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


The death watch is over, a celebration of a life!

As some of you may know, my mother has been in a nursing home for the past few years, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. I haven’t said anything about her condition lately, but she was going downhill quickly the last two weeks. Just last week, we had to call in hospice care again for her, as she was getting to the point where the portion of her brain that controls swallowing and eating was shutting down, making it almost impossible for the care givers to get any nourishment or water into her.

Well, today, just after noon, my mother’s suffering came to an end as she passed away, and went to the arms of her Savior, Jesus Christ.

I have very mixed feelings about this right now, on one hand, I’m deeply saddened by my mother’s passing. On the other hand, I know that she wouldn’t have wanted to continue existing the way that she has for the last year or so, so in some ways, her death is a blessing, which may come as a shock to some people. All I can say is that watching the strong, intelligent woman who my mother was for most of her life reduced to little more than a vegetable as Alzheimer’s destroyed her brain was in many ways worse than her passing.

Some of you may even be wondering why I would choose to do a blog post right now, well, it’s a form of therapy for me, and I’m going to make this post a celebration of the love of nature that my mother instilled in me as I was growing up.

Over the years that I have been blogging, I’ve mentioned a few times that both my mother and father were nature lovers, in particular, my mother loved birds and flowers. So, I’m going to start this post out with a few photos of her favorite birds, northern cardinals.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

While my mom could still get around well enough to feed the birds, she could tell you how many pairs of cardinals that she had coming to her feeders each day, and her favorite sweater had cardinals on it of course.

I wish that I had a few photos of hummingbirds for this post also, because my mom also spent hours watching the hummers come and go from the feeder she put out for them as well, sorry mom.

These will have to do, as a way of paying tribute to the love of nature that my mom passed on to me.

While my mom would never have approved of how much I spent on my photography gear, she would have loved these images. She would also commended my attempts to share what I’ve learned with others. While she didn’t have the patience to be a great teacher, she certainly had the knowledge, and she believed in sharing her knowledge with others.

So I will add which lens I shot it with, with no other comments from me.

Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Smooth-leaved thistle?

Smooth-leaved thistle?

Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Sedge flowers

Sedge flowers

Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Great blue lobelia

Great blue lobelia

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Canon 10-18 mm lens

Cardinal flower

Cardinal flower

Canon 10-18 mm lens

Cardinal flower

Cardinal flower

Canon 10-18 mm lens

Unidentified sunflower

Unidentified sunflower

Canon 10-18 mm lens

Creek scene

Creek scene

Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Water strider

Water strider

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Northern flicker

Northern flicker

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Juvenile red-bellied woodpecker

Juvenile red-bellied woodpecker

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Juvenile red-bellied woodpecker

Juvenile red-bellied woodpecker

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Juvenile red-bellied woodpecker

Juvenile red-bellied woodpecker

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Sumac leaves in the sun

Sumac leaves in the sun

Sigma 150-500 mm lens



Canon 10-18 mm lens

Sunny day

Sunny day

Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Silver spotted skipper

Silver spotted skipper

Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Primrose moth, Schinia florida

Primrose moth, Schinia florida

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Male indigo bunting

Male indigo bunting

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Sigma 150-500 mm lens

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Joe Pye weed

Joe Pye weed

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Pink chicory

Pink chicory

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Pink chicory

Pink chicory

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Pink chicory

Pink chicory

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Great egret in flight

Great egret in flight

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

Great egret in flight

Great egret in flight

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

American robin

American robin

Canon 300 mm prime lens and Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter

American robin

American robin

Tokina 100 mm macro lens.

Great blue lobelia

Great blue lobelia

I said that my mom wouldn’t have approved of how much I spent on photo gear, as she was a very frugal person. On the other hand, I can’t remember the number of times I heard as a kid, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right!”, so, I listened to half of what she tried to teach me at least.

I feel as though I should write a lot more about the person that my mother was, but I don’t have it in me right now, I’m feeling drained more than anything.

It’s been very difficult watching my mom’s health decline the past two weeks, and that has weighed heavily on me. Both of my parents are now gone, and I know that I’ll miss my mom as much or more than I do my dad. But, every time I see a bird, or hear a one singing, every flower I see blooming, will remind me of both of them.

Bye mom, I love you!


Ju Dee, Ju Dee, Ju Dee, or, lost in my own little great big world

Okay, so I do a terrible Cary Grant impersonation.

The reason for even trying is that a local reader of my blog had decided that they would like to accompany me when I went on one of my of my hikes. I’m not sure why she wanted to go along, I think that she thought that I was some kind of critter whisperer or something, and that when I step into the woods, the critters come running to me like in a Disney cartoon.

But, before I go any further along that line, I have to apologize to Judy for asking her to lug my tripod, and then not using it, even though there were times when I should have. I have a one track mind, and the reason that I wanted the tripod along was to shoot a specific species of flower, spotted bee balm. However, the spotted bee balm was a long way from reaching its peak.

I had great plans to always use my tripod for macro photography, but those plans sort of went by the wayside. I found that there were many times I simply could not set the tripod up in such a way as to be able to shoot the subject that I wanted to shoot. I started using the macro lens handheld, with disastrous results. Okay, I needed practice using it handheld, so for most of the last month, that’s what I’ve been doing. When I see a specific species of flower that I know that I should use the tripod for, then, I bring it with me and use it the next time I know I’ll see that species of plant, otherwise it remains at home to reduce the weight that I have to carry. I get into routines for no real reason, and then it becomes hard for me to break those routines. Right now, one of those routines is getting better using the macro lens handheld, so I forget the tripod entirely, even when I should or could use it.

So once again, I’m sorry that you carried the tripod with us for nothing, Judy!

One the great side of the ledger, I actually enjoyed having some one to talk to while I was hiking! After what had happened over the last few years, I had forgotten that there was such a thing as pleasant company on a nature walk.

It’s been several years since any one went along with me on any of my hikes, and I would say that I’m used to getting lost in my own little world, except, nature isn’t a little world, it’s a great big wonderful world, that never ceases to amaze me! The little world that I get lost in is that of my own thoughts, since I’m so used to be alone.

That brings me to something about myself that is very hard to explain, getting completely immersed in nature.

But, since the time that I have begun this post, I have decided that I should devote an entire post to the subject of how deeply immersed in nature I become at times, so I’ll focus the rest of this post on that day.

It was an enlightening day for me in a way, I knew in the back of my mind that I have been so intent on photographing insects and flowers that I haven’t been paying much attention to other subjects, and that hit home almost as soon as we started walking on the boardwalk that takes you across a corner of Pickerel Lake. I was so intent on finding water flowers or dragonflies to shoot that Judy had to point this turtle out to me.

Painted turtle basking in the sun

Painted turtle basking in the sun

I did see a water strider, and one of these days, I’ll get a good photo of one, until then, this will have to do.

Water strider

Water strider

I tried the new 10-18 mm lens out on this dead tree that’s very close to the boardwalk, to see if I could get the entire tree in the frame, I did.

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

But, that shot isn’t really all that great, I should have gotten down lower. The problem is the fence along the boardwalk to prevent people from falling into the lake. The next time I’m there, I’m going to see if I can shoot through one of the openings in the fence, or maybe from under the fence to get a better angle on the tree.

Here’s a few more photos that really don’t need any explanation.

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

Unidentified marsh flower

Virgin’s bower

Unidentified marsh flower

Virgin’s bower

Wasp or fly?

Wasp or fly?

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

White moth

White moth

White mushroom

White mushroom

It’s kind of funny, Judy was wondering why I wasn’t photographing more of the things that we were seeing along the trail, but, that’s from my new attitude towards photography. Many of the things that she asked if I was going to shoot were in poor light, or not very good examples of what ever species they were. It’s kind of nice not coming home with 400 images to sort through, most of them not very good,  to come up with a few for a post. I’ve learned to go for good shots to begin with, since I’m outside every day, I have no trouble getting enough photos for my blog.

We did see a few birds, or I should say that I saw a few birds. Judy was afraid of spooking them, so she stayed well back, and I doubt that she saw very many. They were all the more common species of birds, and few of them were willing to pose for me on this day.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

Eastern wood pewee

So, we walked along, with me occasionally shooting some of the other subjects to be found.

Beetle on what was left of a wild rose

Beetle on what was left of a wild rose

Green spider

Green spider

Butterfly on milkweed

Butterfly on milkweed

The butterfly was actually hanging upside down on a drooping milkweed flower, but looking at the image as I shot it, it just didn’t look right, so I rotated it. It still doesn’t look quite right, but at least it doesn’t give me vertigo looking at it. 😉

We reached the spot where the spotted bee balm grows.

Spotted bee balm

Spotted bee balm

The flowers weren’t much farther along than last week, but I did capture this wasp or bee feeding on either the nectar or pollen.

Wasp on spotted bee balm

Wasp on spotted bee balm

Wasp on spotted bee balm

Wasp on spotted bee balm

And, I tried for a good photo of the actual flowers.

Spotted bee balm

Spotted bee balm

The tripod wasn’t a complete waste of energy for Judy to have carried it, I used the case as a background for this shot to help make this grass stand out from a boring background.

Unknown grass flower

Unknown grass flower

Continuing on, Judy pointed these tiny mushrooms out to me, the heads of them were only about a half an inch (12 mm) in diameter.

Orange mushrooms

Orange mushrooms

I cropped this next one down, and I can see a tiny insect on the mushroom.

Orange mushroom

Orange mushroom

You may not have been able to see the insect with the smaller size of the photos here, but it’s on the left third of the head of the mushroom. I’m not sure, but I think that what look to be crystals or spots of lighter color in the mushroom are grains of sand. I’m loving the Tokina macro lens!

I also used it for these two photos.

Unidentified mushroom

Unidentified mushroom

Lichens and mosses

Lichens and mosses

But, I should have switched to the new 10-18 mm lens for that last one. I wasn’t trying to get super close, I was going for the vibrant colors, which I almost got, but the short depth of field of the macro lens means some of what’s in the photo is out of focus, detracting from the quality of the image. With the close focusing ability of the wide-angle lens, it would have been a better choice of lenses. I almost went back to re-shoot that, but didn’t want to take the time, silly me.

Here’s a few more photos that need no explanation.

Unidentified round flower

Button bush

Orange mushroom

Orange mushroom

Black jelly mold?

Black jelly mold?

Beetle on a lilypad

Beetle on a lily pad

Here’s an image where my one track mind took over again. I saw this bee balm and knew how I could capture it almost instantly.

Bee balm

Bee balm

I love the lighting in that shot.

Judy was looking at the way that the tendrils of a vine were wrapped around the stem of the bee balm, I tried lowering the camera slightly as well as stepping back, but then I lost the lighting that I wanted for the flower itself. You can see that I was getting a few of the petals of the flower over-exposed in this next photo.

Bee balm

Bee balm

It was one of many times that I should have done two things. One, take more time explaining to Judy what I was doing and why so that I wouldn’t seem like such a jerk. Two, I should have taken more time looking the lighting over, I may have been able to get a good photo of both the flower and the vine, which would have been even better than the flower alone. But, I didn’t do either.

I did shoot a couple of dragonflies.





I found another of the orange butterflies on swamp milkweed.

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

This butterfly was being dive-bombed by bees or wasps, and would flinch whenever the smaller insects got close.

Butterfly on swamp milkweed being dive bombed by a wasp or bee

Butterfly on swamp milkweed being dive bombed by a wasp or bee

I tried to time a photo to see if the smaller insects were stinging the butterfly or not, but even I’m not that good. 😉 So, another shot of the butterfly will have to do.

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

Butterfly on swamp milkweed

I was able to get a couple of photos of pickerel-weed that are better than before.

Pickerel weed

Pickerel weed

Pickerel weed

Pickerel weed

Judy pointed these out to me.

More unidentified round flowers

Bur reed

While I was sizing up this fungi for this photo.



And finally, as far as photos, this cardinal in jail.

Male northern cardinal in "jail"

Male northern cardinal in “jail”

It makes one wonder how birds are able to fly through the tangle of branches.

It was a very good day, and if Judy ever wants to come along again, I’d say yes in a heartbeat, as she is the first true nature lover that I’ve met in at least the last five years, other than a few of the people from the Muskegon County Nature Club. They tend to be serious birders who use spotting scopes and/or high-powered binoculars and bird from a distance, which doesn’t work out well for my efforts to photograph birds.

If you would like to read Judy’s take on the day, see photos of me crawling on my belly while shooting some of the photos in this post, or for just a good laugh, you can find a post that she did here.

That’s it for this one, except for this quote I found….

Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

…thanks for stopping by!

How’d I do, rating myself on what’s in my bag

I’ve had my new camera and lenses long enough now to do a post about them, their strengths and weaknesses, and how I did in light of the recent post that I did on buying camera gear on a budget.

For new readers, or those who stumble across this, here’s a list of what my new equipment is.

  • Canon EOS 60 D body
  • Sigma APO 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM-Canon Mount
  • Canon EF 70-200MM F4L USM
  • Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens

If you’re looking for a technical review, complete with specifications and charts, sorry, you won’t find that here, as there are many other places where that information appears.

My purpose here isn’t to convince any one to run out and buy the exact same camera and lenses I have, in fact, it’s just the opposite of that.

What I am going to do here is put down my thoughts as to how well each piece performs for me as a nature photographer who does everything the wrong way. By that, I don’t set up someplace in a blind or hide, almost all of my photos are taken while I am walking in the woods. That means that I seldom have much time to make many adjustments, or to use a tripod.

I hope that in doing this post, that I can guide others through the thought process that they should follow in choosing what would work best for them.

So, here we go, I’ll start with the camera body, even though in my previous post linked above, I suggested that people start by shopping for lenses, then matching the best lenses they could afford to a body in their price range. That’s how I chose the 60 D body, looking at the many lens manufacturers line-ups, I decided that Canon had the best lenses I could afford in the range that I wanted, and the 60 D fit my needs and budget.

The 60 D is a cropped sensor body, the least expensive body in Canon’s mid-level line up of cameras. The controls are generally well laid out, the exception is the on/off switch, which is located on the left side of the camera, tucked under the mode selection dial. For shooting on the fly as I do, I find it easier to turn the camera on, and leave it on for as long as I am outside. That works very well, as the camera goes to “sleep” after one minute to conserve battery life.

Battery life seems to be excellent, I have not drained the battery yet, even though I leave the camera on for hours every day. I charge it once a week on Fridays, so the camera is ready for my weekend adventures, and that charge lasts me the entire week.

It did take me a few days to get used to the Multi-control Dial on the rear of the camera. The outer of the two dials is used to adjust the exposure compensation. At first, I fumbled a bit in trying to make adjustments, but the outer dial has ridges on it to help differentiate if from the inner dial. Now I have no problem adjusting the exposure when required.

I shoot in the program mode most of the time, since I am generally on the move. The exposure setting that the Canon comes up with are very good. The camera reads the focal length of the lenses I’m using, and comes up with exposures that work well for the lens I’m using at the time for the most part. The exposure settings that the camera comes up with aren’t perfectly spot on every time, but, they are very close. The camera tends to over-expose light subjects, and under-expose darker subjects, I suppose that’s to be expected.

The huge improvement that I see over the Nikon D 50 I used to have is that the exposure for the Canon is predictable and repeatable. I could shoot three shots with the Nikon and come up with three completely different exposures, often all three were wrong. With the Canon, I can look through the viewfinder and know which way and how much to adjust the exposure, that’s becoming automatic.

Oh, and speaking of the viewfinder, it is huge compared to the old Nikon, which was like looking through a tunnel. The info you need is displayed well in the viewfinder also.

Back to the exposure system. At times, I do shoot in other modes, primarily aperture mode, and that is easily set with a wheel on the top of the body very near the shutter release button. The same applies to shutter speed when shooting in that mode. When shooting in the program mode, that same wheel allows you to scroll through exposure settings the camera came up with to speed up the shutter, and/or change the aperture.

To be perfectly honest, I have had this camera for about a month, and I am just beginning to learn what it is capable of. My old Nikon was so finicky, that I didn’t dare adjust much of anything for fear of getting nothing but junk photos, as that was the result if I did adjust anything.

One of the features that I am falling in love with is using the AI Focus AF mode for auto-focusing. I can press the shutter release halfway down, and the camera starts off in the One-shot mode, meaning that I can tweak the focus manually if needed when using a lens that allows that, like the 70-200 mm L series lens I have. That alone has saved some shots already.

But, if I continue to hold the shutter release halfway down without taking a photo, and the camera detects motion, it automatically switches to the AI Servo AF mode to track subjects in motion. That works very well when I’m trying to keep up with quick little birds, or even flowers moving in the wind. In fact, I need to use that feature even more often, it works, and works well!

It’s so nice to have a camera that actually functions well again.

I haven’t said anything about the images I’m getting yet, that’s because the lenses are more responsible for image quality than the camera itself, for the most part. I will say that the 60 D is turning out some fantastic photos for me already, and I’m just getting started.

Sigma APO 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM-Canon Mount

Before I start raving about how great this lens is, I’ll start with the only real negative thing that I have found so far, the thing is a beast to carry, and use.

But, I shoot hand-held 99% of the time, I walk three miles everyday during the week, and try to go at least five miles per day on the weekends. By the time I’m finished for the day, I am literally finished, so arm weary that I sometimes think twice about hoisting it up to my eye for a so-so shot. At times when I am following a small bird in the brush, or waiting for a plant to stop moving in the wind, I have to lower the camera and this lens to let my arms rest before trying again.

This lens would be at its best on a tripod, but it would have to be a substantial tripod to hold that much weight steady.

Is it as sharp at 500 mm as it is at 150 mm? No, I can see a drop off in sharpness as I increase the focal length.

Is it as sharp at its maximum aperture as it is when stopped down to say f/8? No, it isn’t, but those same things could be said of every zoom lens on the market, there’s no such thing as a perfect lens.

I look at it this way, the Sigma is sharp at 500 mm and f/6.3, and gets even sharper at shorter focal lengths and/or stopping down the aperture. When you can not only see individual feathers on a bird, but also get a feel for the textures of the bird’s feathers, that’s sharp enough for me!

Male yellow warbler

Male yellow warbler

One other note of caution I should include before I forget to, it takes a fairly good camera body to make good use of this lens. I was toying with the idea of purchasing this lens for use on my Nikon D 50, I’m glad that I didn’t, as the sensor in the D 50 couldn’t have handled this lens. The sticking point would have been sensor noise at the higher ISO settings that the Sigma often requires to maintain a relatively fast shutter speed to prevent camera shake at 500 mm, even with the lens’ built in Optical Stabilization.

So, match the Sigma lens to a newer body with the better noise reduction of today’s cameras, and I would say that this lens is a winner!

The auto-focus is fast, quiet, and accurate until you get to extreme conditions. I’ll get to those in a second, but first, if you’ve seen some of my recent posts, you’ll have seen that I’ve been having great fun picking small birds out of the brush that the birds are trying to hide in. If you have reasonable expectations of what the auto-focus of the Sigma lens can do, you won’t be disappointed.

However, if you think that the lens should be able to focus on anything, under any lighting conditions, you will be disappointed. For example, if you’re trying to focus on a brownish grey bird partially hidden in greyish brown branches on a dark, overcast day, chances are that the lens will fail. The only other time that the auto-focus doesn’t perform extremely well is when I’m trying to focus on subjects very near the close focusing limit of the lens. There are times when the auto-focus will miss by an inch or so, but with the very short depth of field, that’s enough to ruin the photo.

Shooting using a tripod and manual focus would work in that case.

As it happens, I was able to test my 60 D and the Sigma 150-500 mm lens against a Canon 7 D body, a 300 mm L series prime telephoto lens, and a 1.4X converter on my recent birding trip to Muskegon.

I met another birder using the 7 D body and lens setup just listed, and we began chatting. An American Redstart landed in a tree close to us, I pointed it out to the other birder, then we both started shooting. We were standing only a couple of feet from one another, I could hear his camera beep when it got a focus lock, and had to pay attention to that, so that I didn’t mistake his beeps for mine. At one point, the redstart perched in a spot that for some reason, I couldn’t get a focus lock on it. I heard the fellow birder mumbling to himself, wondering why he wasn’t able to get a focus lock either.

So, in this very unscientific, but very enlightening test, I would say that the two setups are just about equal. There were times when he got a focus lock first, other times that I got a lock first, and both of our setups failed under the exact same conditions.

The Sigma has two modes of Optical Stabilization, Sigma’s equivalent to Canon’s Image Stabilization. Mode 1 is for stationary subjects, Mode 2 is for subjects moving in the horizontal plane.

Sigma claims that the OS will provide up to four stops of shake correction, I’ve never counted the stops, but the OS does do its job on stationary subjects! I have shot a few photos under very low light for a lens of the Sigma’s focal length, and have been amazed at how well the OS performed.

However, I have tried Mode 2 on some shots of birds in flight, and the OS isn’t as impressive then. If the bird is moving horizontally, the OS does work well, but most of the time, birds don’t fly in straight horizontal lines.

If the bird is moving diagonally, as they often are, then the OS fails, as far as getting a sharp photo. I find that when shooting birds in flight, I am better off switching the OS off completely, boosting the ISO, and shooting at faster shutter speeds. The problem is, birds seldom give me the time to make those adjustments. So if you’re thinking of buying this lens for action photography, there are probably better choices out there.

My rating of this lens

For my use, I would give myself a grade of B for purchasing this lens. I had checked it out in the store, and rejected it for my use because of its size and weight. But, when my Nikon died, I was forced to re-evaluate what lenses I was going to purchase. The only reason I give the lens a B is because of its weight, it does leave me arm weary by the end of the day, and it isn’t as good for bird in flight photos as I would like.

If I were a more traditional birder, shooting from a stationary position, and using a tripod more often, then, I would give it an A, it is an excellent lens!

Let’s look at the competition. There’s the Canon 100-400 mm zoom, or either a 400 mm or 500 mm prime telephoto.

The 100-400 mm Canon is close to the same size and weight as the Sigma, and trying one out in the store, I did not like the push-pull zoom mechanism of the Canon. In addition, it was 50% more expensive than the Sigma.

I don’t have figures for the 400 mm primes that Canon offers, but I do know that the 500 mm prime is nearly 10 times as expensive as the Sigma. I’m sure that the 500 mm is sharper, and faster, but I seriously doubt if it is ten times better than the Sigma. That doesn’t matter, I couldn’t afford the Canon 500 mm anyway.

I do know this, I love the reach of the Sigma, and I am extremely happy with its performance! It will get a lot of use, even if I do eventually purchase a more suitable lens to carry while hiking.

Canon EF 70-200MM F4L USM

If I made a mistake in my purchases, this was it, sorry all you Canon L series fans. 😉

Actually, buying this lens wasn’t a mistake, I just tried to convince myself for several weeks that I had goofed. I had this lens on my list of lenses to purchase for several reasons, one was to fill in between the 15-85 mm I knew I was going to buy and the Sigma 150-500 mm, primarily for landscapes.

After I purchased the 60 D body and the Sigma lens, we had 14 days in a row of off and on rain, mostly on. Because the Sigma isn’t weather sealed, and is hard to carry and protect under those conditions, I tried to make the 70-200 mm take the place of the Sigma, it doesn’t work for that.

It’s an OK lens, and I’m sure that I will put it to good use for the purposes for which I had added it to my list in the first place. The Auto-focus isn’t as fast as the Sigma, and it’s a lot noisier as well. I can barely hear the Sigma’s auto-focus, the 70-200 mm has a very mechanical sound to it when the auto-focus is in action.

It doesn’t have Image Stabilization, I knew that when I bought it. In addition, the 60 D body tends to set the shutter speed a little low for this lens without IS, that I can remedy easily enough by shooting in shutter priority, or dialing up a faster shutter speed in program mode.

This lens is the least expensive of the five 70-200 mm zoom lenses that Canon produces, at $709 US.

For a few weeks there, I was telling myself that I should have purchased the version with IS and a maximum aperture of f/2.8, then added a 1.4 converter behind it. That would have totaled just under $3,000 US, over four times as much as what I paid for the version that I did buy.

That setup would have been lighter and easier to carry than the Sigma lens, but without the converter, any lens in this range will be the lens I use the least of any lenses I have.

So, I told myself to quit kicking myself, learn to use what I have purchased, then think of the best solution to the problem of the weight of the Sigma lens. That’s what I have done.

This lens does perform well enough, but I don’t shoot that many photos where this length of lens will be used that often. It will be mostly for landscapes, where I can use my tripod, so IS isn’t that important. Also, for close-ups of things like flowers that are out of the range of the 15-85 mm lens. That’s why I bought this lens, and trying to make it do things other than what I originally intended it to do was silly on my part.

My rating of this lens

Funny as it may sound, I’m giving this one an A grade. It does very well at what I bought it for, it’s very sharp, well made, weather sealed, and fills the small niche I intended it to. I would recommend that any one thinking of a lens of this length consider one of the versions with IS over this one, unless you do use a tripod most of the time.

Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens

If I didn’t photograph birds most the time, this lens would be on my camera almost all of the time. I would say that of the three lenses I have, that this is the best of them! It is very sharp, color, contrast, color rendition, and color saturation are all extremely good with this lens. Now, I am going to have to start putting it to use!

The auto-focus is fast, quiet, and accurate, right down to the close focusing capabilities of the lens.

It has Canon’s Mode 2 IS, a sensor in the lens detects when you are panning with a subject in motion, and corrects camera shake automatically based on that, and it works. I have shot a few flying birds, and the Mode 2 IS is a huge improvement over the OS of the Sigma lens, but that’s comparing apples to oranges, not a knock on the Sigma.

All the photos that I shot of the flood in downtown Grand Rapids, and most of the flower photos I took in Aman Park were shot with this lens, and I love the results!

If you are considering a lens in this focal length, I recommend it with one caveat, the maximum aperture is a little slow if you’re planning to use it without a flash in low light situations. That wasn’t a concern for me, I bought this lens for landscapes and close-ups, and it excels in that role.

I should note that this is an EF S lens, meaning it is designed to be used on crop sensor cameras. It isn’t compatible with full size sensor cameras.

My rating of this lens

I give myself and this lens an A+! For the purposes I intend to use this lens, it can’t be beaten. It was around half the price of a comparable L series lens from Canon, based mostly on the maximum aperture, but for landscapes, that isn’t an issue. So I have a high quality lens that works exactly as I planned on, at a reasonable price.

What I’ve learned, and where I go from here.

The first thing that I learned is that even a 500 mm lens isn’t long enough for many situations. But, for every situation where 500 mm isn’t long enough, there are situations when it is too long. Following small birds flitting in the brush for example. Yes, the 500 mm lets me get good close-ups, if I can get and keep the bird in the viewfinder long enough to get the shot. Many times, I find myself shooting at around 300 mm so that I can get any shot at all.

The second thing that I learned is that you can’t make a lens do things it wasn’t really intended to be used for. That applies to both the 70-200 mm lens, and the 150-500 mm lens.

The third thing that I learned is that IS, or OS, depending on the manufacturer, is better, and more important than what I had thought before using lenses with it. But, other than that, what I had recommended in my earlier post on buying camera equipment on a budget held true, pick quality lenses and match them to the body that you can afford.

The next thing that I learned is that a man’s got to know his limitations. Carrying the Sigma lens by itself for a three-mile walk everyday isn’t bad, but trying to go much farther than that, while wearing a pack and carrying the rest of my camera gears is a bit much, even for me.

I keep harping on the weight of the Sigma lens, yet I love it, and have a hard time switching to one of the other lenses, because I never know when some bird is going to show up that I’ll want to photograph. But, as good as it is, it is not a walking around lens. However, I can, and will make it work for me that way for a while.

My original list of lenses that I was going to buy was a Canon L series 400 mm prime, the 70-200 mm, and the 15-85 mm lenses, now, I’m not sure that a 400 mm prime is a good idea, after having used the Sigma for a month. That’s the problem with buying lenses, other than renting one, you can’t take one out for a “test drive” to see how well they will work for you. I also had a macro lens on the list to be purchased in the future.

I really liked the setup that the other birder that I mentioned earlier had, a 300 mm L series prime, with a 1.4X converter. That works out to being 420 mm, which may still be too much in the brush. No problem, take the 1.4 X converter off, and I’ll have a 300 mm lens to work with. I’m used to that, as that’s what I had with the old Nikon, but thought that I wanted a longer lens.

I still would, but now I have one, the Sigma, for those times when I don’t have to carry it for miles. The 300 mm and converter is much lighter than the Sigma, I think it will make a nice walking around package in the future. The 1.4 X converter will also work with the 70-200 mm lens, but I see no reason that I would ever use it that way, but you never know.

The 300 mm f/4 L series prime lens also has Mode 2 IS, which works very well for me on my 15-85 mm lens. I’ll be able to get some good actions shots again someday with that package. But, that will be a while.

The surprising thing is, the 300 mm prime, a 1.4X converter, and the 70-200 mm that I have already purchased total less than the top of the line 70-200 mm L series and the converter by several hundred dollars, and will actually work better for me.

The 15-85 mm isn’t a true macro lens, but with cropping, I can make it work as one for the time being. I’m thinking that I can try an extension tube with the 15-85 mm for macro work, saving myself a lot of money there, rather than buying a dedicated macro lens. I know that extension tubes are old school, but then, so am I.

So, overall, I would give myself either a B+ or an A- overall. You know, I should change that, to an A. I was knocking my grade down because the Sigma isn’t a very good walking around lens, but hey, I’m buying on a budget, so I shouldn’t expert perfect. The Sigma may not be a good walking around lens, but it excels during my birding trips to Muskegon, and when I sit out in the woods someplace, something that I will be doing more often, especially as I get older.

Also on my wish list was a 500 mm prime for those reasons, but that was just a wish that would probably never come to pass as expensive as the 500 mm prime is. The Sigma may not equal the 500 mm prime’s performance, but it’s close enough for me, I see no reason to shell out over ten grand for a lens that is only a little bit better than what I already have.

The 15-85 performs so well that I am crossing a macro lens off from my wish list as well.

That means that I have dropped one very expensive, and one moderately expensive lens off my wish list, and replaced them with one moderately priced lens, and a few relatively inexpensive accessories.

So, all told, after rebates and the trade in I got from Sigma on the dead Nikon, I spent $2,000 US for the 60 D body, the Sigma lens, and the needed accessories.

I spent $750 US for the 70-200 mm Canon lens.

I spent $800 US for the 15-85 mm lens and lens hood (Yes, I shelled out 50 bucks for the almost nothing lens hood, proving that I’m not a total tightwad, but I see it as not so cheap added insurance to help protect the front element of the lens).

That comes to $3,550 US to cover everything from 15 mm to 500 mm with a solid performing camera body, not bad in my not so humble opinion. That includes everything, UV filters, SD cards, and the lens hood for the 15-85 mm lens.

After using this new equipment long enough to have a very good handle on what I would like to add in the future, the list has changed as I have noted above, and has become much shorter.

I would like something better suited to carrying in inclement weather, something lighter than the Sigma. Having given much thought to it, I am leaning heavily towards the Canon 300 mm L series prime and a 1.4X converter. Once my bank account recovers, I could pick up the converter and use it behind the 70-200 mm I have, it won’t be ideal, but it will work in nasty weather for the time being. Next spring, I’ll use my tax refund to purchase the 300 mm prime lens, and be good to go.

One other thing I would truly love to have is another body, mine is getting old and tired. 😉

Seriously, I have always wanted two camera bodies, one left set-up and at the ready for wildlife photography, and a second one for everything else. But, that’s a long way off in the future, and I have no way of foreseeing what the manufacturers will have on the market in two or three years, so anything I add here would be pure speculation, very much subject to change.

If and when I do make that purchase, it will be another crop sensor body, the equivalent to the current Canon 7 D.

So there you have it, I stand by the original proposition that I made in my earlier post, select the lenses that work the best for you in your price range, then match them to the best body that you can afford. I won’t be “trading up”, that is, selling (at a loss) any of the lenses or the camera that I have purchased so far, unless I were to win the lottery or something. I can see no reason to, from the photos that this equipment is turning out. Two examples, full size, not cropped, unedited, and the quality has not been reduced at all, you can click on them to see them full size.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler



I think that the quality of those shots speak for themselves, so there’s nothing more for me to add.

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

Trying to remain positive

It’s been a rough month for me, in so many ways that it’s hard for me to not get down in the dumps. I don’t even know where to start. The weather, yuck. People trying to rip me off almost daily, I hope that they rot in Hades, and it gets worse.

There have been a few good things happening to me lately, but they have usually come as a result of something negative in the first place. Like, I found out that I have really good auto insurance through Allstate. How do I know that? Because some one shot my brand new Subaru, leaving a dent and bare spot in the paint around the dent. I’m not positive, but it looks like the projectile came from either a pellet gun, or possibly a .22 caliber gun fired from a distance. I’m also almost positive that it was a stray shot and not intentional. The good news is that my insurance will cover it.

I also found out that I have good renters insurance, also through Allstate. How do I know this? Because on Sunday night, some one in another apartment started a grease fire in my apartment building. The fire forced us to evacuate the building, and I was forced to spend the night in a motel. Fortunately, no one was injured, but it was not a pleasant experience to say the least. I could do an entire post on what I think of the cops and the Red Cross who were supposedly here to “assist” us, all I’ll say is that their so-called assistance was worse than no help at all.

I found out (finally) that I have good dental insurance, and I have also found a new dentist. I know that a while back I wrote about the problems I was having with the dentist that took over the practice of the dentist I had been going to for years. Because of that dentist’s philosophy of extracting as much cash as possible from his patient’s pockets, and my stubbornness in resisting his attempts, I am going to have to have two teeth removed tomorrow (Thursday as I start this post), and the worst part is that one of the teeth could have been saved if the old dentist had been willing to work with me, and not been worrying about his bottom line. My sister recommended her dentist, and while I’ve only seen her once, she and her staff are much more to my liking than the previous one.

I’ve worked for the same company for almost 4 full years now, and no one could tell me whether or not we had dental insurance, it wasn’t until I pitched a bit of a fit and demanded to know that I was told by the owner, “I think so, you’ll have to check with the union”. What a place!

Anyway, we actually had two sunny days in a row! But, now we’re back to the clouds, however, instead of lake effect snow, today we received lake effect drizzle instead! Things are looking up, it is getting a little warmer, and the birds are beginning to tell me that spring is coming, even though it may not seem like it.

There are more cardinals singing everyday now, not just on days when the sun makes a rare appearance.

I saw a flock of bluebirds today, which surprised the heck out me, for we had a storm consisting of snow, rain, sleet, ice pellets, and strong winds yesterday.

Just as shocking, I saw a male red-winged blackbird today as well.

When did the bluebirds and blackbird arrive here? During the storm? I suppose they could have been in the area since this weekend when the weather was nice, but that I didn’t see or hear them until today.

Speaking of nice weather, here’s a few photos from my walk on Sunday, before the fertilizer hit the ventilator.

Sunny day!

Sunny day!

Fox squirrel enjoying the sun

Fox squirrel enjoying the sun

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

Dark eyed junco

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Since I didn’t have many photos of female downy woodpeckers when I did the post on them in my Photo Life List project, I’m going to add a few that I shot on Sunday to that post, Downy Woodpecker.

Creekside snow

Creekside snow

Alder seed pods

Alder seed pods

Alder catkins

Alder catkins

One of the reasons I went back to the county park where I walked last weekend was in hopes of getting better shots of the Carolina wren I saw there. I was able to track the little bugger down, but, this was the only photo I got of it. If you look closely, you can see the wren’s beak sticking out from behind the small branch in the center of the frame. Let me tell you, he’s fast! I’ll probably continue to return to the same park every weekend if the weather is good, until I get a good photo of the wren, or it moves on to another place.

Carolina wren's beak

Carolina wren’s beak

With the nice warm sunshine, the deer were in no hurry. I watched a small herd get up to stretch their legs and munch on a few buds that are beginning to appear.

Whitetail deer feeding

Whitetail deer feeding

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Sycamore tree

Sycamore tree

Another sunny creek

Another sunny creek

I’ve been short on practice as far as shooting birds in flight, so when these mallards took off, I couldn’t resist.

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

The same holds true of this great blue heron that came winging its way past me.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

The heron landed in a marshy area where there was some open water, and began to look for lunch. He’s hard to see, but I still like this photo for some reason.

Great blue heron in the snow

Great blue heron in the snow



Then, the biggest treat of the day, a house finch singing his spring song!

House finch warming up his vocal chords

House finch warming up his vocal chords

And finally, another of those shots that I like, but can’t say why.



It’s a good thing that I got as many photos on Sunday as I did, because I was forced to miss two days as far as my daily walks. One was the day after the fire of course, and the other was the day that I had the teeth pulled.

A quick housekeeping note before I continue on, Lori from What the Ducks has nominated my blog for the Liebster Award. While I don’t participate in these awards, it is always nice to learn that others find my blog worthy of any award. If you’re interested in ducks, or having a good laugh, I would suggest that you check out her blog!

Now then, for some really good local news! For the first time in months, the forecast for the next week has no snow in it! I find that quite amazing! The local meteorologists tells us that the up coming week will be our sunniest since the first part of November, I sure hope that he’s right for a change.

For the month of February, we received almost 3 feet of snow, Muskegon got almost 5 feet for the month. Maybe spring is going to get here after all. The bluebirds and red-winged blackbirds seem to think so, I spotted bluebirds again today.

It’s Friday now as I’m typing this section, and there’s a hint of sun poking through the clouds, with the promise of even more sunshine this weekend. So, I am going to make another attempt to track down and photograph the Carolina wren tomorrow, then head to Muskegon on Sunday for another duck hunt, with the added chance of spotting some Bohemian waxwings! A small flock of them has been spotted in the Muskegon area, so I’ll go searching for them, and who knows what I’ll find.

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

Should I, or shouldn’t I?

I’m really chomping at the bit to get as many posts in my photo life list project posted as I can, but for the most part, I’ve been limiting myself to one per day.

Before I expound on that, I have started another blog where I am going to post only the very best photos that I have taken. I have done that as part of my plan in an attempt to earn a few extra bucks selling my photos. I doubt if I will ever make a sale directly off from the other blog, but it is part of an overall scheme. Anyway, you can find it here. I think that long time followers of this blog have already seen the photos there, but I have them displayed larger, and I haven’t reduced the quality as much as I do for the photos that I post here.

Back to my life list project. I still have a number of species that I can do a post on, but, if I do them now, they will be incomplete compared to what I would like them to be. But, that was my idea when I decided how I was going to do this project. It’s darned hard to keep hundreds of photos sorted and stored on my computer, waiting until I have very good photos of every species. I’d like to post what I have now, as I already accidentally deleted a few of the photos that I was storing. Luckily, they were of white breasted nuthatches, and I was able to shoot replacement photos the same week as I deleted my older ones.

The way that I organized the project, using pages to navigate to the individual species posts makes it easy for me to find older posts, no matter how long ago it was posted, or how many posts I’ve done since. I did it that way intentionally so that I could continually update the older posts as I get better photos.

I can easily knock off three or four posts in the series per day on the weekends, up till now, I do and save a week’s worth as drafts on the weekends, then publish one per day as not to dump multiple posts per day on my regular readers.

However, since I began this project, I seem to have lost a few of the regular readers that I looked forward to receiving comments from. I’m not sure why that happened. I don’t know if it because of how often I’m posting, or for other reasons. I am tempted to pound out as many posts in the series as I have photos for right now, to get those done so that I can get back to my regular blogging.

Today (Friday) I have reached a decision during my daily walk, but before I announce it, I have a few things to say about WordPress, blogging, and bloggers.

First, WordPress, it’s great! I started my blog using a different platform, and found it very hard to use. Not so with WordPress, it is very easy to create an attractive blog, and they also make it easy to publicize your blog as well.

However, one thing that is usually overlooked is that their motives are not totally altruistic, the survival of WordPress depends on our participation. It takes money to purchase and maintain the servers and hardware, it takes money to pay the wages of the developers and other employees.

That’s one of the reasons that they push so hard for us to post more often, and to visit other blogs to build a following for our blogs.

One of the ways that WordPress generates revenue is through the sale of ads which appear in our posts if we use the free version. The more often we post, the more ads WordPress can sell.

Being a free market capitalist, I’m OK with that. I get a free platform for my blog, WordPress makes the money to pay for it by selling advertising space in my blog. No problem.

So, (I have to quit starting sentences that way, I’m beginning to sound like an NPR liberal) where the problem lies is that, in my opinion, far too many bloggers take the WordPress tips for developing a following for their blog too far.

How do I know that? I have a pretty good idea that when I click the button to publish this, then return to the dashboard, that this post will have received a “like” or two by the time that the dashboard has fully loaded on my old, slow computer. There’s no way that the person liking my post would have been able to read my entire post and determined that they did indeed like it enough to click the like button in that short of time.

I have come to the conclusion that much of the traffic to my blog is false traffic, it is from other bloggers who view as many blogs as they can, and like or follow those blogs in order to generate more traffic to their own blogs.

I can’t say as I blame them, that’s one of the tips from WordPress. Again, that tip is not totally altruistic, the more traffic on WordPress, the more that they can charge per ad. Again, I’m OK with that.

For me, the problem begins when a blogger places too much emphasis on their site stats. I’ll admit, I check my blog’s stats from time to time, but I am really past caring about the overall numbers for the most part. What I do care about is what posts people are looking at, and why. Other than the traffic seekers, I can tell that most people who visit my blog find it through the search engines while looking for specific information. Those are the people I was aiming for when I began this blog way back when.

One more thing before my big announcement, I do value those of you who do visit my blog for what I consider to be the right reasons. I think that you all know who you are, please don’t ask me to make up a list, because I’m sure I would forget one or two of you. I want to thank all of you with whom I have had conversations with through comments here, or on your blog! I hope that my announcement won’t drive you away permanently.

So, my big announcement, and then the why I came to this decision.

Look out folks, there’s going to be a major increase in the number of posts that I will be doing for a while, multiple posts per day for a while. I am going to post this, hopefully yet today, take a break over the weekend while I work on posts in my photo life list project, then start posting them as quickly as I can finish them, starting on Monday.

Those of you have been long time readers can ignore those posts if you like, there won’t be any spectacular photos in them, as I have exhausted my very limited supply (6) of spectacular photos.

The reason for doing this is that I have to get the number of photos I have stored ready to post down to a manageable number, I can’t keep sorting through hundreds of photos looking for the ones I want for a particular post.

I’m already having trouble as far as what to do with new photos I am taking, it’s becoming a monster!

Another reason for multiple posts is because of the way that I am made. Give me a project and/or a goal, and I dive in headfirst to get as much accomplished as quickly as I can. That always serves me in good stead in the business world, that may not hold true in the blogosphere, time will tell. I want to get the species that I have photos of now posted, even if the posts are not as complete as I would like at the present time. At least I’ll have the posts as placeholders for my future photos, and room on my computer for new photos as I get them.

Another reason for doing as many of the posts in that series as quickly as I can is so that I can get back to what I consider to be the normal nature of my posts, and only do posts in the photo life list when I get photos of a species that I haven’t already done a post on.

I also want to get as many of the posts at least started as I can right now, so that I’ll have time when the weather gets nice to do the kinds of things that I want to do, rather than doing those posts when I’d rather be outdoors enjoying spring here in Michigan.

I am not going to be publishing all those posts just to drive up my site stats, I don’t give a rat’s rear end about my site stats, just so you know.

I do apologize advance to those of you who truly follow my blog for what is about to hit you! I see no other good way to do it.

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

You must have a really good camera!

“You must have a really good camera!”

Just as people almost invariably ask me “You getting any good pictures?” when they see me carrying my camera, when people see the photos I have taken, at some point they almost always make that comment about my camera. As if the camera was the only thing responsible for the photos!

I’m sure that many of you, who take better photos than I, hear that even more often!

I should say that this subject is a bit of a double-edged sword right for me right now, as I am blaming my camera and lens for not producing the quality of photos that I think I am capable of, but that’s a whole ‘nother topic, one which I have been beating to death, so I’ll try to avoid that in this post.

It sort of irks me, the idea that the quality of one’s camera is the only thing responsible for the quality of the photos a person produces.

That’s right, the person behind the camera actually produces the photo, the camera only records what the photographer tells it to record.

I wasn’t around back then, but I seriously doubt that any one said to Rembrandt “Wow, you must have a really good paintbrush!”. I can’t quite picture some one seeing Michelangelo’s sculpture Statue of David and saying to him, “Wow, you must have a really good hammer and chisel!”.

So, what is it about photography that most people equate the quality of a photo with the equipment used to take it, rather than the skill of the person operating the camera?

Most of that is due to the fact that nearly every one has a camera, and this is especially true now that just about every cell phone comes with a camera built-in. Everybody can, and most people do, take photographs. But, most people don’t invest hundreds or thousands of dollars into camera gear, so when they look at the photos they take compared to others, it’s easy for them to chalk up the difference in the quality of the photos to the differences in equipment.

We can all draw, every one has access to a pencil and paper, and many people doodle and sketch. In our early years of school, most of us used crayons and/or paint to try our hand at those arts. Most of us played with clay to try our hand at sculpting.

Therein lies much of the reason people view photography in the way that they do. Pencils, crayons, paints, clay, for the most part, they’re all equal, so when we see that our work isn’t as good as that done by others, we know that our talent (or lack of it) is the only difference, there’s no blaming the equipment.

But with photography, it’s easy for people to think to themselves, “If only I had the very best of equipment, I could take photos as good as anyone”.

One of the things that led me to post this was a recent post from Kerry at the Lightscapes Photography Blog. Another is the huge number of really bad photos being passed off as great examples of the art of photography in the blogosphere.

(Note! This does not apply to naturalists who post photos to illustrate their posts, I am talking about people who call themselves photographers)

There are probably few people who call themselves photographers who post as many really bad photos as I do, but I know that they are bad, I am under no illusions to the contrary. I post some of them because they are humorous in some way, or because they are captures of something that one does not see everyday, or to show budding photographers what not to do.

However, as bad as my bad photos are, I see a lot of just outright crap being posted in blogs by people who call themselves photographers. They may be a poor snapshot type photo of a landscape, and the “photographer” uses photo editing software to “juice up” the coloration to the point where the photo looks like nothing that you would see in the real world. Or, an everyday shot converted to black and white, and held up as a great example of the “photographer’s” artistic skills just because it’s a black and white photo.

I know that since photography began that photographers have edited photos in the darkroom, often to make up for the limitations of the cameras and lenses ability to capture what our eyes see. They have also tinted, toned, and done other tricks in the darkroom to make a more pleasing photograph, but they usually began with an excellent photo to begin with.

In a way, I see photography as a dying art, and that photo editing is replacing it. It’s as if this new crop of photographers could care less what they see in the viewfinder when they hit the shutter release, they want to get something, anything, to play with in Photoshop.

Well, to me, photography is an art, in a way, it is two different forms of art at the same time. One is the art of photojournalism, telling a story if you will. The other form is more along the lines of more “traditional” art, much like painting.

But, photography can also be a scientific tool, one example of that is freezing the motion of things in order for us to study that which happens too quickly for our eyes to follow.

And, to make things even more complicated, photography is a science at its root, the science of capturing light on media of some type for future reproduction or transmission. While modern cameras make conquering the technical aspects of photography much easier these days, it does require that the photographer have at least a working knowledge of the science of photography.

This spring, I noticed that almost all the photos of flowers I was taking at the time all looked very similar as far as the way I was composing the shots. It isn’t that the shots I was getting were bad shots, it was that they all looked the same, other than the species of flower. I even stopped taking photos of flowers for a while, to make myself start looking at them in a different way. It worked, or at least I think that it did. (You can click on any photo for a larger version)

Evening Primrose

Evening Primrose

Morning glory

Morning glory


Day lily

Morning glory

Morning glory





Evening Primrose

Evening Primrose

Wild rose

Wild rose

OK, so most of those shots are still clichéd, but there are only so many ways to photograph a flower.

When I show them to friends, what I hear is “Wow, you must have a really good camera!”. I want to slap them up side of the head and say “No, photography is an art! It takes skills to get photos like that!”, but I don’t.

But it does!

I worked for every one of those photos, getting the light just the way I wanted for the way I wanted to compose the shot. I had to set my camera to record the shot the way I saw it in my mind’s eye. Those shots didn’t just happen! Not only did I work for each of those shots, I put a lot of thought into each one as well. I tried to match the quality of the lighting to the “personality” of the flower. From soft, subtle lighting for the morning glories, to somewhat harsh lighting for the prickly thistles. I paid attention to the backgrounds, and how they would affect the overall picture.

Take this shot for example.

Snow blasted teasel

Snow blasted teasel

I have been trying for two months to get the shot of a teasel seed head the way I want it to look in a photo, and that’s the best that I have done, so far. That’s still not exactly the shot I am looking for, but it’s as close as I have come of all the photos of them I have taken. I can’t even explain to you why that isn’t the shot I want, I just know that it’s not, and I’ll keep trying until I do get the shot I want.

Not only does artistic photography require skills, it requires a determination to produce art. That may require you to shoot so many photos of a subject that you get bored with it for a while, and have to take a break, then try again. Or, get down on your hands and knees and crawl through a wild rose-bush, getting stuck with thorns, to get into the exact spot you want to be in to be able to capture the shot that you want. Then, you try to hold still as you have the thorns of the rose sticking into you as you work the camera.

Of course art is subjective, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that, so I am not saying that those photos are great works of art, but they are works of art, even if only somewhat humble works of art. I’ll admit it, I am far from being a great artistic photographer, although I do enjoy dabbling in more artistic photography from time to time.

I have never taken any classes, but I have read books and attended exhibitions of fine photography, so I have some basis for my opinions.

It’s funny, several decades ago, two of my friends took photography courses in college, thinking that the photography class would be an easy way to fulfill the art requirements towards their degrees. Both of them talked me into shooting many of their homework assignments, yeah, we cheated. I don’t remember exactly how we did in those assignments, but I do believe it was quite well.

My last long-term girlfriend also took a photography class, and she would come home and say “Now I know what you’ve been trying to tell me, but you don’t explain it very well”. (Photography wasn’t the only thing we had difficulty in communicating on, which is why we’re no longer together.)

Over the years, I have gravitated towards nature photography almost exclusively. I believe that nature is beautiful enough just the way that it is, that it doesn’t need our “help” in any way. I also believe that the person taking any photograph should do everything possible at the moment that a photo is taken to get the very best photo that they can without resorting to editing to make up for a lack of skill on the part of the photographer.

Here’s a few of my attempts at artistic nature photography from this last summer.

Blue moon

Blue moon



Bee in a bonnet

Bee in a bonnet



Berry still life

Berry still life





Dried still life

Dried still life



Berry still life

Berry still life

Berry still life

Berry still life

Berry still life

Berry still life









So, how did I do?

I know that there are no award winners in the bunch, if for no other reason than that the subjects are too common for any judges, and that I have done no editing other than cropping a couple of them. No “straight up” photo will ever win a competition these days.

( I noticed that the photos I selected were all shot on bright sunny days, that may be because I have been socked in with fog the last three days?)

Anyway, I think that you can see that I like to play with light, shadow, color, color contrasts, textures, and composition when I attempt to get artsy, and isn’t that what photography is really all about? And, if that is what photography is all about, then, the quality of your equipment becomes less of an issue.

One of my basic goals when it comes to nature photography is to capture the beauty in nature that most people miss. Most people would walk right past any of the things that I captured in those photos without even pausing, but when they see the photos I take, I hear “You must have a really good camera”. No, I pay attention to what there is to be seen. You have to stop to not only smell the roses, but to really see the roses as well, something that I think more people should do.

I also wish that more people who like to think of themselves as photographers would pay more attention to the basics, and even if they are going to go crazy editing their work, at least start with a good photo in the first place.

I’ve been working on this post on and off for a while now, it really isn’t quite how I want it yet, but something happened last night to push me to publish it now. I picked out 40 of what I think are my best photos, and had them printed 8 X 10 to see  how they would come out. Last night I went to pick the prints up. As I was standing there inspecting the prints, I hear from behind me, “Wow, you must have a really good camera!”


That’s my rant for this week, thanks for stopping by!

My favorite nature quotes

I have already done a post of my favorite fishing quotes, and it is one of the most viewed posts that I have done. That isn’t why I am doing this one, these are quotes about the great outdoors and nature that I love. These quotes tell why I love the great outdoors the way that I do in a way that says it much better than I can.

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.” ~ John Lubbock

 “Who hears the rippling of rivers will not utterly despair of anything.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“Be like a rock in the middle of a river, let all of the water flow around and past you.”~ Zen Saying

“Time Flowed Past Like The Water Of The River” ~ Allen Norcross (New Hampshire Garden Solutions)

“I think if you’re interested in really studying nature you have to do it over time to understand how and why things change.” ~ Allen Norcross (New Hampshire Garden Solutions)

“I was all alone on a morning so quiet I could hear myself think at Red Jack Lake, miles into the Hiawatha National Forest.  It seemed like the epitome of irreverence to make a sound.” ~ Kerry Mark Leibowitz (Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog)

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”~ John Muir

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”~ John Muir

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”~ John Muir

“In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world.”~ John Muir

“Going to the woods is going home.” ~ John Muir

“A man’s interest in a single bluebird is worth more than a complete but dry list of the fauna and flora of a town.”~ Henry David Thoreau

“Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.”~ Henry David Thoreau

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”~ Henry David Thoreau

“Not till we are completely lost or turned around… do we begin to find ourselves.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“I am a happy camper so I guess I’m doing something right. Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“The universe is wider than our views of it.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“I have a room all to myself; it is nature.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“While civilization has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men who are to inhabit them”~ Henry David Thoreau

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”~ Mahatma Ghandi

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”~ Mahatma Ghandi

“In the thinking of the human being a hundred years is a long time. A hundred years ago we didn’t have cars, airplanes, computers or vaccines. It was a whole different world, but to the earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing. This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can’t imagine its slow and powerful rhythms, and we haven’t got the humility to try. We’ve been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we’re gone tomorrow, the earth will not miss us.” ~ Michael Crichton

“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.” ~Ansel Adams

“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed… We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in.” ~ Wallace Stegner

“To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others”~ Theodore Roosevelt

“Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us to restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wildlife and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“I am glad I will not be young in a future without wilderness.” ~ Aldo Leopold

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” ~ Aldo Leopold

“No matter how intently one studies the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all the salient facts about any one of them.”~ Aldo Leopold

“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” ~ Albert Einstein

“No settled family or community has ever called its home place an “environment.” None has ever called its feeling for its home place “biocentric” or “anthropocentric.” None has ever thought of its connection to its home place as “ecological,” deep or shallow. The concepts and insights of the ecologists are of great usefulness in our predicament, and we can hardly escape the need to speak of “ecology” and “ecosystems.” But the terms themselves are culturally sterile. They come from the juiceless, abstract intellectuality of the universities which was invented to disconnect, displace, and disembody the mind. The real names of the environment are the names of rivers and river valleys; creeks, ridges, and mountains; towns and cities; lakes, woodlands, lanes roads, creatures, and people.” ~ Wendell Berry

“A crowd whose discontent has risen no higher than the level of slogans is only a crowd. But a crowd that understands the reasons for its discontent and knows the remedies is a vital community, and it will have to be reckoned with. I would rather go before the government with two people who have a competent understanding of an issue, and who therefore deserve a hearing, than with two thousand who are vaguely dissatisfied.
But even the most articulate public protest is not enough. We don’t live in the government or in institutions or in our public utterances and acts, and the environmental crisis has its roots in our lives. By the same token, environmental health will also be rooted in our lives. That is, I take it, simply a fact, and in the light of it we can see how superficial and foolish we would be to think that we could correct what is wrong merely by tinkering with the institutional machinery. The changes that are required are fundamental changes in the way we are living.” ~ Wendell Berry

“[T]his readiness to assume the guilt for the threats to our environment is deceptively reassuring: We like to be guilty since, if we are guilty, it all depends on us. We pull the strings of the catastrophe, so we can also save ourselves simply by changing our lives. What is really hard for us (at least in the West) to accept is that we are reduced to the role of a passive observer who sits and watches what our fate will be. To avoid this impotence, we engage in frantic, obsessive activities. We recycle old paper, we buy organic food, we install long-lasting light bulbs—whatever—just so we can be sure that we are doing something. We make our individual contribution like the soccer fan who supports his team in front of a TV screen at home, shouting and jumping from his seat, in the belief that this will somehow influence the game’s outcome.”  ~ Slovoj Zizek

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children” ~ Chief Seattle

“We line up and make a lot of noise about big environmental problems like incinerators, waste dumps, acid rain, global warming and pollution. But we don’t understand that when we add up all the tiny environmental problems each of us creates, we end up with those big environmental dilemmas. Humans are content to blame someone else, like government or corporations, for the messes we create, and yet we each continue doing the same things, day in and day out, that have created the problems. Sure, corporations create pollution. If they do, don’t buy their products. If you have to buy their products (gasoline for example), keep it to a minimum. Sure, municipal waste incinerators pollute the air. Stop throwing trash away. Minimize your production of waste. Recycle. Buy food in bulk and avoid packaging waste. Simplify. Turn off your TV. Grow your own food. Make compost. Plant a garden. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If you don’t, who will?”  ~ Joseph Jenkins

“A tree is alive, and thus it is always more than you can see. Roots to leaves, yes-those you can, in part, see. But it is more-it is the lichens and moss and ferns that grow on its bark, the life too small to see that lives among its roots, a community we know of, but do not think on. It is every fly and bee and beetle that uses it for shelter or food, every bird that nests in its branches. Every one an individual, and yet every one part of the tree, and the tree part of every one.” ~ Elizabeth Moon

“Environmentalists generally object to battery-powered devices and for good reason: batteries require mined minerals, employ manufacturing processes that leak toxins into local ecosystems and leave behind an even-worse trail of side effects upon disposal. Though when it comes to the largest mass-produced battery-powered gadget ever created—the electric car—environmentalists cannot jump from their seats fast enough to applaud it.” ~ Ozzie Zehner

“Man is a complex being: he makes deserts bloom – and lakes die.” ~ Gil Stern

“Trees are always a relief, after people.”~ David Mitchell

“The environment you save should be your own!” ~ Me

That’s it for now, thanks for stopping by!

I’m baaack!

I could sub-title this post “What a long strange trip it’s been” or “All’s well that ends well”, but my trip hasn’t ended yet.

If you remember, I shut off my Internet service in an effort to save money to purchase a condo, that didn’t happen. I found several very nice condos that would have worked for me, but after two real estate agents and five, count them five, mortgage companies, I was forced to move to a different apartment complex because the immature snot managing my old apartment complex refused to continue my lease on a month to month basis because he heard that I “made negative comments about the Byron Lakes community”.

My new apartment is just as nice as the old one, for $150 a month less, plus, the new one has a garage, so that saves me another $110 a month on the storage unit I was renting. I took some of the money that I had saved towards a condo and bought a great, reliable, fun to drive vehicle to replace the Ford explorer that I had owned and was on its last leg.

My 2013 Subaru Foreter!

My 2013 Subaru Forester!

That’s right, I leased a 2013 Subaru Forester, and I love it! During my move, I loaded all my outdoor gear as if I were going on a week-long camping, fishing, kayaking, hiking trip, and everything fits. It also get 25 MPG in town compared to the old Ford’s 14 MPG, so the gas savings I am seeing pays for the insurance on the Subaru.

I could go on forever about how much I love it, but I’ll just say that if you’re in the market for a vehicle, you should really check out a Subaru, you’ll be glad you did.

On the nature/nature photography side, I have hundreds of photos to share as I get the time to sort through them all. Some are technically good,

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

…some are extremely interesting, even if they aren’t the greatest photos in the world.

Great blue heron carrying a rodent it had just captured

Great blue heron carrying a rodent it had just captured

I would like to thank every one who commented looking forward to my returning online, and I have saved all the links to all the blog posts people have done over the last few months so I can see what all of you have been up to as well. It will take me a while to get caught up, and to sort through all my photos, but it sure feels good to be back.

I signed a one year lease here, so I’ll start saving money again and hope that the mortgage industry comes to its senses (I’m not really counting on that), then purchase a condo this coming fall. I found a very nice one in the development that I like for under $35,000, but the banks wouldn’t write a mortgage for it for me. They said I qualified, they said the condo and development qualified, but the combination of myself and the condo didn’t qualify. They couldn’t tell me why that was, all they could tell me was that their automated approval software kicked the loan out as rejected. So, I’ll try again next year.

I’m going to make this a short post, as I have a lot to do as far as getting caught up yet, but I will be posting on a regular basis again. Thanks for stopping by!

Decisions, decisions, decisions

There will be photos later on, I promise, but first, I have some thoughts to put into words for my own sanity, and maybe even another bad customer service rant to get off my chest before I get to the photos.

I am getting far enough along in my quest for a new place to live that I have begun to find the flies hiding in the ointment, and the hoops that I will have to jump through. Since I’m not going to have much of a down payment saved up, I will have to use a FHA loan to make the deal happen. I have learned that in order for FHA to approve the loan, the entire condo complex has to have been approved by the FHA in advance.

So, of course the condos that I liked best as far as looking online are not FHA approved, and that leaves them out, darn! They were mid-priced and had mid-levels of amenities, just what I was looking for. That leaves me with two options, go cheap, or go close to the maximum I want to spend right now.

Now I have many decisions to make, as part of planning the rest of my life also involves the purchase of a different vehicle to replace the Ford Explorer that I currently own, but is on its last legs.

If I purchase a really cheap condo, I can afford a brand new Subaru, which will probably be the last vehicle that I ever purchase. But, I’m not sure I’ll be happy in a cheap condo, and that means I’ll end up buying a nicer one later on, and moving one more time in my life.

If I purchase a condo that is on the upper end of what I can afford, it will probably do me for the rest of my life, but that means buying a cheap car that I know will have to be replaced in just a few years.

As part of the decision-making process, it helps to have some actual numbers to go by to help me make the decision. So, to that end, I paid a visit to a couple of car dealerships today in the attempt to get some real numbers. My first stop was the local Subaru dealership. There, I was waited on by a very nice young man, to whom I explained why I was there, and that it would be some time before I actually made a purchase. He grasped that no problem, and spent well over an hour with me going over Subaru’s product line and giving me numbers for their base models, and what my options for financing were. Now I have some real numbers that I can plug into a spreadsheet to help me set up my budget for when I make my move.

My second stop was at a local Ford dealership, and what a difference! I told the salesman why I was there, that I was in the planning stages of what I was going to do, and that I needed some information to help me decide. My first concern when buying any vehicle is will I even fit. I’m 6′ 6″ tall, and not a little guy as far as width, so I need to sit in a vehicle to see if there’s enough room for me.

(BTW, all the Subarus passed that test with flying colors. I owned a WRX at one time, the best vehicle I have ever owned, and it had a ton of head and leg room, even though it is based on Subaru’s smallest model.)

Anyway, looking around the lot, there were four Ford models I was interested in, and asked the salesman if he could grab the keys to one of each of the four models so I could see if they would even work out for me. He returned with the keys to one vehicle, a Ford Freestyle, and then he informed me he had other customers waiting, and that I should just look around. Once again I told him that looking at the outside did me no good, that I had to sit in them and see if they would hold all me gear and hold me, and I asked him if some one else could unlock a few of the other models I had in mind. He told me that he would be back, I waited half an hour in the hot sun, and gave up waiting. I forgot to mention that he was bad-mouthing the Freestyle and trying to push me towards a newer Taurus X or an Edge, both of which are well more expensive than I am looking to spend.

I headed over to the new truck section, as I wanted to check out a Ford Transit Connect van. Those are small delivery vans, something that would work out very well for my camping, kayaking, fishing excursions, as they have a very large cargo area. I had better luck there, at least the salesman took me over to show me one of the Transit Connects, and even let me sit in it.

One of those would work out very well for what I have in mind, I could finish the rear of it off exactly the way I want it to hold all my stuff in a well-organized manner. I did that with a 1972 Ford truck that I owned, and a buddy of mine and I did that to a commercial van that he bought just for that reason.

I am leaning towards crossing the Transit Connect off from my list though, it does have a ton of room and I fit in it, but it looks and feels cheap on the inside, they are under-powered, and they cost just as much as a Subaru Legacy or Forester, either of which get better fuel mileage than the Transit Connect does.

I suppose Ford gets away with pricing the Transit Connect so high because it is a cheaper option than the others available to businesses in the market for a delivery van. It’s a plain-jane vehicle with nothing finished in the rear cargo area, just two-wheel drive, and an engine that is really to small for a vehicle of its type. For the same money, I can get either a Subaru Legacy or Forester which are all wheel drive, completely finished in the interior, get better mileage, fit me better, and are way more fun to drive! I hate to sound like a Subaru commercial, but there are times when I wonder why they aren’t a lot more popular than they are, actually I know the reason, Subarus have the reputation for being practical.

Subaru builds safe, reliable vehicles that well suit the needs of their owners, which is why no one buys them. The buying public wants sexy, impractical vehicles, luckily, I do not suffer from that affliction.

To top it off, there’s the customer service aspect of today’s little jaunt, I will not go back to that same Ford dealer. The salesman that wouldn’t wait on me because I wasn’t ready to buy yesterday sealed that deal for himself. As did the other salesman walking past me shoving pizza into his face and trying to keep the pizza in his mouth while he asked if I was being helped. When I replied “sort of”, he thought that that was funny, and had even a harder time keeping the pizza contained as he laughed. Just a little note to any one considering a career in commissioned sales, do not go trolling for customers while shoving food into your face! Yes, you put in long hours and there will be times you need to eat while on the job, and you may even lose a customer or two by taking time out to eat, but, you would lose those same customers anyway by spitting pizza at them while you try to eat and talk at the same time!

As you may have been able to tell, I am leaning towards a cheap condo and a nice vehicle at this point, after being nearly homebound for the last two years because of my Explorer’s condition, I know that I wouldn’t be spending much time at home in the cheap condo if I had the ability to go places again.

On the other hand, I am not looking forward to moving again, once, let alone twice. I’m sure that a cheap condo will come with bad neighbors, too much noise, and some other negatives as well. The cheap condos don’t have garages, that means I have to continue to pay for a storage unit, but, since my mortgage payments would be around $150, I could easily afford the storage unit.

To help me pull more numbers together, I had already made an appointment with my insurance agent to run some numbers on the different vehicles, and on the cost of home owners insurance versus the renters insurance I have now. In the next two weeks, I hope to have a spreadsheet done with all my options plugged in to help me make the final decision.

Now then, for nature and some photos. The drought is getting worse. The media have just picked up on the fact that we are in a drought, I think it’s only because Michigan has begun to allow the sale of fireworks like other states have allowed for years. Give the media a cause, and they will ride that horse to death. They are more worried about people having fun than they are about everything that’s dying because of the drought.

Several of the creeks here have gone dry, meaning the fish and other wildlife that depended on the water in the creeks for life are dying or dead. I see more trees everyday that are turning brown and losing their leaves, and it just keeps getting worse.

Droughts breed droughts. It is so dry here that the soil and plant life is trying to absorb any moisture that there is in the air, so the humidity levels get even lower over time. Even if a more humid air mass moves over the area that could lead to rain eventually under normal conditions, the moisture in the air mass is sucked out of it by the soil and plants, which helps to perpetuate the drought. That may not be the best scientific explanation as to why droughts breed droughts, but I think that it is close enough.

The weather forecast calls for continued heat, and maybe a slight chance of showers over the next few days, but it may be too late for many plants and animals if the rain does come.

Here’s a few of my photos from the last few days.

Young cottontail rabbit

Young black-capped chickadee

Female Baltimore oriole gathering food for her young


Female house finch gathering nesting material

A pair of house finches

Bullfrog caught mid-croak

Grackle eating a Japanese beetle

American robin

English sparrow with what looks to be several Japanese beetles in its beak

American robin in flight

12 spotted skimmer? Dragonfly

Thistle flower

The courtship of belted kingfishers

The courtship of belted kingfishers

The courtship of belted kingfishers

The courtship of belted kingfishers

The courtship of belted kingfishers

Eastern bluebird in flight

Male northern cardinal in flight

That’s all the photos for this one, but one more thing to say.

Today is the last scheduled day of Internet service for me, so I don’t know how often I will be able to post from now on. I will most likely get behind on replying to comments if you leave them, please bear with me as I will get to them eventually. That goes double for the posts of the bloggers that I follow as well.

When I do get back online, hopefully this blog will get back to what I intended it to be when I started it, a journal of my adventures in nature in the State of Michigan, and not so much of the same old, same old of my daily walks.

Until then, I want to thank those who read my ramblings on a regular basis, and even those that just stop by now and then. That’s all for this one, thanks for stopping by!

Who in their right mind does this?

I am furious! There were some snapdragons that had escaped the wrath of Mary Dye, the new manager here at Byron Lakes apartments, but she must have spotted them and ordered the groundskeepers to destroy them, as she obviously is a deranged individual that hates any display of color.

Dead snapdragons

Those snapdragons were flowers that had managed to re-seed themselves from back in the day when the landscaping around here was a sight to behold, with flowers everywhere. These had been growing in the crevices of a rock wall along one of the creeks. I had taken and posted a few photos of them, but I was waiting until they really got going as far as blooming, then, I was going to do an entire post on just them.

That obviously isn’t going to happen now, as they have all been ripped out of the ground and dumped into the creek to die. I just do not understand any one who has the flowers trimmed off from flowering bushes, or has people rip flowers out of the ground to kill them. I have got to get out of this place before I go even crazier than I am already!

Thanks Dad!

Today is Father’s Day here in the United States, and while I lost my dad to heart disease nearly a decade ago, I miss him more than ever.

My dad

So, I thought I would do a short post to say thank you to my dad, for taking me hunting and fishing when I was a kid.

Thanks dad, for getting me interested in photography, and for teaching me the basics.

Thanks dad, for teaching me how to work on cars and bikes, and how to drive them well. You’d love the World Rally Championship, those guys know how to drive!

Thanks dad, for taking me canoeing, and teaching me about rivers and lakes, and the wildlife associated with each.

Thanks dad, for passing on your understanding and love of wildlife.

Thanks dad, for passing on your love of reading and learning, and for teaching me that through books, one can learn everything there is to learn.

Thanks dad, for teaching me that anything that any one else does, I can do also.

Thanks dad, for teaching me that it doesn’t matter what other people think of me.

Thanks dad, for teaching me to respect women as equals, long before it was the norm.

Thanks dad, for teaching me the true meaning of the word gentleman.

Most of all, thanks for being my dad, I miss you, I love you!

Flowers? We don’t need no stinkin’ flowers!

Warning!!! Many flowers were killed in the making of this post! Please go elsewhere if you are one of those deranged people who enjoy seeing flowers!

Today, while I was doing my daily walk around Byron Lakes apartments, what I saw pretty much sums up the philosophy of the new manager here.

Trimming the flowers off from a flowering bush

Yes, you are seeing that correctly, the groundskeeper is using a gas-powered hedge trimmer to hack the flowers off from a flowering bush.

Getting rid of those stinky, nasty flowers that every one hates

I used to like flowers, in fact, I thought that I loved flowers, but I have the new manager here to thank for showing me the error of my thinking.

Thanks to Mary Dye’s careful re-education program, I have learned that flowers are to be destroyed! In the first place, the plants that flowers grow on are untidy and grow of their own accord, how dare they?

Then there are the flowers themselves, they are so brightly colored that they hurt the eye when you think about it. Who really wants to see things like these?

Those lilacs bring up another thing about flowers, they stink. Who would want to open their windows to smell those stinky old lilacs, when they could rather be smelling their neighbor’s trash rotting in the stairwell?

Ahhh, the sweet smell of rotting garbage!

Even better is the smell of dirty diapers hung out on a doorknob to ripen in the sun!

But who in their right mind would want to see this….

…when they could be seeing this….

Where the nasty wildflowers used to grow

…or this?

Where those nasty wildflowers used to grow

Yes, thanks to Edward Rose, Byron Lakes apartments, and Mary Dye, I now love the sight of barren ground rather than those unsightly flowers that used to grow here.

You may well ask why they don’t just kill all the flowers here at one time and be done with it. Well, there are those unreasonable holdouts who haven’t come over to the correct way of thinking yet, and still believe that they like flowers. So, management here has a plan, kill everything that flowers a little at a time, and eventually, every one will learn to love the dying and dead plants.

Besides, those plants used to cost money to maintain, and Edward Rose is now all about cheap. And, since all tenants are scum, they don’t deserve anything nice anyway. What am I saying? Flowers are not nice, they are nasty smelly things to be killed! Please forgive me Mary, I had a little slip there.

My Week…Summer arrives

The My Week series of posts is a daily running journal that I do on the walks that I take daily around the apartment complex where I live. I’m located just south of the second largest city in Michigan, Grand Rapids, in the southwest part of the state. It was inspired in part by the phenology project done by Rebecca on her blog, Rebecca in the Woods.

Here you will find my thoughts about the wildlife that share this area, and maybe my thoughts on a news item I have read that pertains to nature or the environment. You can click on any of the photos to get a larger view of them.

This post covers the week from May 20 to May 26, 2012


I should have known. The way that the heat hit me yesterday, I slept much longer than I had hoped to, and it is already later than I would like if I were to do a trip to Muskegon. That’s OK, the Memorial Day weekend is forecast to be very hot as well, so I will make the Muskegon trip then.

Besides, I am behind on some things that I have to do around the apartment, so I may very well not even go for a walk today. If I do, it will be in the evening when it has started to cool off at least a little. It also gives me a chance to touch on some things here that I have wanted to say but I haven’t had the time to get to.

One, I am continuing to lose weight! How much weight, I’m not sure, there aren’t many scales heavy-duty enough to weigh me. The industrial scale at work would do the trick, and it’s what I’m going by, but like everything else there, it doesn’t work that well. If I step on that scale three times, it comes up with three different readings. But, I know that I am losing weight because I have dropped over a full size in the last couple of months.

Why am I mentioning this? Because it seems that there are many of us trying to shed a few pounds. I’m not going to claim to be a weight-loss expert, but I do know what works for me, and what doesn’t work.

You can’t starve yourself skinny, at least I can’t. When I started driving truck over the road, I tried to just cut back on how much I ate to compensate for my lack of exercise, it didn’t work. When I began really trying to lose the excess weight I had gained, I ate almost nothing, and that didn’t help. I was tired and run down all the time, and still fat. People told me that my metabolism was adjusting to make up for the lack of food I was eating, I guess that was true.

So, how did I begin losing weight? I started eating again, more specifically, I began eating my own cooking most of the time. What’s funny about that is that I’m not a health nut when it comes to what I cook.

The first thing that I noticed was that I had more energy, the bounce has returned to my step, and it isn’t from all the flab flapping around either. When I am making breakfast in preparation to go for my daily walks, I find myself stretching and doing isometrics while I’m waiting for the food to get done. I find it very difficult to sit still anymore, I want to be moving.

At work, while I’m driving, I am bouncing around inside the cab of the truck, literally. Trucks have an air-ride seat, and they work really well for bouncing, almost like a trampoline. 🙂 When I’m sitting at the computer trying to type things like this, I get up and take a stroll through the apartment every once in a while to help burn off the excess energy that I have. And that’s the real key to weight loss in my opinion, burning off the excess energy through movement before it turns to fat.

It helps that I don’t watch TV, it has been several years now since I last turned on my TV. The downside of that is that I find it hard to carry on a conversation with most people, as their lives’ center around what they watch on the boob tube. I have never seen any of the shows that other people talk about, do I feel left out? Hardly. I may not have much of a life at this time, but at least it’s my life that I’m living and not the life of some asinine made for TV reality “star” life.

So, if you want to lose weight, I think there are only a few things that you need to do. There is no magic bullet, no one thing to eat or not eat, but there are a few things that seem to always hold true. One, stop eating empty calories. Sugar is sugar, whether it comes from sugar cane, sugar beets, or high fructose corn syrup. The current fad is to blame high fructose corn syrup for everything, but it makes no difference what the source of empty calories is, only that they are empty calories.

Beef is not to blame either, since I have been cooking for myself most of the time, I have added more beef to my diet and have been losing weight. Neither is it carbs like potatoes for example, they are another thing that I am eating more of since I have been eating my own cooking. In fact, what I cook for myself would have the food nazis all up in arms.

That brings us to the dreaded word, exercise. You don’t need to sign up at a gym and work out for a few weeks until you get tired of it and stop going. It is much easier than that, all you have to do is move more than you are already. Find something that you enjoy doing that involves moving, and do it.

When I was gaining weight, it surprised me that I was. After all, on my weekends I would go hiking or kayaking nearly every weekend. But, that was the problem, I was only moving on weekends, the rest of the week I was sitting inside of a truck for 14 hours a day, then, too tired to do anything but crawl back in the sleeper berth and sleep. But, part of the reason I was so tired is that I had tried to stop eating. Looking back, what I should have been doing is going for a walk when I finished my day, but I didn’t.

Find something that you enjoy doing, and do it, everyday. It doesn’t have to be strenuous like jogging or lifting weights. For me, it’s my daily walks around the apartment complex, and I take my time while I am walking to watch the wildlife and take photos of them. Anything that gets your butt up off the couch and gets you moving will work, even housework. That’s actually very good exercise in fact.  That’s what I am doing today between bursts of typing this.

In fact, I couldn’t stand sitting around the apartment, even though I still have things to do. I went for a walk despite the heat. How hot was it? Hot enough to make a goose pant.

Canada goose

Following up on something from last week, about birds panting in the heat in much the same way that dogs do to try to keep cool in the heat. I hadn’t known until last week that scientists had actually studied the panting of birds, it was something that I had observed and sort of joked about. That goose was definitely panting.

And since I am on geese, even though I saw this about halfway through my walk, check this out!

A flock of Canada geese relaxing

That’s at the long back pond, where during the middle of last week Father Goose beat the tar out of several other geese for  stopping off at “his” pond. Today, there were 14 geese there, but not Father Goose and family. He wasn’t there today, I last saw him, the wife, and kids headed west a day or two ago, no doubt on their way to harass the home owners in the subdivision there by crapping all over the lawns there. All six of the kids were alive and doing fine, and I know they will return one of these days.

In a sick way, I would have liked to have seen what would have happened if Father Goose had returned today, to see all those intruders taking over his pond. Would he have challenged all those other geese? Would they have ganged up on him?

Canada goose relaxing

I threw that last one in because I could. 😉

Now, back to the beginning. As I was approaching the new swamp, I heard the croak of a heron, and decided that today was as bad as any to see what was going on back in there. I haven’t mentioned the new swamp in a while, it’s dark, grown over, full of mosquitoes, and the smell isn’t very pleasant either. I did manage to catch a glimpse of a green heron as it flew off. The swamp is nearly impossible as far as photography is concerned. In the fist place, with the tree canopy covering it, it is dark. Secondly, because it is a new swamp, most of the smaller trees and bushes are still alive and have leafed out, meaning it is hard to see more than a few feet in any direction. But, the rotting vegetation from the leaf litter and plants that have died since the swamp formed last summer makes a trip back there rather unpleasant this time of year.

Then there are the mallards, dozens of them. Males, females, and ducklings, and they all act as an early warning system for any other wildlife back in there.

The wood ducks are still here, but getting a photo is close to impossible right now. I know, I can start a new game, try to find the brilliantly colored waterfowl hiding in this picture.

A male wood duck hiding in the brush

A male wood duck hiding in the brush

The wood ducks are such beautiful birds, and so very good at avoiding the lens of my camera. It doesn’t help when they have mallard bodyguards as well. It is so frustrating to see the flashes of colors of the wood ducks, and not to be able to get a clear shot of one!

Also a carry over from last week, the flocks of goldfinches. I found out today why there are dozens of the goldfinches in some of the trees right now, it because the seeds of those trees are so tasty to goldfinches.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

Those are the seeds of a river birch that the goldfinch was feasting on, along with many of its closest friends.

At the back pond, a young kingfisher.

Young belted kingfisher

On my way around the pond in an attempt to get a better photo, I caught this guy trying to fly through a chain link fence.

Unidentified trying to fly flycatcher

Also, this mushroom.


And, these miniature azaleas.

Miniature azaleas

I think that’s what they are, the plants and leaves look like azalea plants, even though the flowers are only about an inch across. The kingfisher was still there when I had made it all the way around the pond.

Young belted kingfisher

Young belted kingfisher

I’m not sure, but it looked to me as if the kingfisher had gotten its feathers wet, and couldn’t fly. It did try one take-off, which landed it back in the water again, so I left as quickly as I could so that it would have time to dry its feathers for the flight back home.

It was a rather quiet day, I think that most of the wildlife other than the goldfinches were resting in the coolest spot that they could find. That takes me back to the new swamp, it was cooler there, much cooler than any other place I went today. If it hadn’t been for the smell, it would have made a great place to hang out on a day like today. I’ve already done a post on micro-climates, so I’m not going to rehash that now, but I wanted to go back to the swamp anyway, as I had forgotten about this wildflower I found there.

White wildflower

I have been trying to learn to identify wildflowers, I really have, with the help of some of my fellow bloggers, but just when I think that I can make a positive ID, I notice a subtle difference between what I have seen in other people’s blogs, and the flower that I see, and it turns out to be a different species than I thought it was.

That’s it for today, on to Monday, when storms are forecast to cool it off for a day or two.


The storms came last evening, and they did cool it down, a lot. It was so nice to turn off the AC and open the windows and let the cool, rain-scented air into the apartment! I slept like a log.

Now it’s time to start a new week, it is still cloudy and cool outside, I have been listening to the birds singing as I have been drinking my coffee, a lovely morning even with the clouds.

It has definitely cooled off! I felt so good to be out there in the coolness of the day, even a bit chilly at times. Anything is better than 90 degree heat like we had on Sunday.

The clouds held on all day, which was somewhat of a bummer, since as soon as I stepped out of the door, a great blue heron flew directly over me, giving me one of several bad action shots of the day.

Great blue heron in flight

Why don’t they ever fly over on a nice day?

The same holds true of this next series of shots. I had stopped at the back pond and thought that I had looked the area over pretty well as far as looking for wildlife, but as I was walking away, I looked back to see a red-winged blackbird chasing a great blue heron across the pond.

Red-winged blackbird chasing a great blue heron

Where those two were hiding when I first looked over the pond I have no idea, but they put on a nice little show for me after they got to the other side.

Red-winged blackbird chasing a great blue heron

Red-winged blackbird chasing a great blue heron

Red-winged blackbird chasing a great blue heron

The herons can’t catch a break around here, if it isn’t the geese chasing them around, then it’s the smaller birds like the Red-winged blackbird giving them grief. I suppose that a heron would find young red-winged blackbirds to be easy pickings as far as a meal, since the blackbirds often nest right on the ground. I can’t say as that I have ever heard of herons eating young birds, but it wouldn’t surprise me, herons are carnivores, eating fish, frogs, insects and even snakes.

Speaking of food, here’s a mother robin feeding one of her young.

Mother robin feeding one of her young

Mother robin feeding one of her young

Mother robin feeding one of her young

Mother robin feeding one of her young

Mom didn’t look too happy with my being that close to her and her baby, so they both left right after that last shot. I was hoping to get the exact moment when they both had a hold of the worms, but the little one was too quick for me.

Last up for today, yet another bird that I haven’t been able to identify yet.

Unidentified bird

Unidentified bird

The bird was nice enough to pose so that I got good enough photos to really show its markings, so given enough time, I should be able to ID this one. Since Monday is my ‘short” day, that’s all I have time for today, on to Tuesday.


The sun and blue skies have returned, without the heat! The turkeys are out there strutting their stuff, time for me to get going!

What a beautiful day! Too bad the heat is predicted to begin building again tomorrow, it was perfect today. I didn’t catch the turkeys out in the sun, by the time I tracked them down, they were resting in the deep shade, which makes for bad photos of birds that are almost black to begin with.  I did track down the world’s fastest butterfly though.

Unidentified butterfly

That thing could fly, much faster than any butterfly I have ever seen before. I also have another bird to identify, actually two, but I only got half way good shots of one.

Unidentified bird

On second thought, I saw three birds that I couldn’t ID, there was another bird in the same tree that had a darker face. I was trying to get a clear shot of the other one when this one landed in the same tree. I never did get a good look at the first one. It could have been a male and female of the same species, I’ll try to look them up later.

The other new bird was a spotted sandpiper I think, it was in some rocks at the back pond, I took photos, but the bird blended in with the rocks so well, that at the distance I was away from the bird, you can barely tell that it is a bird.

At the long back pond, a goose was going crazy while taking a bath. It was diving underwater and swimming for ten to twenty feet at a time, then would surface and roll around for a while, then dive again. I have photos, but they are rather boring for what was actually going on. The photos show a splash as the goose would dive, then nothing but bubbles while it was underwater, then more splashing as it surfaced again. I have never seen a goose dive underwater before.

I did get photos of it drying off as well.

Canada goose drying itself

Canada goose drying itself

Then, there is this one that looks like another goose telling the first one not to be such a show-off.

Canada geese

But in fact, a tussle had broken out between some of the geese there, and the one honking is doing so because of the fight. There were several pairs of geese with broods there at the one pond, including Father Goose, Mother Goose, and brood.

Canada goose family

The goslings sure are growing!

Canada goose goslings

And, I think that this pair was babysitting a few goslings for other geese.

Canada geese

There’s 14 goslings there, I don’t think that geese lay that many eggs at one time. It also looked like the goslings were from two different broods.

OK, back to the skirmish between the geese. Father Goose wasn’t involved, which kind of surprised me when I saw how many geese were there, and that some had goslings, and others didn’t. One of the other ganders that was there with its young chased one of the ganders without any young, but it wasn’t much of a fight compared to others that have occurred there. Maybe Father Goose went in to action after I left. It was odd seeing him acting so calm when he’s normally the most aggressive goose around here. The geese may not be as comical as the mallards, but they are still interesting to try to figure out.

The eggs of the pair that nested at the center pond have hatched, but the geese were at the back pond. That seems to be what the geese do, when the eggs hatch, they take the goslings to a different pond almost right away. It must be a way of protecting the young from any predators who had been watching the nest, waiting for the young to appear.

I have a couple of “artsy” shots from today.

Dames rockets

Blue jay

Flowering grass

Also, a great shot of a young robin, if I do say so myself.

Young robin

I took a few of a mother robin and her young as well, but you’ll probably be seeing lots of those in the coming days, so I’ll not post them today.

I heard the green heron back in the new swamp again today, but with the mallards on guard duty, I didn’t bother go in after the heron. It’s cool that it is hanging around though, especially the way the geese have been chasing both species of herons around.

All my bad action shots of the day are so bad that I’m not even going to post one today. I think that I have more than made up for that in the past.

That’s about it for the day, on to Wednesday.


Another beautiful day! You’re all probably getting tired of hearing me say that, sorry. I can’t remember a nicer spring than the one that we are having this year. A few hot days, but most of the time it has been much sunnier than most years, with pleasant days and cool nights.

Today’s entry may be short, this last weekend I placed orders for clothes that are due to arrive today, including a new pair of Keens! Yes! My old ones lasted nearly ten years, and were the most comfortable sandals I have ever worn, can’t wait to try out the new ones. I guess that will have to wait until tomorrow though, as it is time for me to get moving.

My new Keens have arrived! But, that isn’t the reason that I am running behind again, they arrived yesterday after I had left for work. The reason I am working on this on Thursday rather than after my walk on Wednesday is because the geese put on quite a show for me to watch. I am still debating whether to post any photos, if I do, it will be in a stand alone post.

The short version, the entire eastern end of the long back pond erupted into one giant goose playground yesterday, the young geese from this year started it, and eventually, most of the adults joined in. They were diving, rolling, running across the water, splashing one another, carrying on like a group of kids playing in the water. I shot over 100 photos, but I’m not real happy with them. Stills don’t capture action very well, and for many of the photos, I was panned out trying to show how many geese were involved.

Other than that, I shot a few bad photos of a pair of rose breasted grosbeaks, and a few of a great blue heron.

Male rose breasted grosbeak

Female rose breasted grosbeak

Great blue heron

Great blue heron in flight

The weather forecast is for a high near 90 today, so I’m going to get out there and try out my new Keens before it becomes so hot that I wilt under the sun. Sorry for the brevity of today’s entry, on to Thursday.


The heat has definitely returned! My new Keen sandals arrived just in time for a day like today. I hate to keep raving about them, but I have learned the hard way how important good footwear is when you walk as much as I do.

Now, for the walk, the temperature has certainly soared, the saving grace today was a strong southerly wind that at least made the heat bearable. But, the wind is also a good news bad news situation. Most of the small birds and flowers that I attempted to photograph were being tossed around in the wind like a small boat on the ocean in a storm. That, and the amount or pollen being blown around was enough to make my allergies kick in, with watery eyes and a runny nose. Not great for photography. It didn’t help that the birds were playing games today as well.

It started right off the bat, a blue jay landed very close to me in a tree, but just hidden enough to make a photo impossible. I saw that if I moved a few inches to the right that I would have a clear shot, before I could shoot, the blue jay moved a few inches to the left to remain hidden. So it went, it would move to a different branch, but hidden, I would find a clear view, the blue jay would move again before I could shoot. The darn thing was taunting me, I know it was, because I gave up on it several times, and each time I walked away, the blue jay followed me, landing close to me, but just out of sight. At least it didn’t laugh at me out load, but I could tell it was enjoying the game.

As were a pair of cedar waxwings feeding on the early berries in another tree, they played the same game as the blue jay did, taunting me. I think that I spent nearly half an hour between them and the blue jay, and got one bad shot in all that time.

The wind didn’t help at all either, as I thought that I was all set for a clear shot of something, only to have the wind blow it out of focus, or place a branch with leaves between the subject and myself just as I was about to shoot. I more or less gave up early on, and suffered through the heat which wasn’t a wise idea either. I did miss a few shots, like of one of the red-tailed hawks fly low and close with something in its talons. I wasn’t thinking of photography, my mind was on other things, so I was way to slow to catch the hawk.

One of the things on my mind, remembering to call the Muskegon Wastewater facility for a pass for this weekend. With the heat predicted to hang around for the weekend, I’ll be headed to Muskegon on Sunday to chase the eagles and kestrels around, and escape the heat. With the water temperature of Lake Michigan still in the fifties, the cool breeze from the lake will sure feel good!

If you remember back to the snowy owl post I did this winter, the wastewater treatment facility for Muskegon County is a birders paradise.

Now that I have called and reserved a pass for the weekend, here’s a few photos from today.


Yellow daylily


Blue jay


That’s all for today, but I did remember something from yesterday that I wanted to note. I saw a cardinal feeding a young brown headed cowbird yesterday, which is one reason that I haven’t seen many young cardinals yet this year. Cowbirds are parasitic nesters, that is, they don’t build a nest and raise their own young. They lay their eggs in the nests of other species of birds, who then raise the cowbirds as their own. The young cowbirds are more aggressive, and usually grow faster than the young of the birds who belong in the nest. The young cowbirds out compete the other young, or even push them from the nest.

I knew that cowbirds often chose the nests of eastern bluebirds in which to lay their eggs, I didn’t know that they went after cardinal nests as much as they apparently do. When I was young, I was taught to shoot cowbirds on sight because of the way they reduce the population of more desirable songbirds, but now, the cowbirds are protected by the same Federal law that protects the other songbirds. I suppose that it’s natures way of controlling the bird population, as much as I dislike it.

On to Friday.


I have one more thing to say about footwear, and this isn’t about my Keens so much as all footwear for outdoor activities. I will never, ever, buy another pair of leather boots or shoes for hiking, or any other outdoor activity. That has nothing to do with a moral stance, I am not a PETA nut in any way. It all boils down to performance.

I’ve owned many pairs of leather boots over the years, and hated them all. They are heavy, and none are really waterproof, no matter what you do to them. I tried mink oil, silicone, even baking bear grease into the leather by placing my boots in the oven on low heat, none of those things work, well.

At about the same time, I bought both the first pair of Keen sandals, and a pair of New Balance hiking boots, both made out of synthetic materials. The New Balance boots amazed me at first, less than half the weight of any leather boots I ever owned, and they were truly waterproof! Yet, they breathed, keeping my feet cooler and more comfortable than any other boots I have ever owned. I bought the Keens mostly for kayaking, and it was only after I had them a few years that I began to use them for summer hikes. I will not go back to leather! No more slogging around in wet, heavy leather boots that weigh a ton extra when wet, and take days to dry out for me.

Now that that’s out of the way, more about today. The heat is gone for a day, predicted to return this weekend. So, with some pleasant weather, I’m headed out to go for a walk under bright blue skies, and looking for birds in the vividly green and lush foliage of late spring/early summer. I love this time of year, every time I look out one of the windows, I am struck by how green the trees are. I wonder if the trees only seem greener now than in the summer because the green is still new to me after a long brown Michigan winter? That question will have to wait, the outdoors beckon.

What a beautiful day! Most of the shots I took today went straight to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer. I have a few more bad action shots to add in just a few a few words first. Sorry, I got distracted by a young squirrel learning how to navigate its way through the treetops. That reminds me of another thing, along with some badly needed footwear and clothes that I recently purchased, I also broke down and bought one of those folding camp chairs that every one else in the world has had for forever. When I get the time, I am going to sit out on my balcony, and maybe even take a few photos from there on occasion.

Now then, finally getting around to my walk. Things are settling into a summer routine around here, most of the territorial battles have ended for the most part. The birds seemed to have paired off, the early nesters are on their second brood, the late arrivals are raising their first. The flowers are blooming, and the pretty insects such as butterflies and dragon flies are all over the place now. Life is grand!

But, that also means that these posts will probably be getting shorter until the fall transition begins, which isn’t all bad. That will give me more time for other projects.

So, here’s a few of the bad action shots from today, I’m posting more than one since I have been lax in adding any at all lately.

Red-winged blackbird in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Great blue heron in flight

With the long weekend coming up, it will be nice to relax for a while. With the weather forecast as it is, with heat all weekend, and storms possible on Saturday and Monday, I may get a chance to try out my new chair for a while.

I wish I were headed up north, but it would be a risky proposition with my vehicle in the shape that it is in. Here it is almost June, and not only haven’t I been fishing yet this year, I haven’t even purchased my licence yet. That’s unheard of for me. But, my hobbies do seem to run hot and cold, I didn’t do much fishing last year, I have gotten more into photography again instead. One of these days, the urge to go fishing will become overwhelming, and my photography will get placed on the back burner while I flail the water to a froth chasing trout up and down the streams again for a while. 😉

That’s it for today, tomorrow is Saturday and the first of a three-day weekend, YIPEE!!!!!!!!


I am trying to be lazy this morning, but that is only partially working. There’s a line of showers headed this way, and should arrive here shortly. So, I have been drinking my coffee, listening to the birds in the woods outside my apartment while waiting for the showers to come and go.

Since it is still cool, and I have time to kill, I am also doing my baking for the weekend before the temperatures soar, which brings me to another point.

It is cool outside, I have my windows open, but, I can hear other tenant’s air conditioning units running. What’s up with that?

It is the simple things like shutting off the AC and taking advantage of nature’s air conditioning that could reduce pollution, along with lowering people’s electric bills.

In its infinite wisdom the Federal Government recently banned the sale of the higher output incandescent bulbs that are the most commonly used type of lightbulb, in an attempt to make us all convert to more energy-efficient types of lightbulbs, such as compact fluorescent bulbs.

Since I try to do my part, I had bought a pair of the compact fluorescent bulbs to use in the kitchen, since that’s the only light in my apartment that is on for any length of time. I hate them, I detest them, and I seriously doubt that they are saving any electricity at all. Despite being rated at a high output as far as the amount of light that the bulbs I bought claim to produce, I can’t see a darned thing with them on. Now, I have to turn on the task lighting over the sink and/or the stove in order to be able to see what I am doing. Now, instead of two incandescent bulbs in the overhead fixture on, I have the two compact fluorescent bulbs in the same fixture on, plus, two incandescent bulbs so that I can see what I’m doing. I know that my electric bills haven’t gone down a bit, but that may be because I use so little electricity in the first place.

We should all be doing our part to reduce our dependence of fossil fuels, and not because of the so-called global warming, but because they are finite resources, and burning any of them releases pollution that is harmful to life.

So, since people are too lazy and dumb to open their windows during a cool night and morning, and instead, run their air conditioners, the government has to ban lightbulbs that actually produce light. It all makes perfect sense to me, not!

I guess that’s why I consider myself to be a conservative, government actions invoked because people won’t do the right thing seldom have the desired effects. It’s like the low flow toilets required now, I hear that the newer ones are better, but the ones in my apartment sure are not saving any water.

But, maybe the liberals who want the government to step in and force people to do the right thing are correct, as far too many people can’t be bothered to make any effort at all to anything that would benefit the environment unless they are forced to. I don’t want to believe that, but the evidence points in that direction.

My electric bill averages just over $30 a month over the course of a year. It runs a little higher in the winter when the furnace is running a lot, and higher in the summer when I turn the AC on. During the spring and fall months, my bill is often less than $20 for a month. After an extremely hot month one summer, I asked if maintenance could check my AC unit to see if it was running at top efficiency because my bill was just over $100. I was told that I was darned lucky, many of the people here pay over $200 a month during the summer. If people are too dumb, or too lazy to take the few steps that it takes to save themselves hundreds of dollars a year on their utility bills, then maybe the liberals are right, and the government needs to force them to save energy.

Now, after that little morning rant, about my walk. The clouds held firm, with a few sprinkles of rain on and off. We need some rain, badly, it is very dry here and has been for much of the latter part of spring. The rain we did get today was just enough to make me keep my camera tucked inside my rain jacket, but hardly enough to do any good. Hopefully, it will rain more tonight, even if that means the warm front is going to the north bringing the higher heat and humidity.

Most of my photos from today are not that great, due to the weather, and nothing that you all haven’t seen before, so I’m not going to bore you with any of them.

I did have an interesting conversation with a couple of other residents down the street today, concerning the wildlife around here. I was listing a few of the species that I see regularly, when right on cue, a great blue heron flew past us not more than forty feet away from us. Neither of the people I was talking with knew that there were herons around here. Oh, and yes I took photos, in a couple of them the heron nearly fills the frame, but I still haven’t figured out how to get a good exposure when the background is grey overcast sky.

At the back pond, I paused for a while to watch the kingfishers, killdeer, and spotted sandpipers for a short while. I suppose I’ll have to include one photo as my bad action shot of the day.

Belted kingfisher diving

As for the rest of the day, the one thing that struck me was how many young birds I could hear calling for more food. Earlier this spring I noted that nearly every evergreen had at least one nesting bird in it, now, all those nests are full of hungry young birds that never seem to get enough to eat.

Some of the young robins are flying already, making their demands known all the time. They follow their mothers around as the mothers search for food, and as soon as one of the young thinks that mom has something, it is right there with its beak open waiting for whatever mom has found.

This year’s young cottontails are already spreading out on their own, I see them all over the place. Spring and new life all around, I love it.

I think that’s about all for today, and this week. I am still on the fence over doing a post of just the geese playing from the other day, I’ll have to look through the photos again now that some time has passed. Tomorrow, it will be off to Muskegon for eagles, kestrels, and who knows what else, as long as it is cooler there than it will be here, I’ll be a happy camper. Thanks for stopping by!

The Weekly Photo Challenge: Regret

No nature photos this week, I’m not sure that the concept of regret exists in nature, but this will nature related.

My parents

I don’t have many regrets in my life, the one that comes to mind is not getting to know my parents better. This is especially true as far as my mom, and how she came to be so knowledgeable about the outdoors, nature, and in particular, plants.

My parents were very private people, you simply didn’t ask them questions about themselves. I understand a lot more about my dad’s knowledge of the outdoors, since he was a hunter and fisherman who brought me along with him even at an early age.

My mom was way ahead of her times in a way, a college degree, and she worked as a book-keeper until we kids started coming along.  But the not so typical things about her were that she was an excellent archer, better than my dad, and she knew the names of so many wild plants, and wildlife in general.

I assume she learned from some of it from her parents, my grandparents, and growing up on a farm lends itself to that type of knowledge I suppose. My grandfather was also a member of the National Geographic Society, and I read many of the back issues of their magazine that he had saved, and I’m sure my mom did as well when she was growing up.

Still, I regret not learning how both of my parents became so well-educated about nature.

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

Some odds and ends, maybe a photo or twenty

After my hike in a county park yesterday, I really have the urge to do a post about cross-country skiers and how rude they can be. My feelings towards them goes back a long way, all the way to the 1970’s when cross-country skiers first started showing up in the woods. We had several winters where we received way above average snowfalls, and I would be out walking on trails I had broken in my snowshoes, when out of nowhere, these people driving mostly Volvos began cussing me out for messing up their trails. Their trails? I had made those trails in the first place, as I walked everyday back then, just as I do now. Back then, there were no defined trails for the most part, so I made my own systems of trails, which the cross-country skiers tried to take over and kick me off from.

But, it got worse. The Michigan DNR tried to cater to the new sport, and opened up some of the state game areas to skiers, but that didn’t work well. It wasn’t long before the cross-country skiers where pressuring the DNR to close off the lands to hunters, when it was hunters who bought and paid for the land.

Then, it got worse. The cross-country skiers began to demand that the DNR groom the trails for them before they would go. Makes sense to me, fire up a gas-powered, air polluting machine to make skiing easier, so the cross-country skiers could claim they were getting back to nature, and getting their exercise as well.

Then it got worse. Building miles of trails made to the specifications cross-country skiers demand, marking the trails so the idiots who can’t find their way around the woods don’t get lost, and grooming the trails cost the DNR millions of dollars, but do the skiers want to pay for it? Of course not! Anytime that a proposal comes up to extend the Pittman-Robertson excise tax hunters and fishermen pay on their gear to cross-country skis and other skiing equipment, the skiers make sure that the proposal gets shot down. They want their cake and the ability to eat it, for free.

For the record, I have met a few friendly cross-country skiers, I think I can count the number of them on one hand. I even had one thank me for breaking trail in my snowshoes, which he was following, which caused my jaw to drop all the way into the snow. I told him about all the times skiers had cussed me out for being in the woods on snowshoes, and he told me it was because they weren’t very smart, that it was a lot easier following a snowshoe trail than breaking it on skis.

Also for the record, I try to avoid cross-country skiers and their trails whenever I can, but the jerks insist on skiing whatever trail they can find, even if it is marked for hiking only. It’s funny, they insist that their trails be groomed, and they’ll cuss me out for breaking a trail by hiking or snowshoeing, but that doesn’t stop them from taking the trails I break, just so they can cuss me out for ruining “their” trails.

As a nature photographer, I am used to people walking right in front of me as I am trying to take a picture. I am also used to people yelling out “Hey, what ya taking pictures of” just as I am trying to photograph a bird or animal, to which I usually reply, “That critter that you just scared off by yelling”. But, cross-country skiers take it to another level, yelling out things like “Coming through!” or “Step aside please!”, at least a few do say please. It’s their attitude that bugs me, as if they own the woods and every one else has to get out of their way.

So it was yesterday as I was trying to shoot the interactions between the nuthatch and the woodpecker. I was on the hiking trail that runs parallel to the cross-country ski trail. I had been watching the nuthatch, but wasn’t going to photograph it as it was a bit too far away for a great shot. Then, the red bellied woodpecker landed on the same tree just below the nuthatch, and bullied its way up to where the nuthatch had been, but it had flown to a branch of the tree and had started chattering away at the woodpecker. I was about to get that shot, I had them both in the frame, I was about to press the shutter release, but it was then that I heard the familiar “Coming through!” from approaching skiers.

I should have waited and snapped a couple of photos before I moved, but skiers always seem to get so huffy if they have to stop, or even slow down a little, after all, they’re holier than the rest of us. They’re out there getting their exercise. Right, that’s why they ski groomed trails, so they don’t have to work to get their “exercise”. They’re getting back to nature. Right, that’s why they ignore the chance to actually witness nature in action, and seem to try to do their best to interfere with those of us who do pause to watch nature in action.

OK, enough of that rant. I have added a link to Rob Slaven’s Photography blog, a very talented photographer from Zionsville, Indiana to the right under blogs I enjoy reading.

I find that I am getting behind in posting photos again, so here are a few I took last weekend. It started with a glorious sunrise.

Sunrise on a snow covered world

It had rained heavily before the snow began, so everything was coated in ice, then covered in snow.

Ice and snow

It was a beautiful day in the marsh

Sun and snow on a marsh

And by the creek

Sun and snow on Buck Creek

The ice that remained on the tree branches resembled miniature ice carvings.

Ice on a branch

Made me wish I had a macro lens for my camera.

Ice on a branch

This one looks strange due to the reflections off from the water.


It seemed like the whole world was sparkly.

Ice on a branch

Everywhere you looked.


A bit of a breeze came up to blow some of the snow off from the trees at times.


It was hard to see very far because of the snow stuck to the trees.

Snow on the trees

It was all so beautiful against a bright blue sky.

Blue sky

This is from one of the smaller creeks.


I didn’t see much wildlife..

Red bellied woodpecker

Red bellied woodpecker

Since I don’t have bird pictures from last Sunday, I’ll throw in a couple from this week.

Fox squirrel feeding on leaf buds

Canadian geese in flight

Black capped chickadee

American goldfinch

American robin

I almost didn’t bother with the robin photo, I have so many pictures of them, but something made me at least look at it through the viewfinder, and when I did, I saw how dramatic the lighting was, and had to take it! I know that technically it isn’t that great, the robin’s breast is way over-exposed, but I love that photo!

Anyway, sorry for the rant about cross-country skiers, especially if you happen to be one. But a little common (or not so common anymore) courtesy on the trails would be nice. There’s no reason we can’t all share them.

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

‘Tis not fit for man nor beast

This is to go along with what I wrote yesterday, about the storm, the little deer mouse on my balcony, and a few other things thrown in for good measure.

First off, a very cool thing happened yesterday as I was out hiking. A young man stopped and asked me if I needed a ride somewhere! It’s always nice when something happens that reminds me that there are still some good people left in this world. I was walking along the road between the apartment complex where I live and a chain of small lakes about a mile from here. Normally I have to watch for jerks who seem intent on coming as close to me as they can, or making sure they hit the puddles in the road just right to splash me. The young man who stopped got kind of a funny look on his face when I told him “No thanks, I’m out for a walk”, but he wished me a Happy New Year as he drove off, probably wondering about the strange old codger who was dumb enough to be out walking in the kind of weather we’re having.

Now then, about the storm. I was hoping to head over to the Lake Michigan shore and get some good photos of the waves breaking on things like lighthouses, like this one that I stole.


I know, I shouldn’t steal other people’s photos, and two wrongs don’t make a right, and all that. I got that photo from WOOD TV 8 here in town, and they LOVE to steal from folks. They encourage people to upload photographs to their website, and then the TV station uses those photos anyway they want, with zero compensation to the photographers who submitted them, even if the station uses the photos in ads. That’s just not right. So I don’t feel too bad about stealing one of theirs.

Anyway, the storm was late getting here yesterday morning, and it took its own sweet time in getting wound up, nothing like what was predicted. But then, I kind of expected that, having lived here my entire life. This is a lake effect storm, if you don’t live near a large body of water, you may not know what that means.

When cold winter air passes over the warmer waters of the Great Lakes, the air picks up moisture and is warmed by the lake waters. Under the right conditions, you can see it happening right before your eyes. When the winds are fairly light, you can look out over the lake towards the horizon and see what appears to be a fog bank rising up from the lake to meet the clouds, but if you look past the fog bank, you see nothing but blue skies. The fog bank rising from the water creates the clouds, which then carry the moisture over land. Cut off from the warmth of the lake, the clouds cool again, dropping the moisture as rain or snow, most of the time snow.

This storm is being driven by very high winds, in excess of 50 MPH, gusts over 70 MPH at the lake shore, about the time I was out for my hike. When the winds are that strong, we never get as much snow as is forecast, for two reasons. One is that when the wind is that strong, the air doesn’t have as much time over the warmer waters of the lake to gather as much moisture as when the winds are lighter. The second reason is that the strong winds don’t allow snow-bands to set up and sit over one area long enough to drop huge amounts of snow. The turbulence from the high winds disrupts the snow bands as they try to form. Why the local weather people haven’t figured this out is beyond me.

It’s funny, when I got back from my walk in the afternoon, the snow had just started to accumulate. I checked the weather forecasts, and they were all backing off from the earlier ones that predicted up to a foot of snow where I live. Then, as the winds died off a little, and the snow-bands started to set up, we started getting dumped on. That’s not to say this isn’t a potent storm, it is, that’s why the nice young man offered this old codger a lift. It’s nasty out there, not fit for man nor beast. The problem is, the beasts can’t escape it the way we humans do.

That’s one reason I venture out in any kind of weather, to remind myself of just how good I have it as a human being. While I’m eating a nice hot meal after a walk outdoors, some poor little muskrat is hauling itself up on an ice shelf to eat its half-frozen meal as ice crystals form in its fur.

Muskrat supper

As I’m taking a nice warm shower, swans are out there battling the waves and the ice in search of a meal.

Swans in the waves

And while I’m relaxing in my recliner, the swans are relaxing the only way they can in the winter.

Swans on ice

We think we have it bad if we have to walk a few feet on a sidewalk that hasn’t been shoveled, yet no one shovels paths for the turkeys as they plow through the snow looking for food.

Turkeys in the snow

And as we crawl into our nice warm beds at night, there are geese out there seeking shelter from the wind-driven snow…

Geese finding shelter from wind-driven snow

…and do their best to stay warm.

Geese trying to stay warm

Or deer lying down in the snow…

Whitetail doe bedded down in the snow

…because that’s the only place there is for them to bed down.

I’m sorry about the quality of the two of the geese, they were taken yesterday in the storm. The wind was strong enough that I was having trouble holding still, and the snow blowing across the scene didn’t help either.

We humans have become so soft, fat, and lazy that we’ve forgotten what the struggle for survival is really like.  We are a bunch of whiners and complainers, and yes, I’m guilty of that myself, but I try to limit my complaining to things that mean something, not the trivial things I hear most people whining about.

When you see it happen live and in person as animals struggle with survival in bad weather, it puts our silly little complaints in perspective.

I try to always remember what wildlife has to struggle through in order to survive. It helps to keep me grounded.

I’ve checked the web cams this morning, the waves on Lake Michigan are running high, but not high enough for any really dramatic photos, besides, with the heavy cloud cover and snow still falling, any photos would be poor at best. Modern technology, you’ve got to love it! I can sit here in the comfort of my home office and check out what the conditions are at the lakeshore! Here’s a link to one of the web cams if you’re interested in seeing what Lake Michigan looks like in a blizzard. If it looks all grey, wait until it refreshes a few times, it could be a whiteout rolling through at the time.

We’ve gotten a few inches of snow, it’s hard to say exactly how much because of the way it’s getting blown around. It’s enough that the sidewalks and parking lots are solid ice! Since it was around 40 degrees yesterday, and it is now around 20 degrees, the first snow melted, then turned to ice as the temperature dropped. I can see people are having a difficult time walking to and from their vehicles, and the woman in the next building over from me smacked the pole for the car port even though she was just creeping along in her car. Nearly every one is having trouble getting around, but that doesn’t stop some yahoos from laying on their horn if they think some one else is holding them up for all of 5 seconds. God, I hate people! Why did you make me one of them?

For every nice human like the guy that offered me the ride, there are three or four of the jerks that think that they are the most important people in the world, and that all the rest of us should get out of their way. I’d better change the subject, or I’ll put myself in a bad mood, and I am really in a good mood this morning.

I can see the squirrels and birds are out there finding things to eat, and I’m ready to go out there and join them for a while. It’s getting lighter here as the clouds are thinner than before, so I may even get some good photos. I’m still deciding where to go, I’m sure the lakeshore is out, I don’t feel like dealing with the other drivers, I get enough of that at work. I should really run out and see if the beast will even start. It’s been getting a bit cranky of late, I have to play with it to get it to fire. I’m hoping it makes it through the winter, or at least another few weeks until I get another bonus check from work for all the days off I didn’t take.

I have been tossing around the idea of walking the Paul Henry walking trail near where I live, but it is right along the expressway, and I don’t know if I am ready for that yet. I see a lot of raptors perched in trees along there, along with waterfowl in the storm water run off ponds, but I think I’ll wait until spring before I tackle that one, when there is more wildlife to be seen. Expressways make such good habitat for hawks, except for the fact that a few of them get killed when they fly into vehicles. The expressways are like strips of prairie, with enough trees and power poles for the hawks to perch on while they look for food that I see many hawks along the expressways now. I wish I could figure out a way to prevent the hawks from being killed though. I have almost hit a couple with the truck, they have a one track mind when it comes to food. They are so intent on their prey that they pay no attention to anything else, not even a semi coming at them.

Yeah, I’ll wait til spring for that hike. I am really trying to stick closer to home because I think it is the right thing to do as far as limiting how much gas I burn, but I’m not ready to hike an expressway yet, county parks and such are still hard for me to come to grips with. I would so much rather be up north in the wild country, but I can’t justify burning a tank of gas to get there and back for a one day hike.

Changing the subject again, I read a news article about how L L Bean boots are selling better than ever, and that they are still made right here in the United States! I need to order a pair for winter hiking. My New Balance hikers are great boots, light, warm, and waterproof, but they are only 6 inches high, which allows deep snow to cool my ankles down for me. I have a L L Bean Rugged Ridge parka, and it is the warmest outer wear that I have ever owned! It is windproof, which is what you need in the winter on days like yesterday and today when the wind is what chills most people. I can put the Bean parka on, and be as snug as a bug in a rug no matter how bad the weather gets around here. Actually, I subscribe to the idea that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear, and the Bean parka proves that!

If that sounds like a shameless plug, that’s because it is. I am tired of buying shoddy merchandise that doesn’t perform or last, so when I find stuff that actually does what it is supposed to do, I’ll mention it here when I can.

Besides, maybe I can convince a few others that what we call bad weather isn’t really bad at all, if they are dressed for it. There are no such things as good and bad in nature, those are human terms. In nature, there is only what there is, it is neither good nor bad. What we call bad weather is actually one of the forces of nature that make life on this planet possible. Storms are nature’s way of recycling and purifying water. Water evaporates from rivers, lakes and oceans, leaving the impurities behind, then falls as fresh water and snow fit for drinking again. Yeah, we’ve messed that cycle up some with the pollutants we have dumped into the water and the air, but the process still works well enough that you’re safe drinking rain water, a lot safer than drinking from the cesspools we’ve made of the bodies of water on land.

So the next time you find yourself caught in a rainstorm, don’t think of it as something that you need to get away from, put on a rain jacket and rejoice in the fact that you are witnessing nature’s way of providing safe water for us to drink!

The other thing about storms is that they are the way the Earth redistributes heat energy. Without storms, the planet would be a much different place, with a lot less habitable land available to us, or the animals of the world. I don’t see storms as bad in any way, shape or form. Without them, we probably wouldn’t survive, the planet wouldn’t be fit for man nor beast, so I celebrate them!

Anyway, that’s it for this one, long and as disjointed as it is. Thanks for stopping by!

Happy New Year everyone!

I want to start by wishing everyone the best New Year ever!

The next thing on my list of things to do is to thank From Moments to Memories for nominating my blog for the Versatile Blogger Award.  It means a great deal to me that some one found my blog to be worthy of any type of award, so thank you from the bottom of my heart for nominating me, and I think that she is much more worthy of a versatile blogger award than am I.

It may take me a while to get around to complying with all the rules of the award, if I do decide to accept it. When I first started my blog, I really envied other blogs that had won awards, now, not so much. To me, the nomination, and knowing some one thought enough of my blog to make the nomination means much more than the award itself. I have a whole stack of awards from companies I have worked for, awards for safe driving, attendance, going above and beyond the basics the job calls for, and so on. I’m not even sure why I keep them, other than to show prospective employers at a job interview.

One thing I have learned from blogging is that there are many talented people out there, much more talented than I am, like I didn’t know that already. As usual, I fit into a quirky little space of my own, I am not the most talented writer, certainly not the most talented photographer, but enough people seem to like my blog enough to have made it more popular than I would have imagined, thanks to all of you who have followed my blog!

Writing isn’t easy for me, heck, communicating in any form with fellow human beings isn’t easy for me, I am much more at home out in the woods with my critter friends than I am with humans. Photography is easy for me, I see, I shoot, no problem, other than forgetting to make sure the camera is set correctly for what I am trying to photograph. (Yes, I messed up big time again yesterday, forgot to set my camera back to the program mode and shot a series of photos of geese in flight that would have been exceptional, except they were all blurry since the lens was stopped way down resulting in too slow of a shutter speed.)

Nominee for the stupid photographer award

But, I do that wrong anyway, I see I shoot, I don’t take enough time to put much thought into my photos like a truly great photographer does. My “claim to fame” is that I am able to translate my love of the outdoors and animals through photographs well enough that people like them.

So anyway, thanks again to From Moments to Memories for the nomination! I don’t even know her real name to thank her properly, but that’s sort of normal in the blogging world I have found. Oops, spoke too soon, for going back through her posts, I learned that her name is Sheila, so thank you Sheila!

I wrote yesterday that I was going to head for the Lake Michigan shore for some photos of the storm we were suppose to get, but the storm has been late. When I woke up this morning, there was nothing going on outside except for some very dark and dreary clouds, no wind, no rain, no snow. Around 9:30 AM the rain started a little, and the wind picked up a little, but it will take a while for the waves to build up to large enough size to make the trip to the lake worthwhile. As of Noon, the rain is changing to snow, and the winds are definitely picking up, so there’s still hope for this storm! So, until it gets really wound up, and that may end up being on Monday, I thought I would post about my hike yesterday, New Year’s Eve.

I was hoping that with a big storm approaching that all the critters would be out and about feeding so they would be able to weather the storm out in the most sheltered areas they can find. That was the case with the squirrels…

Fox squirrel saying grace

Fox squirrel feeding

OK, so I swapped the order of those two photos, squirrels don’t really say grace before they chow.

And, there were lots of birds feeding as well, mostly the same old same old birds that I have posted photos of before, but I did manage a couple of good shots of red bellied woodpeckers.

Red bellied woodpecker

Red bellied woodpecker

Red bellied woodpeckers

Red bellied woodpeckers

Do you think I could catch both of the looking at me at the same time? Of course not!

Red bellied woodpeckers

I don’t think I have posted any photos of these little guys either, a tufted titmouse.

Tufted titmouse

My, what big eyes they have for such a little bird! All the better to see me with, and to stay out of camera range most of the time!

For the most part, it was white breasted nuthatches..

White breasted nuthatch

Black capped chickadees…

Black capped chickadee

Downy woodpeckers…

Downy woodpecker

Northern cardinals, both female…

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

and male….

Male northern cardinal

but I did luck out and get this one!

Male northern cardinal in flight

Do you know how hard it is to shoot a flying bird directly overhead? No wonder my neck hurts a bit today. 🙂 Or, it could be from looking for owls all day yesterday, and not finding them. A few people have told me that there are a pair of great horned owls that have taken up residence in the park I was at, along with a screech-owl, but I haven’t found them yet. I think I have been trying too hard.

I’m normally very, very good at spotting critters, except when I try too hard, I have no idea why that is. I did spot these two birds though, proving that birds of a feather don’t always flock together…

House finch and American goldfinch

…as does this one…

Canadian geese and mallards

..and there were still more squirrels clowning around…

Fox squirrel

..looks like it started the New Year’s Eve celebration a bit early!

For the end of December it was a beautiful day!

Green grass and trees, blue water, Canadian geese

I didn’t shoot just birds though, I came up with a few other things I found interesting enough to photograph, like some shelf fungi.

Shelf fungi

Shelf fungi

and these…

Shelf fungi

Shelf fungi

Shelf fungi

Shelf fungi

Then there were these leaves that I couldn’t figure out…


I couldn’t recall ever seeing that type of leaf on a native plant in Michigan before, so I checked closer…

Plastic leaves stuck in a bush

…and found that the leaves were fake, the joke was on me! How they got there, I have no idea. I don’t know if they were blown there and stuck in the bush, or if some one stuck them there as a joke, but I fell for it.

This is the aquatic plant life in the creek turning orange, for real!

Orange aquatic plants

And here’s one of the small rapids on the creek…

Rapids on Buck Creek

And here are a few I took that I like, but I really can’t say why, other than I like them.

Raining pine needles

Pine cone and needles

Empty, dried seed pods

I am going to end this with three more photos of mallards in flight, and they aren’t even particularly good photos, but I have fallen in love with the look of these!

Mallards in flight

Male mallard in flight

Mallards in flight

I think my love for the pictures of mallards in flight goes way back to when I was a kid, and my dad loved a picture he had purchased of mallards in flight. I thought that it was about the most beautiful thing I had ever seen back then, even though it was really a cheesy picture now that I think back on it.

That, and a paint by number book of ducks that my dad got for me to keep me occupied while I had the chicken pox are just two of the things that shaped who I am today, and instilled in me the love of nature that he passed down to me. So I hope you will indulge me a little if I continue to post a few more ducks in flight photos later on. You can blame my dad, I thank him for teaching me the things he taught me.

I took a short break at this point, and sat down in the living room to look out at the building storm for a while. I was surprised to see a deer mouse out there on my balcony, eating the stale bread I throw out for the critters. I know I should call the management here and tell them there are mice living in the storage area attached to the balcony, but I won’t. The poor little thing doesn’t know that it isn’t supposed to take up residence there, all it’s trying to do is to get by the best that it can, to stay alive, to survive. The only things I store in there are the tanks of propane for my camp stove, and the can of fuel for my lantern. If the mouse wants to live there, that’s OK by me, I’ll share. Now if it tries to move into my apartment, well, that’s a different story, I would be forced to evict it then. But, just because I could kill it doesn’t mean that I have to kill it, it has enough other critters who would love to make a meal of it, like the hawks, coyotes, foxes, to name a few. I just have to remember to be more careful about leaving the slider open for any length of time at all from now on, like when I step out there to take a photo!

The storm is just getting going now, it’s snowing a little, but hasn’t begun to stick yet.  The wind is roaring now, but it is too late in the day for a trip to the beach for any kind of hike, besides, the wind hasn’t been strong enough long enough for really big waves yet. So I guess I’ll bundle up and do a long walk around here, then check the web cams from the beach areas tomorrow morning to see if the waves warrant a trip to the beach then.

Another thank you to Sheila for nominating my blog for the award, and to all the regular readers as well. Thanks for stopping by!

The great blue heron and great blue funk

I want to thank every one for the very nice comments on my last few posts, I do appreciate them, just to let you know. And, there will be photos later on, I promise.

My great blue funk is almost totally related to my employment and financial situation, I’m not used to having to count my pennies or living from paycheck to paycheck. I’ve made good money all my life up until I took this job I have now, which I took for one reason only, and that was that it gave me the time I needed to take care of business for my mother who has Alzheimer’s. Getting all her finances in order, finding an assisted living home, and the reams of government paperwork involved were way more than I had time for when I was driving over the road.

I thought that I had everything taken care of, and I started looking for other work, then I had to switch from Medicare to Medicaid for my mother, and that was a royal pain as well. Not to mention adult protective services getting involved or the assisted living home and a local hospital getting into a shoving match over my mother’s care. I’ll tell you, the healthcare system in this country is so screwed up, it’s a wonder any one survives it.

I started seriously looking for a different job this fall, and the search hasn’t turned up much of anything that I want. I live in Michigan, which has had the highest unemployment rate of any state in the country for years now, but things have improved a little, now we are number two or three as far as the highest unemployment.

The only part that Christmas has played in my bad mood is that the holiday season isn’t great as far as job opportunities unless you’re looking for seasonal work, and I’m not.

So I had decided that I would gut it out until after the holidays, then resume my search, and I was just getting into a better mood, when I got hit with a package from Medicaid yesterday. I have reapply for Medicaid for my mother, another small book of forms to fill out, copies of every legal document that has ever existed in my mother’s name to be made, the same old same old as far as government paperwork. It will probably take me the better part of a week to get all the forms filled out and the copies made. The topper is that I only have until the first of the year to submit everything, or my mother loses her Medicaid insurance. Just what I didn’t need right before Christmas.

I don’t quite understand why that is, nothing has changed, my mother has Alzheimer’s, it’s not like she’s going to improve to the point where she doesn’t need care anymore.

I’m sorry for the rant, I will get to the pictures shortly, but dealing with the government really ticks me off. It seems they make everything as difficult as they can. The period for switching Part D prescriptions was nearly over when the government finally sent out the information package explaining the options available. They set deadlines that are almost, not quite, but almost impossible to meet, which means you have to drop everything else in your life to deal with them. The forms and informational booklets are written so that no one understands them, not even the government employees that you are forced to deal with.

Oh well, sorry about that, on to the photos!

I had mentioned in an earlier post that I hadn’t seen any great blue herons in weeks, when a few have showed up around here. I saw one last weekend, late in the afternoon rising from a marsh some distance away from me, and another during the week that was also out of camera range. So yesterday when I was taking my daily hike, it only surprised me a little to spot this one standing in a creek here.

Great blue heron in the snow

It was snowing lightly, it looked to me as if the heron was just standing there under the overhanging weeds to stay out of the snow. I circled around behind it, using those weeds as cover so I could get closer.

Great blue heron in the snow

Here’s the rest of the series of photos I took as it walked away from me, from the main creek into the little one that flows from behind the building I live in, and joins the larger creek across from where the heron was standing when I first saw it.

Great blue heron in the snow

Great blue heron in the snow

Great blue heron in the snow

Great blue heron in the snow

I don’t think it was enjoying the snow very much, it didn’t seem to want to fly, it just wanted to hunch up and be left alone.

Great blue heron in the snow

So rather than trying to get a better shot of it, I did leave it alone after that.

They’re not great shots, but not bad considering how dark and dreary it was with the snow coming down, and it isn’t everyday that I get to see a heron in the snow close enough for photos. That reminds me of another thing I should say, after 5,000 photos, I am finally getting a handle on how to get better pictures from my Nikon D50. I have found that I have to set nearly all the settings manually if I want good results. Setting the ISO to automatic does nothing for you, the camera doesn’t start bumping the ISO up until it can not take a photo otherwise, as just one example. I would have programmed the camera much differently if it had been me doing the programming, I would have had it start bumping up the ISO when shutter speeds got slower than 1/100 of a second.

It doesn’t help that I have been spoiled by my little Canon Powershot, I never have to set anything manually with it. It also doesn’t help that I am too stubborn for my own good at times and have tried to come up with settings on the Nikon that will work all the time under any conditions. I am learning how to set the Nikon for the conditions on any given day, so now before I start a hike, I go through and set everything manually, and if conditions change, I pause and reset it as necessary. The Canon may be easier, and take really good photos, but it is hard to beat the Nikon optics when you get the settings correct.

Well, that’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Celebration

I had to dig back in my archives for these, photos taken while kayaking.

Survived another rapids!

The classic pose of a kayaker celebrating, paddle held high overhead.

An early celebration at the Childsdale Rapids on Michigan's Rogue River

She was a bit early in this celebration, the worst was yet to come, but she didn’t know it. She made it OK though.

Shooting the dam at Altona on the Little Muskegon

Shooting the Rustford Dam on the Little Muskegon.

Those aren’t of me by the way, I was the one shooting them. I had already shot the dam and set up to take photos of any one else brave enough to try.

Kayakers potluck party

Kayakers potluck party

Not only were the people I kayaked with fun on the river, they knew how to cook as well.

Kayakers potluck party

Kayakers potluck party

The cake they got for me

Kind of lame, but the best I could come up with, unless I had gone out and taken a shot of Christmas lights or something.

Thanks for stopping by!

Some more rainy day thoughts

It’s pouring outside, it has been since last evening. I just made it home from my walk when the rain started, light at first, but it has been a heavy rain all night into this afternoon. I don’t mind being out in a light to even moderate rain, but the rain falling now would soak me to the bone if I wore just a water-repellent parka, and I’m not sure my rain jacket will fit over the parka.

That’s OK, I have a lot to blog about anyway.

Yesterday, I read Bob Zeller’s Texas Tweeties post, and in it he noted the poor condition of a bird blind he used to use a lot in a state park near where he lives. Some of the reason for the poor condition of the blind sounded as if it were due to vandalism. That happens way too much, everywhere. It is something I have ranted about in the past, and I’m about to again. One reason there is so much vandalism is that we, the public, don’t alert the authorities when we see it happening. Some how we have been brainwashed into thinking that it is wrong to “rat” on others. Some of that goes to our childhood when our parents told us not to tattle on others. Of course if we didn’t tattle on a sibling who was doing something seriously wrong, then we were in trouble for that. 🙂

Part of the don’t rat on others comes from the old gangster movies from the 1930’s and 40’s, you know, when James Cagney or Humphry Bogart killed a few innocent citizens while robbing a bank, the murders were a less serious crime than ratting them out for the killings was. That notion continues to this day, that it is wrong to get involved or to rat out wrong doers. I’m sorry, I no longer buy into that silly idea. The vandals are destroying public property, property that our tax dollars bought and paid for.  In a way, it is no different when a vandal breaks a window in a state park building than it is if the vandal were to break a window in your own home, you get stuck with the bill.

Back this spring, when the State of Michigan was talking about closing some of the state forest campgrounds in this state, I had a chat with the unit manager of the Pigeon River Country State Forest, and he told me that some of the criteria for choosing the campgrounds that were to close were vandalism and theft. It cost the state too much money to repair the damage done by vandals, and to replace items stolen from the campgrounds. What are people stealing? Fire rings, picnic tables, even the trash cans in the campgrounds. How hard up do you have to be to steal a trash can? I think the trash cans were taken just because some one could take them.

The same thing applies to poaching as far as I am concerned. We the taxpayers shell out millions of dollars for the state to manage and protect our wildlife. The deer aren’t the King’s deer, the fish aren’t the state’s fish, they are our deer and fish, and when poachers violate the game laws, they aren’t stealing from the king or the state, they are stealing from us, the public.

If we were to see some one dumping poison that would kill the deer or fish, most of us would be very quick to report that, but if we see some one killing the same amount of game while poaching, that is some how OK. Not to me, I’ve had it up to here with people bragging to me how many fish they caught and dumped because they didn’t feel like cleaning them all. I’ve had it up to here with seeing deer carcasses piled up in parking lots of trailheads because the poachers didn’t want to get caught with the carcasses. I’ve gone so far as to program the number to report poachers into my cell phone, and I’m not afraid to dial it. In Michigan, that number is 1-800-292-7800. Call me a rat, a ratfink, a snitch, a squealer, I don’t care, I’ve been called a lot worse in my lifetime.

On a somewhat related note, I promised to do a series on places to kayak in Michigan, and I started a post on my favorite river to kayak, the Jordan River. Then I read the story that I posted earlier, about the drunken rowdies that kayak, canoe, and/or tube the Jordan. I’m tired of them as well, and I have ranted about them before also. Now, I’m not so sure I want to do that series on places to paddle, I know the trouble makers are in the minority, but I don’t want to contribute to the problem by giving the rowdies ideas about places to go. I will probably get around to doing the series, after all, the people I don’t want to attract to the rivers I love to paddle more than likely aren’t able to read anyway.

On a more positive note, there’s a new swamp in town. There’s a small creek that flows behind my apartment, it isn’t much of a creek, it is more like a drainage ditch. This summer I noticed that it had all but dried up, we had a drought this summer, but I didn’t think it was that bad that the creek would dry up.

A few weeks ago, I began to hear more and more ducks back there, hearing ducks there isn’t unusual, but the numbers this fall were way more than normal. When the leaves dropped off the trees, I could see why there were so many ducks, and why the creek stopped flowing for weeks. Something blocked the creek, and several acres of woods behind the apartment complex have been flooded. When the water in the new swamp got high enough, the creek started flowing over what ever is partially blocking it. I can see ducks and geese in the swamp, swimming around, and I heard wood ducks back there before they left for down south. The ground is too soft for me to get back to see what has dammed the creek up, but the new swamp is pretty cool.

Now I’m going back to being Mr. Negative, sorry about that, must be the weather. Anyway, one of the news stories I read this morning was a list of things we can do to save money on energy. Here’s what I copied from the article that originated from Consumers Reports Magazine…

Make your TV more efficient
That’s right—today’s TVs can eat up just as much energy as refrigerators. If you have a set-top box, like most homes, consider trading it for one that meets Energy Star’s tougher new 3.0 specification. And if you buy a new TV, make sure it’s set to “home mode” which is more efficient than the retail mode typically used when sets are shipped. The $30 to $60 in yearly savings could pay for dinner—and a movie

……Really? Spend $1,000 on a new TV to save $60 a year? Wouldn’t there be like a 17 year payback before you saw a penny of savings? How much energy was used to build the new TV? Or the packaging for it, or transporting it from overseas?

I love it when people make recommendations without using an ounce of common sense. I’d be willing to bet that by the time you added up all the energy it takes to produce, package, and ship a new TV, that the environment would be better served if you kept your old TV, or do what I did, unplug the darn thing and never turn it on again. If you spend $1,000 on the new TV, you’re not going to see any “savings” until you account for the purchase price. I save that $30 to $60 on energy, and more. I don’t have a cable or dish bill, and my TV uses NO power at all. It just sits in the living room collecting dust so I have something to do between outdoor adventures, cleaning the TV that’s never turned on. 😉

The rain is letting up, looking out the window I can see turkeys and squirrels moving around, so I think I will get myself out of this funk with a good long hike. Thanks for stopping by!

So much for that idea

I had planned to head up to Ludington State Park this morning for a weekend of hiking and kayaking, but my plans have changed. I woke up this morning, looked at the clock, and it was already after 9 AM, much later than I had planned, and I’ll get to why that was as I go. The second thing I noticed was I had a big old knot in the back of my left calf, and my right leg felt like lead, more on that later as well. The third thing I noticed was that instead of the bright sunny day that was forecast, it was cloudy, foggy, and damp outside. What the weather was like wouldn’t have bothered me, but if I am going to drive several hundred miles to a place and back on what is essentially a photography trip, then I would hope for better weather. Most of all though, I just didn’t “feel” it.

The trouble started yesterday, shortly after I decided to go in the first place. I had just unpacked all my kayaking gear for the winter last week, thinking I wouldn’t be going again until spring. That also brought up the point that I have been getting very lax about keeping all my gear ready to go on a moments notice. Since I haven’t been able to afford to go anywhere, I haven’t been keeping up on things the way I should.

I went into work, stopped for fuel, and didn’t even get the truck up to speed on the expressway before I hit the first of many traffic slow downs and stoppages. That set the tone for the night. Traffic was backed up about five miles for a wreck, but when I got to where the wreck happened, the firefighters who had responded were all sitting on the guard rail having a joke fest while they still had one lane of traffic closed for no other reason than they could. Don’t get me started on that one.

Anyway, I hit several more big traffic back ups last night, I was lucky in that I got to them right at an exit, or very close to one. I ended up running the old highways and avoiding the expressways for most of the night, which is the only reason I made it home as early as I did. But even at that, I was over an hour late getting home compared to a normal night. Then I had to stop at the grocery store for food for my trip.

That’s another reason I am typing this rather than driving up there right now. I hadn’t planned for this trip when I went grocery shopping last weekend, I’ve got a bunch of perishable food in the apartment that would be spoiled by the time I got home if I went up north camping. I guess I need to learn how to pack perishable food while camping.

That’s why I overslept this morning, between the traffic and grocery shopping, I was late getting home, and late getting to bed. Since I had been running late, when I got to the South Bend branch, I was flinging 2,000 pound carts of laundry around like they were toy cars, trying to make up time. I guess I over did it, which is why I have the big knot in my leg.

All the time I was driving last night, I was trying to figure out how I could pack everything I was planning on taking for a few days long trip into my explorer, and still have room to sleep in the back of it. I need a better plan. I suppose I could have taken my tent, the weather is supposed to be warm enough for that, but tent camping takes time. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to set up camp, but it takes hours to clean and dry everything for tent camping when I am packing up to go home. I don’t think that it is just me, or that I don’t know how to break camp, I watch other people, and it takes them as long or longer to break camp than it does me. It would be different if I had a place where I could set the tent back up at home and let it dry, but I have to pack up everything knowing it has to be packed for the long term.

Then I was thinking about what wildlife there would be to see, and would it be worthwhile to hike very close to the canoe trail on one day by taking the island trail in the park, then paddle the canoe trail the next. It’s been a very mild fall in Michigan, but many of the waterfowl and wading birds are on their way southward. I was chasing a great blue heron yesterday.

Great blue heron in flight

But, I also saw this large flock of egrets on their way south.

A flock of egrets flying south for the winter

Since Ludington is almost 100 miles north of where I live, I wonder how many of the critters I would hope to see would still be there. There would still be the resident birds, like cardinals.

Male cardinal

And blue jays.

Blue jay

Probably some mallards.


And geese.

Canadian goose

It is also firearms deer season in Michigan right now, and parts of the park are open to hunting, so the deer would likely be skittish and not as easy to photograph as this one.

Whitetail doe bedded down

I was still planning on leaving today though, until the final reality set in. I was drinking my coffee and pacing the apartment, trying to work out the knot in my leg when the final reality did hit me. By the time I ate breakfast, was packed and ready to go, it would be almost noon, and I would arrive in Ludington around 2 to 3 PM. Sunset is at 5:30 PM, there wouldn’t be time to do anything today if I did drive up there. I would get there with very little daylight left, and be wide awake with nothing to do but sit around in the dark. Adding everything up, it doesn’t seem worth it to go today. A late start, few critters to shoot, sore legs, and not being prepared, not good.

It is now 1 PM, and the sun is trying to burn off the low clouds and fog, so I’ll go for a hike here instead and work the kinks out of my legs that way. I am also going to get a start on being more prepared for the next time, getting my gear back in order the way it belongs, and going to bed early tonight. Tomorrow I’ll get up early and head up there for just a long day hiking, the island and ridge trails, and that will be a good day scouting to see if the canoe trail is as good of a paddle as I think it will be. It should be excellent in the spring when the birds are back from their winter homes, which is why I wanted to go there in the first place.

So I am going to get off my duff and get going here, I hope every one has a happy turkey day, and thanks for stopping by!

Saturday morning musings

First off, I have to give a shout out to Michelle Alzola  and her photo blog, My Photo Journal~ photography by ©Michelle Alzola. She sort of specializes in flower photos, although her blog isn’t limited to the incredibly beautiful flower pictures she posts. How I forgot to mention her before is only another sign that I am getting old and have an occasional senior moment. I have put a link to her blog over on the right side of the page, and I will be adding a few more this next week.

In other news, work on recovering the submerged oil from the Enbridge oil spill has been halted for the winter. The Enbridge oil spill happened in the spring of 2010, when a pipeline owned by Enbridge burst, releasing over 800,000 gallons of crude oil into a stream that flows into the Kalamazoo River.  Work will continue on the river banks, cleaning and restoring them over the winter. In my last update on this subject, I noted that Enbridge had missed a deadline set by the EPA to have the spill cleaned up. It turns out that because of the heavy grade of crude oil that was released, the chemicals added to the oil to get it to flow through a pipeline, and that it spilled into freshwater have made the oil sink to the bottom of the river rather than float on top the way oil normally does. That means that both the EPA and Enbridge have been learning as they go, and “innovating” new techniques for recovering the submerged oil. Enbridge has submitted an updated plan to remove the remaining oil from the Kalamazoo River, and the EPA has approved the plan.

To me, any deadline for completing the clean up is arbitrary, especially since both the government and Enbridge are dealing with the unknown. This is the largest spill of this type of crude in history, and it has to be cleaned up no matter how long it takes. From what I understand, the new plan submitted by Enbridge and approved by the EPA recognizes this fact, the plan is to wait until the core samples taken as work was winding down on removing the submerged oil come back from the labs, and then to see how much oil remains, and how best to remove what does remain.

How much oil spilled is still somewhat of a controversy, the EPA announced that 1.1 million gallons of oil had been recovered so far, and that Enbridge underestimated the size of the spill in the beginning. Enbridge is saying that the 1.1 million gallon figure includes oil from other sources from over the years, like road runoff, and that their estimate of 840,000 gallons of oil spilled is correct.

Who is right? Does it matter? Not really, any amount of oil spilled is too much, and it all has to be cleaned up, no matter what the source was. In all likelihood, the Kalamazoo River will end up being cleaner after the work here is done than it was before the spill. There are two reasons the size of the spill matter, one is that if Enbridge is found to have under or overestimated the size of the spill, then they can be fined heavily. The other reason is for damning purposes, the bigger the spill, the more damned Enbridge can be by environmentalists and the press.

One of the real stories here is that we still haven’t gotten a report from the government as to what caused the pipeline to rupture in the first place, when a report was promised back in February.

It was shown when the spill was first discovered that the reporting requirements set forth in federal law actually delayed work getting started on containing the oil spill. Enbridge was required to assemble an accurate estimate of the size of the spill and report that to a government agency that has nothing to do with responding to any spill, all they do is take the reports, when their phone lines aren’t all busy, then pass those reports on to other agencies that actually deal with the response.

Being the practical, results oriented person that I am, I would hope that the law is changed, so that if something similar ever happens again, response times can be improved. I would hope that the EPA would be contacted directly, with the conversation going like this.

“Hello, this is Mr. Bureaucrat from the EPA, how may I help you?”

“Hi, this is Mr. Soandso from Enbridge Energy, I have to report an oil spill.”

“OK, what, where and why?”

“It is crude oil from our pipeline 6B near Marshall, Michigan, and I am afraid it is going to turn out to be a big spill, we think the pipeline ruptured and released hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil.”

“Not good, I’m going to put you on hold for a second while I connect with that region’s office so we can relay the exact location directly to them so they can get crews on the way to get this contained.”

At that point, the regional office could get the exact location and dispatch work crews to begin containing the spill, but all too often, environmental laws are written to produce revenue for the government more than to protect the environment.

As an example, back in the early 1990’s, I worked for a supplier to the automotive industry. Some of the parts we produced were spray painted, using paints containing Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOC’s as they were called, in simple language, lacquer thinner. VOC’s are not good to breathe as any one who has painted probably knows, and it wasn’t good that we were pumping out tons of VOC’s out the stacks of our spray booths every year.

The industry was working to switch to water based paints, with poor results for the most part. If you’re old enough, you may remember cars that had the paint peel off not long after they left the showroom floor, further contributing to the idea that American cars were lower quality than their imported competition. At the same time, the EPA was looking into regulating the discharge of VOC’s into the atmosphere.

The company I worked for at the time was still family owned, and the person who started it was quite the hunter and outdoorsman. When word came that the lab had found a water based paint that would work on the parts that we produced, and would hold up as well as their counterparts that contained VOC’s, he didn’t wait for EPA regulations, he ordered all our paint lines switched over to use the water based paint. That meant all new spray booths, lengthening the drying conveyors, and adding more ovens to dry the water based paints. Adding it all up, it was over 5 million dollars to upgrade our plant’s equipment to use the water based paints. Over the two-week Christmas shutdown, we ripped out every old spray booth, installed new ones, and made the required changes to the drying lines to give the water based paints time to dry before they were packed for shipment.

A few months later I read in the local paper that the company was being fined 2 million dollars because of the changes the company had made to its paint lines, and one of the local politicians was quoted as saying it was a great example of “polluters pay” laws. I thought to myself, “How can this be, the changes we made reduced our emissions of VOC’s, which was a good thing.” At least I thought so.

We were fined the 2 million dollars because the permits we were required to submit to the state were filled out incorrectly for the work we had done. It had nothing to do with actual pollution, which we had indeed reduced. The company appealed the fines, on the grounds that the state DNR had approved the permits, and that we had reduced pollution by moving away from using VOC’s.

The judge sort of agreed, he reduced the fine to 1 million dollars, stating that the company had filled them out wrong, but that since the DNR had approved them, we shouldn’t be fined the maximum amount the law required.

Great, we get fined 1 million dollars for reducing the amount of a dangerous compound we were pumping out into the atmosphere, and in the meantime, our competitors are still pumping tons of VOC’s out the stacks of their spray booths, and they don’t receive any fines.

I don’t think the owner of the company was too happy either, for it wasn’t long after that, that he sold the company to a larger one, which quickly drove the company I had worked for into bankruptcy, and it closed for good.

I’m not say that the fines were responsible for the owner selling, or the fact that the company eventually went belly up, there are many other factors as well. That experience and others has helped shape my view on the pollution laws in this country, the State of Michigan, and on how the media report things.

The media and environmental reporting, there’s a subject I could write a book about. I was almost interviewed once while filling up the gas tank of my pick up at a local gas station. The cute bimbo reporterette and her cameraman walked up to me, asked me a question, stuck a microphone in my face, and when I started giving a reasoned, scientific explanation about what she had asked, she yelled “Cut!” and moved to the guy on the other side of the pump. She asked him the same question, and he asked her why she had cut me off, he said that he wanted to hear what I was saying, that it was making sense to him. The reporterette yelled “Cut!” again, and she and her cameraman moved down to the pumps at the other end of the gas station, looking for the answer she wanted to hear, not what people actually had to say, not a reasoned scientific answer, no way!

There have been several other incidents in my life that were reported on by the local media, and I can tell you they are more likely to get the story wrong as they are to tell what really happened. I have learned to take everything I hear from the media with a grain of salt, two or three grains if it is a report by a local broadcast “journalist”.

In other news, the United States House of Representatives passed a Coast Guard funding bill this week that contains an amendment that would allow the S.S. Badger ferry to continue the controversial practice of dumping its coal ash into Lake Michigan. The S.S. Badger is the last coal-fired ferry operating in the United States. It runs between Ludington, Michigan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The Badger, owned by the Lake Michigan Carferry Company, operates under a special Environmental Protection Agency rule that is set to expire in 2012. There is also a movement underway to get the Badger listed as a national historic landmark, which would also exclude the owners from complying with EPA regulations. The owners are also looking into converting the Badger’s boilers to use natural gas to make steam, rather than coal. The owners say that converting to diesel power would be cost prohibitive, but they may be able to obtain grants to pay for the conversion to natural gas.

I couldn’t find earlier stories that explained why the operators of the ferry couldn’t store the coal ash in an empty coal bunker on the ship until it could be off loaded in port, it may be due to the fire hazard, I am not sure about that. I know that the coal dust in coal bunkers is very explosive, more than one ship has been lost when the coal dust exploded. One hot ember in the coal ash in a bunker filled with coal dust, and it would be boom boom Badger, bye-bye.

Several environmental groups are all up in arms about this, in a way, I can’t blame them. Coal ash is not a good thing to be dumping into Lake Michigan. On the other hand, it is the last of what were hundreds of coal-fired ships sailing the Great Lakes, all of which used to dump their coal ash into the lakes. I also wonder how many and how much of the same stuff found in coal ash blows into the Great Lakes each year from all the coal-fired power plants to our west? I also wonder how many pollutants the Badger is keeping out of the Great Lakes if people take the ferry rather than driving the 460 miles around the south end of Lake Michigan?

I hope they do eventually convert it to natural gas, I don’t really want the coal ash in my drinking water, but then, there are lots of things in the waters of Lake Michigan I would rather they not be there, man, man-made, or natural. Let’s face it, millions of fish, mussels and other critters live, breed, and die in the lake. There’s all the stuff we dump into the lake, and I really hate to think of this as I am drinking a glass of water that started in Lake Michigan, but hundreds of ships have sunk in the lake. Not only is their fuel there, but the cargoes as well, and not all the bodies of all the sailors that have drowned in the lake have been recovered. I’d better stop there.

Anyway, when it comes to the Badger dumping coal ash into Lake Michigan, I’m not happy with it, but I’ll live with it, what troubles me more is the comment made by Representative Bill Huizenga, who has said the amendment is an example of getting rid of federal government regulations that threaten small businesses. He’s the Republican representative who sponsored the amendment to the Coast Guard funding bill that lets the Badger continue to dump coal ash into the lake.

That may seem strange after what I wrote earlier about the environmental laws in this country, but the problem I see is this, there’s no common sense, no middle ground. Democrats want to pass punitive environmental laws that serve to punish all businesses, whether they pollute or not, and the Republicans want to repeal most of our environmental protections, whether they work or not.

In addition to the story about where I used to work, I’ve held many positions where I have had to deal with environmental laws. Most of them are about record keeping, and sending reams of paperwork on to Washington, or be fined heavily if you forget, or make an error in the paperwork. They have little to do with actually protecting the environment, and are all about generating revenue for the government.

Another example, some years back, a number of companies in the northeastern US were fined heavily because the licensed hazardous waste hauler they used was dumping the hazardous waste in regular landfills or out in the woods someplace. The federal government licenses hazardous waste haulers, and collects healthy fees from them. But, the policing of hazardous waste haulers is left to the companies who employ their services.

So, you have companies who believe they are doing the right thing. They hire a federally licensed hazardous waste hauler to dispose of their hazardous waste. The guy’s got a federal license, so the companies think they are safe, wrong! The companies using the hauler in question got hit with larger fines than did the waste hauler who was dumping the stuff illegally, that’s not right, at least as far as I am concerned.

Morning is long gone, and I’m still musing away. I did take a break for my daily hike around here, and for the second or third day in a row, didn’t take a single photo. Hmm. I’ve still got some more musing to do though, since I have gone this far.

One other story on the environment I would like to relate has to do with bottled water, specifically, the Nestle Ice Mountain plant just north of where I live, in Stanwood, Michigan. This was also a few years ago, back when I was still driving over the road, still with my ex-girlfriend, and shortly after Nestle had opened the plant. The state and many environmental groups were working to shut the plant down, because of the amount of water that Nestle was pumping out of the ground.

The trucking company I worked for had a contract with Nestle, so I picked up many a load there, and one of the nice things they do is give drivers product that Nestle has made a mistake on when they bottled it. It may be that the labels were wrong, or in the case in the story I am about to relate, the labels were on the bottles upside down.

I came home from work that week, lugging a case of Ice Mountain water that had the labels on upside down, and Larri, my ex, about had a fit.

“How can you buy that stuff when you’re such a big environmentalist and fisherman?” she asked.

“I didn’t buy it, they gave it to me when I picked up a load there. You know that I wouldn’t ever buy water, I’m too cheap for that.”

“But still, I don’t know any one who stands on principle the way you do, I can’t believe you took it even if it was free.”


“Because of how much water they are pumping out of the ground, that can’t be good.”

“Look, people are going to drink the same amount of water whether Ice Mountain pumps it out of the ground, or if their local water system does. X number of people are going to drink Y gallons of water, whether it comes from Ice Mountain or the kitchen faucet. You used to live in Plainfield Township, right?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Where does Plainfield Township get its water?”

“I don’t know, Lake Michigan?”

“No, Grand Rapids gets its water from Lake Michigan, but Plainfield Township gets theirs from a series of wells near Plainfield and Coit.”

“That’s right, I remember that now.”

“So what difference does it make if it’s Ice Mountain or Plainfield Township pumping the water out of wells?”

“I don’t know, that’s a good question. But what about the water that gets shipped off to other parts of the country?”

“What about the water that gets shipped here from other parts of the country?”

“What do you mean?”

“I pick up a load of Ice Mountain water and haul it down to the Meijer distribution center in Tipp City, Ohio. Pick up a load of groceries there to take to the Lima store, from there go to Proctor & Gamble in Lima, pick up a load of liquid laundry detergent, that’s mostly water, and haul it back to Michigan.”

“I pick up a load of green beans, packed in water, from the farm co-op in Muskegon, haul it to Saint Louis, Missouri, then bring back a load of liquid fabric softener from Uni-Lever, which is mostly water, and bring that back to Michigan.”

“You know I’m always bitching about how heavy the loads I pull are, like the Campbell’s soup loads, they are mostly water too. This push for legislation to keep the Ice Mountain water in the Great Lakes watershed is ridiculous, because it opens up a whole can of worms where I don’t think they really want to go. The truth is that water gets shipped all over the place the way it is now, and if they start trying to limit the movement of water, somebody is going to figure out that products like Coke, Pepsi, and the things I’ve mentioned are mostly water, then where does it stop?”

“I don’t know, I never thought about that, but you’re right.”

“I’m more worried about the millions of plastic bottles that Ice Mountain is making, and people are throwing away where ever they empty them. That’s Nestle’s environmental sin, not the water itself, and you can’t really blame Nestle for the fact that people are pigs and will trash the environment, although I do blame them for the bottles in the first place.”

“I never thought of that either, but you’re right, all those plastic bottles are made from petroleum products. I wonder if they will extend the bottle deposit law to other drinks like bottled water?”

“We can only hope.”

Well, it is now Saturday evening, so I better wrap this one up. No, it hasn’t taken me all day to type this, but long enough. The State of Michigan still hasn’t expanded the bottle deposit law, I’m not sure why there hasn’t been a more vigorous effort to do so. Maybe they have enough headaches with the current system and don’t need any more, I can’t say. I do know I am tired of finding empty bottles, from bottled water to sports drinks to energy drinks dumped all over the place. Humans are such pigs!

I hope I haven’t bored you all to death, thanks for stopping by!

State, conservationists differ on how to protect Jordan River from overuse / Michigan River News

From the Michigan River News Blog

State, conservationists differ on how to protect Jordan River from overuse

By Andy McGlashen • November 11, 2011

If you’ve ever run the rapids of northwest Michigan’s Jordan River in a canoe or kayak, you know what makes it a paddler’s paradise. There’s the clean, swift water, the springs trickling out of shadowy cedar forests, and the chance of spotting a mink or a bald eagle.

And sometimes there’s the band of beer-drinking revelers, whooping it up on the riverbank.

Heavy use of the Jordan by party-minded paddlers is raising tough questions about how to preserve the wild character of Michigan’s first designated Natural River. Local conservationists want to build structures to protect the resource, but they face opposition from the state program that restricts development on wild streams.

“It’s a fragile resource that’s being loved to death,” said John Richter, president of Friends of the Jordan River Watershed. “Somebody told me we should let nature take its course. And I said, Wait a minute. This isn’t nature. It’s people.”

Richter says about a half-dozen sites on the river are being degraded in one way or another from overuse. Paddlers and tubers litter and relieve themselves on private land. Stream banks are eroding, which can ruin fish spawning habitat. And the landings where people launch and end their canoe trips don’t have enough space or parking.

“People are just pulling off the river where there’s high ground and converting them into campgrounds,” Richter said.

Perhaps the most popular party spot on the river is Frog Island, an area of riverbank surrounded by wetlands where repeated loading and unloading of canoes and kayaks has caused severe erosion.

“I understand their point of view, but the program isn’t working. They want no man-made features, but what’s happening is worse.”

“Frog Island is probably a third the size today of what it once was,” Richter said.

When Friends of the Jordan and other partners installed woody debris a few years ago to shore up Frog Island’s banks, “people just ripped it up,” according to Brian Bury, administrator for the Natural Rivers Program of the Department of Natural Resources.

Richter said he would like to see stream banks at Frog Island and other sites stabilized with logs—larger than the woody debris used there previously—to stop erosion. At Old State Road, where heavy paddling traffic creates problems with parking and trespass on private property, he favors building a new parking area and a landing with toilets and a boardwalk just upstream from the road, on public land.

But those ideas have met resistance from the Natural Rivers program, which was created in 1970 to ensure that development doesn’t diminish designated rivers’ aesthetic character, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities.

“We’re looking for a natural river that offers a certain kind of experience,” Bury said.

For now, Bury said any ecological damage caused by overuse of the Jordan isn’t significant enough to merit changing its aesthetic character, and building new landings would just set the table for heavier traffic and more elaborate parties.

“The general thought is that, at this point, we’d do more harm than good” by building the structures, he said.

Richter said he respects Bury and his work, but thinks the state’s position is shortsighted. The “certain kind of experience” the program promotes has disappeared on the Jordan, he added.

“I’m not sure Brian has spent enough time on the river, say on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July,” he said. “I understand their point of view, but the program isn’t working. They want no man-made features, but what’s happening is worse.”

Richter said another solution proposed in public meetings is a limit on the number of watercraft on the river. But he and Bury agree that such a limit would be unpopular and hard to enforce. Paddlers need permits to float some rivers within national forests, but the state has no permit system.

“To control private use of watercraft, we’d need a legal mandate,” and that’s not something the state is interested in, Bury said.

Don Montfort, whose family owns the Swiss Hideaway canoe and kayak livery, said his clients are on too tight a schedule to cause much trouble. He said the main problem is the growing number of locals who have flocked to the river as canoes and kayaks have gotten cheaper, a position Richter shares.

“The locals say, ‘This is our river, and we’re going to stop wherever we want to stop,’” Montfort said.

Other ideas under consideration include increased law enforcement and more signs indicating restrooms, access rules and river etiquette. But enforcement has already been stepped up with little effect, said Montfort, and signs are unlikely to discourage bad actors.

“When you block off one area” from riverside partying, “it’s just going to pop up in another,” he said.

Richter agrees that it will be tough to find solutions that work for paddlers, conservationists, anglers, homeowners and the state, but his group will continue holding meetings and seeking input.

“We’ve got to do something,” he said. “Before we know it, I think we’re going to have a dozen Frog Islands.”

via State, conservationists differ on how to protect Jordan River from overuse / Michigan River News.

Internet withdrawal

My first day without Internet service, I am having withdrawal symptoms! I don’t know yet which is worse, the withdrawal symptoms today, or the high level of frustration on a day like yesterday when I had to fight Verizon’s poor wireless Internet service every step of the way. I tried to get several posts ahead, preparing for not having Internet access, and I would be working on a draft when my service would just quit. No warnings, no error messages, I would click to add a photo or to save the draft, and my browser would time out, causing me to lose everything I had done since my last save. Thank goodness that WordPress has an auto save feature or I would have really been frustrated.

I really want to go off on a rant about shoddy products and service, but since this is a nature blog, I won’t. I will only say that I am done paying for shoddy. If a product doesn’t work as advertised, it’s going back for a full refund, or some one is going to die. Services that don’t perform will be shut off, or not rewarded. I really want to check my E-mail and my blog stats! That tells me something about myself I suppose. In return, my blog is telling me a lot about human nature, or I should say, reinforcing what I already suspected about human nature.

As much as I have isolated myself from the rest of the human race, I still like to receive positive feedback from others. When I think about that, I think that it is silly, but there must be something deep within us all that requires that we receive positive feedback from other humans. That isn’t why I started this blog, or is it? I started this blog because I had written several stories that I wanted to remember. As I am getting older, I’m finding that many of my old memories are either fading, or blending together and I am having a harder time keeping things straight. I posted a couple of the stories as notes on Myspace and Facebook, to share with friends. I found that neither of those places were really good for organizing what I was writing, so I started this blog. I copied and pasted some of those first stories as posts to my blog, not so much to see what others thought, but because I had put too much time and effort into them for them to be lost in cyberspace.

I have no delusions that I am a great writer, I doubt if I would ever become one if I tried. However, I think that I am a better than average writer, when I put my mind to it. My blog started as my personal journal, a place for me to record places I go and things I see. I thought that if a few people found them interesting, that it would be great, but that’s not why I started this blog.

At about the same time as I started my blog, I was posting a few photos of mine to the social networking sites as well, and people seemed to like them. So what the heck, I’ll add photos to my blog. I didn’t add many at first, for several reasons. One is that WordPress limits you to 3Gbs unless you pay extra, something I didn’t want to do, at least at first. Another is that I had some one “steal” one of my swan photos from a social networking site and was trying to sell it as their own. I don’t want to add a watermark to my photos, I know I should, but I don’t want the watermark to detract from the photo. I suppose that’s vanity on my part. I came up with the solution of reducing all the photos I upload to public sites down to 800X600 and reducing the quality to the point where they’re not worth stealing. That also helps me to not use up my quota of space on WordPress as well, and now I have a pretty good handle on how long it will be before I have to pay for extra space.

I started another blog in an attempt to sell a few of my photos, just as a way of earning a little extra cash to help me pay for my expenses while I am doing my thing, but that has gone nowhere. I am paid up until February for that site, then it will disappear into cyberspace, never to be seen again.

I’ll admit that I would love to earn a little extra from either of my blogs, but that isn’t going to happen. My blog has evolved from what I began it as, and I have the feeling that it will evolve a lot more in the next few months, but it will never be one of the big time blogs that gets thousands of hits per day and turns into a cash cow. That’s OK, the more I blog, the more I love it.

It is still a record of my outdoor activities, and I have fun going back and reading my earlier posts to jog my memory. The photos help a lot, but I don’t want to turn this into a photo only blog either, although it may seem like where it is going right now.

I have a number of drafts started on more serious issues, I guess you could call them environmental issues, that interest me. I know I am an oddball on that account. I am a hard-core conservative as far as my political views, and people have a hard time reconciling that with how much I love nature. I have been disowned by the environmental movement that I was one of the first to join way back in the early days, when environmentalists really wanted to preserve the environment. Needless to say, there will be much more on that subject over time. Especially since I just finished reading an article in the last issue of the newsletter from the Anglers of the Au Sable, of which I am a member, that was along those lines.

Those posts don’t draw many comments or feedback, even though a surprising number of people read them. They don’t get big numbers when I first post them, but they continue to get hits months after I post them. I think that if I could look it up right now, the two most popular posts of mine over time have been “Confessions of a fly fishing snob” and “Victory for the Pigeon River”.

My posts that get the most views, comments and feedback when they are first posted are the ones with pretty pictures.

Of all the links I have in my posts, the ones that get clicked on the most are the maps that I have generated from my GPS unit of the hiking and kayaking trips I have done. The “how to” pages do OK, not great.

I can tell from the site stats from my blog that people are looking for information on two things, identifying plants and animals they see, and places to hike and/or kayak. I’m not much help on the first, identifying plants and animals. I know most of the mammals, but when it comes to birds, wildflowers, or insects, I am not much help. We had field guides in the house all the time while I was growing up, and I have a couple of my own now, but I spend too much time looking for wildlife, and not enough time identifying what I see. Reading other people’s blogs, I find that I am not the only one who gets frustrated trying to identify warblers for example, but other people are much more determined to make the identification that I am. I can normally identify what family they are in, but I spend more time watching and learning their habits than I do looking up their exact name. I need to spend more time identifying them for my blog.

What I really need is a partner, some one to join me in my excursions who is good at identifying what I find. That’s really tough though, as I find few people who actually want to spend time in nature. Over the years, I have kayaked or hiked with hundreds of people, and for all but a very few, they were all focused on getting to the end. It is like driving with little kids in the car, I heard “Are we there yet?” or “How much farther do we have to go?” way too often.

When I am outdoors, the journey is the important thing to me, the destination is just a spot on the map, nothing more. To me, the whole point of going hiking or kayaking is to spend time outdoors, not to see how fast I can complete a hike or a float. I do go with the flow of the rivers when I am kayaking, I match the personality of the river. On fast rivers I go fast, on moderate rivers I travel at a moderate speed, and I go slowly on slow rivers. But, no matter what speed the river flows at, I want to take the time to look around and see the plant and animal life that live along the rivers, not put my head down and paddle from the put in point to the take out spot.

It’s the same thing when I am hiking, I may do a 10 mile hike, but it takes me all day to complete it. I take my time, stop to watch the birds, to photograph flowers, and enjoy my time in the woods. I don’t care at all how long it takes me, I know I am there for the day.

There have only been two people with whom I did well hiking or kayaking with, Spud and Larri. They were both as likely as I to be kicking over rocks to see what was under them, or to stop and admire the tiny wildflowers growing next to a trail. Spud was pretty good at identifying things, better than Larri, but there was one advantage to being outdoors with her, large blooms of certain wildflowers put her in a romantic mood, if you know what I’m saying. 😉

I’ve never understood the rest of them, they all claim to love being outdoors, but then, why are they in such a hurry to get away from it? That’s a rhetorical question by the way, no need to try and answer it. Part of the reason I don’t have all the information I feel as though I should about some of the kayaking trips I have taken the last few years is that the rest of the group was always in such a hurry that I didn’t have the time to make note of things the way I should have. It seemed as if every time I stopped, some one ahead would flip, or get in some kind of trouble, like getting stuck in a logjam, that I felt I had to stay with the group the entire time.

Back to what people are looking for when they come to my blog. When it comes to places to hike or kayak, I am much better at that. There aren’t many rivers in Michigan’s lower peninsula that I haven’t floated at one time or another in some type of watercraft, at least not on the west side of the state. I am not going to say that I have walked every mile of every trail, although my legs feel like it at times, but I do get around. I could spend all my available blogging time adding pages and posts on hiking and kayaking places, but two things stop me. One is that if I am going to do them, I want to do them right, with photos and maps. Many of the places I’ve been, I have no electronic record of the trips, and I think that the photos and maps tell people much more than my words alone. The other thing that holds me back is that the people who use that information never bother to leave a comment or click the like button to say “Thanks”. Maybe I am being petty, but if I go through all the work of helping people plan their trips, then they should at least have the courtesy of saying thank you.

That gets me back to the site stats and search engine terms people use that bring them to my blog. I hate to admit it, but I do like seeing how popular my blog is becoming. There is a part of me that wants to take this blog in a direction which will make it even more popular than it is now, but there is also the part of me that wants to keep it as just a journal of my times spend in the woods or on the rivers. It is easy to get caught up in the number of hits my blog gets, and trying to post what people are looking for. Then it dawns on me, they are finding my blog the way I have been doing it, and I ask myself, do I want to pander just to run up my stats, or do I want to make this blog what I want it to be?

I know, I have done several similar posts to this one, but it’s my blog, and if I want to pause and reflect on what I am doing here, that’s my prerogative. That’s one reason I didn’t sign up for a new Internet provider before I ended my contract with Verizon, to take a short break. (Some break, one day and I am blogging again, albeit in a word processor rather than online)

Pictures are all well and good, I enjoy photography, and I enjoy sharing my photos with others, just as I enjoy their sharing their photos. I know the photo posts boost the site stats for my blog, but I have been getting lax as far as my writing goes. I need to get back to writing more, and using photos to illustrate the story, rather than have the photos be the entire post, with just a few words to set up the photos.

You should know that I am now on my second day without Internet access. I haven’t written much as you can see, between short bursts of gibberish, I have been doing a lot of thinking about my past posts, and what I want to do in the future, and I think I have come up with a plan.

I have also found out that the apartment complex where I live has added a wi-fi hot spot to the community building, woo hoo! I think that will work out well with what I have in mind, time will tell. When I learned that though, my first thought was to grab my computer and rush over there to get back online, check my E-mail, and site stats for this blog, but I am holding off until I finish this.

So that you know, I’m not planning any major changes in my blog, just tweaking what I have been doing, and coming up with more of a defined style. I do want to do more writing, and using the community building hot spot should work out well. I can do the writing at home, then post from the community building once I have it done.

I have also signed up for the WordPress photo of the week challenge. Once a week, they E-mail a theme, then you have one week to come up with a photo to fit the theme. It sounds like it could be fun, we’ll see. So that’s it for now, as always, thanks for stopping by.