Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Last Sax Zim - Black-backed woodpecker, others

Last post from Sax Zim trip. What a great cornucopia of birds to find! The habitat is so unique that it offers quite a bit to birds, especially in winter. Red breasted nuthatches are around the feeders.

Though it wasn't a great shot, it was fantastic to get good looks at Black-billed Magpie. There are nesting records in the Bog for this species, and it is supposedly the eastern-most for it.

Boreal Chickadees can be found - usually at the feeders.

The bog - what a great landscape!

One of the specialties of the Bog at this time of year is catching a Black-backed or Three-toed Woodpecker. The group I was with was lucky enough to catch this Black-backed!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pine Grosbeaks

Pine Grosbeaks were a-plenty at feeders kindly stocked by residents to Sax Zim, as well as along power lines and roads in the area. The males all look like big scarlet Michelen (tires) Men - all smooth and poofy and round.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Evening Grosbeaks

A friend who was around Sax Zim the same day I was asked me what my favorite bird was that I saw that day. Hands down - the Evening Grosbeaks. Here is a bird that I can usually find a single individual of if I make a trip to the Duluth and related area, but not always. This past trip found four adult males and several females at one time. Talk about a ray of sunlight in an otherwise dreary weather day!

Since this bird has interesting natural biology related to its migration, I copied this from Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Birds of America online: "An irruptive migrant across much of its range, it makes roughly biannual appearances at winter feeding stations throughout much of the coterminous United States. Often moving in large flocks, this boldly colored bird with the massive bill is difficult for observers to miss. During the breeding season, however, the species is quite secretive, and courtship occurs without elaborate song or display. This secretiveness, together with a spare, flimsy nest placed high in a tree, makes it a difficult subject of study. As a result, comparatively little is known of the species’ life history.
The breeding range of the Evening Grosbeak underwent a significant expansion in historic times. The contemporary scientific literature documented eastward movement, with the species regularly appearing in areas east of its known range, perhaps a result of the establishment of box elder (Acer negundo) in eastern cities as an ornamental planting. The abundant seeds of the box elder persist on the tree through the winter, providing a stable food supply. Outbreaks of forest insects may also have allowed this bird to extend its breeding range to the east."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Common Redpolls

Common Redpolls are always a special, finch-y treat in the winter in the Cities. This year I haven't seen many, and had to head to Sax Zim for my fix. Cornell Lab of Ornithology has this to say about their seasonal movement,"During the summer, Common Redpolls are found in boreal and taiga regions of both the Old and New World Arctic, where they are often among the most common breeding passerines. In North America, their distribution shows significant overlap with human populations only in winter, and then only in alternating irruption years. The irruption cycle displayed by this species is driven by widespread failure in seed-crop production among high-latitude tree species—especially spruce (Picea sp.) and birch (Betula sp.)—which forces these birds to winter farther south.)

Can you see the dark blush-y pink/red on the ASY male in the first photo? The juveniles and females do not have that.

The Redpolls were in abundance on the sides of roads, presumably gathering grit. Some cars slowed down for them, while others did not. It was quite a sight to see a cloud of Redpolls!

Monday, January 16, 2012

White-winged Crossbills

Had a great trip to Sax Zim Bog this weekend. That spot is pretty special to me - as part of my undergrad, I wrote the IBA (Important Bird Area) nomination. Some of the best, unique habitat types you will find in the state. Will post some more bird pics, but some highlights of birds were Great Grey, Common Redpolls, Rough-legged hawks, Ruffed Grouse, Northern Shrike, Evening Grosbeaks, Black-backed woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, and Gray Jays.

The pics of the White-winged Crossbills are pretty awful, but wanted to include a couple of great links here from Cornell Lab of Ornithology - watch this video of how these little industrious birds get their food.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Barred Owl

One of the few things I do love about this time of year is how easy it is to spot birds with no leaves in trees. Great time to look for nests, too.

This Barred Owl was quite easy to spot, since it had figured out that spilled seed at bird feeders brought in voles and mice, and that made for a much easier hunt.

It enjoyed a long session of preening!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cranes Not Following the Rules

Here is a story from the "Are you kidding me?" desk - Whooping Cranes and Operation Migration grounded due to bureaucracy - and somehow the FAA still tries to make itself look like they are "doing us all a favor." Uhh - seriously?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Slate-colored Junco

Banding at Springbrook Nature Center didn't yield a large variety of species, but did bring in this beautiful male Slate-colored Junco.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Como Zoo Tropical Encounters birds

It's a little bleak, dark and cold in these winter months, so a great little "get-away" in town is to head to Como Zoo's Tropical Enounters. Your skin feels better - there is light - and all species of South American birds that you won't find here in Minnesota. One of my favorites is the White-tailed Trogon (first three pictures). Look at that great beak shape!

Next up is a Saffron Finch.

Here is a Rufous-crowned Tanager.

And finally a Blue Dacni.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Northern Saw-whet owls wish you a happy new year!