Sunday, February 24, 2008

I love Meet the Press

Here's meet the press showing Hillary doing the exact thing she criticized Obama for doing. What's more, she did it as part of the same debate in which she criticized him for it. I don't have a lot of patience for hypocrisy but I love when Meet the Press calls people on it by playing these types of clips. Too bad Hillary wasn't there to respond but even when people are there they usually just answer with more doublespeak.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Barred Owl and a Brown Creeper

Now that I'm at 30 birds for the year I'll probably have to wait until March to see new bird species. In the mean time. Here's some fun photos.

March 18th the barred owl once again showed up at the building right outside the classroom windows. We saw it almost pull a red squirrel off a tree trunk. The owl hung around about four hours so there were plenty of opportunities to get photos. Here's two.

Check out that camouflage!

Speaking of camouflage. Check out this small brown creeper. They have this fantastic camouflage that makes them very hard to see while they cling to a tree trunk like a nuthatch.
Right as I took this shot of the creeper, a downy woodpecker came in for a landing. Click for the full size image.

This third one is probably my favorite shot. The brown creeper was spooked and flew off when a downy woodpecker came to feed next to it. What a lucky shot!

Monday, February 18, 2008

30 birdies for the year

Thursday, February 7th I finally saw some mourning doves. They were sitting on the telephone line on County road 7.

Monday, February 11th I saw mallards in pair flights. I had seen flocks earlier this season but these were the first pair flights. I saw them on the way home over hwy 36. The bald eagles are also consistently at their nest on Keller lake now.

Tuesday, February 12th I went to the St, Croix Watershed Research Station for a strategic planning retreat for work. At lunch some of us walked down to the spring feed creek and ponds. We were hoping to see black ducks or snipe that are sometimes there but there were only mallards. We could hear the high pitched call notes of robins from the trees. Once we looked a little harder we spotted them in groups of three and four. A single male northern cardinal flew past us as we turned to go in. Those were my first robins and cardinals of the year so it was a pretty good little hike.

Saturday, February 16 I came into work for a morning snowshoe program and I took a stroll past windows to see what the feeders looked like. I could see a lot of birds from across the building so I knew it must be a busy morning. even before I was to the window I could see a bird sitting on a branch and my brain told me something wasn't right. That female American goldfinch looked funny. Suddenly it hit me. That's not a goldfinch at all. Look at the black under the beak and is that red on the head? It's a redpoll! That's a life lister for me. I ran for my binoculars and I had a camera on my desk so I snapped this photo. There were four or five redpolls mixed in with the goldfinches. Looking at the photos I'm sure these are common redpolls and not hoary redpolls. How do I know? This gets pretty nerdy.

I got this shot of a redpolls back. If you look at the right hand side you can see the white wing bar. The feathers above and slightly to the right of that white line are the scapulars. They are pretty hard to distinguish from the mantle or cape across the birds back in this photo. On a common redpoll the scapulars are dark while on a hoary redpoll they would look frosty or hoary. Happy now?

Here's a shot a male as he comes in for a landing at the feeder.

Since I had the camera in hand I snapped a few other photos. I got this fun one of a downy woodpecker flapping a wing. There were a number of them in the area.

I also took several shots where you can really see the golden mating colors of the male American Goldfinches coming in. I've been noting this for a few weeks already.

I'd already seen one in passing earlier but I also spotted a pair a Blue Jays that same morning. These birds get a bad rap because they can be a bit of a bully but I think they are one of the most gorgeous birds I have ever seen. They really are spectacular and if they lived somewhere more exotic I'm sure people would fawn over them and dream of the day they could see the hallowed Blue Jay. As is, people tend to ignore this beautiful resident of Minnesota.

Sunday the 17th I had some free time (a rare thing these days) and I decided to make the most of it by heading down to Black Dog Lake. I first stopped at the west outlet and there was a group of mallards and some other waterfowl that flew away when I arrived. I pushed on until there was open water on my right from the power plant discharge. I quickly pulled over when I saw a flotilla of birds. There really wasn't a good place to pull over but I quickly identified them as common mergansers. There were about 50 of them. I then moved on to the eastern outlet just before the power plant and as soon as I stepped out of my car I could hear bald eagles. I quickly spotted a pair of eagles in the top of some trees on the northern side of the road (actually across the pond). I couldn't see a nest anywhere.

I headed out onto the trail on the west side of the outlet and saw a small group of mallards. That appeared to be all there was. I decided to scan the water with my binoculars just to be sure. To my surprise, the water was full of hundreds of common mergansers further out. A rough count pin the number around 200. This was a separate group from the group of 50 I spotted earlier on the other side of the power plant. Leaving the area I saw more mallards in the small stream just east of 77 and then a strange hawk flew over my car and landed in a tree when I got to the top of the bluff. My best guess was an immature red-shouldered hawk. The breast was awfully white. I couldn't be sure and I soon realized I had pulled to the side of the road right next to a no parking sign. I had to move on. I hiked the trail on the other side of Black Dog but all I saw was the smaller group of mergansers but this time from the other side. A sign said that goldeneyes are common in the winter but I sure didn't see any. So, with the sighting of the common merganser's I'm officially at 30 birds for the year. Not too bad for mid-feburary.

26 Mourning Doves
27 American Robin
28 Northern Cardinal
29 Common Redpoll
30 Common Merganser

Sunday, February 17, 2008

For your viewing pleasure . . .

This is one of the most fantastic things I have viewed in a long time. I just randomly stumbled upon it while looking for something else on YouTube.If you don't have the patience to watch the whole thing skip ahead to 2:20 that's when it gets especially choice.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

The view from my window . . .

This was the view out my cubicle window today at work. Notice anything interesting?
Look closer.

That's a barred owl. He (or she) is trying to blend in with the broken off branch on the oak tree. It didn't fool the chickadees who were quite unhappy about him being there. They chirped loudly and dive bombed him. He was there for a couple of hours and was still there when we left for the day. Can you find him in the wide view photo at the top?


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Birds of 2008 (21-25)

Getting the first 20 birds of the year wasn't so bad. I knew though that getting 10 more by the end of February would be tough. There just aren't that many birds here and I don't have time to drive all over the state looking for birds when I have a three month old at home. Here's how it played out.

Friday, January 18th I came into work late as I was working an evening program. I stopped by the Stillwater Town Hall on the way in as my co-worker had spotted a rare Townsend's Solitaire there the day before. I didn't see anything but I learned later I was looking in not quite the right spot. I had a little time before I had to be at work so I did the drive around the Warner/Wilder acreage. I only found two species of birds and they were both in the same spot. I saw a flock of dark-eyed juncos and while watching them I noticed a red-tailed hawk sitting in the tree above them. I hadn't seen a junco yet this year so I was thinking my drive paid off. Turns out Juncos showed up at my house on Saturday and then Monday at work.

Monday the 21st I headed once again to Lake Elmo Park Reserve for a program. I saw three female pheasants, a junco, a white breasted nuthatch and a crow at the park. On my way back to the office I saw a couple of red-tailed hawks and crows. I slowed down as I approached Stillwater Town Hall knowing Paul had spotted the Townsend's Solitaire there and sure enough there was a lone bird up at the top of the trees. I pulled over and pulled out the Binoculars. It was the Solitaire! Tally Ho!

February 1st I started the month off right with a new species. I stopped on norell ave about a mile from work when I saw birds on the side of the road. I grabbed my binoculars and sure enough there were American Tree Sparrows. While stopped there I also saw a white breasted nuthatch, a black capped chickadee and juncos. A huge flock of pheasants also crossed in front of my car. There were a least a dozen of them. On my way to an outreach event around lunch I saw my first Blue Jay of the year in this same spot. I also again saw the Townsend Solitaire across from Stillwater Town hall on my way into and again on my way out of town.

Just as I was leaving for the program I heard one of the school groups had spotted a Barred Owl on one of the trails. I set out with my camera when I returned from the program and he was still there.

Sunday, February 3th I heard a Cardinal singing from my neighbor's yard but didn't see him. The lack of mature trees in my yard pretty much keeps most birds away. There are blue jays, cardinals and woodpeckers just across the alley but they don't dare come pay me a visit.

Wednesday, February 6th I was surprised when two Canada Geese flew over my car. I was especially surprised a I was on Hwy 94 right in the heart of Downtown. Never the less, that's bird number 25 for the year.

21 Slate-colored dark-eyed junco
22 Townsend's Solitaire
23 American Tree Sparrow
24 Blue Jay
25 Canada Goose


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Morning Mallard

This morning at work a female mallard showed up right next to the building. This photo was taken through the window, that's how close she was. She appeared to have some frozen mud and ice on her bill so we were afraid she was sick. The nearest open water is about 5 miles away at the St. Croix River. When we approached her she flew a short distance, maybe 50 feet and quacked. We were then sure she could fly and her bill wasn't frozen as she quacked. . We're not sure if there is really any thing wrong with her but her behavior seems very odd. We hope she makes it to open water soon.