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

Having trouble getting started

I’m having trouble getting started with this post at the present time, I could do a post about GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), which I thought that I had conquered. But, both Canon and Nikon have recently introduced full frame mirrorless cameras which will probably be the future of digital photography. I could explain why that is, and why I’m interested, but I don’t think that I will, at least not now.

I could do a post on why it’s hard for me to post average photos of common subjects…

Red-eyed vireo

…since I shot the image of the dragonfly from my last post, and I’ve been expanding my horizons this summer in shooting night photos, the Milky Way, and the other subjects that I’ve been shooting. But, I won’t, as that leads me back to photo gear and techniques, such as how my images of birds in flight…

Juvenile tree swallow in flight

 

Great blue heron in flight

…have improved to the point that I’m now proud of the images of them that I shoot far more often than not.

Or, I could brag about how much my macro images have improved lately…

Grasshopper

 

Water strider

…but I don’t want to go down that road either.

I could do a post on the ethics of baiting wildlife, and whether it’s a violation of my own ethics if I see that birds…

Male northern cardinal molting

 

Male northern cardinal molting

 

White-breasted nuthatch

 

White-breasted nuthatch

…or other wildlife comes to eat what others have left for them…

Red squirrel

…when I could just post this photo…

White-breasted nuthatch

…and not mention that I got that photo by standing near food that some one else had left to attract the bird in the photo.

In some ways, what I did in standing near the pile of peanuts, sunflower seeds, and other seeds on the ground isn’t much different from when I stand near a bush covered with berries that I see birds eating and photograph the birds as they come to eat the berries. The only difference is that the berries are a natural source of food that I take advantage of, rather than putting the food out myself.

I could do a detailed description of Huff Park, the park that I’ve gone to the past two weeks…

Sign for Huff Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan

…but I think that the signs says everything that I would have to say about the park.

Wait, that’s not true, I do have something to say about this park. It’s another of the postage stamp sized parks that attracts a wide variety of migrating birds that use the park during their journeys, both north in the spring, and south in the fall. This park, like many of the other smaller parks I’ve been visiting lately, provide the birds with food and cover, places for them to rest and refuel within the limits of Michigan’s second largest city.

I used to go to the largest parks and other public areas that there were in the area where I live, thinking that getting away from other people was the key to finding birds to photograph, and while I do see a few birds in large parks, they are spread out more, and harder to find. These small parks, such as Huff Park, The Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, and the East Grand River Park in Grand Haven, concentrate the birds in small areas, making them easier to find and photograph. Not only that, I would think that these small oasis parks are very important to the survival of many of the migrating birds that depend on these parks during migration.

That leads me to another observation that I’ve made recently, when I go to a large park, the birds are spread out over wide areas, and I see only one or two at a time. However, in the smaller parks, the birds form large mixed flocks that stay together as they move though the park as they search for food. I wonder why that is? Not that I have an answer, but it’s something that I hope to remember to ask Brian Johnson the next time that I bump into him.

Now, more than ever, I wish that I had been able to photograph more of the birds that I saw in Huff Park than I was able to.

Female northern cardinal

I missed more birds than I was able to get photos of.

Eastern wood-pewee

And for this next one, I threw the camera to my eye, hit the auto-focus button and shutter release at almost the same time, hoping that the camera would get a focus on the bird before it moved on me yet again.

Magnolia warbler

Just as on the trail to Lost Lake in Muskegon last week, I found flickers in flocks as they migrate south.

Northern Flicker

While the year round resident downy woodpeckers were nearby, but they were also there in small flocks mixed in the overall larger mixed flocks of birds.

Male downy woodpecker

Some of it makes sense to me, when I think about it. I can see why flycatchers such as the pewee and a few eastern Phoebe that I wasn’t able to get photos of, would hang around near the warblers, vireos, and other smaller birds, to pick off the flying insects stirred up by the smaller birds as they worked through the vegetation looking for their own preferred insects to eat.

I’m guessing that the flickers were in small family flocks, maybe several families of them migrating together, and they are vocal birds, often calling to one another as they search for food, or in the case last week while on the Lost Lake trail, alerting the others to the Cooper’s hawk that was hunting the flickers and other small birds.

Maybe I’m on to something here. In large parks, the birds are able to spread out more, making it harder for potential predators…

Domestic cat

…to locate them. In a small park, where they are already concentrated in a small area to begin with, and therefore easier for predators to find them, maybe it’s safer for the birds to all stick together in even tighter flocks so that they can warn the others in the flock of predators, or receive the warnings from the others.

Of course, that theory may be all wrong, but it’s something for me to continue to observe this fall as the birds migrate south.

That reminds me, I have another “mystery” that I’d love to be able to solve. It concerns this juvenile bald eagle…

Juvenile bald eagle carrying a fish

…where it catches fish, and where it goes to eat them. This is the third time that I’ve seen this juvenile eagle carrying fish while flying over the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve from south to north. I have to wonder why it travels so far to eat the fish that it catches, since it’s a juvenile, and given the time of year that it is, it can’t be carrying the fish back to  its nest to feed its young. I’d love to find out where it does its fishing, it can’t be very far from the preserve from the lay of the land and water in that area. There are also trees and manmade objects that the eagle could use as a perch to land and eat the fish that it catches off to the south of the preserve, so I don’t understand why it travels so far and burns so much energy carrying the fish as far as it does. It’s not as if eagles share food, quite the contrary, they often steal food from other eagles and other predators when they can. Maybe that’s why this eagle travels as far as it does, it has a spot where it feels safe to perch and eat its meal in peace, and not have to fight off other eagles trying to steal the meal it worked so hard for.

It could also be that the eagle doesn’t want to alert any other passing eagles to the fishing spot that it’s found if it were to perch nearer to where it had caught the fish it was carrying. If another eagle flying past saw this one eating its meal nearby, the other eagle may encroach on this one’s favorite fishing hole. So, maybe as I typed this out, I’ve explained the mystery, but I’d still love to learn where this eagle does its fishing in hopes that I’d be able to photograph it in action.

I suppose that the poor photo of the eagle carrying its meal should be my motivation to continue to shoot photos such as that, as they prompt me to think about the behavior of the subjects of such photographs, and I try to figure out why the subject is doing what it’s doing.

Sometimes, that’s easy.

Jumping spider with its meal

I did try to shoot a better photo from close to the same angle, but the vegetation made that impossible.

Jumping spider with its meal

So, I had to settle for this.

Jumping spider with its meal

I also wish that I’d been able to switch to my macro lens and get closer to the spider, but it was already trying to move away from me, dragging the grasshopper with it since it didn’t want to lose its meal. On the other hand, this garden spider was too busy wrapping its latest victim in its web as I shot this photo.

Garden spider and its meal

That’s one of the many times that I should have switched to shoot a video of the spider as it used its hind legs to wrap the grasshopper in its web. But, handholding the camera, the 100-400 mm lens, and the 1.4 X tele-converter would have resulted in such a poor video because of how shaky it would have been that I didn’t even try to shoot a video.

Come to think of it, I have another mystery to solve, and I don’t think that I’ll be able to do that on my own.

The mystery of the blue leaves

I took that wide shot after I had removed some of the other foliage from around these leaves…

The mystery of the blue leaves

…to get the best possible view, and best possible photo of them.

It looked to me as if these leaves had turned blue naturally, and weren’t a result of human interference, such as paint. I suppose that the minerals in the soil could be the reason that these leaves turned blue, but I’m not an expert on plants. I can’t even identify the species of plant that this is, which is the reason that I included the wider shot, in hopes that some one would be able to tell me what this plant is, and possibly, why its leaves would turn that shade of blue.

Anyway, here are a few more of the photos that I shot this last week.

Tickseed sunflower?

 

Bumblebee on the same species of flower

Sometimes, I prefer a wider shot that I shoot…

Joe Pye weed

…over images that I shoot with the macro lens.

Joe Pye weed

I wonder why all spiders seem to hang upside down on their webs, and also, why I seldom see them in a position where I can shoot the top of them.

Orb weaver spider

I really meant to pay more attention to the leaves of this next flower so that I’d have a chance of identifying it, but I was distracted by the spider shown above and forgot to shoot a photo of the leaves.

One of the smartweed? Possibly lady’s thumb?

My skill level when it comes to identifying flowers is close to zero, I believe that this next flower is in the aster family, and not the daisy family, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn otherwise.

White aster?

This next one is just a wider photo showing some of the colors and textures that I saw and enjoyed, even if the photo doesn’t do justice to the scene.

Fall colors and textures

And finally, one of my favorite wildflowers which is coming to the end of its blooming period as fall approaches.

Chicory

Well, I have a good many thoughts running through my head right now, things that I have to sort out as I go. I’ve already had another two days off from work since I began this post, and I just barely managed to shoot enough photos for another post, maybe. They were somewhat disappointing days, made worse by the swarms of mosquitoes everywhere I went during those two days. We received over a foot of rain over a two-week period not long ago, which as I explained in a previous post, has made finding trails dry enough to walk harder to do. And with all the standing water left from the rain, it’s going to be a bad fall as far as the skeeters, at least until it dries out here.

Enough of that, time for me to work on my plans for going up north in a few weeks to photograph the fall colors there, and to begin another post.

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

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31 responses

  1. Fantastic images, as always, Jerry!

    September 16, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    • Thank you very much Sue!

      September 16, 2018 at 5:53 pm

  2. It is such a pleasure to scroll slowly through your posts giving time to look carefully at each image, I couldn’t pick a favourite one there were too many!

    September 16, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! All I can say is that I try to vary the subjects as much as I can.

      September 16, 2018 at 5:54 pm

  3. Wonderful photos of a number of varied subjects. I think that leaving food to attract birds/animals as a method to get more subjects closer to be photographed is a good idea as long as that cat isn’t hidden behind the tree waiting to catch its prey! Blue leaves and blue fangs(?) on the spider not sure about either of those things! The spider’s web is very intricate and looks like lace and interlocking stitches. I shall have to check out our webs…there are many around the house at present as it’s that time of year here! Favourite photo is the heron in flight- love it.

    September 16, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! I’m thinking of purchasing a hanging basket of flowers next year to hang out in the woods somewhere that will attract hummingbirds, as they are tiny birds that are difficult to find in the wild. I’m afraid that once I take that step, that I’d be throwing seeds out for other birds also, we’ll see.

      I liked the blue fangs of the spider, and the way the blue reflected in its eyes, but I didn’t think any one else would notice them. I was shocked by the blue leaves, so much so that I spent close to an hour trying to figure out if they were real or not, from what I could tell, they were real.

      I tried to shoot a video of a spider weaving its web this week, but I was handholding the camera, so the video was too shaky to post.Not only is the completed web intricate, how the spiders use their legs to put the silk in place is something to see.

      September 17, 2018 at 6:19 am

  4. “both Canon and Nikon have recently introduced full frame mirrorless cameras which will probably be the future of digital photography. I could explain why that is, and why I’m interested, but I don’t think that I will, at least not now.”

    When my bank balance has recovered from my new bike, my attention may well be turned to one of these….but that will be some time.

    Wonderful pictures and interesting thoughts.

    September 16, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    • Thank you very much Tom! The new mirrorless cameras are smaller and much lighter than the DSLR cameras that we’re using now. And, because the lenses can be mounted closer to the sensor, they’ll give superior results when using wider angle lenses. From what I read so far, you’d be wise to wait for at least one more generation of the Nikon, as it seems to have some issues that need to be worked out. I believe that you use Nikon now from what I remember, and it wouldn’t be worth it to sell your existing Nikon lenses to make the swap to another manufacturer. As for me, the new Canon uses the same sensor as my 5D Mk IV, so there’s no reason for me to rush into their new mirrorless. But, I’ll be tempted if they offer a version that uses the same sensor as in the 5DS R camera without the low pass filter and the super high resolution of that camera to use with my wide-angle lenses for landscapes. That would be a worthwhile addition to the camera that I use most of the time now, the 5D Mk IV.

      September 16, 2018 at 6:04 pm

  5. I love those flickers. They’re pretty birds that I never get to see.
    The molting cardinal on the other hand, is not very pretty.
    The blue leaves look like dogwood leaves but the plant doesn’t. I’m not sure what it is or why the leaves would be blue. I’ve seen lots of purple but never blue.
    I think the sunflower is actually a nodding bur marigold. If so it would have grown near water, possibly in water.
    I’m not sure what the pink flower head is but it doesn’t look like one of the smartweeds. It looks like it should be in a garden.
    I don’t know about the white aster either without seeing the leaves. It could be a chrysanthemum.
    Beautiful photos in this post!

    September 16, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! The flicker may be prettier than the cardinal is now, but those new feathers the cardinal is sprouting are a vivid shade of red, which I liked.

      I was stopped in my tracks when I saw the blue leaves, and spent close to an hour photographing them and attempting to figure out if they were real or not, from what I could tell, they were.

      I actually considered nodding burr marigold as the yellow flower, but the leaves of those didn’t look to be as serrated as the flower in my post from the online guides that I looked at. I must have used the wrong guide again, as with the smartweed. Maybe I should throw in the towel and just call all the wildflowers I see unidentified.

      September 17, 2018 at 6:32 am

      • I could have sworn that there were two species of bur marigold but now I can’t find the other one. Maybe it has serrated leaves or maybe I’m wrong about the identity.
        I hope you don’t give up trying to identify them!

        September 17, 2018 at 7:54 pm

      • I looked up several similar species, including the burr marigold, but the tickseed sunflower came the closest as far as the deeply notched edges of the leaves.

        September 18, 2018 at 7:46 am

      • You could be right, they do have that sort of leaf and bur marigolds don’t.

        September 18, 2018 at 4:35 pm

      • Here’s the one with serrated leaves: Bidens laevis

        September 18, 2018 at 6:28 pm

  6. GAS, just when you think your safe for awhile someone introduces a new camera.

    September 17, 2018 at 5:06 am

    • Thanks Bob, I’m not interested in the new mirrorless model at this time, the Canon has the same sensor as my 5D Mk IV so I’d see no improvement in image quality.

      September 17, 2018 at 6:05 am

  7. Great captures, love the bee on the yellow flower, gorgeous! Great variety as well, but you can keep your spider shots, YIKES, they scared me and they were only photos! 😲 I hate my spider phobia…. 😏

    September 17, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna! I’m sorry that the spiders frightened you, in a way, I understand that, as I’m not a fan of them either. But, they are a part of nature, and while I prefer not to share my personal space with them, seeing their behavior and the way that they spin their webs are fascinating to me.

      September 17, 2018 at 3:03 pm

      • They are fascinating to me, too, and I have been known to try to take photos of spiders (don’t tell them!!)…..but I’m still scared! 😉 When I walk through dense woods or brush, I usually have a stick to swipe away any webs that might be in front of me! You’ve never seen a jig like the one I do when I walk into a spider web!!! 😂

        September 17, 2018 at 3:09 pm

      • I’ve been known to use the stick trick on more than one occasion, and there’s an added benefit to it. It seems that waving a stick covered in spider webs around you helps to keep the skeeters at bay.

        September 17, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      • Noted the added benefit of ‘the stick’!!! 🙂

        September 18, 2018 at 9:51 am

  8. Hi Jerry. Love the mystery of the blue leaves. Hope one of your readers has some idea of the cause. They sure are startling to see.

    It occurred to me the other day that it’s been a long time since you’ve posted spider web photos. Was it because the summer was so dry, or have you moved on? In any case, I miss them. Saw a beauty of a web the other day, but by the time I fetched my camera and went back to grab a photo, it was gone. Or perhaps the morning light had just shifted enough to keep it hidden from me.

    I appreciate your opposition to baiting birds for photos, but have to admit that I’m on the fence as to how big of a crime it really is. At the extreme, if it unlearns natural food-gathering habits, it would be bad, but is a handful of peanuts the worst thing? I’m not convinced yet.

    Love how your posts always make me think.

    September 18, 2018 at 8:53 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! I’d like to learn why the leaves of that one plant turned blue, but I’ve had no luck tracking down an answer.

      As far as the lack of photos of spider webs in my blog, it’s because of my perception vs reality. The past two to three weeks, I’ve shot many dew covered webs, but I didn’t want people to think that I was going overboard with them, and I guess that I never posted even one of them. I’ve also been trying to shoot photos to show people how many I see at any one time, but that’s not going very well.

      Putting a few seeds or peanuts out for wildlife is no big deal, but I’m afraid that it could become the slippery slope that would lead me to me to begin moving into areas where the baiting could be more harmful to the subjects that I would be baiting. And, I take a great deal of pride in my abilities to find and approach wildlife without resorting to baiting. Of course, one of the ways that I do that is to stand partially hidden in bushes and trees filled with berries to photograph birds, and there really isn’t any difference there.

      I think that you’d be interested in the conversations that I have with Brian Johnson, the person who does the bird banding at the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve. I learn so much from him, and I’m only able to pass on a tidbit or two occasionally. I should start a series of blog posts called “Conversations with Brian”, but then the photos I shoot should go with those posts, which isn’t always possible. And, I should take notes rather than relying on my memory.

      September 18, 2018 at 3:32 pm

      • Your conversations with Brian would make an interesting series, no doubt. But, having to take notes, then put in the photos from that day? Now THAT’S a slippery slope!

        Thanks, Jerry.

        On Tue, Sep 18, 2018, 3:32 PM Quiet Solo Pursuits wrote:

        > quietsolopursuits commented: “Thank you very much Judy! I’d like to learn > why the leaves of that one plant turned blue, but I’ve had no luck tracking > down an answer. As far as the lack of photos of spider webs in my blog, > it’s because of my perception vs reality. The past two to thre” >

        September 19, 2018 at 7:02 am

  9. The blue leaves are indeed interesting.

    September 22, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    • Thank you very much Cornell! I’ve never seen blue leaves like those before, I’m glad that I had my camera with me when I did see them.

      September 23, 2018 at 6:22 am

  10. I was very interested by the blue leaves too. If it was a natural phenomena (and it does look natural) it probably would be caused by a mineral in the soil or maybe a lack of a mineral it needed. I noticed the jumping spider’s blue fangs too! I love jumping spiders, though the ones I get in my house are much smaller than your one. Beautiful photos – all of them!

    September 23, 2018 at 4:51 am

    • Thank you very much Clare! I’ve tried researching why the leaves of that plant would turn blue, and I’ve found nothing. I also suspect that it’s because of the mineral content in the soil. Jumping spiders are pretty cool when they stay outside where they belong. 😉 If you liked these photos, wait until you see my next post, I had a very good day this past week.

      September 23, 2018 at 6:36 am

      • 😀 I’m forever catching spiders and putting them outside but they don’t take any notice of me! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zebra_spider As you can see from the link they aren’t very big and are often found indoors. They catch mosquitoes!!

        September 23, 2018 at 10:41 am

      • I move spiders outdoors also when I find them. I wish that spiders caught more mosquitos though, we’ve had a bumper crop of the vampires this fall.

        September 23, 2018 at 2:02 pm

      • We have been so dry until recently that I haven’t seen many yet.

        September 23, 2018 at 3:02 pm