Sunday, November 30, 2008

Today's Flowers

OK, so I do not know much about types of flowers but I am hoping that participating in Today's Flowers will help me to learn. So my plan is to post flower pics that I took and instead of identifying the flower and digging up a lot of info, like I do with birds and bugs, I am hoping that people from the meme might respond in the comment section and tell me what type of flower and maybe even a little bit about it. That way I and anyone else reading my blog might get a little more knowledgeable about flowers and plant life.
I took this picture back in August at the Carpenter Nature Center. I took the picture because of the Monarch but the flower really helps to make this a special pic. It is so colorful and beautiful.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Camera Critters: A New Member of the Family

Today's edition of Camera Critters is a bit late but there is a very good reason. Today Michelle and I have adapted a new little boy.
Let me introduce everyone to our new son, Magic. Magic is a 3 month old kitten that we just adopted from a rescue shelter. We know have 2 cats, Magic and Misty, both were adoptions.
Magic has a very different personality from Misty. Misty has always been a very shy and reserved cat. When we first brought her home she spent a lot of time during her first few days with us hiding under the furniture. She has gotten used to us over the 9 months or so that she has been with us but she is still some what inhibited. Magic went exploring the moment we walked in the door. Even with Misty following him around, she is over a year old so even though she is a small cat she is much larger then Magic, and giving him an occasional territorial hiss he still was not phased.
What did Misty think of the new kitten? She was a bit nervous around him but she has been getting better and even playing a bit with him. She did want to point out that she still has the most beautiful golden eyes.
Magic has taken every thing pretty well. He has kind of ignored Misty for the most part, he was with several other kittens so the new surroundings are probably a lot more interesting then a new big sis.
although even little kittens run out of energy sooner or later. So he cuddled on Michelle's lap to take a snooze.
While Misty was giving her best Garfield pose. "Just wait until the humans are asleep then I will take care of the bundle of fur with eyes."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Photo Friday Challenge: Black

Each week over at they issue a challenge. They give you a word and you need to post with that theme in mind. This weeks challenge is Black. With that in mind I give you the Black saddlebag dragonfly.
Although black saddlebags range throughout most of the United States, it is not a dragonfly that we see very often in this part of the country. That was why I was so excited when I spotted this one at the Bass Ponds near the new Cedar Avenue Bridge back on September 26th.
I had actually seen this dragon the day before, 9-25, while it was out hawking insects over the open fields but it disappeared before I could get any pics. When I returned on the 26th I found it flying over the fields again.
I had to watch this dragon for quite a while before I was actually able to get any pics. At one point it even disappeared over a tree but fortunately it returned and landed on a stick on a brush pile. From its lighter color I would guess that this is a female or perhaps even a young male. More then likely it stopped to hunt while it was making its way south. the black saddlebag, like many other of the larger dragonflies, does head south before it gets cold.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Skywatch Friday

This week for Skywatch Friday I would like to share this photo that I took of a sunrise last winter. I was heading down south to photograph the eagles that had gathered on the Mississippi River when the sun began to rise. The sky turned pink and purple and it looked like a beam of light shining down from heaven. I was hoping to get to a good location to take a picture, like perhaps Lake Peppin, but decided that I probably did not have enough time. So I just pulled over at an open farm field at took the pic from the side of the road.

Happy Thanksgiving

You probably would not want to see this guy on your table. He was way too alive and probably would be kind of messy. I photographed this wild turkey at the Dodge Nature Center back on the 29th of June.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Watery Wednesday: Chicks

This weeks Watery Wednesday pics were taken at Fort Snelling State Park back in May.
Canadian geese are a pretty common sight in Minnesota year round. During the late fall and early winter, like right now, they gather in large flocks and scavenge the farm fields for any left over grains.
Since they are so common geese I typically do not spend much time photographing them. However when they are surrounded by four tiny little yellow balls of down they are really hard to ignore.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fall Raptor Release

As part of their mission to rescue and rehabilitate injured raptors The Raptor Center frequently has the opportunity to release birds back into the wild. Typically these are small events with the lucky person who gets to release the bird ans a TRC staff member or volunteer being the only people present. However twice a year TRC holds public raptor releases as a part of their service mission.
The fall release was held back in September, 9-27th, at the Carpenter Nature Center. I showed up at CNC the day before the event to help set up things like parking, tents, signs and the stage.
The purpose of these public releases is to help educate the public about raptors. To make people aware of the raptors that live around us and the challenges they face every day. Programs on the stage help demonstrate some of these challenges.
In this program Adam uses a young volunteer and his father to demonstrate how much weight it takes to break a normal chicken egg. You can tell by the look on dad's face that by adding many rocks on with the boy, around 85 to 90 lbs, the egg finally broke. This illustrates how devastating DDT was on many bird species since eggs that normally can hold over 80lbs where breaking under the weight of the birds, very large eagles only weigh around 14 pounds.
There were several other programs on the stage, I missed the Carpenter program on reptiles because I was busy answering questions about hawks and falcons, as well as music, booths, and the TRC education birds.
The highlight of the day is always the releases, after all that is the reason why most people come. The birds are kept in darkness away from the crowd until it is time to set them free.
The people who are lucky enough to get to release a bird are usually picked by TRC, the host site, in this case Carpenter Nature Center, or the sponsor. The sponsor for the fall event was 3M.
The number of birds that are released varies each year depending on how many birds are ready. This year there were quite of few red-tail hawks. This one decided to have a conversation with Gail, TRC education Program Manager.
Many of these people are long time supporters of TRC.
Others are long time supporters on the Carpenter Nature center.
This picture that I took was published in the local Hudson, WI newspaper. The paper, which covers an area close to CNC, sent a person to cover the event but they did not get a good shot of the release. Photographing releases is not easy and it helps if you have been to as many as I have. Jen, CNC Development Director, saw my pics and put me in touch with staff and the paper.
Unfortunately people under 18 are not allowed to release birds due to safety concerns. In cases where children are chosen to do a release an adult representative does the actual release. In this case the woman pictured represented three girls involved in a local organization.
Sometimes people get to release a raptor just by chance. In this case this woman's name was drawn from people who signed up for the Friends of The Raptor Center at the event.
The Friends of TRC is a new program for people who wish to contribute gifts to help benefit TRC.
There turned out to be one extra bird that was ready for release at the last minute. TRC chose to allow the instructor of a group that was filming a documentary about TRC for a class project to release the last bird.
The Raptor Release is a lot of fun. I really enjoy talking with people about raptors and so I spent all day at the hawk and falcon ring, when I was not taking pictures of the release. I was pleasantly surprised when Lynn, who blogs at Hasty Brook showed up and said hi.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My World: Crex Meadows

Welcome to this week's edition of My World.
This week I would like to feature the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area located in western Wisconsin. Crex is about an hour drive from where I live but I still manage to spend quite a bit of time there.
I usually begin my trips to Crex by stopping of at the visitors center to check and see if there have been any interesting sightings that have been reported, it also has the only restrooms with indoor plumbing in the park.
The visitors center was built in 2002 and it includes several wildlife interpretive paths. One path, which begins behind the visitors center, runs through several different habitats. If you look closely you can usually find some very interesting wildlife on the trails, like this tree frog that was on an interpretive sign.
With over 30,000 acres Crex is the largest state owned wildlife area in Wisconsin. It is made up of many different types of habitat such as sand prairie and bush prairie.
During the warmer months of the year the prairies are filled with wild flowers which attract many types of wildlife. Like this female twelve-spotted skimmer.
Butterflies are also pretty abundant especially common species like the monarch.
More uncommon species, like this Olympia marble, and even some endangered species, such as the Karner blue, can also be food in the fields and wildflowers of Crex.
The prairies are also home to a lot of mammals, such as deer, wolves and rodents, like this thirteen-lined ground squirrel.
One of the larger, and most popular, of the Crex prairie residents are the sandhill cranes. Crex has a population of these large birds typically from late March through November.
About 6000 acres, out of Crex's 30,000 acre total, are open water. This includes 4 lakes, numerous ponds and twenty-nine water flowages. Twenty-two miles of dikes run in between the flowages and the water levels are managed using thirty-four water control structures, eight miles of water transfer ditches, and a diversion pump.
All of this open water makes great habitat for waterfowl such as the common loon.
Trumpeter swans are commonly seen on the lakes and flowages of Crex.
Birds are not the only wildlife that enjoy the water features of Crex. River otters, muskrats, and beavers can be seen swimming in the waters at Crex.
Reptiles, especially turtles and frogs, also live in the Crex waters.
Dring the spring new life is abundant at Crex. Sandhill cranes are one of the species which nests in Crex. Do you know what a baby sandhill crane is called?
There are also typically a dozen or so nesting pair of trumpeter swans in Crex. Do you know what a baby swan is called?
During the fall many migrating birds stop at Crex to feed and rest. Large flocks of waterfowl, like these American coot, can be found on the lakes during the fall.
Migrating sandhill cranes also stop at Crex during their fall migration. While their numbers do not compare to those of the Platte River in Nebraska, during the spring migration, the hundreds of cranes attract birders and other visitors to crex to watch them as they take off in the morning or return to the water at night.
Crex helps the migrating water fowl and sandhills by planting agriculture crops on some of the land to provide extra food.
All of the migrating waterfowl also attract migrating raptors. Birds, like this rough-legged hawk often show up in the late fall.
Other raptors like turkey vultures and osprey, pictured above, leave the area before it gets cold.
There are some raptors that will stay all year long as long as they can get food. These would include bald eagles, red-tail hawks, and great-horned owls. If food becomes scarce even these hardy raptors will head south.
One of highlight of my life so far occurred at Crex Meadows on my birthday, August 12, 2007. This was when Michelle, my wife, and I found and rescued an injured immature eagle from Crex. Rescuing the bird was a thrill for me but it got even better when I got to release the bird six months later after it was patched up at The Raptor Center. If you would like to read the whole story check out these posts.