I looked through my files to see if I could find something that would be a good representation for Halloween and this is what I came up with. This is a bold jumping spider. He looks big and scary but in real life he was probably less then a half inch. Jumping spiders have excellent eye sight. They do not catch their prey in a web, like spiders that have poor eye sight. Instead they stalk their prey just like larger predators.
The palm warbler is a bird that is found in the eastern half of North America. They breed up in the bogs and boreal forests of Canada. Palm warblers in the western portions of the range tend to be duller with bellies that are pale yellow to white. Birds in the eastern portion of the range usually have an entirely yellow belly. Since Minnesota is on the western range our birds are not as bright. You can see the white patches on the breast of the bird pictured above. Like most warblers the Palm warbler is primarily a bug eater. I most often see them on the ground foraging in the brush for bugs. During the winter they head south and live along the gulf coast and Caribbean. During migration they will supplement their diet with seeds and berries.
Welcome to Tuesday
Tweets! To join in the fun just post a photo of a bird and then link it by here
by using the handy dandy link below. Then make sure you visit other sites to do
a little bird watching.
Padre Island is a barrier island located off of the east coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. The island is named for Padre Nicholas Balli who built the first permanent settlement on the south tip of the island. Today South Padre Island is a tourist city located at the south tip of Padre Island. Most people associate South Padre with beaches and spring break but for nature freaks like me South Padre is a paradise of photo opportunities.
On the west side of the island, in between South Padre and the Texas coast sits Laguna Madre Bay. This shallow bay provides a protected habitat to many different species of waterfowls, waders, and shorebirds. The South Padre Birding and Nature Center is located on the western shore with access to the Laguna Madre Bay and a variety of other managed wetlands. Besides waterfowl and shorebirds, the island is also a good place to look for migrants during migration. Some species, such as the scarlet tanager above, often cut across part of the Gulf of Mexico on their way north. During the long flight over the water they burn up a lot of their fat reserves and need to find food to replenish their energy. South Padre is usually the first bit of land that they hit. So in the spring it is quite normal to find migrating bird hunting on the island while the birders and hunting new birds to add to their life list or photo portfolio.
It is hard to find anything more appropriate for the last week in October then the Halloween pennant. Pennants are colorful members of the skipper family. They are called pennants because they like to perch horizontally from a stick, plant or blade of grass. This makes them look like a flag or pennant. The Halloween pennant is mostly yellow and brown when they emerge. Males turn to this orange color as they mature which is how they became named the Halloween pennant.
The great grey owl is a large owl that is found in the boreal forests of North America, Europe and Asia. They are the largest owl in the world, by length and wingspan. Their size is deceptive though, even compared to other owls. There are several other owl species that are not as tall but still out weigh the great grey, including the Eurasian eagle owl, Blackiston's fish owl, snowy owl and great horned owl. Great grey owls also have small feet compared to other large owls and because of this in general they hunt smaller prey. They mostly hunt field mice and voles. Great grey owls do sometimes breed in northeast Minnesota. More often we see them migrate down from Canada when there are shortages of prey species on their normal range. Each winter a few of these birds are spotted in the northern part of Minnesota. These are usually young birds that probably do not have an established territory. When there is a prey crash we can get an invasion and see many more of these owl. In the winter of 2004-2005 we had an unprecedented invasion where it was estimated that over 5000 great grey owls came down from Canada. During that winter it was easy to see great grey owls perched, like above, or even hunting in plain sight in the middle of the day. While it was exciting to see these exotic owls it was also sad because many died due to starvation or where hit by cars.
The Sora is a rail that is found in parts of North, Central, and South America. The breed in marshes and other wetlands, with a lot of vegetation, through out much of the United States and Canada. Nests are usually built on floating vegetation in shallow water. Both parents incubate the eggs which take a little over two weeks to hatch. The young are able to leave the nest a day after they hatch, although their parents still need to feed them. Sora's eat snails, insects, spiders, crustaceans and a variety of different types of seeds. During the winter the sora migrate south to the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. During migration it is often possible to see them in agricultural fields where they may stop to feed.
Bald eagles are opportunistic feeders. This means that they will choose which ever meal is the easiest. To put it into human terms bald eagles would be fast food junkies. Often it is easier to steal food then it is to have to catch your own. Bald eagles will frequently steal fish from osprey that are hunting in the same area. Bald eagles will also steal food from other bald eagles, which can be a little bit more dangerous. I watched 4 eagles, one was not in this shot, fight over this fish for several minutes. Each eagle seemed to have its change to grab the fish and then another eagle would force them to drop it. Eventually one of the adults grabbed the fish and flew off with it over the frozen lake. That bird got the dinner but I was the one that got the show. Considering how much I like fish I think that I got the much better end of the deal.
Denali is the tallest mountain in North America. Denali means "The High One" in the Athabascan language. The mountain was renamed Mount McKinley, after President McKinley, by William Dickey in 1896. The mountain was returned to its original name by the state of Alaska in 1975. Denali is the third tallest mountain in the world at 20,320 feet, however it sits on a plain that is only 2000 feet above sea level. This makes the mountain itself around 18,000 feet. In comparison Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world at 29,035, rises from a base that is around 17,000 feet above sea level. This makes Everest alone only 12,000 feet tall which is why in my book Denali is the king of the mountains. This photo was taken on film back in 2001. I hope to get back to Alaska some day.
Here in Minnesota we frequently see double-crested cormorants but on one of our trips to California we had the pleasure to photograph its cousin the Brandt's cormorant. The Brandt's cormorant is a strictly marine bird that can be found in the coastal waters of the Pacific Coast of North America. They range from coastal Alaska, in the north, down to Gulf of California. Birds in the northern part of the range migrate to warmer waters during the winter. Brandt' cormorants feed primarily on fish which they catch by diving up to 40 feet under the water. The main populations stay in the area's between California and Washington where the strong Pacific currents bring them plenty to eat. They nest in coastal colonies where they make nests of grass, weeds, moss, seaweed and often times man made objects. You can see nests in the picture above. You can tell that this is breeding season because of the blue throat patches.
The orchard oriole is the smallest oriole in North America. They are found in the Eastern United States up to the Canadian border in the north and down into Mexico in the south. During the winter they migrate down into Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. They often do not spend a lot of time on the breeding territory, arriving late in the spring and returning to their winter habitat before the end of summer.
Orchard orioles mostly eat insects and spiders during the breeding season. Besides insects they will also eat fruit, especially during the non-breeding season. These orioles were attracted to fruit that was left in the trees at the South Padre Convention Center. Down in tropical areas of Central America, during the winter, the orchard oriole will eat nectar and pollen from flowers. While they feed at the flowers pollen often collects on their feathers and then drops off at the next flower that they visit. Thus they join butterflies and bees as important pollinators in the area.
Welcome to Tuesday Tweets! To join in the fun just post a photo of a bird and
then link it by here by using the handy dandy link below. Then make sure you
visit other sites to do a little bird watching.
Bentsen State Park sits in the middle of the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. The park is named for the Bentsen family which donated the original 586 acres to the Texas State Parks Board in January of 1944. The park was set aside for public recreational use, such as picnicking and camping, until 2004 when the World Birding Center chose the site to put their headquarters. In 2004 the roads into the park were closed to the public. All traffic into the park is now either pedestrian or the parks tram.
Over 325 bird species have been recorded in the 764 acre park. The park sits in the middle of the Central flyway and it is a stop over for many different species during migration. Some species end their migration at Bentsen spending the winter in the warm south Texas weather. Other species like the Altamira Oriole above, nest and raise their young inside the park .Bentsen is also a good place to see butterflies with over 250 different species of butterflies. The habitat is so rich for butterflies that the National Butterfly Center is adjacent to the park. There are also dragonflies, spiders, lizards, snakes, javelina and much more wildlife in the park. In 2010 I snapped my first pictures of a bobcat in the wild running across the road in Bentsen. Maybe next time I will get real lucky and get my first picture of a wild ocelot.
Many people head out to the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas in search of rare birds that can not be seen most anywhere else in the United States. There are other things to see in south Texas that fall into the same category. The northern portion of the range of the brown longtail skipper extends up into south Texas. The range continues south Mexico, Central America and Argentina. Occasionally a rare siting of these butterflies occurs in south New Mexico, Arizona, or California.
The queen butterfly is a brushfoot butterfly that is found in the southern United States and Mexico. It is part of the subfamily Danainae. The larva of the Danainae butterflies eat milkweed and it also includes the monarch. Because the milkweed is toxic both larva and butterfly become toxic which helps to keep them from getting eaten by predators.
Minnesota has a healthy population of black bears. The MN DNR estimates about 20,000 black bears in the state mainly in the northeastern third of the state. The mating season for black bear is from May to July however the female black bear will not immediately become pregnant after copulation. She will hold the fertilized egg until around November. If she is healthy she will become pregnant and the cubs will be born in the den while she hibernates, usually January. If she is not healthy the egg is reabsorbed and the pregnancy terminated. I guess you can say that bears are pro choice. This youngster emerged from the den with his mom. If danger is nearby the first instinct of the cubs is to climb a tree. He will stay with his mom through out the rest of the year and hibernate with her the next winter. The following May before mom comes into estrus she will chase the cub away and make it known that it is time for it to be on its own.
Identifying small shorebirds can be difficult.That is why a few years back I traveled to South Dakota for a few days to take a workshop on shorebird identification. The workshop was informative and we got great looks at a number of different species of shorebirds. This one is a least sandpiper. One way that you can identify a least sandpiper is by its yellow legs. Most of the similar looking sandpipers, at least in my corner of the world, have black legs. You do have to be careful though because sometimes the legs get covered up with much. I guess that is a hazard of walking around in the mud. I am still not an exert in shorebirds, in fact I may need to go back for a refresher course soon, but I did learn a lot in the workshop.
The eared grebe is the most abundant grebe in the world. They are found on all continents except for Australia and Antarctica. In Europe, Asia, and Africa they are known as the black-necked grebe. During the breeding season these birds have magnificent plumage, as in the photo above. During the winter they migrate south.and lose most of their colorful plumage, becoming mostly gray and white except for their bright red eyes.