Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Three-toed Woodpecker

Three-toed Woodpecker
 The three-toed woodpecker is a woodpecker of the north.In fact their range extends further north than any other woodpecker. The American three-toed woodpeckers range extends through the boreal forests of Canada and down into the Rocky Mountains. The Eurasian three-toed woodpecker's range extends through out northern Europe and Asia. The American and Eurasian version both look similar but differ in their DNA. The three-toed woodpecker gets its common name because it is one of only a few species of woodpeckers that have only 3 toes, most species have 4. The black-backed woodpecker also has only three toes. it is found in similar habitats, although its range does not extend quite as far north. The three-toed and black-backed woodpeckers look very similar except that the three-toed woodpecker has white barring on its back while the black-backed has a plain black back, as its name would suggest.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
The scissor-tailed flycatcher is long tailed tyrant flycatcher. They are a member of the Tyrannus, or kingbird genus. They breed in the south central United States, including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas as well as parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico and northern Mexico.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Even though much of their breeding territory has warm temperatures year round, the scissor-tailed flycatchers migrate south each winter down into southern Mexico and Central America. Prior to migrating they often gather in premigratory flocks of up to 1000 birds 
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  As with most kingbirds the scissor-tailed flycatcher primarily eats insects. They catch their prey by hawking,  flying off from a perch to catch a flying insect in the air, or gleaning them from branches. Although they are a flycatcher they feed mainly on grasshoppers, dragonflies and robber-flies. On their wintering grounds they may also eat some fruit.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed fly catchers are extremely territorial while breeding and will often go after larger birds such as hawks, owls, and crows that enter their territory. They are also the state bird of Oklahoma.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Roseate Spoonbill

 Roseate Spoonbill
The roseate spoonbill is a large colorful wading bird that is found in wetland in the coastal Gulf Coast, Mexico, Caribbean, Central America and parts of South America. In the United States they are found in Southern Florida, and the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. In the early 1900's these birds had been nearly eliminated from the U.S. due to the feather trade, which killed birds for feathers that were used for fans, hats, and clothes. In south Florida there were less than 50 breeding pairs left.
Roseate Spoonbill
With the Migratory Bird Act of 1918 most native species of birds in North America were given protection. Populations of roseate spoonbills began to rise again in the United States. In southern Florida spoonbills typically nest in mangrove trees. However in Texas and Louisiana most spoonbills nest on the ground on small off shore islands. The islands help protect their nests from predators who do not want to cross the water. Unfortunately their reliance on these island nesting sites make them susceptible to habitat loss, due to coastal development, and environmental factors such as huricanes and oil spills.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Peregrine Falcon

 Peregrine Chick at Banding
 Lately I have been spending some time photographing the peregrines at the Ford Bridge that connects St Paul and south Minneapolis. The bridge is not far from an active eagles nest and a spot where Merlin falcons frequently nest, so it enables me to photograph several different nests from several different species in a very close area.
Peregrine Falcons and Chicks at Nesting Box
 For the past few years the peregrines have decided to nest under the bridge which makes it impossible to get any decent pictures of the nest. Back in 2010, when most of the pictures in this post where taken, the peregrines nested in the nesting box which is on the side of the dam.
Young Peregrine Falcon Fledging
The dam box is very visible from the observation platform at the dam which made it very easy to document the peregrines early life through photographs. When they were very young it was difficult to see them inside the nest box. Fortunately through my connections with The Raptor Center I was able to attend the banding that year. The top photo was taken  at the banding at the beginning of June.
Adult Peregrine Falcon in Flight
A few weeks later the peregrine chicks were almost as big as their parents and already had a majority of their flight feathers, the second photo. They are also very hungry. In another week they are ready to fledge / fly, the third photo. Eventually they will look like their parents, final photo. This year since they are nesting under the dam I can only photograph them when they visit one of their neighboring perches. Hopefully i will get a chance to photograph the chicks before they leave the area.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy B-Earthday


 For many of you who visit this blog today is a very special day. Earth Day began back in 1970 as a celebration of nature and the environmental movement.
Nature and environmental stewardship have always been central themes here at the Ecobirder blog but Earth Day also holds a special meaning. 
It was eight years ago today that the Ecobirder blog was born.

Here is a copy of the initial post.

Welcome to my new Ecobirder Blog

In honor of Earth Day 2007 I have started my first blog. The purpose of this blog will be to share my love of the environment, wildlife, and birding with others who share these interests.
 

The owl pictures above are the first photos that I posted to the blog on April 24, 2007. This nest had one chick and it was located at the Woodlake Nature Center.
 
I hope that you all enjoy this blast to the past.
 
I thank you for your support and hope that you continue to visit for a long time to come.
 
Happy B-Earthday 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Osprey

Osprey with Fish
 Now that all of the ice has left the rivers and lakes the osprey have returned to Minnesota. Osprey are found on every continent in the world except for Antarctica. They nest on all continents except Antarctica and South America. Osprey do migrate to South America, from North America, during the winter. However they do not nest in South America.
Osprey Banding
 The osprey is sometimes called a fishing hawk. This is because their primary food source is fish. However they are not really a hawk. They actually have their own genus, Pandion, and family Pandionidae. This is because Osprey have some unique characteristics and behaviors that differ from other hawks, falcons, and eagles. First off all of their toes are relatively the same size, unlike other diurnal raptors which have a longer toe called a hallux. They also have the ability, like owls, to shift their outer toe so that they can have two toes facing front and two facing back instead of 3 forword and one back like hawks, eagles, and falcons.
Osprey bringing fish to the nest
 These adaptations to their feet are designed to help them catch fish. Switching their toes to two forward and two back helps them to hold onto slippery fish. They also have rough pads on the bottom to help them to grasp a fish. They are much better at catching fish than the bald eagles are, actually plunging up to a couple of feet below the water surface to catch their prey.
Osprey and Turkey Vulture Face Off
Unfortunately it is dangerous world and a passing eagle or turkey vulture will not hesitate to try and steal the osprey's hard earned meal. Osprey were once rare here in Minnesota due to DDT, which affected many different species of raptors. Through release programs the population has rebounded nicely here and is now stable and healthy. Half of the pictures in this post were taken in Minnesota the other half were taken in south Texas.

Monday, April 20, 2015

First Butterflies of the Year.

Cabbage White Butterfly
 Last week I saw my first butterflies of 2015. The timing is not much of a surprise. We usually start seeing butterflies as early as late March. What surprised me was the species. Typically my first butterfly of the year is either a mourning cloak or a comma. That is because both of these species overwinter as adult butterflies. As soon as it warms up they thaw out and begin to fly. The cabbage white overwinters as a chrysalis. They typically have three broods per year with the last brood overwintering in the pupae state. When it warms up they emerge and look for a partner to mate with.
Cabbage White Butterfly
Cabbage whites are a non native species here in North America. They were introduced to North America in the 1860's and have done very well for themselves. They are common in Europe, North Africa, and Asia where they are also called the large white. They are common here in the U.S. now, also. They are so common that when I first saw them I almost ignored them until I realized that they were my first butterfly of the year. Unfortunately I was on a walk during my lunch break at work and did not have a camera so no pics. The pics in this post were taken in the past during the middle of summer when thing are much more green and blooming then they are right now.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail
 The northern pintail is a large duck that is found through out much of the Northern Hemisphere. It is circumpolar and nests in Canada, northern Europe and Asia. They are found primarily in wetland habitats. These birds are migratory and will migrate as far as the Equator during the winter.
Northern Pintail
The pintail is a dabbling duck. They eat aquatic vegetation that they find by sticking their heads below the water while floating on the surface of the water. There are no subspecies of the northern pintail. However there is a offshoot called the Eaton's pintail that is found on islands in the Indian Ocean. These ducks are considered to be an evolution from the northern pintail and are considered their own species.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler
 The magnolia warbler is a colorful wood warbler that breeds in the eastern half of Canada and the Northeastern United States and northern Midwestern States. They typically nest in the dense undergrowth of coniferous forests. During the winter they migrate down to Mexico and parts of Central America where they can be found in a variety of habitats. The reason for their migration is the same as most warblers, they are primarily insect eaters. They typically eat caterpillars, beetles, insect larva, and spiders, which they glean from the trees. They also prey on flying insects, such as butterflies and supplement their diet with fruit and nectar. During the winter the amount of their diet which consists of fruit and nectar increases.
Magnolia Warbler
 The magnolia warbler was named by Alexander Wilson in the early 1800's. Wilson called them the black and yellow warbler but gave them the scientific name Setophaga magnolia, because he collected his first bird from a magnolia tree in Mississippi during migration. As time went by the common name changed to match the Latin scientific name and the species became known as the magnolia warbler. The top photo is a male bird and the second is a female. As is the case with many species of song birds the male is much more colorful for it is up to him to catch the attention of a mate.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Least Grebe

Least Grebe
 The least grebe is the smallest grebe in North, Central and South America. Its range extends from south Texas in the north, south through Mexico, Central America, and down into South America. The southern part of their range extends down into northern Argentina. They are largely non-migratory staying within their breeding range through out the year.
Least Grebe
 They spend most of their time on the water living in wetlands such as ponds, lakes and rivers. Since they are so small they can also inhabit temporary wetlands such as water filled ditches. They are a diving hunter that eats primarily small fish, tadpoles and aquatic insects.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Welcome Spring

Woolly Bear Caterpillar
Last Friday was the first day of Spring. Here in Minnesota mid March does not typically look like Spring, especially the past couple of year. We often still have a lot of snow on the ground and temps that barely reach above freezing. This year has been different though. This winter we have had very little snow and with a couple of weeks with temps in the fifties and even some sixties most of what we had has already melted, although we just got another coating last night. With the warm spring like weather we have been having I have even begun to see woolly bear caterpillars come out of hibernation.
Woolly Bear Caterpillar
The woolly bear caterpillar is the larval form of the Isabella tiger moth. Woolly bear caterpillars are found in paces with colder climates, including the Arctic. They over Winter in their caterpillar form by producing cryprotectant in their tissues. This natural anti freeze allows them to freeze solid over the winter. When the weather warms up they thaw up, pupate and become an Isabella Tiger moth. They will then lay eggs that will hatch in the early fall starting the process over again.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Inca Dove

Inca Dove
 Doves are not one of the families of birds that one thinks of when they think of birds that are cool, attractive or sexy. However even though it is pretty plain as far as color goes I think that the scaled look of the feathers makes the Inca Dove look pretty cool.
Inca Dove
Inca doves are native to Mexico and Central America. In the US they are found along the southern border of Mexico in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. They live in arid climates where they eat seeds that they find primarily by foraging on the ground.Inca doves will sometimes roost by standing on top of one another like a pyramid. This behavior is similar to the Harris Hawk in the last post that will also perch on one another.