Friday, May 31, 2013

Black-necked Stilt

The black-necked stilt is a shorebird that is found in freshwater wetlands in the western United States, Mexico and parts of Central and South America. They are mostly legs with only flamingos having legs that are larger in proportion to their body. We photographed this stilt at the Bowdoin NWR on our way home from Yellowstone.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

American Dipper

American Dipper
During our trip to Yellowstone last week I had the opportunity to photograph a few new birds for my life list. One of my new lifers was an American dipper. I had no idea what this bird was when I photographed it. It looked a lot like a plump cowbird but I was pretty sure it was not a cowbird because I found it in the rapids of the Yellowstone River.Fortunately it closed its eyes for a moment and I was able to photograph it with its white eye lid showing, above, which helped me to identify it.
American Dipper
 Dippers live around clean rushing waters. They forage the rocky bottoms of rivers and streams for aquatic insects, larvae, small fish and crustaceans. Many live in cold climates, such as mountains, and do not migrate south during the winter unless the water freezes up. Thick down feathers as well as a low metabolic rate help the dipper to survive the cold. Not the most colorful bird but still exciting because it was a lifer.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeter Swans
 Over the past 10 years Michelle and I have taken numerous trips out to Yellowstone. Our last trip to Yellowstone was last week. We had a great time. While we were there we did spot some trumpeter swans. Since I have had numerous opportunities to photograph swans over the years we did not take any swan pictures on this trip but I do remember that the first time that we ever saw trumpeters was in Yellowstone. It was very exciting at the time.
Trumpeter Swans
In the 1700, 1800 and early 1900 swans were hunted almost to extinction within the lower 48 states of the United States. By 1930 there were only 69 trumpeters left in the lower US. In the 1960s 40 swans were obtained from Montana to repopulate the trumpeter population in Minnesota. In the 1980s swan eggs were collected from the nests of wild trumpeters in Alaska, Montana and from breeders and brought to Minnesota to continue to repopulate the species across the state. These efforts have paid off. The trumpeter population in Minnesota now numbers in the thousands. The swans nest in the area, see them with their cygnets above, and many even stay in the state during the winter.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Yellowstone National Park

 Michelle and I spent the last week driving around Yellowstone photographing wildlife. The weather was really a mixed bag. Things started out gray and snowy and I was worried that we would have a lackluster trip but the weather cleared up, at least for a few days, and the wildlife viewing was good. I took this shot one morning while we were on our way out to Lamar Valley. There were 3 bull elk feeding on grass in Gibbon Meadows. You can probably expect to see some more Yellowstone pics for the near future.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher
 The olive-sided flycatcher is a tyrant flycatcher that breeds primarily in the coniferous forests of North America. Their breeding territory consists of most of Alaska and Canada, plus the Rocky Mountain and Appalachian Mountain regions. They winter as far south as central South America. Since they have such a long migration they usually arrive at the breeding territory later then other species and leave earlier. This pic was taken at the beginning of September at the Carpenter Nature Center. Since we do not have the proper breeding habitat for this species, except in the north east corner of the state, I assume that this bird was migrating south and stopped for a lunch break. Olive sided flycatchers almost exclusively eat flying insects. They typically find a perch that is in the open and wait to ambush an insect as they fly by. I watched this one catch and eat several bees, which are one of their main prey species. They also eat wasps, flying ants, moths, grasshoppers and dragonflies.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Being a Mother is Not All Fun and Games

Black Bear Family
Especially if you are a bear. When you are one of the largest predators around there are not many things that will mess with you. Other then humans bears really only have one predator and that is another bear. Female black bears are considerably smaller then their male counter parts. During mating season if a male finds a female with cubs he will often attack and try to kill the cubs. If he is successful the female will go into estrus and he will have the opportunity to mate with her. But female bear do not give up lightly they will often risk their life to protect their cubs who are taught to climb a tree at the approach of an other bear.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
The scissor-tailed flycatcher is a bird that nests in the south central United States and northern Mexico and winter in Central America. They prefer to nest in savannah habitat with few trees and scrub. They may also nest in area inhabited by people, such as farms, parks, or golf courses. In these areas they often materials discarded by people when constructing their nests. As a flycatcher, most closely related to kingbirds, scissor-tails eat primarily insects. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Butterfly Hunting at Crex Meadows

Olympia Marbled Butterflies Mating
Crex Meadows in west central Wisconsin is a great place to go to find and photograph some unusual early season butterflies. Last year I went on a butterfly excursion with a local butterfly expert. I have been photographing butterflies for years but have concentrated more on my odes then on lepidoptera.
Eastern Pine Elfin
I had photographed butterflies at Crex before. This was primarily in the middle of summer when the fields are full of wild flowers and orange and black fritillaries and monarchs and yellow sulphurs are all over the place.Going out in early may with someone who knows where to look offered me an opportunity to photograph some species that I had not in the past. I had photographed Olympia marbled, first pic, in the past but it was my first time photographing any species of elfin butterfly. We found 3 different species of elfins that day, the most common was the eastern pine elfin which is pictured above, This year the cold weather pushed the dates of the butterfly trip back to the end of May and unfortunately I was not able to attend but I am hoping to get back out there next year.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Goldenrod Crab Spider
When they think of spiders most people think of webs. Charlotte and scary spider movies have helped to reinforce the link between spiders and webs in the public consciousnesses. However not all spiders spin elaborate webs to catch their prey. The goldenrod crab spider is a good example. The goldenrod crab uses camouflage to ambush its prey. It is able to change its color between white and yellow so that it can blend in to a flower where it can wait for prey. When the skipper comes in to the flower to collect nectar and/or pollen the spider attacks, injecting its prey with a paralyzing venom. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Nemesis Bird

Barred Owl
 Last weekend I was finally able to photograph one of the birds that has eluded me here in Minnesota for years. Don't get me wrong I have seen barred owls here in Minnesota on many different occasions but I have never managed to get a photo of the bird. Typically I find them in dense copses of evergreen trees. I walk into a clearing and the owl flushes from the trees. I see them for a second or two as the fly over the clearing and then they are gone, blocked by the surrounding trees. The only wild barred owl pictures that I had prior to this weekend were from our 2005 trip to Florida and they are on film. Barred owls are not as common in Minnesota as they are in the southeastern U.S. but they are not rare. That is why it has always been kind of frustrating not having any pictures from around home. In this case I was able to find the owl when he began to call. I walked by his location a couple of times prior to that and had no idea he was there. Now the only Minnesota owl that I have left to photograph is the short eared owl.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

It Looks Like Summer is Just Around the Corner

This has been one crazy May. It has snowed more then once this month here including a breif shower of snow/hail on last Saturday. I started that morning out wearing gloves because the overnight temps were down to freezing. Then by Tuesday we were flirting with our first 90 degree day. Nothing like a 50 degree swing over a few days. Hopefully the warm temps are here to stay because Summer is not far off.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Magnolia Warbler
Photographing warblers can be quite the challenge. These tiny little birds are constantly moving. Warblers like this magnolia spend most of their time fluttering from branch to branch gleaning insects from the trees. Fortunately because of the late winter the trees have not completely leafed out because once that happens the difficult becomes the near impossible.