Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reflectioned Majesty

Here in Minnesota we have a healthy population of bald eagles. All of out 10,000 plus lakes and our rivers are a good source of food and habitat for these large birds. It is the winter though, when the true show begins. As the lakes and rivers begin to freeze the eagles congregate around the few remaining areas of open water. Trees that line the shore become perches for numerous eagles and more still sit on the ice at the edge of the water waiting to find their next meal.


gyrfalcon The gyrfalcon, pronounced "jerfalcon" is a large falcon of the far north. In length and weight they are slightly larger then an average red-tailed hawk, although their wingspan is generally slightly shorter then that of a red-tail. Gyrfalcons are a circumpolar species living primarily along the arctic coastlines of Alaska, Canada, Europe and Asia. During the winter they do migrate south into northern Europe, Asia, United States and Southern Canada. This young gyrfalcon was caught and banded, while migrating, at Hawk Ridge where I was able to photograph it.
gyrfalcon On there northern breeding grounds the gyrfalcon hunts primarily ptarmigan, a ground-dwelling bird that is similar to a grouse. They will also eat other birds, such as gulls and ravens, and mammals, such as ground squirrels, lemmings and hares. They hunt vertically by chasing down their prey, instead of diving like a peregrine. They compete for prey with snowy owls and golden eagles, the later being their only natural predator. Females will sometimes cache food by their nest which is often just a scrape on a cliff ledge or a borrowed nest from an eagle or raven.
gyrfalconGyrfalcons have long been used in the sport of falconry, hunting using a raptor. In ancient times they were very rare and sought after. In medieval times gyrfalcons were reserved for the king, thus earning it the nickname the King's Bird. In China it is rumored that the Jurchen rebellion that over threw the Liao Dynasty began because the nobles demanded that the Jurchen tribes procure them gyrfalcons. This gyrfalcon flew free after he was banded. It was only the second gyrfalcon banded at Hawk Ridge.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tuesday Tweets

northern shrike The northern shrike may appear to be just another songbird but if one shows up to your feeders it is not there for the seeds. The scientific name of the northern shrike is Lanius excubitor which translates as "Butcher watchman." The northern shrike is a predator. It eats insects, mice and small birds. It hunts by perching on an exposed branch and then ambushing its prey. It does not have strong feet with talons like the raptors so it catches it in its beak to catch its prey and then it will often impale the prey on a stick or barbed wire to hold the prey while it uses a notch on its beak to severe the spinal cord. Often they will take more prey then they can eat and then cache the extra away for leaner times. As there name would suggest these birds are found in the northern portion of North America. They breed up near the arctic circle in Alaska and Canada and then winter in southern Canada and the northern half of the United States. This bird was wintering at the Alamosa NWR in Colorado which is where I took this pic.

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 inlinkz 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, February 26, 2012

Western White

The western white is a butterfly that is found in western North America. The eastern edge of it's range extends above Lake Superior into eastern Canada, this includes northern Minnesota where I took this photograph.This is a female western, you can tell because of the more pronounced golden veining especially on the hindwing. Western white feed on a variety of flowers including milkweed and asters. The caterpillar feed on plants in the mustard family and overwinter in the pupae stage.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pink Grapefruit

Nothing like a little pink grapefruit in the morning. I photographed this hardy waterlily at the water garden at the Como Zoo in July.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Plain Chachalaca

plain chachalaca The plain chachalaca is a chicken type of bird that is found in the tropical and subtropical of Mexico and Central America. It is the only species of chachalaca that has expanded north into the United States. In the U.S. it is found in the scrub forests of southern Texas.
plain chachalacaUnlike many other chicken like birds the plain chachalaca spends more time feeding in the trees then it does foraging on the ground. They eat primarily fruit, seeds, flowers and leaves. They are usually wary and will usually flee from danger by running into dense thickets. I photographed these birds in south Texas, the first at Bentsen State ark and the second at the Martin refuge.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wild Geese in Flight by Omega Means Starr

snow geese in flight The whole worlds rushes out of doors
When wild geese fly,
Honking their exultations of free spirits,
Worshipping the boundless expanse of sky,
And the resplendent earth below.
Dwellers of earth, following seasons,
Far voyagers: lords of immeasurable space,
Masters of slow moving waters.
What seductive dreams impel their lighting,
arrowhead flight
Into the blue, absorbing sky?
Where do they go; what galaxies do they visit;
What paradises in worlds we do not know?
Free wanderers, bound by neither earth, water or air;
They are the essence of the human soul;
Conveyers of dreams, longings, hopes and aspirations,
Liberated by the spirit, limited only by the mind.
See, when next the wild birds fly
Trumpeting their exultations to a watching world,
If your soul is not soaring with the wings!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Western Grebe

western grebe with fish The western grebe is the largest grebe in North America. They breed on freshwater wetlands in the western half of North America. In the winter they typically migrate to the coastal waters of the west coast of North America. They are fish eaters that usually catch their prey by diving under the water. I photographed this grebe at the Bosque del Apache in New Mexico last November.


American Kestrel Falcons are raptors that are in the genus Falco. There are 37 different species of falcons found around the world. Most falcons have several similar features. They have thin tapered, or pointed wings. Most also have markings under their eyes called malar stripes. Falcons are usually split into three loose groups. The smallest falcons are kestrels. Kestrels eat a combination of birds, small rodents and insects. Males and female kestrels often look very different with the males being much more colorful. In North America we have one kestrel and it is called the American kestrel, see photo above.
merlin falcon in flight Next are the medium sized falcons. In Europe, Asia, and Australia many of the mid sized falcons are called hobbies. In North America we have a few medium sized falcons the most common of which is the merlin falcon, pictured above. Merlins are a circumpolar species that are found in the northern hemisphere of North America, Europe and Asia. They are primarily a bird hunter, using their speed and maneuverability to chase small birds though the air. They will also eat small rodents and insects, but birds typically equal about 80% of the average merlin's diet. Like most falcons merlins do not build a nest, typically they will use an abandon nest, such as a crow's nest, to raise their young.
peregrine falcon in flightProbably the most well known falcon is the peregrine falcon. The peregrine is part of the group of larger falcons. Peregrine can be found on every continent in the world other then Antarctica. They are almost strictly bird hunters. They catch their prey by diving at them at speeds of over 200 miles per hour. Here in Minnesota peregrines were almost extirpated in the 1950's and 60's by the chemical DDT. Fortunately DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972 and through release programs in the 1980's the peregrine has made a complete come back. Unfortunately not all peregrine populations are so lucky since DDT is still used in some parts of the world.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tuesday Tweets

Blackburnian warbler The blackburnian warbler is easy to identify since it is the only warbler in North America that has an orange throat. They nest in south east Canada and the north eastern United States. They prefer coniferous forests and are highly territorial. During the winter they migrate down to South America. During migration they will often mix in with flocks of other species.

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 inlinkz 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, February 19, 2012

That Is The Question.

question mark butterfly In the subfamily Nymphalinae of the family Nymphalidae are a group of butterflies that are named after punctuation marks. The reason for their names is because each butterfly has an noticeable mark on the underside of their hind wing that resembles a punctuation mark. Most of these marks are some what "C" shaped and kind of resemble a comma and so most of them are a variety of comma butterfly, but this one is a little different. The dot under the comma gives the appearance of a question mark and so that is what this butterfly is called.
question mark butterflyQuestion mark butterflies are found in the eastern half of North America from the East Coast all the way to the edge of the Rocky Mountains and from southern Canada down to the Gulf Coast and into Mexico. The question mark is a butterfly that is usually found in wooded areas. The larva, caterpillar, eat the leaves of Hackberry, Nettles, American elm, red elm and other trees. The adults typically feed on tree sap, rotten fruit, dung, and carrion. When they can not find one of their usual food sources then they will eat nectar from flowers like the one in these photos.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Joey Tomocik Water Lily

The Joey Tomocik water lily is a bright yellow hardy water lily. It was hybridized by Dr Kirk Strawn in 1993. This water lily was named after Joey Tomocik in honor of her father Joe Tomocik who is in charge of the water gardens at the Denver Botanical Gardens. Joe Tomocik also lectures, teaches and has a book on water lilies.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bull Snake

bull snakeThe bull snake is the largest snake found in Minnesota and one of the largest in North America. An average adult is approximately five to six feet long with some reaching over eight feet. They are found in the central portion of North America from southern Canada down to northern Mexico.
bull snakeBull snakes are not venomous. They kill their prey, typically mice, rats, ground squirrels, rabbits, lizards or ground dwelling birds, by constriction. When confronted by a larger predator they will usually make themselves look larger and imitate a rattle snake by quickly beating their tail against the ground making a sound similar to a rattlesnake. As with all snakes the bull snake uses its tongue to collect chemicals from their surroundings which helps them identify their environment.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It Will Be Summer-eventually by Emily Dickenson

It will be Summer—eventually.
Ladies—with parasols—
Sauntering Gentlemen—with Canes—
And little Girls—with Dolls—

Will tint the pallid landscape—
As 'twere a bright Bouquet—
Thro' drifted deep, in Parian—
The Village lies—today—

The Lilacs—bending many a year—
Will sway with purple load—
The Bees—will not despise the tune—
Their Forefathers—have hummed—

The Wild Rose—redden in the Bog—
The Aster—on the Hill
Her everlasting fashion—set—
And Covenant Gentians—frill—

Till Summer folds her miracle—
As Women—do—their Gown—
Of Priests—adjust the Symbols—
When Sacrament—is done—

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


The mallard duck is probably one of, if not the most, common and well known ducks. They are found through out much of the northern hemisphere, including North America, Europe and Asia. They are a dabbling duck which means that they are usually found in shallow wetlands where they can be seen dipping their heads under the water to eat aquatic vegetation and invertebrates. The mallard has been introduced into many areas that it is not native to and in some cases, such as the Hawaiian Duck, it has evolved over time to be classified as a different species.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


bald eagleThere are over 60 species of eagles in the world. Most of them are found in Europe, Asia and Africa. Eagles are members of the Accipitridae family which includes most of the diurnal raptors. Eagles are divided into three groups. The first group is the sea or fish eagles. These are eagles that have scaled legs with no feathers on them. Their legs are designed to dip into the water and catch fish. The bald eagle of North America is an example of a sea/fish eagle.
golden eagle in flight The next grouping is the booted eagles. These eagles have feathers that reach all of the way down to their feet. They are usually better hunters then sea eagles and live off hunting live prey, such as small mammals and ground birds. They often live in more arid climates and get most of their moisture from their prey. The golden eagle of North America is an example of a booted eagle.
bateleur eagle Snake owls are generally smaller then other eagles. They are usually found in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. As their name implies most snake eagles hunt and eat snakes. Since many snake are equipped with venomous fangs snake eagle have extremely tough pads on their feet to help protect them from snake bites. The bateleur eagle of Africa is an example of a snake eagle.

Some people also separate the harpy eagle of South America along with several other large and powerful eagles into a forth group. Many of these eagles eat larger prey such as monkeys, sloth, or lemurs which they pluck from the tree tops.