Monday, September 8, 2008

Birding Crex Meadows

After spending the long Forth of July weekend photographing the bears at the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary and then spending time photographing things in the Sax Zim Bog I decided to rest a bit the following week and spend some time at home. By the next Saturday I was getting a little stir crazy so I decided to take a trip up to Crex Meadows. Crex Meadows is a great birding location and even in the summer when birding is a bit slow in this area you can usually find something to photograph in Crex.
Mourning doves are fairly common through out most of North America in one season or another, which is why I do not often stop to photograph them, but this bird was sitting beautifully in perfect light. So I stopped to take the pic. Mourning doves are considered a game bird and their are hunting seasons for them in many states. Fortunately Minnesota does not have a mourning bird season, I am not sure if Wisconsin does or not, which is good because I think that hunting mourning doves is one of the stupidest things that I have ever heard of. I am not a hunter, never have and never will, but at least with duck, pheasant, or dear you are hunting something that you can eat. After killing a mourning dove are you going to take it home and make yourself a sandwich?
Many eastern kingbirds spend their summers in the area feasting on insects. When they arrive in the spring they claim a breeding territory which they defend aggressively against other kingbirds as well as larger birds such as hawks, crows and bluejays. In the winter they migrate down to South America where they live in communities and eat mostly fruit.
The killdeer is the most common shorebird that we usually see in the area. That is because they have adapted well to people. This killdeer was searching the dirt road for worms, grasshoppers, beetles and other insects. Killdeers are great actors and will put on the show of a lifetime, pretending to have a broken wing to lure predators away from their nest.
Ring-necked ducks are named so because of the rust colored ring on their necks. Typically you do not get to see the ring, but this duck has his necked stretched so that the ring is visible. I wonder if this is the same ring-necked pair that I photographed earlier in the year at Crex that was also showing of its ring.
One of the birds that is most identified with Crex Meadows is the Sandhill Crane. Crex has a resident population of sandhills which comes each spring and stays though until fall. Last year Michelle and I were lucky enough to get to photograph a sandhill colt but this year I was not so lucky.
In the fall more sandhills will arrive at Crex from all around the upper Midwest and Canada. Hundreds of cranes will be grouped together preparing for the flight down to their winter habitat. Winters are spent in Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico with small populations also in southern California and Florida. In the spring tens of thousands of cranes migrate together all stopping to rest at the Platte River in Nebraska. From there they break up into groups and move on to their summer breeding ground.
The only raptor that I photographed that day was this bald eagle who was keeping a watchful eye over the park. From what I have been told, at the National Eagle Center, Wisconsin is the state with the fourth largest population of eagles in the US, first being Alaska, then Minnesota and Florida.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff, I am with you regarding
dove hunting, and regret to inform
you that MN does have a hunting
season on them again. It started
Sept. 1 and goes to Oct. 30. Daily
bag limit is 15, possession limit
is 30. The season was reinstated
either last year or the year before. Nice photos, by the way.
Hap in New Hope

Shellmo said...

Enjoyed the ring necked ducks - have started getting into water fowl since we built a cabin on the lake. Loved the lighting especially on the eagle.

HANNIBAL said...

Great photos! I'm still on the hunt for a few Sandhills that are rumored to be here, have heard them, but not seen them yet...very little time left....The dove is in a perfect pose!

Leedra said...

Yep, I think my strange bird is the Sandhill Crane. Wish the light had been this good. The eagle is great, as they always are. You got a wonderful photograph of the eagle and the mourning dove.

Ecobirder said...

Doh just when I thought that I lived in a progressive state Hap comes and shatters my illusions. Maybe some day people will grow up and stop killing animals for sport.

Thanks Shelly, but ring-necked ducks are not nearly as cool as the loons that you photograph on your lake and put in your blog. Michelle, my wife, and I both really enjoy loons.

Thanks, Hannibal, I hope you find those sandhills. I will probably take a day this fall to go photograph sandhills at Crex before they start south.

Thanks Leedra, I think that your sandhill shot was very good but I am the same way, the light is hardly ever just the way that I want it.