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It was a warm day last Thursday so we drove over to Amnicon Falls State Park to see how the spring melt was coming. There was still some ice along the shores and across the river in a few places but the river was flowing nicely. Amnicon-Falls-State-Park-14-4_0786

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Willow River State Park is a popular rock climbing areas. I almost always find someone climbing on the sandstone cliffs above the falls. This past visit was no exception. I happened to have my long lens with me in anticipation of seeing some birds on the lower Willow River. I took a few photos of the climbers.

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This year we have only been to Willow Falls State Park a couple of times. I usually visit more frequently but with the cold weather the waterfall has been frozen so it hasn’t been that photogenic. This past weekend we drove over to see what was going on. The falls was almost ice free so I took a few intimate photos.Willow-River-State-Park-14-4-_0381

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I had a number of infrequent visitors to by bird feeders this past week and luckily I was able to capture them.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Purple Finch

Purple Finch

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

 

 

I happened to run across this photo that I took of a corn binder that had been abandoned out in my back 40. I started thinking of some other photos of abandoned items that I’ve photographed.Corn-Binder-09-124--254

 

This old school house has been abandoned for years and sits in a neighbors barnyard.Old-School-House-10-42-_1808(1)

This is a boat that sat for years on Rocky Point along the Minnesota North Shore. It was one of the most photographed things in the area.Abandoned-Boat-08-108--512

 

This Tree Swallow was fledged earlier in the day and seemed to be abandoned by its parents. It landed by one of my hummingbird feeders and was being dived bombed by the hummingbirds.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

This was shot in a place we call the Ozarks for obvious reasons. It shows just some of the litter found along a country road. Clearly some zoning laws are needed.Zoning-Laws-Needed-10-31-_0047

 

This car was abandoned on a lake and is waiting to go through the ice during the spring melt.On-Thin-Ice-13-4-_1362

 

 

A recent storm created some icy landing conditions for birds. I watched during the morning as birds attempted to land on ice covered branches only to slide off or slide down the entire branch. Strong winds didn’t help matters. In the first shot you can see him struggling for a grip on the icy branch.

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Technically it’s still ski season so we walked along a portion of the trail that is open to hiking year around. It was a beautiful 60 degree day so all of the trail should be open for hiking in about a week. I have to admit that 60 degrees is a little warm and I was already wishing for winter.

 There wasn’t a lot to photograph. The snow was not the best but I did get a few photos of leaves as they melted into the snow.Leaf-14-3-_2079

 

There was the Dunnville Sandstone that really stands out along the trail in the late afternoon.

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We saw a number of Bald Eagles fishing along the river. A number of hawks could be seen and heard as the circled above the river. At the eleven mile mark we heard a number of Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes.Bald-Eagle-14-3-_2082

 

More spring photos from the Red Cedar Trail can be found on my website.

 

I have Dark-eyed Juncos hanging around most of the winter but in a blizzard we had earlier in the week I seemed to be inundated by them. I was able to capture more photos of them in the last couple of days than I have for quite some time. The storm consisted of rain, sleet and finally about 9 inches of snow followed by strong winds. I’m thinking they were migrating through and stopped to feed during the storm.

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This past week the early spring birds started returning to our area.

 Sandhill Cranes are migrating through the area. Large numbers of them can be found along the Red Cedar Trail. The spring Midwest Crane Count will be taking place on April 12th. They are looking for volunteers to count cranes.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

 

Red-wing Blackbirds are starting to show up in the marshy areas.

Redwing Blackbird

Redwing Blackbird

 

A few Turkey Vultures can be seen circulating.

Turkey Vultures

Turkey Vultures

 

I’ve had a few song sparrows around my feeder although they seem to be migrating through.Song-Sparrow-13-5-_0213

I think some of the birds will be surprised by the blizzard that is on its way.

 

This spring has been one of the most exciting in decades for following the opening of the shipping season on Lake Superior. The Soo Locks opened on April 25th but have yet to see a cargo ship going though the Locks. A number of Coast Guard Cutters have gone through as they attempt to open the ice on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

Normally intra-lake shipping starts before the locks open. This year was no exception. The first two ships to leave Duluth were the Presque Isle and the Cason J. Callaway. They sailed to Two Harbors to load Taconite. We watched the Callaway as it entered Two Harbors.Cason-J.-Callaway-Two-Harbors-14-3-_1907

A few days later we watched as the tugs in Superior Harbor attempted to break the John G. Munson out of the ice to get the season going. It was an all day Task.Nels-J,-Helen-H-and-John-G.-Munson-14-3-_2043

Early on the morning of March 26th the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Morro Bay, Katmai Bay and Mackinaw left Duluth to lead a convoy of ships to the Soo Locks.

The convoy picked up the Cason J. Callaway just outside of Two Harbors and it picked up the Presque Isle near Grand Portage. The John G. Munson was still loading in Two Harbors when the convoy went by. The Munson caught up to the slow moving convey several days later outside of Thunder Bay.

In the last few days the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw has been joined by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Pierre Radisson to help break a path to the Soo Locks. As of this writing the convoy is off of Whitefish Point. Unfortunately they are encountering ice that is six feet thick with pressure ridges over twelve feet thick.

This spring I’ve watched the convey of ships mentioned above as they have attempted to reach the Soo Locks. They Left of March 26th and finally reached the locks on April 3rd. I’ve documented some of their problems in an earlier blog.

I have also been following a group of ships that are currently anchored in the Straits of Mackinac waiting to transit the Soo Locks for Lake Superior. They are waiting for the downbound convey to come through the Locks from Lake Superior. The Edwin H. Gott, Stewart J. Cort, Roger Blough have been waiting for about a week and they were joined a few days ago by the Sam Laud.

Unfortunately it is impossible to follow the ships, in person once, they are out on the lake. But, thanks to the internet, it is possible to follow their progress online as they move around the Great Lakes. In an earlier blog I described how I follow the ships so I can be on hand to photograph them as they exit or enter a port near me I’ve been using some of the same tools to watch as the ships attempt to transit the ice covered Great Lakes.

The first place I check is on MarineTraffic.com. This typically gives me the locations of the ships on the Great Lakes. This spring I’ve noticed that does not always show all of the ships. I’m not sure why but part of it may be dead areas in AIS (Automatic Identification System) coverage. Since the ships are taking a northerly route to and from the Soo Locks to Duluth they go up the North Shore of Minnesota to Thunder Bay then along the north shore of the Lake near the Canadian border. There seems to be a lack of AIS coverage near Michipicoten Island. I have also been checking the AIS/Marine Information from Thunder Bay. Sometimes this site is following a ship I can’t find on Marine Traffic. Recently I discovered BoatNerds and have been using the vessel passage link on BoatNerds as another source to see where the boats are located. BoatNerds also has a companion Facebook page.

One thing I’ve learned this spring when following ships on Marine Traffic is that you need to zoom in on the ship icons to show the ships in great detail. For example when you look at Lake Superior as a whole you may see an icon for a single ship. If you zoom in you may find that the one ship is a convey of ships. This problem occurs because the ships are very close together. This spring most ships, including the ice breakers, have part of a convoy.

In addition to following the ships in the AIS sites I also check several other sites for information on shipping. BoatNerds is a great place to follow what is happening with Lake Superior shipping. Just click on the news channel link. The news is updated daily and includes photos. I always check the Duluth Shipping News website. They have been covering the spring shipping problems with photos of activities in the Duluth Harbor.

This is definitely a fun activity while waiting for spring.

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