Saturday, April 30, 2011

White Throated and White Crowned Sparrows

The White Throated Sparrows must have migrated in last night during the storm, as there were many of them for the first time at the feeders.

The yellow and white markings on the head are bolder on some than on others, as you can see in the pictures.
We should be catching lots of these at the bird banding activity at Springbrook tomorrow morning, along with many other migrants.  It starts at 6:30 AM for any who want to join us, and goes until about 12:30, if you don't want to rise so early.  All are welcome.

 White Crowned Sparrows are one of the most attractive sparrows we have.  They are often mixed in with the White Throats, but the difference is easy to spot.  The black and white head, no yellow,  and the gray breast and throat.  Also notice the more pinkish (so the book calls it) colored bill instead of the more blackish bill of the White throats.

I only had a few minutes today, but took these pictures just after the rain stopped

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunrise-Signs of Spring

 On the trails at Springbrook this morning spring was intensely present.

The Yellow Rumped Warblers were feeding in the wetlands on the midges that hatched yesterday.

These little warblers are often the first to return, and this year have been here for two weeks with very few other warblers showing up.

The cold weather has kept them close to the ground looking for food, so they are easy to see.

You can see in the picture below why they are called "Yellow Rumped" warblers.
Looking for bugs in wetlands and even eating from suet feeders, as I have seen one at my feeders doing, shows how well adapted these early warblers are to the chances of early spring weather in Minnesota.

They will travel to northern Minnesota to find a place to nest.
 The Cedar Waxwings were eating the berries of the invasive European Buckthorn this morning. The berries are a powerful emitic, so the seeds will be pooped out right away, planting more buckthorn trees!
 This male Red Winged Blackbird is showing the females how agressive he can be defending his territory.  What interested me was the band on his right leg (on the left here).  I photographed three male Redwings with bands this morning-but didn't notice the bands until I was looking at the pictures.

Below is one of the midge flys that hatched yesterday, caught in one of the first spider webs of the year.  The sun had just hit this web, turning the frost to dew almost instantly.

The emerging leaves on this Gray Dogwood twig were covered with frost as the sun rose this morning.  You can see which side faced east, as the frost changed to dew drops as the sun's warmth touched the twig.
The tiny lichen called British Soldiers is growing its red fruiting caps now.  Look for it on dead logs in open areas.  I found these in Springbrook's oak savannah.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Turkey's Gobbling

 Wild Turkeys are actively in their mating season at Springbrook now.  I took these pictures yesterday looking into the bird feeding area. 
This is the first year  males have been present in the park, and they are really putting on a show, gobbling and strutting in front of the windows while the hens are feeding.
I believe they see their reflection and think it is another male, so they try to out-perform the reflection, getting right up close to the window so the hens will have an easy time comparing.
I have only seen two males, and only one gobbling and strutting.  But they can't be putting on displays all the time, and this is what they look like when a bit more relaxed. Notice how much shorter and smaller the "snood" is here.  The "snood" is the fleshy red projection on top of and behind the beak. 

Also notice the short "beard" projecting from the turkey's chest.  the short length suggests this turkey is young, probably a "Jake," just one or two year's old.  Maybe that is why he is at Springbrook, where he does not have to compete with older, more established males in other areas. Older Tom turkeys have beards over one foot long.
In this picture the "snood" is a little bigger, and the beard can be seen better.

The bright colors on the head of the males are what tells the difference from the females.  Other wise they look pretty similar, except that most female turkey's also lack the beard. About one in ten females do have short "beards," which is why hunting regulations for turkeys allow shooting of "bearded" turkeys.  That way very few females are taken, and reproduction is high the next year. 
Here is a female or hen turkey for comparrison.  This one is sitting on a fence rail by the bird feeders.  Turkeys can fly very well, and roost in the top of tall trees at night.

The hens seem to ignore the performance of the males, but I am pretty sure they are watching, and that Springbrook will have baby turkeys by the end of May.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wood Frogs Fighting and Calling

Wood Frogs are usually the first to start calling every spring, often before the snow and ice are gone.  They often call for only one or two days, since they call and lay their eggs in vernal pools--bodies of water that dry up usually by late spring.
They were calling at Springbrook yesterday, and I was only able to get these poor quality photos.  The pool is big this year--because of the big snow melt.
 The males set up small territories in the middle of the pool.  They call while floating on top of the open water, and they fight for the few open spaces.  In the top photo you can see one approaching the closer one.  The next picture I call a "muddle."  Three or more males converge and "wrestle" underwater to determine who gets the spot.  This lasts for five or ten seconds.  And then five or ten minutes later it happens again.
 Wood Frogs inflate air sacs on the sides of their upper chest area and expel the air to make their short croaking--barking calls.  The easiest way to find them is to look for the ripples in the water that the frog makes when making the call.
You can see the air sacs on the lower photo--sorry for the quality.
These frogs were about 75 feet away so even with a 500 mm lens they were tiny in the view finder, and these pictures are cropped out of the original much bigger picture.
Still, it is always a great pleasure to hear the wood frogs the once every three or four years I am able to catch their calls on the one day they are there.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Turtle on Ice

While hiking Springbrook's main trail yesterday to see signs of spring, this was the strangest and most surprising one.  A painted turtle slowly walking across the ice of the large pond area. Never seen this before.  The temperature was around 50 at 5 PM, but there was no way this turtle was going to find shelter before  the temp dropped below freezing.

How do supposedly "cold blooded" animals do this? Animals that are not able to raise their body temperature except by sitting in the sun.
 Somehow this turtle was creating warm enough muscle tissue to keep moving across the ice.

Here is the turtle and the pond with six inches of ice left, and the only open water a few inches at the edge of the cat tails.

This turtle looked like fox or mink food to me.  A mink crossed the trail in front of me and entered this wetland just a few minutes after I saw this turtle. 

Hope the turtle knew what it was doing and we see it this summer swimming in the wetland.