24 November 2010

Making Ice

A low of 7 degrees and a wind yesterday morning aided in removing the last bit of warmth 
off the top layer of water in Wayzata Bay.  

According to the DNR: "Water is most dense (heaviest) at 39º F (4º C) and as temperature increases or decreases from 39º F, it becomes increasingly less dense (lighter). In summer and winter, lakes are maintained by climate in what is called a stratified condition. Less dense water is at the surface and more dense water is near the bottom.
During late summer and autumn, air temperatures cool the surface water causing its density to increase. The heavier water sinks, forcing the lighter, less dense water to the surface. This continues until the water temperature at all depths reaches approximately 39º F. Because there is very little difference in density at this stage, the waters are easily mixed by the wind. The sinking action and mixing of the water by the wind results in the exchange of surface and bottom waters which is called 'turnover'."

Last look at open water in 2010

19 November 2010

Tundra Swans

Tundra swans were flying over the Twin Cities tonight on
their way to their Mississippi River resting stop 
near Brownsville Minnesota just north of the Iowa border.
Here is a video taken last November showing the river view
with the sights and sounds of the swans as well as
other ducks and bald eagles.
It is truly a magnificent annual migration scene
that is successful due to habitat restoration on this 
portion of the Upper Mississippi.

25 September 2010

Best Use of a Boathouse for Fishing

The award goes to an Osprey, hanging upside down by one leg on a boathouse in Lake Minnetonka.
By hiding itself in the shadow of the boathouse, the osprey can wait undetected for its prey.
Most often, ospreys will hover above the water looking for fish, which makes up 99% of their diet.
This clever bird has figured out how to set up for an aerial dive with little effort and lots of disguise.

18 September 2010

A Day in the Wildhood looking for Fungi

One of the five major kingdoms of living organisms, fungi is often inconspicuous,
hidden in soil or dead trees, not seen until it "fruits' in the form of mushrooms.

Fungi plays a critical part of the ecosystem breaking down 
dead organic matter into useful nutrients for soil.

Mushrooms can be beneficial food to humans as well as extremely poisonous.
This is an oyster mushroom, a common edible, that is found growing on trees.

These photos were taken in Wolsfeld Woods.

17 September 2010

Fond Memories of Summer

Campfire, Potato Lake 2010

09 June 2010

Images of Big Island

Bald Eagle's Nest on Big Island Park in Lake Minnetonka

Vista that served as the entryway for the Vets Camp and Amusement Park
two facilities that once existed here starting in 1906.

View from the north shoreline 

Walking trail through a carpet of woodland sedge

Blooming Shrub

18 May 2010

Cat Bed - Extra Firm

Lucky's new sleeping spot,
made from organic materials.

14 May 2010

Fine Art Friday

Wild Ginger, Minnesota 2010

08 May 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Brought to you by Lily & Hope 

Here is a neat video of the cub's ability to climb in trees at such a young age.

07 May 2010

Fine Art Friday

Loon on Nest at Night, Minnesota 2010

30 April 2010

Fine Art Friday

Rusted Metal, Minnesota 2009

29 April 2010

Last Minute House Shopping

A pair of wood ducks are wondering if they 
qualify for the new home tax credit!

09 April 2010

Fine Art Friday

Clouds, Sunset 2010

02 April 2010

Fine Art Friday

Clouds, Spruce  2010

29 March 2010

Protecting an Ancient Pathway

More on the Sandhill Cranes

The Sandhills are the most abundant crane species in the world
and one of the oldest birds with a fossil record
dating back over 2 million years ago.

Sunrise on the Platte

The Platte River is the important fueling stop 
for the migrating cranes of the Central Flyway.
The River is broad and shallow with many sandbars that 
the cranes roost on during night.  Formed in the Rockies, the 
Platte flows east to the Missouri River.  During the past 70 years 
much of the Platte's water flow has diminished due to irrigation needs.
Strong flows in the spring that scour the sandbars clean of vegetation
are important to the cranes.  Now periodic restoration work
has to be conducted to keep the habitat favorable for the cranes.

During the day, the cranes are scattered about eating in farm fields,
gaining body weight for their journey into Canada, Alaska and even into Siberia.

An estimated 90,000 people come each spring to witness 
the migration bringing an economic benefit to the surrounding areas.
An abandoned rail bed bridge is a prime vantage point to 
watch the cranes arrive at sunset.

Sunset from the bridge

26 March 2010

Fine Art Friday

Sunset, Platte River, Nebraska 2007

23 March 2010

Celebrating Cranes

At this time of year over a half million sandhill cranes congregate 
on the Platte River in Nebraska on their migration northward.  
This is truly one of the great bird migrations in North America.

Due to the hourglass nature of their migration pattern, the cranes
end up concentrating in central Nebraska during the month of March 

allowing for fantastic viewing opportunities of this large flock.

Dawn on the Platte River

The cranes roost overnight on the gravel bars in the 
Platte River.  This provides them protection
from predators, mainly coyotes.  
During the day they fly out to nearby farm fields 
to feed on waste corn leftover from last year's harvest.

Sunrise in the blind

There are various blinds set up along the river in which 
to view and photograph the cranes without disturbing them.  
Observers must enter the blinds before sunrise or in the early evening 
before the cranes return to the river to avoid spooking them.

Sandhill cranes leaving the river in the morning to feed in nearby fields

13 March 2010

Setting Up Shop

 The red-shouldered hawk arrives to set up territory 
in east central Minnesota around the first of March. 
Likely to be found in forested areas near wetlands,
this hawk is fairly common.


 Red-shouldered hawks catch a fair amount of their dinners
 near the wetlands, especially snakes.
They will start nest-building by the middle of April.

12 March 2010

Fine Art Friday

Grave, New Mexico 2003

02 March 2010

Coming out of "Hibernation"

A Big Yawn

With the days getting warmer and Lily's cub getting bigger, 
there is more to view on the bear den cam.
The researchers installed a new microphone so 
the sound is vastly improved.
Lily did not mind the temporary human intrusion into her den space
in order to swap out the equipment.
The cub, now named Hope, should be opening 
her eyes any day now.
This web cam has shown that a mother bear really does not
hibernate but instead sleeps between episodes of caring for 
the rather demanding cub.
The only thing that "hibernates" is her ability to eat
and the fact that she cannot leave her den. 

16 February 2010

The Audacity of a Chickadee


"I have heard faith described as a bird that feels
the light and sings while the dawn is still dark.
During bleak mid-winter in Minnesota, there are
days when we could name that bird; we would
say that faith must be a chickadee.
One of the most amazing things about the
chickadee is its ability to know, without the
benefit of a calendar, which side of the winter
solstice it is on. One might guess that the bird’s
winter song would be triggered by falling leaves,
falling snow or falling temperatures. But that
can’t be the explanation, because often during
January, when we human beings are muttering
and complaining about the long cold darkness
of mid-winter, the chickadees begin to practice
their spring and summer song.

Faith is like that. It doesn’t take its cues 
from the cold harshness of the world, 
it takes it cue from the warm heart of God. 
And, with the chickadee, it sings for joy."

26 January 2010

The Contrast

 If you had to tend to a baby, which nesting situation would you choose?

A. In a den in Minnesota with subzero temps and snow on your back 
B. On a nest in California with bouts of rain and sun on your back 

Both these snaps shots from webcams illustrate 
the wonders of nature this time of year.
The birth of a cub and the hatch of hummingbirds both occurred last week 
in different parts of the country and in an absolute contrast of climates.
In addition to the obvious visual contrast,
the audio portions of the cams point out the differences of the two sites.
In the bear cam, one can hear chickadees calling, coyotes howling, sleet falling
but most often nothing but the quiet of the north woods in winter.
In the hummingbird's world, there is lots of birdsong, dogs barking,
leafblowers running, cars starting, people talking and rain falling.
The bear cub is creating its own audio show with its unique noises 
that signal its state of mind.

23 January 2010

Cub in the den, cub in the den!

Lily had her cub yesterday at 11:38 am CT.
As far as the researchers know, she had just one cub,
judging by her actions and the sounds coming from the cub. 
She will keep the cub hidden for quite some time as it stays warm and nurses huddled up in her body. 

According to the biologist Sue Mansfield :
"The cubs will be nearly hairless when born so should appear much lighter than Lily. She will likely keep them closely tucked beneath her and we may not even see them – but we should hear them. They will cry if they are cold or hungry. When cubs are comfortable and content they make a motor-like humming sound. There will be no doubt about the fact there are cubs in the den! "

Lily in labor

While we await the opportunity to see peeks of the cub, 
the other real story of this event is the passionate work of Dr. Lynn Rogers.
How exciting for him to not only witness for the first time a live birth of a cub in his 43 years of studying bears but also to share this event 
over the internet with 50,000 real-time viewers.
And there will be plenty more internet excitement to come as this little cub grows and finally leaves the den in mid-April.

There are always jokes about how Minnesotans get through the winter, 
even accusing us of "sleeping with bears" to pass the season.
Well now with our native bear Lily, there might be some truth to that saying.

21 January 2010

The Mother of all Web Cams

Lily the Black Bear appears to be starting labor contractions
with over 9,000 viewers watching her on the internet.  
This is shaping up to be the biggest show ever in wildlife web cams. 
If she does have a cub or two, 
her new family will be the latest in reality shows, only internet-style.

 Hopefully the server will not overload and the camera will continue to document this very interesting segment of bear behavior.

There have been many cams documenting birds and their nests.
There is an active hummingbird cam right now in California. 

In the last few years, barn owls have provided 
an unique view of their behavior through cams in their nest boxes.

The baby owls have some fascinating actions
like swallowing whole, mice and rats as big as them, in a few mad gulps.
The owls will usually start their nesting in March and can be 
watched on Cornell's Nestcams site.

One of the new nest cams last year featured a 
chimney swift nest which is basically a few sticks
stuck together using saliva to the inside of a chimney or tower.
It is amazing to see how the babies grow in the tiny nest.

But birds are not as cuddly and hug-gable (figuratively) as a bear.
They just can't compete with the cuteness of a bear, let alone a tiny cub. 

Lily and her possible cubs could likely be one of the biggest
wildlife events on the internet to date.

Ahh, the wonders of the Internet. 
While a bear sleeps in her den outside of Ely, Minnesota,
thousands around the world view into her world from their desktops!

03 January 2010

Subzero Robins

Robins greeting the -20 degree morning.
robins are not uncommon in Minnesota,
most often appearing in flocks.
As long as they have a good source of berries
such as crabapples or the hackberries in this tree,
they can survive the chill and snow.

One important thing they need is water.
Robins drink lots of water so having a heated
bird bath will be a hit with
the flock
and keep them around.

Puffed out and surviving the cold -
another view of a bird we associate with summer.