Monday, December 9, 2013
And they bring lots of color, too. The Cardinals, with their bright red are among the brightest colors to see.
At Springbrook Nature Center's bird banding yesterday in the falling snow we caught over 85 birds that were stocking up on energy for the cold night coming up.
Several Cardinals were captured, banded, and released.
It is easier to photograph them too, as they are concentrating on the food, and let me get a bit closer, as this one did yesterday.
The Blue Jays are big and can become bullies at the feeders, not letting other birds near them until they are done feeding and leave.
The predators need to eat too, and they keep the flocks of song birds healthy by eating the slow and less fit. And they are a wonder to watch with their fast flying and manuerving ability.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Coots are not ducks, but they are found among ducks. They are more closely related to rails and cranes. They have a bill shaped like a rail, and each toe has its own webbing, instead of the whole foot being webbed together as ducks have. Some of the webbing on the toes can be seen in the picture below.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
The last New England Aster flowers looked pretty droopy, but their colors were very vibrant and enhanced by the frost.
The seed heads here seem to be the focus point for the frost crystals, with little columns rising off the seeds.
Not having a warm indoor area to return to means needing to constantly eat to stay warm.
The Gold Finch is in its winter plumage now, with the bright yellows of summer replaced by the duller colors that make hiding from predators easier.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
It's rehabilitation was complete and now it is healthy enough to join other Broadwing Hawks in their migration to South America for the winter.
These hawks nest in and around Springbrook, and a pair was regularly seen and heard over the trails throughout this past summer.
Keep an eye out next year for this hawk with the band on its left leg. It might return to this same area.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
It is mostly shades of brown with some black.
All sparrows have a short heavy beak for cracking seeds open.
Fox Sparrows are only seen during migration in the fall and spring at Springbrook, as they spend summers farther north, and winter in the warm southern areas.
The yellow above the eye is a sure way to identify these sparrows. The yellow at the back edge of the beak is left over from this birds "gape" this past summer as a baby bird.
The "gape" color signals the adults to feed the baby birds, and will be gone by spring.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
By coincidence someone had brought in an adult moth found in their garden a few days ago, so here are their pictures together, something I haven't seen at the same time before.
The caterpillar has the characteristic tail of all sphinx moth caterpillars, but is more boldly colored than most other sphinxes.
Unfortunately, this caterpillar has almost no chance of surviving to adulthood.
During the day the bright underwing colors are covered up as the moth camouflages itself on some tree bark or dead leaves.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
This Purple Cone Flower was the only one left, and some of its petals were missing.
The wet cloudy day made the colors very vibrant. The only challenge was keeping the camera dry.
There were no bees or bugs pollinating in the rain. When the sun returns they will be back.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
I took these pictures yesterday afternoon on a Burr Oak tree.
The picture to the left shows how well they blend in with the bark of the tree. They sit very still and are hard to see unless the light is behind them.
But its camouflage is working very well.
Monday, September 2, 2013
They are beautiful, big, colorful butterflies with a very black background color.
In my previous post the caterpillar was preparing to change into the chrysalis portion of its life cycle. It sat quietly for a day before shedding its skin one last time to become the chrysalis.
By the next day the green color was starting to fade and become more brown.
Black Swallowtails overwinter in this chrysalis form here in Minnesota, and I thought that might be what these tree bark looking chrysalises might do. But after 12 days for each, four of the chrysalises have now had the adult butterfly emerge. Perhaps the remaining 16 day old chrysalis will wait until spring.
It seems these buterflies like to wait until full dark to emerge, as I waited up very late several nights and missed all but this one as it was emerging at 5 AM last Thursday.
There is no movement, and suddenly the chrysalis cracks open and the butterfly quickly crawls up the plant stem to find a spot where its wings can hang and expand.
Notice the very prominent greenish yellow veins in the wings, through which the fluid can be seen flowing as the wings rapidly expand.
The butterfly occaisionly tries to open the wings, but they are not strong enough yet and flop to the side mostly.
The new butterfly moves its proboscus mouth open and closed repeatedly during this time to get it ready for its first meal of flower nectar.
I released each butterfly on flowers hoping to photograph it outdoors. But each butterfly immediately flew high up into the sky and into the top leaves of trees near by.
I hope this butterfly's large abdoman means it is a female with lots of eggs to be laid yet this summer so more Black Swallowtails will be seen next summer.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
It is one of the confusing fall warblers whose muted migration colors make it look very similar to other warblers.
One of the only ways to separate this warbler from the Common Yellowthroat warbler in the fall is to compare the length of the feathers under the tail pictured below.
Banding birds requires a lot of very specific observations and measurements to be turned in with the banding data.
The orange feathers under the wing indicate this is a male, and will have red and black feathers in the spring when he returns.
Warblers are beautiful birds, even without all the details.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
Black Swallowtail Butterflies lay their eggs exclusively on plants in the carrot family. In the wild in this area that means Golden Alexander plants, and, south of Minneapolis, Queen Ann's Lace. In your garden it means dill, parsley, and carrot.
The caterpillars eat the entire dill plant, right down to the ground.
In each instar the larvae usually look a bit different, or maybe a lot different.
This picture is of the 3rd instar for the Black Swallowtail caterpillar. It is preparing to shed its skin here. It quietly sits still on the plant stalk for several hours, not its normal behavior.
Notice all the spines and tubercules on the caterpillar's back. These will get smaller with each instar until they are not present in the 5th or last instar.
Also notice the white 'saddle' in the middle of the back in this picture. This will disappear in the next instar, as can be seen in the picture below.
Notice also the silk threads the caterpillar has woven all around the stem so the old skin will stay attached as it splits and the 'new' caterpillar moves forward.
The caterpillar is about 3 inches long here, 3 times the length it was in the 3rd instar, which is the 2nd picture above.
It is pretty easy to see the difference between the six 'true' legs up by the head and the 10 'pro-legs' or 'false' legs that protrude from the caterpillar's abdoman.
These false legs are like little velcro pads that stick to plant surfaces very well, enabling the caterpillar to use the true legs to help grab and pull food towards its mouth.
I don't think these caterpillars help with fertilization of the flowers since they completely eat every flower, and stem, they can find.
Notice the aphid trying to escape at the bottom of the flower stem. I didn't notice the aphids until after I was looking at the pictures on the computer.
The caterpillars seemed bothered by the aphids when they crawled onto their bodies, especially when the caterpillars were little. But I never saw one get eaten, even if it was on the flower as the caterpillar ate the flower.
At about 2 weeks of age the caterpillars start to wander, and after doing this for 12 hours or so, they settle on a plant stem to their liking, and attach themselves with a silk thread as can be seen below. Now it is ready to transform into a chrysalis, which will appear in an upcoming post.