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

A great weekend results in too many photos

Well, the weekend is still a few days away, and I’m watching the weather forecasts like a hawk, trying to decide where I’m going to go. I’d like to get out somewhere that I can shoot a few landscapes that include the fabulous show that the trees are putting on right now, but at the same time, it’s still the fall migration season for birds, with a few unexpected visitors showing up in the various birding reports that I monitor. I haven’t crossed many species off from the list of birds that I need to get photos of for the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on this year, but on the other hand, trying too hard to seek out species of birds that I haven’t seen before means that I’ve been giving less time to photographing our more common species.

Then, there’s the question of which images that I may be able to sell if I were to put more effort into marketing my photos. I printed out a number of my images in 11 X 14 inch size, and I sold one of those prints to a guy that I work with. It was one of my snowy owl in flight images, and he purchased it as a Christmas gift for his daughter, who loves owls.

While one never knows what print will sell, there are some subjects much more likely to see than others. Raptors are one, along with owls, and anything cute. There’s very little chance of my selling a photo of one of the more obscure species of birds, no matter how good the image is. I should also be looking for trophy game birds and animals, such as whitetail deer bucks with large antlers, certain ducks, and large Tom turkeys with long beards as well, because hunters may purchase an image of a trophy game animal.

To make my decision even tougher to make, I learned of a bird sanctuary that’s located about the same distance from where I live as Muskegon is, but in the opposite direction, more or less. It was set-up to be a sanctuary for migrating waterfowl, and according to the birding reports, there’s about the same number of species of waterfowl, but in slightly lower numbers, than there are at the wastewater facility where I usually go. The thing that attracts me to the idea of checking out this other sanctuary is the fact that there may be more chances to get closer to waterfowl, and with more photogenic backgrounds than at the wastewater facility. There are two downsides to the sanctuary however, one, it’s five dollars a pop to visit it, and it doesn’t open to the public until 9 AM. That means no sunrise photos when the light is at its best, darn.

I’ll have to check the sanctuary out, to see if I can get closer to the waterfowl, and shoot images with better backgrounds, and shoot at better angles. If this place works out well, I could purchase a yearly membership, which would save money versus paying the 5 dollars each time that I visit. I suppose that there are advantages to having become an old geezer, I can save ten dollars a year on membership to the sanctuary as well as qualifying for the geezer pass at National Parks here in the US.

Well, from the latest weather reports, I think that my best plan for this weekend will be to go to Duck Lake in hopes of getting a good image or two of the sunrise over the lake with the fall foliage at close to its peak in the background. Once the sun is up, I’ll head to the waste water facility in hopes of catching some trumpeter swans and snow buntings, both of which have been seen there the past few days. On Monday, I’ll check out that other bird sanctuary, if that goes well, I’ll have a full report to do on it. Wish me luck!

Well, the first half of my plan worked out very well indeed! On Sunday, I began the day before sunrise at Duck Lake, and I did get a few good images of the sunrise as it took place.

Sunrise over Duck Lake State Park

Sunrise over Duck Lake State Park

I’ll get back to the sunrise shortly, but first, I was also able to get my best ever images of a peregrine falcon.

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

I hung around with the falcon for what seemed like most of the day, shooting well over 200 photos of it alone. I also caught it interacting with a couple of the gulls at times, but I missed what could have been sensational shots, which I will also explain later.

I shot a few eagles…

Bald eagle preening

Bald eagle preening

…a few of the smaller species of birds…

American pipit eating a spider

American pipit eating a spider

…and even crossed another species of bird of from my list that I’m working on.

Cackling geese and Canada geese

Cackling geese and Canada geese

Cackling geese and Canada geese look almost the same, you have to take a close look to see the differences. The cackling geese are smaller, not much larger than a mallard, to begin with. However, you can easily be fooled by a late brood of Canada goose goslings. The cackling geese have a much smaller bill, it looks short and stubby as you can see especially well on the leader of the cackling goose flock in that photo. Looking at the same bird, you can also see the other major difference, the cackling geese have a much steeper slope to their faces, it’s nearly vertical, while a Canada goose’s face slopes down to the bill at less of an angle, and with more of a curve to it. I would have attempted to get better photos of the cackling geese, but I wasn’t sure that’s what they really were as I shot that photo. I’ve been fooled before. However, a couple of expert birders that I talked to a few minutes later and that checked the geese out through their spotting scopes agreed with my identification.

Anyway, my day began at first light at Duck Lake State Park well before sunrise. There wasn’t a cloud in sight to produce a great sunrise image, however there was mist rising from the warm waters of both Duck Lake and Lake Michigan as it began to get light enough to shoot photos.

Blue morning

Blue morning

I could have easily used three or more cameras mounted on tripods to shoot everything that I would have liked to have shot, as this was the view in the opposite direction over Lake Michigan.

Pastel morning

Pastel morning

As it was, I had the 60D mounted on the tripod with the 15-85 mm lens on it to shoot the wider shots of the actual sunrise over Duck Lake.

Sunrise over Duck Lake 1

Sunrise over Duck Lake 1

 

Sunrise over Duck Lake 2

Sunrise over Duck Lake 2

While there wasn’t as much color in the leaves on the trees on the far side of the lake as I had hoped, it was still a beautiful sunrise.

As the sunrise was unfolding, I was running around with the 7D and 100-400 mm lens, shooting other things, like this gull.

Gull at ISO 12800

Gull at ISO 12800

Not great, but now I know that in a pinch, I can shoot at that high of an ISO setting and come up with a usable photo.

I used the same set-up to shoot tighter shots of the sunrise as well.

Pastel sunrise over Duck Lake

Pastel sunrise over Duck Lake

 

Brilliant sunrise over Duck Lake

Brilliant sunrise over Duck Lake

So, the morning started off on a good foot. Once the sun was fully up, I packed up, and zipped over to the Muskegon County wastewater facility, where the first bird that I photographed was one of the eagles there.

Bald eagle

Bald eagle

You may have noticed that with good light, and a blue sky for a background, that I chose the sky instead of the tree for the background for a change. Of course, the eagle flew off as I was swapping tele-converters.

A short time and distance later, I spotted a juvenile eagle in another tree.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

With the light as it was, I wasn’t sure if it was a juvenile bald eagle or a golden eagle at first, so I hung around for a short time, watching the eagle. When it did this…

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

…I could tell that it was a juvenile bald eagle, and that there had to be another large raptor near by, especially when the juvenile stared in the same direction as intently as it did.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

I looked around, and sure enough, an adult had landed in the same tree, but was partially hidden from my view.

Bald eagle

Bald eagle

The juvenile was in no mood to put up with an adult in its tree, so it took off, but in the wrong direction, darn.

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

I got a slightly better view of the adult.

Bald eagle

Bald eagle

I looked for the trumpeter swans that had been seen there a few days before, but they had left already. I did manage to find a flock of snow buntings amongst all the pipits there, and got one good image of one of them.

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

I also found either an adult red-winged blackbird molting, or a juvenile growing his adult feathers, I’m not sure which.

Male red-winged blackbird

Male red-winged blackbird

Not long after that, I saw a junco getting ready to take a bath.

Dark-eyed junco

Dark-eyed junco

While they are plain-looking birds, I still think that they are cute, so I shot too many photos of it taking its bath.

Dark-eyed junco bathing

Dark-eyed junco bathing

 

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Dark-eyed junco bathing

 

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Dark-eyed junco bathing

 

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Dark-eyed junco bathing

 

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Dark-eyed junco bathing

 

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Dark-eyed junco bathing

 

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Dark-eyed junco bathing

 

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Dark-eyed junco bathing

As you can see, I had good light for this series, and I was able to switch the camera settings around to get good images of the junco for a change.

It was that type of day for the most part, warm and sunny, and many of the birds allowed me to get quite close to them at times, like these two black-bellied plovers.

Black-bellied plover, non-breeding

Black-bellied plover, non-breeding

Both of these were shot with the 2 X tele-converter behind the 100-400 mm lens, and manually focused.

Black-bellied plover, non-breeding

Black-bellied plover, non-breeding

I’m getting better at the manual focus thing with that set-up as you can see. Later, I tried it out on a macro photo, with somewhat limited success.

Red clover

Red clover

There’s very little depth of field  when shooting that close at 800 mm, and shooting handheld, the slightest breeze causes me to have trouble keeping the subject in focus. I do much better on larger flowers.

Sunflower

Sunflower

The new 100-400 mm lens will auto-focus using the center focus point only when I use the 1.4 X tele-converter, which gives me a focal length of 560 mm when I zoom the lens all the way in, as I did for these two.

Gulls squabbling

Gulls squabbling

 

Gulls squabbling

Gulls squabbling

It’s the same for this one as well.

Killdeer

Killdeer

Wouldn’t you know, give me a day with good light, and I shoot so many photos that I’ve almost filled this post already, and I haven’t gotten to the falcon and its interactions with the gulls yet. To make matters worse, I went to the bird sanctuary that I wrote about earlier in this post on Monday, and came home with over 600 images to sort through, which I’m still working on.

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

Shooting good photos at the bird sanctuary was almost like shooting fish in a barrel, too easy in a way, which is why I came home with so many photos to sort through. But then, I do okay when shooting completely wild birds as well at times.

Herring gull portrait

Herring gull portrait

So, I think that I’ll end this post here, and save my thoughts, and the rest of the images, for my next post. I think that they will go well with the photos that I shot at the bird sanctuary, and my thoughts on wildlife photography in general.

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

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26 responses

  1. Wonderful captures! I love all the birds. The Junco photos are priceless, but they are all outstanding. Love the Bald Eagle & Peregrine shots~

    October 25, 2016 at 12:42 am

    • Thank you very much Cindy! All in a day’s work, and the most enjoyable work that I’ve ever done.

      October 25, 2016 at 2:33 pm

  2. Nenkinseikatsu

    Splendid!

    October 25, 2016 at 3:27 am

    • Thanks!

      October 25, 2016 at 2:34 pm

  3. I loved all those different morning pictures, your second name should be Monet.

    October 25, 2016 at 3:47 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! That’s a high compliment indeed, and you haven’t seen the water lily photo that I shot earlier this summer that others have compare to Monet’s.

      October 25, 2016 at 2:35 pm

  4. Some very lovely landscapes!

    October 25, 2016 at 5:27 am

    • Thank you very much Bob!

      October 25, 2016 at 2:36 pm

  5. Another wonderful post full of brilliant photos to enjoy. The sunrise scenes are beautiful I especially like the Blue Morning Sunrise. Love the series showing the dark eyed junco bathing and the mallards in flight but my favourite is the peregrine falcon- super. The new bird sanctuary is a real find.

    October 25, 2016 at 6:37 am

    • Thank you very much Marianne! I knew that if I posted the entire series of sunrise shots that there would be people who each liked different phases of it as the light changed. I love juncos also, even if they are plain birds, they sing nicely, but very quietly, you have to be near them to hear them.

      October 25, 2016 at 2:39 pm

  6. You really got some spectacular sunrise shots. I love the ones with the mist rising off the water – they are so moody.

    So, what’s the name of the bird sanctuary? Don’t think I’ve been aware of any nearby. Can’t believe it’s taken all these years for you to find it though…that seems nearly impossible to me. 🙂

    Although I love the sequence of the bathing bird, my favorite portrait is the black-bellied plover. Something about all those crazy feather patterns.

    I worried needlessly about not seeing any color, and the leaves all being down before we got home. Most of the maples on my street haven’t even begun to turn yet. Should have stayed away for another week (or two)!

    October 25, 2016 at 8:39 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! I have to work on the misty images more, the one where the light is the best has what appears to be an obscene formation in the mist due to the way that I blended three images to make one, and the mist was moving.

      The bird sanctuary is the Kellogg Sanctuary, and I never had heard of it before. I seldom search for anything south of GR for one thing, and it’s only been the last few years that I went to any type of sanctuary or preserve. I preferred going out in the boonies by myself, and I may go back to that soon.

      Shorebirds like the plovers may not be colorful, but they do make up for it in the patterns in what colors that they do have.

      A good deal of the leaves will be off the trees by Thursday, after tomorrow’s storm. Usually, the maples begin turning red much earlier than this year.

      October 25, 2016 at 2:45 pm

  7. Vicki

    awesome sunrise photos, the best I have ever seen. And your bird photos are wonderful as well.

    October 25, 2016 at 10:18 am

    • Thank you very much Vicki! I see that you have a photo of a swan on your blog. If you like swans, you may like my next post even more than this one.

      October 25, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      • Vicki

        I will be waiting. 🙂

        October 25, 2016 at 2:49 pm

  8. Excellent post with beautiful accompanying photographs.

    October 25, 2016 at 10:23 am

    • Thank you very much Belinda!

      October 25, 2016 at 2:48 pm

  9. I loved the series of shots of the dark-eyed junco bathing! The sunrise shots are fabulous as well. I am glad you had a good day – the weather looks wonderful!

    October 25, 2016 at 11:26 am

    • Thank you very much Clare! The weather was perfect, I had one of my best days ever, and this year has been full of great days for me.

      October 25, 2016 at 2:49 pm

      • Wonderful!

        October 25, 2016 at 2:50 pm

  10. The peregrine falcon at the top of the post was my favourite of the day but the flying ducks at the bottom came close. A very fine portfolio today.

    October 25, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! Good weather always helps, not only is there good light for bird photos, but they seemed very relaxed this weekend, allowing me to get closer.

      October 25, 2016 at 11:01 pm

  11. I think the sunrise shots are great too. They always make me wish I’d see decent sunrises here but I’d have to drive somewhere, I think.
    The sunlight really shows off the eyes of that eagle at the top of the tree!
    The snow bunting is a cute bird but the bathing junco has to take the blue ribbon for this post.
    I’m glad you found the bird sanctuary. Better to have too many places to shoot photos than not enough!

    October 25, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I did plan on being in that spot when the sun rose, knowing exactly where in the scene it would first appear over the horizon, which made for very good photos.

      I was thinking that it was a little too much light, the eagle’s pupils are very small and hard to see.

      They are both cute birds in their own way, I need to get closer to a snow bunting to show how their colors blend together in places, which really shows their beauty.

      I’m glad that I found the sanctuary too, but I’ll probably never return, which I’ll explain in my next post.

      October 25, 2016 at 11:06 pm

  12. Superb captures as usual, Jerry! I loved loved loved the mist on the water shots, stunning!

    November 4, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna!

      November 5, 2016 at 12:15 am