Blog

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary by visiting the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Shiawassee/visit/plan_your_visit.html

More specifically, we took their Wildlife Drive. It’s well worth the time if you happen to be in the Saginaw area. If you’d like to make a day of it, you could easily combine a trip to the Wildlife Refuge with a stop at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland: https://www.bronners.com/ , the Birch Run Outlets: https://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlet/birch-run/about, Frankenmuth: https://www.frankenmuth.org/, or all of the above.

We arrived at the refuge early on a misty, foggy morning. The glass half empty view of it was the damp chill.

IMG_0853

But the glass half full view of it was the assortment of delicate spiderwebs brought to life by the clinging dew.

 

IMG_0857

IMG_0860

IMG_0861

This one reminded me of one of those Native American Dream Catchers.

IMG_0863

IMG_0946

When I was finally able to pull myself away from the spiderwebs, we were treated to a really spectacular array of wild birds. With the help of my Merlin bird ID app, I’m guessing my first shots here are of a Pied-billed Grebe.

Whatever he is, I watched him struggle for about ten minutes with a fish nearly the size of his own head. I wish I’d been able to get a better shot, but my zoom wasn’t up to the challenge.

IMG_1009

IMG_1020

Some of the birds were so large and flying so low, I was reminded of the pterodactyl scenes from Jurassic Park.

IMG_0867

This beauty was the supermodel of the day. She waited patiently while three carloads full of bird loving paparazzi took aim, my husband and I included.

IMG_1347. IMG_1341

IMG_1335

We spotted several Great Blue Herons on the drive. This one was fishing not far from where we were parked.

IMG_1406

Even in areas without birds, the refuge itself is just plain picture worthy.

IMG_1222

IMG_1074

IMG_1071

IMG_0869

IMG_0873

If you do decide to make the trip, I have two important tips to remember.

1.) Don’t forget the bug spray. No, seriously, don’t forget the bug spray!

2,) Watch out for wildlife on the road.

IMG_1447

If you’d like to see more from our trip, I’ve posted additional shots on the My Photography tab of this site.

 

IMG_1453

Road Trip

This weekend I enjoyed a long overdue road trip to northern Michigan with my amazingly patient mother. Not only did she put up with my constant camera madness, she actually scouted new locations for me. My blog this week features a few of my favorites. To see more from this trip (and just more of my photography in general), please visit the “My Photography” tab here: https://jguentherbooks.com/my-photography/

We began our trip in East Tawas, which sits on the banks of Lake Huron. If you’re ever in the area, I’d recommend a trip to the Tawas Point Lighthouse.

Lighthouse

LH

IMG_0103

IMG_0226

IMG_0225

Aside from all the impressive man made structures, you’ll also find this beautiful, old stump, which had as much character as anything else we saw all weekend.

color stump

I also discovered this lovely, painted rock. No idea who left it, but I’d like to thank them first for honoring our veterans and then for giving me something cool to shoot.

IMG_0221

Mom and I stopped for a while to walk on the beach, where we encountered this young lady, for whom all the beach was a stage. Eventually, she kicked off her shoes and did cartwheels up and down the very chilly beach. Meanwhile, I was wishing I could take that beautiful hunk of driftwood home with me. No such luck though.

Girl

After East Tawas, we visited Harrisville, home of the prettiest wreck of a building ever. It’s an abandoned train station and I cannot figure out for the life of me why someone hasn’t restored this fantastic, old building.

IMG_0452

IMG_0479

IMG_0468

Metal spikes adorn the roof line. My mother informs me they’re to prevent birds from perching on the roof, but they reminded me of German army helmets.

German army helmut

There was a giant wasp’s nest hanging off the back of the building. It reminded me of a skull, but I’ll let you be the judge.

skull

We made another trip to the shoreline in Harrisville and I stopped to harass the seagulls. I have a feeling they were happy to be rid of me by the time I finally left.

Gull Flight

IMG_0379

IMG_0384

I spent quite a while trying to get an action shot of the waves crashing against the rocks. But in the end, I was happier with the shots I took along the shoreline, where the waves were rolling back out.

IMG_0092

IMG_0270

IMG_0090BW

 

 

Garden Shots

This week I decided to focus my attention (and my camera lens) on my home garden here in Fenton. I’ve also included a few shots I took earlier in the summer of two new plants I’ve added this year.

The first is this sunny, yellow poppy.

close up poppy

IMG_9748

Another new addition is this bright orange Geum, my first such plant.

Fire Starter

I was thrilled this week to discover three monarch caterpillars on my milkweed. Unfortunately, I returned a few days later to discover they’d all gone. I can only assume they became bird food. Next year, I’ll make it a point to add protection for them.

IMG_9438

IMG_9439

The sunflowers are starting to die back now, but earlier this week they were still in full bloom. They’re wonderful for attracting American Goldfinch and all kinds of bees.

IMG_9481

Another popular flower for the bees right now are my Stonecrop. They’ve been covered with big, fat bumbles all week.

IMG_9662

My Russian Sage has been pulling in hummingbirds, as well as bumblebees. Of course, putting a feeder overhead helps!

IMG_9822

IMG_9838

 

Bits & Pieces

This week’s post is a collection of miscellaneous shots, mostly from trips out to our property in Davisburg, MI.

Because of the amount of marshy land on the property, we have an abundance of ferns. Unfortunately, we currently have to fight our way through a fair amount of brush and wild raspberries to get to them, but we’re working on that.

IMG_0064

 

This time of year another plant that begins to take over the property is Goldenrod. It’s a Michigan native and I love the sort-of architectural form of its blooms.

 

IMG_0110

 

Another plant that dominates our landscape at present is Thistle. I have a love/hate relationship with Thistle. As its blooms go to seed, the plant definitely takes on a “weedy” appearance and it’s thorns make it less than friendly if you’re out taking a stroll and have to pass close by, but it consistently attracts beautiful birds and insects. Goldfinch love it, butterflies love it, I’ve never seen hummingbirds at it, but I suspect that’s more a matter of poor timing on my part than anything else.

 

IMG_8957

IMG_9410

 

The one plant I’m still determined to get rid of on the property is the wild raspberry. It grows everywhere, snags on everything, and is a general nuisance. True, it’s a food source for the wildlife, but we plan to replace it with Michigan native food sources such as Amelanchier (Serviceberry) and Winterberry.

 

IMG_8742

 

This fall I’ll be relocating the Bearded Iris. We’ve discovered four or five of them growing randomly in different areas on the property. They’re gorgeous and they’re definitely staying, but I think they’d have more of an impact on the garden as a single clump.

 

IMG_0023

 

While working on the property this week, I picked up this very colorful hitchhiker. I first discovered him crawling in my hair. I moved him to my camera bag for this shot. Unfortunately, the shot is not as clear as I would have liked. He was a man on the move and it was all I could do just to keep him in the frame. A quick internet search leads me to believe he’s some kind of predatory stinkbug.

 

IMG_0098

 

On my recent Heron Hunt (see last week’s blog post for more on that), I had a lot of time to kill sitting in the brush waiting for Herons to show up. Here are a few of the shots I took while waiting.

 

IMG_9584

IMG_9359

IMG_8978

IMG_8976

IMG_8914

Heron Hunt

This week I went on a heron hunt. I’ve been watching them fish on the property all summer long and have actually been trying to get a shot of them fishing for frogs. I still haven’t gotten a decent shot of that yet, but here are some of the shots I did get.

IMG_9842

IMG_9955

IMG_9994

IMG_9831

IMG_9835

IMG_9706

IMG_9957

IMG_9879

I will freely admit that some of these shots do not represent my best work, but I was playing around with going fully manual and relying less on my automatic features. I still have some work to do on those skills, but the birds are so beautiful and graceful, I think they make up for some of my photographic shortcomings.

IMG_0056

IMG_0037

IMG_0055

IMG_0050

As I was shooting him on one of the dead trees, I noticed a cool, twisty spider web. So here’s my artsy fartsy view of that.

IMG_9742bw

 

Bugs and Butterflies and Dragons, oh my!

Some days I find photography immensely satisflying. Then there are days like today. Days when the shutter always clicks a split second after the subject has left the frame, or the great action shot you thought you had, upon closer inspection, turns out to be a blurry mess.

Don’t get me wrong, my worst day of shooting is still better than my best day doing just about anything else, but I do sometimes wonder what the neighbors must think of me crouching in a mosquito infested swamp, staring at a dead branch, hoping an interesting bird might land on it…any…second…now…

During those moments, I start taking pictures of bugs. They’re my only reliable target on days like today.

IMG_0247

IMG_0188

Bug

IMG_0230

IMG_0001

IMG_0008

This last one, unfortunately, falls into the “blurry mess” category. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was kind-of hoping the bird would fly up and snatch the butterfly out of the air (in the center of my perfectly sharp, precisely timed action shot, of course).

That didn’t happen, but I still like the shot.

IMG_0219

Cold Blooded Blog

This week the Photography Gods have not been kind. I’ve been hunting (with my camera only, of course) a recent visitor to the property without much luck. That said, I am determined to capture the shot before the end of the summer and I’ll be sure to post it here when I do.

In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite cold blooded visitors.

IMG_8912

IMG_9798

IMG_7153

 

Fox Hunt

This week I went on my first fox hunt! I’d like to thank my mom and my sister for their help, and my mother’s neighbors, Cary and Wendy, who were kind enough to let me lurk in their lawn for two hours in order to capture these shots.

walking

Newfoxbest

 

Looking

 

fox

Return of the Blog

I recently spotted an unexpected charge on my credit card and realized that, while I had apparently forgotten all about this little piece of the web, the good folks at WordPress had not. Seeing as I’ve paid for another year, I figure it’s time to get blogging!

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that writing invariably takes a back seat to photography as my hobby of choice during the summer months, so this is likely to be more of a photo blog than anything else, at least until the first snow falls.

This week’s subject of choice for me is a family of deer that are living on our property. At first, I thought it was just a doe and one fawn, but I’ve recently discovered that the doe (whom I’ve decided to call Lily because I’m a huge Harry Potter geek) actually has two young fawns. Here are two recent videos captured on our trail cam.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to call the one little guy Skip.

Lily has grown accustomed to seeing me around the property and has become a very patient model.

IMG_8825

Lily1

IMG_9317

Although I’ve managed to capture images of her little ones with the trail cam, I haven’t yet had the chance to capture still images of them. Hopefully that’ll be the subject of a future blog!