The little blue heron is a small heron that is found in the southern portion of the Atlantic coast, the Gulf Coast, Mexico, Central America, and portions of South America. Although it is typically found in coastal areas it prefers to live in fresh water habitats such as marshes, swamps, ponds, rivers and other wetlands.
The little blue heron is a communal nester, often nesting with other species of herons as well as egrets. The stick nest is built by both adults, the male presenting sticks to the female who uses them to build the nest. Little blue heron chicks are all white for their first year of life. While they are young they are more accepted by white egrets, snowy and great, and will often catch more fish while they are around snowy egrets. It is believed that the white coloration helps the young to blend in with the white egrets, which have a higher population, thus increasing their chances of survivability.
The term grosbeak does not refer to any specific family or genus of birds. Instead grosbeak is a term that refers to a physical feature that a number of different seed eating birds share. Although all of these birds are passerines they all belong to a different genus. For instance the pine grosebeak, pictured above, is a member of the genus Pinicola.
The evening grosbeak, pictured above, is in the same family as the pine grosbeak, Fringillidae, but is a member of the genus Coccothraustes. The genus Coccothraustes also includes the hawk finch and the hooded grosbeak. Both the pine grosbeak and evening grosbeak are closely related to finches.
The rose-breasted grosbeak, the one pictured above is an immature, is the most common grosbeak found in my area. The rose-breasted grosbeak is a member of the Cardinalidae family and is in the genus Pheucticus, which also includes the yellow, golden-bellied, black-thighed, and black-headed grosbeaks.
The blue grosbeak is also a member of the Cardinalidae family but they are found in the genus passerina. The genus passerina also includes the North American bunting species including the indigo and painted buntings. Since both the rose-breasted and blue grosbeaks are members of the Cardinalidae family they are both also related to cardinals. There are many other types of grosbeaks in a variety of different genus' found around the world but unfortunately these are the only types that I have ever found here in Minnesota.
This weekend I decided to drive over to the middle of Wisconsin to Visit the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. I try to go to Necedah a couple of times each year. The primary reason that I go is to photograph the endangered Karner blue butterfly but unfortunately I was a little late for that this year. However Necedah also has a healthy population of nesting red-headed woodpecker which I also like to photograph.
Although not endangered there are many people who are concerned about the continued existence of the red-headed woodpecker. In the past forty years their population has declined by 90%. Most of this is due to habitat loss. Red-headed woodpecker live in sparsely populated woodlands with an abundance of dead wood around. The dead wood is important because they drill holes into it for nesting cavities. They also use bored holes to cache food. Unlike many other species of woodpeckers most of their food comes from seeds or insects that they catch in flight. Since much of this food source is not available in the winter time it is important for the red-heads to cache food during the summer when it is plentiful. So as people remove dead wood because they deem it unsightly or are worried about fires, they also remove available habitat for the red-headed woodpecker. Fortunately there are still areas like Necedah where these birds can find a home I just wish that there were more places.
Meadowhawks are a genus, Sympetrum, of dragonflies in the skimmer family. They are typically seen flying Mid summer through until October. They can often be found in grassy fields as well as around most types of wetlands.
We see around 8 different species of meadowhawks here in Minnesota. Most mature male meadowhawks are red in color, except for the black meadowhawk, while females and immatures are a gold or brown color. It is very difficult to distinguish the immatures and females of several different species from one and other with out having them under a microscope so often they are just identified as meadowhawks.
Now is the time of the year when we see a lot of white water lily. This is the most common water lily here in Minnesota. Much of the water lily plant is below the water and is not visible. Attached to the round floating leaves are stalks which reach down through the water to an extensive stem and root system called the rhizomes. The stalks are spongy with four channels which the plant uses to transmit oxygen and carbon dioxide. Flower usually bloom in the morning but close again in the afternoon.
Wood frogs are an interesting species. They are much more terrestrial then many other types of frogs. They typically live in wooded habitats and often breed in temporary pools instead of ponds or lakes. This allows then to stay away from predators that are often found in and around larger and more permanent wetlands, like large fish and wading birds such as heron and egrets.
Wood frogs are a northern species that can survive temperatures below freezing. They do not typically hibernate in the water, instead they usually over winter in top soil or under brush piles. They survive freezing temperatures by storing up urea in their tissues prior to the on slot of winter. Their liver also begins to convert glycogen into large quantities of glucose as the temperatures begin to fall. The urea and glucose act as a kind of antifreeze allowing the frog to survive the winter as long as over 65% of their body water does not freeze.
Tower Creek near the Tower Falls in Yellowstone is one of my favorite little streams to photograph. I like to experiment with a variety of different shutter speeds to try and get a more unique photo. In this pic I slowed the shutter speed down so that the moving water would blur. This gives us a photo with a lot of implied movement as well as providing a contrast to the dark motionless rocks that litter the stream.
I can't think of a more reddish way to begin posting with Rudy Tuesday then featuring a reddish egret. These colorful waders are pretty rare here in the U.S. being found only in Florida and around the Gulf Coast. I photographed this one in Texas.
This weekend I spent a day helping The Raptor Center out down at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee, MN. In the past TRC has preformed at Ren Fest for special weekends but this year they are entertaining and educating crowds each weekend at the fest. With the expanded schedule TRC volunteers have been asked to help out so I decided to volunteer on day one of the festival.
In between programs I had time to run around the festival and take pictures of some of the more colorful participants. I found this guy outside of a leather shop. He looks like a walking advertisement.
Even though this costume looked very cool I bet that it was really hot. The mask, gloves and chest pieces looked like they probably would make it a long hot day but they did get a lot of attention.
This young satyr looked awesome. She came complete with pan flute and giant hoofs. The feet are what really make the costume. The hoofs are built on foot high platforms.
There were also some celebrities at this years celebration. Capt'n Jack took some time off from pirating to come visit with us peasants. His costume and looks was dead on, unfortunately I did not get to here him talk to see if he had the voice down too.
Virginia Ctenucha is a moth that is found in the eastern half of North America. It is a member of the Arctiidae family and the Ctenucha genus. They are a diurnal so they can be found during the day. They are the largest wasp type moth in North America. Notice the proboscis rolled up into a circle underneath the mouth. This straw like appendage is what the moth uses to drink nectar from flowers.
I believe that this little beauty is a Rose Pogonia, Pogoniaophioglossoides which is a member of the orchid family. It is native to Minnesota and most often found in wet habitat, such as swamps bogs, or peatland. I photographed this one in a wetland at the Warner Nature Center.
Although their name is some what of an oxymoron spiny softshell are one of several species of turtles that can be found in Minnesota. They are called softshell turtles because their shell is not as rigid as most other species of turtles. Instead it some what resembles tough leather. This different type of shell is helpful because it is more permeable then the shells of of other types of turtles. The more permeable shell allows them to breathe though their skin which is important because softshellturtles are more aquatic then other turtles.
They are typically active from May until late September. They spend much of their time buried in the mud or sand at the bottom of streams, rivers or lakes. They can remain submerged for up to about 5 hours. They do not leave the water very often except to bathe in the sun or for the females to lay eggs. Even then they stay close to the water ready to dive in at the least sign of a predator. Female spiny softshells are much larger then their male counterparts, with females getting to a length of about 18" and males getting to about 9". This is demonstrated in the photo above.