In the late 1800's Paul Kroegel, a German immigrant, was living on the banks of the Indian River Lagoon on the Atlantic Coast of Florida. His property looked out on a four acre mangrove island that was a rookery for thousands of brown pelicans and other waterfowl. Kroegel respected the wildlife and put his life on the line protecting the island, gun in hand, from hunters. In 1901 the American Ornithologist's Union and the Florida Audubon Society pushed the state of Florida to pass legislation protecting non-game birds in Florida. Kroegel was one of four men hired by the Florida Audubon as a game warden responsible for protecting the birds. After two of the other game wardens were murdered in the line of duty, naturalist Frank Chapman and William Dutcher approached president Theodore Roosevelt to try and get help from the federal government. In March of 1903 President Roosevelt signed an executive order to set aside Pelican Island as the first federal bird reservation. Kroegel was hired on as the first national wildlife refuge manager. Roosevelt went on to establish 55 bird reservations and national game preserves which eventually became the National Wildlife Refuge System.
In the 1920's the pelicans abandon Pelican Island after a hurricane tore through the island and they did not return for several years. In the 1960's the refuge was threatened by proposed land development around the island but concerned residents pushed the Florida legislature to include 422 acres of surrounding mangrove islands as a part of the refuge.In 1968 the refuge was expanded to include another 4760 acres of surrounding wetland habitat. Pelican Island itself began to shrink over time, due to erosion, and went from 5.5 acres when it was found to a little over an acre in early 2000's. In 2001 a group of organizations partnered together to expand the shoreline using oyster shells as a wavebreak. Today thousands of people visit the refuge each year. When we visited it was not peak time so we did not see the huge numbers of waterfowl that nest in the refuge. We did still manage to find a few birds to photograph as well as some spiders, dragonflies, butterflies, a tortoise and a land crab.
The rapids clubtail is one of the smaller clubtail dragonflies that we see here in Minnesota. They emerge early in the summer, usually early June and are usually found around large, swift moving rivers with rocky bottoms. Males spend much of their time perched on rocks or plants on the side of the river waiting for prey or a receptive female to fly by. This picture was taken along the St Croix River in Wild River State Park. The St Croix is one of the best places in Minnesota, that I have found, for rapids and other river clubtail species.
There are 9 different species of orioles in the United States. A couple species, like the Altamira and Audubon orioles, are usually only found in south Texas. The Baltimore and orchard range through out most of the eastern US. In the west the common oriole is the Bullock's. In the central parts of the country where the range of the Baltimore and Bullock's overlap there is often crossbreeding between the two species. This oriole was photographed in Idaho.
I am a little late posting today because I did not have a chance to get a post done before I headed out to participate in my first Christmas Bird Count of the weekend. I spent my day driving around the back streets of Hastings, MN and the dirt roads of the farm country around Hastings. My group, Dan and I, counted 29 different species. If you are lucky enough to be a part of a Christmas Bird Count in Florida that would probably sound like a bad day but here in Minnesota in the winter that is a respectable number. We finished our count by hiking the trails at Spring Lake Park. The park provided us with 3 new species. There was a bald eagle along the river, brown creepers, like the one above, in the woods and a northern shrike patrolling up near the parking lot when we got back to the car. It was a long day, with another bird count tomorrow, but it was fun to get outside, get some cold fresh air, and scope out some birds.
The most common duck that we see at Yellowstone is the Barrow's goldeneye. Here in Minnesota the Barrow's is rare and people come from all over the state to see one but in Yellowstone they are so common that we often times just drive by and say, "it's just a Barrow's".
Contrary to what is suggested in the movie "The Big Year" the Sax Zim Bog is not the best place in Minnesota to see a snowy owl. You would probably have much better luck trying the Duluth airport or even the International Airport in the Twin Cities. Sax Zim is one of the best places in Minnesota to spot our tallest owl, the great gray. These birds are primarily crepuscular so if you want a chance to see one in the wild the best time to look is at dusk, when this pic was taken, or dawn.
The manatee is a large aquatic mammal that live in rivers and shallow coastal waters of tropical areas of Africa, North America, Central America, and South America. There are three subspecies of manatee. They are the West African Manatee, which is found in western coastal regions of Central Africa, the Amazonian manatee, which is found in the Amazon River, and the West Indian manatee, which is found in the coastal waters of the Gulf Coast, Caribbean, Central and northern South America.The one above is a West Indian manatee that was photographed at Merrit Island NWR in Florida. It is believed that manatees probably evolved from four legged mammals that waded in the shallow waters eating aquatic vegetation over 60 million years ago. Over time their front legs evolved into flippers and their back legs evolved into a large paddle like tail. Manatee spend their entire life in the water. Most of their day is spent eating aquatic plants and resting. They are still mammals so they have to come to the surface an average of every 3 to 5 minutes to breath. The waters that they live in must be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit for them to survive. If the waters get to cold they will migrate to warmer waters, often this means going inland up rivers. They have no natural predators however habitat loss, water contamination, and boat collisions have decreased their populations to the point where they were placed on the Endangered Species list.
I know that Christmas does not start with an X, but since I have already used the only X letter photos that I have and I am tired of posting yellow-headed blackbirds for X, I decided to cheat this year. You can't blame me. It is destiny. I mean how often does the hardest letter in the alphabet fall on Christmas Day.
These are Michelle and my kids. Since we never had any real children the pets that we share our home have become our adopted children. First off is peanut. She is our little girl and is about 3 1/2 years old. She is a jumper and a climber. She loves to curl up in Michelle's lap and snooze.
Magic is our big boy. He is the largest cat that we have ever owned. We have not weighed him lately but he is quite a heavy lift. He is about 4 1/2 years old. He is an ADD kitty. He has a hard time sitting still. He will come up and whine at you for attention but as soon as you start to pet him he will get up and walk away only to whine for more attention a minute later.
What bird do you think of at the holidays? Is it a partridge in a pear tree? Or maybe it is a turkey, plump and roasted. How about a little black capped chickadee that might appear on the front of your holiday card. For me a part of the holiday's is the Christmas bird counts. This year the two that I normally participate in are both next weekend. I will no doubt see a lot of chickadees but maybe I will get to see something interesting this year. You never know. ....... Happy Holidays!
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Each winter the days grow shorter in the Northern Hemisphere because of the tilt of the earth. The shortest day of the year is a week or two before the Winter Solstice, December 21, depending on where in the Northern Hemisphere that you are. The short days along with the cold, snow, and frequently gray skies can make winter sort of depressing.
Fortunately most of the shortest days of the year occur during the holiday season and around here many people like to decorate their homes and trees with lights for the holidays. In a way it helps to light up the darkness so that those long dark nights of winter do not seem so dark. Fortunately at this point the days are already getting longer so by the time the holidays are over and the lights have come down it is already time to start looking forward to spring.
The bronze copper (Lycaena hyllus) is a small butterfly that is found in the eastern half of North America. It is found as far north as southern Canada and as far west as Montana and Colorado. It is usually found in wetland habitats, such as marshes and bogs, or open fields, like the ones in Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge where I took this pic. Although adults supposedly only visit flowers occasionally this butterfly is drinking nectar from butterfly weed. What butterfly can pass up blooming butterfly weed? Here in Minnesota, and other northern portions of their range, there is usually two broods per year, with a third brood in the southern parts of their range. Their larval host plant is herbs of the buckwheat family.
The northern parula is a small warbler that is found in the eastern half of North America. There is a gap in their range through a good portion of the Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, northern Illinois, and northern Ohio) It is theorized that they perhaps existed in this area but because of the loss of necessary habitat they no longer nest there. They nest in vegetation hanging from trees. In the Canadian portion of their range they typically nest in old man's beard lichen which hangs from the trees. The southern U.S. population nests primarily in Spanish Moss. During the winter they migrate down to the southern tip of Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. Here in Minnesota they do nest in the northeast portion of the state where we still have some bogs. This bird was photographed during spring migration.
Minnesota has the highest population of nesting bald eagles of any state in the lower 48 states of the US. The best time to photograph bald eagles is during the winter. During the warmer months of the year the eagles are spread out across the state, typically near to on of our many lakes or rivers. During the winter eagles congregate in large numbers around the few places where they can find open water. Probably the best place to find groups of wintering eagles is along the Mississippi River from Redwing, MN to Wabasha, MN. Highway 61 follows the river and there are several good spots to pull of the road and get some nice pics. The wintering eagles are what really got me started in photographing wildlife so they always have a special place in my heart.
This weekend I am hoping to make a trek down to southwestern Wisconsin in search of golden eagles. Golden eagles do not nest here in Minnesota and Wisconsin but there is a population that spends the winter here. I guess our harsh Minnesota winters are like Spring Break compared to the winters where they breed up in northern Canada. Each year we do a survey in January to count the gold eagles. Last year we had our highest count with around 150 birds. This year might be another good year since many golden eagles were counted as the migrated past Hawk Ridge in northern Minnesota this fall. They seem to be somewhat territorial even during the winter season. They typically return to the same territory year after year which will be good for me as I identified around 10 different territories last year. I did make a trip down into the area a few weeks ago in search of eagles with out much luck but that was before our first snow. By now I am hoping that more of the eagles have settled back into their territories and I will be able to get some more nice pics like the one above that I took last December.
The white Ibis is an ibis that lives in the tropical and subtropical regions of North, Central and South America. They are found in a variety of habitats including coastal wetlands and mangrove swamps. The white ibis is a tactile hunter. They can often be seen wading through the water with their long beak held slightly open scraping the bottom. When they feel prey swimming through the water they grab it with their open beak. Prey typically consists of fish, aquatic insects and crustaceans. Crayfish are their favorite prey.
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