Posts from the ‘Minnesota’ Category

Snowshoe Hare pair…one brown, one white—March 26th; Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota

Deep in a Black Spruce/Tamarack bog on March 26th I encountered something quite amazing…and entirely new for me—A pair of courting Snowshoe Hares…one already turning brown (though there was about a foot of snow on the ground) and one still mostly white. This was in northeastern Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog.

I was just standing quietly and listening for birds, when I caught some motion out of the corner of my eye. It was these two hares chasing each other around the trunk of a spruce! They’d run at each other and then one would leap over the other one, stop momentarily and then continue their cavorting chase. They continued for a couple minutes but then they noticed me and stopped. They froze in position for about 20 minutes, but then again continued their courtship.
Snowshoe Hare pair leaping Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0725

Cavorting Snowshoe Hares in late March are probably courting. Their color has nothing to do with their sex…Some hares just turn brown earlier than others in spring. But turning brown in late March/early April can be a problem if the snowpack lingers late into April. They become easier to spot by predators such as Canada Lynx and wolves.

[Snowshoe Hare in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog; March 26, 2018]

Snowshoe Hare Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0865

One hare was farther along in its molt from winter white to summer brown. This change is brought on by increasing day length, and NOT by whether there is snow on the ground or not.

Snowshoe Hare Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0839

Snowshoe Hares are normally crepuscular (more active at dawn/dusk) and nocturnal and can therefore avoid some diurnal hunters. Lynx and Northern Goshawks (females) are two of their historic predators.

[Snowshoe Hare in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog; March 26, 2018]

Snowshoe Hare Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0837

Snowshoe Hares tend to be on a 10-year boom-bust cycle, but this is more regular in the heart of their range in Canada and Alaska. Minnesota is at the south end of the range and the cycle here is not as regular.

Snowshoe Hare Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0836

Freezing in place is a good strategy to avoid being noticed by predators….But they also think they are invisible to this photographer. Every Snowshoe Hare I’ve found in winter has used this method and I’ve been able to slowly get quite close to them.

Snowshoe Hare Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0833

Hares in winter feed on the inner bark and buds of  shrubs and small trees.

[Snowshoe Hare in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog; March 26, 2018]

Snowshoe Hare Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0821

Surprisingly, Snowshoe Hares can have between 2 and 5 litters each year! Each litter can be from 1 to 8 leverets (young hares).

Snowshoe Hare Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0817

White pelage is a big help to Snowshoe Hares in remaining invisible during the snowy season.

Snowshoe Hare Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0811Snowshoe Hare Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0801

I love the mix of colors in the pelage of the molting Snowshoe Hare.

[Snowshoe Hare in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog; March 26, 2018]

Snowshoe Hare Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0788Snowshoe Hare Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0786Snowshoe Hare Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0775

It takes about a month for a Snowshoe Hare to turn from white to brown in spring (mostly April) and from brown to white in fall (mostly November).

[Snowshoe Hare in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog; March 26, 2018]

Snowshoe Hare Warren Nelson Memorial Bog Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0710-2

[Snowshoe Hare in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog; March 26, 2018]

[**All photos with Canon 7D and Sigma 50-500mm lens]

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Pelican Stopover in the North Woods

Every spring for the last several years, a flock of American White Pelicans has stopped over along the St. Louis River at Fond du Lac, Duluth, Minnesota. Here they find a couple ideal loafing islands in mid river and I suppose, good fishing. Arriving in late April, they usually depart by mid May. In 2017, they showed up on April 19th and departed by mid May. They are easily visible from the Fond du Lac Bridge that joins Minnesota and Wisconsin. I imagine these flocks are headed to major breeding colonies at Lake of the Woods, Minnesota, but I’m not positive.

Am White Pelicans IMG_0006647

A flock of American White Pelicans has made the St. Louis River at Fond du Lac, Duluth, Minnesota (and nearby Wisconsin portion of the river) a spring stopover on their way to breeding grounds farther north. There are fewer than 70 breeding colonies in North America (50 in Canada, 18 in the U.S.), with 3 in Minnesota. Of course, some of these colonies are massive! They are considered a Species of Special Concern in Minnesota.

“The American white pelican formerly ranged throughout much of Minnesota, with nesting documented as far east as Aitkin County in 1904. The species declined in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, largely due to human persecution (Wires et al. 2005). There were no reports of nesting in the state after 1878 (Roberts 1932) until 70 nests were found at Marsh Lake in Big Stone and Lac qui Parle counties in 1968. Nesting was limited to less than 10 colonies in the early 1980s, and the species was subsequently listed as special concern in 1984. In the 1990s, nesting was confirmed in several additional areas. Large numbers of non-breeding adults are also regularly seen on other Minnesota lakes throughout the summer. Although there is evidence of an increasing population in Minnesota, it might best be viewed as a recolonization of its former range (Wires et al. 2005). Colonial breeding habits and occupancy of a small number of breeding sites make white pelicans particularly vulnerable to decline, meriting special concern status. The Marsh Lake colony is the largest known colony in North America, giving it continent-wide significance (Wires et al. 2005).” [from http://www.dnr.state.mn.us]

American White Pelican flight St. Louis River Fond du Lac MN IMG_0006699

The “horn” is only grown for the breeding season…It disappears after that. [Canon 40D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens (& Metabones adapter); 1/1600 at f7.1; ISO 200]

American White Pelican group with bills up St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN-06925

“Pelicans are big birds that can overheat when they’re out in the hot sun. They shed heat by facing away from the sun and fluttering their bill pouches—which contain many blood vessels to let body heat escape. Incubating parents may also stretch their wings wide to aid cooling.” [from http://www.allaboutbirds.org]. I’m actually not sure if this is what is happening in this photo as at this exact moment a Ring-billed Gull flew directly over this group’s heads…Could it be an aggressive posture?

[Sony A6500 with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens (& Metabones adapter); 1/400 at f5.6; ISO 100]

map American White Pelican North America Distribution Cornell

Range of the American White Pelican in North America [from Cornell]

American White Pelican St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN-06899

“Pelicans are skillful food thieves. They steal from other pelicans trying to swallow large fish and are successful about one-third of the time. They also try to steal prey from Double-crested Cormorants that are bringing fish to the surface. In their dense nesting colonies, some birds even steal the food that a parent on an adjacent nest has disgorged for its young.” [from http://www.allaboutbirds.org].

[Sony A6500 with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens (& Metabones adapter); 1/1250 at f5.6; ISO 200; -1 ev]

American White Pelican St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN-06929

“Contrary to cartoon portrayals and common misconceptions, pelicans never carry food in their bill pouches. They use them to scoop up food but swallow their catch before flying off” [from http://www.allaboutbirds.org].

[Sony A6500 with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens (& Metabones adapter); 1/400 at f5.6; ISO 100]

American White Pelican pair St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_0006630

[Canon 40D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens (& Metabones adapter); 1/1600 at f7.1; ISO 200]

American White Pelican St Louis R Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_8295

Population Information:

  1. North America population estimate: 67,030 breeding pairs (1998-2001; King and Anderson 2005)
  2. Minnesota population estimate: 15,824 breeding pairs breeding at 16 different colony sites (Wires, Haws and Cuthbert 2005: The Double-crested Cormorant and American White Pelican in Minnesota: A Statewide Status Assessment)
  3. Minnesota has one of the largest North American colonies at Marsh Lake; over 80% of the state’s population occurs in this location

[Canon 40D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens & 1.4x teleconverter; 1/320 at f8; ISO 400]

American White Pelican St. Louis River Chamber's Grove Park Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_7024

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens (& Metabones adapter); 1/2000 at f7.1; ISO 200]

American White Pelican St. Louis River Chamber's Grove Park Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_7035

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; 1/1600 at f7.1; ISO 200]

American White Pelican St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_0017

“American while pelicans are a monogamous species, and most likely pair each year on their breeding grounds. Adults begin breeding when three years old. They perform a variety of flying and walking courtship displays, and select a nest site within a dense colony. Colonies are mainly located on isolated islands, also occupied by gulls and cormorants. A pelican colony can consist of thousands of birds (Evans and Knopf 1993). After courtship, each pair builds a nest by scraping gravel, soil, or vegetation to form a shallow depression. The bottom of the nest may contain little or no insulation. A clutch of two eggs is common. Both males and females take turns to continuously incubate and guard the eggs until they hatch, usually about 30 days later. The young are altricial. The first chick to hatch frequently harasses the younger sibling, causing it to leave the nest early or move to an area of the nest where it is fed less often. Second chicks often die of starvation, predation, or exposure. Adults feed chicks by regurgitating food into their beak pouch, where it is made accessible to the chicks. Parents continuously brood nestlings for about 17-25 days. As parents begin leaving nests unattended, groups of chicks huddle together for warmth, forming a pod or creche. These pods may also serve as protection from predators (Evans and Knopf 1993). The young walk from the nest at about 26 days, and fly after 62-63 days. [from http://www.dnr.state.mn.us]

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens & 1.4x teleconverter; 1/1600 at f8; ISO 100]

American White Pelican St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_0029

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens & 1.4x teleconverter; 1/1600 at f8; ISO 100]

American White Pelican St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_0046

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens & 1.4x teleconverter; 1/1600 at f8; ISO 100]

American White Pelican St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_0057

I am trying to find out where this Pelican was banded. This photo was taken on May 6, 2013.American White Pelican St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_0080

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; 1/4000 at f5.6; ISO 100]

American White Pelican St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_0082

Did you know that the American White Pelican has arguably the LONGEST WINGSPAN OF ANY BIRD IN NORTH AMERICA? Well, at least it’s a close competition… The California Condor is almost exactly the same wingspan…NINE FEET!

According to The Sibley Guide to Birds, here are the North American birds with WINGSPANS OVER SEVEN FEET.

  1. California Condor—109″
  2. American White Pelican—108″
  3. Greater Frigatebird—90″
  4. Whooping Crane—87″
  5. Short-tailed Albatross—87″
  6. Black-footed Albatross—84″
  7. Bald Eagle—80″
  8. Trumpeter Swan—80″
  9. Golden Eagle—79″
  10. Brown Pelican—79″
  11. Laysan Albatross—78″
  12. Sandhill Crane—77″
  13. Mute Swan—76″
  14. Great Blue Heron—72″

Some more wingspans of large North American birds…

Turkey Vulture (67″), Great Black-backed Gull (65″), Flamingo (60″), Great Gray Owl (52″)

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; 1/2500 at f8; ISO 100]

American White Pelican St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_0095

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; 1/2000 at f5.6; ISO 100]

American White Pelican St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_0106

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; 1/1600 at f5.6; ISO 100]

American White Pelican St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_9939

“American White Pelicans cooperate when feeding. Sometimes, large groups gather in wetlands. They coordinate their swimming to drive schooling fish toward the shallows. The pelicans can then easily scoop up these corralled fish from the water.” [from http://www.allaboutbirds.org].

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; 1/1600 at f5.6; ISO 100]

American White Pelican St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_9999

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens & 1.4x teleconverter; 1/1600 at f8; ISO 100]

American White Pelicans St. Louis River Fond du Lac MN IMG_0006664

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; 1/1000 at f9; ISO 200]