Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fun at Crex Meadows

Sunday we went up to Crex Meadows in Wisconsin. The weather was very nice with mostly sunny skies. Crex is about an hour to an hour and a half northeast of the Twin Cities, just across the Minnesota and Wisconsin border. This is the earliest that we have made the trip up and it was not quite as green as it was here in the Twin Cities. The water levels were good and the waterfowl had started to return. We saw a lot of canadian geese nesting.
There were also quite a few american coots, especially near the shoreline of Phantom Lake.

We also saw some blue-winged teal and a few ring-necked ducks.

The highlight of the trip were the trumpeter swans. As you can see in the pictures they have already begun to nest. We will need to come back again in June to hopefully photograph the cygnets. We saw about a dozen swans throughout Crex.

We did not see as many raptors as we have on past trips. This osprey had left it's platform and was scouring the lakes and ponds for fish. The only other raptor that we saw was a northern harrier but it was flying too fast to get a picture. In the past we have also seen kestrels, red-tails, and peregrine at Crex.

Some of the sandhill cranes have returned. In the fall, Crex is usually home to large flocks of sandhills which feed on the refuge fields. On this trip we only saw about a half dozen cranes, all of them foraging in several areas that had been control burned. All were painted up for mating season looking a lot more orange then the ones that I photographed in the Bosque del Apache earlier this year in February.
As usual the red-winged black birds were "singing in the marsh, just singing in the marsh".
On the way out we passed several bird houses on the grounds of the local airport. On the pole for each house stood a tree swallow, their metallic teal wings glinting in the bright sun.
We had a great time being outside and enjoying the weather. We plan to return in early June when we hope to see more waterfowl and trumpeter cygnets.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A hard post to make

Thursday the weather cleared up so I decided to go to Wood Lake to check on the owls nest. When I arrived I found that the nest was empty. I could not believe that the owl had matured enough to fly away in just the couple days since I had last saw him. Then I ran into some people who recognized me from all of the times that I had been photographing the owls. They told me that the chick had fallen out of the tree and that the park naturalists had moved it to a basket so that it would not be disturbed by people. They showed me where the basket was and the baby was not looking to good. At this point I thought that it might be dead in the basket but then it moved it's head so I knew that there was still hope.
I returned Friday after work and the basket was gone. I found a park naturalist and asked what had happened. It seems that during the night the chick had passed away. They guess that it had some internal injuries from it's fall and this was the cause of it's death. It is very sad and unfortunate that this owl chick, who had touched a lot of lives at the park, did not survive but that is the way nature is some times. I did get a lot of great shots of the chick and the mother and I plan on posting a tribute or two.

Tomorrow I plan to travel to Crex Meadows in Wisconsin. This will be the first trip to Crex this spring and I hope that we have some good luck. I know the weather is supposed to be great so I should have fun.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Other adventures at Wood Lake

I have not been back to Wood Lake to see the owls in a couple of days. In fact I have not done much birding at all. Tuesdays I work a second job in the evening so I don't really have much time for anything except work. I can't complain too much though since the second job helps to pay for my toys and my trips. Wednesday I worked a long day and the weather was overcast all day long. I went to check out a newly occupied osprey platform after work. Since it was pretty cloudy I did not really get any good shots and since I was tired from work I decided not to stay long and went home and took a nap instead. So I did not really get any new shots but I still have some shots to share from the past couple weeks.

While visiting the owls at Wood Lake Nature Center I took the time to exercise my legs and check out the rest of the park.
As I walked down the path through the marshy area I could see that the grackle and the red-wing blackbirds had returned.

In the open waters I spotted the typical mallards and canadian geese but was also excited to see a pair of hooded mergansers. Mergansers and grebes have always been fascinating to me.
I also spotted a pair of wood ducks. The color on the male was very vibrant especially the red eye.
It looks like today the weather is pretty much the same as yesterday. So I will prolly post some more owl pictures tomorrow. It is supposed to be a bit sunnier tomorrow and nice this weekend so hopefully I can get some shots of the osprey nest as well as some pictures of a local eagles nest and visit the owls.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Owling part 2

After my initial trip to see the nesting Great Horned Owls at I decided it would be interesting to try and record the progress of the young chick as it continued to mature. So I found a new home for my tripod in my truck and set up camp each day after work in the owls front yard.
For the first couple days I visited from 3pm to 5pm. On those days the mother was no where around and I began to get worried that something might have happened to her. Finally on Friday the 13th I decided to stay a bit later. Around 6:00pm mom finally showed up.

After a bit of preening mom began to rip up a rabbit, which had been in the nest the whole time, and feed the hungry chick. This went on for about 45 minutes. After they finished the meal both mom and the chick cleaned their feathers and then mom took off and perched on a near by branch until it got dark.

Great Horned Owl part 1

On April 9th, while browsing several birding sites, I read a post about a great horned owl nest located at a park that was not far from home. I decided to drive over and take a look after work. When I arrived it did not take long to locate the nest. It was near to the visitor's center over a major trail.

The day was bright and sunny but it was still pretty cold, with the high temperature reaching only up to the low 30s. Both mother and chick were huddled into the small nest.

They slept for most of the 2 hours I observed them. Every so often the chick would wake up and get restless. His fidgeting would wake up mom who would give him some grooming until he settled down and then both would sleep again. They continued to mostly sleep until I had to leave.

The following 2 days we had snow showers and I was not able to return to the nest to take any more pictures during those days. Fortunately the weather turned more spring like by April 12 and I was able to return and get more pictures which I will share in future posts.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Welcome to my new Ecobirder Blog

In honor of Earth Day 2007 I have started my first blog. The purpose of this blog will be to share my love of the environment, wildlife, and birding with others who share these interests.