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Category Archives: Mallard Duck

My wife and I drove down to Red Wing earlier this week. For several days the temperatures never reached above -10 and we were getting cabin fever. When the temperature reached 0 we were out of the house. Actually the temperature rose to 24 during the day so it seemed like we were in Florida. The wind was blowing in the afternoon so it was still cool but not as bad as the -35 wind chills that we had the previous days.

We had lunch at Libertys Restaurant & Lounge in Red Wing. They had a great salad bar with soup, sandwiches, pizza and salad. It was more food than we could eat and it was just what we were looking for. Red Wing is definitely a place we want to return to and explore when the weather gets warmer.

We drove over to Colvill Park, which is just south of town off of highway 61. As soon as we drove into the park we started to see Bald Eagles in the trees. I jumped out of the car and tried to photograph one in a tree just ahead of the car. It started to fly just as I took the photo.Bald-Eagle-14-1-_1996

We counted 8 in one tree. I was able to get close to one and get a nice photograph. There were a bunch of other photographers and some walkers around so as soon as an eagle would land they all headed for it. Needless to say the Eagles didn’t stay around long.Bald-Eagle-14-1-_2061a

There were also a variety of ducks around that provided entertainment between photographing Eagles.Mallard-Ducks-14-1-_2036

We spent our morning chasing an ice breaker. By the time we finished with the ice breaker it was time for lunch. We decided it was too warm to go cross country skiing, it was pushing +30 so we decided to go for a walk instead. We ended up in Canal Park watching the ducks floating on the ice in the ship canal.

Mallard Duck

Mallard Duck

Mallard Ducks

Mallard Ducks

Mallard Duck

Mallard Duck

Several weeks ago I had an opportunity to walk around Canal Park just as the ice was clearing out of the harbor. There were large numbers of Common Goldeneyes diving in the harbor. They were really fun to watch as they, all of a sudden would dive into the water and then pop to the surface. As we watched a bunch of them were under the water and all of a sudden seem to fly out of the water and into the air.

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Common-Goldeneyes-13-3-_3513

As I was watching the goldeneyes I noticed a pair of Mallards acting a little strangely in the foreground of the photo I was composing. As a watched they started to mate in the water. When they were done they took off at high speed.  

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Ok they really aren’t breaking ice but it was sure fun watching these Mallard Ducks navigate around the ice in Lake Superior. They were working hard to get around and over the ice near the shipping canal.

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Ship Anchored Outside Duluth Harbor

Ship Anchored Outside Duluth Harbor

As I usually do when I’m in Duluth I woke up before dawn to check on the potential for a great sunrise over Lake Superior. On this particular day It didn’t look like it held much promise so I slept in for a while. Later in the morning I checked again and it was a beautiful sunny day but it didn’t look like it would last long. I also noticed quite a bit of steam rising off of the lake so I grabbed the camera and headed out.

 

Mallards

Mallards

As I walked down to the wooden cribs on the beach a flock of Mallard Ducks flew from the rocks where they had spent the night. By the time I reached the beach they were in the water. As I walked along the beach they followed me in a large group.

 

Uncle Harvey's Mausoleum

Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum

When I reached Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum steam and the sunlight created a nice scene with the sun just peaking out over a cloud and the steam rising from the Lake.

 

Common Goldeneyes

Common Goldeneyes

When I reached the Shipping Canal it was clear of ice and filled with Common Goldeneyes.  Apparently they like to hang out in the area during the early winter when the canal is free of ice. The Shipping News indicated that a ship was going to be coming out of the harbor between 8 and 10 but I didn’t see one so I went back to the condo for a morning cup of coffee.

 

Breakwater Lights Canal Park

Breakwater Lights Canal Park

As I started drinking my coffee I checked the AIS/Marine Information Site located in Thunder Bay. It showed a ship leaving the docks and heading toward Canal Park. My wife and I decided to walk down to the park and watch it depart Duluth.

 

Aerial Lift Bridge

Aerial Lift Bridge

As an aside if you are in Duluth and want to know when ships are leaving the docks or are going to be arriving you should check two websites. The Duluth Shipping News lets you know what traffic will be taking place during the day and gives approximate arrival and departure times. If you want to see where the ships are at any given time and watch their progress you should check  the AIS/Marine Information Site located in Thunder Bay. This is the only AIS site I can find that covers the Duluth/Superior Area. It shows the location on any ship broadcasting an AIS signal. I typically use this site to plan my visits to Canal Park to watch ships arriving or departing.

 

Mesabi Miner

Mesabi Miner

When we arrived the Mesabi Miner was just making the turn in the harbor to head out through the Shipping Canal. When I had been in the same area an hour earlier the harbor was ice free. Now there was considerable ice and a large flock of Gulls sitting on the ice in front of the oncoming ship.

 

Mesabi Miner

Mesabi Miner

We watched as the ship headed out to a cold Lake Superior.

 

More photos of Canal Park can be found on my website.

 

It’s been a wonderful spring at Hoffman Hills Wetlands. Hofmann Hills consists of three distinct areas, woodlands, prairie and wetlands. Most visitors spend their time hiking to the tower located on a hill in the woodlands. I spend most of my time walking in the wetlands. That’s really where the action is in the spring. This has been an unusual spring. It has been very warm and when the Weeping Willows bloomed in March they were spectacular.

One of the reasons my wife and I visit Hoffman Hills in the spring to watch the Canada Geese. We’ve been doing this for almost ten years now. For the first five years there was only a single pair of geese that nested on an island in a small pond. They normally arrive around the first of April and the goslings hatch around the first of May.

Best Friends

This year we saw them off of the nest on the third of April. While the female was on the nest we frequently saw a pair of male Mallards with the female. This is something we have never seen before.

Goslings

We were really surprised when we went out to Hoffman Hills on the twenty fourth of April and found the female was no longer on the nest and the male was not to be found. After searching for them we finally found them on another pond with their eight gosling. There was also a second pair of non breading Canada Geese with them. When we approached several of the goslings went off with the non breeding pair. I didn’t have my camera with me and were out of town for several days. When we returned we stopped to check on the gosling and they were no longer around. We haven’t seen them since the first sighting. This is the first time I’ve not been able to photograph them before they left the ponds. This is a shot of last years hatch.

Canada Geese

For the past three years there has been a second Pair of Canada Geese that have raised their young at Hoffman Hills. We have never been able to find where they nested but they would usually show up with their goslings at about the same time as the pair on the island hatched theirs. This year they did not return. About the middle of April a pair of Geese appeared but they were apparently a non breading pair. As noted above they were with the breeding pair when we saw the goslings.

Mad Goose

A couple of weeks ago a second non breading pair of Canada Geese turned up at the ponds. Sometimes both pair are on the same pond other times they are on different ponds. If one pair is on a pond and the second pair flies into the same pond there is usually a fight that takes place with the pair the just landed taking off after the pair that was on the pond.

Wood Ducks

There have also been several pair of Wood Ducks that have been hanging out in the ponds. It’s been hard to get a shot of them because they are usually a little skittish. Generally we see them early in the spring but even though there are some nesting boxes out they don’t seem to use them.

Muskrat

Muskrat

In the past several years we’ve seen Muskrats in the ponds. They seem to be a bit shy and I haven’t gotten many photos of them. This year we’ve seen them on both ponds. When we were out looking for the gosling this weekend we were able to observe a pair of Muskrats feeding on reeds along the edge of one of the ponds. This year we’ve had more Muskrat observations than any time in the past. They have been so active that they have undermined the dikes around the pond. Earlier in the week I was busy looking for birds and almost stepped in a hole that had opened up in the dike. A couple of days later I was standing in another spot and the ground gave way to reveal about a two foot deep hole where the Muskrats had dug into the dike.

Beaver Sign

In the last couple of weeks we have been seeing trees that have been cut down along the edges of both ponds. We assumed it was Beavers but have never seen a Beaver at Hoffman Hills. That all changed this past weekend. As we were walking along the second pond we heard a large splash as something entered the water at the edge of the pond. We immediately thought it was a Beaver but didn’t see it. About five minutes later we saw it out in the pond swimming around. It was huge. I would estimate it was three feet long. A little while later we saw a second beaver in some reeds along the pond. I have been out looking for the Beaver several times since and have not seen them or have I seen any fresh signs that they have cut down any more trees or eaten the ones that were already cut. It appears that they may have moved on.

As is typically the case I have the best opportunity to observe wildlife when I leave my camera at home. This past weekend was one of those days. My goal for the next couple of weeks is to get some photographs of the Muskrats and Beavers if the Beavers are still in the area.

 

Believe me getting up at 5 am is not on my to do list this time of year. I’m retired and usually don’t drag myself out of bed until after sunrise. The lone exception is the morning of the Midwest Sandhill Crane Count which runs from 5:30 am to 7:30 am. I’m fortunate that my counting area is only 5 minutes from my home so I just need to drag myself out of bed and grab some coffee. This is also the only day of the year that I treat myself to two long johns which I bring along and devour during the count.

As I drove down to the Gilbert Creek Wildlife area, where I count, I noticed a couple of trucks parked in fields with their lights on. I couldn’t figure out who would be up this time of morning and out in a field and then remembered that the Wild Turkey spring hunt was underway.

Canada Goose

As I drove into the valley I could see there was quite a bit of fog although it was perfectly clear up on the ridges. The Gilbert Creek Wildlife Area is strung out and surrounded by roads so I’m usually able to do my counting from the car. Normally it is cold out for the count but this year it was almost 50 degrees out. I usually drive around the area stopping at various locations to listen for the cranes calling. This year, for the first time, the frogs were out and the noise was so loud I don’t think I could have heard the cranes even if they were calling. This is a shot of one of the Canada Geese taken earlier in the week. It is making a path through the thin ice for its mate.

Sandhil Cranes switching places on the nest

I never did hear any cranes but the frogs, blackbirds, geese and ducks were making quite a bit of noise. I’ve counted in this area for about 5 years and never have heard any cranes calling. Normally I see cranes in one small pond and this year was no exception. Just as it was starting to get light out I noticed a bird walking in the water. At first I thought it was one of the Canada Geese but soon noticed the distinctive walking gate of the Sandhill Crane. There were two of them walking among the grasses. It was too dark to take any photos of the cranes. This was taken on another visit.

Mallard

After the crane count I came home and sat it my bird blind for a couple of hours watching a pair of nest building Eastern Bluebirds. This was followed by a three mile hike on the Red Cedar State Trail. Lunch at Culver’s with a two for one coupon for turtle sundaes. With my five cups of coffee, two long johns and a turtle sundae I am ready to crash this afternoon. This is a shot of a Mallard also taken earlier in the week. It was able to walk on the thin ice.

Last weekend my wife and I drove over to Willow River State Park. When we left home it was a bright sunny day but as we neared the Wisconsin border we encountered heavy fog. The trees along the road were covered with frost. On my last trip to Willow River the same thing happened but the frost disappeared before I reached the park. This time when we reached the parking lot everything was covered in frost. I was there would be frost on the trees near Willow Falls but as we walked into the river valley the frost disappeared.

Frost

There was not a lot of good ice at Willow Falls. There were some big chunks near the top of the falls but not a lot of interesting ice near the bottom.

Ice Formation

Willow Falls

After shooting at the falls we decided to walk west along the river to see if we could find any Trumpeter Swans. I had seen them fly over on my previous trip and I know they winter in the open water below the falls. Normally you can’t walk along the river trail because it is a ski trail in the winter. However, the weather has been so warm that the trail is not skiable and continues to be used for hiking. We did find some ducks and geese along the river but no swans. We met another hiker who said the swans were on some open water at the head of the lake. Shortly after we arrived they took off. There were some potentially great shots of them flying with dark clouds in the background but there were too many trees in the way to get a clear shot.

Mallards

More photos from Willow River can be found on my website.

 

I was taking pictures of several birds taking a bath last week and started thinking I probably have a number of photos from the past of birds in the process of taking a bath or cleaning themselves after a bath.

Yellow Warbler

This is a Yellow Warbler captured taking a bath in a small stream along the Red Cedar Trail. I watched him for quite a while as he would take a bath fly up to a branch and then fly back down to the stream again.

Mallard Duck

This Mallard duck spent a considerable time preening himself after taking his bath. He became a contortionist trying to make sure each feather was just right.

American Robin

This American Robin had just been in the bird bath and was spending some time working on it’s feathers.

Grey Catbird

The Grey Catbird was busy using the bird bath in front of the house.