Not quite back to normal
Most people reading this have probably seen the post that I did on the historical buildings in Ionia, Michigan which I shot on Sunday of last week. Saturday wasn’t a normal go out and chase the birds day either, for as I was pulling into the parking lot of the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, I saw Ric P., the president of the Muskegon County Nature Club. I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned him here before or not, but I do bump into him from time to time as we are out birding the same place at the same time.
Ric and I chatted for a while in the parking lot as he wrote down the birds we saw in the notebook he carries for that purpose and I looked for birds and other photo opportunities. Then, he went his way, which he bases on doing an accurate count, and I went my way, which I base on having the best light to photograph what I see.
By the way, the loosestrife was bent over from the weight of the dew, which is why it appears in the landscape orientation, unlike the next flowers.
I have a love/hate relationship with the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve. There are plenty of birds and other subjects to photograph there, but the vegetation is so dense in most places that getting a good photo is difficult, if I can even see the birds that are flitting around in the vegetation, or that I can hear calling. Once in a while I get lucky, a bird will perch out in the open for me.
But most of the time, I’m working in the dense vegetation trying to get a clear view of a bird.
There are times when that’s a plus, because in such dense vegetation, I’m able to get very close to birds at times…
…even though they are trying to hide from me. But, if I remain still and wait, the lure of food often overrides their fear…
…and I can catch them in the act of eating.
The sad part of this series of images is that I wasn’t able to catch the flicker taste testing the berries with its tongue…
…although I could see that in the viewfinder.
I did capture the act of swallowing the berry though.
I also caught the flicker tasting a berry…
…then spitting it out, as it must not have tasted good.
Too bad that last image is a bit blurry, I don’t know if the auto-focus shifted, or if the flicker moved too quickly for the shutter speed I was shooting at.
That isn’t the first bird that I’ve photographed as it was eating, but it is the first flicker, and the photos show that they do eat berries in addition to ants, which are their main source of food.
I also saw this Baltimore oriole, either a juvenile or a male in the process of molting, and I loved the rich colors it was showing.
I would have liked to have gotten closer as it preened, but standing water between the oriole and myself prevented that.
A short time later, I came upon a brood of juvenile barn swallows.
I waited for a while to see if the parents returned to feed their young, but I believe that these were old enough to fend for themselves. So, I began to inch closer…
The sun was in the wrong location for a good image, but I couldn’t resist.
If the swallow had looked down, it would have seen a school of large bluegills under the boardwalk…
…not that a swallow would have been interested in a fish.
The cardinal flowers have begun to bloom…
…but I couldn’t get any closer because of the lake being as high as it is. I did wait in that spot for a while, hoping that a hummingbird would show up to feed from the cardinal flowers, but that didn’t happen. Cardinal flowers are a favorite of hummingbirds, so I should have waited longer.
Eventually, I got to the part of the boardwalk where I’ve been seeing the least bittern most often, and Ric was there, counting birds as usual. It wasn’t long before an osprey made an appearance, although too far away for a good image.
The two of us stood out there on the boardwalk chatting for a very long time. Mostly, it was I that spotted the birds by eye, Ric is able to identify more birds by their call than I am. Which way he was able to identify the birds didn’t matter, he tried to keep as accurate of a count of each species as he could.
We were treated by a number of the different species in the heron family as we talked. I noticed something then, how fast and how high members of the heron family fly is relative to their size. Large member of the heron family, like this great egret, fly slow and high.
Because of the lighting…
…you can see how little skeleton and muscle that they have in their wings.
That makes their flight even more amazing to me.
The green herons being smaller, fly faster and lower than their larger cousins do.
And, the least bitterns, the smallest member of the heron family…
…fly the fastest and lowest of members of the heron family.
The least bitterns fly just above the vegetation, and they can really move when compared to their larger cousins, even green herons. That makes sense, being as small as they are, it’s much more likely that a raptor would try to make a meal of them. By flying low and fast, they can dive into the vegetation to escape airborne predators if needed.
I think that an eagle, a large hawk, or even a peregrine falcon would be capable of killing even the larger members of the heron family, but they’d have a fight on their hands to be sure. Even as large as they are, the agility in flight of the larger herons is something to see, and something that I hope to capture better one of these days. For a bird as small as the least bittern, which is about the size of a chicken, an attack by a raptor is a more likely proposition. That’s probably why they have evolved better suited for faster flight, and why they have learned to stay low and close to the safety of the vegetation that they live around.
It makes it difficult to photograph them though, I had several chances to shoot the bittern, but it was out of range by the time I got the camera on it most of the time.
Anyway, Ric and I spent a considerable amount of time on the boardwalk discussing birds, birding, and bird photography. We were joined by Ken, the person that I mentioned in a recent post as a regular visitor to the preserve, and I found the conversation to be quite a change from my usual solo outings. The conversation was very pleasant, but that was probably because neither Ric or Ken are the super-serious birders who set-up a spotting scope on a tripod and scan every inch of what’s in view in search of birds, and then discuss every nuance of a bird’s plumage. So while my photos in this post are mostly birds, the day wasn’t a typical day for me.
Have two more photos from the time that I spent at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, they’re both of the same chickadee.
Having a few good photos of chickadees, I was able to play around with the camera settings a bit more than I typically do.
All of the photos from the morning were shot with the 100-400 mm lens, which I carry at the preserve due to its versatility. The flowers and the chickadee were all closer to me than the minimum focusing distance of the 400 mm prime lens. Because it doesn’t focus at less than 11 feet, I assumed that the 400 mm prime lens wouldn’t be good for insects or other small subjects, but I may have to change my thinking a little.
I shot the butterfly while attempting to stalk hummingbirds at the wastewater facility. Since I failed at getting any of the hummers, I shot that butterfly as a way of keeping myself occupied.
There were at least three hummers chasing each other around, but I never got close to any of them where I had a clear view of any of them. They fly so fast that it’s hard to keep track of them as they’re flying, they’re just a blur as they whiz around. What surprised me was that the species of butterfly in the photo above can fly nearly as fast as the hummers do. I’d see a tiny blur go past me, and it wasn’t until the blur stopped that I could tell if it was a hummer, or one of those butterflies. Since I had the 400 mm lens with me hoping to catch a hummingbird in flight, it was all that I had to shoot the butterfly with. I had to do some serious cropping to the butterfly photo, but the results amazed me. I knew that lens was sharp, but I’m still learning how sharp it can be. To produce that image of a butterfly less than two inches across its wings while it’s 12 feet away from me is proof of how sharp it is.
And, I didn’t know that there were any species of butterflies capable of flying as fast as the species pictured above is. For me to mistake them for hummingbirds a few times should tell you how fast the butterflies are. I knew from when I’ve tried to keep up with other butterflies to get a photo that butterflies can cover a lot of ground in a hurry, but I don’t recall any of them flying fast enough to be mistaken for a hummingbird, other than the hummingbird moths. Nature continues to throw me more surprises all the time.
In other news, I have ordered a photo printer so that I can print my images at home. It’s a Canon Pixma Pro 100 that can print up to 13 X 19 inch prints. Canon is practically giving the printers away, knowing that they will make their money on ink cartridges and paper over time. I’ll be picking it up later today after I go for a walk around home. I should be able to tell you more about it in my next post.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!