Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year - 2010 Calendar

In the past couple of years I have ended the year with a post reviewing what I thought were the best posts or pictures of the year. As 2009 comes to a close and 2010 begins I have decided to try something a little bit different to end the year. Every year, beginning with 1999, I have made calendars featuring photos that Michelle or I took in the previous year to give as holiday gifts to our family. The first two years, 1999 and 2000, I had printed through the photo labs at one of the national drug stores but I was not happy with the quality of the output. So for the next seven years 2001-2007 I printed them myself on a high end inkjet printer. The quality of these was much better but it was very time consuming, it took an hour to print each page. In 2007 I decided to look into Internet printing and for the past three years, 2008-2010, I have had them printed by This has worked out well. The product looks good, it costs me less to have them printed then to print them myself, and it takes up much less of my time. This has allowed me to have extras printed to donate to my favorite charities as well as allow friends and coworkers to order them. So on this last day of 2009 I present the photos that are featured in this years Ecobirder 2010 calendar.
The cover of the calendar is a photo that I took at the 2009 Fall Raptor Release which was held at Carpenter Nature Center. The immature red-tailed hawk in the photo had just been released back to the wild after going through the clinic at The Raptor Center. The couple of times that I have had the opportunity to release a raptor back to the wild, either through The Raptor Center or Hawk Ridge, have been some of the coolest moments of my life.
January features a great horned owl female at a nest with two young owlets. This photo was taken in May at Hyland Park in Bloomington, MN. I found out about this nest while I was at the Spring Raptor Release and located it with the help of a couple of crows. This was one of two great horned owl nests that I regularly photographed early in 2009.
For February I chose this picture of a pair of wood ducks which I took in May at the Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield, MN. Even though wood ducks are pretty common around here they are still one of the most colorful and good looking ducks that you can find. The perfect reflection on the day that I took the shot added to the magic of the pic which is why I chose it for this years calender.
Each year a few of the photos that grace the calendar come from our travels. In 2009 we visited Yellowstone in May and took a lot of photos including this picture of a badger mother with one of her kits that is featured for March. We have seen and photographed badgers before in Yellowstone but this year we were lucky, with the help of many other photographers, to find a den. We spent a total of about 7 hours over two days waiting and we were finally rewarded when mom brought out four kits.
April is represented by this Osprey that we photographed just outside of West Yellowstone while we were on our Yellowstone trip. We usually see quite a few osprey when we are driving through Yellowstone but often they are a ways away. This year, since we went to Idaho before stopping at Yellowstone, we took a different route and went through Bozeman, MT to get to West Yellowstone instead of going through the park. On our way through we spotted several pair of osprey nesting close to the road so we stopped to take a couple of pics.
Each year when I am choosing the pictures that will go into the calendar I like to make sure that I give people a little variety. There are always a lot of bird pics and usually quite a few from Yellowstone so I like to mix in a couple that are a little different. One of those for this year is May's photo of an eastern tiger swallowtail. We found this swallowtail on a trip to Necedah NWR in Wisconsin. Part of the reason for the trip was to photograph the endangered Karner blue butterfly, which we got a lot of good pics of, but this was swallowtail fluttering between the wildflowers near the side of the road was the pic of the day.
I believe that this individual kestrel has now appeared in the Ecobirder calendar for two years in a row, which would be a first. We first photographed this kestrel in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone in 2008. That picture was featured in October of the 2009 calendar. In 2009 we photographed the kestrel again, we assume that is the same one because it was in the exact same area, and this year he is anchoring the summer appearing on the month of June.
July sports another representative from Yellowstone. We spotted this young grizzly bear twice in the same day, morning and early evening. It was fun to watch him dig ground squirrels out of their tunnels in the morning as he was looking for breakfast, but the best shots, including the one above came in the early evening when the sun was beginning to drop which lit the bear up in a golden light.
Our Yellowstone trip this year included a side trip for a couple of days at the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area for their first birding festival. Since we did not have much time and this was our first trip to the area we wanted to spend more time on our own. So we only signed up for one field trip at the festival, a couple of hours viewing burrowing owls. Before going on our field trip we had some time to kill so we went exploring on our own. We found burrowing owls and got some great pics, including the one above which is in the calendar for August, and we almost skipped the field trip, but since we payed for it we decided to go. We were very happy that we did because during the field trip we got the chance to hold and photograph baby burrowing owlets.
I wanted to include some dragonfly pics in the calendar, especially since I took so many dragon pics last year, but Michelle is not very fond of dragonflies, they are bugs and bugs are ugly. We compromised with Septembers picture of a bee in flight. Bees are insects too but I guess that they are not as ugly, in Michelle's opinion, as dragonflies. What can I say she does have veto power and she decided to use it.
Over the summer I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to photograph two different spotted sandpiper chicks. Both were being raised on the shore of the St Croix River, one near the Snake River Landing and this one further south at Wild River State Park. Baby sandpiper can be tricky to photograph. These were both too young to fly away but they could run very fast and were both experts at disappearing into the grass and weeds.
We try to go to Yellowstone mainly in the spring because we have found that is the best time to see a lot of wildlife especially the babies. This year we found out about a fox den so we made a trip way over to the east entrance of the park where we found a red fox with four pups. The pups were playful and cute and not very afraid of the people there taking pictures. This pair of pups I chose for November.
During the winter I spend a lot of time out looking for winter owls and other special winter species. The best place to look for these birds in Minnesota, and possibly one of the best in the US, is the Sax Zim Bog. In 2009 I attended the Sax Zim Bog Birding Festival, for the second year in a row, where I had the opportunity to see many marvelous winter migrants including the northern hawk owl which was my pick for December.
On the Back of the calendar there is an option for an additional picture, as well as a calender for the following year. Since I like as many pictures as possible on my calendars I chose the option and filled it with this picture of a common loon. The common loon is the Minnesota State bird, however I took this picture at Crex Meadows in Wisconsin.
I hope you enjoyed the calendar pictures, I think that they are pretty good representation of the blog for 2009. I hope that everyone has a happy new year and comes back to visit the blog to see what cool pics 2010 will bring.

Mr Blue Sky

Sun is shinin' in the sky
There ain't a cloud in sight
It's stopped rainin' ev'rybody's in a play
and don't you know
It's a beautiful new day hey, hey
This is a piece of the song Mr Blue Sky by Jeff Lynn and ELO. ELO was one of my favorite groups while I was growing up and this is a classic ELO song. If you are ever in a bad mood play this song and it will help cheer you up. I think that the lyrics go well with this beautiful sky reflection.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Green Heron

Wow, it looks as though this green heron really does not want to go into the water. Maybe the water was too cold but that is probably not the problem since this pic was taken in the middle of September at the Bass Ponds. Maybe he is just afraid of what might be under the surface of that green water. dum dum.. dum dum.. dum dum dum dum dum dum.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Lights

This year, here where I live in Minnesota, we had ourselves a white Christmas. A winter storm blew into town dropping snow from December 23rd through the 25th. It made traveling quite difficult but it made everything outside look kind of magical for the holidays.
On my way home from celebrating with my wife's family on Christmas Eve I spotted this tree, which was decorated, near the side of the road. The combination of new snow and holiday lights looked cool so since I had my camera with I stopped to take a couple of pics.
At first I tried to shoot like I normally shoot wildlife but it was so dark that the shutter seemed to hold open forever. Unfortunately standing out in the cold with the wind blowing I was not steady enough with the camera and you can see the result in the first pic above. Although that looked kind of cool I still wanted a pic of the tree so next I tried to take the shot using my flash but as you can see in the second photo the falling snow reflected back the light of the flash leaving bright spots all over the pic. Finally I shot with out the flash but turned the ISO up on the camera to 1600. The final picture is the one directly above and even though it is a little grainy it gives you an idea of how beautiful this tree was on Christmas Eve night.
I took the lessons that I learned photographing the tree and stopped to photograph some of the holiday decorations at houses near where I live.
There are quite a few houses that are decorated where I live so I could have continued on for most of the night.
There was a lull in the storm at this time so even though it was still snowing a bit it was really not that bad out.
Unfortunately the holidays will be over soon and the lights will come down. It's too bad because at this time of year it gets dark here so early in the day, but with all of the holiday lights on the world seems a bit less dark and much more cheerful.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saffron-winged Meadowhawk

One of the easier to identify meadowharks that are found in this area is the saffron winged meadowhawk. The easiest way to ID a saffron-winged meadowhawk is to observe the leading edge of each wing. If the edge is a gold, or saffron color then it is a saffron-winged meadowhawk. The males are usually red with the gold edged wings and red wing veins. The females, like the one pictured above, are yellow in color with yellow or orange wing veins. Both male and females have black triangles running up the bottoms of their abdomen and black top spots on sections eight and nine. I photographed this dragon at Park Point in Duluth back on September 20th.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hardy Waterlily Black Princess

Taken at the Como Zoo water garden this summer.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays

Like most people I will be spending the holidays with my family.
But part of my family decided to get an early start on their celebrating.
Peanut decided that wearing hats was just not her style.
Sleeping in them was another thing all together though, nice and warm.
But you know how curious cats can be and it did not take long for Magic to come and check things out.
He was a little to big to sleep in the hat, like Peanut.
So he settled for wearing it instead.

to you and your family!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Twas the Day Before Christmas

Twas the day before Christmas

and all 'round the house

not a creature was stirring

not even a mouse.

The mice dare not stir

because up in the skies

was a big red-tailed hawk

with its keen raptor eyes

Happy Holidays

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Canada goose

One of the larger waterfowl that we commonly see in the northern parts of North America is the Canada goose. Although they are quite common today the Canada goose was facing a serious population decline in the early to mid 1900s. this was due mainly to habitat loss and over hunting. A subspecies of Canada goose, the giant Canada goose, was thought to be extinct until a flock of them were found in Rochester, MN in 1962. To prevent these birds from becoming extinct hunting laws were changed and land was set aside to provide habitat. Since then there population has rebound and are now often viewed on by some people as a pest.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wisconsin Point Lighthouse

Growing up in the middle of the North America you can miss a few things. Like you do not find any mountains in Minnesota, the closest that you find are the Black Hills in North and South Dakota about 12 hours away. Your also quite a distance from the nearest ocean. I did not see an ocean until I was in my thirties. We may not have any oceans near Minnesota but we do have the next best thing, Lake Superior.
Lake Superior has the largest surface area of any lake in the world. Large ships traverse up the great lake from the ocean and pull into ports on Lake Superior like Duluth and Two Harbors. Along the rugged shore of the lake there are many lighthouses to help the ships avoid the rocky edges. This is the lighthouse that stands at Wisconsin Point. Built back in the early 1900s this lighthouse sits at the edge of the largest opening, there are only 2, in the long sandbar that runs between Duluth, MN and Superior, WI. The lighthouse was automated back in 1970 and as you can see was under basic maintenance at the time I took these photos.