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

I’d better get used to it

It’s Autumn here in West Michigan, and the temperatures have been running below average for the second half of October, which means that I’ve been dealing with lake effect clouds for most of the time while I’ve been out with a camera lately. I’d better get used to it, as lake effect clouds will be the norm around here until next spring. Oh well, I’m sure that I’ll whine about the clouds, although not to the extent that I have in past years because with the 5D Mk IV, I now have a camera better suited to shooting in low light.

That said, I’m going to begin the photos in this post with images shot with the 7D Mk II because it’s a great camera to use for action photos in fair to good light. I shot this series as I was looking for the Little gull that I had in my last post. I had the 5D set-up to shoot portraits, and the 7D set-up for birds in flight. So, while I was sitting around hoping to get better images of the Little gull, I would occasionally shoot photos of the other gulls in flight to ease the boredom…

Bonaparte’s gulls and a dunlin in flight

…although I caught a dunlin in that photo as it was flying with the gulls.

Say what you want about gulls, they look very graceful in flight…

Bonaparte’s gull in flight

…and I loved the reflections of this gull as it landed…

Bonaparte’s gull landing

…and I wondered if this gull was watching its own reflection as it landed…

Bonaparte’s gull landing

…although it’s more likely that the gull found something to eat on the surface of the water…

Bonaparte’s gull landing

…which is why it chose to land where it did.

Bonaparte’s gull landing

In my last post, I had a photo of a junco with a colorful background created by the fall leaves, here’s another version of the same junco.

Dark-eyed junco

I said that there was a story behind that photo, so here it is. I had stopped at the Snug Harbor day use part of Muskegon State Park in hopes of finding some really good fall colors to photograph, but the colors there were quite dull for the most part.

Snug Harbor, Muskegon State Park

Besides the picnic area and fishing pier at Snug Harbor, there’s also a public boat ramp there. I almost always go to the boat ramp so that I can look out over Muskegon Lake to see if there are any waterfowl nearby to photograph. As I was driving around the circular drive to and from the boat ramp, I noticed a few brighter colored leaves…

Just a small wooded area in Muskegon State Park

…but I couldn’t get a good image of the small wooded area within the circular drive. I did park nearby and wander around the rest of the are, but I doubt that I’ll post any of the poor photos that I shot while I did.

When I returned to my vehicle and started to drive away, I saw a thrush come out of that small wooded area to grab something off from the ground, then fly back into the woods. I stopped to look more closely, and I saw that the wooded area was filled with birds of many different species. So, I parked there again, and tried walking both within that wooded area, and around the edge of it.

It was very frustrating, I could see many birds, but they all stayed well out of range for a photo, no matter how slowly or quietly I tried to move through that wooded area. I’d take a few steps, then stop where I was somewhat hidden by brush and wait for a bird to land nearby, but none did, except for a juvenile cedar waxwing that landed above me. I’m not going to include that photo, as the waxwing was too far away and against the grey sky, I have so many better images of that species that I don’t feel like posting a poor one.

But, as I tried and failed to get any bird photos, here are two things that caught my eye as I was watching the birds.

Old and new sapsucker holes in a tree

I forgot to take note of what species of tree that was, it’s obvious that the sapsuckers find the sap from that species quite tasty, as the entire main trunk of the tree and several large branches all showed that generations of sapsuckers had been feeding on the sap from it.

Here’s the other subject that I shot.

Unidentified fungal object

By the way, portions of that small wooded area were very wet, too wet to walk through, but I covered as much of it as I could. After walking all the way around it, I returned to my vehicle to see several birds feeding on the ground and the edge of the woods around my vehicle. I had already been thinking that I wished that I had taken the portable hide with me and set it up in that small section of woods somewhere to sit and hope that a bird would land near to me if I were hidden. I really wish that I hadn’t taken the portable hide out of my vehicle, because I think that using it there would have worked on this day.

I did the next best thing though, I parked where I could use my vehicle for a hide, and sat there in comfort. Here are the birds, beside the junco that I already posted, that I was able to photograph from my vehicle.

Downy woodpecker

My luck got better…

Hermit thrush

…it’s been a while since I’ve posted a photo of a hermit thrush…

Hermit thrush

…so I’m posting these three, even if they’re not very good.

Hermit thrush

With as many bluebirds in the woods as there were, I was hoping for a better photo than this.

Eastern bluebird

Blue jays often store food for later, they have a pouch in their throats that can hold an acorn or two much like the cheek pouches of chipmunks. Here’s a blue jay gathering acorns to store…

Blue jay picking up an acorn

…down the hatch.

Blue jay swallowing an acorn

The blue jay would have used its beak to open the acorn to eat the meat inside if it was going to eat it at that time, which is how I know that it was going to store the acorn for later.

While most of the birds that I wanted photos of the most refused to come as close as I would have liked, of course a chickadee was the exception to that.

Black-capped chickadee

Eventually, the birds all moved on and I wasn’t seeing them anymore, so I did the same. And by the way, I missed many more species than the ones that I got photos of, I couldn’t believe how many birds were flocked together in such a small area.

I’m not sure if I’d have been able to do any better with the portable hide, migrating birds tend to be more wary because they’re not familiar with the area and because they’re not tied to a location by their nests or young. But, I would have liked to have tried the hide, so it’s going back into my vehicle just in case. And, I’m not sure about using it for small birds to begin with, just as most of the birds were out of camera range as I used my vehicle as a hide, I’m afraid the same thing will happen if I’m sitting in the hide.

Well, I’m getting way behind in posting right now, along with reading other people’s posts, and about everything else as October has been a very busy month for me. I had a number of personal business items to take care of, along with doctor and dental appointments, it was as if everything had been dumped on me at once. So, I’m going to throw in a bunch of photos that are from the same timeframe as those already in this post without making many comments on them.

Manmade lake and fall reflections


Northern shovelers and dunlin enjoying their mid-day snooze


American pipit


Male northern shoveler stretching


Male northern shovelers


Fall colors in Muskegon State Park 1


Fall colors in Muskegon State Park 2


Fall colors in Muskegon State Park 3


Near the Muskegon State Park campground entrance


Near the Muskegon State Park campground entrance


The Muskegon State Park campground entrance

Actually, there are two campgrounds in Muskegon State Park, these photos are from the north campground which is on Lake Michigan. There’s also the south campground, which is on Muskegon Lake where it empties into the channel that leads to Lake Michigan. I’ll have more photos from within the north campground in my next post, as there were very few campers there this past weekend.

I had a couple of photos from Duck Lake State Park that I was going to share, but the colors there were rather drab this fall, so I changed my mind about using them. It doesn’t help that it has been cloudy most of the time for the better part of October, or this photo would have been a winner I think.

Fall colors on another cloudy day

I better get used to shooting when the skies are cloudy again, as that will be the case on most days this fall and winter until next March. I’m not looking forward to it, or the cold, or snow, but there’s not much that I can do about the weather.

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


34 responses

  1. Photos with reflections in them are always very interesting and the gull and the autumn coloured trees are fine examples of photos that I love. How lucky you are to spot and get lovely photos of those pretty little blue birds- they really stand out and don’t get much camouflage from the surroundings! Your woodland autumn colours are very vibrant and richer than ours but we’ve been fortunate to have a few days of blue sky but some very frosty and chilly too. Hope all your appointments went well.

    November 3, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    • Thank you very much Marianne! I love reflections, but they’re usually hard to get, and these would have been better still with blue water as the backdrop to the reflections. On the other hand, the low key ones that I did get aren’t bad, and in a way, they’re easier on the eyes. All the appointments went very well, but I have one more major thing to take care of yet, my employer is switching the company that controls our retirement accounts, so I have to get the new one set up soon.

      November 4, 2018 at 6:16 am

      • Getting your pension sorted out is top of the list for jobs to do…very inconvenient of your employer to change companies!

        November 4, 2018 at 1:47 pm

      • Yes, and no, the word is that the new company will charge us less to manage the funds, I sure hope that’s true.

        November 4, 2018 at 3:53 pm

  2. I don’t think the cloudy weather adversely affected your photos, especially those you posted here. I love them all and enjoyed reading how you drove or walked around to capture them. The fall colors in your last photos above are excellent and I would be very proud if I was their creator.

    November 3, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    • Thanks Hien! As you know, the 5D does well in low light, so the cloudy days don’t affect my photos as much as they did when I was shooting with the crop sensor bodies. Our fall colors have been drab for the most part around here, so I’ve had to look in many places to find the scenes that I did.

      November 4, 2018 at 6:08 am

  3. It is always a great pleasure to look at your pictures of flying birds, the ones in this post are especially good I think. Loved all your pictures of the Autumn colours, so rich.

    November 3, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! It’s always a great pleasure for me to get out to shoot the photos that you like.

      November 4, 2018 at 6:10 am

  4. I like the shots of the seagulls because they’re rare here. Sometimes one will follow the river inland but it doesn’t happen often.
    I’ve never seen so many sapsucker holes in one tree. That must be tasty sap!
    The fungus is a bear’s head or lion’s mane mushroom (Hericlum americanum.) When fresh they are pure white. This one was on its way out.
    I didn’t know that bluejays had a pouch to store acorns in. How can you live 60+ years and not hear something like that!
    I love the color of the northern shoveler’s foot, and the foliage colors are awesome there this year.
    They say that November is the cloudiest month here and so far it has lived up to its name!

    November 3, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    • Thanks Allen! The seagulls from the great lakes spread out throughout the entire state of Michigan, so I can’t say why they don’t do the same in your area.

      I’ll have to return to that tree to identify it for future reference, but I’ve never seen another tree of any species with that many sapsucker holes in it either.

      Yes, blue jays have a pouch to store food. Blue Jays carry food in their throat and upper esophagus, an area often called a gular pouch. They may store 2-3 acorns in the pouch, another one in their mouth, and one more in the tip of the bill. In this way they can carry off 5 acorns at a time to store for later feeding. They do the same with sunflower seeds at a feeder, fill the pouch with seeds, hulls and all. Then they fly somewhere else to eat or store the seeds.

      My new camera is responsible for the colors that you noted, its color reproduction is one of the benefits that I was unaware of before I purchased it. I should have known though, several bloggers that I follow upgraded before I did, and I loved the colors in their images.

      November 4, 2018 at 6:54 am

  5. I really liked the unidentified fungal object. Your photos are always a delight and as I like gulls and autumn colour, this post really hit the spot for me. I hope that your visit to the doctor produced satisfactory results.

    November 3, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    • Thanks Tom! I’m glad that I found a few of your favorite subjects this time, and that the images that I shot turned out well enough for me to post them. All the doctors said that I’m healthy as a horse, and my lab tests confirm that.

      November 4, 2018 at 6:25 am

  6. So many outstanding captures, Jerry! You definitely nailed the gull landing/reflection shots, magnificent. The fall scenes were beautiful. All the birds were wonderful, but I am in love with your Northern Shovelers’ shots. WOW!! 🙂

    November 3, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    • Thank you very much Donna! It’s a pain in the butt, but using two cameras designed with different types of photography in mind works out very well, which is why these photos were as good as they were. The northern shovelers are starting to move even further south for the winter, but they’ll be back in the spring, in full breeding plumage then. They’re one of our most beautiful ducks then.

      November 4, 2018 at 6:28 am

  7. The gull/reflection shot is magical.

    November 4, 2018 at 7:23 am

    • Thank you very much Michael!

      November 4, 2018 at 7:46 am

  8. Hi Jerry, lots of good stuff here, but two things really stuck out to me. How can a tree survive all those sapsucker holes? That’s amazing!

    The other thing I loved is the bluejay throat pouch. Who knew? Thanks for that. I’m going to use that little tidbit to amaze and entertain. You know an amazing amount of interesting bird stuff.

    I guess there’s a third thing. The seagull reflection shots are interesting. I especially like the fact that there is another gull in the photo. I’m glad you didn’t crop that out.

    The drab sky really makes you appreciate the little blasts of color you do find, doesn’t it? If I had gorgeous orange feet like the shoveler, I’d give up shoes and socks.

    I hear we may get some snow flurries this week. Get ready…..

    November 4, 2018 at 8:23 am

    • Thanks Judy! Remember, you saw just a small portion of the tree with all the sapsucker holes, I’ve never seen anything like that before. I think that the tree survives because only a few holes are from any one timeframe, and the older ones heal before the sapsuckers return to drill more.

      Hmm, maybe I know too much about birds, I threw in the bit about the pouches that blue jays have in their throats as just a reminder of sorts. That’s okay, I have more photos of jays both collecting seeds in its throat to store for later and eating seeds by breaking them open. I’ll get to that in my next post.

      It’s interesting to me to read other people’s opinions about the photos that I shoot. To me, in a perfect world, there would have been blue sky and blue water as the background, and I would have nearly filled the frame with the gull and its reflection, forming a large X in the center of the frame. Actually, in a perfect world, I would have shot a number of versions to let people decide which they preferred.

      I thought that I was the only person that noticed the feet of ducks, and how colorful they are. I think that you’d find it rather cold to go without shoes and socks during a Michigan winter, you don’t have the special blood vessel system and other means of keeping your feet warm as ducks do.

      I may be ready for snow, but that doesn’t mean that I like it. I need to retire so that I can follow the warmer weather and the sun around the country as you do each winter.

      November 4, 2018 at 4:20 pm

      • You are going to have to tolerate my whining all winter. For family reasons, we are staying home this year until spring. Going to be very weird to be here for the entire season. You’ll probably want to block me from comments by about mid-January.😒

        November 4, 2018 at 4:42 pm

      • Well, get ready, winter is starting here next week, but I’ll miss your posts with blue skies in them this winter. I hope that the family reasons aren’t too bad.

        November 4, 2018 at 4:45 pm

  9. Jerry, I meant to send you this link, although you’ve probably seen this but now. Keep your eyes open – maybe this little gem will make it to Muskegon!

    November 4, 2018 at 9:00 am

    • Thanks, I did see that. There was a mandarin duck at the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary when I visited, I don’t know if it’s still alive there or not though. It was a few years ago, from before you began following my blog I think.

      November 4, 2018 at 3:55 pm

  10. Enjoyed the shot of the American Pipit as I can’t say that I’ve ever seen one.

    November 5, 2018 at 3:01 am

    • hanks Bob! I don’t know if they migrate as far south as Ohio, but they appear here in large numbers for the winter.

      November 5, 2018 at 5:03 pm

  11. Gorgeous, Gerry.Photos 1, 4, 5 and 6 are stunning, with 4 being my favourite.

    November 5, 2018 at 4:47 am

    • Thank you very much Cynthia!

      November 5, 2018 at 5:03 pm

  12. Your mushroom photo is most fascinating with the detailed capture of it’s almost coral-like structure.

    November 6, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    • Thank you very much! You’re right, it does look like coral.

      November 8, 2018 at 7:40 am

  13. Fantastic autumn-colour shots despite the sky being grey and cloudy most of the time. I enjoyed seeing the gulls, both flying ones and the landing one with it’s reflection. The other birds you managed to photograph during your day at Muskegon State Park are all so attractive and busy doing what birds do. Wonderful post!

    November 8, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    • Thank you Clare! It’s been so cloudy around here the past two weeks that getting any photos has been a challenge. I also forget that it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted many, if any, of our most common species of birds in Michigan. So, I’m happy that you enjoyed these.

      November 8, 2018 at 9:29 pm

  14. These are spectacular photos, every single one. I especially like the Bonaparte’s gulls and their reflections. Really appreciate that you label every bird, too.

    November 9, 2018 at 11:13 am

    • Thank you very much Jet! I’ve learned a lot about IDing birds from other bloggers who label their bird photos, I’m just trying to help other people out in the same way.

      November 9, 2018 at 9:43 pm

  15. Nice shooting. Congratulations

    November 11, 2018 at 5:19 am

    • Thank you very much!

      November 11, 2018 at 6:39 am