Friday, August 29, 2014

Monarch Butterflies Start Migration

In Springbrook Nature Center's south prairie the Rough Blazing Star is in full bloom and the Monarch Butterflies are busy drinking nectar as they start their long migration to Mexico. 

I took these pictures on Tuesday with Monarch butterflies all around me, seeming to have added to their numbers this summer after reports of serious population decline last spring.
 I'm sure they are still in serious decline, but it is great to see them in numbers after seeing so few recently. 

This is a male, as told by the black "spots" on the hind wings.



Although there were plenty of flowers to go around, the butterflies often nectared together on a single plant, with 3 or 4 close together, as can be seen in the picture below.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Butterflies in Summer

 Lots of butterflies around the flowers at Springbrook Nature Center and gardens this summer.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are nearly the largest and there have been lots of them this year.

They are slow fliers when they are getting nectar from flowers, and a pleasure to see.  Their caterpillars feed on cherry leaves, so a Cherry tree will attract even more of them.
 This American Lady butterfly is feeding on Joe Pye Weed flowers.  These butterflies probably do not survive our winters in Minnesota as hibernating adults, but fly north in the spring and will have a couple of generations in this area before the cold of late fall ends this year's cycle. 

These butterflies are very fast flying and some years will be seen in great numbers and other years very few seen.
 The Question Mark butterfly is named after the silver white mark on the hind wing that looks a little like a question mark.  These butterflies fly very fast and rarely stop for anything.  Finding one that stopped to get some nectar was a gift.

Below is the Red Admiral Butterfly, another one that is sometimes seen in great numbers.  This one is nectaring on Purple Cone Flower, and flies very fast from one flower to another, spending all day on the flowers.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Robber Fly Bumblebee Mimic Eating Real Bumblebees

 Bumblebees are an important part of ecosystems because of their pollinating activities on the many flowering plants all around us.

There are many species of Bumblebees, but most of us are more familiar with the large yellow and black ones that generally ignore us while busily working away at gathering nector and pollen, as in this picture taken at Springbrook Nature Center.
 A group of predacious robberflies have taken advantage of this casualness that other insects seem to have with bumblebees. 

As can be seen in these pictures this member of the fly family is an amazing mimic of a bumblebee.

By using this mimicry, the fly can sit in the open among leaves and flowers and  not be seen as a threat by other insects.  And birds don't try to eat it since they don't want to be stung.
 Yesterday I was photographing small bumblebees in my raspberry patch when this fascinating imposter showed up.

It did not take it long to get close enough to one of the small bumblebees to grab it and then land on a leaf to enjoy a healthy lunch with its piercing and sucking mouthparts.

Mimicry works for both defense and offense, especially for this fly.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dew In Prairies At Springbrook

 There was heavy dew in the prairies at Springbrook Nature Center this morning.  All the new grasses and flowers, as well as any critter that spent the night in the open was pretty much covered with drops.

As the sun came up, the dew evaporated into the air as things warmed up.

The image in the dew drops illustrates how a lens inverts whatever it sees.  You can see the sky on the bottom of the drops.
 A damselfly is covered with dew here, and the drop on the grass beside it shows how a drop of water can act as a magnifying lens.

As soon as the dew evaporated off the damselfly it flew away and joined the many others searching for small insects to eat.
 The Prairie is full of flowers, including the Spiderworts, which have just started blooming.

Each flower blooms for one day only, with a new bud behind it taking its place tomorrow.
 The wild asperagus has grown tall and now has many tiny flowers which will grow into little green berries about the size of a pea in a few weeks.
 The wild roses have started blooming, and are the biggest blossoms in the prairie.






The puccoon in the picture below is also starting to bloom after the managed prairie burn earlier this spring.  Their large yellow clumps can be seen from a long way off.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Broadwinged Hawk Banded At Springbrook Nature Center

 For the first time in 26 years of banding birds at Springbrook Nature Center a Broadwinged Hawk flew into one of our mist nets and was captured immediatly and then banded and released.

This was pretty exciting for all the volunteers, most of whom don't get to see a hawk up this close.  Fortunately, volunteer Amber Burnete, who works at the Raptor Center, was present and very familiar with handling birds of prey. 

This turned out to be a Broad Winged Hawk that was only one year old, so a little inexperienced and may be why we captured it..  The eye color helps to determine the age, and has not turned to the brighter yellow af an older adult.

This hawk was very calm through the banding process, but wary of so many hands measuring and looking at feathers to determine its age.
 Here the band is being closed on the hawk's leg.  Now if this hawk is ever captured again we will be able to learn where it has traveled and how long it lives.
Here is the hawk being released.  the band can be clearly seen on its right leg.  If the hawk stays around Springbrook we will be able to see the band on his leg and know that this is the one we captured on Sunday, May 10, 2014.

The hawk was ready to go, and flew immediately into a tree nearby.  It shook its feathers out, and then flew back in the direction of the area where we captured it a little earlier.

Hope we see it again.

Bird Migration In Full Swing At Springbrook Nature Center

 At Sunday's bird banding activity at Springbrook Nature Center migrating birds were everywhere.  The early migrants have been held back by the wet weather and late migrants have arrived from the south, making a great opportunity to see them all at one time.

This male Northern Shoveler duck was swimming just off the boardwalk.
 This Yellow Rumped Warbler was also on the cattails seen from the boardwalk, along with many others.  The yellow feathers on his rump show where his name comes from. 

These little warblers are early migrants, and have usually flown further north by now, but are still very common in the park.  they will be gone soon
 This Olive Sided Flycatcher is one of only four caught in our nets for banding in the past 26 years.  His hooked beak is very normal for flycatchers.

He is posing here after he was banded and ready for release.  He seems to be less "olive" colored than others I remember.
 Here with his wings open there is just a hint of the olive color that gives him his name.

Being captured, banded, and released did not seem to frighten himt too much, as I saw him again back in the same area at Springbrook yesterday, two days after his release.

The Black and White Warbler below was just one of the 22 species and 73 individual birds banded on Sunday at Springbrook.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Bluebirds at Springbrook

 In the cold rain yesterday we caught this male Eastern Bluebird in between showers during Springbrook Nature Center's banding program.  The female was close by and called for him until he was released after he was banded.

His blue color was very intense, contrasted with the rusty red breast.
 During the banding process the wing feathers are inspected to determine which feathers have been molted recently, which helps determine age of birds caught.

It gives a chance to see the brilliant blue that these birds have on the upper part of their body.
By looking at these feathers it was determined that this bird was an after second year male, which means it hatched in 2012 or earlier.

With the habitat restoration project leaving many forested areas in Springbrook more open, bluebirds will have more areas to nest, and may increase in numbers over the next few years.

I hope so, as they are always a pleasure to see and hear.