Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wolf Spider with Her Egg Sack

Since today is Halloween I decided that I should try and post something that is fitting with the season. So what better macro subject fits with All Hallows Eve then a spider. I photographed this wolf spider at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.
There are over 200 different species of wolf spiders around the world. They are typically brown and black in color. All wolf spiders have 8 different eyes. The eyes are arranged in three rows with four small eyes in the bottom row, two large eyes in the middle row, and two medium eyes in the top row. Unfortunately I could not get the spider to look directly at me for the picture so most of the eyes are not visible in these pics.
With all of their eyes, wolf spider have very good eye sight. This is important because wolf spiders do not use webs to catch their prey, like many other spiders do. Instead they hunt for their prey, patrolling the ground in search of insects and other spiders. They do have a venomous bite but the venom is usually not harmful to people and typically only leads to some swelling and itching.
The white ball at the back end of the spider in the picks above is an egg sack. Wolf spiders often lay many eggs at once which they wrap up in webbing and carry around attached to their spinnerets. These eggs take about two to four weeks to hatch. Once they hatch the young spiders will crawl from the webbing and hitch a ride on the back of mom's abdomen.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hardy Waterlily Gloire Du TempleSur Lot

Here is a waterlily that I photographed at the water garden at the Como Zoo.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Long-eared Owl Lilydale

Minnesota can be a pretty cool place to live if you like owls. We have quite a variety of different owls that can be found in different places through out the state depending upon the time of the year. For instance, we frequently see northern hawkowls in the northern part of the state during the winter. They often come down from Canada when there are shortages of food. Boreal owls and great greys also can be seen in the northern part of the state during winter, but they are a lot harder to find. Snowy owls sometimes come down from the Arctic during the winter, but they often travel further south then the other northern owls. Great horned, bared, eastern screech owls, saw whet owls, long and short eared owls can also be found around the state. from time to time we even get a burrowing owl or two that comes over from the Dakotas.
Last year I was lucky enough to get my first pics of a wild long-eared owl. Although not rare in Minnesota the long-eared owls are not often seen. They are a nocturnal owl that can hunt in almost complete darkness. During the day they usually perch in dense woods. We found this long-eared after last years Hasting's Christmas bird count in Lilydale Park, it had been spotted in a previous Christmas Bird Count. It was perched in a pretty dense evergreen tree. The resolution is not that great because it was already dark out when I took the shots so I cranked up the ISO on the camera.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Beauty of the Sky by Manzoor ilahi

Beauty of the sky, is the richness of the blue.
Deepness of the sky, is the richness of the red.
Darkness of the sky, is the richness of the black.
Freshness of the sky, is the richness of the rain.
Glimpses of the sky, is the richness of the stars.
Smile of the sky, is the richness of the moon.
Sparks of the sky, is the richness of the lightning.
Beauty of the sky, is the richness of the clouds...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Immature Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Painted Turtle

The painted turtle is a common sight at fresh waterways across North America. At home in ponds, marshes, lakes rivers and other permanent bodies of water the painted turtle is most often spotted sunning themselves on a rock or log on warm sunny days. They spend most of their time underwater, even sleeping in the mud at the bottom of the pond, lake or such. They can survive a long time underwater with out coming up to take a breathe by absorbing oxygen through the skin of their throats and near their anus. This unique way of absorbing oxygen, and their very slow metabolism, help them to survive for months buried in the mud under the water and ice during the winter.

Monday, October 25, 2010

TRC Fall Raptor Release

Each year The Raptor Center puts on two big public releases, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. This years fall release took place on September 25th at the Carpenter Nature Center.
These events are kind of a big deal, were we bring most of our educational birds so that the public can get a good close up view of these very cool birds. We also do programs to help educate the public about raptors and other environmental issues.
Of course the highlight of the event is the actual bird release. Since there are usually more birds that are rehabbed over the summer we usually have more birds to release at the fall event. This fall we had two different release times and we released four birds at each release.
We were a little worried about the weather this year. It drizzled in the morning but stopped before the event began at 10am. The grey skies even parted for a short while during the first release, letting a little sun shine down on the crowd. Maybe someone upstairs was watching over the event.
Carpenter Nature Center is the perfect place to hold the fall event. The prairie had already begun to change to a wonderful tapestry of yellow, orange and red, and the trees were just beginning to turn. The apples in the orchard were red and ripe and I grabbed a bag on my way out.
The best part of holding the event at the Carpenter Nature Center though is that it is one of a few places that The Raptor Center uses to release rehabilitated eagles. Since it is located on the conjunction of the St Croix and Mississippi rivers it has the perfect habitat for eagles and since there are no eagles who have a nesting territory in the park there is no problems releasing a stranger into the area. We released two immature eagles during the event one at each program.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Eastern Amberwing

One of the smaller dragonflies that we see around here are the eastern amberwing. At about .9 inches the only dragonfly smaller is the elfin skimmer, which reach about .8 inches. They are sometimes mistaken for Halloween pennants, because of their color, but their much smaller size, Halloween pennants are about 1.5 inches, is a dead give away.They are members of the skimmer family and like many other skimmers their colorful wings help to identify them as skimmers. Their preferred habitat is still stagnant waters, such as ponds and backwaters, in the eastern half of the United States and southeastern Canada. I frequently see them perched on rafts of floating vegetation.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Black-eyed Susan

One of the common flowers that you can find anywhere that there is bright sunlight around here is the black-eyed susan. This native member of the aster family got its name from the dark center of the flower.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Killdeer Chick

Usually when birders think of shorebird habitat they think of open mudflats with very little vegetation. One of the big exceptions to this rule are killdeer. These plovers are often found in yards, parks, golf courses and dirt roads. That was why I was surprised to find some killdeer breeding at the Maplewood Nature Center.
Warm and dry weather had turned the typically shallow lake into a series of mud flats and shallow pools. I spotted three young ones but it was hard to tell for sure if that was all of them because they spent most of their time hiding in the vegetation. At first I was not sure which type of plover that they were, since the young only have a single strip just like other plovers like the semipalmated or Wilson's plover, then I heard the "killdeer" call of the adult and I knew exactly which plover that I was photographing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fall Reflections

Here is another fall reflection that I took at the St Croix National Scenic Riverway Marshland Center. You are looking at the Wisconsin border reflected in the waters of the St Croix River. I was shooting northwest with the sun, what little there was, at my back.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

American Goldfinch

Dark Fishfly?

I found this insect in the water where the Snake River intersects the St Croix River. From its appearance and the habitat in which I found it I believe that is a type of dark fishfly, probably Nigronia serricornis. Dark fishfly are members of the Corydalidae family, which includes fishflies and dobsonflies, that are usually found in clean stream and rivers with rapids. The Nigronia serricornis dark fishfly has less white on the wings then other dark fishflies which is why I believe that it is this type. The only mystery is the length of the antennae, which is much shorter in the picture then they usually are. It is possible that it might have lost part of its antennae, maybe to a predator.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Grey Cloud Island Eagle Nest

Earlier this year I heard about an active eagles nest out on Grey Cloud Island. So while I was out checking to see if any osprey were nesting on the osprey platform on Grey Cloud Island I decided to see if I could find the eagles nest. The nest was located on a portion of the island that is still wild. Fortunately it was located right on the shoreline so it was visible from the roadside across the water.
I made several stops to the nest in May to photograph the three you eaglets that were in the nest. My first stop was on May 2nd. The first photo in the post was taken on that day. At that point I could barely see the eaglets. It was not until I got home and looked at the pictures that I determined that there were 3 young, at first I only saw what I thought was two. Eagles generally lay one to three eggs. In this second picture, which was taken one week later, you can see that the eaglets still have not begun to grow in feathers over their down but they were begin to sit up more often which made them easier to see and photograph.
By May 27th, which was when the photo above was taken, all of their feathers were in and they had grown quite a bit. Mom no longer had to stay in the nest all of the time to keep them warm, which is fortunate, because she could now help dad catch fish in the surrounding Mississippi. The three young eaglets were almost as large as their parents. Unfortunately because of bad weather and my schedule I did not get the opportunity to photograph their first flights but that leaves me something to look forward to in 2011.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


This weeks macro pic is of a grasshopper. Most people think that all grasshoppers are the same. This is not true though. Actually there are about 11,000 different species of grasshoppers. They are all a member of the Acrididae family which is a part of the order Orthoptera, which includes grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets.