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

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.

Purple loosestrife covered in dew

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.

Pickerel weed

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.

Juvenile yellow warbler

There are times when that’s a plus, because in such dense vegetation, I’m able to get very close to birds at times…

Juvenile northern flicker hiding

…even though they are trying to hide from me. But, if I remain still and wait, the lure of food often overrides their fear…

Juvenile northern flicker

…and I can catch them in the act of eating.

Juvenile northern flicker selecting a berry to eat

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…

Juvenile northern flicker taste testing the berry

…although I could see that in the viewfinder.

I did capture the act of swallowing the berry though.

Juvenile northern flicker swallowing a berry

I also caught the flicker tasting a berry…

Juvenile northern flicker tasting a berry

…then spitting it out, as it must not have tasted good.

Juvenile northern flicker spitting out a bad berry

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.

Baltimore oriole

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.

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…

Juvenile barn swallow stretching its wings

…and closer.

Juvenile barn swallow

The sun was in the wrong location for a good image, but I couldn’t resist.

Juvenile barn swallow looking far a meal

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…

Cardinal flowers

…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.

Osprey in flight

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.

Great egret in flight

Because of the lighting…

Great egret in flight

…you can see how little skeleton and muscle that they have in their wings.

Great egret in flight

That makes their flight even more amazing to me.

Great egret in flight

The green herons being smaller, fly faster and lower than their larger cousins do.

Green heron in flight

And, the least bitterns, the smallest member of the heron family…

Least bittern in flight

…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.

Black-capped 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.

Unidentified butterfly

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!


24 responses

  1. Super photos of birds, flowers, butterfly and fish! The colours and details in the photos are wonderful and the subjects just seem to jump out the screen at one. Just like all youngsters the flicker seemed to be a picky eater! My favourites are the great egrets flying through that lovely blue sky. It’s pleasant to have a chat with others who enjoy nature too.

    August 12, 2017 at 11:22 am

    • Thank you very much Marianne! I’ve never figured out why birds reject some berries, but then I’ve never tasted most of the berries. It was pleasant to chat while birding, which surprised me. I may have to do that more often.

      August 12, 2017 at 9:56 pm

  2. You take wonderful photographs, this time of such a variety of subjects. I particularly enjoyed the flying birds but everything is a treat to look at.

    August 12, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! I liked the egret images because it does show how much wing they have compared to how little muscle that have to work the wings.

      August 12, 2017 at 9:57 pm

  3. Wonderful shots of the Egret in flight. The price of ink is a disgrace and I use a lot of compatible inks out of necessity. They should charge properly for the printers and the inks.

    August 12, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! Yes, the ink is way over priced, so is the paper. But, what else can you do.

      August 12, 2017 at 10:02 pm

      • Nothing. It is very annoying.

        August 13, 2017 at 5:26 pm

  4. I’ve been trying to figure out what those berries are that the flicker was eating. At first I thought Virginia creeper but it’s too early for them. I can’t even guess.
    One of the things that always surprises me when I run into a person who is very knowledgeable about nature is how I can actually understand what they’re saying and be able to speak to them on their own level. I’m usually alone and I don’t get the chance to do that very often, so it’s always a surprise. Other than with people I meet on the trails it’s a subject I rarely talk about. I have a feeling you’re in the same boat.
    My favorite shot of this post has to be the Cardinal flowers. I wish I could find some but it’s a color that is apparently impossible for me to see in nature.
    I’m looking forward to hearing about the printer!

    August 13, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I thought that the berries were one of the many members of the viburnum family, but you know how bad I am with plants.

      The hardcore birders turn me off, but otherwise, you’re so very right. It isn’t often that I get to talk about nature with any one other than through my blog. I guess that’s what I continue to post after so many years.

      I forget all the time that you’re colorblind, and that cardinal flowers would be difficult for you to see. All I can tell you is that they prefer damp, even wet soil, and they will grow in shallow water also.

      The printer was easy to set-up and produces great prints, but I’m not sure that it was worth the money, even after a $200 rebate. But being able to print from my own computer when I want to is very handy.

      August 13, 2017 at 9:29 pm

      • Yes, I didn’t think of viburnums. I’ve seen a few berries ripening.

        August 14, 2017 at 4:57 am

      • I thought that it was a bit early for the birds to be eating those berries, but most of them were gone already, something was eating them.

        August 14, 2017 at 8:00 am

      • I love that cardinal flower, too. They grew all over the banks of streams where I grew up.

        August 20, 2017 at 8:00 pm

      • Thanks again Lavinia! I love cardinal flowers, I need to find some more of them.

        August 20, 2017 at 9:40 pm

  5. I love those shots of the chickadee! It must have been looking for insects in the spider’s web as it has web on its head and attached to its beak! I love seeing all the details in your photographs! I too, was amazed at the egrets wings – fabulous shots!

    August 13, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! Seeing the spider webs on the chickadee, one has to wonder if they see the webs and follow them to the spider that made them. I love getting those details in an image, as they provide some clues at least about the subject’s habits. How birds have the power to fly when they have so little muscle and bone in their wings is beyond me.

      August 13, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      • I think you are probably right about them seeing the webs. Plenty of birds gather spider webs when constructing their nests so it is obvious they understand what webs are, what they are like and where to find them.

        August 14, 2017 at 6:32 pm

      • Thanks again Clare! I knew that some birds use spider webs in their nests, but I never thought through how they go about collecting the webs.

        August 15, 2017 at 12:17 am

  6. We were up in the Rifle River Rec Area and the Cardinal flowers were everywhere it was wet. Nice shot of the often overlooked Pickerel Weed!

    August 14, 2017 at 6:53 am

    • Thank you very much Bob! Yes, the cardinal flowers like to grow where it’s wet, I’m happy for you to have seen so much of it.

      August 14, 2017 at 7:59 am

  7. Excellent pictures, as always, Jerry. I’ll be interested to hear how the printer works out. I have the regular Pixma MG7520 and I’ve never been very happy with the results. I hope the Pro 100 does a good job for you. Your beautiful images certainly deserve the best.

    August 14, 2017 at 8:33 am

    • Thank you very much Sue! I’ll share my experiences with the new printer soon. I did produce a bad print tonight trying something new, but overall though, it does a better job than I expected.

      August 15, 2017 at 12:16 am

  8. Wow, Jerry. Great photos.

    August 16, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    • Thank you very much Cynthia!

      August 16, 2017 at 11:54 pm

      • You’re welcome.

        August 17, 2017 at 9:44 am