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

The more the merrier

As if getting a good photo of one bird…

American pipit

American pipit

…wasn’t tough enough already, on Saturday, I ended up trying for multiple birds…

American kestrels

American kestrels

…at one time. They’re so cute, they deserve another photo of them.

American kestrels

American kestrels

They’re not only North American’s smallest falcon, they have to be the most camera-shy also.

I was having an uncharacteristically slow day at the Muskegon wastewater facility, so with a flock of kestrels around, I thought that I may as well just sit there for a while and hope that one would come closer, since I can’t sneak up on them. It actually worked, one did catch a large grasshopper and perched close to me while it ate the grasshopper.

American kestrel eating a grasshopper

American kestrel eating a grasshopper

I really lucked out, not only was the kestrel close enough so that I can see the leg of the grasshopper in its talons, but it did so when I had good light and a good background for the photos, unlike when I shot the pair of them earlier. I inched as close as I dared.

American kestrel eating a grasshopper

American kestrel eating a grasshopper

Close enough that I can see the kestrel’s tongue. I don’t know if that means the kestrel liked the taste of the grasshopper, or hated it. Since it was sticking around, I shot a few more images of it.

American kestrel

American kestrel

 

American kestrel

American kestrel

 

American kestrel

American kestrel

It turned out to be a slow weekend, not just slow on Saturday. I’ll have more on that later, but I went to the wastewater facility on Saturday because it was raining when I left home, and since Muskegon is west of Grand Rapids, the weather clears there before it does here. As you can see…

A beautiful early fall day

A beautiful early fall day

…it turned out to be a good day as far as the weather.

I began the day trying to shoot a few shorebirds and their reflections, but something always ruined those images, like the piece of trash floating near the yellowlegs in this one.

Lesser yellowlegs and reflection

Lesser yellowlegs and reflection

A little later, I was trying a similar shot with a couple of the yellowlegs, but as I was shooting, more and more birds entered the frame, so this was the final version.

Lesser yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs

My intent was to shoot more flying birds, but you have to see flying birds to shoot them. I saw plenty of birds in flight, but none close enough to bother trying to photograph. This is the exception.

Great egret in flight

Great egret in flight

That was shot with the 300 mm lens alone, no tele-converter, and the Image Stabilization turned off. Since I’ve already eliminated the tele-converter as the reason for the less than sharp images of birds in flight that I get from the 300 mm lens, it must be the IS that is the cause. However, one series of photos isn’t proof positive of that, it will require more testing.

So, a little later, I noticed that there were several egrets working one of the farm fields at the wastewater facility, when a great blue heron decided to join them. For once, I was in a good spot to capture the moment.

Great blue heron and great egrets

Great blue heron and great egrets

But, there was no way that I could get the depth of field required to get all four birds in focus at once. Not so with this family of sandhill cranes.

Sandhill cranes

Sandhill cranes

All I had to do then was wait for all three to look in the same direction.

Sandhill cranes

Sandhill cranes

I wanted to get closer, but the only way that I could was to circle the cranes, but then, I’d be shooting into the sun. No problem, I waited for a cloud to partially obscure the bright sunshine, and got this close-up with no harsh shadows.

Sandhill crane

Sandhill crane

I have to say that having a few of my images printed 16 X 20 inches has spoiled me in a way, just as viewing my images on a 27 inch iMac has. These images of the cranes just don’t cut it here in their small size and lowered resolution., but I don’t know what the answer is to that. I guess that you’ll have to trust me when I say that these images of the cranes are stunning when viewed as I see them on my computer, some of the best images that I’ve ever shot.

Here’s a couple of the other photos from Saturday at the wastewater facility.

Unidentified moth

Unidentified moth

 

Spiderwebs

spiderweb covered with dew

 

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

 

American pipit preening

American pipit preening

I then drove over to the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, but I didn’t have much better luck there. On a very nice day such as it was, there’s always a lot of people there, and that keeps the birds back in the extremely thick brush at the preserve, so here’s the few poor images that I was able to shoot.

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

 

Starling in flight

Starling in flight

 

Starling in flight

Starling in flight

 

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

The Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve has to be the most frustrating place that I go. There’s always plenty of birds there, but getting a clear view of them is close to impossible until the leaves fall from the trees. Of course by then, most of the birds have gone south for the winter.

Sunday dawned bright and almost clear.

Sunday sunrise

Sunday sunrise

But, not long after the sun popped over the horizon, the combination of early morning sunlight, fog, and clouds created some of the most magical light that I’ve ever seen. Of course I wasn’t someplace more suitable for landscapes, so as I’ve learned from the Michael Melford videos that I’ve watched, when I had magic light, I shot whatever it was that I could find.

Magic light

Magic light over the lagoon

I didn’t know how long the light would last, so I shot that one, and this one…

Magic morning

Magic morning

…with the 420 mm set-up that I use for birding on the 7D. Then, I drove like a man possessed to get to where I could shoot about the same scenes with a wide-angle lens.

The magic light begins to fade

The magic light begins to fade

By then, I had lost most of the color from the first rays of sunlight.

Still enough left for one last shot

Still enough left for one last shot

Just my luck, I get some incredible light, and I get to shoot a storage lagoon at a wastewater facility and the county landfill in the great light. There’s no way to predict light like that, and I’m sure that the wastewater facility helped to generate that magic light to some degree. I shot this one looking away from the facility…

Canada geese in flight over foggy hills

Canada geese in flight over foggy hills

…and you can see that the fog wasn’t as thick, nor was there the same color to the sky. Oh well, one of these days I will be in the right place at the right time, I hope.

I suppose that you could say that I had magic light for these as well, although it was more or less just early morning sunlight backlighting the subjects.

Dew covered spider web

Dew covered spider web

 

The spider that built the web

The spider that built the web

 

Dew covered grasses

Dew covered grasses

 

Dew covering everything

Dew covering everything

Going back to the multiple bird theme, I shot a few photos of a flock of sanderlings that couldn’t make up their minds’ where they wanted to land.

Sanderlings in flight

Sanderlings in flight

 

Sanderlings in flight

Sanderlings in flight

 

Sanderlings in flight

Sanderlings in flight

Sanderlings are fun to watch, they seem to do everything as a flock. While many of the shorebirds will join together in a flock while flying, the sanderlings feed together in a flock. They run to and fro to catch their prey as if in unison. I tried to shoot some photos of them in action, but the photos were junk, I couldn’t keep the entire flock in focus as they scurried along the beach. Also, because they stay so close together, I had lumps of birds in my images, you couldn’t make out the individual birds. I’ll have to work on that.

At the same time as I was watching the sanderlings, I shot a few photos of other birds in the area, and here they are.

Mute swan

Mute swan

 

Mute swan

Mute swan

 

Semi-palmated plover

Semi-palmated plover

Well, that wraps up another one. I have many more photos from Sunday, most of them aren’t very good. I tried to shoot some of the small woodland birds, but I could never catch them in good light, no matter what I tried. Either I was in the bright sunshine looking at birds in deep shade, or I was in deep shade looking at birds in bright sunshine. Because it takes my eyes a few seconds to adjust to the changes in light, I had a difficult time getting the birds in the viewfinder. But, I’ll have more on that in my next post.

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

Advertisements

27 responses

  1. Wonderful post, wonderful photos!

    September 20, 2016 at 9:08 am

    • Thank you very much Victor!

      September 20, 2016 at 11:39 pm

  2. humanity777

    Fantastic collection…

    September 20, 2016 at 9:31 am

    • Thank you very much!

      September 20, 2016 at 11:39 pm

  3. selah

    you are blessed to have such a wonderful variety of birds to photograph. Your early morning photographs are lovely as well.

    September 20, 2016 at 10:14 am

    • Thank you very much Selah! I’ve often said that I’m spoiled rotten by the number of species of birds that I see regularly, and the scenery isn’t bad either.

      September 20, 2016 at 11:41 pm

  4. In this post I am having trouble deciding which of your photos really stand out, the birds or the landscapes. Usually I like landscapes, but the photos of the kestrels are so good that I can’t make up my mind. Then it suddenly dawned one me, why should I have to decide? I can like them all, the more the better, right? You have a collection of stunning photos that many would love to build, and they keep getting better with each post.

    One thing about teleconverters. I have given up on using them. The photos that I have taken using them are passable at best, and most are plainly bad ones. Since I can’t afford those second-mortgage lenses to shoot birds and other wildlife, I will just have to do with close in subjects. Sigh …

    September 20, 2016 at 10:17 am

    • Thank you very much Hein(?)! Yeah, there’s nothing that says that we have to choose landscapes over birds and critters, or vice versa, which is why I shoot both. I can’t afford one of the super long lenses either, which is why I use the tele-converters behind the relatively inexpensive 300 mm f/4. They’ve also worked well behind the 70-200 mm f/4 lens as well. Before giving up, try using them on a tripod with the IS turned off and/or a higher shutter speed. With the 300 mm lens, I set the shutter to 1/1000 and shoot at that speed whenever I can, but I do leave the IS on when shooting handheld.

      September 20, 2016 at 11:47 pm

  5. Wonderful photographs of the kestrel and its prey.

    September 20, 2016 at 10:45 am

    • Thank you very much Susan!

      September 20, 2016 at 11:48 pm

  6. Well worth taking some time out of my holiday to look through this post

    September 20, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I hope that you’re enjoying your holiday.

      September 20, 2016 at 11:48 pm

  7. Beautiful photos, Jerry, all of them! Really love those kestrels.

    Those magic lighting opportunities come and go so quickly. I was working in the garden one evening and happened to look up. I ran for the house and grabbed the camera, but by the time I got back to where I was standing, the opportunity had passed. A beautiful sundown caught in mind’s eye only.

    September 20, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! You’re right, magic light doesn’t last very long most of the time. I was very lucky to catch the photos that I did. I wish that you had been able to photograph the sunset that you mentioned, but memories also last a lifetime.

      September 21, 2016 at 12:00 am

  8. Magic light! It’s the magic cameraman who took all these beautiful photos. They are all wonderful. Hard to choose a favourite because each one is special in its own way but the kestrel and grasshopper photo is amazing !

    September 20, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! The only skill that I used was seeing the incredible light and knowing enough to shoot what I saw.

      September 21, 2016 at 12:01 am

  9. Lovely shots Jerry, particularly enjoyed t6he Sandhill cranes!

    September 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    • Thank you very much Bob!

      September 21, 2016 at 12:03 am

  10. The magic morning light made it look like you were on the African savannah, not a wastewater treatment plant in Michigan.
    I like the cloudscape too, and the dewy webs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a round one like that last one.
    I keep hoping I’ll see a moth with feathery antenna like that one but I never do.
    I think my favorite shot is the lesser yellowlegs reflecting, but they’re all good!

    September 20, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! Those moments of the magic light that I had last only a few minutes, I’m not sure that it matters where I was, I just love the display that nature put on for me to see.

      I think that there are several million webs around the wastewater facility, there had to be a round one in there somewhere. 😉

      I was quite pleased to have the moth land on my windshield, it was even better when it stuck around for a few photos.

      I’ve been working on getting ever closer to the birds, but I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting so close that you can’t see the reflections if there are any. So, I’m going to try to pay more attention to them in the future and shoot accordingly.

      September 21, 2016 at 12:20 am

  11. Such great shots Jerry! I love that magical light and the kestrels and sand crane shots are superb.

    September 20, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! You are too kind.

      September 21, 2016 at 12:20 am

      • 🙂

        September 21, 2016 at 4:29 pm

  12. Love those spiderwebs!! (I’m assuming that you put those in with me in mind). The symmetry is amazing on the big one. Seems like I see bits and pieces, but never such large ones around the ol’ homestead. They are fascinating. The dramatic lighting on the first shot is spectacular. Love them.

    Your morning light shots are very intriguing. The light looks so impossibly orange, almost what I think of as a post-apocalypse color. Love the mystery in these shots – you can really feel the solitude and peacefulness of the morning. I can see why you enjoy the early hours.

    When I see those huge fields of goldenrod, I sympathize with all the allergy sufferers out there. Cycling through Millennium Park last week, the goldenrod was encroaching on the trail – it’s everywhere. Throw in a bit of ragweed for some true misery!

    Great bunch of photos – you always manage to bring out the best of the area, and find the beauty here.

    September 21, 2016 at 8:28 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! Yes, I do have you in mind when I shoot the spiderwebs, but they are beautiful in their own right and deserve to be photographed. Besides, even though I’ve never made the connection in my blog, the abundance of insects are the reason that there are so many spiders there, the same reason that the place attracts so many of the species of birds that it does. In addition, the spiders that create the webs also serve as food for many of the birds and some some mammals.

      They don’t call the first and last hours of sun the golden hour for nothing, but usually the color isn’t as intense. The fog, haze, and low clouds were catching the golden hues of the sunrise, something that I was lucky to catch that morning. But yes, it’s my favorite time of the day because it is so quiet and peaceful most of the time.

      Goldenrod gets a bum rap, it isn’t responsible for our allergies, it’s all the ragweed. However, they bloom at the same time, and we notice the goldenrod more. Also, a lot of the yellow in that photo was from soybean plants turning yellow, I thought that it went well with the bright blue sky.

      September 21, 2016 at 8:43 am

  13. Beautiful variety, Jerry, I love the reflection captures. Awesome!

    September 23, 2016 at 7:39 am

    • Thank you very much Donna!

      September 23, 2016 at 7:52 am