Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gray Catbird

Willet at Sunrise

While we were at Bowdoin NWR in Montana we saw a few different shore birds including willets. There are two different populations of willets in North America. The western population breeds in fresh water habits, such as Montana, and winters on the Pacific Coast. The eastern population is slightly smaller and breeds in salt water habitats along the Atlantic Coast. This is an example of an eastern willet that I photographed on the gulf coast of Texas last year.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Old Faithful

I hope that you have enjoyed the posts over the past week. They were all posted in advance because Michelle and I have spent the past week taking pictures in Yellowstone National Park. I believe that this was our 7th trip to Yellowstone and despite some of the weather and other factors we had a very fun and productive trip.

Our typical day of vacation consisted of 12 to 15 hours of either shooting or driving or most often both. This did not leave me with much time to work on the raw images so I decided to start with something easy like Old Faithful. Old Faithful was named by the Washburn Expedition in 1870. The Washburn Expedition, which was headed by Henry Washburn the surveyor general of Montana, surveyed and named many of the landmarks in what is now Yellowstone Park.Old Faithful received its name because of its size and the frequency in which it erupted, however it is not the largest or the most regularly erupting geyser in Yellowstone. Old faithful erupts every 35 minutes to two hours. Because it has been thoroughly studied for many years it is pretty easy for the park staff to predict, with in a few minutes, when the next eruption will take place. Eruptions last anywhere from about a minute and a half to five minutes. From the first picture you can see that the eruption begins with small puffs of steam which emit from the geyser. Eventually boiling water joins with the steam rising anywhere from 90 to 184 feet above the ground, second pic. The flow of water and steam then begin to slow down until the geyser goes silent again, above.

Next to Old Faithful stand the Old Faithful Inn. The Inn was built back in 1903-1904 largely with local lodgepole pine logs. It is currently the worlds largest log hotel that is still in existence, at 700 feet in length and 7 stories high. The lobby opens up 65 feet to the ceiling with balconies lining its sides and a 85 foot 500 ton rhyolite fireplace standing in the center. The hotel was damaged during the Hebgen Lake earthquake in 1959 and was almost consumed by fire in the North Fork Fire of 1988 but it managed to survive and in 1987 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. Through the century plus that the hotel has been standing it has housed many thousands of visitors to the park as well as 6 US Presidents.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

One of the largest and most easily recognized dragonflies that we see here in Minnesota is the twelve-spotted skimmer. The twelve-spot is named for the series of spots that are seen on the wings. Each wing has three spots making for a total of twelve spots for all four wings.
While the male twelve-spotted is unmistakable the female pictured here looks similar to the female common whitetail. They are both similar in color and have twelve wing spots. The way to distinguish between the two is to look at the yellow top spots that run across the top of the abdomen. In the twelve-spot the top spots form a smooth straight line while on the common whitetail female the top spots form a jagged zigzag line. Since the top spots on the dragons in these pictures form a straight line we know that this is a twelve-spotted skimmer.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

White Waterlily

The white, or fragrant, water lily is an aquatic plant that is native through out most of North America. It is comprised of a large under water grouping of stems called rhizomes, which anchor the plant to the lake bottom, hollow stalks which transmit primarily oxygen from the leaves floating on the surface of the water down to the rhizomes, large flat rounded leaves, which are green above and purple below, and a flower which sits on its own stalk.
Reproduction occurs through seeding or rhizome division. The water lily has a unique form of pollination. When the flower first blossoms a fluid fills the center of the flower. The petals are designed in a way so that an insect visiting the flower will fall into the liquid. The liquid then dissolves any pollen that might be stuck on the insect. The next day no liquid is produced and instead pollen is released. After the flower is pollinated it is pulled under the surface of the water where it develops into a fruit that holds up to 2000 seeds.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mountain Bluebird

The mountain bluebird is one of three species of bluebirds found in North America. Its range is in the Rocky Mountain Region from as far north as Alaska, during the summer, down to Central America. Much of this range overlaps with the range of the western bluebird. Mountain bluebirds and western bluebirds compete for territories. On rare occasions mountain bluebirds have been spotted in Minnesota during migration or in the winter but the only time that we have had the chance to photograph them is when we take a trip to Yellowstone National Park.
Like the other bluebirds the mountain bluebird is a cavity nester. The nest is built by the female only. The male, as seen here, will often go through the motions of assisting but will not actually help in nest building. The nest is made up of grass lined with fine grass, feathers, or other soft material. The clutch consists of 4 to 8 pale blue eggs.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Barn by Ralph Wainscott

The beauty of a barn,

With high graceful eaves,

Can enhance any setting,

With the enchantment it weaves.

Whether built of wood,

Or built of stone,

The barn is a monarch,

Even standing alone.

When it gets old

And no longer in use

It stands there stately,

While suffering abuse.

To think of a future,

With no barns to be found,

The loss to mankind

Would clearly be profound.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Karner Blue


It's kind of funny, in a sad sort of way, how we often take things that we think are common for granted. The mallard duck is a good example of this. Because the mallard is common through out most of North America, with popualtions in Canada migrating to the gulf coast area, many people, myself included, do not take the time to photograph them. This is too bad since the male mallard is a very handsome looking duck.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Split Rock

The Split Rock Lighthouse up on the north shore of Lake Superior is one of my favorite places to photograph.

Even though they are not a part of nature lighthouses fascinate me for some reason. Maybe it is their history or how they stand stoically in the landscape.
Split Rock is great because it combines a picturesque light house with a landscape that can take your breathe away.
I am working to try and build a series of shot of the lighthouse in different seasons andCheck Spelling under different conditions. As you can see I already have pics of the lighthouse in fog and some in the fall.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Photographing Dragonflies

Identifying dragonflies from pictures can be a tricky task. Organizations like Odonata Central will not even consider photographs as a record of a sighting for many different species because they look so similar to a different species.
So if you want to take pictures of dragonflies the best tip that I can give you is to try and photograph them from as many different angles as possible. If you are photographing them to turn into a survey as a record the best thing to do is to net them and then photograph them in hand making sure to photograph distinguishing features.
Or if you happen to find a cooperative dragon, like this immature blue dasher, you can move around the subject taking pictures from different angles, in this case front view, abdomen view and profile.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Flowering Trees are Blooming

The flowering trees here have finally begun to bloom.
You can find blooming trees almost any where such as yards, parks, or along city streets.

These types of ornamental trees help to add a lot of color to the landscape.
They also fill the air with a sweet natural perfume.
They help provide nectar and pollen for many insects and later on fruit for birds and animals.Plus all trees are very important for our survival, since they help to fill our air with the oxygen which we need to live. So you don't have to go out and hug a tree but hopefully you appreciate them.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Super Mom

Earlier this week, while I was out looking for warblers to photograph, I came a robin building it's nest in a small tree cavity down in Crosby Farms Park. It reminded me that soon it will be time to photograph the babies. The American robin is one of the earliest song birds, in North America, to lay eggs each year. Because of this they often have two or even three broods per year.

The female robin does all of the work. She builds a nest of grass and twigs in a tree or bush typically 5 to 15 feet off the ground. She uses mud to reinforce the nest and then lines the inside with something soft, such as feathers or fine grasses. She will then lay her clutch of 3 to 5 sky blue eggs which she will incubate for the next two weeks. When the chicks hatch they are altrical, helpless, with no feathers and eyes closed. For about two weeks mom will need to be the food provider, protector and heater for the new born chicks until they are ready to leave the nest. Once they fledge they continue to follow mom around looking for food, but a couple of weeks after they fledge they will be capable of sustained flight and finding food on their own. Once all of the chicks can take care of themselves mom will begin working on a new nest for a second brood.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Can You Say Phallic?

Each Wednesday, when I volunteer at The Raptor Center, I park several blocks away because I really hate to pay for parking. I usually cut through the cooperative apartment complex and then pass this building with its huge smoke stack. Yesterday the sky was very blue with a few white wispy clouds so I decided to stop and take a couple of pics.

The building is the central heating building for the St Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. The University uses a centralized heating and cooling system to heat the entire campus, at least on the St Paul campus I have not spent much time at the main campus. The centralized heating is more efficient then running heating for each building separately, cheaper for the University and better for the planet.