Posts tagged ‘Minnesota’

GOOSE-A-PALOOZA: 4 species of geese migrating through western Minnesota

April 1-2, 2019

I took a quick trip out to the prairies of west central Minnesota to witness the amazing GOOSE MIGRATION of 2019. April 1-2. Numbers like this haven’t been seen in Minnesota in many years. In fact, Steve Millard, who has lived in west central Minnesota for 46 years says he’s never seen the migration this good!

Reasons for this more easterly path of migration this year may be that the snowpack and a frozen James River in South Dakota have forced the geese to migrate farther east. I was mainly in Stevens, Grant, Wilkin and Otter Tail Counties. Snow Geese and Greater White-fronted Geese dominated, but also some Canada Geese and a few Ross’s Geese. Several thousand Tundra Swans (870 in one flooded field near Nashua, Minnesota!) and constant skeins of geese overhead. The sounds are probably my favorite part of the experience.

There was lots of snow along windrows and shelter belts. Most lakes were still frozen but meltwater pools dotted many fields.

Snow Goose flock near Nashua, Minnesota on April 2, 2019 (Wilkin County)

Greater White-fronted Geese just east of Elbow Lake MN IMG_3383

Greater White-fronted Geese near Elbow Lake, Minnesota (Grant County)

I really love Greater White-fronted Geese, and they were one reason I made this hasty trip out west. I rarely ever get to see them in big flocks, so I was thrilled to find this amazing bunch just 0.8 miles east of the city limits of Elbow Lake, Minnesota. You can see that they are all on “high alert” but they soon relaxed and continued preening, resting and sleeping.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF400mm f5.6L lens; 1/800 second at f8; ISO 320; hand-held]

Greater White-fronted Geese just east of Elbow Lake MN IMG_3415

Greater White-fronted Geese near Elbow Lake, Minnesota (Grant County)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF70-200mm f4L USM lens; 1/500 second at f7.1; ISO 250; +0.33 ev; hand-held]

Greater White-fronted Geese just east of Elbow Lake MN IMG_3436

Greater White-fronted Geese near Elbow Lake, Minnesota (Grant County)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF400mm f5.6L lens; 2x teleconverter; 1/640 second at f11; ISO 640; hand-held; braced on car]

skeins of geese North Ottawa Impoundment Stevens County MN IMG_3489

Multiple skeins of geese overhead near North Ottawa Impoundment (Grant County, Minnesota) on April 1, 2019.

Steve Millard, who has lived in west central Minnesota for 46 years says he’s never seen a goose migration this good before!

[Canon 7D with EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens at 55mm; 1/800 at f8; ISO 250; +0.33 ev; hand-held]

Northern Harrier North Ottawa Impoundment Stevens County MN IMG_3521

Northern Harrier at North Ottawa Impoundment (Grant County, Minnesota)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF400mm f5.6L lens; 1/320 second at f5.6; ISO 320; +1.66 ev (a mistake!…leftover from previous shots); hand-held]

Tundra Swans in flooded field near Nashua MN IMG_3673

Tundra Swan flock just east of Nashua, Minnesota (Wilkin County)

870 Tundra Swans settled into this flooded field along with Snow Geese and Greater White-fronted Geese. The sun only shone for about 10 minutes on the two days I was out there.

flock of geese and old windmill IMG_3818

Snow Goose flock and old Windmill (Wilkin County)

I saw this old windmill about the same time I saw the flock of geese feeding in a cornfield. I knew that I wanted a shot of the flock in the air with the silhouette of the windmill, so I waited, and waited, and waited. Just as I was about to give up, something spooked the flock and they obligingly took wing. It would have been great if they’d come a bit closer, but I still like the shot.

[Canon 7D with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 113mm; 1/640 second at f5.6; ISO 1250; -0.66ev; hand-held]

Snow Goose flock in flight north of Nashua MN IMG_3870

Snow Goose flock near Nashua, Minnesota on April 2, 2019 (Wilkin County)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF400mm f5.6L lens; 1/400 second at f5.6; ISO 1250; hand-held]

Snow Goose flock in flight north of Nashua MN IMG_3877

Snow Goose flock near Nashua, Minnesota on April 2, 2019 (Wilkin County)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF400mm f5.6L lens; 1/400 second at f5.6; ISO 1250; hand-held]

Snow Goose flock in flight north of Nashua MN IMG_3878

Snow Goose flock near Nashua, Minnesota on April 2, 2019 (Wilkin County)

The three photos above were a single flock of Snow Geese that had rested the night in a flooded field. I got a few photos of them sitting (below) before they erupted in unison. The sound was amazing…deafening. They quickly settled back down.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF400mm f5.6L lens; 1/640 second at f5.6; ISO 1250; hand-held]

Snow Goose flock in flight north of Nashua MN IMG_3901

Snow Goose flock near Nashua, Minnesota on April 2, 2019 (Wilkin County)

99.9% of the birds you see in the above photo are Snow Geese….even the ones with dark bodies. If it has a white head, it is a Snow Goose (in this photo). The white-headed, dark-bodied geese were formerly a separate species called “Blue Goose.” We now know that they are the same species as Snow Goose. The goose in the front left corner that is all dark with an orange bill, is a Greater White-fronted Goose.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF400mm f5.6L lens; 1/640 second at f5.6; ISO 1250; hand-held]

IMG_3904

Two Ross’s Geese with Snow Goose flock near Nashua, Minnesota on April 2, 2019 (Wilkin County)

Mixed in with the massive flocks of Snows were scattered Ross’s Geese. These are much smaller birds with a short stubby bill and greenish patch at base of bill. They lack the “grinning patch” of Snow Geese. Ross’s also have a snowy white head, as compared to Snow Geese whose heads are often stained a bit yellowish. You can see two Ross’s together here in the front middle of the photo (one facing left and one facing right). They are all heading to the High Arctic to breed.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF400mm f5.6L lens; 1/400 second at f5.6; ISO 1250; hand-held]

Trumpeter Swans North Ottawa Impoundment Stevens County MN IMG_3960

“God Light” and a pair of Trumpeter Swans (North Ottawa Impoundment, Grant County, Minnesota)

[Canon 7D with EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens at 49mm; 1/1600 at f5.6; ISO 250; -0.66 ev; hand-held]

IMG_3978

Farm fields were mostly free of snow, but anywhere there were trees you found huge drifts of snow still.

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Old Bait shop in Otter Tail County, Minnesota

Abandoned Rose City Store MN IMG_3358

Abandoned Rose City General Store in Rose City, Minnesota

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Canada Lynx Jinx Broken!

CANADA LYNX JINX BROKEN! Finally got to watch a Lynx in the daytime!

Canada Lynx Lynx canadensis Sawbill Trail near Hogcreek Road Cook County MN P1033207-2

March 21 in the Superior National Forest of northern Minnesota. (Single frame plucked from video clip).

As I came over a rise, there it was…A Canada Lynx walking right towards me on a remote forest road. It was 9:30 am and sunny. It saw me and bounded off the road and into the 3-foot deep snow. I stayed put thinking that it might come my way via the pine woods. And after a few tense minutes of me second-guessing my intuition, it did!

Their giant oversized paws allow them to float over deep powder snow as they hunt their favorite prey…Snowshoe Hares.

My only other encounter was about 30 years ago while doing owl surveys at night with my friend Dave Benson. That one appeared in our headlights, just sitting in the road. They are very mellow cats, and are rarely in a hurry…Unless in hot pursuit of a hare!


2-minute video (photo is just a single frame from the video).

Watch the video to see it walking over the deep snow (click gear icon on bottom right to change resolution to higher quality).

 

Canada Lynx Lynx canadensis Sawbill Trail near Hogcreek Road Cook County MN P1033207-4

Single frame plucked from video clip

Canada Lynx Lynx canadensis Sawbill Trail near Hogcreek Road Cook County MN P1033207-1

Single frame plucked from video clip

Canada Lynx Lynx canadensis Sawbill Trail near Hogcreek Road Cook County MN P1033207-3

Single frame plucked from video clip

Bobcat at our House: Cute Kitty

March 16, 2019

A couple weeks ago Bridget and the boys got to watch this same Bobcat (likely the same one) go up to our rabbit pen and paw at the hardware cloth enclosure. A great experience from 6 feet away. PS The rabbits are just fine.

Bobcat Lynx rufus outside our living room window Skogstjarna Carlton County MN IMG_2663

This morning the Bobcat was sitting just 20 feet away from our house for about 30 minutes at dawn. She’d sometimes glance towards our two pet rabbits who are kept outside but didn’t go over to the pen.  I got to watch her just “sitting pretty” for about a half hour. Bridget woke up and she got great looks too. The Bobcat even “meowed” a couple times. So cute!

She eventually sauntered away in the direction of our cabin. Since we have free-range chickens, I decided to distract our feline friend the next day with some wild food. I found two road-kill Snowshoe Hare and a deer rib cage which I put out in the woods. One Snowshoe Hare was gone the next morning.

Neat experience. Hopefully she will eat some of the Wild Turkeys that come to our feeders…It is a favored prey of Bobcats. Skogstjarna, Carlton County, Minnesota. (I don’t really know if this is a female…but this Bobcat was fairly small and has delicate features so I will call it a “she”)

Bobcat Lynx rufus outside our living room window Skogstjarna Carlton County MN IMG_2706

Bobcat (Lynx Rufus) at our home in Carlton County, Minnesota (March 16, 2019)

All photos taken through our living room window (uncropped!)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/25 of a second at f5.6; ISO 3200 (!); +1 ev; braced on dining room divider wall and shot through living room window]

Video taken at dawn. So cute when she “meows” a couple times. No audio.

IMG_2133

Purrrdy the house cat watching a BOBCAT through our Living Room Window

Mega-Waves from Lake Superior Storm: Tettegouche State Park, North Shore, Minnesota – October 10, 2018 (photos & video)

October 10, 2018

After unsuccessfully chasing a rare Sabine’s Gull on Duluth, Minnesota’s Park Point, I realized how big the waves on Lake Superior were. I knew that the wind had been blowing hard all night, but I hadn’t put 2 and 2 together…Until I saw the flooding in Canal Park. The parking lot by Duluth’s canal and Marine Museum was already flooded and closed off. I parked as close as I could and skirted the floodwaters behind a hotel. Sheltering in a cluster of pine trees some 100 feet from the shoreline, I started snapping photos. Every few minutes, a series of bigger waves would roll in and explode around the East Pier Breakwall Lighthouse (photo below). I had to frequently turn my back on the lake and shelter my camera from the spray. I had rubber knee-high boots on and a rain coat, but it did little to protect me when a massive wave broke out of my peripheral vision and soaked me up to my waist. This wave must have been significantly bigger than the rest since up to this point only a couple times had the water even reached me. Time to go!

I headed up the North Shore for Tettegouche State Park. The huge rhyolite cliffs there are at a perfect angle for taking on the giant waves of a nor’easter storm. I called my photographer friend Paul Sundberg who intimately knows the photo opportunities on the North Shore (See his website here). It was no surprise that when he answered his cell phone I could hear the wailing wind in the background. He was already shooting the super-waves. He pointed me towards Crystal Bay on Lake Superior near Illgen City. He said the fall colors made for a unique shot since most big storms happen in late spring (no leaves yet) or during the “Gales of November” (leaves all gone). Paul is very generous with his info and I thanked him as we crossed paths at the spot. He’d already been shooting for a couple hours and was headed to find lunch. I took his spot.

The highest cliffs in these photos are about 80 feet tall I believe. That puts some amazing perspective to these monster waves. I took photos with my Canon 7D and Canon 70-200mm f4 lens, while simultaneously shooting video with my Panasonic GH5 on a tripod next to me. I didn’t record good audio just because I didn’t think about it. Wish I would have.Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4803

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 70mm; 1/800 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4797

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 70mm; 1/1600 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4759

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 70mm; 1/800 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4779

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 180mm; 1/500 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4734

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 100mm; 1/640 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4752

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 70mm; 1/800 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4676

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 154mm; 1/640 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom; processed in Lightroom]

Lighthouses Canal Park wave storm Lake Superior Duluth MN Stensaas IMG_4580

East pier lighthouse; Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 140mm; 1/500 second at f8; handheld; processed in Lightroom]Lighthouses Canal Park wave storm Lake Superior Duluth MN Stensaas IMG_4623

East pier lighthouse; Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 140mm; 1/500 second at f8; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Video shot with Panasonic GH5 with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 50-200mm (depending on shot) on Benro tripod;  frame rates varying from 30fps to 180fps (super slow motion). Created in iMovie.

36 Hours on the Prairie: Wildflowers

[August 17 & 18, 2018: I made a quick dash to the prairies of Western Minnesota in mid August. Much of my time is spent in the boreal forest and bogs of northeast Minnesota, and I was starting to get a bit claustrophobic. So off to the wide open prairies! I started at Otter Tail County’s Maplewood State Park, then on to Wilkin County (Town Hall Prairie, Western Prairie, Rothsay WMA) and continued north to the huge Felton Prairie complex in Clay County. The next day I hit Felton area again and headed north to the Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge in Polk County]

Wildflowers on the tallgrass prairie peak in mid July to early August, but there were still plenty of showy plants in full bloom in mid August. It is energizing to be in an unfamiliar habitat and meeting new species, or at least species I hadn’t seen in many years. The Liatris were in full bloom on many of the dry sites. You may know Liatris as Gay Feather or Blazing-Star, but did you know that there are a bunch of different species in Minnesota? I didn’t. I even found a white variant of the normally pink-flowered forb (photos below). Monarchs and Regal Fritillaries love to nectar on Liatris.

Pink-flowered Wild Onion (Allium stellatum) was new to me, and is now one of my favorites.

I was really surprised to find Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) growing on the dry soils of Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota). I am most familiar with this delicate beauty clinging to tiny cracks in the igneous rocks on the Shore of Lake Superior! But this is a very adaptable and hardy species that can be found in many habitats.

Wild Four-o-clock (Mirabilis nyctaginea) is a native prairie species that can also be found in waste places. The “four-o-clock” in our domestic gardens was cultivated from a related European species. The name comes from the fact that this plant opens only in late afternoon. In fact the Latin “nyctaginea” means “night blooming” from the Greek.
[Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge (Polk County, Minnesota)]

You can bet that I will be back out on the prairies next spring and summer to see more of our tallgrass prairie’s fantastic flowers.

**You can click on the photos below to see details on species and location.

 

36 Hours on the Prairie: The aptly-named Regal Fritillary

[August 17 & 18, 2018: I made a quick dash to the prairies of Western Minnesota in mid August. Much of my time is spent in the boreal forest and bogs of northeast Minnesota, and I was starting to get a bit claustrophobic. So off to the wide open prairies! I started at Otter Tail County’s Maplewood State Park, then on to Wilkin County (Town Hall Prairie, Western Prairie, Rothsay WMA) and continued north to the huge Felton Prairie complex in Clay County. The next day I hit Felton area again and headed north to the Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge in Polk County]

One of my main goals in going west was to find and photograph the rare Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia); a truly regal creature of tallgrass prairies. I had seen them at southwest Minnesota’s Blue Mounds State Park, and got some not-so-great photos at Nachusa Grasslands in Illinois, but now I wanted some publication-quality images.

I had no luck on my first day, even though I scanned about a thousand Blazing Star flowers (a preferred nectar source). Then on day two I decided to hike out into the Felton WMA. Within about 20 yards I kicked up my first Regal, followed by half a dozen more in the next 15 minutes. But getting close to them is another story.

fritillary Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia butterfly Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1474fritillary Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia butterfly Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1462

fritillary Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia butterfly Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1630fritillary Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia butterfly Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1635fritillary Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia butterfly Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1607fritillary Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia butterfly Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1480fritillary Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia butterfly Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1469

 

36 Hours on the Prairie: Felton Prairie, Minnesota

[August 17 & 18, 2018: I made a quick dash to the prairies of Western Minnesota in mid August. Much of my time is spent in the boreal forest and bogs of northeast Minnesota, and I was starting to get a bit claustrophobic. So off to the wide open prairies! I started at Otter Tail County’s Maplewood State Park, then on to Wilkin County (Town Hall Prairie, Western Prairie, Rothsay WMA) and continued north to the huge Felton Prairie complex in Clay County. The next day I hit Felton area again and headed north to the Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge in Polk County]

“Felton Prairie” is now a complex of state WMAs (Wildlife Management Areas), SNAs (Scientific and Natural Areas) and The Nature Conservancy prairie tracts in Clay County, Minnesota (northwest Minnesota). It is most famous for being the last stronghold for breeding Chestnut-collard Longspurs in the state (though none were seen or heard in 2018). Other summer breeders include Marbled Godwits, Loggerhead Shrikes and Grasshopper Sparrows. Baird’s Sparrows and Sprague’s Pipits formerly were found here but they have been gone for quite a while. Felton is also a dry gravelly prairie that is on the old beachline of Glacial Lake Agassiz. Much of this ridge has been mined for gravel, but thanks to the MN DNR and The Nature Conservancy big tracts of prairie have been preserved.

Merlin in the fog Felton Prairie Clay County MN IMG_1186

Merlin hunting on a hazy, foggy morning at Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)

cow cattle Felton Prairie Clay County MN IMG_0995

Forest fires in Manitoba and Ontario made for a very hazy sunset at Felton Prairie. This Bison herd morphed into cattle as they emerged from the distant horizon.

Felton Prairie Clay County MN IMG_1200

American Goldfinch and 3 Mourning Doves.  [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1239

Foggy morning prairie “garden” of Liatris (Blazing Star, goldenrods and sunflowers). [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Eastern Kingbird Felton Prairie Clay County MN IMG_1334

A pair of young Eastern Kingbirds waiting to be fed by mom and dad. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]; Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 USM lens; 1/1250 second at f5.6; ISO 400; hand-held out car window.

Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1375

Bumble Bee on thistle flower.  [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

meadowhawk Band-winged Meadowhawk Sympetrum semicinctum Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1401

Band-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum) male. This distinctive dragonfly is uncommon except where its specific habitat of spring-fed pools and slow marshy waters is found.   [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

meadowhawk Band-winged Meadowhawk Sympetrum semicinctum Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1405

Band-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum) male. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

meadowhawk Band-winged Meadowhawk Sympetrum semicinctum Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1412

Band-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum) male. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1415

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle on a sunflower.  [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1433

grasshopper on sunflower  [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

fritillary Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia butterfly Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1462

Regal Fritillary (Speyeria adalia) on Liatris (Blazing Star) at Felton WMA. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens; 1/1250 second at f4; ISO 250; hand-held.

fritillary Regal Fritillary Speyeria idalia butterfly Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1480

Regal Fritillary (Speyeria adalia) on Liatris (Blazing Star) at Felton WMA. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens; 1/1250 second at f4; ISO 250; hand-held.

Argiope trifasciata Banded Garden Spider Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1676

Banded Garden Spider (Argiope trifasciata) is an orb-web building spider. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens with Canon 500D close-up lens attached to front; 1/250 second at f8; ISO 200; hand-held.

Argiope trifasciata Banded Garden Spider Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1687

Banded Garden Spider (Argiope trifasciata) side view. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Argiope trifasciata Banded Garden Spider Felton WMA Clay County MN IMG_1232

Banded Garden Spider (Argiope trifasciata) at the hub of its orb web waiting for a victim to become ensnared. [Felton Prairie (Clay County, Minnesota)]

Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens with Canon 500D close-up lens attached to front; 1/250 second at f8; ISO 320; hand-held.