Sunday, January 31, 2010

Urban Birding, er Turkeys

Spent the day at almost opposite ends of the Minneapolis Metro area, and still found wild turkeys at each site! The last few years has brought more and more sightings of turkeys in backyards. As more and more land is used for homes and businesses, the less there is for the turkeys were existed before. They have also become acclimated to a new food source - backyard bird feeders.

Also found one lone Trumpeter Swan in Bloomington. It is a little odd to find a single bird.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Harley the Bald Eagle

This is from a press release from The Raptor Center:

In early August on a long stretch of County Highway T near Wascott, Wisconsin, motorcyclist Brian Baladez passed a bald eagle on the side of the road. Realizing the bird was injured, Baladez wrapped it in his leather jacket, strapped it to the back of his Harley Davidson motorcycle and transported it to the Duluth Zoo to find help. One vet and police car ride later, Brian and eagle were referred to the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center in St. Paul, one of the most renowned centers for raptor medicine and surgery.

At The Raptor Center, Dr. Irene Bueno-Padilla, a Veterinary Intern from Spain, lead the case diagnosing the eagle with a fractured ulna (wing) and lead poisoning. The lead poisoning is most likely the result of consuming prey shot with lead bullets. In addition, readers of the Duluth News Tribune named him “Harley” in reference to his unorthodox rescue vehicle after his story was published. To repair his broken wing, Harley underwent surgery performed by Dr. Julia Ponder. Harley’s flight rehabilitation was delayed due to intense molting of his flight feathers. According to Dr. Ponder, this is a common problem associated with wing injuries.

With the help of numerous volunteers, Harley took flight in mid-December and has been exercised regularly since then. Now that The Raptor Center staff is confident that Harley will be able to survive on his own in the wild, he will be released at Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center near Hastings. From there, it is likely that Harley will go north to find a mate. Wherever he goes, Harley can now take to the skies and fly free.

Follow Harley's progress here:

(Yours truly is maintaining the blog, as well as supplying some photos on behalf of The Raptor Center.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ode to Waxwings

Monday was a holiday, so Reier and I set off to see what birds might have ventured out in the little sun and non-freezing temps. A flock of Cedar Waxwings not only enjoyed some buckthorn berries, but also some sno-cones!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Barn Owls and Peregrines

A nice surprise at Merritt National Wildlife Refuge, which Reier and I love visiting in the winter, was a wild Peregrine Falcon. It is an unbanded bird, and probably a migrant down the coast. He/she was probably duck hunting on a telephone pole. The next photo shows what Merritt looks like - a series of impoundments which create a haven for shorebirds, wading birds, and waterfowl.

Years ago, my friend Frank Taylor made a copy of a video for me of a sugar cane grower in Florida who had decided to put up Barn Owl boxes to encourage the birds to nest in his fields. (As you all know, owls do not make their own nests, so these structures will be attractive for them). The owls would be a natural rat hunter. Rats abound in sugar cane, and usually are treated with putting out "rat packs" of poison in the field. A couple of years ago, Reier and I went looking in the town mentioned in the video. Wandering miles and a visit to the sugar cane growers' local office later, we did come across some boxes! This past visit, we were happy to stumble on some boxes on the east side of Florida, where we spend most of our time. See the opening on the end? The structures are placed in the fields. Full disclosure: the photo at the end of the blog is a Barn Owl that is a captive bird, not wild. It is for eye-candy only.

Monday, January 11, 2010

FL part 2

Being a photographer as well as a birder makes it difficult sometimes to just live in the moment when you see some great birds. If you don't have your lens with you, you wish you did. And sometimes you think about how you would frame what you are seeing, instead of just enjoying it. And then again - sometimes you get the opportunity to be able to enjoy something long enough to just watch it, as well as photograph it.

And then the Bird Gods really throw you a bone and have it be a Sora that you get to do both with. Now - Sora are fairly notorious for being stealthy in the riparian areas they live in. You see a flash of that little white tail flicking, see the plants move, and then one more glance. This bird was a treat to observe for 15 minutes or more, and could not have been more accomodating.

We also turned some lemons into lemonade with a turn down a road that was completed on the map we had, but somehow just ended when we were actually driving on it. We discovered a Yellow-crowned Heron rookery!

And finally - Common Moorhens really are fairly common in Florida, but they are a pretty and unique bird. And they have crazy feet!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

FL Jan 1020

Wow - again it's been a while. Partially due to not a lot of birding outings in MN this time of year. Partially due to some teeth grinding, heart palpating, ups and downs with my beloved Steelers.

This past week Reier and I headed to what was supposed to be a warm and sunny FL for a week. It was sunny. Not very warm. A highlight was the Steelers/Dolphins game in Miami (Steelers won). A lot of our favorite birding spots were a little different this year. FL had lots of rain for the fall, and no big storms, which was good. But the higher water made some birds choose the less deep canals along roads instead of the usual refuges. A couple for this posting - the Purple Gallinule has to be seen to be properly appreciated. The light on those feathers looks just amazing.

Next, we see just how involved it is to be beautiful, as evidenced by this Snowy Egret.