Saturday, June 30, 2007

Crex part 2

Here are some of the other pictures that we took on June 17th. We did see a pair of common loons. Common loons are the state bird of Minnesota and one of my favorite waterfowl. We were hoping to see some loon chicks but there were none that we could find.
The problem with photographing loons is getting the red eye to show up on the black head. It was particularly hard on this occasion because it was pretty cloudy in the morning when we saw the loons. We did find a duck with some chicks. Unfortunately I have a hard time identifying many of the female ducks since many look the same. If anyone knows what type this is please feel free to post in the comment section.There were a few heron and egrets out wading in the shallows
We also saw quite a few butterfly.
My wife got some great shots of a monarch on matching orange flowers.
She also got some great shots of a white tail doe and fawn.
While I was setting up my tripod to get some close ups she was clicking away. Good thing too because the doe got a little worried about us watching and led the fawn away before I got completely set up.
Typical. Oh well, we will try going back in a couple of weeks and maybe my luck will be a little bit better.

Crex Meadows presents swan lake

On Saturday June 17 we travelled up to Crex Meadows to see if the trumpeter swans that we had seen nesting back in May had any cygnets. The first swan that we found did not have any cygnets but it did appear to be rehearsing it's ballet steps.
OK first lets see you stand on one foot. Good
Now extend your left leg. Good
Now face the audience. Good
Now look away.
Now dip low.
Now look to the sky.
Chin up. Chin up. Now hold it. Hold it. Bravo
Takes me back to my theater days, LOL.

We did finally find a swan that had a group of cygnets trailing behind it.

After a few minutes the mate flew in and joined the family.

I will post some of the other pictures that we took at Crex in my next post.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Peregrine falcon at Fort Snelling State Park

Today after work I decided to go to Fort Snelling State Park to look for the Prothonotary Warbler that had been spotted by several people on the Minnesota Ornithologist's Union list server. I got there around 4PM and after a bit of searching I could not find the warbler so I decided to head back. On my way to the car a small raptor flew over my head from the direction of the river and landed in a large tree at the side of the path right in front of me. At first I could not tell what he was other then a raptor since I did not have a good angle to view him from. Then the bird turned and I knew that he was a peregrine falcon.
He sat on the branch for a few minutes while I snapped pictures. Then he took off and landed where I could no longer see him on the support columns of the Mendota bridge.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I and the bird

Today the new I and the bird ( #52) comes out and I have sent them a post for the first time. I and the Bird is a blog carnival where people with posts or articles on birds or birding send them to a host who puts them together and links them in a post on their blog. I have done this in the hope that more readers will come to my blog and hopefully they will enjoy it and return. The host for this version of I and the Bird is The Wandering Tattler who does a great job of putting together a perfectly and delightfully normal post with the help of his friends Frodo Baggins, Ultra Magnus, Malfurion, The Maul Brothers Darrel and his other brother Darrel and Yoda. I and the Bird is organized by Mike at 10000 Birds who deserves a big hand for keeping the carnival going.
If you are visiting from I and the Bird I hope that you enjoy the blog and return again in the future. I also welcome your feedback.

Bald eagle is taken off the endangered species list

The US government officially removed the bald eagle form the Endangered Species Act "threatened" list. I have mixed emotions about this. I am happy that the bald eagle population has made such a successful come back. It is certainly a victory for environmentalists in the US. However I am worried about what the future holds with out the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

The bald eagle is still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act but the question is what about bald eagle habitat. Living in Minnesota I have seen first hand that eagles can adapt and live in concert with people. I know of several eagle nests that are located in very populated areas in the Twin Cities. However I do not believe that this is an acceptable excuse to destroy eagle habitat. Even if the eagles can live fine next to freeways, destroying their habitat to build log cabins, shopping malls, golf courses or for whatever reason, means destroying habitat for many other animals. So even though the eagle may adapt, what happens to the beaver, porcupine or owl that may have shared that land. Living in the suburb of a major metropolitan area I have seen a lot of sprawl and we need to find better ways to coexists with the natural world.

If you want more information on the delisting here is a link to an article on CNN.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Medicine Lake continued

At the Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge we also were able to photograph a few birds in the fields surrounding the lakes. Along with red-winged blackbirds they had a pretty good population of yellow-headed blackbirds.
Red-wings are common in eastern Minnesota but yellow-heads are not so we always like to get shots of the Yellow-heads when we get the chance. We did have one living at Woodlake Nature Center in the Twin Cities earlier this year but I have not been back in a while to check and see if it is still around. Sounds like something to do tonight.
We also spotted a couple of chestnut-collared longspur. They were difficult to shoot because they stayed low in the grass.
Eastern Kingbirds are also common in eastern Minnesota. I usually see quite a few when I visit the Carpenter Nature Center in Hasting's Minnesota.
The range of the western kingbird does not extend to the eastern portion of Minnesota.
We saw many ring-necked pheasants in the park and in the fields on the side of the road on the way there and on the way back.

We even saw a jack rabbit spying on us from near the border of the preserve.
After we left Medicine Lake we spotted this harrier flying over the field on the side of the road. We spotted many harrier on our trip but usually we were on the freeway and could not stop. Since we were on a highway at the time we decided to stop and get a couple of shots.
After I got a couple shots my wife noticed a second raptor had flown into the area. I believed that the second bird was a female harrier but it was pointed out by Dennis and Barbara Martin that it looked more like a swainson's hawk.
The dark remiges certainly looked like a swainson's but I was still not sure until I found this picture in my archives.

This shot had the clearest view of the second birds face.
And it was not very harrier like. Dennis and Barbara were right. Thank you very much for the correction.

It appears as though the swainson's was intruding on the harriers territory. This is something that prolly happens often out in open areas like the one we were in. The harrier did not seem to take the invasion lightly.
I kept shooting as they continued to circle each other until they faded away into the distance. Then we headed on home to give our attention starved cat some love.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Medicine Lake waterfowl and waders

While browsing the Internet several months ago I came across a site of a photographer who had gotten some great pics of eared grebe in breeding plumage. I was fascinated by the shots and fortunately for me the website listed that the photographs had been taken at Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge in early June. So I did some research and found that Medicine Lake was located in Montana near the North Dakota border. Since we were planning on going back through Montana and North Dakota on our way back from Yellowstone we made a plan to make a one day side trip to Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Medicine Lake is a pretty flat refuge with only a few slight rolling hills and even fewer trees. The two areas that have any trees to speak of are the area around the headquarters and the picnic area where the only bathroom, outhouse style, is located. The Picnic area is where we spotted the great horned owls and their nest. The majority of the park is Medicine Lake and the adjacent smaller lakes which are managed through a series of damns and dikes. We found a lot of waterfowl and waders on the small lakes and potholes.

We saw a few american avocet wading through the shallows, their heads were rusty red with the breeding plumage.
Mixed in with the avocets we saw a couple of marbled godwit.
There were quite a few Killdeer both on the shore of the lake and scouring the dirt roads.
The Wilson's Phalarope were also in breeding plumage. They swam, mostly in pairs, in tight circles close to the shore of the smaller lakes.
The eared grebe where in breading plumage and were magnificent. There were quite a few of them around.
About 10 of them swam under a small bridge that we were parked on giving us perfect views and marvelous pictures.

There was also a pair of western grebe near the highway on Medicine Lake.
We also got some good shots of several types of ducks.
They included ruddy ducks,
northern pintails
northern shoveler
and blue-winged teal.
After a day full of clouds on Friday as we drove across Montana, the weather on Saturday was perfect. The great weather, the owls, the eared grebes, and all the great shots that we got helped to make up for some of the things that we missed, and the bad weather that we had in Yellowstone. We also saw a few prairie birds in the fields surrounding the lake but I will include them in my next Medicine Lake post.