Detour to Greaney

A couple of weekends ago, I headed over to Greaney, MN on my way to Nashwauk for a family get together. Greaney is located 9 miles west of Hwy 53 on Willow River Road, just south of Orr. I love taking the backroads that criss cross western St Louis County. I was acting on a lead that I had gotten from Tammy about Magpies. And I was not disappointed!

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie

The minute I pulled up to Vi’s Store, there was a Magpie!
Magpie

Magpie

They were foraging in the grass – walking along and scaring up bugs – which promptly got eaten!
Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie

Then they flew up and crossed the road where they had a couple of young birds hidden in the bushes. The vocalizations the birds were making was very entertaining!
Magpies

Magpies

I counted 9 Magpies at this location.
Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

The habitat in western St Louis County is quite different than the Boreal forest that is closer to Crane Lake. Out in Greaney it’s almost prairie like. There are wet meadows mixed in with lowland Black Spruce bogs and also there is agricultural land that’s been cleared and mowed. There were lots of Clay-colored Sparrows, Sedge Wrens and Savannah Sparrows. I need to spend a lot more time out in that area, it could hold some real rarities like Le Conte’s Sparrow and Upland Sandpipers. Until next time…
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Swanson’s Bay in Voyageurs National Park

We took a ride up the lake last weekend and one place that I wanted to visit was Swanson’s Bay. It is in my priority block for the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas www.mnbba.org project. I had never been way back in the bay and I was surprised at how big and out of the way it was. Take a look at the map and see there’s a big swamp on the south side. Lately I’ve been attracted to swampy areas as they seem to be bird “magnets”.

Swansons Bay in Voyageurs National Park

Swanson's Bay in Voyageurs National Park

On the way there we found Herring Gulls sitting on nests. I’m going to keep my eye on those nests and I hope to get some baby Gull pictures in the near future.

 

Beaver

Beaver

White-tail Deer

White-tail Deer

Mother Deer

Mother Deer

Look close at this photo, this Deer is a mother! She must have had her fawn hidden back in the woods while she went to eat and drink water.

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Latest Blueberry Report

Blueberries

Blueberries

It looks like it is going to be a really good year for Blueberries! The rain we have received in June has made the Blueberries big, plump, and juicy! Why does it seem like the first berry that turns ripe in the bunch is always the biggest?
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Sapsucker Nest!

Right now is a really good time to find Woodpecker nests, especially Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Northern Flickers. When you’re walking in the woods, keep an ear out for baby Woodpecker chatter. Baby Woodpeckers, for some unknown reason, keep up a constant chatter when they are still in the nest. Once you hear it, just keep searching for a likely tree that has a few holes drilled in it. Then patiently wait for the parents to show – which shouldn’t be too long – as the parents know they have hungry chicks to feed.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker nest hole

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker nest hole

Sapsucker entering nest

Sapsucker entering nest

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, male

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, male

 Before they would leave the nest, the adult bird would check to see if the coast was clear. They would look left, right, and overhead before flying out of the hole.

Sapsucker with fecal sac

Sapsucker with fecal sac

The male Sapsucker was cleaning house. Here he’s leaving with a fecal sac.
female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

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Remote Pond

Remote pond

Remote pond

I hiked into this remote beaver pond last week. It was in about 1 mile down an old logging road. This pond was teaming with bird life.

The dead tree snags provide critical housing for cavity nesting birds like Tree Swallows, Eastern Kingbird, Wood Ducks, Hooded and Common Mergansers and others.

Ox-eye Daisy

Ox-eye Daisy

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in the Cedars

Spotted Coralroot Orchid

Spotted Coralroot Orchid

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

The White-throated Sparrow had a family nearby and she was pretty upset with my presence.
White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

O.K., O.K., I’m moving on – take good care of your babies!
White-throated Sparrows are one of our most populous birds in the forest. Their beautiful song can be heard through out the day ringing out from the forest. Many times the bird will not appear from the thick cover of the woods, but their song comes through loud and clear. It’s amazing that such a small bird can sing so loud.
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Hidden Gems

Canada Warbler

Canada Warbler

Singing from their favored habitat: dense patches of the shrub Mountain Maple.

Canada Warbler

Canada Warbler

It’s as if he is saying “I challenge you”! It even looks like he has little horns.

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

And further on, tucked in the dense stands of the Balsam Fir, is the Magnolia Warbler.

 

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New Duckies

Mallard Hen with ducklings

Mallard Hen with ducklings

Under the watchful eye of…

Bald Eagle, immature

Bald Eagle, immature

Maybe if I hide behind this tree, nobody will notice me…

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Always the opportunist, the Bald Eagle doesn’t miss a chance at a possible meal.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Not this time…
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Surprise in the Woods!

The other day I kicked up a family of SPRUCE GROUSE!

Spruce Grouse fledgling

Spruce Grouse fledgling

Surprisingly, the young birds could fly fairly well – albeit only for short distances.

Spruce Grouse female

Spruce Grouse female

The Spruce Hen was making the weirdest noises as she was kept  in contact with her youngin’s. At one point she vocalized a spooky scream.

Spruce Hen

Spruce Hen

O.K., O.K., I’ll leave you alone so you can gather up your family.

Heliport

Heliport

Back on some of the remote logging roads, in the Superior National Forest, there are Heliports set aside. I suppose they use helicopters to drop firefighters when there’s a wildfire in the forest. Or perhaps they’re used in search and rescue missions or if someone has been injured in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

There must have been a wetland beyond the rock face as I could hear many birds that associate with that habitat: Common Yellowthroat, Alder Flycatcher, Chestnut-sided Warbler. This clearing, some of it natural and some encouraged, was thick with birdsong.

Remote Beaver Pond

Remote Beaver Pond

My destination was a remote beaver pond that was about a mile in from the Echo Trail. It was a really cool spot, but there wasn’t much for bird activity. But then I was there in the afternoon when most birds are taking their siesta. 

However, on the way out I found a pair of Juncos that seemed to be defending a nest site. They got really upset when I walked by and they were causing such a commotion that some other birds came out to see what was going on. They were promptly chased away by the indignant Juncos. I took the hint and got out of there as well.

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Blueberry Report

Blueberries

Blueberries

It looks like we might get a good crop of Blueberries this year. The rain came just in time to replenish the forest plants and the Blueberry bushes!

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