Saturday, March 31, 2012


This tropical waterlily is called Bagdad. I photographed it last July at the water garden at the Como Zoo.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Egyptian Vulture

Egyptian vultureFor the past few years the Carpenter Nature Center has hosted programs by the World Bird Sanctuary each March. The programs run through out the first weekend and are a fundraiser for the nature center. I spend most of the weekend helping out, although mostly what I do is take pictures for CNC. This year one of the more exotic birds that the World Bird Sanctuary brought up was an Egyptian vulture named Osiris. I was fortunate enough to get to hold Osiris for a minute.
Egyptian vultureThe Egyptian vulture is different then the new world vultures that we see here in North America because the Egyptian vulture in an omnivore. Their primary food is carrion like other vultures. Since they are smaller then most of the predators and other scavengers in northern Africa, were they are primarily found, they are usually one of the last to eat. Fortunately their long skinny beak helps them to reach places that the larger scavengers can not get to. Besides dead animals the Egyptian vulture also will eat rotting fruits and vegetables. Their favorite food though are ostrich eggs. Ostrich eggs are large with shells that are too thick for an Egyptian vulture to break with their beak so these clever birds have been known to drop rocks on to the eggs, smashing them open to get to the tasty insides.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sky by Holly Rucker

Blue is the sky on a clear sunny day
Enveloping the world in a light hearted way

One lonely cloud sits in the sky
A marshmallow island in a sea of blue sky

What a miracle that cloud is
Sitting higher than any bird can fly

Floating in a way
So graceful and effortless
For us to try
Would disrespect the sky

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


The white-tailed kite is a raptor that is found in North, Central, and South America. It was once grouped in with the black-winged kite that is found in Europe and Africa and called the black-shouldered kite. However it was determined that there was enough difference between the white-tailed kite and the black-winged kite and so they were split into two different species.
In North America the white-tailed kite is found in parts of Oregon, California, South Texas and South Florida, these photos where taken in south Texas. Although from time to time the populations in some of these regions fluctuate it is unknown whether or not these birds migrate or not. They are usually seen near open fields where they hunt primarily rodents.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tuesday Tweets

The bald eagle is the national bird and a symbol of the United States. Since it is the only eagle in the world that is found exclusively in North America I think that it is a fitting choice. The only other species of eagle in North America, the golden eagle, is circumpolar and found in the northern regions of Europe and Asia. The bald eagle is a member of the group of eagles classified as fish or sea eagles. These eagles have scaled legs with out feathers that are designed to dip into the water to catch fish. The bald eagle is opportunistic however and will eat whatever is easiest to catch, including carrion.

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, March 25, 2012

Painted Lady

The painted lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui, gets its name from the colorful wing pattern. It could also be said that this butterfly gets around, like the reputation of the painted ladies of old. They are found on every continent except for South America and Antarctica. The painted lady is a part of the genus Vanessa, which includes several other species of lady butterfly including, the Australian painted lady, the American lady and the West Coast lady.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

First Wild Flowers of the Year

I spotted my first wildflowers of the year while I was out this afternoon. They look like they are part of the violet family. Many of the violets bloom early but it is unusual to have much of anything blooming in March. Last year at this time we still had several feet of snow covering the ground.

Friday, March 23, 2012


osprey in flight This week I signed up for Osprey-Watch. This is a new project that is sponsored by Center for Conservation Biology that is looking to collect information about nesting osprey around the world. They hope to use this information to address three current issue facing aquatic ecosystems, global climate change, depletion of fish stocks and environmental contamination's. The osprey is a good subject for studying these three issues because they are at the top of the food chain in many aquatic environments and can be found all around the world, with nesting occurring in the northern hemisphere and many osprey wintering in the southern hemisphere.
osprey bringing fish to young in nestBack in 2010 I helped watch nests around the Twin Cities with the Metro Osprey Watch Project. This was a small group of people, I think about 3 or 4, that we watching osprey nests here in the Twin Cities. That summer I ended up watching about a dozen nests. It was a cool experience but it took up so much time that I was not able to get out and photograph many of the other things that I wanted to. Last year I tried to help out but I just did not have the time. So when I signed up at Osprey-Watch I only registered two of the nests that I had watched in the past. One is from a pair that has nested in a ball field that is close to work, the top photo is one of the adults from that nest. Since it is so close it shouldn't be to hard to run out and check on them at lunch or after work. The second nest is not close or convenient but it is one of the best nests in the Twin Cities to photograph. It is located in a nature center and there is a blind located just south of the nest. The photograph above was taken at the second nest. With only two nests to watch I can help out with some important citizen science, get to watch and photograph some real cool raptors, and still have time to get out and do other stuff so it looks like it is going to be a fun summer.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Riverbank by Graham Jones

Those silver shimmers on waters prance
As dragonflies enact their dance
Across the surface in nimble flight
For lookers on a pure delight

The water reeds now waft in breeze
To irritate the water fleas
That swirl about in clouds of grey
This riverbank in month of May

The moorhens squawk with young in tow
To paddle madly against the flow
As it twists and eddy's around the bends
To meet up with other feathered friends

To walk the banks a pastime leisure
For visitors a time of pleasure
The children glean with added interest
At what is surely natures best.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Eared Grebe

The eared grebe is one of those birds that makes and amazing transformation each year. In the winter they are a fairly unremarkable black and white but when breading season approaches they become a beautiful rust and black color with vibrant red eyes. Although they are found in western portions of Minnesota I have only seen them hear during migration. Most of my pictures of them are from Montana where we see them in Yellowstone or one of the wild life refuges that we often stop at. These grebes were photographed at Bowdoin NWR.


Today is the first day of spring. In spring many of our resident birds begin to return to the area but spring also heralds the departure of some of our winter visitors, like the dark-eyed junco. The dark-eyed junco is an Emberizine, or new world, sparrow found in North America. They are most often seen on the ground where they forage mainly for seeds. Seeds make up the majority of what they eat with a little bit of protein, in the form of insects, added to the diet during breeding season.
Dark-eyed juncos breed through out Canada and Alaska. During the winter they migrate south through out the entire United States and down into Mexico. There are also populations of juncos that breed in the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains. These populations are generally found at higher elevations and do not migrate from their summer breeding ground.
There are several subspecies of dark-eyed junco. Most of these subspecies live in different parts of North America and can be distinguished from each other by their color. The slate-colored dark-eyed junco, first picture, is the most common junco that we see here in Minnesota. They primarily breed up in Canada and Alaska and winter through out the United States. The second photo is an example of the Oregon subspecies. The Oregon subspecies is found mostly in the western half of the United States and Canada.

Most of the other subspecies have a much smaller range. The pink-sided dark-eyed junco, the third photo, are usually found from Montana down through New Mexico. The gray-headed subspecies, the fourth photo, are found from Colorado down into northern Mexico. There are two other subspecies which I do not have photographs for yet. They are the white-winged subspecies, which is found in Wyoming and Colorado, and the Red-backed subspecies which is found in New Mexico near the border with Mexico.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tuesday Tweets.

The great horned owl gets its name from the "horns" on the top of its head. These are not really horns and they are not ears either, as many people assume that they are. If you look closely at the picture above you can see that they are just feathers. What is their purpose? Great horns use them to communicate mood. It is also surmised that they help to break up the owl silhouette thus helping with their camouflage.

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, March 18, 2012

Calico Pennant

The calico pennant is one of the brightest and easily distinguishable dragonflies in this area. Mature males are red and black with the signature heart shape spots running down the abdomen, above. Females and immature males are yellow and black with the top spots more of a triangle shape then a heart shape, below. They are found through out much of eastern and central North America. Like most skippers they are usually found around slow moving water such as ponds and marshes. They often perch horizontally off of a branch or blade of grass making them appear like a flag or pennant bowing in the wind. Males are not territorial and often perch on the shore of a pond waiting for females.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kathy McLane

This tropical waterlily is called the Kathy McLane waterlily. It was photographed at the water garden at the Como Zoo last summer.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Loggerhead Shrike

loggerhead shrike Have you ever heard the old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover?' Well this bird proves that looks can be deceiving. This cute little bird is a deadly predator. The loggerhead shrike eats birds, insects, small rodents, reptiles and amphibians. They do not have the strong feet and talons that raptors have so they have to use their beak to catch their prey. The strong beak is hooked down like a raptors, which is good for tearing flesh. They also have a notch in their beak similar to the tomial tooth that falcons poses. They use the notch to sever the spinal cord of their prey. Since their feet are not strong enough to hold down larger prey while they kill and eat it they will often impale their food on barbed wire ore small branches which holds it in place.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Moon The Moon by Mill Field

Majestic gowned in creamy-gold effulgence,
The Moon transits the vault of heaven on the arm of Night;
Eclipsing all lesser lights,
Holding earth-bound mortals in her thrall
With radiant and breath-taking beauty.