Sunday, July 31, 2011

American Rubyspot

Damselflies are what you might call cousins to dragonflies. They are both a suborder of the same order, Odonata. Itsort of the way that moths are related to butterflies. What distinguishes a damselfly from a dragonfly are the wings. Damselflies have wings that are about the same size and shape where the forewing on dragons differs in size and shape from the hindwing. We have 3 families of damselflies here in Minnesota. The group with the largest and most colorful damsels is the broadwing family.
Here in Minnesota we have three species of broadwing damselfly. The river and ebony jewelwings, which have a metalic green colored body and at least partially black wings, and the American rubyspot, which is pictured above. The American rubyspot is a damselfly assosiated with small rivers and creeks. They are oftern seen perched on a blade of grass on a river bank basking in the sun. The sunlight seems to eluminate their red color often making them appear to glow. This is particularily true of the males, both pics above are males. The females typically are a duller red color mixed with some green.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Birdfoot Violet

Birdfoot violet is one of around ten species of vioter that can be found growing in this area. A native plant, it typically blloms in the spring. Since it prefers sandy or rocky soil the sand prairies at Crex Meadows, where I photographed the plant, are a perfect habitat.

Friday, July 29, 2011

All of the Little Ones are Growing Up

One of the highlights of spring and early summer is the chance to photograph a lot of babys. This year I was photographing everything from great horned owl chicks to merlin chicks to eastern kingbirds feeding their chick. However by now most of the chicks have grown up and are learning how to survive out on their own.

The common loon nests on clear freshwater lakes. Nests are often located on floating islands of vegetation or on top of muskrat mounds. Having a nest surrounded by water helps to keep away some of the land based predators.

Loons typically lay 2 to 4 eggs. They incubate them for 27 to 30 days. Hatchlings are able to leave the nest with in a day or so of hatching. For their first couple weeks of life they will spend a majority of their time riding on their parents back. This helps to keep them safe from some of the predators under the water, such as pike, until they are stronger swimmers.
It takes about 11 weeks before the young loons fledge. This young one was working on his first flight. Loons spend a majority of their time on the water. They are built more for swimming then they are flying. Most of their food, primarily fish, frogs and aquatic invertabrates, is caught by diving and much of it is consumed under the water. In order to dive deep, they can dive over 200 feet below the surface, they do not have hollow bones like most birds do which makes them heavy for their size. Adult loons weigh about 12 pounds, or about the same as an large adult female eagle in Minnesota, which means that they need a lot of room to take off into the air.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


The osprey is one of the more interesting raptors that we have here in North America. Once called a fishing hawk the osprey is not actually a hawk at all. It is the only raptor in North America, that is not an owl, that has the ability to reverse one of its outer toes, allowing it to have two toes pointing forward and two back or 3 toes forward and one toe back. This adaptation comes in handy when the osprey is grabbing a slippery fish and trying to hoist it out of the water.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

European Skipper

The Three Forms of Water

We all know that matter has three forms, liquid, solid and gas. In most cases it is rare to find conditions where you can see two forms of a substance at the same time but water is the exception. Here on the Madison River in Yellowstone we were able to see all three forms of water. The liquid form flowing in the river, the solid snow on the shoreline and steam rising up from the water which was warmer then the surrounding air.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back in Business!

After nearly three weeks the stand off between the Republican held Minnesota Congress and Democratic Governor finally came to an end last week. The debate was over the approximately 5 billion dollar deficit left by our ex Governor now presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, of BS. The congress was looking to slash government spending to make up for the short fall where the current governor wanted to balance the budget through spending cuts and raising taxes on the top 4% of wage earners, so they would pay the same percentage as the rest of us Minnesotans.
Even after the Governor came half way in the negotiations and added more spending cuts and was looking to increase taxes on only the top 2%, about 60,000 people, the congress would not budge and so on July 1st with no budget agreement the government shut down. Thousands of government employees were laid off as well as many private employees that worked for government contractors, like those working on fixing the roads. Schools, cities and counties did not get any of their budgeted many from the state. The state lottery shut down cutting the state revenue even more. Thousands of people had their plans ruined as the state parks were closed up and hotels, restaurants, car rental agencies and the airlines lost money because many tourists went to places other then Minnesota. Finally the governor gave in. He could not take all of the punishment that the shutdown was placing on the state and its citizens. He accepted a plan from the borrow and spend congress which balanced the budget on a combination of cuts and borrowing. He did manage to get some of the awful parts of the Republican budget expunged. So the everything is now getting back to normal but at some point in the future people will need to realize that all of the great things in life that we take for granted every day are not free and the way that we pay for all of the good stuff that the government and society grant us is through our taxes.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Wordless - Horned Clubtail

Most clubtail dragonflies are found around streams and rivers. The clubtail nymphs typically require water with a lot of oxygen which you find only around running water. The exception to this are the pond clubtails, Genus Arigomphus. The pond clubtails in this part of the country consist of the lilypad clubtail and the horned clubtail, pictured above. Horned clubtails are often found perched on floating vegetation such as lily pads or floating algae mats. I photographed this one at the wetlands that overflow from Purgatory Creek

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Como Zoo Water Garden

Como Zoo and Conservatory has once again put together their water garden this summer. The plants are actually grown in pots and then submerged in the water around the front of the zoo. I am guessing that doing things this way let's them get a start on the growing season when the water outside is still too cold.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ruby-throated Hummer

The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummer that breeds in the eastern half of North America. During the breeding season these hummers can be found from southern Canada south to the gulf coast. During the winter they migrate down to Central America.

Hummers are a member of the order Apodiformes. Apodiformes means footless in Latin. While hummers are not footless they have very small legs. The legs of the ruby-throated hummer are so small that it is almost impossible for them to walk or hop. Instead of hoping or walking like other birds hummers often hover and then dart to a new location. Their wings beat on average 52 beats per minute and they can reach speeds of 63 mph in a dive or 50 mph in escape mode.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Rainbow by Theresa Ann Moore

 Summer rains relieve the thirst of the earth.
Reviving wilting plants and inspiring birth.
Sparing the ecosystem from many fatalities.
The air is cleansed of impure abnormalities.

Our attention is captured when we realize
A huge rainbow has formed to mesmerize.
We observe a spectacular spectrum of awe
Curving to create an arch without a flaw.

With absolute perfection, it truly amazes.
As the hour passes, it fades from our gazes.
It was a delight to view the fantastic display.
With a bit of sadness, I wished it could stay.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Atlantis Fritillary

Mirror Mirror

Is this frog checking out his reflection? I am not sure which type of frog that he is. I am guessing either a mink or green frog but at this angle I can't see the necessary field marks to tell which. I took the photo at Boulder Lake Nature Center in Duluth, MN.
I wonder what he might be thinking? What do you think?

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Return to River Bend

Last year I participated in a number of MOSP (Minnesota Odonata Survey Project) around the state. One was held at the River Bend Nature Center located in Faribault, MN about 25 miles south of the Twin Cities. The nature center had a good variety of habitats so I decided to return there last weekend.

Although I was primarily looking for dragonflies and damselflies, River Bend Nature Center is one of those places where you can see a great variety of nature. This is why I like spending time in nature centers because while looking for dragonflies you might get lucky and find a cooperative belted kingfisher.
The nature center has several wetland areas as well as some hardwood forests and open prairie. Wild flowers are in bloom forming a colorful carpet through out most of the grounds. Many insects, such as this bronze copper, were dining on nectar from the flowers and in turn helping to pollinate them.
The River Bend Nature Center began back in 1970s as the realization of a dream of the Faribault Naturalist Club. In 1975 they convinced the Faribault City Council to purchase 487 acres of land from the state for the purpose of building a, "Nature and Agricultural Interpretive Center." The land was acquired in 1978 and in 1979 it was named the River Bend Nature Center, after the Great Bend in the Straight River which runs through the grounds. More land was acquired over time, the park is currently 743 acres, and 1991 a new interpretive center was opened, replacing the Trail Side Center which had been built back in 1980.

Down by the river there were many dragonflies and damselflies. Most of the damselflies that I saw down by the river where broadwinged damselflies, such as ebony jewelwings or the American rubyspot pictured above.
For dragons I saw quite a few skimmers flying around, including common whitetail, twelve-spotted skimmers, and meadowhawks, but I was hoping to find some clubtails. I was finally rewarded when I found this riverine clubtail. I have only seen this type of clubtail once before, during the Minnesota Dragonfly Gathering of 2010 in Morris, MN. So I was pretty excited to get a chance to get some good pics. I was going to try and net it, I was not sure if one of this species had ever been recorded in the county, unfortunately it took off over the trees before I could switch over to my net.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Descriptive Dot-tailed Whiteface

Have you ever wondered how a bird, plant, animal or insect got its name? When you look at things like red-bellied woodpeckers and ring-necked ducks do you think that the person who named them must have been on crack?
Well the dot-tailed whiteface dragonfly is not in that category. As you can see from the top picture this pond skimmer does have a dot near the end of its abdomen, which many people call a tail. The photo above demonstrates that it is indeed a member of the genus Leucorrhinia, or whiteface. A common dragonfly seen around here especially early in the summer, they are easy to identify because of their aptly descriptive name.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Black-eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susan is a native member of the Aster family commonly found in fields and along roadsides. I photographed these at Sherburne NWR.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Loggerhead Shrike the Butcher Bird

Whenever I ask people if they know what a raptor is I often have people tell me that they are birds of prey. While all raptors are birds of prey, not all birds of prey are raptors. Take the loggerhead shrike for example, this small songbird is actually a bird of prey feeding on a diet of insects, small mammals, small reptiles and birds.

Raptors use their strong talons to catch and kill their prey but the shrike does not have talons, which is the main reason it is not classified as a raptor. Instead of using its feet the shrike uses its beak to catch its prey. The shrike has a notch on its beak called a tomial tooth which it uses to sever the spinal cord of its prey, falcons also have a tomial tooth. The shrike will then wedge the prey in a crevice or impale it on barbwire or a branch and use its hooked beak to rip it into bite size pieces. While loggerhead shrikes are found in western Minnesota during the summer, a loggerhead sighting is more rare then spotting one of their cousins the northern shrike, which we see during the winter. I photographed this loggerhead at the Laguna Atascosa NWR in south Texas.