Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Crested CaraCara

The crested caracara, also sometimes called the northern caracara, is a raptor that lives primarily in Mexico, Central America, and northern portions of South America. The northern part of their range extends up into Texas, southern Arizona and parts of southern Florida. These birds where photographed on our trip to south Texas back in 2010.
The crested caracara is a member of the Falcondae, or falcon, family, but they are very different then the rest of the falcons that we see here in North America. When we think of falcons we think of birds that are built for speed, many of which hunt other birds in flight. The crested caracara acts much more like a vulture. You are much more likely to see carcara soaring up in the sky in search of carrion then you are to see one chasing down prey. The reason why the two birds pictured above look differently is because the top photo is a mature adult caracara while the second photo is an immature bird.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tuesday Tweets

white pelican with reflection The white pelican is a bird that lives a dual existence. During half of the year it lives on fresh water lakes in the middle of North America where it nests and feasts on fish such as walleye and trout. The other half of the year it spends primarily as a coastal bird, spending the winter in the salt waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf Coast.

Welcome to Tuesday Tweets. To join in the fun, just post a photo of a bird on your blog then come here and enter your information in the inlinz tool down below. Don't forget to put a link back to here on your blog and the pretty little banner photo. Then visit all of the sites that participate to see a lot of cool bird pics.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bumble Bee Macro

bumble bee macroIf you ever get close enough to a bee you might notice that they look kind of fuzzy. Their bodies are covered with many small hairs. These are actually called setae. The setae are very important to bees. They are like little sensors that aid the bee in things like determining wind speed. The setae are also important for pollination of plants. When the bee is in a flower feeding on nectar or collecting pollen to take back to the hive pollen often gets trapped on the setae. At the next flower it might come free as the bee wiggles in to take a drink and the plant gets pollinated.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Star of Zanzibar

This tropical water lily is named the Star of Zanzibar. I photographed it at the Como Zoo water gardens this past summer.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Golden Eagle Survey

golden eagle in flight Last weeks golden eagle survey was a great success. The weather cooperated for most of the day with blue cloudless skies until we were finishing up. I was partnered with Jim, who volunteers with me at The Raptor Center, and Bill, who I just met at the survey.
golden eagle in flight carrying a stickIs was still pretty cold in the morning around 9:30 am when we began. We did not see many birds early on, but as the day went on and the temps began to rise suddenly the eagles came out to hunt. In our area in western Wisconsin we counted 5 golden eagles. The first one that we spotted was perched and did not give me an opportunity to get any descent pics but the other birds where both in pairs that flew right over our heads. This was the most birds that any of us had ever seen on the survey and it was a lifer for Jim. This year in total there were 140 people who helped in the survey and 125 golden eagles were counted.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Roads We Travel by Marilyn Lott

There are many roads we travel
And probably most we leave behind
We continue to walk ahead of us
New fresh roads we want to find

And sometimes we wonder
If we took the best road we could
If we could erase them and start over
We often think perhaps we would

Some roads we travel often though
Off and on throughout the years
They get worn and sad and weary
And we shed so many tears

But we try to put them behind us
And trudge bravely on ahead
Trying very heard to not look back
But find great new roads instead

So no matter where we’ve been
As our lives we continue to unravel
We all just try to do our best
With the many roads we travel!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pied-billed Grebe

pied-billed grebe swimming Do you know what type of bird this is? Many non-birders that I have asked have guessed that it was some type of a duck. However contrary to popular belief not all small waterfowl are ducks. This is in fact a pied-billed grebe, the most widely distributed species of grebes in North America. Grebes differ from ducks in a number of ways but probably the most obvious is their feet. Ducks have webbed feet where grebes have lobed toes that aid them in swimming. Grebes are somewhat similar to loons and in fact they were once part of the same family. However with modern testing there was enough difference between loons and grebes that grebes were given a family of their own, Podicipedidae. There are 22 different species of grebes that are separated into 6 genus. The pied-billed grebe is the only living member of the genus Podilymbus.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


red-tailed hawk Last week we talked about Accipiters, one of the two genus' that make up the hawk family. This week it is time to explore the rest of the hawks which reside in the Buteo genus. Buteos have long wings and relatively short tail which are perfect for soaring. Most Buteos hunt by ambushing their prey, preferring not to waste their energy in a chase. They mainly eat small mammals but they are usually generalists and opportunists and they will also eat reptiles, amphibians, birds, and carrion.
broad-winged hawk in flight The largest of the Buteos that we see here in Minnesota, as well as the most common, is the red-tailed hawk. Every day on my way to and from work I can count on spotting several red-tails perched on the light poles on the side of the freeway. Red-tails are a border species meaning they often live on the edges of wooded areas and open fields. They will nest in the safety of the woods as well as roosting there at night but they need the open fields to hunt in. Roadsides are good hunting habitat since there are not many large trees in the way, there are usually a good number of rodents around, and the grass is typically cut shorter making it easier to find their prey. The bird in the first pic is a young red-tailed hawk.
red-shouldered hawk Some of the other Buteos that we see here in Minnesota are broad-winged hawks, second photo, and the red-shouldered hawks, above. The broad-winged hawk is the smallest of the Buteos in this area. Their smaller size allows them to live and hunt in wooded areas that the bigger Buteos have a more difficult time navigating. Each year these birds migrate down to South America for the winter. They migrate over Minnesota in groups called kettles that sometimes consists of thousands of birds. The red-shouldered hawk is slightly smaller then the red-tail with a forty inch wingspan. They are found in the south eastern part of the state, usually near a wetland, and are much less common then the red-tail or broad-winged hawks. We also see Swainson's hawks, mostly in the south western part of the state, and rough legged hawks, that migrate into the area for the winter.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tuesday Tweets

chestnut-sided warbler
The chestnut-sided warbler is a wood warbler that breeds in the eastern half of Canada and north eastern portions of the United States. We do have a breeding population here in Minnesota in the north eastern part of the state. I photographed this bird last may as it was migrating north from its wintering grounds in Central or northern South America. During the winter they often mix in with flocks of tropical warblers.

Welcome to the second edition of Tuesday Tweets. We got off to a slow start last week but that means that it should not be too hard to find more people to participate this week. To join in the fun, just post a photo of a bird on your blog then come here and enter your information in the inlinz tool down below. Don't forget to put a link back to here on your blog and the pretty little banner photo. Then visit all of the sites that participate to see a lot of cool bird pics.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Olympia Marble

olympia marble butterfly The olympia marble is an early spring butterfly that is found in the central United States. Its range extends east from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Lakes. In the north the range extends into southern Canada and runs down into northern Texas. The butterflies are most often found in shale grasslands, lakeshore dunes, open woodlands, prairie and meadow habitat.
These pictures were taken at Crex Meadows in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has the largest population of olympia marble out of any state in the United States.
olympia marble butterflyFemale olympia marble lay one egg on a larval host plant, typically rock cresses. The larva will eat the plant and then will form a chrysalis which is how it will spend the winter. There is typically only one brood per year and they are usually on the wing from mid April through June. I took these pictures in May of 2010.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


The harebell is a native perennial that is often found on rocky slopes, open forests and under conifers. The flowers bloom June through August. It is a member of the Bellflower family and is often referred to as the Bluebells of Scotland.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Golden Eagle

golden eagle in flight Tomorrow I will be participating in the 8th Annual Wintering Golden Eagle Survey. Golden eagles do not nest here in Minnesota. Even though for many years a hundred or more golden eagles have been counted as the migrated over Hawk Ridge in northern Minnesota it was believed that a golden eagle was a rare sighting except for special locations such as White Water State Park.
golden eagle in flight Eight years ago the staff at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN began a survey to count golden eagles. The survey began small but each year more people join the survey. Last year over one hundred people counted 80 golden eagles in south eastern Minnesota, western Wisconsin, and northern Iowa. This year there are enough counters to fill 50 different routes. The route that I will be on is in western Wisconsin. It is part of an area that I have been photographing golden eagles in over the past month. So far I have spotted about a dozen eagles in nine separate territories. The eagles above where photographed in my route so it is likely that I will be able to count them tomorrow.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Sand-Hill Crane by Mary Austin

Sandhill cranes flying at duskWHENEVER the days are cool and clear,
The sand-hill crane goes walking
Across the field by the flashing weir,
Slowly, solemnly stalking.
The little frogs in the tules hear,
And jump for their lives if he comes near;
The fishes scuttle away in fear
When the sand-hill crane goes walking.

The field folk know if he comes that way,
Slowly, solemnly stalking,
There is danger and death in the least delay,
When the sand-hill crane goes walking.
The chipmunks stop in the midst of play;
The gophers hide in their holes away;
And 'Hush, oh, hush!' the field-mice say,
When the sand-hill crane goes walking.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Eastern Bluebird

eastern bluebird

Ring-Necked Duck

ring-necked ducks The ringed-neck duck is one of the birds that reminds me that many species were originally named by hunters. Looking at them I would have been more likely to call them ring-billed ducks because of the unique markings on their beaks. So why ring-necked.
ring-necked duckIts not something that you see often out in the wild while they are swimming. Often they have their heads sort of tucked into their bodies so you can not see their necks, like in the first photo. However once in a while they stretch out their necks and then you can see the lighting band on the neck, as in the photo above. The neck ring is much more obvious when you have a dead duck laying at your feet, or so I am told. So as hunters killed these ducks they named them ring-necked because to them it was an obvious field marking.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


sharp-shinned hawk in flight over Hawk Ridge Hawks are divided into two separate genus, Buteo and Accipiter. The difference in the two genus is in their anatomy. Buteos posses an opening in the front of their coracoid shoulder bone. This opening is called a procoracoid foramen. Accipiters lack this opening. However this difference is not something that you can use to distinguish between the genus' when you are out in the field watching birds.
Cooper's hawk So here are some tips to help you identify Accipiters when you are out bird watching. Accipiters generally prey on other birds so they have several adaptations that help them to catch their food. First off they have short wings and a long tail which helps them to be more maneuverable. They also have long legs, which are good for sticking into bushes to catch a hiding bird, and long toes, similar to those of falcons, so that they can wrap them around a bird in mid flight. Another thing that can sometimes help ID an Accipiter is the color of their eyes. Accipiters have brightly colored eyes. They start out bright yellow when it is a first year bird, turn orange in the second year and red by the third year. This is a good way to tell the age of some of the younger birds.northern goshawk banded at Hawk Ridge Here in Minnesota we can see three different species of Accipiters. The smallest is the sharp-shinned hawk, first picture. Sharpies are forest hunters that often ambush their prey from a hidden perch. This sharpie was photographed migrating over Hawk Ridge. The second photo is of a Cooper's hawk. Coop's are mid sized Accipiters whose population seems to be on the rise in cities where they like to hunt at bird feeders. The largest of the Accipiters that we see in Minnesota is the northern goshawk. These birds migrate down from Canada, where they breed, and spend the winter in the southern part of the state. Out of the three Accipiter species that we see this is the only one with a diet that includes a substantial amount of mammal included with birds as prey. The northern goshawk is circumpolar so they are also found in northern Europe and Asia. This one was banded and photographed at Hawk Ridge.