Thursday, August 19, 2010

Meet My New Friend

I found the coolest insect at Hasty last weekend. I'd seen another of these a few weeks ago and looked it up in my Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. It looked like a relative of the Spotted Sawyer, a longhorn beetle I'd seen up there several times before. With some help from blogging/Facebook friend Cindy Mead I eventually identified this beetle as a Balsam Fir Sawyer, Monochamus marmorator.
Check out the horny protrusions around its neck. I would guess they would make it difficult to swallow this big fellow. Doesn't it kind of remind you of a studded collar?
I mentioned to Hap in New Hope that I had seen this cool insect and he told me that he'd once gotten a nasty bite from a longhorn beetle. When I zoomed in on its face I could see how that might happen. Look at the size of those pinchy mouth parts! It's probably a good thing I didn't know they could bite as I had held it for quite a long time. Thankfully, no bites.

We looked at each other for a long time.
Click to big-ify this photo. The eyes are really amazing. Kindly disregard the fact that I really needed a manicure and some lotion.

Check out the camouflage colors. The colors looked metallic in the sun.

I took loads of photos of this accommodating beetle and felt we were forming a bond but when it pooped on me I knew it was time to say good-bye.

am-scra eetle-ba!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Potholes and Prairie Birding Festival in Carington, North Dakota

I stopped in St. Paul to pick up birding friend Virginia and the at the airport for Katdoc and off we went. About seven hours and a few hundred miles later we arrived in Carrington, exhausted. Settle in, unpack, a bite to eat and off to bed to wait for our 4AM alarm. Kathi's trip was scheduled to leave at 430 and mine at 5AM. We were most happy to find that Wren was here at the festival too. This morning we headed out to tour the Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge with guide Bill Thompson. Thw weather wasn't terrific- cold, windy with rain or drizzle most of the day but I am NOT complaining. The views were spectacular, the birding wonderful and the company was great.

We got several fabulous looks at Upland Sandpipers.
Western Grebes that were displaying.

We came upon a few pairs of Marbled Godwits throughout the day. They were not as happy to see us as we were to see them.

Common Snipe were uncommonly beautiful and easy to find.

We got to watch a bison heard cautiously move away and then break into a run.
It was like seeing a piece of history
I was honored.
I'm short on narritive tonight as I'm really tired. Julie Zickefoose spoke this afternoon and there is a picnic dinner and music this evening. Should be fun.
All told, I believe our group saw 78 species today and I got 16 life birds!!!
Western Grebe
Blue-winged Teal
American Avocet
Upland Sandpiper
Marbled Godwit
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Wilson's Phalarope
California Gull
Black Tern
Willow Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
Horned Lark
Sedge Wren
Clay-colored Sparrow
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Pardon the typo's...
Tomorrow is Pipits and Pie with Julie.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Spring Changes at Hasty

Lifer Mourning Warbler!
We spent last weekend up at Hasty and spring had brought new colors to our place. Everything had greened up and there were many trees, bushes and wildflowers in bloom. I brought along my copy of Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota and spent a good deal of time figuring out just what we have growing up there. I was particularly interested in the brush growing along the slope down to the creek just below our balcony. We would like to clear it just a bit to give us a better view of the creek and the critters down there but I really want to be careful to leave the plants that produce fruit for the wildlife. I know we have lots of beaked hazelnut bushes. They grow wherever there is a break in the canopy. Some of them can go. Using the book I was able to identify several choke cherry trees, june berry bushes, and two kinds of dogwood. These are all terrific fruit producers and I've seen the birds go after them in earlier seasons. We also have quite a few pretty spruce and balsam trees growing on the south-facing slope. If we thin a bit they'll have more room to grow. As I identify plants that I want to keep, I've been marking them with a spool of red plastic ribbon. We'll most likely wait to start thinning the brush in the fall after the nesting season is long over. Thanks go out to Deb at Sand Creek Almanac for suggesting this wonderful book.
Saturday we had an exciting visitor- Richard from At The Water made the long drive up from his home to see our place and give us advice on finishing the upstairs to turn it into our cabin. Richard is an amazingly multi-talented man has kindly offered his expertise in carpentry and electrical wiring! His visit on Saturday gave us an opportunity to get ideas and make some decisions on the placement of interior walls and a kitchen. Most of these decisions need to be firmed up before the wiring can be done. We had a great day, though chilly and very windy. In addition to driving all that way to help us out, Richard brought us a most thoughtful gift: a framed photo that I took from the balcony and posted on this blog last year! It will be the first picture that I hang up there and I'll be sure to post a photo of it. Thank you Richard.
Sunday morning dawned warmer and quite cloudy. I woke early (6am), made a pot of coffee and quietly slid open the patio door on the balcony. Armed with a big cup of strong coffee and my binoculars I stepped outside to be met by a morning chorus like no other: The warblers were here! Ovenbirds, Common Yellowthroats, Black and Whites.
There were Chestnut-sided Warblers everywhere!
Our building/campsite is surrounded on three sides by the creek and I could hear the
of Golden-winged Warblers on all three sides (no pix this time). I saw Blackpolls, American Redstarts, Nashville and Palm Warblers. I kept hearing a louder song, not familiar. I put on jeans, long sleeves and hiking shoes, grabbed my camera and took off to find the singer. I got as close as I could to the song, settled in and waited. There were two birds singing that song, one on either side of a small clearing. There it was- a Mourning Warbler!! LIFER!! Two males sang dueling songs. I took tons of pictures, none of them great because of the gray skies, but good enough to verify my id. I posted a photo two years ago of a fledgling that I couldn't identify. Hap in New Hope thought it was probably a Mourning Warbler but I didn't count it on my life list because I couldn't make the id myself.
It was a very birdy day even without the warblers. Purple Finches and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks fought for time at the feeders.

These Purple Finch ladies were bickering.

This little Chipping Sparrow sat still just long enough for a quick snapshot. Song Sparrows, Hermit Thrushes and Veeries sang along the creek. White-throated Sparrows skulked around mostly hidden in the thick hazelnut bushes. A brilliant flash of red in a treetop across the creek- a Scarlet Tanager is new for my Hasty yard list.

My first decent (sort of) photo of a Kingfisher.

Sunday was the birdiest day I've ever had at Hasty Brook.


We'll be buying lumber, light fixtures and wiring supplies for our next trip up north. With Richard's help and advice we will be making great progress in turning our "upstairs" into a comfy cabin/loft. As soon as it's finished we'll be able to open the doors and invite you all up to the Hasty Brook Birder's B&B!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Has it Really Been Two Months?

No excuses, I was gone and now I'm back!
Let's see...where was I...
I went to Miami for a week in March. It was a work-related trip, training on two new laboratory analyzers (coagulation analyzers for the science lovers out there). There was very little extra time so most all of my birding was done on the shuttle bus riding back and forth between the hotel and the training center. Even so, I got six life birds!
Common Myna
Cattle Egret
White Ibis
Eurasian Collared Dove
Monk Parakeet
Loggerhead Shrike
The first morning we filed into the training center one of the instructors spotted my Cape May bag and asked if I was a birder! She wasn't my instructor but we chatted every day about the birds of the area. In the middle of the week she asked me if a Loggerhead Shrike would be a lifer for me. Yes! The next day she took me through the training center, out the employee's entrance and across their parking lot, down the road a couple of blocks to a little airport. There, sitting on a barbed wired fence at a traffic light with four lanes of heavy traffic sat a Loggerhead Shrike! She watched traffic for me as I scooted across to the center lane divider to get a photo (on my other camera) I'm telling you- birders are the BEST PEOPLE.

Except for the very coldest weekends, Art and I have visited Hasty Brook for day trips every two weeks on my weekends off. Now that spring is here we're really gearing up our plans to get our upstairs/cabin finished. I really can't wait to get the well hooked up so we can have running water. It's been a long wait. The last visit I saw this pair of Turkey Vultures dancing on the wind. They eventually landed across the creek and nuzzled each other. I know this is a lousy photo but these were the first Turkey Vultures that I've seen perched at our place. I assume by their behavior that they are a mating pair. Love it.
The Chickadees seem to get tamer up there every year. I've fed them in my hand a few times now.

Red-breasted Nuthatches breed at Hasty so they're around all the time. I love watching their antics. Such cheeky little things.

I call this "Moon Over Hasty Brook"

A couple of weeks ago I saw that Birdchick was going to be at North Mississippi River Regional Park scoping out the heron rookery. I hadn't seen Sharon in a while and had the morning free so I headed over. It was a cloudy chilly morning so my photos are pretty poor but it was great to see Sharon. She looked pretty darn adorable in her ranger duds too.

Last evening was the Woodcocks and Whiskey edition of Birds and Beers out at Lebanon Hills Regional Park I picked up Hellziggy, aka "The Other Sharon" on the way and took off to see woodcocks. It was a pretty good sized group but I think everyone go a terrific look at a woodcock. Thanks Birdchick for organizing another fun evening.

Yesterday afternoon a work friend (Hi Jayne!) took me out to her friends' house to see this Great Horned Owlet at a park across the street.

Just look at this face!

Even though we plan to be spending all of our free time and money working up at Hasty this summer, I did manage to save a few dollars for one festival:

Potholes and Prairies in Carrington, North Dakota, June 9-13. I'm so very excited that Katdoc is coming too. She'll fly in to Minneapolis and then we'll drive out together. I've wanted to attend this festial for a few years and I'm thrilled to be going this summer. I'll post more about the festival soon.

Thanks for your patience and for the nudges to getting blogging again too.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sax-Zim Bog Winter Birding Festival

Last weekend was the Third Annual Sax-Zim Bog Winter Birding Festival in Meadowlands, Minnesota. Ruthie the Nature Knitter and I had been looking forward to it for a long time. Meadowlands is a small town with a big welcoming heart for birders from all over looking for the special northern birds that winter in the unique bog habitat surrounding the area. It was Ruthie's second time at the festival and my third. We came prepared with a copy of WildBird magazine to pose with in the woods.

On our way "up north" (as we Minnesotans call it) we had to make a stop at Hasty Brook. I wanted to fill my feeders and especially wanted Ruthie to see the progress we'd made since her last visit two years ago. Good Neighbor Mark had kindly plowed the driveway and yard area so we were able to drive right in. As soon as we stopped the car we could hear the birds. We heard an unfamiliar song, one neither of us had heard before. There were the regulars, Black-capped Chickadees, Red and White-breasted Nuthatches, Pine Siskins and just a handful of Common Redpolls. We heard the new song a few more times and then glanced up to see three Snow Buntings circling over our heads. I had never seen Snow Buntings on our property before and we were surprised to see them in such a wooded area. To watch them in flight circling just over our heads was joyous. Bright, pure white with black wing-tips against the blue sky- it was fabulous! I expected them to fly off but amazingly they landed high up in a maple. We got good long looks of them until they circled the clearing a few more times and then landed at the top of birch snag about ten feet away.

I took photo after photo knowing I would probably never have this kind of opportunity again.

The third Snow Bunting peeked its head out for just one photo.

I felt they put on a show just for Ruthie and I and I knew it was going to be a special weekend.

Our Saturday field trip took us to Duluth. We tried two different locations to spot a Snowy Owl but had no luck. I was really hoping for Bohemian Waxwings but unfortunately no luck with them either. The winds had blown the ice further into the harbor which made the waterbirds move farther north. Driving up toward Two Harbors we did get good looks at some Common Goldeneyes. We stopped for a tail-gate lunch at the Lester River park. It was a particularly lovely February day- low winds and temps reached thirty. We got some good looks at White-winged Crossbills while we ate. Mike Hendickson our trip leader for the day got a call about a Rough-legged Hawk near the harbor. It was being hassled by crows and finally gave up and sailed away.

We saw several Northern Shrikes over the weekend. This one actually put on a hunting show for us.
We spent the afternoon at the Superior landfill (on the Wisconsin side) looking at gulls. Peder Svingen, another Duluth area birder and a friend of Mike's was all ready there scouting the birds. I'll say it out loud: gulls are not my thing. They are lovely to watch in flight. I can appreciate that. I just don't have a good eye for identifying them. It's overwhelming. There is so much variation in appearance as they mature. I don't think I can learn it so I don't try. Enough excuses? We watched as flocks of them circled over our heads. With Mike's encouragement and Peder's help I was able to single out a Glaucous Gull. All white, no color on the wing tips. Larger than the rest. Wings wider where they meet the body. Got it. In the next flock that rose up from the hill I was able to spot the Glaucous myself. (eventually...) Next Peder spotted an Iceland Gull. Boy, that one was harder for me to pick out, but I did. Twice! Lifer! Maybe there's hope for me. I'm trying to talk Mike into doing a gull workshop up in Duluth. If he does, I'll be there. After our full day of birding we headed back to Meadowlands to get on the bus for the evening owl prowl looking for Great Gray and Northern Hawk Owls in the bog. There weren't any Great Gray Owls seen all weekend. I felt bad for the birders that needed this beautiful owl for their life lists but in birding, that's the way it goes. I believe everyone at the festival got to see Northern Hawk Owls. We saw one on the owl prowl but it was waaaaaay cross a field and my photo looks like a dot.
Back at the Meadowlands Community Center for a wonderful dinner of pasties, our evening speaker was humorist/birder and Hartland, Minnesota native Al Batt. I've been lucky to hear Al speak twice before. He has a gentle sense of humor and is honestly the best story teller I've ever heard. A fine human being.
The alarm rang at 430AM on Sunday morning. I had a momentary thought:
Why do we do this birding thing??
The question receded as thoughts of the coming day- the people, the birds, the experiences and the laughter got me shuffling off the the shower and then to the layers upon layers of every imaginable thermal garment I could find. It was going to be a cold one with sharp winds from the north. I checked to be sure I had the 24-count pack of hand warmers in my bag.
Ruthie and I were thrilled to find that Al and Judd Brink, another great birder and very nice guy, were our trip leaders in the bog on Sunday. Off we go!

Gray Jays are one of my favorite birds. I got my lifer Gray Jay last year at this festival. They are total personality with feathers. Someone had put out dry dog food at one of the feeding stations and the Gray Jays loved it. These birds are fearless of people and have actually been known to follow campers looking for handouts.

A photographer watching at this feeding station had placed peanuts on the branches of this tree. Look at how this bird is prying the bark up looking for a nut. Unfortunately, our group wasn't able to find any Boreal Chickadees. I got my lifer here last year.
Here is a trip list (incomplete) for the weekend:
Snow Bunting
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Black-capped Chickadee
Purple Finch
Common Redpoll
Pine Siskin
Bald Eagle
Common Raven
Ruffed Grouse (many)
Rough-legged Hawk
Northern Shrike
Common Goldeneye
Common Merganser
White-winged Crossbill
Northern Hawk Owl
Pine Grosbeak
Glaucous Gull
Iceland Gull - LIFER!
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
American Robin
I got to add another blogger to my Blogger Life List!
Dee from the Crane Lake Nature Blog was at the festival. I've been reading her blog for quite a while and I was delighted to finally meet her. Be sure to check out this post and read about her MOOSE sighting in the bog!
Thank you Ruthie for traveling up north to the bog with me again.
You are such a good friend.
Thank you Mike for all of you hard work in putting this festival together.
Your love for the Sax-Zim bog is a wonderful thing to see.
Thank you to the fine townspeople of Meadowlands.
Your warmth and hospitality made us all feel welcome.

Northern Hawk Owl
Taken last year 2/14/2009 in the Sax-Zim Bog.

Great Gray Owl
Taken during the irruption year 1/29/2005

Monday, February 01, 2010

Crabby Chickadee

Check out the eyebrows on this Black-capped Chickadee!
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Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Love Redpolls

We spent another day at Hasty Brook on Saturday. The temperature was still only 11 below when we got there. The birds were going crazy at the feeders and the four full thistle socks I had left a week before were empty. While Art went into the building to get the heaters going I started to fill the feeders. There was a good sized flock of Common Redpolls on the ground. When I approached they flew up into the trees but as soon as I opened the thistle bag they dropped back down and 4-5 of them landed on my head! Chickadees have landed on me before but these little Redpolls are usually more skittish so these little fluttering birds caught me by surprise. It was brutally cold so I finished filling and scattered plenty of thistle and oilers on the ground and headed indoors.
The photo above was taken upstairs through the patio doors. I sprinkled seed on the balcony railing and within minutes the birds came. This pretty little Redpoll was all of five feet away from me. Come on up and sip coffee with me and watch the birds.
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Friday, January 22, 2010

January Rocks in Minnesota

I'm not a New Year's resolution gal but I am going to try to change a few things. One of those changes to to get out and DO more. Another forward change is that we're going to get up to Hasty Brook more. We've got this wonderful building but it has no inside finished. We have LOTS of work to do to get the upstairs comfy and livable. Our Good Neighbor has been kind enough to keep our long driveway plowed so every other weekend, regardless of the temperature, we've gone to Hasty. Last Saturday we got up there in mid-morning. The first bird (other than the bazillion Chickadees) that I saw was a Northern Shrike. Shrikes are easy enough to find in northern Minnesota but this one was the first here- Yard Bird! This Shrike was not bothered by our presence and stayed in the area all day. It would fly between the other side of the creek and a birch snag over the feeders. I guess there were plenty of little snacks for the Shrike!
I love this photo even though the background makes my eyes wiggle.

My next new yard bird was this Bald Eagle. I see Eagles most every trip to Hasty but this was the first one that was "parked" there.

Last Tuesday evening Good Neighbor Mark called to tell me that they had a Varied Thrush coming to their feeders. I made a quick plan to drive up on Thursday. Wednesday morning when I heard the crummy freezing rain forecast for Thursday I knew I just had to drop my plans and get up there right away. When I got up there Renee was home and graciously invited me in! I spent the next two hours warm and comfy, sipping coffee with Renee, watching the Varied Thrush and waiting for the bird to drop down into the sun so I could get a good photo.
Lifer! And such a pretty bird. Thank you Renee and Mark.

This picture needs a caption.

I had about a million things to do today but a quick check on Facebook led me to a black bear den web-cam at the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota. Lily the black bear mama was in labor and I was hooked. I watched her belly contract and listened to her huff. After a bit I heard the tiny squeak of the baby! I don't know which sound moved me more- the teeny tiny baby bear sounds or the soft huffs and grunts of mama. Finally I put the laptop down so I could get moving on my chores and errands. I glanced out the window to check the bird status in the back yard and something different caught my eye. It looked like dry leaves were spilling out of the Wood Duck box entrance. I kind of assumed that the army of gray squirrels had finally moved in but grabbed my binoculars anyway.
It was a Screech Owl!!
LIFER in my yard!
I grabbed the camera and fired off some shots.
(I have GOT to wash the windows.)
The photos were grainy at best.
I threw a quick post onto Facebook and called Art.
(I think he though I'd had a stroke or something...)
I called Susan and fluttered and babbled on about this amazing owl.
She understood me.
I NEEDED a better picture.
So I quietly slid the window up a few inches-
and cut a big hole in the screen!!
I've never heard a Screech Owl in this neighborhood before.
Maybe I'll try and call it in with my Birdjam (Hi Jay!)
So what do you think? Two lifers in January in Minnesota!
I think it's going to be a very good year.
Sunset at a tamarack bog.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Great Gray Owl Video

Check out this amazing video of two Great Gray Owls in northern Minnesota. The video was taken by Sparky Stensaas yesterday evening in the Sax Zim Bog.
It's another great year for owls in northern Minnesota.
I am registered for my third trip to the 2010 Sax Zim Bog Festival of Birds. Ruthie is joining me again this year. There is still room for all of the field trips so if you're tempted, check out the festival website.