• Todd

Summertime Blues

This summer was to be our first trip to Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. Covid and boarder closures decided that was not going to be the case. As choices were few, we decided to give the Upper Peninsula a try. It did not disappoint! We found a great place that was central to all the touristy hot spots. Tahquamenon Falls, Whitefish Point, Pictured Rocks, The Soo Locks, Mackinaw Island - got it all in. We had some great weather, my sun-worshiping wife was so happy! The lake was beautiful, quiet, relaxing and loaded with some fantastic fishing! The kids had wifi and satellite tv! So you probably want to see all 1200 pictures, right? There really are some good ones! But I wouldn't do that to you. I will share a few, but not the kind you might think.

The night sky wasn't nearly as dark as some other places I have been, but I did my best to make the most of it. Long exposures are not my norm, but this is 2020 and nothing is the norm anymore. So, with a rented lens and a new wireless remote, I gave it a try. This first one is about 3am and I left on the kitchen light in the cabin to use as a mark. The stars and the Milky Way did the rest.

A little closer to the house, looking almost straight up.

Using a headlamp, I was able to light the front of the house a little and came up with this.

To take those long exposure pictures you need a good tripod and a camera that can be set manually to leave the shutter open for 10 seconds or longer (as a rough idea). These pictures were taken at about 20 seconds each. This allows the dim lights to reach camera senor and then you have yourself a picture. Well, it's something like that anyway. Leaving your shutter open for 20 or more seconds can cause a little bit of a problem sometimes. Here a firefly made a guest appearance!

What I was going for was this.

The next picture was taken from the dock, again, around 3am. A little longer exposure than the others. The reason the horizon is lit so well - the moon was setting.

I've only tried to do Star Trails once before. This involves a little patience. Using the remote, you open the shutter for that magic 20 seconds, close it, open it right away for another 20, close it and continue this for, in this case, 20 minutes. Then you bring in your favorite photo editing software and layer one picture on top of the other.

If you stay out there long enough, you'll get that sunrise (and then hop in the boat and go fishing!)

There was one other surprise on this trip. It involved a lot of fur.

The comet NEOWISE got a lot of press this year. Maybe because it's such a rarity or maybe because people just needed something to do. I admit, when I first started hearing of it, I blew it off as no big deal. Then I started seeing some pictures and got the itch. Both my son and daughter got to see it and they made good company while I tried to figure out how to photograph this comet. The first picture was from Stony Creek Metropark and the other, my favorite, the Blue Water Bridge. Not sure why I enjoy photographing that bridge at night, I just think it's the way the lights all make stars and the longer exposure lays that water flat.

Everybody loves butterflies, right? I mean, what is there not to like? I know absolutely ZERO about butterflies. However, I do know that many people, myself included, mistake some moths as butterflies. I'm going to take a stab at ID'ing these things and if I am wrong, I apologize in advance. Let me know the correct answer and I will change it. We will start with the easy one, the Monarch.

Not sure, but I believe below is a Mourning Cloak.

This next one is about the size of a dime and you'll just have to take my word for it, very difficult to follow using a 500mm lens. I didn't think it would ever stop flying in circles. Going to go with European Skipper or Least Skipper on this one.

Spent way too much time trying to figure this one out and have decided to call it an American Skipper or maybe an American Copper. In reality, I have no idea!

This little pest, both in the way it flies and won't sit still and in the way it resembles a butterfly from India, is, hopefully, a Bronze Copper...from Erie Marsh preserve near Monroe, MI.

Not a butterfly....a Blue-eyed Darner.

As you probably would guess, I do have some feeders in my backyard. I feed Spring, Fall and Winter, but not Summer as there is plenty of food for the birds in the summer months. This sunflower was one of 3 that sprang up in my yard. They were not planted by me, so the birds must have done it. Two right in the flower bed off the deck and one in a potted plant box on the deck. I only took the picture because of the bee on the flower, but once on the computer, I was more impressed with the amount of pollen that had fallen on to the leaf. Clearly this was not the only bee to be using the sunflower.

I had a little time one morning so I experimented with a selfie or two. One just walking the trails and the other of me yelling at the deer to stop running away.

My wife said I look like a turkey, so probably won't be doing any more selfies.

Last time I posted, I mentioned the Yellow-breasted Chat I tried for a couple days to photograph. What I failed to mention was the Gray Fox that came along down the road. I was actually sitting in my car on a gravel road. I looked in the side mirror just in time to catch this fox walking along. I didn't seem to bothered when I quietly opened the car door and snapped a couple photos before it disappeared into the brush. Wish I didn't have to shoot back into the sun, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

That same day I photographed this hawk, which I believe is a Red-shouldered Hawk. A first for me if it is.

It's definitely not a Red-tailed like this one below. This young hawk was soaked on a morning that had no rain. It was perched in a tree just over a stream. I can only figure it took a bath or swooped down on something to eat and missed. It didn't mind me at all and it was still mouthing off on the perch when I walked away, 20 minutes later.

This young Great-horned Owl was one of a pair of Owlets that spent the Spring in the woods I frequent. The parents were always near. You've seen the parents in previous blogs.

Here, an Osprey is perched on a branch over a small lake in the UP. I was able to park my car on the side of the road and slowly walk closer. It never flew off, even after I drove under it.

Hit the beaches in late August and early September or find some mud flats and you are very likely to find some shorebirds working their way back south. Worse (for me anyway) than trying to ID butterflies, is trying to ID shorebirds. It's maddening. The only thing worse - gulls. I don't even try gulls anymore.

Here's a long-range shot of a Long-billed Dowitcher

Common Snipe

A little Least Sandpiper playing on the shoreline

A young Spotted Sandpiper looking for a meal

Lesser Yellowlegs

Normally a couple of Caspian Terns on the beach wouldn't get my attention but I noticed the one on the right was banded.

I wasn't too surprised to see Virginia Rails at Lake St. Clair Metropark, but I was surprised that they walked right out in front of me! Rails would rather run through the marsh than fly to escape danger. They are very reclusive, actually enjoy social distancing, so I thought it strange that they just walked right out. One almost walked across my shoe!

When I looked back into the marsh from where they came, I was greeted by a Green Heron with a mouthful. The camera didn't want to focus around the blades of grass, so I had to quickly switch to manual focus. I think it came out okay! Bye froggy!

A few other Green Herons were around that day.

Water snakes are cool unless you happen to be in the water with them. Probably a different story then. Maybe one day I'll get a Green Heron and snake together. That would be interesting to see.

The Rails and Herons and snake all have one thing in common - they do not like my subject in the next set of pictures. Years ago there was a beautiful black Mink at Metro Beach. It had a white patch on it's chest that just made it stand out. Haven't seen one for years, until a couple weeks ago. This guy was just having so much fun running through the brush and into the water and back again. If it had found any of the above mentioned critters, it would have been a nasty set of pictures. Cute as can be, ferocious meat eater.