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

Killing time until spring

It was another mostly dreary weekend, that is for all of Saturday and most of Sunday. I went to a local park that I hadn’t been to in a while on Saturday, then went to the Muskegon County wastewater facility on Sunday. It was Sunday afternoon when gale force winds finally blew the clouds away to give me the best light that I’ve had for photography since the end of November.

Canada goose

Canada goose

I’ve shot more interesting photos of a Canada goose before, but I think that the photo above is the best technically as far as sharpness and exposure. The goose appears to pop out of the background, almost to the point of looking as if I combined two photos into one. That was shot with the 400 mm prime lens.

Unfortunately, because of the extremely strong winds, all the birds were hunkered down to stay out of the wind. They were having such a difficult time flying that I didn’t have the heart to try to get close to them which would make them take flight. But, in the few photos that I did shoot, I realized that I’ve just been killing time while waiting for good light all of this past winter.

The two days this past weekend couldn’t have been more different. On Saturday, it was cool and a bit foggy, with just a hint of a breeze now and then. Rather than walking in the park closest to me as I usually do, I went a few miles away to Palmer Park, which I used to walk on a regular basis.  However, the trail that I most wanted to take was the boardwalk that ran through a swamp and connected trails maintained by Kent County with trails maintained by the City of Wyoming, Michigan. The last few times I walked there, the boardwalk was closed due to damage caused by flooding, mostly to the footings that held the boardwalk up over the swamp. But, rather than repair the boardwalk, I found that it had been ripped out completely.

I also found that most of the birds were feeding high in the tops of trees. We had a couple of very windy days towards the end of last week, and I believe that the birds were taking advantage of there being no wind to look for food in the tops of trees. I even walked the trail that runs right on the edge of the park, where there are houses right next to the trail, with many of the homes having bird feeders in the backyard. I didn’t see a single bird on any of the many feeders that I saw. Most of our winter resident birds use bird feeders, but they don’t live on seeds alone, they eat mostly insects in the wild, and I think that’s what they were doing on Saturday.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

That’s the only photo that I shot of a bird other than a few mallards which I’ll get to later. Because of the weather conditions and the light, it wasn’t worth shooting any other photos of birds in the treetops. It was very nice to hear them and watch them at times, but any photos would have been as bad as the one above.

I chose to walk Palmer Park because I knew that there would be other things to photograph besides birds, and that I’d also be able to try out the 100-400 mm lens on subjects that would require that I used its ability to focus up close. The strength of the 300 mm lens is that it functions almost like a macro lens because it focuses at such a short distance. According to the specifications, the 100-400 mm lens should focus as well as close as the 300 mm lens. I’m not convinced that it does though, it doesn’t seem to be as sharp as the 300 mm lens up close.

Before I get to the photos, I’ve been reading Allen’s blog, New Hampshire Garden Solutions, for years now, and I still can’t identify any of the mosses, fungi, or lichens that I see. Still, I find them both beautiful and interesting, and good subjects for photography.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

It must be that this winter suits this moss quite well, as I’ve never seen so many of the spore bearing parts of moss as I saw here.

Happy moss

Happy moss

I’m probably wrong, but I think these are turkey tails.

Turkey tails?

Turkey tails?

I tried and failed to get them all in focus at the same time, but I still like this photo.

Turkey tails? take 2

Turkey tails? take 2

I’m afraid that this tree isn’t long for this world, as I say, I don’t know much about fungi, but this looks deadly to the tree to me.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

The tree is almost 18 inches in diameter, and the entire side was covered with the fungus, here’s a closer look at it.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

It’s hard to believe that I almost missed this very brightly covered one, but it was hiding in a difficult to get to spot.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Maybe my photos would have been better if it hadn’t been this kind of day.

The closest thing to sunshine all day

The closest thing to sunshine all day

You never know what critters you’ll find in the woods if you look hard enough.

Spring tailed critter

Spring tailed critter

Speaking of spring, I have no idea what this plant is, but it looks as if it’s getting ready to bloom.

Flower buds in the snow

Flower buds in the snow

I spent some time admiring the artwork produced by insects in a fallen log…

Insect artwork

Insect artwork

…and looking for a good background to shoot these alder catkins.

Alder catkins

Alder catkins

I found a few mallards in one of the small ponds, and was all set to catch them at take off. However, they refused to take flight while I was ready, they walked back into the reeds that surround the pond. I gave up waiting, but as I began to walk away, then they burst into flight. I was lucky, one pair circled me before moving on to the next pond.

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

 

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

 

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

 

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

I suppose that those aren’t too bad considering the conditions, dreary and a bit foggy, but compare them to this one from Sunday when I finally had some good light for a change.

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

Have I said that I love the 7D Mk II and the way that it can track flying birds?

Male belted kingfisher in flight

Male belted kingfisher in flight

It took me a little over a year to fully understand how to get the auto-focusing system set-up for what and how I shoot, but it was worth it! This was shot with the new 400 mm prime lens, as were the mallards in good light just above.

I learned something again on this day, I had thought that the 400 mm prime lens wasn’t as good as the 100-400 mm lens is in tracking birds in flight, but it all depends on the light. With good light, the 400 mm lens does just fine, since I got a good focus lock on the kingfisher while it was in the open, the 400 mm lens continued to track it as it flew through some cattails.

Male belted kingfisher in flight

Male belted kingfisher in flight

It stayed locked onto the kingfisher as it prepared to land on one of the cattails…

Male belted kingfisher in flight

Male belted kingfisher in flight

…but even at ten frames per second, I didn’t catch the actual landing…

Male belted kingfisher in flight

Male belted kingfisher in flight

…and I had to settle for these.

Male belted kingfisher in flight

Male belted kingfisher in flight

That’s when I knew that I’ve been just killing time, waiting for better light for photography!

This series also makes me realize that all of the money that I’ve spent on better photo gear and the time that I’ve put into learning how to get the best out of it has all been worth it as well. There are two reasons that I’ve been working so hard to improve my photos, one is to capture action series like the one above, the other is to get better images to help me identify birds.

In my last post, I showed the differences between a crow and a raven, in this post, I’ll show the differences between a juvenile bald eagle…

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

…and a juvenile golden eagle.

Juvenile golden eagle in flight

Juvenile golden eagle in flight

The first clue was actually behavior, the golden eagle was hunting over a field the same way that a hawk would, gliding over the field and pausing to hover over one spot from time to time as it looked for lunch. Bald eagles seldom hunt that way, they prefer to perch and keep an eye out for prey.

The second clue is the golden brown feathers on the neck of the golden eagle, barely visible in this shot, but they are what gave the golden eagle its name.

The next clue is that the white on the underside of the golden eagle’s wings are in more of a distinctive pattern, rather than the mottled white of the juvenile bald eagle.

Then, there are their beaks, the bald eagle has a massive beak that joins its face above its eye, while the golden eagle has a smaller beak that meets its face below its eye.

Finally, there’s the white band on the golden eagle’s tail, young bald eagles may show some white on their tails, but never in a distinct band like the golden eagle has.

I’ve had a couple of very long days at work this week, but this weekend is supposed to be a fantastic early spring weekend with warm temperatures and plenty of sunlight. I sure hope so, as I’ve been getting ready mentally all week-long since I saw the forecast. The very long work days have meant that I haven’t had much time to work on this post, and the warm sunny weekend that they forecast is here. So, here’s the rest of the photos that I shot this past weekend.

American kestrel in flight

American kestrel in flight

 

Herring gull

Herring gull

 

Herring gull

Herring gull

 

Herring gull in flight

Herring gull in flight

 

Herring gull in flight

Herring gull in flight

 

Bald eagles on ice

Bald eagles on ice

 

American crow in flight

American crow in flight

 

Mallards not flying

Mallards not flying

 

Starlings in flight

Starlings in flight

 

Starlings in flight

Starlings in flight

And with those, I’m out of here. I’m going to finish the last of my coffee, and get out there in the sun to shoot a few good photos for a change.

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

Advertisements

24 responses

  1. Kingfisher in flight! Wow!

    February 18, 2017 at 8:57 am

    • Thank you!

      February 18, 2017 at 8:37 pm

  2. Fabulous fungi!

    February 18, 2017 at 9:15 am

    • Thank you Maria!

      February 18, 2017 at 8:37 pm

  3. Hi Jerry. Glad to see that you’re finally getting a bit of sunshine. I think the endless gray days are what drive me nuts about Michigan winters – I actually enjoy the cold and snow (although at a great distance these days).

    You’ve mentioned before how reclusive the belted kingfishers are, so I think that’s why that’s my favorite sequence this time. But, I always like flocks of birds, so the starlings photos make me smile as well.

    Agree with your comments about fungi identification. I’ve been reading Allen’s blog for several years now too, and turkey tails are aboutnvisiting limit of what I’ve been able to remember and absorb. Burning hopeful that I would remember British Soldier lichen if I should ever stumble upon them.

    I have tried to photograph the three new bird species I’ve seen here – yellow-eyed juncos, Arizona woodpeckers, and bridled titmice, but no deal. My good cell phone camera is no match for bird photography. Guess you’ll have to retire and photo them yourself.

    Hope you back in sunlight all weekend.

    February 18, 2017 at 10:23 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! We had wall to wall blue skies today, so I shot my best photos in months, which you’ll see soon. Close to record high temps also.

      I do know British soldier lichens when I see them, sort of. I learned that there are two species of them, but can’t tell them apart yet, maybe someday.

      After work last week, there’s nothing that I’d rather do than retire and photograph birds, if only there was any money to be made doing so.

      February 18, 2017 at 8:42 pm

  4. Those mallards in flight are beautiful, such good photographs.

    February 18, 2017 at 10:38 am

    • Thank you very much Susan! Sorry, no squirrels in this post.

      February 18, 2017 at 8:37 pm

  5. The kingfisher photos are wonderful and he looks very pleased with himself when he has finally landed safely on the bulrush! Love all the different wing positions in the flight of the starlings and one looks to be eating on the wing! Fungal things always look so amazing maybe it’s because they are staying still whilst having their picture taken! I like the mallard photo with the reflections and the sharp eyed herring gull but that little kingfisher photo is the best of all…in my humble opinion! Enjoy the sunshine when it comes.

    February 18, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! Kingfishers usually look pleased with themselves, because they’ve usually avoided having their picture taken. 😉

      Yes, one of the starlings was carrying food with him.

      I should have taken my macro lens and tripod with me for the fungi, as dreary as it was that day.

      We had wall to wall blue skies today, the same is forecast for tomorrow, so I’ll be outside as long as I can manage again tomorrow.

      February 18, 2017 at 8:53 pm

  6. The kingfisher shots are excellent. I would give a lot just to see one, let along take a photograph of it. Your hard work in paying attention to the possibilities of your gear and matching your purchases to getting the results that you want have paid off handsomely already.

    February 18, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I didn’t see the kingfisher again today, but I was able to practice my bird in flight photos, which you’ll see soon.

      February 18, 2017 at 8:54 pm

      • Good.

        February 19, 2017 at 5:49 pm

  7. I think your flowerbuds are Cherry Laurel. I love the Canada Goose shot and also the kingfisher sequence. The alder catkins are wonderful – I’ve been trying to photograph catkins this weekend and mine look awful compared with your excellent shots!

    February 18, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I checked out quite a few different alders and their catkins to find the catkins which would photograph the best, with the light behind me, and very little close behind the catkin.

      February 18, 2017 at 9:20 pm

  8. That first fungus is some type of toothed polypore but there are many so I’m not sure which one. The large mass on the tree is another toothed polypore. It’s unusual to see one growing vertical like that. They usually prefer the undersides of branches and logs.
    I think those are turkey tails. They’re nice colorful ones!
    If the plant with flower buds was a creeper I think it might have been Pachysandra (PachysandraTerminalis,) which is a common evergreen groundcover. If so it should bloom in April.
    The orange fungi look like the cinnabar polypore (Pycnoporus cinnabarinus) which is a rare beauty that I’ve seen only once, and that was in winter too.
    Lots of mosses, lichens and fungi produce spores in winter. I’ve never been able to find out why, but I’m guessing that nobody really knows.
    Great shots of the crazy little kingfisher and the flying kestrel!

    February 18, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! The plant with the flower buds was a creeper of sorts, and was growing near where several people have gardens, so I think that you identification as Pachysandra is correct.

      I have no idea about the fungi though, I have to take your word for it. I know that I like seeing the textures and structures of fungi, and that I haven’t been shooting enough photos of them lately.

      Crazy little kingfisher is a great description of the kingfisher, and they’re all the same.

      February 18, 2017 at 9:34 pm

  9. You are such a versatile photographer! I enjoyed every one of these, even those of fungi that I normally try to avoid during my hikes. Maybe I should pay more attention to them now seeing the excellent photos you got of them.

    February 18, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    • Thank you very much Hien! I’m fascinated by the textures and structures of fungi, and many of them are brightly colored as well.

      February 18, 2017 at 9:23 pm

  10. Some great captures, Jerry!! Thanks for sharing the difference between the juvenile eagles. I’m still trying to figure out if I have a golden eagle capture from the Rocky Mountains last summer or if it’s a northern harrier. It’s a distant shot so that does not help. I’ll revisit my shots and see if your info helps me. 🙂

    February 19, 2017 at 9:46 am

  11. Beautiful photos, Jerry, all of them! Those mushrooms do look like turkey tails to me. Paul Stamets up in Washington has a number of books out on mushroom identification, and his site called Fungi Perfecti. He is a master of anything fungal.

    That spring-tailed dog object you found sure is interesting. Wonder who left that there and why?

    Beautiful kingfisher coming in for a landing, and I always love seeing Mallard Airlines in flight. 🙂

    February 19, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I’ll have to check out that website, as I haven’t been able to learn to ID even the most common species of fungi yet. I’ll bet that the spring tailed dog cost some one a pretty penny, I have no idea why they’d leave it in the woods.

      February 19, 2017 at 6:15 pm

  12. Amazing Jerry! Absolutely love the fungus, Kestrel and Kingfisher photos! Excellent! I know how you feel, was dreary last week here and this past weekend 64! Unbelievable, but it is supposed to snow Friday! HA. Hopefully soon Spring will be around the corner. Have an excellent week! Sheila

    February 21, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    • Thank you very much Sheila! Our weather forecast is about the same, a roller coaster ride up and down for the next week.

      February 22, 2017 at 7:34 am