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.

Solar Eclipse At Springbrook Nature Center

 Yesterday in the late afternoon a partial eclipse of the sun occurred all across North America. It was a perfectly clear day and easy to see.  I took these pictures at Springbrook Nature Center at about 6 PM as the sun was setting.

With this eclipse and the total eclipse of the moon earlier this month, it has been a rare sky focused time.
In this picture the sun was dissappearing into the trees of Springbrook as it set, with the partial eclipse still obvious.

The moon moving between the earth and the sun causes this eclipse, but the moon can not be seen, since the sun is lighting its other side.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mallards and Wood Ducks at Springbrook to Migrate Soon

 Ducks at Springbrook Nature Center are getting ready to migrate.  It is easy to see the Mallards and Wood Ducks in the wetlands off the boardwalks right now, as they spend most of their time eating.

This male Wood Duck is one of the most colorful ducks in North America and and is easily seen from the boardwalk.
 The female Wood Ducks are much less colorful, but almost always together with the males at this time of year.

The Wood Ducks are usually at the edges of the wetlands, and a bit more secretive than other ducks.
 The Mallards are common and easy to get close to.  This pair were within a few yards of the boardwalk, and taking a rest from their busy eating schedule.

As you can see below, their time is mostly spent eating plants that can be reached just under the surface of the water.  Bottoms Up!

Blood Moon Eclipse

A week ago there was a full eclipse of the moon on a very clear early morning, which many people either watched, or viewed pictures of. 

I took this picture at 10 PM, six hours before the eclipse started. 

In the picture below you can see how the moon changes position, at least from our perspective, turning a bit clockwise, over the next 6 hours.

The internet said the eclipse would begin at 4:25 AM, but at 4:00AM it had already begun in my location, so I was glad I had taken this picture of the whole moon earlier.
 This picture was taken at 4:15 AM, and from here-on the moon moved fairly quickly into the Earth's shadow, as can be seen in the following photos.

As the shadow "moves" across the moon, the limitations of photography, compared to human eyesight, become apparent.

To the camera it looks like the area on the moon that is in shadow is completely dark.  But our eyes are able to see the red glow of the dark moon area caused by the "halo" of reddish sunrises/sunsets happenning all around the edges of the Earth.  This is where the term "Blood Moon" comes from.
 This picture was taken at 4:40 AM,  The moon was getting fairly low in the sky here, and I had to move my tripod to not have tree branches interfere with the picture.
 By 4:55 AM the moon was nearly 2/3rds in the shadow, and nearing total eclipse.
 By 5:11 AM only a crescent of the moon was visible from sun light reflection.

But as you can see in the picture below, the red "Blood Moon" was very visible over the rest of the surface of the moon.

The pictures here are all taken at about 125th of a second because the moon is quite bright in the camera lens.  But the "Blood Moon" is quite a bit darker and required a slower shutter speed of about 1/5 of a second.

The white area on the right side of this picture is the regular moon light, which has to be overexposed to be able to see the red area.  This picture was taken at 5:11 AM, the same as the picture above.

At 1/5th of a second through a 600mm lens the moon actually moves a little as it is setting, making it difficult not to have some blurring when taking the picture.

From my place to take these pictures the moon lowered into the trees nearby and was gone for photography purposes after this picture.