Monday, May 28, 2007

Day 1: We arrive in Yellowstone.

While this is a mostly birding website I enjoy all nature and wildlife and you can not go to Yellowstone and only take pictures of birds. So here are some of the mammals that we were able to photograph on our trip.

We left for Yellowstone on Saturday morning. That day we drove across Minnesota and North Dakota and stopped for the night in Glendive, MT. Sunday morning we continued on and arrived at Yellowstone around 2pm. We immediately set out across the upper loop to the Tower and Lamar Valley area. We decided to check out the Tower area first and as we passed the Roosevelt Junction we came across a red fox in a small meadow. We had seen a fox in the same area last year and we guessed that this was the same one. After a pit stop at the tower visitor center we headed out to Lamar Valley. As we crossed the Yellowstone River we saw a lot of cars stopped at the side of the road. Since we had seen big horn sheep in this area in past years we stopped to see what everyone was looking at. We were not disappointed. In the field next to the road was a large ram and his harem.
We got some good shots as they came close and then crossed the road. Lamar was pretty quiet so we headed back to Tower and got our first bear sighting of the trip.
By this time it was getting pretty late, my blood sugar was getting low and the hotel was still a couple hours away so we headed back across the park to West Yellowstone. On the way back we came across a large elk grazing and stopped for a couple of pictures. It is cool to see them when the antlers are covered in velvet. He still even had some of his winter coat.
Even though it was a good first day we were still a little disappointed. The past 2 times that we had come in the spring we had been fortunate and had spotted grizzly bears on the first day. This year we did not and unfortunately it was a portent that this year we would not be as extremely lucky as we had been in the past.

Birding in Yellowstone part 1: water fowl

From May 20th to the 25th we took our annual trip to Yellowstone National Park. This is the 6th year in a row that we have made a trip to Yellowstone/Grand Tetons. We have been their 3 times in the end of September and now 3 times in the end of May.

When we go in the fall we typically stay down in Jackson, WY and spend most of our time down in the Tetons photographing moose. When we go in the spring we stay up in West Yellowstone and spend most of our time on the northern loop of Yellowstone. Unfortunately this year the weather was not as good as it has been on past trips so we did not see as much as we usually have.

We did see quite a bit of waterfowl this year. We spotted these lesser scaup swimming in the Bridge Bay of Lake Yellowstone. This picture was one of the few pictures that we were able to take on Tuesday. It snowed pretty much every day that we were at the park but on Tuesday it snowed all day long. This made the visibility pretty poor which made it very difficult to take pictures.

Thursday we had a bit better weather. It still cloudy that day but it only snowed off and on. While driving through the park we noticed a pair of common merganser swimming in the Gibbon River. I was pretty excited because grebes, loons and mergansers are some of my favorite non-raptors. So I stopped to take some pictures. As I moved up to get even with them to take their picture the pair kept swimming upstream. The current was pretty quick so they were not able to swim very fast. Each time I would get even with them I would stop to shoot and they would move further up stream. This happened a few times until I decided to get smart and wait to stop until I got a head of them. As usual it was the birds that out smarted me. As soon as I got further upstream then they were, they turned around and shot down stream flying quickly away on the current. I got a few more shots as I walked back to the car but I decided that if they were that determined not to have their picture taken that it would be better to be satisfied with the pictures that I had rather then stress the birds out any more.

We spotted this barrow's goldeneye on Floating Island Lake. This trumpeter swan was also photographed at Floating Island Lake. He seemed to have problems with the neighbors. A couple of times he chased canadian geese around the lake shore.
We spotted a group of american white pelicans swimming in the Yellowstone River. This was about the only time on Tuesday that it was not snowing. The break lasted long enough for me to get a couple of shots. I will post more bird pics as well as some of the other pics that we took in the next few posts.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Last spring bird walk at Wood Lake

Thursday May 10th was the last bird walk of the spring at Wood Lake Nature Center. A hooded merganser has made the unusual choice of nesting in a wood duck nesting box on the dock near the visitor center. Every time people walk on the dock the nesting box shakes and the merganser heads for the water. This evening was no exception. Here she is waiting for all of the birders to leave. I think that she is going to have a very long nesting season.
We spotted this Baltimore oriole near the visitor center. On past visits the orioles stayed in the high branches of the trees but I think that this bird was looking to audition for American idol. He followed us around for a while and sang to get our attention. I wonder what Simon wold say?
The yellow-headed blackbird that I had photographed a couple of weeks before was out showing off.
I even got a couple pictures of the new arrivals as the goslings drank at a small pool.
It was another great time at Wood Lake. The birding trips are over for the spring but they intend to continue them again in the fall. Keep an eye on the websites for more information on the fall trips I would certainly recommend them.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Raptor release

Saturday, May 5th I attended a raptor release by the Raptor Center at the Carpenter Nature Center. This was my first visit to the Carpenter Nature Center and I was very impressed. The center is situated on the bluffs above the St Croix River just across the river from Prescott Wisconsin. There were plenty of raptors, mostly vultures, flying over head as we listened to an environmental musician sing. Unfortunately the weather was not really that great with dark cloudy skies so most of my pictures of overhead raptors were pretty dark.

As usual the Raptor Center had plenty of educational birds for participants to view. These are birds that can not be released back into the wild and so they are used in educational programs around the country. The birds below are educational birds.
The american kestrel, sometimes called sparrow hawk, is the smallest raptor. The bald eagle is the symbol of the US. It is currently under consideration for being removed from the endangered species list due to it's remarkable recovery from near extinction. Minnesota has now passed Florida for the most nesting pair of eagles in the lower 48 states.
The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on the planet. This peregrine is named Juneau and it is the bird that I chose for my wife and I to sponsor this year.
The highlight of the day were the bird releases. Four birds were released back into the wild, two red tail hawks, one broad wing hawk, and for the finally a bald eagle, pictured above. The Raptor Center does great work. Each year we contribute to this great cause. I would encourage you to check out their website.

Spring migration bird walks at Wood Lake Nature Center

Spring is a great time here in Minnesota. After several months of cold and snow and gray cloudy days, it is great to see things come back to life. It is also a fun time for birding, with a lot of migrants coming through. For the past couple weeks I have spent my Thursday evenings at Wood Lake Nature Center, attending their spring migration bird walks. This has been a lot of fun. Having started birding and photography some time ago I am usually pretty good at finding subjects on my own, but sometimes it is fun to share the experience with a group of people. While I was waiting for the walk to start I noticed this cardinal at the feeders by the visitor center. As I walked over he decided to move to a safer perch but he was obviously used to humans. Cardinals are pretty common in this area.
There were also quite a few barn swallows buzzing around the visitors center also. They have been building nests on the buildings. I think this pair was trying to get the 10 day weather forecast.On the May 3rd walk the naturalist mentioned that the Baltimore Orioles had been spotted migrating through and with in minutes we spotted a couple. They were in pretty dense foliage in the trees so the picture was not as clear as I would have liked it. Another new migrant that we saw on the may 3rd walk were some green heron. Unfortunately they were flying through a forested part of the park and I was not able to get a picture. On both walks that I have participated in we have seen a lot of the common marsh birds, such as mallard, canadian geese, wood ducks, common grackle, and red-winged blackbirds.
This female wood duck had a great reflection.
This blackbird was puffed up as he sang. Their song is a warning to other males to stay away from their territory. Can you imagine how much better the world would be if people settled their disputes this way? Instead of sending soldiers to Iraq we could send the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or maybe Pearl Jam, just not Janet Jackson, we wouldn't want to start an international incident.
On the April 26th walk we were pretty excited to see a yellow-headed blackbird. These are not very common in our area since we are on the very edge of their range. I have photographed yellow-heads before but this was the first one that I have seen in Minnesota.
We were also excited that week to catch a glimpse of a red fox. He caught a glimpse of us first though, and I don't think he was too excited about seeing 15 birders wondering around. The naturalist showed us a possible fox den, from a distance, and told us that it was about time for the pups to be born. I will be checking back and try to get a shot of the pups.
All in all these walks were a lot of fun. There is still at least 1 walk left on May 10th. The walks cost $5 and begins at 6:00pm. For more information check out their web site

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Roseville Osprey

I finally got the osprey in Roseville, MN and the weather to both cooperate. I have been to the platform several times but it has been either cloudy and dark or neither of the osprey has been visible. Tuesday the sky was bright and clear and both osprey were visible at the nest. You can see that the platform is located at the edge of a small pond. On the left side, just out of the picture, there is a busy road and on the other side of the road is a good size lake. There is another lake located a few blocks to the south so there is plenty of water and fish around.
You can see from the pictures below that one of the osprey is down inside the nest. It stayed down there the entire time that I observed them. This would suggest that there may be eggs in the nest. There have been about 90 nesting platforms placed through out the Twin Cities metro area during the past 20 years as part of an osprey reintroduction project started by the Hennepin Parks Association, now know as the Three Rivers Park District. The project began in 1984 and had a goal of having 10-15 nesting pair in the Twin Cities. In 2004 there were 41 nesting pairs in the area with 53 chicks hatched. You can see one of the osprey down deep in the nest.
Osprey are sometimes referred to as fishing hawks. They eat almost exclusively fish and always nest near water. Osprey typically migrate between wintering grounds in the south to breeding areas in Canada, Alaska, the upper Great Lakes, and the Northwest United States. The osprey pictured below was photographed over the Lamar River in Yellowstone in September of 2002.
Osprey live in Florida year round. This Osprey was photographed in Everglades National Park in February 2006.
This weekend, May 5th and 6th, there will be a homecoming celebration for the Roseville osprey so if you have time, visit them during the day on Saturday or Sunday near the intersection of Lexington and County Road C2.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Sorry it's just another trick. If you want to know what I dressed like for Halloween you will have to wait until I show up at your door trick or treating. Happy Halloween pennant.

Thank you for your support of Ecobrider and IandtheBird 87. I hope that you enjoyed this edition of IandtheBird. The next IandtheBird will be hosted by Aimophila Adventures on 11/13/08.


You have been tricked.

What you were expecting a treat?