2016 at 3:27 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! This hasn’t been a typical Michigan summer, our average temperature this time of year is 80 degrees. That’s still warm, but bearable, even for me.

      July 29, 2016 at 8:05 am

  2. The Marsh Wren and Little Black Lake get my vote, lovely!

    July 29, 2016 at 5:33 am

    • Thank you very much Bob!

      July 29, 2016 at 8:08 am

  3. Excellent post and wonderful photos!

    July 29, 2016 at 7:53 am

    • Thank you very much Belinda!

      July 29, 2016 at 8:08 am

  4. Such an enjoyable post Jerry! I sympathise with your problems with the weather – I often find the days I am busy are ideal walking/gardening/photographing days and my free days are wet and windy. So many excellent and interesting shots (perhaps the unknown flowering object is a buddleia?) I find it impossible to chose any favourites. The seagull is a charming photo – it has a contented look in its eye.

    July 29, 2016 at 8:23 am

    • Thank you very much Clare! It does seem to always go that way, when any one has free time, the weather doesn’t cooperate. I think that you’re correct, the flower is a buddleia. I sometimes wonder why I’m shooting another photo of a familiar subject like the gull, but most of the time I’m very pleased with the results, so I keep shooting them.

      July 29, 2016 at 8:41 am

      • You must keep on shooting all the old familiars as well as the new subjects! Gulls are so intelligent and resourceful that there is always something new to see.

        July 29, 2016 at 8:48 am

  5. What a fantastic set of photos. Enjoyed the flowers and the birds and that little aeroplane.

    July 29, 2016 at 9:29 am

    • Thank you very much! I should have said more about the little areoplane, it was a ground-breaking plane when it was introduced as a commercial airliner back in the late 1930’s. That’s why I photographed it, a bit of aviation history.

      July 29, 2016 at 10:55 pm

      • Lovely.

        July 30, 2016 at 4:36 am

  6. Marvelous captures of birds, flowers, animals, insects. I enjoyed viewing every one of them, especially those of the mayfly, and the birds with insects in the beaks. The world would be very dull without your contributions to this blog, Jerry!

    July 29, 2016 at 11:34 am

    • Thank you very much! I’m not the only person who photographs the same things that I do. I just have a knack for being able to photograph things that tell a story well.

      July 29, 2016 at 11:01 pm

  7. Beautiful flowers…nettles, mullein, Asian lily, and finch on chicory flowers. Most people I know consider them “weeds”. You did justice to their beauty!

    July 29, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    • Thank you very much Maria! The only difference between a weed and a cultivated flower is the growth habit of the plant that the flowers grow on in my opinion. The “weed” flowers are just as pretty as most cultivated flowers, but the plants that produce the weed flowers are unattractive in some way or another.

      July 29, 2016 at 11:04 pm

      • Yes, I can see that. The flowers are lovely even if the plants can be unruly. I have seen a good deal of excellent photography on blogs. Your pictures do tell a story and that is what makes them exceptionally interesting.

        July 29, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      • Thanks again for the kind words.

        July 29, 2016 at 11:24 pm

  8. I think the white unidentified flower could be meadowsweet (Spirea alba) but I’m not 100% certain. That does look like a swamp rose too. If it was growing near water that’s probably what it is.
    That’s a great shot of the trumpet vine flowers, which are not at all easy to get a good one of. I tried several times one year and never did get a shot I liked. Red is a tough color!
    I’ve seen turkey poults a couple of times but didn’t get a photo of them, so I’m glad you did. They and the black gray squirrel are rare sights that I like to get a look at.
    I love the moody landscapes and the decapitated cardinal had me laughing out loud!

    July 29, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! So that’s what meadowsweet is, from the photos of it on your blog, I thought it was a small plant, but the plants I saw the flowers on towered over my head. Photos can be deceiving, like the cardinal. I thought that I was shooting some winners, the he had his feathers fluffed out and the light was shining through them. None of that shows in the photos though, it looks like some one cut the poor thing’s head off.
      Yes, it was a swamp rose, I looked it up to confirm it.

      I probably shouldn’t rub it in, but with the Canon 7D, the only hard colors to photograph are white and black. I think that you use Lightroom, if so, try lowering the luminosity of the warm colors like reds and yellows rather than lowering the exposure as much. That’s what I do when I use the 60D body that doesn’t have as good of an exposure metering system as the 7D.

      For as much time as I spend in the woods, and as many times as I see turkeys, it’s still rare for me to see poults that young.

      One of these days I’m going to be in the right place at the right time and get that kind of a moody sky over a stunning landscape, not that the lake was a pretty one.

      July 29, 2016 at 11:21 pm

      • No, if that plant was that tall it wasn’t a meadow sweet. They only get about waist high. The flowers clusters do look like that though, but I can’t guess what it would be at 8 feet tall.
        Thanks for the lightroom tip!

        July 30, 2016 at 6:22 pm

      • Hmm, I’ll have to go back and look at the plants again, I could be wrong about how tall they were.

        One thing that I forgot to mention about reducing the luminosity as that you can only go so far or the edges of the color that you’re reducing will become funky looking. That’s usually between -25 and -30, the rest has to be done with the exposure if needed.

        July 30, 2016 at 6:53 pm

  9. Amazing photos of flowers, birds, mammals, insects and landscapes- love them all. The flower photos are something special though with such definition and some with lovely sparkly bits and some with water droplets! The Little Black Lake photo is very atmospheric one can almost hear Elgar’s music drifting across the water! The crows in your photo look quite calm and not as evil looking as some in the video! My favourite though is the robin, against a blurry background, with his dinner- he looks quite surprised at what he has caught – maybe the mayfly escapes!
    Marianne

    July 29, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! I love flowers, whether the light makes them sparkle or not, and I’ve finally learned how to photograph them well. The crows don’t look as evil as in the video because I love them too. They were trying to figure out what I was up to, more curious than alarmed.

      July 29, 2016 at 11:23 pm

  10. A wonderful selection of photos, as always, Jerry. I love the female mallard coming in for a landing. The crystalline nature of some flower blooms is really something, isn’t it? The day flower is my favorite.

    Yes, that is a buddleia, for sure. We have them here on the farm. They root easily by cuttings, and one started near the porch from a container containing a rooted cutting I made. I didn’t get to transplanting it right away, and the roots went down through the holes in the bottom of the pot. When I lifted the pot, those broke off, starting another bush which is now almost 10 feet tall.

    July 29, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I can see why you’d want to start more of the buddleia, they are beautiful flowers! Actually, most flowers are beautiful, and I’m glad that my love of them is starting to come through in my photos.

      July 29, 2016 at 11:35 pm

  11. Hi Jerry. Once again, there’s lots to like here. Since you didn’t elaborate on the a**hole cyclist, I won’t either. 😉 I’m so jealous of anyone on a bike these days – had surgery on my thumb July 1, so no riding for me. My right hand is all bound up in a gizmo that immobilizes my thumb, so I would be a huge danger to myself if I tried to ride. But, I sure do miss it. Not so fun for me to go everywhere on foot (or lots of bus rides), as I really don’t like to drive.

    You are a stick to it kind of guy when it comes to photography. When the mosquitos come out, I head in. Don’t know how you can tolerate standing still to get the shot you want while being under attack.

    Such a tiny fawn – I’m surprised you didn’t see mama lurking nearby.

    Your flower shots keep getting better and better. Always love seeing dewy blossoms. But how come you never post any spider web shots anymore? You are welcome to visit my basement if you can’t find any others to shoot.

    Cheers….

    July 30, 2016 at 9:39 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! The cyclist that spooked the fox only ticked me off a little, in the same time frame, there were several incidents on the roads that really had me irked at the cyclists that do all that they can to disrupt traffic.

      I hope that the thumb heals soon and that you’ll be back on your bike again.

      The mosquitoes are bothersome, but it’s the deer flies that drive me nuts. They’ve been really thick in places this year. But, it you want to shoot nature, then one must take the bad with the good.

      I did see the fawn’s mother, but she stepped into the brush as I was taking a photo, I didn’t post it.

      I have one photo of a dew covered spider web saved just for you. The way the weather has been, there haven’t been many dewy mornings, or I haven’t made it out early enough to catch them.

      July 30, 2016 at 10:02 am

  12. I liked your gull picture too. I think it was the combination of colours between the gull and the background that made it so attractive.

    July 30, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I think that what you said had a lot to do with why I liked, also that the gull didn’t look as ornery as they normally do.

      July 30, 2016 at 6:50 pm

  13. Hi Jerry, I can understand your frustration about the cyclist scaring away the fox. That actually happens to me with some walkers. It is usually obvious I am trying to get a shot of a bird on the path that I’ve often spent some time tracking. Many people give me a short time to grab my shot which is kind of them but others will wander straight up, asking me in a loud voice what I am taking a shot of. Meanwhile the bird flies off straight away! Oh well. 🙂 I always marvel at your wonderful bird close-ups. I am slowly getting better at “stalking” them but I don’t think I’ll ever have your patience or determination (or skills) to reach such a high standard. You’ve inspired me to try though and your handy tips have been really helpful. I’m finding it a lot of fun as well. So thank you very much for that. Once again, I’ve really enjoyed your gallery of shots, but I particularly enjoyed the delicate close ups of the flowers. Gorgeous! That’s something else I need practice with too! I hope your next day off gives you better weather! Best wishes. 🙂

    August 2, 2016 at 6:05 am

    • Thank you very much Jane! I have trouble with other people walking as well, I once got a photo of some one’s hat because they walked between myself and the bird that I was trying to shoot. Most walkers will stop though if they see that I’m shooting photos, cyclists never do.

      I think that your bird images are great, but I’m glad that you think that you’re getting some tips from my blog. It’s all a matter of practice and learning from each attempt.

      I hate to brag, but some of my flower photos have impressed me this summer, I hope to keep building on that.

      August 2, 2016 at 7:59 am

      • You have a right to brag. 😉

        August 2, 2016 at 8:03 am