Thursday, September 30, 2010

Aumumn's Glow by Marilyn Lott

There is something about autumn
That brings out such earthiness
Gold leaves adorn bushes and trees
Like an artist with a brilliant brush
Once the leaves dry on the trees
Then the wind begins to blow
It's a special time of year for me
Because I love autumn so
The cold dry air it seems
Prepare the leaves to fall
Mother Nature's special time
Yes, it's the best of all
What a dazzling way to end
The year as winter nears
The way that leaves let loose
and dropp like nature's tears
Oh yes, I love those golden days
Dreamy with autumn's glow
It makes me smile because I do
Love the season of autumn so!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Honey Bee

Hunting Egret

The great egret is a common bird through out much of the world. The most widely distributed egret they can be found in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. They are large birds with a four and a half to five foot wingspan, the great blue heron is the only member of the egret family which is larger.
For me the fun thing about egrets is watching them hunt. They slowly wade through the water stalking their prey. Frequently they will stop and stand motionless and then quickly lunge at the prey catching it with their long slim beak. This egret was hunting at Purgatory Creek.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Wargo Nature Center

This year I decided to branch out a bit and check out some new places to do my photography. One of those places was the Wargo Nature Center in Hugo, MN. Wargo is part of the 5,000 acre Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Regional Park Reserve.
The nature center is located on a peninsula over looking George Watch Lake. Because of its accessibility to the lake it offers recreation opportunities, such as canoe, kayak or snow shoe rental, as well as nature watching.
The big reason for my visits was the occupied osprey platform. There are numerous osprey platforms around the Twin Cities, most of which were occupied and many closer to my house then Wargo, but Wargo is one of the best locations for photographing the osprey. Wargo is the only location that I know of in the Twin Cities with a blind set up to watch the nest. The blind has a good view of the poll and it is located south of the nest so the sun is always somewhat at your back.
After my many visits some of the people working at the visitors center began to recognize me and let me know about the upcoming banding. It was quite exciting to be there to photograph the banding of three new osprey chicks.
Mom and dad were pretty excited too, but it was a much different type of excitement. They circled in the sky above us as the invading predators took their babies from the nest. In the end though the osprey were victorious as the chicks were returned and the invaders driven away.
About six weeks later the chicks were full grown and ready to fledge. The adults had their work cut out for them trying to catch enough food to feed three full sized osprey plus themselves. Eventually the young were able to find their own food so there was no more reason for them to return to the nest which meant it was the end of my osprey photography but there was still plenty of wildlife at Wargo to photograph and hopefully next year the osprey will return.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Widow Skimmer

The widow skimmer dragonfly is a member of the skimmer family. It can be found through out most of the summer around permanent ponds, lakes, and marshes. Usually you see them perched on the end of stick, reed or weed waiting to ambush its prey.
This is a mature male widow skimmer. Mature males can be identified by the white bands on the wings and the blue grey abdomen. Immature males look similar to females with just the black stripes on the wings and a yellow and black abdomen. As they age the abdomen of the male is coated with a dusky powdering substance called pruinose which gives it the color that you see in the photos above.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Perennial Sowthistle

Sonchus arvensis or perennial sowthistle is an invasive wildflower here in Minnesota that originally came from Eurasia.
It spreads quickly because of a deep root system and can displace native plants. For this reason it is considered as a primary noxious weed here in Minnesota. I photographed this plant at Purgatory Creek.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Endangered Karner Blue

Usually when people think of endangered species they think of big animals like elephants, gorillas, tigers, leopards, pandas and the like. Most of these animals are endangered because they require a lot of habitat to survive and as man has expanded that habitat has shrunk. However not all endangered species are large. Meet the Karner Melissa blue butterfly. This small butterfly, it has a wingspan of only about an inch, was added to the U.S. Federal Endangered Species list back in 1992 because it too s suffering from habitat loss.
The Karner blue is a subspecies of the Melissa Blue which is found in the great lakes region. Unlike the other Melissa blue, the larva or caterpillar of the Karner Melissa Blue will only eat the leaves of the wild lupine plant. Unfortunately the amount of wild lupine growing around the Great Lakes has been decreasing and consequently so has Karner blue population. Wild lupine grows in sandy soil in open spaces. Much of this space has been taken over by man for cultivation or urban sprawl. Other suitable habitat, that is not directly destroyed by people, often becomes quickly over grown. With out natural disturbances, such as fire, forests over run the fields making the habitat unsuitable for the lupine to grow. Since it is on the Endangered Species list the DNR in most of the Great Lakes States have begun to manage land to make it more Karner friendly. This is especially true in Wisconsin where the majority of the Karner population resides. I photographed these Karners at Necedah NWR in central Wisconsin.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sky and Cloud by Colorofsky

Sky and Cloud,
Is like a kiss,
Together, sometimes gentle or passionate
Oh on the blue background sky,
Cloud the life-quenching, floating oasis passes by,
fluffy white to miles dark and high
to down and down
droplets for earth to soak in,
then rising back up to sky and cloud again.
Oh, beyond the marketplaces, crowds,
beyond the cities,valley towns,
far from demanding human wants and needs,
at the wellspring of imaginations, creeds.
Above where red-tailed hawks still flies,
or out where the flowing river winds, ...
Sky and Cloud,
is like a kiss,
together, sometimes loud or delicate.
Yes, Sky and Cloud,
yes, is like, a kiss, ...
What gives us Life, ... to feel, exist.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monarch on Milkweed

Water Lily

Water lilies are actually not lilies at all? Water lilies are members of the Nymphaeaceae family while lilies are a member of the Liliaceae family. The water lily blossom and the lily pads are usually the only visible portions of the waterlily plant, however water lilies have a series of stalks which connect the flower and leaves floating on the top of the water with the root system which is anchored in the soil at the bottom of the lake, pond or other wetland. There are about 70 species of water lilies in the world and they are broken into two classifications, hardy waterlilies, which are found in temperate climates, and tropical water lilies, which are found in warmer areas. Hardy waterlilies bloom only during the day where tropical waterlilies can bloom during the day or at night. All wild water lilies in Minnesota would be hardy water lilies including this one that I photographed at Cam Ripley in central Minnesota.

Monday, September 20, 2010

WCROC Flower Garden

Earlier this summer I participated in the 5th Annual Dragonfly Gathering, which is sponsored each year by the Minnesota Odonata Survey Project. This weekend long event brings people who are interested in Minnesota odonates together in one location. The location changes each year and this year it was held in Morris, MN.
Morris is home to the University of Minnesota Morris campus and the West Central Research & Outreach Center, which is also a part of the University of Minnesota. For the event we stayed on the UMM campus so when I arrived a bit early I went exploring and I discovered the WCROC horticulture research gardens.
WCROC and UMM where at one time the same organization. They began as the West Central School of Agriculture back in 1910. This school began to help educate the families of farmers in western Minnesota. Children would live at the facility and attend school during the six months of the year that they were not helping their family on the farm.
In 1960 the broke the West Central School of Agriculture into the UMM, a standard 4 year liberal arts college, and the West Central Experiment Station, where they continued the agricultural research.
Things stayed this way for 30 years but in 1990 the WCES decided to change their name to the West Central Research & Outreach Center. They felt that the new name would better reflect the schools mission which had changed over time. The WCROC was still focusing in the the subjects that had long been the core of the program, horticulture, crop production, and live stock, but they were also looking at new areas such as environmental, economic and social issues.
The garden is a working horticulture laboratory but it is also a show place of the WCROC's work and a great place for the community to come out and share the world that the WCROC has created. There is even a very imaginative children's garden complete with a playground and a teepee made of vegetation which is a tribute to the Native American cultures that form the history of the center.
Since I had driven out to Morris to search for odonates, dragonflies and damselflies, it was only fitting that I found spreadwing damselflies flying around the gardens. Even the damselflies were not immune to the effects of the beautiful gardens. Like many people probably have they fell in love in the gardens. Hint: look at them upside down.
Of course there was also plenty of bees and butterflies flying around also. This pink-edged sulphur took a break from drinking nectar from all of the colorful flowers, and pollinating them at the same time, to look for moisture in the soil on the path.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Jewel in the Rough

One of the common damselflies that I see around rivers here, especially early in the summer are the river jewelwings. Their name is a little misleading because it is their head, thorax, and abdomen that sparkle like jewels. Their wings are fairly plain.
River jewelwing are a member of the spreadwing damselfly family. Spreadwings are typically larger damselflies. We have three spreadwing damsels that can be found here in Minnesota. The river jewelwing, the ebony jewelwing, which looks just like the river jewelwing except for its wings are entirely black, and the American rubyspot, which is a little smaller then the jewelwings and is metallic red in color. All three of these jewelwing are usually found around rivers and streams but occasionally are found around lakes or ponds also. I photographed this jewelwing at William O'brien State Park which is located on the shore of the St Croix River.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What the Phlox!

Prairie phlox is a member of the phlox or Polemoniaceae family that is native here in Minnesota. It typically blooms as a round cluster of red, purple, or occasionally white flowers in the spring time. I photographed this phlox at the Maplewood Nature Center.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Red-headed Woodpecker

The red-headed woodpecker is a pretty easy bird to identify, with its black and white body and bright red head and throat there are few birds around that it can be mistaken for. Unfortunately because of declining populations many people have not seen this type of woodpecker so they may not recognise it at first glance. Fortunately they still have a healthy population of red-heads at Necedah NWR, in Wisconsin, where I took these photographs.
The red-headed woodpecker is native to the eastern half of the United States. It is a year round resident through out much of its range however during the winter it will migrate south from the northern portions of its range, like Minnesota. The reason that they are in decline, they are currently considered a Species of Greatest Conservation Need, is due to habitat destruction. Red-headed woodpeckers look for open woodlands with a lot of dead trees for their habitat. They are cavity nesters that typically nest in dead trees, preferably ones that have been stripped of bark. They are true omnivores eating everything from berries, seeds and nuts, to insects, and bird eggs. They will often cache their food in the crevices of dead trees, including live insects which they wedge into cracks, and cover it with pieces of bark. Unfortunately many people still remove dead trees from what little wooded areas are still around, for protection from fire or for aesthetics, leaving very little habitat for these beautiful birds to live and breed.