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

More signs of spring 2018

If I were to dwell on the negative, I’d say that this day, May 1st, could have been much better. Nice weather, good light, and plenty of birds around. I had the new backpack to try out, and it does what I hoped it would do, allow me to carry everything needed if I ever get around to setting up the portable hide that I have.

No, I didn’t get around to that again this week, despite my plans to do just that. The hide will work best for medium to large size subjects, not the little warblers that I was shooting this week.

Male yellow warbler

That’s because the small birds are always moving, looking for food most of the time…

Male yellow warbler

…sometimes pausing to sing to attract a mate.

Male northern cardinal singing

Time and time again, I thought of setting up the tripod to use, and is the first step to using the portable hide, but to get the images of the birds that I was seeing, I had to be on the move all the time to get at least a somewhat clear view of them with good lighting, and a background that wasn’t too distracting.

I know how other photographers work around that, they create scenes where they can set-up and wait for the birds to come to them. I have neither the time or inclination to do that, especially since I have such limited time to be outside with my camera. However, when conditions are right, and I’m photographing larger subjects, I will use the hide and my tripod.

Anyway, my day began before sunrise at the Muskegon County wastewater facility…

Sunrise over a marsh

…and even though I knew that I should have stayed there until the sun actually rose above the horizon, I moved on in hopes of finding a place to test the hide. That was a mistake, for the best part of the sunrise came later, and I was faced with nothing in the foreground to photograph, so I made do with what was at hand at the time.

Red-winged blackbird at sunrise

I shot two different takes of the scene, and I can’t decide which I like better.

Red-winged blackbird at sunrise

With great light, I was hoping to shoot a few male ducks in their breeding plumage before they continue to migrate north, but none of the ducks would cooperate. Β I made do with two photos of waterfowl in flight, as all of them were even more skittish than usual.

Bufflehead in flight


Blue-winged teal in flight

I decided not to waste my time on the ducks, so I moved to the Lane’s Landing portion of the Muskegon State Game Area. I was hoping to see either waterfowl or wading birds there, where I could set-up the hide and take advantage of the great light at the time. I shot this sandhill crane as it flew past me while I was checking out the area for stationary subjects.

Sandhill crane in flight

I couldn’t see anything in any of the ponds along the way as far as ducks or wading birds, but the willows surrounding the ponds were full of migrating warblers.

Palm warbler


Yellow warbler

I heard the song of a bird that I’ve never heard before, and I was able to spot the bird, but I never did get a photo of it as it moved around in the swamp there at Lane’s Landing, darn.

Also, I was using the 100-400 mm lens and 1.4 X tele-converter, which means that I missed far more birds that I was able to photograph because of how slowly that set-up auto-focuses. Still, to be out there on such a fine day in nothing but a T-shirt was absolutely wonderful! Hearing the birds singing only added to my enjoyment of the day.

I hung out in that spot watching wave after wave of warblers moving through the trees, and I have a lot of bad photos of various species of warblers that I could put in this post at this time, but I won’t.

Instead, I’ll put a bad photo of what I think is a hermit thrush that I tried to get a good photo of, after I had moved to the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve.

Hermit thrush?

That bird used about every trick in the book, other than taking flight, to avoid having it’s picture taken, that’s the best I could do.

I sat down at the picnic pavilion there at the MLNP, and removed the 1.4 X extender from my lens, to speed up the auto-focus and to shoot what I saw there.

Song sparrow

The sparrow paused from looking for seeds to watch two male red-winged blackbirds fighting above it.

Song sparrow

The fight was a violent one, but over with too quickly for me to shoot a photo. One of the blackbirds had pulled a large number of feathers out of its opponent, I almost tried for get a shot of the feathers blowing in the wind, but there wasn’t time to switch camera settings for that. Instead, I settled for this red squirrel in action.

Red squirrel


Red squirrel

I had rested enough by then to continue on, I shot this willow flower…

Willow flowers

…and this robin…

American robin

…as more signs that spring is finally here.

Without the extender behind the 100-400 mm lens, I was able to shoot fairly good images of larger birds that flew past me as I slowly worked through the brush there at the MLNP.

Juvenile bald eagle in flight


Canada goose in flight

I was worried about getting close enough to the birds, but I shouldn’t have been.

American coot

I didn’t crop that image at all, although I should have cropped slightly for composition.

By then, it was early afternoon, and the light, while good, was casting harsh shadows on the subjects that I tried to shoot, but I did the best that I could.

Mourning dove


Tufted titmouse


Tufted titmouse


Yellow-Rumped warbler


Yellow-Rumped warbler

By then, the light was getting funky from the sun being so high, a lot of dust in the air due to the wind being as strong as it was, and rising humidity levels as well.

Red-winged blackbird

That’s not cropped at all, and you can see that it isn’t as sharp as most of the rest of the images in this post are, it’s all because of the junk in the air that disperses the light coming into the camera. But, if I could get even closer to a subject…

Willow (?) flowers

…then the light was still good.

That image is a great example of why I’m not always able to identify the things in my blog. I saw the color combination of the flowers and the water, and just shot that image without looking at what species of tree produced the flower.

On the other hand, I went through 70 web pages of photos of butterflies hoping to be able to identify this one that I saw.

Unidentified (for now) butterfly

The reasons that I stopped after viewing 70 web pages of photos of butterflies are that it was late by then and I was tired, and all of the butterflies in the photos were beginning to look-alike.

I thought that these flowers were from a box elder tree when I first saw them…

Unidentified flowers

…but I know what a box elder tree looks like, and the tree that produced those flowers wasn’t a box elder, so I assume that is another species in the same family as maples and box elders.

By the way, that last photo was shot with the 60 D camera and 100 mm macro lens if it makes a difference to any one.

Now then, the big news this week is that I’ll be starting a new schedule for work this weekend, one that gives me two full days off each week, rather than one full day off and two long breaks between runs during the actual work week as I have been doing the past few months. You may find it funny, but I don’t remember the exact details of the new schedule, other than that I do get two full days off, and that the timing of the runs means that I won’t have to put up with rush hour traffic either. It will be nice to have two full days off again, even though I was just starting to get used to taking advantage of the schedule that I have been on. Which days that I have off doesn’t matter to me, other than it’s two days in a row so if I want to go up north, I can. In fact, not having days off on the weekends appeals to me, because there are fewer people out and about during the week.

So, things are looking very good to me right now, the weather has finally gotten nice on a regular basis, and spring is well and truly in full swing here now. I’m liking doing dedicated outings much more than I thought that I would, although it still bothers me a little to pass by subjects that I’d like to photograph because I don’t have all my camera gear with me all the time. On the other hand, not trying to photograph flowers blowing around in the wind and getting frustrated with the poor images that are a result of trying more than makes up for passing a flower that I’d like to photograph. I could have included more photos of more species of birds in this post, but the photos wouldn’t be very good.

With nice weather and good light on most days, I’m not jonesing for the 5D Mk IV like I was when I was shooting in low light most of the time this past winter. Yes, I’d like the expanded dynamic range of the 5D for most of my images, but I can do quite well with what I have, if I do say so myself. Again, doing dedicated outing helps in that respect as well, as I can work around the short comings of the 7D and 60D cameras that I’m using now, and the overall quality of the photos that I’m shooting continues to improve.

And maybe it’s a sign of getting older, but I’m enjoying the slower pace of the dedicated outings that I’ve been doing. It was nice to sit in a field of dandelions waiting for the bee from the last post to show up. I didn’t mind fiddling with the tripod and camera settings to shoot the buildings in downtown Grand Rapids nor the night images that I shot. On the day I shot the photos in this post, I spent quite a bit of time watching the waves of warblers moving through the trees at the swamp at Lane’s Landing. I no longer feel the need to rush ahead to see what’s over the next hill or around the next bend the way that I’ve always felt before.

In a way, it’s almost like fly fishing for trout. One of the first things that I learned when I began fly fishing was that I had to slow down and take my time, not rush from spot to spot in hopes of catching a fish. Also, just as in fly fishing, good gear makes a huge difference in how enjoyable the experience is. There’s nothing worse than trying to cast with a cheap, poorly made fly rod, other than to try to shoot good photos with a camera that doesn’t function as it should.

The level of equipment that I have now may not be the very best, but I’m still extracting more details in my images all the time. In many of my images, you can see the textures of a bird’s feathers, or in the petals of a flower. That helps to make the images look more three-dimensional as in most of the images in this post, especially the sandhill crane, in that image, you can get an idea about the muscle structure of the crane’s breast muscles as it flies.

There I go bragging again, I’m sorry, but I’m really enjoying photography more than ever as the quality of the images that I shoot improves.

Lesser scaup in flight


Female red-winged blackbird

Changing the subject, tonight I’m starting a new schedule at work. I’ll have Thursdays and Fridays off from work from now on, woo hoo, two full days off rather than just one! Another item on the positive side is that my Wednesdays will be the shortest workday of the week, which will give me even more time for my “weekends”. The only downside is that my first day back at work each week is my longest scheduled day, around 13 hours long.

That’s my long-winded way of saying that it may take me a day or two to catch up with any comments readers may leave to this post, as I’ll be pressed for sleep the next 36 hours. But, I will get caught up again once I have finished the long day, and I’m into the regular part of my schedule, which is three 9 hour long days in a row.

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


25 responses

  1. Great photos of the greatest birding month of the year!

    May 5, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    • Thank you very much! If only I had more time for birding this time of year. 😦

      May 6, 2018 at 6:02 am

  2. Your new schedule sounds much better giving you more time to get out and about to enjoy your photography. Again in this post you’ve not only captured those beautiful, colourful birds in their settings but they all show their characters too. My favourites are the last two photos and that beautiful sunrise. Look on the bright side of getting a bit older …gives one ‘time to stand and stare!’ Hope that Spring weather stays now!

    May 5, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! I think that I will have more time to be outside, and shoot not only more birds, but also the flowers as they bloom. We had a week of gusty winds, so I didn’t try to shoot many flowers this week.

      It’s spring for sure around here now, and it’s forecast to stick around so that this old guy can stand and stare at the things to be seen in spring.

      May 6, 2018 at 6:07 am

  3. That sunrise is a stunning photograph, you are clever. I also like the clever way you capture birds in flight, I love those pictures.

    May 5, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! I don’t know if I’m clever or not, I just like being outdoors and photographing the things that I see.

      May 6, 2018 at 6:09 am

  4. You’ve got some excellent shots in this one! I like all the sunrise photos, but that first one should be framed.
    My favorites are the yellow warbler and the squirrel. Sorry I can’t help with the butterfly. I’m not much good at identifying them.
    That is a willow, just going to seed. Next time you see it it will have small yellow, banana like seed pods all over it.
    Those sure do look like male box elder flowers to me too. If they aren’t I can’t guess what they’d be.
    I’m glad they’re finally giving you two days in a row off. That should make life much easier!

    May 5, 2018 at 5:26 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I may have looked at the wrong tree trunk to go with the flowers in question, because I was almost positive that they were box elder flowers, but the tree trunk had smooth silvery bark, not brown and “wrinkled” bark. But, I was busy fighting the wind at the same time, and also when I shot the willows. I found a way to hold onto the branches with my left hand, lay the lens hood of the macro lens on my left arm, and shoot good photos. I do need to pay more attention to what I’m shooting though.

      It’s going to be great to have two days in a row off from work, now if the weather will cooperate with my work schedule. πŸ˜‰

      May 6, 2018 at 6:47 am

  5. That butterfly looks like our comma butterfly. Another great set of pictures, with the teal my favourite just because of the very cheerful light.

    May 5, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! Unless the butterfly had been blown here by the storm that has brought many rare birds to the area where I live, then it couldn’t be a comma butterfly, I don’t think. About the teal, if only I could have gotten that cheerful light on the tops of their wings to show the beautiful markings that they have, I would have been even happier. I’m amazed that while I’m shooting ten frames per second, that I always catch the ducks with their wings in the same position. I’m going to have to time when I press the shutter button better.

      May 6, 2018 at 6:31 am

  6. Jerry, you outdid your usual self in this post. All the photos are colorful, sharp, with interesting subject matter. If I had to choose one, I would pick that female red-winged blackbird that I rarely see and have never been able to photograph yet.

    Enjoy your new schedule, and get a lot of rest whenever you can.

    May 5, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    • Thank you very much Hien! Good light makes for good photos, and I lucked out and had good light for a change. However, I shot the female red-winged blackbird on a different day, when it was quite dreary, but she posed so nicely for me that the lack of light wasn’t an issue.

      I think that the new schedule will work well, and Ill sure like having two days in a row off from work.

      May 6, 2018 at 6:18 am

  7. Love the warblers! It’s a real change to see small birds again in your photos – it MUST be spring.

    I think you’ll love your new schedule. When I worked retail, we were always scheduled to have two consecutive days off. I never actually had Sat/Sun, but that doesn’t matter. Two days gives you time to regroup, get your chores done, and mentally set yourself up for a new week. I can imagine that having non- rush hour shifts would be a great stress reducer. Enjoy. You certainly deserve it.

    So, when birds lose feathers, like with your two fighting blackbirds, do they grow new ones? Seems like a bird could be cripped in flight with the loss of a few strategic feathers.

    Anyway, it’s great to see the blue skies and sunshine in the background of your photos. Whew!

    May 6, 2018 at 8:03 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! Yes, it’s finally spring around here, it’s been quite pleasant since about the first of May. And yes, the warblers are migrating through the area, I wish that I had a week of vacation time to chase them all. But, that won’t happen until next spring.

      I actually had the trucking industry equivalent of three days off when I was on the old schedule, but the time off wasn’t very well suited for getting out to shoot photos. It may have been 34 hours off from work twice a week plus one full day off, but it didn’t seem like it due to the start and end times of the two 34 hour breaks.

      Yes, birds regrow feathers when they lose them, almost all birds shed all their feathers at least once a year, and most species molt twice a year. But, in the fight between the red-winged blackbirds, the one tore the feathers out of the back of its opponent, so the opponent’s flight capabilities weren’t affected.

      You’re not kidding, after what seems like half a year of almost constant clouds, seeing blue skies is a real treat. Come to think of it, it was almost half a year of clouds this winter. πŸ™‚

      May 6, 2018 at 2:57 pm

  8. Your day was superb in captures, Jerry! I hope your new schedule works out for you and you’re back out with nature more often. I’m glad to see you back to shooting, I’ve always enjoy your excellent work. πŸ™‚

    May 6, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    • Thanks again Donna! It was a long cold cloudy winter, and I should have more time for photography with the new schedule and some nice weather for a change.

      May 6, 2018 at 5:49 pm

  9. I am always so happy to see spring arrive! Life emerging

    May 6, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    • Thank you very much Mary! I love spring for the reason that you mentioned, new life appearing everywhere.

      May 7, 2018 at 5:51 am

  10. Lovely shots!

    May 7, 2018 at 5:59 am

    • Thank you!

      May 7, 2018 at 6:57 am

  11. I hope you enjoy your new work schedule – two days off together should give you enough time for rest as well as the photography you wish to do. I was amazed at the brilliant yellow colour of the yellow warbler! I should think it is fairly easy to see at the moment with few leaves on the trees but once the trees are fully covered it probably isn’t. So many beautiful shots!

    May 8, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! The bright yellow of the yellow warblers goes so well with a bright blue sky, it’s hard to think of a better bird/background color combination. You’ve hit upon the reason that early spring is the best time of year to photograph birds, you can see them before the trees grow their leaves. In the summer, the same birds stay hidden in deep shade, or can’t be seen at all, because they hide in the leaves.

      My new work schedule seems good so far, I’ll know more tomorrow, when I actually get the first of two days in a row off. πŸ™‚

      May 9, 2018 at 6:53 am

      • I hope you have a wonderful day! πŸ™‚

        May 9, 2018 at 5:52 pm

  12. I’m just getting caught up again, Jerry. Thank you for posting that cardinal photo! I miss them out here in the west. They don’t come this far.

    May 13, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I hope to shoot more photos of cardinals soon.

      May 13, 2018 at 5:24 pm