Our whirlwind of 2016 Fall trips has officially begun as we have just returned home from Southeast Arizona. It was a wonderful trip full of amazing Hummingbirds, some specialty perching birds, large and dynamic landscapes as well as new experiences for our 4yr old. I want to share many of the great photographs from the trip and I will try to focus more on them as opposed to carrying on with words forever!
The hummingbirds didn’t disappoint. We ended our trip with 10 individual species including rarities like the Lucifer Hummingbird and Plain-capped Starthroat.
I played around with both full flash illumination Hummingbird photography and open air natural photography, both of which yielded some pretty stellar new images for my collection.
The Broad-billed and Magnificent Hummingbirds were probably the most vibrant and impressive but the more common Rufous Hummingbirds with their very territorial behavior all week kept me on my toes keeping focus.
While this was primarily a bird trip, I am incredibly pleased to have walked away with a couple of landscape shots that quickly rocketed to the top of my list of favorites in more than 10 years of photographing. The landscape shooting brought back many fond memories of a special photography trip to Sedona, AZ with my dad several years ago.
One of the highlights away from Madera, Ramsey and Ash Canyons was a day trip to the Sonora Desert Museum; a well known and special place which offered some different opportunities.
The final morning of our time in Madera Canyon, I set up in such a way to force very dark backgrounds. This meant I had to deal with tricky exposures to get the dramatic look I was after but it paid off.
Southeast Arizona is a magical place, for both birders and photographers which has me seriously thinking about offering a Glances at Nature trip in the future to this wonderful area.
Mark your calendars!!! We are partnering with the Wild Birds Unlimited in Kalamazoo, MI to offer FREE bird walks in the heart of spring migration at two great birding hot spots in the Kalamazoo area. We will meet at the Wild Birds Unlimited at 7:30am prior to taking a short drive to the birding location for the morning. The walks will finish and then we’ll end back at Wild Birds Unlimited between 11:00am and 11:30am.
The fine folks at the Wild Birds Unlimited are also offering participants of this bird walk special discounts off their total purchase (Mar 26th and May 14th only). This is a great opportunity to get some special seed mixes, an innovative new bird feeder, and save some money while you’re at it! Keep your money local, get great service and see some great birds while you’re at it!
Mar 26th; focus on Ducks, meet at Wild Birds Unlimited at 7:30am: Birding Location= Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery
May 15th; focus on Warblers and Songbirds, meet at Wild Birds Unlimited at 7:30am: Birding Location= Kleinstuck Preserve
Please join us. See http://www.glancesatnature.com/trips.html for more information or contact Josh anytime.
This past weekend found sunny skies and calm winds in our area. After having breakfast out with my family Saturday, we separated for the morning and with some extra time on my hands I swung by the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary to work on some birds-in-flight practice. It’s a great place in winter to keep your skills tuned as the mallards and geese are typically flying around quite a bit.
When arriving, however, I noticed a large flock of American Robins feeding heavily on some sumac, which typically puts them in a position to be less worrisome of humans. This turned out to be a fun opportunity. I quickly positioned myself singling out two branches that offered good light with a nice distant pine background as a smooth dark backdrop. It then became a waiting game, and it didn’t take long before the shutter was firing.
After enjoying the impromptu run-in, I was back to the task at hand and began tracking and capturing Mallards. While they are just Mallards, it’s still a lot of fun creating new and pleasing compositions.
Later that day, I received word of Northern Pintails being seen in Middleville. I was able to grab the Kayak and head that way hoping to capture what has become my nemesis species. Needless to say, it didn’t work out but in the process, a group of Common Mergansers were foraging and offered some nice opportunities, again being more intent on feeding at the time.
I finished the weekend Sunday by heading to Jackson to see a rare bird, a Harlequin Duck that had been in the area for quite some time. While not a lifer, it was a fun chase with a good friend and the bird was so close, there were times it more than filled the frame. It was a fine weekend and a great time gathering some new images.
My wife Kara and I are offering all Glances At Nature followers (and friends) a FREE opportunity for a memorable night hike open to adults and families. We have a couple special treats planned to really set the mood and make the evening special, especially for young birders! We will call for some owls and will likely hear other fun night sounds too. The weather looks fantastic for a successful night!
Date: Saturday, 1/23/16
Where: Hidden Pond Preserve, Barry County, MI (click HERE for directions)
Come dressed in warm layers with comfortable boots. We will do a small amount of walking but only on even surfaces and at a very leisurely pace. Please feel free to invite anyone and contact me if you have any questions. Kara and I have led Owl Prowls with adults and families for many years. Going out at night offers a unique connection with nature and these hikes are a lot of fun. We look forward to seeing everyone!
Friday turned out to be a great day, not only for birding but photography as well. As many photographers know, some birds are more reliable than others and I found a few that proved to just plain enjoy coming out for great views.
The morning started with leading a grassland bird tour for Michigan Audubon’s Cerulean Warbler Weekend. My great group followed me through wet grassland habitat but were all rewarded with stunning views of the threatened Henslow’s Sparrow. This was a life bird for many in the group and the excitement could hardly be contained.
This bird was so great, I decided to go after him after the tour was over, this time with camera rig in hand. I went back to the spot and sure enough, the bird was up and singing his heart out. What a great session to continue the morning onward.
I then drove slowly through some great breeding warbler habitat until I found a nice area where a Hooded Warbler was singing. I set up a perch and was able to bring the bird in for a couple shots. Not but a few minutes later, a Blue-winged Warbler came in and seemed to want to be in front of the camera as well.
It was a great morning and one I won’t soon forget. I still have a couple trips with spots available and I’m toying with offering a fall perching bird workshop this year so stay tuned!
It’s another year racing for a great team (WSI Cycling) that not only encourages raising money for charity, it’s required. We have the freedom to choose the charity and the riding event. Instead of picking a race, I again chose to ride long hours and many miles in search of birds. It’s an endurance challenge with a twist and has worked well to bring in big money for a great cause.
Similar to last year, I began at 2am and the first bird was yet again, the threatened Henslow’s Sparrow. What a fortunate thing as this bird is very scarce. After that I was quickly off. Unfortunately, it was only around 40 degrees so I had to start in cold weather gear which limited my hearing. Everyone asks why I start at 2am. The answer is not only for Owls, but many other birds that call at night and rarely if at all during the day. I tallied Sedge Wren, Barred Owl, Great-horned Owl, Marsh Wren, Sora, Virginia Rail both cuckoos and many more before even a twinkle of light began to show. Luckily the riding was very uneventful with only one car seen, no flats and dogs that couldn’t catch me. Check out the recording below to hear an Eastern Whip-poor-whil calling along Otis Lake.
I do need to give a shout out to the fine folks at Team Active Cycling & Fitness who worked with me to get the gearing on my cross bike just perfect for this big ride. I absolutely love this bike and it performed flawlessly. At 4:57am, the morning chorus began to rise quickly as twilight began to erase the stars over Otis Audubon Sanctuary. By 5:45am, I was back on the bike after a float in the Kayak (which was miserably cold in darkness). I was headed for my first spot where some of my crew would join me for a long walk. The morning was beginning to warm which I had really been waiting for. Along with the warm air, the birds were darn good and we had an enjoyable walk.
From there, I began running and gunning to spots throughout Yankee Springs ticking birds off left and right. I was missing some that should have been around but I was adding unexpected species throughout. At the Paul Henry Thornapple Trail in Middleville, I found nesting Prothonotary Warblers and after lunch began my longer journeys of the day heading Northeast. The highlight of the day was a very unexpected Common Gallinule as well as a Short-billed Dowitcher at a spot quite a ways north of Hastings. My dad was with me and our excitement could hardly be contained.
I continued through the miles, had some leg issues around 75 miles in but used some nutrition to get back on track before ending up at Pierce Cedar Creek where not only my crew but my family met up with me to grill brats. Boy did they taste good and my body enjoyed the extra sodium! Another unexpected highlight was a female Northern Bobwhite which all of us were excited to see and hear.
I pedaled the last 10 miles home and ended the day with 102.5 miles ridden, three miles hiked, one mile kayaked and some wicked helmet head after 19hrs! I tallied a staggering 121 species; a Barry County big day record (five more than my record-setting number last year). I am so thankful for safe roads, an amazing crew that supported me throughout the day and great followers that donated to a great cause. I would like to especially thank my dad for providing the best sag support a cyclist could ever hope for. On top of that, he donated twice to the cause. Just awesome…
At this point we have raised over $1400 for the Barry County YMCA’s Play 60 program this summer. Because of your generosity, kids in the Hastings community are able to attend these programs and activities completely FREE where they can learn fun new ways to play outside every day. How cool is that!!! It’s not too late, please visit www.active.com/donate/joshhaas15 to read more about this program and to donate via credit/debit card.
I was fortunate enough to be guided in front of some very cooperative Piping Plovers last week and pulled away some excellent shots. The key to shorebirds is getting low. Often times, budding photographers find themselves in-front of shorebirds and just begin shooting from the human’s viewpoint. As always, try to resist the urge to let your excitement of the subject take over and quickly think about how best to shoot the opportunity in front of you.
For a feeding shorebird, this means getting as low as possible to show the subject from their point of view instead. For the photographs in this blog post, all were taken using my telephoto camera rig but instead of hand holding or using a tripod, I used a homemade pan set up that when placed on the sand, holds my camera rig about 12″ off the sand (away from any sand/rocks/water). I then lay behind that on my belly and use the camera to hide as much of me as possible. I will use my elbows to drag myself along slowly, closer and closer to the subject. Because I’m not standing and in such a low position, I’m not so ‘human’ to the birds anymore.
At one point, the Sanderling pictured above was feeding no more than 3 feet from me as I just enjoyed watching its behaviors. The birds were completely calm, comfortable, and at times even walked towards me. This technique is more advanced and requires some special gear but works very well. It’s also important to realize you are going to get wet and dirty but the photographs make it all worthwhile.
I spent the morning finding birds for a couple Indiana birders. They are in a friendly competition that allows them to bird within a 100 mile radius and Barry County just so happens to be in their radius. On their way north, they took some time and birded with me this morning in hopes of adding a good list of birds to their list.
Well, we did just that. in just 3hrs, we tallied 55 species; 26 of which were all birds needed for their year competition list. Woohoo!!! Gems such as Hooded Warbler, Sora, Bobolink, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Least Sandpiper, and many more were all new for their list. It was a beautiful morning to be out. The bird of the day was probably a cooperative Cerulean Warbler willing to pose for some quick photos.
Don’t forget about our FREE bird walk tomorrow morning (Sat, May 9). We meet at the Wild Birds Unlimited in Portage.
Mark your calendars!!! We are partnering with the Wild Birds Unlimited in Kalamazoo, MI to offer a FREE bird walk in the heart of spring migration at the Asylum Lake Preserve in Kalamazoo, MI. We will meet at the Wild Birds Unlimited at 7:30am prior to taking a short drive to the Preserve. The walk will finish and then we’ll end back at Wild Birds Unlimited between 10 and 10:30am.
The fine folks at the Wild Birds Unlimited are also offering participants of this bird walk a 20% discount off their total purchase (May 9th only). This is a great opportunity to get some special seed mixes, an innovative new bird feeder, and save some money while you’re at it!
Please join us. See http://www.glancesatnature.com/trips.html for more information or contact Josh anytime.
The 2015 trip schedule is live!!! Whether you looking for bird opportunities, have a need for Fall color, or hoping to turn your eyes to the skies in search of migrant Raptors there is a trip for everyone. Please click HERE to see all 2015 trip offerings and click HERE to download the registration form.
Please call or e-mail Josh if you have any questions or would like to talk more about these great trips!!!