Monday, January 25, 2016

Rare Ivory Gull In Duluth, Minnesota

This very rare Ivory Gull has been seen at Canal Park in Duluth, Minnesota for a few weeks and has attracted a lot of attention.  I was there on January 22, and was able to get some pictures after waiting nearly 5 hours for it to show up.

This is a juvenile, meaning that it was a nestling last summer, somewhere above the arctic circle.  The adult birds are pure white without the black spots.

It is a smaller gull that stays pretty much by itself and is normally never seen in this area.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Great Horned Owl Babies Growing Fast

Great Horned Owls did their pair bonding last December and January and began laying eggs in their nests in February here in the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area in Minnesota.

The babies hatched and have been growing fast.  This pair were able to sit together for the first time in a long time as the female left the babies alone in the warm sun for the first time yesterday.

At the well known nest in Silverwood Park the babies left the nest a couple of weeks ago, but this nest in an Edina park will still have the babies in the nest for a few days. 
 The female Great Horned Owl is quite protective and stays with the babies as they are small.  But the babies grow rapidly and it soon becomes crowded in what looks like an old squirrel nest. I took this picture on April 10.

Great Horned Owls usually don't do much construction for their nest, using an old crow or hawk nest, or an old squirrel nest. 

These nests often fall apart before the babies are ready to leave the nest, and the young owls have to hold onto branches or fall to the ground.  The parents are still very attentive and protect the babies wherever they end up.  
 The baby owls are curious but mostly lay flat on the nest and only a few white fluffy feathers can be seen most of the day.
 This mother owl sat on a branch a few feet from the nest yesterday.  This was the first time she wasn't in the nest with her two babies all day.

She would fly to a tree 100 feet away and then return to this branch several times.

Once about 20 crows came to harass her and I was surprised to watch her fly to the nest tree with the crows following her.

The babies must be too big for her to worry about crows injuring them.  After a few minutes the crows all flew away.
 The baby owls leave the nest as soon as they are agile enough to hop from branch to branch, and very soon from tree to tree with the help of their rapidly growing wing feathers.

This is one of the babies at the Silverwood Park nest that I took pictures of two weeks ago as it was hopping up a large branch moving away from the nest box. The babies owls are called "branchers" during these first days out of the nest.

The pair at the Edina Park did not get much time together as the male flys off in the picture below to distract some danger that the female can see as she looks up into the sky.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Pasque Flowers Are Blooming Spring Is Here

The Pasque Flowers are up and blooming.  They are my for sure signal that winter has passed and spring has commenced.

I took this picture yesterday, though there was no sun. 

It is always good to see these large hairy flowers push out of the recently frozen ground and open up to be pollinated by the first bees of spring.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bluebirds, Robins, And Worms

 The Bluebirds and Robins have returned in great numbers.  I took these pictures the last two days. 

It is always a great pleasure to hear the Bluebirds singing when they return in the spring.  This beautiful male was flying from one nestbox to another trying to decide which was the best location to attract the perfect female.

The blue of these birds is very welcome after so little color all winter.
Male Robins have also returned and seem to be everywhere out on lawns and in fields.  They are looking for food after their long migration north.

They especially like worms, who come to the surface of the ground after the long winter.  But the worms do not go willingly, and put up a bit of a struggle, as seen in the pictures below.

 The worms mostly lose these contests, and the Robins get refueled and ready for their nesting season.

As the female Robins arrive over the next few weeks, mates will be chosen, and nesting will begin.

In the meantime, worms should beware of hungry Robins.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Groundhog Collects Nesting Material

 This morning at Springbrook Nature Center a fat Groundhog was busy collecting leaves and grass to line her nest in preparation for her babies that she will be giving birth to soon.

Hibernation was definately over on this warm and sunny day.  She was finding materials that had been dried out by the sun on the south side of her small hill.
 This groundhog would place her lower jaw down on the ground and, with her mouth open, push forward picking up all the leaves and grass in her mouth.  Then she would look around and disappear down one of her den's holes.  A few minutes after she would be back and repeat the process. 

She continued for the entire 90 minutes I watched her, and was still busy when I left.
 Sometimes she would stop while deep in the brush and look all around for a few minutes, then return to her task of preparing her nest for her babies.

Around four babies will arrive in the next couple of weeks as green things start growing. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Purple Finches Arrive With First Winter Storm

 There were several Purple Finches at my bird feeders this morning.  The first ones this year, and just in time for the first big snowstorm of this new winter.

This male was waiting for an open space on the feeder. He soon was eating seed as can be seen below.

The females do not have the purple-cranberry color, but are distinctive with the white line over the eye, as can be seen in the picture at the bottom.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Yellowlegs Shorebirds Migrating South

 Most shorebirds have already migrated through Minnesota on their southward journey, but this Greater Yellowlegs was near the shore of the Mississippi River yesterday and allowed me a fairly close approach. It is usually difficult to get close to these birds.

This bird seemed to be resting, eating, and preening its feathers as it prepared for the next leg of its migration to the southern coasts of the United States or somewhere in Central America.

Yellowlegs nest in Canada, so we only get to see them during migration
 Here is a picture with a female Mallard Duck in the foreground for size comparison. The long bill and fairly large size differentiate this from a Lesser Yellowlegs, which also migrate down the Mississippi Migration Flyway.

The bright yellow legs are distinctive in these birds.

Here this bird is looking for food, and in the next picture is seen grabbing something only it can see under the water.
 I didn't see anything wiggling in its mouth when it came back up, so it must have eaten it while under water.  With ducks and gulls all around it, food seen in its mouth would bring other birds eager for a meal.

After eating a little, and resting, then preening, as seen in the picture below, this bird flew off to another spot for more food and rest.

Next spring it will make the return flight to Canada, passing through this same area looking for food and rest to give it the resources it needs to fly thousands of miles to its breeding grounds.