Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving and First Snow

Today is Thanksgiving Thursday and the Twin Cities metro area is seeing our first official snowfall of the season. We've had light flurries in the air about a week ago but nothing sticking to the ground like it is today. I decided to do a very short loop around the Duck Pond at the park this morning before heading to the in-laws. As suspected there were some Mallards hanging out in the snow and it was really the only wildlife to photograph. The snow was actually coming down pretty good and it was wet and heavy, thus sticking to my camera and melting upon landing, making everything wet including me. I didn't have but an hour so it was a short visit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Long Time No Write

Well I'm sad to say how many months have gone by without a post! This May - September was one of the best and busiest Spring/Summer seasons I've had birding in Minnesota –and beyond. I've got backlogs of images and miles of stories to share so stay tuned.

But for now if you've like to follow me elsewhere, see the following links...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Brilliant Colors of Nature

I set out on today's hike around the park with one bird in mind –and Indigo Bunting. After trying many times last year to get a nice photo I was determined to get one this Sunday. But before I got around to the north side I spotted a somewhat cooperative Yellow Warbler. I got many photos of him in the shade and even closer, but I chose to post this one where he's out in the sun. This year I learned a little on telling apart a male from a female and this one with it's bold orange breast streaks and bright yellow head is most likely a male. The female would be a somewhat more drab version of the male with barely a hint of the streaking on the breast. When I got to the north side I found at least one of the Indigo Buntings and spent a lot of time following it from tree to tree. After a LOT of effort and nearly an hour, I finally had him land a bit lower and in good light and I jumped at the opportunity. I was thrilled how this one came out and I think it finally shows just how brilliant of a blue the males appear. They are such a wonderful bird in color and song and I truly look forward to seeing them each summer. The moments I spent capturing this photo will stick in my mind for a long time. On my way back I spotted one of the only Damselflies that I can readily identify –an Ebony Jewelwing. Though Damselflies are in the same order (Odonata) as Dragonflies, they are different family due to the way they are able to "fold" their wings together. The Ebony Jewelwing is appropriately named for it's ebony or black colored wings which at first look completely opaque, but are indeed slightly transparent. The small white dots near the outer edges of the wings tell me that this one is a female versus a male who would not show any white dots on his wings. I think that is pretty amazing that such a small creature only 1.5 to 2 inches long so obviously displays it's sex like that. Other birds I spotted today included; Baltimore Oriole, Tree Swallow, Red-winged Blackbird (juvenile), American Goldfinch, Warbling Vireo, Least Flycatcher, Brown Thrasher, Great Egret and a Mallard hen with chick. Oh, I also saw a Mourning Cloak Butterfly too!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Another Great Day of May Birding

I saw a lot of great birds today around the park and in fact I got too many nice photos that I can't post them all. So I've picked my favorite one from a good variety representing what I all saw today. The first is a Warbler that I've seen before at the park but one I've never got great photos of –until today. This Tennessee Warbler was calling so loudly and constantly that I probably wouldn't have seen him otherwise hiding in the Willows just off the paved trail on the east side. I followed the sound and spotted him but he quickly darted away. Like I do often, I tried "pishing" which is just making a "pish" sound which is sometimes known to attract curious birds. For probably the first time ever it actually worked and brought this colorful little Warbler right in close to me! I snapped photos wildly, knowing he likely wouldn't sit still for very long. Luckily it was long enough to capture 3 or 4 decent photos which nicely show the olive-green and grey color scheme. I was so happy to have captured this guy that the rest of my hike seemed inconsequential. But I was in for more great birds as this time of year can provide the pinnacle of surprises. And surprised I was, to notice a brief movement down at my feet while passing a little pond just south of the baseball diamonds on the east side. I wondered "could it be?" and so I decided to sit indian style right on the paved trail and wait. Sure enough, minutes later a small Sora poked his head into view between the weeds. I've never had such a perfect and closeup view as this! He really didn't pay any attention to me and I sat there as still as possible with my finger on the shutter button snapping away. I was provided fantastic looks at this secretive member of the "Rail" family and it was a very memorable sighting! Like other Rails and related swamp dwelling birds, the Sora has huge, lobed feet to help it stand and walk through the muddy and unstable habitat in which it lives. Later I stopped to watch a Gray Catbird long enough to catch a few images. They are always entertaining to watch and especially to listen to as they hardly make two notes that sound the same. Their lack of colorful plumage is more than made up for by their colorful calls. One more Warbler graced my camera lens later on. This is a female Common Yellowthroat and I'm quite amazed that I was able to capture her among the thick brush she was in. It was almost like she posed just in the right place for me to see and photograph her. Many times if you see a female Yellowthroat, the male is also around somewhere close but I did not see him. This is one species, that for me is easier to identify by it's behavior than anything else. You are likely to find them hopping around in dense underbrush and they can be very close to you without you even realizing it. There were also plenty of Baltimore Orioles visible today at the park. Through all my efforts, I've yet to capture a photo of one that I like. They tend to perch quite high in trees and for that reason I always find myself underneath them instead of looking straight on at them. This was one of my closer shots. Some of the other species I saw today included; Mallard, Tree Swallow, Canada Goose, Palm Warbler, Bald Eagle, Yellow Warbler, White-throated Sparrow & American Redstart. I also saw two very young Bucks and a nice cluster of Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants.