You’ve already seen the photos of the snow buntings that I shot last weekend at the Muskegon wastewater facility. I have a few more from that day to get to in a while, but first, some images that I shot around home. It had been a dreary night Saturday as I made the run from here to the Detroit area and back for work, but the forecast was for a nice day ahead. I stopped on the way home from work to grab a bite to eat, then took a nap while waiting for the sun to come out. I awoke to bright sunlight flooding my apartment, but it was already just after noon, not the best time to find birds.
Although the 100-400 mm lens would have been a better choice to carry because of its versatility, I chose to take the new 400 mm prime lens instead, just to see what it could do in good light for the first time since I purchased it.
That was actually one of the last images that I shot, but I think that it represents just how good that 400 mm lens can be. I decided to start with that one because it shows that with a good sharp lens that captures the details of a subject very well it produces an image that begins to take on a three-dimensional look.
I knew that the first photos that I shot yesterday wouldn’t be very good, since the minimum focus distance of the 400 mm lens is so long. I had to crop this first image much more than I would have liked to.
Still, it was nice to see something green for a change.
I’m not sure if it’s because I move the camera a bit as the shutter is going, or if the 400 mm lens needs more time to get a solid focus lock, but I see that I need to work on both. Here’s another robin photo that isn’t as sharp as it should be…
…and here’s the next photo that I shot. You can see that the second is much better as far as sharpness, but the robin’s pose isn’t as good as in the first of these two.
My original plan was to use the 400 mm lens for bird in flight photos, and the 100-400 mm lens for portrait photos, now I’m not as sure about that. The 100-400 mm lens definitely focuses faster than the 400 mm lens, which is better for birds in flight. I had the chance to test the 400 mm lens out again for birds in flight yesterday, for I saw a raptor coming towards me, and I had the time to switch the camera over to the birds in flight settings that I have saved in the camera.
My first few photos in the burst were okay, as you can see by that one and this one.
But the images later in the burst I fired were much better as far as sharpness when the auto-focus had a good solid lock on the merlin.
But by that time, the merlin had changed direction slightly to avoid me, so the light wasn’t quite as good.
You know, I am getting spoiled by what my latest camera equipment is capable of. I would have been very happy with either of the first two images not that long ago, now, I want them all to be as sharp as the last one is. Look at how sharp the eye and the face of the merlin are in that last image, it’s better than I could do on a perched bird a few years ago.
Enough bragging, sort of. The merlin landed towards the top of tree not that far away from me, so I went over to see if I could find an opening through the branches to get a photo of it perched. I shot a few at 400 mm, but then, I slipped the 1.4 X tele-converter behind the lens for this one.
That confirms what my indoor testing from my last post told me, there’s almost no drop-off in image quality when using the 1.4 extender behind the 400 mm lens in good light. It’s hard to see in these small version of the images, but check out the details in the feathers on the Merlin’s forehead and throat in the next image.
The merlin was in no hurry to move on, it even decided to check its talons out for me.
I shot these next two as a test of sorts, to see if there’s any fall-off in performance at greater distances.
Both of those were cropped a lot more than I usually crop an image, just to see if I’d be able to shoot a rare bird at a longer distance and still be able to identify the bird. I think that the verdict is yes.
I don’t normally photograph English sparrows because they are an introduced and invasive species that are displacing some of our native sparrows, but I wanted to shoot as many photos in good light as I could.
I still plan to put the photos from last weekend in this post, but first, I got another species for the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on. It wasn’t easy, and the photos are poor, but by using what I earned about using the 400 mm lens and 2 X teleconverter, I was able to get these photos of a Ross’s goose. I even used my tripod for these, although I couldn’t use live view focusing because the geese were moving as they looked for food.
The Ross’s goose is the smaller one with the shorter neck standing in front of the three snow geese lined up behind it.
I’m now just 4 species short of being two-thirds of the way through the list from the Audubon Society that I’m working from.
I think that I may be becoming a serious birder. As you can see, the Ross’s goose was in a flock of snow geese, just as the greater white-fronted geese were in a huge flock of Canada geese.
Seeing just the orange bill or foot of one of the greater white-fronted geese was enough to make me stay put and continue to scan the flock until I was able to pick the greater white-fronted geese out of the flock.
It was very much the same with the Ross’s geese, I saw two white geese within the flock that appeared to be much smaller than all the others. My first thought was that they may have been juveniles, but I also knew from researching the birds that I still need to complete my list that a Ross’s goose looks like a miniature snow goose, so I continued to keep an eye on the smaller geese in this flock.
I was also very lucky in this instance, there were two other serious birders there watching the same flock through binoculars. After a few minutes, one of them walked back to where I was parked and asked me if I noticed the differences in size, and if I had been able to make a positive identification of the smaller geese. I told him that I had noticed the size difference, but that I hadn’t made a positive ID. We then all got out of our vehicles and setup our tripods, them for their spotting scopes, me for my camera.
As far away from us as the geese were, I couldn’t tell for sure which of the smaller geese were the ones that we thought were Ross’s geese through the viewfinder, so I’d follow one of them, shooting photos hoping to be able to zoom in and tell for sure. I didn’t lock the tripod head solidly, I left it slightly loose so that I could follow the goose that I wanted to photograph as it moved around. This worked very well, keeping the shutter speed fast enough as I would have if I had been shooting handheld.
It helped that the serious birders had a field guide with them, and we could compare the photos that we shot with the field guide. I say the photos that we shot because one of the serious birders had an adaptor that let him mount his iPhone to his spotting scope to shoot photos through the scope. That’s known as digiscoping, and his photos were almost on par with the ones that I shot.
There have been other times in the past when I lucked out and received assistance from a serious birder with a good spotting scope in picking out the species of bird that I was looking for at the time. I may need to consider getting a good spotting scope for myself in the future.
The last three species of birds that I’ve added to my photo life list have been species of geese and all of the species have been in flocks of other species of geese. The cackling geese and greater white-fronted geese were in large flocks of Canada geese, and the Ross’s geese were in with the snow geese. For that matter, most of my photos of snow geese…
…up until this day also had Canada geese in the frame along with the snow geese.
I’ve said in the past that I don’t have the patience to sit there scanning a flock of birds through a spotting scope hoping to find another species within the flock, but that seems to be changing. It helps that in the case of all three species of geese that I’ve found lately, I first noticed the difference with the naked eye, or by scanning the flock through the viewfinder of the camera. I can see that a spotting scope would come in very handy for that.
And, if I’m going to purchase a good spotting scope, then I may as well purchase an adaptor to allow me to mount my camera to it to shoot photos through it as well. At the very least, having a good scope would allow me to ID birds at a distance, then I could decide if the species was worth getting closer to for better photos than I could shoot through the scope.
One thing is certain, I need to pick-up a good field guide to carry with me so that I don’t have to rely on my memory, or the kind gestures of other birders.
It doesn’t really matter what order I post photos in, so I may as well use up the ones from this week before going back to the week before, especially since the first bird that I saw when I arrived at the wastewater facility was this snowy owl.
The fog made photography difficult just after sunrise, but at least the owl had its eyes open then. I tracked it down later in the day when there was slightly better light for this photo.
That was another test of sorts, I used the 400 mm lens on one of the 60D bodies to see how well it would work for bird portraits. There’s not much difference in image quality between the 60D and the 7D Mk II when using just the 400 mm lens, but the auto-focusing of the 60D can’t hold a candle to what the 7D can do. I can’t even auto-focus with just the 1.4 X tele-converter and the 400 mm lens on the 60D.
I returned later when the light had improved a little more to shoot these with the 400 mm lens and 2 X extender on the 7D.
The better the light is, the more they close their eyes and squint as they look around.
I said that the snowy owl was the first bird that I saw that day, here’s the second.
Dense fog, and I shoot photos of a white bird, and a black bird, but that’s me, always pushing to get photos no matter how poor conditions are at the time.
The same applies to this juvenile red-tailed hawk.
Actually, I’m impressed by how sharp that one is despite the fog. The same can’t be said for this photo as the hawk took off though.
If only there had been some light and fewer branches for that one. I have to be careful what I wish for, because I found another red-tailed hawk later…
…but that was shot near the landfill, and you can see the trash in the background. By the way, the hawks don’t seem to go for the scraps of food in the landfill as the gulls, crows, and eagles do, I never see them on the ground as they would be if they did. They appear to be hunting rodents that just happen to live near the landfill, that applies to the rough-legged hawks as well.
This is the artsy attempt of the day.
I suppose that I could use up the previous week’s photos, but I think that I’d rather go further back in time to last summer to use these photos up instead. That’s just to remind me that this winter won’t last forever, and that it won’t be long until I can photograph these subjects again, but better.
After a week of warmer temperatures, but with almost constant fog, mist, drizzle or rain, this week has been very depressing. I needed to see a few images from when the weather was nicer.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Since my work schedule has me up in the wee hours of the morning, and it’s too cold to spend much time outside even after the sun comes up, I was sitting around thinking about photography and how to improve the images I shoot. These days, I almost always use a tripod for landscape photos, so that I can dial the ISO down to 100 for the best image quality, and let the shutter stay open as long as necessary, since landscapes don’t generally move to blur the image.
That was shot on my way to the Muskegon County wastewater facility well before the sun came up. I know that because here’s the view that I had as the sun came over the horizon once I had arrived at the wastewater facility.
That scene lasted for only a few seconds, long before I could get somewhere for a better shot of the sunrise, the color was gone.
It turned out to be another very slow day as far as photography, I shot a couple of more snow scenes.
On this day, instead of shooting only fair photos of flying Canada geese, I shot fair photos of mallards in flight as soon as there was enough light to do so.
I suppose that those aren’t too bad considering how gloomy it was and that they were all shot with the ISO set to 6400 trying to get enough light into the camera. I did find a few eagles, only one perched though, and it was in a bad spot.
There was a flock of crows on the other side of the road keeping their eyes on the eagle, here’s one of them.
A brief thin spot in the clouds allowed me to shoot this mourning dove at 800 mm, the 400 mm lens plus the 2 X tele-converter.
In fact, I spent most of the day practicing my manual focusing techniques with that combination.
Those were the best that I could do yesterday, and I saw no point in going back today, which is Monday as I begin this post. By the way, none of the photos from the morning dove on were cropped at all, that’s why I’m trying to get better with the 400 mm lens with the 2 X tele-converter behind it.
Instead, I decided to do some indoor testing relating to the thoughts that I began this post with, how for landscapes, I use a tripod and can therefore set the ISO much lower. At first I couldn’t think of a suitable indoor subject for such a test. Over the past few winters, I’ve used a few different ones indoors as I experimented with my macro lens, my wide-angle lenses, or the extension tubes that I have. None of the subjects that I used for those tests really represented birds or wildlife well, even though one of the test subjects was a rubber ducky. The problem with it for testing is that it doesn’t have the fine detail of a real bird’s feathers. Then it hit me, I have a stuffed animal that an ex-girlfriend gave me 40 years ago.
That was shot with the 100-400 mm lens set to 400 mm, the camera ISO set to 100 and a several second exposure.
I learned a good deal in my testing, some of the things that I learned surprised me, but one thing that didn’t was that the 100-400 mm lens isn’t quite 400 mm even when zoomed all the way. That was confirmed when I switched to the 400 mm lens.
I hadn’t moved the dog or my tripod, yet the 400 mm lens gets a little closer than the 100-400 mm lens does. It’s common for zoom lenses not being quite the focal lengths that they are rated as.
But, here’s where the subject of image quality gets tricky. When I zoomed in on the stuffed dog’s eye in Lightroom, the 400 mm prime lens was significantly sharper than the 100-400 mm lens, even though it’s hard to see much difference in the full size photos. But, I prefer the color rendition of the 100-400 mm lens.
One of the things that surprised me right off the bat was how wobbly my tripod set-up is when using the long, heavy lenses. I had to set the shutter release to a two second delay to let everything stop moving before the shutter fired. The tripod legs are steady enough, as well as the head that I have on the tripod, but the quick release system that I have, along with the way that it mounts on the lenses seems to be where all the motion came from.
Also, the three-way head that I have may be rated to carry the weight of the long lenses, but getting aimed at the exact spot I wanted was a pain. I’m already planning to upgrade to a more suitable tripod system for my longer lenses, so that’s not really an issue, but it did open my eyes a little to how important that will be if I do begin using a tripod more often when shooting birds and wildlife.
Neither lens would auto-focus accurately in the low light in my kitchen, in order to get a sharp image, I had to manually focus to get a good sharp image. That led to the next surprise, the 100-400 mm lens is a royal pain in the you know where to manually focus. I think that it’s because of how fast it is to auto-focus, it requires only minute adjustments of the focus ring to make large differences in where it is focused at. I gave up testing that lens, and worked with just the 400 mm prime from there on for the most part. The 400 mm lens is a bit slower to auto-focus, and it requires that I turn the focus ring much more to make significant changes to where it is focused at, much like an old film era lens.
Next up, I added the 1.4 X tele-converter to the 400 mm prime lens. I found that I couldn’t manually focus accurately through the viewfinder, but if I went into the live view mode, and zoomed in on where I wanted the image to be in focus, I could pull off images like this.
That surprised me also, the 1.4 X extender didn’t seem to work well with that lens when I tried it in the field, but there was almost no loss of sharpness when mounted on the tripod.
Of course the next step was to switch to the 2 X extender on the 400 mm prime lens for this image.
There is a little fall-off in sharpness, but it still performed much better than I had expected, and better than cropping an image down to make the subject appear as close. That confirms the limited testing that I’ve done in the field with that lens so far.
I also learned a few things about my Canon 7D Mk II that I didn’t know before I did this testing. I had the ISO set manually to 100 for these test shots, or so I thought. When I went into live view to focus, I would see ISO 16000 appear in the screen while I was focusing. That makes sense, the camera had to turn up the ISO to form the live view image for me to see. Most of the time, I would switch live view off before I pressed the shutter release, but there was one time that I forgot to switch it off. Then, the camera stayed at ISO 16000 even though I have it set in the menu system to never go higher than 12800. But, the results weren’t that bad.
You can’t see the noise in the image as it appears here, but when I zoomed in using Lightroom, I could see the noise then, not as much as I thought there would be, but there was some.
Yet another surprise was that when I forgot to turn off live view before taking the shot is that the camera crops the image slightly as you can see by comparing the last two photos. When I viewed the images in the camera, it showed the entire image with bars across the image, but when the images were sent to Lightroom, all that was sent were the parts of the image within the bars.
I went back and tried the 100-400 mm lens again, using live view, but that was my last surprise, that lens can not match the 400 mm prime lens in sharpness, at least not in this test. I would have guessed that the two lenses were about equal, that’s what I had found from using both in the field. I should repeat this testing someday when there’s good light outside to see if I get the same results.
Having had more time to think about my unscientific testing, I should have turned off the Image Stabilization of the 100-400 mm lens since it was mounted on a tripod. The experts say that isn’t necessary to turn it off, but I always do on my short lenses when I’m shooting landscapes, and it seems to work better.
I did switch the lenses to manual focus while I was manually focusing. Despite what Canon says about manual over-ride, I found that the camera would fight me as I manually focused, and it would attempt to set the focus where it wanted.
Okay then, this very unscientific testing did confirm my original thoughts, that if I were to use a tripod and set the ISO much lower, I can get better quality images that way, if the subject sits still long enough.
It also confirms something that I’ve been thinking about as I read lab reviews of lenses, they don’t always equate into real world results. For example, the 100-400 mm lens failed in what I was trying to do inside, but as I’ve used that lens as I normally do outside, it has stunned me with how good it is. I would have rated it equal to or better than the 400 mm prime lens from the images it has produced in the field. I suppose that lab tests have their place, they tell you how well a piece of camera gear will perform in the lab under controlled conditions.
You can’t trust the reviews done by many of the professional photographers, because many of them either receive some form of compensation from the manufacturers, or are angling to be one of those who receive some form of compensation from the manufacturers.
It’s also hard to trust user reviews as well, since one never knows if the person doing the review is being honest, or if they even know how to use the equipment that they are reviewing.
You could rent a lens for a week or two, but I’m not sure that one would become familiar enough with a lens in such a short period of time. If you were to rent it for a long enough count of time to become sure of its capabilities and shortfalls, you may as well have purchased it in the first place.
The manufacturer’s specifications don’t help much either. For example, many manufacturer’s give a spec for the least amount of light required for a camera to auto-focus, what they don’t tell you is how inaccurate the auto-focus becomes as the amount of light approaches that lowest limit. That’s what happened when I started the test that I did, both lenses seemed to auto-focus, however, the fuzzy photos that I got told me otherwise.
As always, I learned a great deal during this little exercise, about my camera, the lenses, and my tripod system. One thing that still puzzles me though is why there isn’t more noise visible in the image shot at ISO 16000. I have to use Lightroom to remove noise in photos shot at ISO 6400 or higher normally. That one is a real head scratcher.
I’ve heard that Live view focusing is the most accurate, because you are seeing what the sensor actually sees as it’s about to capture the image. You’re not using the focusing screen or relying on an auto-focus sensor to make the determination if the lens is in focus or not. I will say one thing though after this test, just how good the auto-focusing systems are today is amazing, despite their weaknesses.
So, another week has gone by, and I’ve made another trip to the Muskegon wastewater facility. It was a rare, almost sunny day, however a ground inversion in the atmosphere created a haze in the light, scattering it in ways that didn’t lead to the best photos. I tried to get my best images ever of a snow bunting using what I had learned from my indoor testing, but I couldn’t use live view focusing for them because they move around so much. Still, these aren’t bad considering that I was manually focusing the 400 mm lens with the 2 X extender behind it.
I’ll save the rest of the photos from my most recent trip for the next post, I’ll fill this one out with a few more images shot over the summer and fall. Heck, some go all the way back to spring.
Looking at these photos from last year make me wish that spring was here already! It’s been even gloomier here than usual this past week, other than on Sunday when I shot the snow buntings. It’s been warmer since then, which was nice, but the warm air has led to the snow melting, and that in turn has led to foggy days and nights with the moisture from the melting snow in the atmosphere. I am so ready for spring!
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Well, 2017 started on an optimistic note, nary a cloud in the sky at dawn when I arrived at the Muskegon County wastewater facility.
But as you can see, things are still frozen over around here, although we’ve lost most of the snow that’s fallen so far this winter.
I had high-hopes that I’d be able to test out the new 400 mm lens in good light, and I suppose you could say that I did, but not in the way that I had hoped. Although I tried very hard, I could not get close to a perched bird, not even one of the many starlings there.
I couldn’t even get close to a flying gull.
It’s a pretty pathetic day when that’s the best that I could do as far as flying gulls.
I titled one of my recent posts “I remember my failures”, but I also remember my successes, and I was getting some very good photos last fall before the clouds, snow, and cold set in for the winter, like this one.
It’s very difficult to match that photo when there are few birds around to begin with, and the few species of birds left for the winter are busy trying to stay alive, and don’t have time to pose for me. I think that I need an attitude adjustment, each photo that I shoot doesn’t have to be better than the one that I shot before. Still, there were several times on Sunday when I considered going somewhere else in hopes of finding birds that I could get closer to.
I was even wondering if it was worth it to go to the wastewater facility as often as I do, because I know that I can get better photos at other locations, even if the photos are of fewer species of birds. But, there is one reason for me to keep going back to the wastewater facility, to get photos of species of birds that I have never photographed before. On Christmas Day, I finally got photos of a northern shrike for example.
Anyway, I was a bit bored despite the good light on Sunday, so I decided to test out the new 400 mm lens on a few of the Canada geese flying in and out of the grassy cells, mostly because I couldn’t find any other birds to shoot.
I’m happy to report that the new lens does very well, when I get everything right. The 100-400 mm lens is easier to use, but the 400 mm lens can produce sharper images of birds in flight as you can see. I’m finding that there’s more of a learning curve to the 400 mm lens though.
I shot those photos while I was as close to a huge flock of geese as I could get without causing them to all take off as a flock, and picking and choosing which small flocks to shoot as the smaller flocks came and went.
What I wanted to do was find a way to photograph the entire flock, which numbered in the hundreds, I even shot a few photos as I would a landscape, with a very short lens, but then the geese were nothing but brown lumps in a brown field. I was scanning the flock with the 400 mm lens, trying to find a way to convey just how many geese there were there, when I saw a bit of orange in the flock. At first, I dismissed it as a mallard, but it didn’t look like it was the bill or foot of a mallard, so I kept watching that spot.
That image was cropped, and I don’t know if you can pick out the orange bill of the greater white-fronted goose or not. I still wasn’t sure if I was seeing a mallard or some other species of duck, so I continued to watch that spot, and eventually, two greater white-fronted geese stepped out into the open, here they are at 400 mm and not cropped.
I cropped this next one, also shot at 400 mm.
While those images may have been good enough for me to use in the My Photo Life List that I’m working on, I wanted better photos, so I put the 2 X tele-converter behind the 400 mm lens for these two photos.
Not great, but there’s no doubt that they are greater white-fronted geese, and not a domesticated species that had escaped into the wild. Another species that I can cross off from my list, not a bad way to start the new year.
I would have preferred that I could have isolated just the greater white-fronted geese with none of the Canada geese in the frame, but I had to take what they gave me. Most of the time they were out of sight within the huge flock of Canada geese.
Not to brag, but I still have excellent eyesight, several other serious birders had checked out the flock of Canada geese without seeing the two greater white-fronted geese in the flock. I made the mistake of telling one of the other birders of my find, and it wasn’t long before there were several other cars surrounding me. So, I moved down to the next cell, and found one northern pintail duck hanging out with the mallards and Canada geese.
The pintail is to the left in the frame, I wanted a better photo, but that’s the best I could do.
A little later, I was scanning another portion of the flock of geese, when I spotted another northern pintail, see if you can pick it out of the flock.
Here’s the 800 mm and cropped version.
So, I guess that you could say that I did test out the new 400 mm lens, using it as a 800 mm manually focused lens to pick out individual birds out of the flock. Manually focusing is a pain, especially when the bird is moving, even if the movement is slow.
But, I did have good light, which helped, that’s one of my better photos of that species because I got the green of its head and its small crest in that image. I also got one of my better photos of a gadwall duck.
I’d rather not post photos of bird’s butts as they fly away from me, but there are times when I have little choice.
Maybe someday, I’ll get a really good photo of that species.
The same holds true of the kestrels…
…they’re so small and wary, that I find it impossible to sneak up as close to one as is required for a good photo. You can see that he had already spotted me and was watching intently to see if I’d try to get closer. As I was trying to switch to bird in flight settings, he took off before I could.
Here’s the last three photos from New Years Day.
I knew none of those would be great portraits, it was the light on the water in each photo that made me decide to shoot those.
So, that’s all of my photos from New Years Day, unless I were to bore you with a bunch of photos of the Canada geese in flight, and I’ve already put enough of those photos in this post.
Proofreading this post has made me realize just how spoiled I’ve become, both in the subjects that I shoot, and in the quality of the images that I get. While other than the greater white-fronted geese, the birds in this post may be very common for me to see, they aren’t for most people. And as far as image quality, the Canada geese in flight photos from this post show just how far I’ve come as a photographer the last few years. They’re sharp, in focus, and most of all, exposed properly so that you can see the details in their feathers, both under and on the tops of their wings.
Some of that is due to better equipment, using the 7D Mk II rather than the 60D, and better lenses, but most of the improvement has been because I’m learning how to get the photos that I’ve always wanted.
Probably the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that every piece of photo equipment has certain quirks in the way that it operates and performs. I could easily do an entire post about the quirks that I’ve found with my gear, but I’ll give you a couple of examples. The 100-400 mm lens shows a wider depth of field at similar settings than the other three long lenses that I own, while the new 400 mm prime lens requires 1/3 to 2/3 stop more light in exposure compensation than my other lenses. I have no idea why those things are true, but they are.
In the past, I’d fight those quirks, thinking that I could force the equipment to perform exactly like the textbook says it should perform, but I’ve learned to accept those quirks and set the camera accordingly. If I’m using the 100-400 mm lens, I simply open the aperture one stop to get the depth of field that I want for an image. If I’m using the 400 mm prime lens, I add that 1/3 to 2/3 stop more light in the exposure compensation to get to the same exposure as my other lenses.
That may be the most important photography tip that I can pass along, learn your equipment and how it operates. Just because some one else uses certain settings to get a great image doesn’t mean that you’ll get the same results at those same settings.
Anyway, after the fairly nice day on New Years Day, we’ve been back in the deep freeze with almost constant snowfall. The snow hasn’t added up to very much, since it’s all been the light, fluffy lake effect snow, but with the clouds and the cold, I haven’t been out at all this week. I even volunteered to work Monday, which is normally a day off for me.
The forecast for this coming weekend is the same, cold, cloudy, and more light snow. So, I guess that I’ll have to fill this post out with photos from last summer and fall. That leads me to one last (for this post) comment on photo gear. Recently I said that purchasing the 300 mm lens was probably a mistake, after giving it more thought, I’ve changed my mind. While it may not be as good for birds…
…as either of my newest lenses, it’s an excellent lens for shooting subjects very close to me, such as flowers.
That lens is also excellent for insects as well.
Up close, the 300 mm lens is as good as any lens I own, it’s only at distances more than 25 feet that its performance begins to drop off. So, when I go somewhere such as Aman Park or Loda Lake to photograph flowers, and of course the insects on the flowers, I can take the 300 mm lens since it’s like a long-range macro lens. The extra distance that I can shoot insects from with the 300 mm lens versus the 100 mm macro lens means that I can get the shot without spooking the insects as I would if I used the macro lens. And, while the 300 mm lens may not be my best lens for birds, it does an acceptable job on birds.
That leads me another one of those quirks I was writing about earlier. According to the specifications, the 100-400 mm lens is supposed to be at least as good as the 300 mm lens at close distances, but in the limited number of times I’ve tried the 100-400 mm lens out on very close subjects, it hasn’t been able to match what I can do with the 300 mm lens.
However, flowers and insects are still several moths away, and thinking about photographing them only makes the current weather outside more miserable, so I’d better end this post now before I whine about the weather even more than I already do.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.
Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca
The green-winged teal (Anas carolinensis or Anas crecca carolinensis) is a common and widespread duck that breeds in the northern areas of North America except on the Aleutian Islands. It was considered conspecific with the common teal (A. crecca) for some time but the issue is still being reviewed by the American Ornithologists’ Union; based on this the IUCN and BirdLife International do not accept it as a separate species at present. However, nearly all other authorities consider it distinct based on behavioral, morphological, and molecular evidence. The scientific name is from Latin Anas, “duck” and carolinensis, “of Carolina”.
This dabbling duck is strongly migratory and winters far south of its breeding range. It is highly gregarious outside of the breeding season and will form large flocks. In flight, the fast, twisting flocks resemble waders.
This is the smallest North American dabbling duck. The breeding male has grey flanks and back, with a yellow rear end and a white-edged green speculum, obvious in flight or at rest. It has a chestnut head with a green eye patch. It is distinguished from drake common teals (the Eurasian relative of this bird) by a vertical white stripe on side of breast, the lack of both a horizontal white scapular stripe and the lack of thin buff lines on its head.
The females are light brown, with plumage much like a female mallard. They can be distinguished from most ducks on size, shape, and the speculum. Separation from female common teal is problematic.
In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage, the drake looks more like the female.
It is a common duck of sheltered wetlands, such as taiga bogs, and usually feeds by dabbling for plant food or grazing. It nests on the ground, near water and under cover. While its conservation status is not evaluated by IUCN at present due to non-recognition of the taxon, it is plentiful enough to make it a species of Least Concern if it were; it is far more plentiful than the common teal. It can be seen in vast numbers in the Marismas Nacionales of western Mexico, a main wintering area.
This is a noisy species. The male has a clear whistle, whereas the female has a feeble quack.
The American green-winged teal breeds from the Aleutian Islands, northern Alaska, Mackenzie River delta, northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Labrador south to central California, central Nebraska, central Kansas, southern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, and the Maritime Provinces.
The American green-winged teal winters from southern Alaska and southern British Columbia east to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and south to Central America. It also winters in Hawaii
Nesting chronology varies geographically. In North Dakota, green-winged teal generally begin nesting in late April. In the Northwest Territories, Canada, green-winged teal begin nesting between late May and early July. At Minto Lakes, Alaska, green-winged teal initiate nesting as early as June 1 and as late as July 20.
Green-winged teal become sexually mature their first winter. They lay 5 to 16 eggs. The incubation period is 21 to 23 days.
Green-winged teals often fledge 34 to 35 days after hatching or usually before 6 weeks of age. Young green-winged teal have the fastest growth rate of all ducks.
Male green-winged teal leave females at the start of incubation and congregate on safe waters to molt. Some populations undergo an extensive molt migration while others remain on or near breeding grounds. Females molt on breeding grounds.
Green-winged teal are among the earliest spring migrants. They arrive on nesting areas almost as soon as the snow melts. In early February, green-winged teal begin to depart their winter grounds, and continue through April. In central regions green-winged teal begin to arrive early in March with peak numbers in early April.
In northern areas of the United States, green-winged teal migrating to wintering grounds appear in early September through mid-December. They begin migrating into most central regions during September and often remain through December. On their more southerly winter areas, green-winged teal arrive as early as late September, but most do not appear until late November.
Green-winged teal inhabit inland lakes, marshes, ponds, pools, and shallow streams with dense emergent and aquatic vegetation. They prefer shallow waters and small ponds and pools during the breeding season. Green-winged teal are often found resting on mudbanks or stumps, or perching on low limbs of dead trees. These ducks nest in depressions on dry ground located at the base of shrubs, under a log, or in dense grass. The nests are usually 2 to 300 ft (0.61 to 91.44 m) from water. Green-winged teal avoid treeless or brushless habitats. Green-winged teal winter in both freshwater or brackish marshes, ponds, streams, and estuaries. As they are smaller birds, they tend to stay in the calmer water.
Green-winged teal, more than any other species of duck, prefer to seek food on mud flats. Where mud flats are lacking, they prefer shallow marshes or temporarily flooded agricultural lands. They usually eat vegetative matter consisting of seeds, stems, and leaves of aquatic and emergent vegetation. Green-winged teal appear to prefer the small seeds of nutgrasses (Cyperus spp.), millets (Panicum spp.), and sedges to larger seeds, but they also consume corn, wheat, barley, and buttonbush (Cephalanthus spp.) seeds. In marshes, sloughs, and ponds, green-winged teal select the seeds of bulrushes, pondweeds, and spikerushes (Eleocharis spp.). To a lesser extent they feed upon the vegetative parts of muskgrass (Chara spp.), pondweeds, widgeongrass (Ruppia maritima), and duckweeds (Lemna spp.). They will occasionally eat insects, mollusks, and crustaceans. Occasionally during spring months, green-winged teal will gorge on maggots of decaying fish which are found around ponds.
On to my photos:
These photos were shot at the Muskegon County wastewater facility over the past few years.
This is number 200 in my photo life list, only 150 to go!
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!