Posts from the ‘North Woods’ Category

Virtually Live 13 Christmas Bird Count Sax-Zim Bog: Great Gray Owl, Fisher, Short-eared Owl Dec 2020

My 35th year as compiler of the Sax-Zim Christmas Bird Count turned out to be a record-breaker despite teams having to social distance. 13 hardy participants brave -10 below zero F windchills in northern Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog to turn up 39 species!

We also find a species NEVER recorded on the count before (revealed in the video). And I find several owls and gets some crazy cool images of a Great Gray Owl plummeting and pouncing on suspected vole victims.

We find Boreal Chickadees, accidentally film some Black-billed Magpies at the “Bison Farm,” make a visit to Loretta’s grosbeak-rich feeders and have a yummy lunch at the Wilbert Cafe.

I also share some exciting recent sightings of a Fisher chasing Snowshoe Hare and a Short-eared Owl on Stone Lake Road.

Thanks to all CBC Participants: Bill Tefft, Lori Williams, Frank Nicoletti, Abbie Valine, Dave David Benson, Lars Benson, John Ellis, Sparky Stensaas, Sarah Beaster, Clinton Dexter-Nienhaus, Kristina Dexter-Nienhaus, Tony Anthony Hertzel, Tommy Hertzel

“Moosey & Sprucey” Trip to the Superior National Forest: Shooting with Sparky episode

Come along on a wildlife photography and video day trip in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest (April 17, 2020). This Shooting with Sparky episode takes you along as I search for Moose and displaying Spruce Grouse. Guest appearances by drumming Ruffed Grouse, Red Crossbills, Saw-whet Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Trailing Arbutus and more. Enjoy this virtual field trip!

King of the Fungi

Have you ever eaten a King Bolete? I never had…until today. They can be hard to find, but once you do, there will likely be several others in the vicinity. Today I was coming home from a book sales trip and decided to detour up Hwy 1 to Finland. I thought I might net some dragonflies along the Baptism River, but along the path to the river I found “the King.” It was a huge specimen—Nearly 8 inches tall and 8 inches across—but the beetles had already gotten to it. But nearby, under a canopy of spruce and aspen, I found a couple classic King Boletes. Note its bulbous stem, warm brown cap (this color can vary) and the net-like reticulations on the upper third of the stem. Like all members of the Boletaceae, this fungi has pores instead of gills. Spores fall from tubes under the cap.

But the really wonderful thing about Boletus edulis is its edibility. It is probably the most highly revered food fungus in Europe where it also occurs. So I brought a few home. Remember, picking a mushroom is like picking an apple; You’re just picking the fruit of the plant. In fungi, the main body is the underground mycelium. Tonight I cut up the cap and stalk and sauteed in butter until soft (but not mushy). The taste was nutty…unlike the tasteless grocery store mushrooms. I couldn’t help myself and ate a bunch right out of the pan. Later we made a homemade pizza and put some on top…A real August treat!

CAUTION! Please learn to identify edible mushrooms with the help of an expert. Books can help but the best way to learn is in the field with an experienced mushroom picker.

The photo was a real production. After I picked the King Bolete I placed it in a shady spot without grass to interfere. I also did a little “vegetative grooming” by removing some stray grass blades, leaves and twigs. I used a reflector with a gold surface to bounce warm light onto the fungus. A sprig of spruce and Large-leaved Aster tell the habitat story. I layed belly down in the grass to get an eye-level shot creating a nice out-of-focus background (shaded vegetation).

Canon 7D, 200mm f4 lens, tripod, f5.6 at  1/250, ISO 800, reflector, flash at -0.5ev