I was afraid of that
Well, I went back to the Muskegon River area where I had gone and shot the landscape photos from my last post. But, I got a late start, and missed the chance to photograph a glorious sunrise, although it was wonderful to view as I drove north towards the river. I also managed to find the three nature preserves that I hadn’t been able to locate on my last trip up there, but more on them later.
Even though I was too late to catch the color that had been in the sky earlier, I still wanted to return to the same spot to explore other compositions for future reference. That didn’t happen, as the river was several feet higher than the previous week, and I would have needed to wear my waders or hack through brush to get to the same place. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had found the exact location that I had shot the last images from, with the river being so much higher, the scene would have been completely different anyway.
So, I settled for this shot of an ox-eye daisy…
…and this photo looking downstream after the sun was above the horizon.
I mentioned in my last post that this spot on the river is between two dams used to generate electricity, so the water level of the river fluctuates depending on the demands for electricity, and the amount of water being released by the dams.
After I shot the two photos above, I stopped at the dam farthest upstream, as there’s a very small park there, and that led to my surprise of the day, which I’ll get to in a second or two. First, here’s a photo of a sign at the little park by the dam that has a map of the area on it to help give you a better idea of what this area is like.
The access site from where I shot the landscape photos in this post and my last post is a few miles downstream of the place on the map labeled “You are here”. I was checking out the park, and spotted these flowers there…
…when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a large bird carrying a stick fly behind some trees. I had just read the sign and had noticed that there was an osprey nest platform in the area, little did I know that it was right there in the park.
I returned to my car to install the 1.4 X tele-converter to get better photos of the osprey.
But, I was on the ground looking up at the nest, not the best angle for photography.
I’m not sure if the osprey on the nest was the bird that I had seen carrying a stick to the nest, or if it was that bird’s mate which was perched in a nearby tree screeching away at something.
I thought about setting up my tripod with the gimbal head on it to shoot more photos of the osprey…
…but due to the layout of the park and where the nest was located, I think that late afternoon would be the best time to photograph them.
And as it was, I shot almost 100 images of them as I dealt with the shadows caused by the light coming from the wrong direction.
Since they have nested there, I can return at my leisure to shoot more images of them whenever I have the time to do so.
To tell you the truth, it felt to me as I was cheating by hanging out there by the osprey nest, but they didn’t seem to be a bit bothered by my presence at all. They’re probably quite used to people being there in the park. Even shooting with the light the way it was at the time, I got what are easily my best images to date of the osprey, and I didn’t have to work to get them.
On the other hand, my instincts for finding places to photograph birds are still as good as ever, as the area around the Muskegon River has the habitat required for many species of birds. In fact, an extremely rare to Michigan sighting of a Mississippi kite happened last week just a few miles downstream from this area that I’m beginning to explore.
Speaking of exploring, as much as I wanted to shoot more photos of the osprey, I had other places I wanted to check on to see if they would be suitable as a place to go where I could set-up my portable hide and spend a day shooting wildlife.
My first stop turned out to be a bust, it looked like public land on the maps, but it turned out that it was private and well-marked as such. My second stop was one of the nature preserves that I hadn’t been able to locate on my last outing to the area, the Coolbough Natural Area.
I walked the loop around the wetlands area that you can see on the map above, because I thought that it would be the most likely area to find a place to set-up the portable hide.
As a place to go for a pleasant walk in the woods, I couldn’t think of a much better place to go than this is. I saw only one other person during my walk around the most well used trails from what I could tell from how worn the trails were. Or I should say, from how little wear there was to most of the side trails, as the wetlands loop was easily the most used trail in this natural area. It was quiet, except for occasional singing birds, and there are many types of habitat in this natural area to see as you walk through it.
But, I didn’t find a spot that would make it worthwhile to sit in a hide, as there’s nothing there to concentrate the wildlife in any one small area. Not even the ponds, which I thought would be the most likely spot to set-up the hide.
I sat where I shot that photo from for some time to see if anything would show up there at the pond, but other than a good number of red-winged blackbirds, I saw only a few other species of songbirds, and no waterfowl or wading birds at all. I was a little surprised that there weren’t even any mallards or Canada geese there, although I’m sure that the pond does have a few visitors from time to time.
Given the weather that day, it would have been a good day to have taken my macro photography gear and spent my time looking for and photographing wildflowers, but I didn’t know what I would find since it was my first time there.
That was shot with the 16-35 mm lens, but I should have brought my macro lens. The 16-35 mm lens worked fine for that image, but other things that I saw really needed the macro lens.
I made do with the 100-400 mm lens along with the 16-35 mm lens while I walked the trail.
Finally, my one photo of a bird from during my walk.
If I were a birder that was only interested in counting the number of species of birds that I saw through my binoculars, the Coolbough Natural Area would be a great place to go, but as a photographer, it was tough to get close to any of the birds that I saw and heard during my walk there. The birds are free to spread out and so they do, and there’s no single place where one is likely to get close to the birds there.
I suppose that I could change the way I go about getting photos of birds, I did see a bluebird gathering food for its young, and I saw where the bluebird carried the food it had collected back to its nest. I could set-up the hide near the bluebird’s nest and photograph it as it came and went, but that idea doesn’t appeal to me. I’d rather not sit in a hide all day for a few images of one species of bird, even if the images turned out to be excellent. I’ll have more thoughts on this subject later.
My next stop was the Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary…
…where I shot two poor landscape photos…
…to show that it was mostly open meadow…
…which is rare in Michigan.
Maybe I’m missing something, the powers that be claim that this open oak/pine savanna was common in this part of Michigan before the Europeans arrived here. But, they have to do prescribed burns every few years to maintain these open areas, or the forest would take over. You can see by these photos that there are a good number of trees that have sprouted since the last time this area was burned, and it won’t be long before they have to do another controlled burn there to keep the area as it is. That’s all I’m going to say on the subject, or I’ll get in trouble if I state my opinion on the subject.
As an area for birding, this was a complete bust, I should have taken my macro lens and shot the tiny meadow wildflowers there.
My next stop was similar…
…in that it was mostly open meadows with only small wooded areas. However, as a place for birding, it would be a better choice than the Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary as there are more wooded areas and it is a much larger preserve as well.
Neither of the sanctuaries controlled by the Michigan Nature Association have parking areas or trails of any type, you have to pull off the side of the road to park, and you’re free to roam around both of the sanctuaries. I doubt if any one other than dyed in the wool wildflower lovers ever visit either of these sanctuaries. That’s not all bad, and for my purposes, either of them would be perfect, if there was any wildlife to photograph there. You know, that sounds misleading, as there’s plenty of insects to go with the wildflowers that I could have photographed, but I was looking for places to go to photograph birds and other types of wildlife.
The fawn was shot at the Muskegon County wastewater facility, which was my final stop for the day. Since I saw that the male ducks were just beginning to molt into their eclipse plumage, I was hoping to get a few good images of the ducks in flight that showed all the colors of the breeding plumage.
The light made for pleasing images…
…but I couldn’t catch a duck where the colors on its wings really popped…
…with the exception of this male northern shoveler…
…and even then, I’m not happy with that image.
I still find it hard to believe that 1/2000 second isn’t a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the motion of a duck’s wings, unless they are so far from me that I have to crop the images considerably to make the bird appear as large in the frame as I’d like. Those were cropped a little, but not much, because the ducks had been resting on shore, and I was able to get close to them before they took flight. The motion blur at that fast of a shutter speed does tell you how fast the ducks flap their wings at take off though.
Okay then, of course I’ll return to the small park near the dam where the osprey nest…
…is located to shoot better images of the adults, along with the young osprey as the grow.
I think that I’ll return to the Coolbough Natural Area from time to time when there’s good light and light winds so that I can shoot images of the wildflowers there, with maybe an occasional bird if I’m lucky.
However, I didn’t find a spot at any of the three nature preserves that would make it worthwhile to take the portable hide, set it up, and spend hours in it, as the wildlife is abundant at all three preserves, but it’s also spread out too much to make using the hide a viable plan of action for getting good images of the wildlife.
I was afraid of that. As I have speculated in the past, the small preserves on the edges of human development force the wildlife to concentrate in those small preserves, making them much better choices for photography. For example, on the day after the one that produced the images that you’ve seen so far, I spent a few hours at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve again, and there was never a time when there weren’t several birds in sight at all times.
This waxwing was eating the few ripe berries on the bush it was perched in.
There was never a time at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve when I couldn’t see close to 20 species of birds if I looked around. Of course, most of the birds were out of camera range, but you never know when one will fly past.
That’s not even my best flying bird of the day, but it goes well with the cedar waxwing images above it. There’s an advantage to having shot plenty of good images of a species, I don’t feel the need to shoot a perfect image every time that I get a chance to photograph that species again. So, I can get more creative and artistic as with the waxwing. I didn’t zoom in all the way for the first image of it, and I also stopped down the lens for more depth of field to achieve a photo that looks similar to an Audubon watercolor in my opinion, I love that image even if I was able to zoom in more for the second image of the waxwing. I also like the look of the heron image, it looks like a painting rather than a photograph.
I’m beginning to think that the place that I go doesn’t matter as much as my approach to photographing wildlife. As I said, I could take the portable hide to where the bluebird nest is and finally get good images of a bluebird, but I’ve never done anything like that before. Sure, when an opportunity too good to pass up, like the osprey nest in the small park, comes along, I take advantage of it. But, I’ve never purposely tracked down a bird’s nest just to shoot images of the birds that built the nest.
It would be easy enough for me to do this time of year…
…all I have to do is watch where an adult took the food that it was gathering for its young, and keep watching until I spotted the nest. Then, I could set-up the portable hide and wait for the adults to return time and time again as they feed their young.
Or, I could do something that I noticed that some one else has done, put up a bird feeder out in the woods somewhere and wait for the birds to come to the feeder.
That still seems like cheating to me, it isn’t as if I have a feeder outside my house where I’d be sitting and watching the birds as we used to do at my parents home. And, I’ve always taken pride in the fact that 99.9% of the wildlife that I’ve shot photos of were completely wild birds shot in natural settings. The photo of the red-winged blackbird may not be the perfect image of that species…
…but there’s something to be said for less than perfect images that are good, and show the behavior of the subject, as with these last two photos. It looks to me as the blackbird was plucking newly “hatched” damselflies from the water as the damselflies emerged from the water to dry their wings after they had transformed from nymphs to their adult stage. So, in one photo, you can tell several things at one time. The damselflies have no color yet, which is what leads me to believe that they had just emerged from the nymphal stage of their life cycle. They are easy pickings for the blackbird until their wings dry and they are ready to take flight for the first time. Because the damselflies are easy pickings, I’m sure that young red-winged blackbirds are fed a steady diet of damselflies.
Anyway, I find an osprey nest, and it’s located in a tiny park between a busy road and a working hydro-electric dam in an area that’s quite noisy, and not a good place to shoot videos. I have no need for the portable hide there, as the osprey don’t seem to mind humans being close to them.
I find a natural area that’s very quiet and would be a great location to shoot videos at, but I couldn’t find a spot within the natural area that would make it worthwhile for me to set-up the hide and spend time sitting in it.
Isn’t that the way it goes, I really was afraid of that.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!