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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Bald Eagle

This is one of those feel good stories that you hear about every once in a while.  Joan Schnabel has worked with the captive eagles at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota for over a decade. She noticed that the captive birds liked to sit on a perch and look longingly at the Mississippi River that flows in back of the Center. She wondered if the birds would like to go down to the beach and enjoy taking a bath in the river. The answer was yes, and the response of the Center was to establish beach day.

Angel

Every Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. during the summer, weather permitting, volunteers bring one or more of the eagles down to the beach at Beach Park, to enjoy the water and take a bath. We decided to drive down to Wabasha last Tuesday to visit the Center and take in beach day. Beach day is a popular event and can attract a large crowd. The Center does suggest that if you are driving any distance that you call ahead to see if the event is scheduled.

Arriving at Beach Day

Shortly before 11 a.m. volunteers from the center drive the eagle(s) down to the beach in a fan. They usually bring one or two eagles depending upon the size of the crowd they expect. On our visit they brought Angel to the beach. The eagles are housed in a dog crate with a perch mounted inside. Once at the beach the eagle is removed and carried on a volunteers arm to the beach where a perch is placed in the water and the eagle tethered to the perch. The eagle is free to roam a few feet from the perch.

Angel at the Beach

Angle was really excited to get to the beach. She started Screaming as soon as she was on the perch. Some days the eagle takes a bath on our visit Angel just jumped in the water a few times. Generally, if the eagle is going to take a bath they will do it shortly after they are on the perch in the water so if you want to see them take a bath you should plan on arriving early. In a few cases they have actually caught an unsuspecting fish the approached too close.

Angel at the Beach

It was interesting to see wild Bald Eagles flying above the river while we were watching the captive eagle. In one case a wild eagle flew directly overhead apparently wanting to see what was going It then flew up into a tree a short distance down the river. Later in the day while visiting the Eagle Center we saw a Bald Eagle catch a fish right in front of the Center.

Angel at the Beach

After taking a bath or splashing in the water for a while the eagle usually starts to try and fly toward fly toward shore. This is the signal that she is done with the beach portion of the event and wants to go sit under the cottonwood trees. The eagles usually spend an hour or two at the park enjoying the outing. During this time the excellent volunteers answer questions posed by the crowd.

Rabbit for Lunch

After watching the eagle for over an hour we headed off for lunch at The Olde Triangle Pub  and had some great Irish stew. After lunch we went back to the Eagle Center to take in the early afternoon program at 1 p.m.  On the way over we noticed the staff was just bringing back Angle from beach day. Joan Schnabel was also giving the presentation and brought Angle along. She was apparently hungry from the day at the beach and rabbit was on the menu.

Angel at the Beach

If you are ever in the area stop in and visit the National Eagle Center. It’s a fascinating place and provides a good value for the money. It is even better if you happen to be in the area on Tuesday because you can also enjoy beach day.

Angle and Handler

The Center currently has four Bald Eagles and one resident Golden Eagle. All of the birds at the center have been injured and after surgery and rehabilitation they were not well enough to be released to the wild so they were donated to the National Eagle Center for educational purposes.

There are more photos from Beach Day on my website.

 

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Things have been a little on the dull side in terms of photography at least around home. Most of the summer flowers came and went quickly because of the drought. I’ve been busy photographing insects that I’ve been finding. I generally use my Sigma 180 macro lens with a 35mm extension tube to photograph them. Sometimes I can use the tripod but we’ve had so much wind this summer that its easier to take a few more photos and try to get them handholding the camera.

Candy Striped Leafhopper

Spotted Cucumber Beetle

Yellowjacket

Spider

End Band Net Wing Beetle

Common Eastern Bumble Bee

Ants

 

 

 

 

 

 

This past weekend the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin held a Trumpeter Swan Cygnet round up and banding at Crex Meadow. I first heard about it earlier this year when I read an article in the April edition of Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine. The article described some of the great opportunities the organization has for citizen participation in enjoying and protecting our natural resources. I was particularly interested in the description of the Cygnet round up because I’m a frequent visitor to Crex Meadows.

To participate in the roundup you had to be an experienced and physically fit paddler which excludes me. Never-the-less I was still interested so I drove up to Crex Meadows the evening before to check on conditions in the Meadow and take a few sunset photos.

The next morning I drove out for some sunrise photos then drove around the Meadows looking for birds. Shortly after eight I drove back to the visitors center to see if that is where the participants were meeting. It was but they we in an orientation session. It looked like there were over a dozen cars with kayaks and canoes on them. I drove back out to the Meadows to look for some more birds. When I returned to the visitors center the group had gone out to look for birds but I didn’t know where. I decided to drive back out to the Meadows and look for them.

Initially I couldn’t find the group but after driving around a bit I noticed a plane flying around a flowage in the north part of the Meadow so I drove up that direction. As it turned out it was the spotter plane that had located the cygnets and was coordinating the capture from the air.

I hung around until they returned with two captured cygnet’s. I watched as they brought them ashore. The group looked a little exhausted after the chase. Apparently the going was difficult because the marsh was thick with grass and reeds. The cygnets had gone into the grass to escape the pursers.

I was surprised how calm the birds seemed to be when they were brought ashore. The group had laid out a couple of tarps with the supplies they would need to band, perform a health check and collar the cygnets. They first attempted to put a collar on them but the cygnets were too small and would have likely lost the collar within 24 hours.  Their only choice was to put some leg bands on them. They also took blood tests and weighted them. The whole process took about an hour. All the while someone had to hold the cygnets down so they wouldn’t escape or hurt themselves.

When they were finished gathering the information they needed both cygnets were released, at the same time, back into the flowage.

 

 

More photos of the Trumpeter Swan Cygnet round up and banding can be found on my Website.

As we inch toward fall there are not a lot of flowers around to photograph. Most of the summer flowers came and went quickly and the few fall flowers around are coming early. This is the time of year I like to hike along the Red Cedar State Trail to photograph the spotted and pale Touch-me-nots. It’s been a challenge this year.

I like to try and photograph them when they are covered by heavy dew but they started blooming early this year. Normally they peak the end of August and the first part of September. Because of the early bloom we have not had many days when the flowers have been covered by dew. I have the added problem that I live on a ridge about 10 miles from the Red Cedar Trail so it’s difficult for me to determine if there is a heavy dew out. I usually ask my wife to report back after she drives along the river on her way to work.

An added problem this year has been the constant wind. We seem to have had wind all spring and summer this year. Wind eliminates the heavy dew and makes it difficult to photograph the small flowers. Touch-me-nots typically grow in a dense tangle of flowers so in order to photograph them it is usually necessary to take multiple shots of the flower. To do this I use as short a depth of field as possible then take multiple shots changing the focus slightly with each shot. This allows me to get the entire flower in focus while eliminating other flowers and the dense vegetation. Once I load them onto my computer I combine the multiple shots into a single image using a program called Helicon Focus. Unfortunately this only works if there is no wind blowing. If the wind is blowing you will get an  image with ghosting.

An added problem just about every year is the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Typically they mow one swath along each side of the trail during the early summer. Unfortunately about midsummer they mow a double swath along the trail. This forces me to move deeper into the tangled mass of flowers to get a shot. It makes it difficult to get the tripod situated without knocking the dew off of the flowers or creating movement.

In spite of the challenges I have been able to get a few photos so far this year.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds arrive in May each year and stay until after Labor Day. I have about a dozen feeders around the house. They are definitely fun to watch. All summer there seems to be an ebb and flow in numbers but the last week with the colder weather I’ve had large numbers of them around the feeders. They are probably getting ready to head south. This made me realize that I really haven’t taken many photos of hummingbirds this summer and that I had better do it soon or they will be gone until next year.

 

 

 

I found out about the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary last year but wasn’t able to work it into my schedule. This past weekend my wife and I drove up to Orr, Minnesota to visit the Sanctuary. Orr is located a couple of hours north of Duluth, Minnesota on highway 53.

The Sanctuary opens to the public at 5 pm. We had no idea what to expect and thought we would be spending the evening trying to see a few bears. When we arrived in the parking lot we found out that we had to take a bus into the viewing area. We purchased tickets and after a short drive we arrived at the viewing stand. The bus drove right up to the stand and were off loaded like cattle heading down a cattle chute. This was to prevent any bears getting on the bus and prevent people from wandering out where the bears were feeding.

You are not allowed to setup a tripod on the viewing stand. This is because there are usually quite a few people milling round and it could be easily bumped. You can use your tripod as a mono-pod.

As we walked up to the viewing platform we notice quite a few black objects on the ground. My wife thought they were rocks but they turned out to be black bears. There were probably 50 of them eating and wandering around a small open area next to the viewing stand. There were also a couple of people walking around amongst the bears putting out food for them.

This is one of those things that just got out of hand. Shute lived in the woods and started feeding one bear. Soon there were more bears, in fact, so many bears that he used up his life savings trying to feed the bears. There is a saying that a fed bear is a dead bear because if you stop feeding them they will quickly become a nuisance in their attempt to get food. Once that happens they will likely be put down. A nonprofit group has taken over the feeding of the bears.

Bear numbers will vary from time of year and year to year. Probably the best chance to see the most bears is the end of July and the first part of August. The bears are getting ready for winter and will be eating a lot. Bear numbers can also vary depending upon the supply of food in the wild. This year the wild berries were a little sparse so there were lots of bears looking for food.

There were bears of all sizes, sex and shapes around the viewing stand. A number of bears had cubs. There was a pair of cubs up in a tree right next to the viewing stand.

This was a very interesting experience and something I would do again. They have interpreters on the viewing stand that provide a history of the bear feeding and talk about bears. They are very knowledgeable and really add to the experience.

More photos can be found on my website.

My wife and I were driving down East Superior Street in Duluth, Minnesota this past week when we noticed something along the road. As we drove by we noticed it was a dead raccoon with a balloon attached to its tail. It took a while before we gathered in the full picture and by then we were a couple of blocks down the road. We decided to drive back and take a second look. I had left my cameras at home but I did have my cell phone so I took a photo of the scene. I can’t decide if this is Minnesota nice or someone with a very sick sense of humor.

 

Earlier this week I noticed a couple of fledgling Song Sparrows at my bird bath. Normally I see birds taking their bath late in the afternoon but these two fledglings were up for an early morning bath. At first they were a little tentative and hopped all around the edge of the bath before hopping in and then quickly hopping back out. Gradually they worked up enough nerve to jump in and really start splashing around. They would then leave the bath for a perch to dry off a bit before coming back for another splash in the water.

 

 

 

 

Although my wildflower patch is not all that large I have really enjoyed photographing it. I think next year I will enlarge it significantly and plant more flowers that will attract butterflies.

Every year, in the spring,  the Baltimore Orioles and the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds arrive within a couple of days of each other. The difference is the orioles only stay for a few days and the hummingbirds are here for the rest of the summer. Some years the orioles will return, for a few days around the first day of summer, once their first young have fledged. Again they typically only stay for a few days and then they are off to create their second batch of young.

This year, when the adults returned to the feeder, they brought with them their three fledglings. As soon as they arrived I put out some grape jelly for them. Although they will drink sugar water they much prefer the grape jelly. Again this year the adults were only around for a few days but the three fledglings have now been around the feeder since the first week of summer. So far this summer they have gone through almost two gallons of grape jelly. They aren’t the only birds eating it but they eat most of it.

Unfortunately the past few days I’ve only seen two of the three fledglings. I did find some feathers on the front porch. I’m hoping they weren’t from one of the fledglings but they did look a bit like Baltimore Oriole feathers. I’m thinking one of them hit a window and the cat found it.