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.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk
 The Harris hawk is a colorful medium sized hawk. They are found in Mexico, Central and South America. In the United States they can be found in the southwest, particularly Texas and Arizona. These pictures where taken in south Texas.
Harris Hawk
 They are typically found in arid scrubland, tropical deciduous forest, mangrove swamps, and open grasslands habitats. They stay on their breeding territory all year long and do not typically migrate. They eat primarily small mammals but will also eat birds, lizards, snakes and large insects.
Harris Hawk
Young Harris hawks often stay with their parents for up to three years after they fledge. These family groups will often hunt together in pack type fashion. One bird will often flush the prey and chase it to where other members of the "pack" are waiting in ambush. In much of their territory trees are sparse so Harris hawks will often perch on the back of another Harris hawk in a behavior called stacking. This last photo is an immature Harris hawk.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Green Jay

Green Jay
 The green jay is a resident of Mexico, Central and northern South America. The Mexican and Central American population is separated from the South American population and differ in size, color and call. It is possible that in the future it may be discovered that they are actually separate species or at least different subspecies.
Green Jay
 Green jays typically prefer riparian thickets and other dense forested areas in humid climates. The exception to this is in south Texas. South Texas is the only place in the United States where green jays can be found. In Texas they inhabit mesquite thickets, native scrub and open park lands. These birds where photographed in Texas at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and Bentsen State Park respectively.



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk
The ferruginous hawk is a large raptor found in the western plains of North America. They are a member of the buteo genus of hawks. Buteos are soaring hawks that are distinguished by their long wings and short tails. They ferruginous hawks are the largest hawk in North America and the second largest buteo in the world.
Ferruginous Hawk
The common name ferruginous comes from the Latin word ferrgin which roughly means iron rust. This is of course in reference to their rusty red colored feathers. The ferruginous hawk is one of only three North American raptors, other than owls, that have feathers that extend down their legs to their toes. The other two raptors are the rough-legged hawk and the golden eagle.



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Eastern Screech-Owl

Eastern Screech-Owl Gray
 The eastern screech-owl is a small owl that is found in the eastern half of the United States, south-eastern Canada, and north eastern Mexico.  They can be found in a variety of different habitats including suburban and metropolitan areas. The main priority for habitat is available cavities, since they are a cavity nester. This can be a tree cavity or a man made cavity such as a nesting box. Like most owls they stick on their nesting territory through out the entire year and do not migrate during the winter unless their is a shortage of prey.
Eastern Screech-Owl Red
Like most raptors there is no difference in color between male and female eastern screech-owls.females are typically larger than males however it is difficult to tell by size with out one of the opposite sex to reference. However, as you can probably guess by these photos, there are two different color variations of eastern screech-owl. About 70% of the population is gray, like the wild owl in the first photo. The other 30% are red like Mestaae above. Mestaae is an educational raptor at The Raptor Center. The percentage of red screech-owls is higher in the east with only about 15% red at the western edges of their range.