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Monthly Archives: February 2014

An article on Ice Climbing on the Wisconsin Trails website features and interview with Jason Cook, owner of Chicago Rock & Ice Guides. Jason is using one of my photos from the Sandstone Ice Climbing Festival on his website.Ice-Climbing-Sandstone-Ice-Festival-12-12-_1129

A couple of weeks ago we drove to Duluth on a cross country ski trip. The next morning we planned on skiing the Boulder Lake Trails.Boulder-Lake-Ski-Trails-14-2-_1375

It snowed overnight and the reports were that the roads were really bad. Duluth is built on an escarpment and has very steep hills. We had some things we had to do in downtown Duluth so we combined them into a single day and postponed our ski trip to Boulder Lake. A good thing we did. Everyone was talking about how bad the roads were and as we walked through the skywalk we could see they were in bad condition. About the time we were leaving the condo there was a 30 car pileup a couple of blocks away.Boulder-Lake-Ski-Trails-14-2-_1378

The next morning it was cold but the roads were clear. We headed out to Boulder Lake. there were only a couple of other cars in south the parking lot. We had skied ad Boulder Lake earlier in the winter but had only done one of the loops. Our first trip had been on a Thursday and as it turned out it was dog day. Every Thursday dogs are allowed on the trail.Boulder-Lake-Ski-Trails-14-2-_1382

The trails had been freshly groomed and we were one of the first ones to use the trail. It was a beautiful but very cold day. Probably why there were very few skiers. The groomed trails had not setup yet so it was tough going. The wind was blowing so it was really cold in the open areas.Boulder-Lake-Ski-Trails-14-2-_1386

On a recent trip to the northland we stopped at Houghton Falls State Natural Area. This is the first time we have visited in the winter. Houghton-Falls-State-Natural-Area-14-1-_1562

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We have been having lots of snow this winter. It isn’t often I get shots of cardinals because they come around early in the morning or late in the day. It just happened that they turned up during a snowstorm and I was able to get a few shots.Northern-Cardinal-14-1-_2257

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After a long day at the Apostle Islands Ice Caves we walked back to the car with beautiful sunset on the horizon.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1471a

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It’s been a long winter and folks are starting the think (wishing for) spring. This Round Lobed Hepatica was featured on the US Forest Service Celebrating Wildflowers website. It will also be featured in an upcoming issue of the Wildflower Association of Michigan Newsletter.Round-Lobed-Hepatica-08-81--032

We have been having lots of snow this winter. Here are some photos taken during a recent snow storm.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

This past week we made our last trip looking for large birds. Our initial visit was to Reads Landing along the Mississippi River. We saw a few Bald Eagles but nothing like what we has seen earlier in the year. As we were arriving one flew up into a tree right in front of the car. Just as I was getting out of the car a long train came by and the bird took off. There were also a family of Trumpeter Swans just off shore. There was a lot more open water than there was two weeks ago.

We then headed to Covill Park in Red Wing. On the way we saw a number of Bald Eagles in the Lake Pepin area. When we arrived at Covill Park the temperature was about 40 degrees warmer than it was on our last trip. There was also a lot more open water.Bald-Eagles-14-2-_1391

Most of the Eagles remained on the opposite shore. I noticed two mature eagles sitting in a tree and took their picture. The male seemed to be whispering sweet nothings in the females ear. The next thing I knew they were mating.Bald-Eagles-14-2-_1398

Speaking of mating one pair of eagles in Minnesota has already mated and has started laying eggs. It’s a bit early. This same pair laid their eggs in January last year and the eggs froze and they abandon the nest. They seem to be getting a little closer to getting it right this year. You can follow them on the Minnesota DNR webcam.

A few eagles were fishing but when they caught something they attracted a lot of friends. I suppose it is like winning the lottery you find a lot more friends than you knew you had. The bird with the fish usually ended up dropping it resulting in a skirmish on the ground.Bald-Eagles-14-2-_1468

In between watching the eagles I also watched the many ducks in the area. While I was watching a truck pulled up and all of the ducks started toward shore. Apparently someone comes every day to feed the ducks. There was also a Redheaded Duck hanging around but it was not interested in feeding along shore.Mallard-Duck-14-2-_1430

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After lunch we headed up to Hudson to check on the Trumpeter Swans. There was a lot more open water this time. We could see open water on the other side of the river and the swans seemed to be going back and forth between the two areas. There were also a lot more Canada Geese this time. Until the swans and geese are together you have a hard time appreciating the difference in size.Swans-and-Geese-14-2-_1716

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One of the problems of photographing the Apostle Islands Ice Caves is that the caves face north so they don’t receive a lot of sun in the winter. Things do improve a bit as the winter winds down so if the caves are open in March there will be more sun than in January.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1702

When the sun hits the caves the colors of the rocks are spectacular. Unfortunately most of the time they are a dull color because they don’t receive any light. The other problem is photographing from the caves out into the lake particularly on a sunny day. The range of light is too much for the camera to capture.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1620

On my last visit I tried to compensate for the dynamic range by shooting multiple shots of each scene. One to capture the mid range of light, another to capture the dark areas and another to capture the light areas. I then processed the three shots into a single shot. This brings out the dark areas as well as the light areas of the scene.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1728a

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More photos from the Apostle Islands can be found on my website.

This week we stopped in Hudson, Wisconsin to watch the Trumpeter Swans on the St. Croix River. Their little patch of open water is getting smaller and smaller as the cold weather continues.Trumpeter-Swans-14-2-_1179

I noticed the various ways that the swans transitioned from land to the water. Some of them walked over to the shore, took a drink and then slipped into the water. Others ran for a ways to get into the air before landing in the water.Trumpeter-Swan14-2-_1130

It is always exciting when some swans fly in from another location. As soon as they start their decent into the open water the swans already in the pond start honking and making a lot of noise.Trumpeter-Swans-14-2-_1164

I was probably only 10 feet from some swans gathered along the shore when they started honking and splashing. I’m not sure what set them off but I had my long lens on and was really too close to get a great shot of the commotion.Trumpeter-Swans-14-2-_1172

There seemed to be more Canada Geese in the area than on our last visit. As soon as the spring melt occurs they will all be heading for their summer homes.

More swan photos can be found on my website.