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

I shouldn’t have, but I did

On my last two days off from work, I did the same old thing at the same old places as I usually do, I went to the Muskegon County wastewater facility and the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve. I did so because I was trying to find a species of bird that I need for the My Photo Life list project that I’m working on, a northern mockingbird. A mockingbird has been seen and heard several times this spring at the wastewater facility, but I hadn’t been able to locate it, until Friday.

Northern Mockingbird

That photo would have been good enough for me to cross that species off from my list of species that I need to complete the list, but I was able to use some natural cover to get slightly closer and with a clear view of the mockingbird.

Northern Mockingbird

I thought that as long as he continued to sing…

Northern Mockingbird

…that he didn’t think that I represented a threat to him. I made sure that I had shot plenty of images of him, enjoying his song as I watched him through the viewfinder, and then I moved on, listening to him as I walked back to my car. Now I know why people say that the song of a mockingbird is one of the most beautiful bird songs that one can hear.

Earlier this spring, I listed three species of warblers as my goals for this spring, but I have yet to make a serious search for any of the three. Although, I did keep my eyes open when I visited Lane’s Landing in the Muskegon State Game Area, as all three of the species have been seen passing through that area in the past. The way things have been going this spring, I may not get a chance to search for the three species that I had as my goal for the year, as I’ve been quite lucky to cross several other species off from the list this spring. That’s okay, there’s always next year, as long as I’m adding species to my completed list, it doesn’t make any difference which species they are, or where I find them.

One other thing that I have been trying to do this spring is to show a wider variety of birds, and not fill my posts with only a few species of birds. However, since I’m getting so close to having photographed most of the species of birds seen in my part of Michigan, finding new series becomes harder all the time. I have posted more than one image of one species at times, when the series told a story, as with the cedar waxwing eating aphids. I never shoot only one photo of any bird when I have the chance to shoot more than one, so I have a lot of leftover photos from my earlier trips this spring, of species that seldom appear here, such as this American avocet.

American avocet


American avocet


American avocet

And, this eared grebe.

Eared grebe

Also, this female rose-breasted grosbeak, even though they are a common species here.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak


Female rose-breasted grosbeak

I’m not sure why I felt the need to use those photos from earlier this spring in this post, when I shot plenty of equally good or better images this past weekend.

Male northern shoveler in flight

Early morning light reflecting off from the water makes getting an image like that easy, it’s the same with this one.

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

If only the eagle had turned to look at me. 😦

Grasshopper sparrow



My new work schedule is working well for me to get to where I’m going for the day when the light is great, right at sunrise, even though most of the sunrises have been rather boring as far as the sunrise itself. I’ve been very fortunate for the past month, I’ve had excellent light with mostly clear skies at sunrise, and as the days have progressed, only high, thin clouds have formed by the afternoon, meaning that I’ve had very good light almost the entire time that I’ve been out for this month. It also helps when a bird perches in great light to shoot an image such as the last one of the killdeer.

The killdeer was standing on the rock in a place where the light from the sunrise struck only the bird and the top of the rocks, the base of the rocks and the water were still in the shade, so I had to shoot that image even though killdeer are very common, and I’ve posted many photos of them in the past.

I could go on at length about how diffuse light is easier to shoot photos in…

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

…but that I’m learning how to use the shadows to help define the shape of my subject to get a more three-dimensional look to the subject, but I won’t. I’ll only repeat something that I’m learning, light illuminates, shadows define. That’s one of the reasons that I shoot more photos of any one bird when I have the chance, along with getting the best possible pose from the subject that I can.

No wildlife, especially birds, are ever completely motionless, so I watch the subject through the viewfinder, and when I get a good pose from the subject, with the light as good as it can be, then I’ll fire off a series of shots in low-speed continuous until I see that the bird has moved again. I think that most of the images in this post so far are good examples of that. However, there are still times when a subject doesn’t move, and I have to settle for an image with shadows that are too harsh.

Ruddy duck

I shouldn’t have posted that image due to the harsh shadow on the left side of the bird, but it isn’t often that I get that close to a ruddy duck. They’re usually more skittish than this one was, and even he took off a few seconds after I shot that image.

Ruddy duck in flight

Enough of that, I think that the time has come to show a map of my home state of Michigan again.

Map of Michigan

That’s because there are several new readers to my blog, and not all of them are familiar with where I live. You can see that Michigan, shaded in yellow on the map, consists of two peninsulas surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes. I live in the metropolitan Grand Rapids area, which is labeled on the map, as is Muskegon, which is on the shore of Lake Michigan. It’s only about a 50 mile drive for me from home to Muskegon. Also, I drive to Traverse City four nights a week for work, which is about 135 miles north of grand Rapids. The area where I located the osprey nest and the three nature preserves that I featured in a recent post are about 50 miles due north of Grand Rapids.

I also posted this map because I was considering shooting completely different subjects during my time off from work this week. It just so happened that my two days off coincided with the new moon for a change, and I was thinking of trying for a shot of the Milky Way and/or a star trails image. The Milky Way appears in the southern sky, and unfortunately, most of Michigan’s light pollution is in the southern third of the lower peninsula, and I’d also have to deal with the light coming from Chicago Illinois, which isn’t shown on the map, but is only 150 miles southwest of my location. That means that I’d have to go quite a distance to the north to get away from the manmade lights

I didn’t trust the weather forecasts either, as on both of my days off, it clouded over during the afternoon, and while the forecast called for clear skies again overnight, I didn’t want to drive as far from home as would be required only to find that there were clouds blocking my view of the sky. Maybe I’ll try the night photography this fall if the timing of the new moon and the weather cooperates.

Also, on Friday, the clouds thickened to the point where thunder showers developed, and I sat along the road between Muskegon State Park and Duck Lake State Park, hoping for a chance to photograph lightning. However, the lightning bolts were few and far between, and I hadn’t thought of a way to keep my camera and lens dry as the rain fell. Maybe one of these days I’ll catch a storm where the lightning is visible before the rain starts falling, or I’ll invest in a good umbrella to keep myself and my camera gear dry. Although, I did have the idea of opening the lift gate of my Subaru, setting the tripod up under the lift gate, and sitting in the back of the car to shoot photos and stay dry. It wouldn’t have worked where I was on Friday though, but it’s something for me to keep in mind for future reference.

The point to all this, if there is one, is that there are so many things that I’d like to photograph, but as always, time limits what I can do. There are plenty of scenic areas in Michigan, but I’ve been chasing birds, because spring is the best time of the year for bird photography. The males are in their breeding plumage, and there are the birds that only migrate through Michigan, but don’t nest here.

It just dawned on me, I go through the same cycle every year. All through the winter, I’m complaining about the lack of light and the fact that the birds, what few there are, are all in their eclipse plumage. Then, when spring arrives, I complain that I don’t have enough time to photograph everything that I’d like to.

I don’t know how to break that cycle though, it’s something that I know is going to happen, so I shouldn’t complain about it as much as I do. I should just shoot the images that I can, and let nature go through its cycles with no complaints from me.

Moth mullein


White campion


Bee on an unidentified flowering object


Bee on an unidentified flowering object






Turkey poult


Eastern kingbird


Unidentified damselfly

And, I probably shouldn’t think about visiting new places in hopes of finding a photographic nirvana as much as I do, as long as I’m shooting good images and I’m not bored sitting around waiting for wildlife to appear, what difference should it make where I shoot the images.

I say that because I did do the exact same thing two days in a row last week while searching for the mockingbird, and now I may have to repeat that this week, as a rare to Michigan Henslow’s sparrow is being seen and heard regularly at the wastewater facility lately. That’s another species of bird that I need to track down for the My Photo Life list project that I’m working on, and I’ll probably find the temptation of adding another species to my list too great to pass up.

In addition, I’m getting good photos of birds and other subjects at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, including a few series of photos of bird behaviors, such as the cedar waxwing eating aphids. I have quite a few photos from MLNP left over to post, and I think that one day on my upcoming “weekend”, that I’ll take a few wider photos and devote a future post to just photos from there. I say that because I’m planning on where to go for my next two days off from work as I type this.

In the meantime, here’s a few more photos from my last outings.

Wood duck at dawn


Upland sandpiper


Upland sandpiper chick


Sandhill crane


Female downy woodpecker


Female downy woodpecker

I know that my posts have been jumbled up messes lately, I’m sorry, but I can’t help it. I get started on a subject, then it’s time for work or for me to go out and shoot more photos, and I lose my train of thought, or I worry that people will find the track I was on boring, so I switch to another subject. I’ll try to make my post more readable in the future though.

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


19 responses

  1. You got some great shots of the mockingbird and that avocet, which is pretty and odd at the same time.
    I’m pretty sure that the white flower head is a dogwood. Which one I don’t know.
    Nice shots of the motherwort and dragonflies, but my favorite is the wood duck!
    I thought this post was perfectly readable. Good luck finding that sparrow!

    June 19, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! I’ve been getting lucky lately when I find a new species of bird and have been able to get very good images of it. The avocet isn’t new to me, but it was much closer this time so I didn’t have to crop the images, although in my previous images of that species, it was wading so that you could see its very long legs.

      The wood duck was pure luck, I was standing next to a manmade lake looking the situation over when it landed right in the middle of the reflections of the trees. In the past, I would have tried to get much closer, but I settled for that long range image just for the colors and the lighting.

      I’ll need some luck with the Henslow’s sparrow, they’re notorious for staying hidden in the tall grasses that they inhabit.

      June 19, 2018 at 5:46 pm

  2. Your posts give me so much pleasure, illustrated with such excellent photographs. It doesn’t matter whether you are shooting land birds, water birds, insects, animals or views, every picture is a delight.

    June 19, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! It helps that I’ve learned where the various subjects you mentioned are found, and that I’ve had excellent light for the past month when I’ve had the chance to shoot photos.

      June 19, 2018 at 5:52 pm

  3. Congratulations on the mockingbird find. I can imagine how much it must please you to score another hit on your list.

    Think my favorite from this post though is that elegant avocet. That’s an amazing profile.

    Hope you get an extra day off over the 4th to wander around with your camera and find new things to shoot. I always look forward to your posts hitting my mailbox.

    June 20, 2018 at 7:53 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! Yes, it’s nice to check off another species photographed, but I think that it’s because I’m in the middle of this project, a lot of the thrill is gone each time I do find another species. The mockingbird was different though, because I was able to hear its beautiful singing for the first time in my life. It will also change as I get closer to the end of the list. But, for now, if I do find the Henslow’s sparrow this summer, it will only matter to hard core birders, not to the average reader that’s never heard of a Henslow’s sparrow let alone seen one, or cares to see one. πŸ˜‰

      If you liked the avocet, wait until I finally track down the godwits and willets, as their profiles are even more interesting than the avocet’s.

      The run that I do at work goes every day because it’s from one processing facility to another, and the processing facilities never shut down. So, I won’t get a day off, but I will be paid double time for the holiday, which means a bigger paycheck, and it will be that much sooner that I’ll be able to afford a better camera. πŸ˜‰

      June 20, 2018 at 2:29 pm

  4. A very enjoyable post πŸ™‚

    June 20, 2018 at 9:44 am

    • Thank you very much Janice!

      June 20, 2018 at 2:14 pm

  5. Don’t change the style of your posts at all…they are always full of interest and the photos are amazing. Thanks for putting the map in, it’s really helpful! Love all the photos but especially the mockingbird, the American avocet and the Rose breasted grosbeak, who looks as if its heart has been broken in two by a female! Best of all , for me though , is the wood duck at dawn. The setting, the colours, the reflection, the bubbles and the determination of a delightful bird going somewhere to do something…probably eat…but I love it! Thank you.

    June 20, 2018 at 10:20 am

    • Thank you very much Marianne! I think that you’ll like the way that I do the next post, even though it will be a little different than my usual posts, especially if you found the map useful.

      After a terrible early spring, my luck has changed, with good birds in good light, and at reasonable distances to shoot the species that you mentioned.

      That sort of goes with the wood duck photo that you liked, since I shot fairly good images of them at close range earlier this spring, when I saw that one land in the lake, I was content to shoot that more artistic image, rather than try to sneak up on the wood duck to get closer to it. That never works anyway, they are extremely wary birds that usually vanish in one way or another long before I get close to them.

      June 20, 2018 at 2:38 pm

  6. The killdeer picture is an absolute knockout. Brilliant. Your map was useful so thank you for posting it. I like context. What struck me is how much you travel. You must do more in a month than I do in a year.

    June 20, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! I lucked out that day and had several birds land in very good light, the killdeer being one of them.

      I probably do drive much farther than you, but I’ll be our mileage is much closer to equal if you include your cycling miles. πŸ˜‰

      June 20, 2018 at 9:23 pm

      • That is a nice thought if a bit optimistic about how far I pedal.

        June 21, 2018 at 2:30 pm

  7. Congratulations for getting to see and hear the Northern Mockingbird! This is a wonderful post, Jerry! The light has certainly been good recently, for your shots are so clear and detailed. The Killdeer, the Shoveler, the Mockingbird and the Kingbird are beautiful shots as are the Moth Mullein and the Campion, both of them sparkling in the light! I enjoyed seeing all the wildlife you have photographed recently.

    June 21, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! It was a treat to see and hear a mockingbird for the first time. And you’re right, I’ve been blessed with great light for the last month, which has made photography very easy.

      June 21, 2018 at 9:18 pm

  8. I have been to Traverse City many years ago and can relate somewhat to the beauty of Michigan that you have shown us in your posts.

    This series of photos are again a pleasure to view and admire. I especially like your marvelous shots of the Killdeer and the Avocet.

    Have a very nice weekend!

    June 23, 2018 at 8:46 am

    • Thank you very much Hien! It’s a good thing that you saw the Traverse City area when you did, it’s become so popular with tourists now that there are long lines of traffic at every spot that I used to go to in the old days.

      I’ve been very lucky, we’re on pace to have the cloudiest June ever, but I’ve had great light on my days off from work. I had a great weekend, maybe your sentiments helped on that account.

      June 23, 2018 at 8:57 am

  9. First, I have to comment on your last post, it may have closed for comments (I’m STILL catching up with all my blog reading!). Your captures were all stunning, Jerry! And I loved your captures of the Osprey!!

    This post continues your stunning work. If I were required to be just one or two or three or four or……on and on……image as my favorite, I couldn’t. πŸ™‚ It is always a joy to see your posts. Even if I have to catch up with them, because I do not want to miss one.

    June 26, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna! I’m just a nut that loves photography and nature, which is a dangerous combination I have found. I couldn’t stop shooting photos even if I tried to for some reason.

      June 27, 2018 at 7:00 am

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