This fall I have noticed that there have been many more Magpies in the area. The Black-billed Magpie is a very beautiful bird that is closely related to the Crow and Raven, as well as the Blue and Gray Jays; the family that they all belong to are called Corvids.
The species that we have in most of North America is the Black-billed Magpie. They are considered a “western” species of bird in that they are mainly a bird of the northern plains of the midwest. There is a small population of Yellow-billed Magpies that only occurs in a small area of northern California.
The Magpie used to follow herds of Bison on the plains using that to their advantage. After the Bison were almost extinct, the Magpie switched over to cattle. Ranchers aren’t real crazy about Magpies and they even had a bounty on Magpies in the first half of the 20th century.
The Magpie’s range is worldwide in that they occur in North America as well as Europe and Northern Africa. There’s a sub-species in Australia too. And this particular bird is held in disdain in many of the places where it lives. People accuse the Magpie of raiding nests of songbirds and other destructive behavior.
The Magpie also has a mystical side too, the bird is mentioned in the old and new testament of the bible several times. The most famous perhaps is the story about the pair that would not board Noah’s Arc, instead stubbornly sitting in a tree and making fun of the other animals.
The cartoon that some may remember from their childhood portrayed the birds as mischievous and intelligent.
While researching the Magpie in Minnesota on the internet, I found out that there is a seasonal movement of birds in the fall. The juveniles will search out new territories and move about in flocks as they expand their range to the east. I also read that they will follow wolf packs around and scavenge off their leftovers.
Maybe that will explain why I saw a Magpie up at Lake Kabetogama and then shortly thereafter a pack of 5 Wolves crossed the road in front of my car.
Ruffed Grouse Fledgling
This is northern Minnesota’s version of the Roadrunner!
Ruffed Grouse running
I took these photos in July…
The mama Ruffed Grouse had 9 little ones that she was trying to get safely across the road. It was hilarious watching the little Grouse take off running. They can fly too – short distances – I scared up a couple more that flew into the bushes when I thought they had all crossed over.
here’s a link to the Butterflies of the Superior National Forest:
Who knew there were so many species up here. This is a beautiful little pamphlet – you should be able to print it out; use a color printer and heavy, glossy paper.
This has got to be my favorite wildflower, the flower is called Indian Pipe, the scientific name for this flower is Monotropa uniflora. Some people may think it is a mushroom or fungus because it is completely white. It’s not a mushroom but it does behave somewhat like a muchroom. It needs special soil conditions to grow and it gets it’s nutrients from tree roots or other fungus in the ground. Indian Pipe is white because it contains no chlorophyll, the stuff that makes plants green.
This photo is interesting because there’s a tiny spider that showed up in the picture that I didn’t notice until I had the photo on my computer. It gives it a little extra character.
At Crane Lake there is a species of Spider that is almost as big as a Tarantula. Don’t worry, they don’t bite people and they are harmless, they just look really creepy!
The locals call them Dock Spiders, but if you google it, you will find that they are a species of Fishing Spider. These Spiders actually go underwater to catch their prey of small minnows and other underwater creatures.
There are baby Grouse crossing the roads all over the place now. Ruffed Grouse are the most common bird up here at Crane Lake, but there’s also another species of Grouse that is very special and not very common in northern Minnesota. That Grouse is the Spruce Grouse.
The other day on the Echo Trail, there was a big bird standing in the road that I determined was a Grouse. I slowed the car and as I got closer, I saw it was a Spruce Grouse Hen.
Spruce Grouse Hen
I waited by the car because I suspected that she had some little ones that she was protecting. Pretty soon the babies started crossing the road.
Spruce Grouse fledgling
It’s amazing that the baby Grouse can already fly short distances.
Ever noticed how beautiful Fireweed is? It’s growing in abundance along the Crane Lake Road where you can get a good close up look at it. Fireweed is known for being the first plant that grows and blooms after a wildfire. It also likes to spring up in disturbed areas like along the roadsides.
This past weekend we had a crazed Song Sparrow sparring with his own reflection on our bedroom window.
singing Song Sparrow
He would sing from his favorite perch, spy his reflection, and in his agitated state he would fly to the window to challenge the other bird.
The other bird (his reflection) would follow his exact moves, making the Sparrow even more enraged. It was driving him nuts and it was also driving us nuts as he would get up at the crack of dawn to perform his antics. Finally, we cut down the tree where he was perching cutting off his bothersome reflection. The tree that we cut down was already dead and had been for a couple years. Usually I like to leave some of the dead trees standing as it provides a perch for the birds when they’re visiting the feeders and the dead trees can have other positive attributes for birds.
However, it fixed this bird’s whistle! He soon found another perch to perform his song.
The other morning I found a really cool bug on the dock. It had just crawled out of the lake. I knew what it was and found a big jar to capture the waterbug.
I went to work and forgot about it for a couple hours. Pretty soon there was a huge dragonfly metamorphosing. I had waited too long before checking on it and I found to my surprise that the process was almost complete.
dragonfly emerging from pupae stage
I couldn’t believe that the huge dragonfly had emerged from the small pupae.
After a couple more hours in the big jar that was holding him captive, he was fully developed. And really kind of pretty. I turned the jar onto its’ side and the dragonfly flew to freedom without any harm being done.