Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Watery Wednesday: Common Goldeneye

A couple of days ago the wind turned from the southeast and started to blow hard from the northwest. This was our first warning that winter is not that far away here in the north. The temps have dropped about 20 degrees since then with our high temps only reaching up into the fifties. With the changing of the season many of our local birds will begin to leave on their journey south but they will be replaced by birds from the north who will spend their winter here.
One of these birds is the common goldeneye. These birds nest from the southern edge of Canada all the way north up to the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska. They nest in cavities, such as hollow trees or nesting boxes, near wooded lakes or rivers. The females care for both the eggs, during incubation, and the chicks, who can swim and find their own food about 24 hours after they hatch.
During the winter the goldeneye migrate south to protected coastal bays and waterways or open inland lakes and rivers. Here in my area we often see large flocks of them in open areas of the Mississippi River. There they can be seen diving under the water in search of crustaceans and small fish, during the warmer months they also eat a lot of aquatic insects. Often birders around here can be found scanning flocks of common goldeneye looking for a possible Barrow's goldeneye that might be mixed in. Barrow's goldeneye sightings are pretty rare in Minnesota so they tend to get a lot of attention.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall Raptor Release

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year to go out and take nature pics. I love it when the weather gets a bit cooler, the landscapes fill with the color of leaves turning, birds stop by on their way south and all of the animals start preparing for winter.
There are also a lot of events going on through out the fall, this weekend it was The Raptor Center's big fall raptor release. The release was held at Carpenter Nature Center, where I also volunteer from time to time, so I went over Friday after work to help with the set up.
Unfortunately it rained most of the day Friday which really set us back on getting things set up. Since we could not do some of the set up, due to the rain, I spent most of my time printing up posters and signs. We were all a bit worried since the weather forecast had Saturday listed as pretty much the same as Friday. I was especially worried because we were using my sound system which I definitely did not want sitting outside in the rain.
As it turned out there was nothing to worry about. Saturday started out a bit foggy but by the time the release started the weather was almost perfect. After putting up directional signs and then setting up the sound system I took my place in the hawk and falcon ring. The education hawks and falcons that we had at the event were two American kestrels, Cinnamon and Jack, two peregrine falcons, Juneau and Artemis, a merlin falcon, Taiga, two red-tailed hawks, Alula and Casper, and a broad-winged hawk, Kettle. Cinnamon, Juneau, Casper and Taiga are picture above.
In the afternoon I did do a short stint over at the owl ring, they were a bit short handed so I went over to help out. The owls that we brought to the event included two great horned owls, Samantha and Lois, a barred owl, Odie, and two eastern screech owls. One of the screech owls was Otus the other one, pictured above with Gail the Education Director, is a new education bird and it does not yet have a name. The Raptor Center is looking for help in naming this cute little guy so during the event we were taking suggestions from people attending the release. If you have a suggestion for a good name for him you can submit it at The Raptor Center's website.
The highlight of the event were the releases. We had two releases on Saturday with three birds released each time. At the 11:30 release we released two broadwinged hawks and a red-tail. In the afternoon we release a red-shouldered hawk, a broad-winged hawk and a red-tailed hawk.
The people who had the great privilege of releasing a bird were chosen by The Raptor Center, Carpenter Nature Center, or 3M, who sponsored the event. They were chosen in recognition of their involvement with supporting great causes like The Raptor Center and Carpenter Nature Center.
It was a great day and a terrific event. I had a lot of fun talking to people about raptors and watching six birds fly free into the open blue skies, birds that would have died had it not been for a lot of people who cared, all of the staff and volunteers at The Raptor Center and Carpenter Nature Center plus all of the wonderful people who support these great causes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Macro Bee Pics

One of the easiest subjects for macro photography, at least among the flying insects, are bees. Where butterflies, dragonflies and other insects can be wary of people bees seem like they do not usually even notice our presence. This makes it pretty easy for you to get in close for that macro shot.
Maybe it is because they are always working hard at collecting food. They are very singular of purpose so anything that does not involve finding and collecting food they for the most part ignore. Including humans and their cameras. It is easy to see how hard the bee in the photo above is working. Notice all of the white dots on the bees head and legs? This is pollen that it has inadvertently picked up while collecting food. When it moves to another flower some of the pollen will fall off and pollinate the other plant. This is how most of the plant life on the planet reproduces.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tropic Waterlily Nymphaea St Louis Gold

The St Louis Gold is a bright yellow free flowering waterlily. Since it is a tropical waterlily it requires water that is 75 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. It has a day blooming fragrant flower and olive leaves. New leaves are bronze. This photo was taken at the water garden at Como Park.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Grizzly Bear

One of the largest predators in North America, polar bears in the far northern reaches of the continent are larger, the grizzly bear is a subspecies of the brown bear. Grizzly bears are found in Alaska, western Canada and the northwestern United States.
Grizzlies range in size depending upon the area in which they are found. Bears living in the coastal areas of Alaska, places like Katmai National Park, can grow to weigh around 1000 pounds where inland bears in Canada may only grow to weigh 300 pounds. Most of the difference in size has to do with the sort of food that is available. Grizzly bears are omnivores, meaning that they eat both plants and meat. Coastal bears tend to grow larger because of the availability of Salmon and other fish, which are high in protein which help the bears to grow. Inland where meat is a rare treat the grizzlies eat mainly pine nuts, berries, roots, grasses, and insects.
Grizzlies live mostly solitary lives. Mating typically begins in late May when the males go out looking for a suitable female. Since a bears primary sense is smell the male will use his nose to try and pick up scent trails that the female leaves behind. He will follow the trail until he finds the female. The two bears approach each other cautiously, a meeting like this at other times of the year might end up in a fight, and spend some time getting to know each other. If they bond they will only stay together for up to a couple of weeks then each bear will go its own way.
If the female is impregnated she will not immediately become pregnant. The fertilized egg begins to develop but then stops at the blastocyst stage. The embryo then sits in the uterus for several months until it is time for the bear to hibernate. If the bear is in good physical condition at that time then the embryo will implant itself to the uterine wall and begin to develop and in January or February the bear will awaken to give birth. If the bear is not in good health when she begins hibernate then her body will reabsorb the embryo and end the pregnancy.
The baby bears are born blind and helpless. They will spend the rest of the winter suckling milk from mom inside the den. By the time mom wakes up from her winter slumber and is ready to leave the den the cubs will have grown to weigh six to eight times what they did when they were born just a few short months before. The young bears will spend about two years with their mother. They will continue to look to here to provide them with milk to help them grow until they get to the age when they will eat more solid foods. They will also need mom to protect them. Adult grizzly bears have no natural enemies but cubs can fall prey to other predators like coyotes, wolves , and other bears. Male bears will often kill cubs, especially ones that are with a female around mating time. While the female has cubs with her she will not go into estrus and thus will not mate. So the males know that the only chance they will have to mate with a female who still has cubs is to kill the cubs. If the cubs live to be two years old then mom will chase them away when mating season arrives so that she can start the process over again. The two year old cubs will have to fend for themselves from then on. I took these photographs in Yellowstone where there they estimate the grizzly population at around 550.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Cloud by Percy Bysshe Shelley Part 6

I bind the Sun's throne with a burning zone,
And the moon's with a girdle of pearl;
The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,
When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
Over a torrent sea,
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,
The mountains its columns be.
The triumphal arch through which I march
With hurricane, fire, and snow,
When the powers of air are chained to my chair,
Is the million-colored bow,
The sphere-fire above its soft colors wove,
While the moist Earth was laughing below.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cliff Geyser Yellowstone

A geyser is a hot spring that erupts at intermittent intervals. Geysers are caused by ground water that seeps down into the earth until it runs into rock that is superheated by magma, molten rock. The magma heats the water which expands and begins to rise back up towards the surface through fractures and fissures in the earths surface. As the water rises it begins to cool and the cooler water starts to push its way back down while the warmer water is pushing up. This creates immense pressure which is eventually released through an eruption of water and steam. Since geysers require extreme heat they are usually found in areas that are commonly referred to as hot spots. Hot spots are volcanic regions where magma from the earths core rises up through cracks and fissures until it is relatively close to the earth's surface. Because these hot spots are not very common geysers are pretty rare. There are about a thousand known geysers around the world and about half of them can be found in Yellowstone National Park. That is where I took this pic of Cliff Geyser erupting.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Minnesota Ren Fest

Today is mine and Michelle's 18th wedding anniversary. Since I did not have anything scheduled for this weekend I asked Michelle a couple weeks ago what she would like to do for our anniversary. Usually I am the one who plans our activities but I thought that maybe Michelle would prefer to celebrate our anniversary doing something other then chasing birds, bugs, and animals through woods, fields and swamps.
Her choice was to spend Saturday at the Minnesota Ren Fest. This was a fitting choice since when we got married we were poor and did not have enough money to travel somewhere nice for a honeymoon so we spent a few days over in Wisconsin and then came back and spent the following Saturday at the Ren Fest.
We went and watched several of the stage shows. It was fun seeing some of the people who I knew from the many years that I was in business as a family entertainer doing magic and balloon sculpting.
Besides the stage shows there are a lot of other things to do and see. Food is a large part of the days activities. This is the first time that we have been to the Ren Fest since I was diagnosed with diabetes about three years ago, so finding suitable food for my strict diet was a bit more difficult.
There are also always a lot of colorful characters at the festival. Some are street entertainers, like the ones pictured above, while other are actually spectators who decide to become a part of the atmosphere by dressing up.
We spent a lot of time looking at art, cut glass, costume pieces, and sculptures. One of my favorites was this 2 piece bronze dragon. It is difficult to see but it is in a small pool and the mouth is a fountain. If only I had a yard big enough to build a small water feature.
And what festival would be complete with out rides. This giant rocking horse looked way to scary for us old folks so we decided to pass. We ended up spending only about half a day, because it got kind of warm in the afternoon but we both had a good time reliving some fond old memories.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Green Comma Butterfly

The comma butterflies are a genus of butterflies in the brush-footed family that are identified by a white mark, resembling a comma, on the underside of the hindwing. The comma butterflies are often found perched on the ground or vegetation with their wings folded, this is a form of protection because in this state they are easily mistaken for a dead leaf.
There are seven different types of comma in North America. Most can be identified by the shape of the comma and the pattern on the upperside of the wings. I believe that this one is a green comma. It is difficult to make out any green on the underside of the wings but the wide black border and the combination of spots found on the upperside of the wings indicate that it is probably a green comma. Green comma can be found in northeastern Minnesota and range up into Canada but they are much more common in the northwestern portions of North America, like Yellowstone where I took these photographs.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Today's Flowers Purgatory Creek

Not all of the flowers that I find in my local parks are wildflowers. At Purgatory Creek they have wonderful gardens surrounding the picnic area and the statue honoring the troops. This white / yellow mum is a part of the garden.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pileated Woodpecker

The pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker found in most of North America, with a wingspan of around 25 to 30 inches long. These birds are found mostly in the eastern United States, southern Canada and the Pacific Northwest.
Like many other types of woodpeckers pileated woodpeckers are not really migrant. They stay in their nesting territory, and defend it, year round. They can survive in the colder climate because their food source are insects that are found with in trees. They use their powerful beaks to bore large, often rectangular, holes deep into trees to find their prey. They are so large and strong that they will sometimes break small trees. They nest in the cavity of large trees where they will lay a clutch of 1 to 6 eggs. I photographed this pileated last August at Hok-Si-La.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Cloud by Percy Bysshe Shelley Part 5

And the crimson pall of eve may fall
From the depth of Heaven above,
With wings folded I rest, on mine aery nest,
As still as a brooding dove
That orbed maiden with white fire laden,
Whom mortals call the Moon,
Glides glimmer o'er my fleece like floor,
by the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent's thin roof,
The stars peep behind her and peer;
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
Like a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
Till the calm rivers, lakes and seas,
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
Are paved with the moon and these.