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

Falling for fall all over again

After a warmer than average summer, we’ve finally had a bit of a cool down here, the temperature yesterday was about average for this time of year, and it was very refreshing for a change. The trees are just beginning to put on their fabulous fall display of color, with just a hint of what’s to come. I do love fall here in west Michigan, it’s a delightful time of the year.

It’s especially delightful when I can shoot a series of images like these!

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

None of these are cropped, I thought that the heron may fly through the windows of my Subaru for a few seconds.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

These were shot with the Image Stabilization on the lens turned off, which I found gives me much sharper images of birds in flight when I can keep the shutter speed fast enough.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

I think that I have the camera settings dialed in pretty well now, from the auto-focus tracking settings, to the exposure settings.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Now that I know what settings to use, I played around learning which angles and distances from the subjects worked the best. I shot over 650 photos on Sunday, and most of them were birds in flight, mostly ducks and geese. The biggest problem that I encountered was finding times when there was enough separation between the birds so that they didn’t end up being a jumbled mess.

Canada geese landing

Canada geese landing

That was true of birds overhead as well.

Canada geese in flight

Canada geese in flight

I found it difficult to fill the frame with birds if they were in flocks, without cutting off parts of several birds.

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

It doesn’t help when a male stands on the shoulders of a female to launch himself out of the frame…

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

…or when birds are going in different directions…

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

…but I persevered and decided that those were good enough to post.

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

It would be better if I could have cropped the partial duck out of the frame of this one, or if I had gotten the third duck’s head in the frame.

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

It would also be better if the ducks were in full breeding plumage as well, as you’ll see later on. But first, this is the way that the day started.

Sunrise over my favorite marsh

Sunrise over my favorite marsh

You can see a flock of ducks frolicking there in the marsh, here’s a closer look at the ducks.

Ducks at dawn

Ducks at dawn

Here’s two more images that I shot just after dawn.

Duck at dawn

Duck at dawn

 

Dawn over the lagoon

Dawn over the lagoon

Snow geese are known for their habit of forming in huge flocks, but I found one lone snow goose hanging out with the Canada geese.

Blue goose morph snow goose

Blue goose morph snow goose

Snow geese have two color variations, this one is known as the blue goose.

Blue goose morph snow goose

Blue goose morph snow goose

I went back later to shoot better photos when there was more light, but the snow goose had moved to places unknown by then.

This next series of photos are the camera torture test, trying to shoot a crow perched almost in front of the rising sun.

American crow at dawn

American crow at dawn

Luck was with me, for some reason the crow allowed me to get very close to it, that image wasn’t cropped at all. I was even luckier, the crow sat there while I circled it to get these next two images as well.

American crow at dawn

American crow at dawn

I learned that not even the 7D Mk II will auto-focus on the chest of an all black bird, so I had to manually focus for these. It may have helped if I had been using more than just the center focusing point so that the camera could have seen more than all black, but I didn’t think of that at the time.

American crow at dawn

American crow at dawn

Getting the exposure correct was also tricky, I was checking to make sure that I had it right when the crow finally decided that it had posed long enough and took off, so I missed those shots.

This next photo is to show the relative sizes of the waterfowl that I see at Muskegon. It’s easy to see the largest, a mute swan. Then, there’s the Canada geese, with a mallard in front of the mute swan. Above the swan, there’s a ruddy duck, which are tiny little things compared to the rest of the waterfowl in this photo.

Mute swan, Canada geese, mallard, and ruddy duck

Mute swan, Canada geese, mallard, and ruddy duck

Once again, I saw all three of the falcons that are common near Muskegon, but I was only able to photograph two again.

Merlin

Merlin

 

American kestrel in flight

American kestrel in flight

I missed the peregrine falcon that I saw, it was too far away to even bother trying to shoot a photo of it. Oh well, one of these days I’ll get all three on the same day.

I went looking for smaller birds that may have been migrating through the woodlots, but all I found were these turkeys.

Turkeys on the run

Turkeys on the run

I saw quite a few sandhill cranes scattered around the grassy cells.

Sandhill cranes

Sandhill cranes

I was able to get a little closer to the one with a feather stuck to its beak.

Sandhill crane

Sandhill crane

Those photos look like most of the others that I have shot of the cranes, I just realized how I can change that, hopefully the next time that I see them. I suppose that I could have pushed the cranes until they took flight, but I left them there to feed for their journey south.

Next up, a pair of more artistic photos…

Starling and lesser yellowlegs sharing an island

Starling and lesser yellowlegs sharing an island

…and, here’s the cropped version to show every one the relative sizes of the two species better.

Starling and lesser yellowlegs sharing an island

Starling and lesser yellowlegs sharing an island

Before I run out of room, I had better get these photos in here, they are of northern shovelers in flight. As you can see, they still have their eclipse plumage…

Northern shovelers in flight

Northern shovelers in flight

…I can hardly wait until spring…

Northern shovelers in flight

Northern shovelers in flight

…so that I can get the same quality of photo, but with the shovelers in breeding plumage.

Northern shovelers in flight

Northern shovelers in flight

By spring, I will have worked out the best angles and distances to shoot flocks of waterfowl at to produce better images. In the meantime, for the last photo in this post, a dragonfly that I almost didn’t bother to shoot.

Unidentified dragonfly

Unidentified dragonfly

I’m a bit surprised that it turned out as well as it did, I thought that the light was wrong, but what do I know?

I know that I may be offline for a while, I have water seeping into the room where I have my computer located. I’ll have to move everything out of this room, and into another part of my apartment until they get the water leak fixed and the carpet cleaned and dried. That’s not going to be an easy task, since I have no room to spare in my apartment, and I’m not sure that I’ll be able to find a spot to get the computer set-up and hooked to the internet while they repair the water leak.

This is the third time that I’ve had water leaking into my apartment, and since there’s no plumbing in the room where I have the computer, I have no idea where the water could be coming from, but the carpet is damp, and getting a little worse every day, so something is leaking.

I’m back after a very busy day. I took my Subaru in for its scheduled maintenance, then it took me to the dentist for mine. I went home and moved everything out of the computer room, then notified maintenance here. I moved everything before calling them, because they weren’t very careful with my things during the previous floods. It looks like there’s a crack in the foundation that’s letting the water seep in, but they want to get the carpet dry before they investigate further. That way, the water that’s still seeping in can get the carpet wet again. Don’t ask, I have no idea why they’d do that.

I jury-rigged an internet connection for the time being, but I’m not sure how well it will work over time. Oh, and by the way, I took delivery of the new 100-400 mm lens today, and even had time to shoot a photo or two around here. I’m dying to really test it on flying birds, but the ducks were all napping this afternoon.

Sleeping male mallard

Sleeping male mallard

All I can say is WOW! The color, clarity, sharpness, and details are as much better than the 300 mm lens and tele-converter as the 300 mm lens is over the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens). I also shot a squirrel, with similar results. Now I’m really looking forward to getting to know that lens!

It will take me a while to get used to zooming in and out again, but I’m already loving the zoom range of the lens. I’m sure that I’ll have a lot more to say about in the future, so I think that it’s time to finish this post and get ready for work.

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

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18 responses

  1. Your pictures of that great blue heron were masterly.

    September 27, 2016 at 3:04 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! I think that I’m beginning to agree with your assessments of my photos. 😉

      September 27, 2016 at 12:52 pm

  2. You’re getting some amazing results with your setup!

    September 27, 2016 at 5:40 am

    • Thank you very much Bob! I think that I can safely say that you haven’t seen the best yet.

      September 27, 2016 at 12:54 pm

  3. Scrolling down through your post has been most enjoyable seeing all the wonderful photos of a sunrise, birds in flight, birds on the water, birds watching, birds feeding and to top it all off a bird sleeping! That sleeping mallard photo is something else- maybe it’s the beautiful coloured, patterned feathers or just the pose but it’s my favourite today amongst a host of other beauties! Pleased the lens has started well for you and hope the water ingress gets sorted quickly.

    September 27, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! Maybe a few too many birds and not enough other things? That will change with the next post, but it was a birding paradise on Sunday, so I just had to shoot all birds. 😉 The new lens seems to be at least a little better at everything, but time and more photos will tell the story. Unfortunately, they move at their own pace here when it comes to repairing things, especially water leaks that they don’t want to tackle.

      September 27, 2016 at 2:37 pm

  4. I’m sorry you have yet another leak in your apartment. It obviously wasn’t repaired properly before. The last shot of the sleeping mallard is so lovely; the feathers look touchable! I enjoyed scrolling through all the shots on this post very much – the heron, the merlin, the sunrise shots, the crow and the dragonfly stand out for me.

    September 27, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I should have been more specific, this is the third different leak in my apartment. When they finally get around to fixing them, they stay fixed. The problem is an older building that wasn’t built very well. Anyway, I wasn’t sure that any one would see what I saw in the sleeping mallard shot, I think that the new lens shows great potential as far as bringing out the fine detail in bird’s feathers.

      September 28, 2016 at 12:12 am

  5. That’s too bad that the leak is back. I remember what a time you had with it before. Maybe they should move you to an upstairs apartment.
    Judging by the shot of the sleeping mallard the new lens is going to work out well, but the old ones weren’t bad either, as the shots of the flying heron show. I like the shots of the ducks taking off too!
    I’m surprised that crow let you point anything at it. Usually all I have to do is move the camera in their general direction and they’re gone.
    Great sunrise shots!

    September 27, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I should have been more specific, this is a completely different leak in another part of my apartment. This one is probably a foundation leak through a crack in the wall. The upstairs apartments cost more, and I don’t want to have to move again, just too much stuff.

      I’m geeked about the new lens, I think that it will not only be more versatile, but produce better images as well if the sleeping mallard is any indication. That was shot in poor light at ISO 2000, I can’t wait for good light and lower ISO.

      The crow seemed curious about me, which is probably why it sat there and let me shoot photos from less than 20 feet away. I’ve seen a few other crows behave that way, but never when I’ve had a camera with me.

      There’s a lot that I don’t like about my new schedule for work, but the one good thing is being able to be out early enough to capture sunrises, and wildlife in the good light shortly after sunrise.

      September 28, 2016 at 12:20 am

  6. Jerry, in all honesty, this may have been the best batch of photos all in one post ever. That opening gbh is a stunner. If it was really that close to you, it must have been thrilling.

    Love the hopping mallards, and the preening swan in the center of the mallards.

    You have done yourself proud – I’m so happy to have found your blog.

    (We left today on a trip to the Badlands and Teddy Roosevelt National Park for a month or so. Starting raining hard 20 minutes after we hit the road, and it’s showing no sign of letting up six hours later. Camping 101!)

    September 27, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    • Thank you very much Judy! It’s funny, but one of the things that I have to do to get photos like the gah flying so close to me is to remain calm and not let the thrill of the moment distract me from concentrating on getting the shots right. It’s like hunting and not getting a case of buck fever when the opportunity for a trophy happens.

      A few years ago, I decided that if I wanted to show people the beauty of west Michigan and the birds that can be found here, then I needed to improve my photos. I hope that this post represents the first of many with only good photos no matter what the subjects are.

      Good luck on your trip, I’m looking forward to your posts about what you see. I’m sure that the rain will end just in the nick of time for you.

      September 28, 2016 at 12:30 am

  7. Among all the commotion of ducks and geese, I liked the artistic shot of the starling and lesser yellowlegs best of all….but the others were very impressive too.

    September 28, 2016 at 10:48 am

    • Thank you very much Tom! I try to include something for every one.

      September 28, 2016 at 11:45 pm

  8. Instantly loved your GBH in flight images at the start! And then to continue with more amazing flight shots was awesome, Jerry. I really liked the two on the island photos, I enjoy seeing different bird species hanging out together. Sunset images, beautiful!

    October 1, 2016 at 9:42 am

    • Thanks again Donna! I have the feeling that you haven’t seen anything yet when it comes to birds in flight. If the new 100-400 mm lens works as well on flying birds as it does everything else, I should have some even better images soon. The two birds on the tiny island was one of those times when I just had to shoot the scene. It worked out well, every one knows how large starlings are, few people have seen a lesser yellowlegs though.

      October 1, 2016 at 10:27 am

  9. Sorry to hear of the water leak into your apartment, and the administrative troubles getting it taken care of.

    The photos are outstanding, as always. My favorites are the starling and lesser yellow legs on the island. The lighting, color of the water and background are perfect for displaying those birds.

    October 1, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I have no idea how long it will be before they finally have the leak fixed, and I can move my stuff back into the room that’s wet, but I suppose that’ goes with renting rather than owning. I try to include a little of everything for every one when I’m shooting photos, since everything in nature interests me.

      October 2, 2016 at 4:03 am