centuryplant: A Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Default)
Pamela and I drive to Nerstrand at least once every spring for the wildflowers, and -- lately -- for the birds. This year we continued our streak of missing the bloom of the Dwarf Trout Lily, a cute little white flower endemic to three counties in Minnesota. They were budding, and would probably have been open in two more days. We also couldn't find the Red-Headed Woodpeckers that were flying around the campground last year, and that helped convince me I really did need to buy a new camera so I could take pictures of birds. But we did see plenty of Dutchman's Breeches, my favorite spring wildflower.
Dutchman's Breeches near Hidden Falls at Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park in Minnesota.

The Marsh Marigolds were also very happy this year. Little temporary streams of snow runoff were coming down the hill, lined with yellow on both sides.

One photo )

Pamela was recovering from an injury, so we just hiked the one-mile loop to Hidden Falls, then spent the rest of the evening hanging around the bird feeders at the park entrance. The warbler migration was still just getting started, but the suet feeder did attract a couple of Pine Warblers, a new species for us.

A Pine Warbler at Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park in Minnesota.

Five more photos )

centuryplant: A Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Default)
The resident Great Horned Owl at Elm Creek Park Reserve.

I think this is just a yawn. At least, it didn't come with a sound.

The resident Great Horned Owl at Elm Creek Park Reserve.

On the other hand, this may really be a dirty look. This owl lives at the Nature Center in Elm Creek Park Reserve, and occasionally they bring it outdoors into the yard for viewing. Its enclosure is just a random quadrilateral between sidewalks, and I eventually got the feeling that maybe it didn't like people coming up to the fence on the closest sides. They're just about to knock down the building and replace it with a new one, so maybe they'll include a larger owl paddock.

Two more photos )

centuryplant: Silhouette of an agave flowerhead with three birds perched on it (agave)
A Song Sparrow perching on last year's mullein at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota.

Song Sparrows love high perches out in the open, so last year's mullein stalk is perfect.

Six more photos )

centuryplant: Silhouette of an agave flowerhead with three birds perched on it (agave)

I think Turkey Vultures are one of our most underrated birds. They're majestic in the air, and they keep the highways clean. If there were people who soared around on hang gliders until they saw some roadkill, then swooped down and took it away, would they be cool? Of course they would. A little alopecia wouldn't make any difference.

I suppose the common name hasn't done them any favors, but they do have a great scientific name, Cathartes aura. Cathartes means "purifier," and comes from the same root as "catharsis," which, of course, was Aristotle's term for those moments in art that make you feel as if your heart has been picked clean by vultures.

I must say, though, it is a little disturbing that you can see right through their nostrils to the other side.

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centuryplant: A Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Default)
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[personal profile] pameladean pointed out this Song Sparrow hopping around in a stand of sumac. Looking at it in the viewfinder, I thought it had a piece of nesting material in its beak. When I zoomed in on one of the photos I'd taken on the camera's LCD screen, the "nesting material" turned out to be a Dusky Clubtail dragonfly, minus wings. I doubt a sparrow could catch a dragonfly out of the air, so it had probably found a recently-emerged one in the grass. Those photos didn't come out very well because the spotted brown dragonfly was hard to make out against the spotted brown sparrow. Luckily, the bird's next catch was a green caterpillar, which shows up much better. I suppose the bugs were destined to be baby food.

Dragonfly phenology and random disorganized bird notes, with two more photos. )

centuryplant: A Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Default)
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This was supposed to be a picture of a Red-Winged Blackbird perching on a cattail, but the bird had other ideas.

centuryplant: A Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Default)

This Bald Eagle's gravitas is slightly undermined by the piece of duckweed stuck to the top of his bill. I had noticed him earlier standing in a wading pool they'd set up for him; he acted like he was trying to catch something in the water, but I didn't see what, if anything, he'd actually come up with. I suppose they might feed the eagles live fish as a form of environmental enrichment.

more eagle )

centuryplant: A Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Default)

This is a Great Horned Owl at the Raptor Release event. According to the Raptor Center's website, her name is Samantha. I've seen Great Horned Owls in the wild before, but never one with such beautiful markings. It's a shame that Gerard Manley Hopkins never saw this bird.

Look at those ear tufts! She's like a calico cat.

more owl )

centuryplant: Close-up of the head and thorax of a Dragonhunter dragonfly (Dragonhunter dragonfly)

Last Saturday, the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center held its spring Raptor Release at Hyland Park Reserve. The main event is the release of rehabilitated birds, but they also bring out some of their permanent residents for people to see and photograph. Taking pictures of captive animals feels like cheating to me, and I almost didn't go, but I'm glad I did.

This is a Peregrine Falcon briefly taking note of my existence before dismissing me as unimportant. I love the peach color of her chest feathers, and the way her back looks like it's assembled from sheets of embossed metal.

I don't know what those little black-and-white tufts on her wings are for; they make me think of halteres.

I have more photos, which I'll post as I finish processing them.