Posts tagged ‘Sparky Stensaas’

Virtually Live 17: S2E2 May 8, 2021

May Birding Sax-Zim Bog Virtually Live 17 S2E2 May 8 2021

Sparky takes you along on an “early” spring birding trip in northeastern Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog. Only 25 degrees at the start, but the good birds warm things up…stunning male Black-and-white Warbler, lingering Evening Grosbeaks, Yellow Warbler, cooperative Merlin, and a very unexpected Great Gray Owl.

We also check in on the highlights from the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog “Things that Go Buzz, Croak, Hoot & Bump in the Night” field trip (can you say “cooperative Great Gray”!). Also a cacophony of frogs (4 species), displaying Snipe and more.

And we see how we discovered a $500 bill and a blond woman’s wig in the Bog. What?!!

You never know what surprises might accompany an episode of Virtually Live!

Sponsored by Friends of Sax-Zim Bog

Goose-a-Palooza! FIVE species of goose migrating through western Minnesota—March 19-20

It was just like the old-timers talk about….Flocks of geese everywhere! I hit it right again this year (thanks to eBird reports, the Minnesota Birding Facebook Group and intel from my birding buddies, Kim Risen and Steve Millard. Thanks guys!

Definitely got my much-needed dose of mega-goose migration on the prairie. The cacophony of goose cackles and swan honks is definitely worth the 8 hour round trip. The 25-35 mph winds made video and sound recording challenging but I did my best.

North Ottawa Impoundment in Grant County, Minnesota was the hot spot. Five species of geese including tens of thousands of Snow Geese, thousands of Greater White-fronted Geese, and lesser amounts of Ross’s Geese, Canada Geese and Cackling Geese. But back roads in Grant and Ottertail and Traverse counties held numerous flocks. I’d see a smudge on the horizon, throw up my binoculars and the smudge would come to life as a massive flock of geese.

Tundra Swans were also moving in impressive numbers.

I also searched for Short-eared Owls in prairie areas (SNAs, WPAs, WMAs) and did flush one but did not see any hunting.

Three Ross’s Geese (note greenish base of the stubby bill that separates them from Snow Geese) [North Ottawa Impoundment; Grant County, Minnesota]
Snow Geese coming in to North Ottawa Impoundment, Grant County, Minnesota
Snow Geese and waxing moon [North Ottawa Impoundment; Grant County, Minnesota]
Goose flock, silo, setting sun [Ottertail County, Minnesota]
Greater White-fronted Goose [North Ottawa Impoundment; Grant County, Minnesota]
Northern Pintails [North Ottawa Impoundment; Grant County, Minnesota]
Snow Goose flock [North Ottawa Impoundment; Grant County, Minnesota]
Snow Geese and waxing moon [North Ottawa Impoundment; Grant County, Minnesota]
Ducks and rising sun [North Ottawa Impoundment; Grant County, Minnesota]
Greater White-fronted Geese [North Ottawa Impoundment; Grant County, Minnesota]

All photos and video shot with Canon R5 and Canon 100-500mm lens. Additional video shot with Panasonic GH5 and Sigma 50-500mm lens (“toy” miniature time lapse), and iPhone 7+

Virtually Live 15 Polar Vortex & The Wolf: Birding Sax-Zim Bog Feb 2021

[**I apologize to all my subscribers…I sometimes forget to post to my thephotonaturalist.com blog. Lately I’ve been posting everything to Facebook, Instagram and other social media, but forget to post here! This is one example. The Polar Vortex has moved on (about TWELVE days being below zero…only a few hours above zero during that entire time!) but I’m just getting around to putting Virtually Live 15 up here. So I promise to pay more attention to this blog in the upcoming year. Thanks!]

Put another log on the fire and enjoy this bitterly cool “Polar Vortex” episode of Virtually Live from Sax-Zim Bog!

Filmed over several days including the morning of February 11 with a record cold Minus-46F start to the day. Yikes!

How do our boreal birds survive this brutal weather? Sparky shares some physiological tricks our feathered fluffballs employ.

Then we flashback to warmer days and snowshoe with Sparky in Yellow-bellied Bog where he discovers an avian excavation. He then flashesback within the flashback to tell the tale of his wolf encounter in the woods.

We also visit the Welcome Center, Admiral Road feeders, Auggie’s Bogwalk at Fringed Gentian to see what birds and mammals are out and about in the below zero temps. I think you will be pleasantly surprised!

Cameos by Boreal Chickadees, Pine Grosbeaks, Northern Hawk Owl, Evening Grosbeak, redpolls and even an Ermine.

Thinking like a Wolf… or just lucky (photos & video)

December 30, 2020

As Executive Director of Friends of Sax-Zim Bog, I sometimes have to run supplies up to the Welcome Center, and on today’s early afternoon jaunt I spotted a Coyote crossing the road a long ways ahead. I pulled over and waited, but I wasn’t too excited since on every trip to Yellowstone we seem to get our fill of “yote photos.”

Timber Wolf in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog: December 30, 2020

I squeaked to try and get it to come back out of the woods. It did, and to my surprise the “Coyote” turned out to be a Timber Wolf! 

I knew from previous experience that they will sometimes parallel roads while hunting, so I pulled ahead slowly and stopped at a game trail that gave me a bit of a window towards the bog. And sure enough, I saw just the back of a wolf quickly move across the trail.

Timber Wolf in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog: December 30, 2020

Now I was getting a bit more confident that I could intercept one of the rarest (or at least rarely seen) of Minnesota’s abundant wildlife. About a half mile up I found a trail I figured it would cross. It was about 15 feet wide and I quietly got out of my van. The woods were silent under the still of last nights 6 inches of snow. 

I walked about a hundred yards in and waited. Sure enough a couple minutes later the wolf appeared! But instead of simply crossing the trail and vanishing, it turned and took a few steps toward me. It couldn’t figure out what I was, which enabled me to get a minute of video and photos. I imagine it was 50 yards away. Amazing experience! Magical experience! You never know what is around any bend in Sax-Zim!

Timber Wolf in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog: December 30, 2020

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens at 500mm; 1/500 second at f7.1; ISO 1000; handheld]

Video of Timber Wolf Sax-Zim Bog Minnesota

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens; 1/500 second at f8; ISO 1000; handheld

Timber Wolf in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog: December 30, 2020

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens at 270mm; 1/500 second at f5.6; ISO 800; handheld]

Timber Wolf in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog: December 30, 2020
Timber Wolf in Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog: December 30, 2020

[Canon R5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens at 270mm; 1/500 second at f7.1; ISO 1000; handheld]

Ghostly Great Horned Owl: Visitor from the Subarctic (video & photos)

December 27, 2020

A few days ago I went to see this pale beauty! Its been on my “owl bucket list” for a long time. Especially gratifying since I searched three times for the subarctic at Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley, Minnesota a few years ago.

Subarctic Great Horned Owl (or west taiga subspecies) along Red River of the North, Clay County, Minnesota: December 27, 2020

[Canon F5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens at 500mm; 1/640 second at f8; ISO 5000; +1.0ev; tripod]

After a 4 hour drive from our homestead on the Wisconsin border of Minnesota, I arrived on the complete opposite side of the state on the North Dakota border. I had just about an hour before the sun set.

A wildlife photography friend had tipped me off to the location of this stunner. It had been seen on and off for a couple months. But as I began searching the numbers trees in the woods along the Red River of the North I started wondering if I would really find it.

Subarctic Great Horned Owl (or west taiga subspecies) along Red River of the North, Clay County, Minnesota: December 27, 2020

But then there it was! On a tree I thought I had looked at on my way in. Wow! What a pale beauty! The Subarctic (or Western Taiga) subspecies of Great Horned Owl is very pale or even white with black markings. But the disc around the eyes almost always shows some color. They can be mistaken for Snowy Owls if it weren’t for this trait (and of course their feather “horns” which on Snowies are tiny and usually hidden).

Subarctic Great Horned Owl (or west taiga subspecies) along Red River of the North, Clay County, Minnesota: December 27, 2020

[Canon F5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens at 343mm; 1/400 second at f5.6; ISO 12,800; +0.0ev; tripod]

This boreal subspecies occasionally may mate and nest in northwestern Minnesota. This bird appeared to be a male since it seemed smaller in size. Females are significantly larger than males.

Thanks again to Matt Sorum who found this in Clay County a couple months ago!

Video shows it coughing up a pellet, stretching, fluffing, watching a couple woodpeckers and silhouetted against the full moon.

Subarctic Great Horned Owl (or west taiga subspecies) along Red River of the North, Clay County, Minnesota: December 27, 2020

[Canon F5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens at 428mm; 1/640 second at f7.1; ISO 4000; +1.0ev; tripod]

Subarctic Great Horned Owl (or west taiga subspecies) along Red River of the North, Clay County, Minnesota: December 27, 2020

[Canon F5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens at 363mm; 1/640 second at f6.3; ISO 1250; +0.3ev; tripod]

Subarctic Great Horned Owl (or west taiga subspecies) along Red River of the North, Clay County, Minnesota: December 27, 2020

[Canon F5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens at 500mm; 1/640 second at f7.1; ISO 6400; +1.66ev; tripod]

Subarctic Great Horned Owl (or west taiga subspecies) along Red River of the North, Clay County, Minnesota: December 27, 2020

[Canon F5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens at 254mm; 1/640 second at f5.6; ISO 5000; +1.66ev; tripod]

Subarctic Great Horned Owl (or west taiga subspecies) along Red River of the North, Clay County, Minnesota: December 27, 2020

[Canon F5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens at 500mm; 1/320 second at f7.1; ISO 4000; +2.0ev; tripod]

Subarctic Great Horned Owl (or west taiga subspecies) along Red River of the North, Clay County, Minnesota: December 27, 2020

[Canon F5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens at 500mm; SINGLE FRAME EXTRACTED FROM VIDEO]

Subarctic Great Horned Owl (or west taiga subspecies) along Red River of the North, Clay County, Minnesota: December 27, 2020

[Canon F5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens at 500mm; SINGLE FRAME EXTRACTED FROM VIDEO]

Subarctic Great Horned Owl (or west taiga subspecies) along Red River of the North, Clay County, Minnesota: December 27, 2020

[Canon F5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens at 500mm; 1/125 second at f7.1; ISO 12,800; +3.0ev; tripod]

Subarctic Great Horned Owl (or west taiga subspecies) along Red River of the North, Clay County, Minnesota: December 27, 2020

[Canon F5 with Canon 100-500mm RF lens at 500mm; 1/250 second at f7.1; ISO 12,800; +3.0ev; tripod]

HD Video of Subarctic Great Horned Owl

Video shows it coughing up a pellet, stretching, fluffing, watching a couple woodpeckers and silhouetted against the full moon.

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

Virtually Live 10: LeConte’s Sparrows in flowers— Birding Sax-Zim Bog MN

This August 2020 episode explores Northern Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog in late summer. In this episode we go birding in the “slow” time of year. But a couple cooperative LeConte’s Sparrows in a flower-filled field steal the show. We also stop by Nichols Lake/Lake Nichols and bird the bog stretch of Admiral Road where we find Boreal Chickadees, Palm Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Canada jays and more.

Sparky also shows us the new platform and bench on Gray Jay Way trail north of the Welcome Center. And we go on a kayak journey on the Whiteface River where a pair of shy River Otters briefly make an appearance. Stunning emerald green and black Ebony Jewelwing damselflies perch along the riverbank.

Virtually Live 9: Bog BioBlitz VIII in Sax-Zim Bog

Accompany Executive Director Sparky Stensaas on this mid July outing in the Sax-Zim Bog

Rednecks at Osakis (& Part 2: Birding Blind)

May 27, 2020

Grebe photography from a kayak: Shooting with Sparky

The trip ends with an unfortunate Sparky misadventure. But the day kayaking on Lake Osakis in west central Minnesota starts out beautifully with video of Western Grebes and Red-necked Grebes. Sparky also films diving Forster’s Terns, a Bald Eagle snatching a fish, American White Pelicans in flight, Marsh Wrens and Yellow-headed Blackbirds. [wildlife photography, bird video, wildlife video, Panasonic GH5, Shooting with Sparky episode]

Virtually Live 8 “The Triathlon” episode: June 2, 2020

This is the “triathlon” edition of Virtually Live. Sparky kayaks, fat bikes and even walks a little in the Sax-Zim Bog during this June 2nd episode. We begin the field trip by kayaking from Stone Lake to East Stone Lake and find one of our latest migrants, the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (amongst many other cool finds), then fat bike to the Whiteface River and discover some unique birds and flowers in the floodplain forest on a parcel that we are in the process of purchasing. A cooperative Mourning Warbler rounds out our adventure.