In search of Ross’ Light

Ross Light

Ross' Light

There is a certain time, in the morning and in the evening, when the light from the sun is just right for photography. Famous naturalist and writer Sigurd Olson referred to it as Ross’ Light. I can’t remember how the name came about, but I remember the concept.

View on Crane Lake

View on Crane Lake

The sunlight at these times, when the sun is closer to the horizon, bends the sunbeams and baths the surrounding landscape in a warm light. It can make photos look surreal.

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Merlin casts pellet

Merlin Falcon

Merlin Falcon

Early this morning a Merlin showed up in the yard. I thought the Merlin was eating something when I was photographing her, but after I downloaded the photos, I saw what looked like a “pellet” in the Merlin’s mouth. I think the Merlin might be a female or an immature as the male has a slate blue back and this bird was quite brown.

Merlin coughing up a pellet

Merlin coughing up a pellet

She looked like she was choking…

Merlin expelling pellet

Merlin expelling pellet

 Then, the pellet came flying through the air! 

Per Birds of North America On Line, pellets typically cast daily (early morning) representing feather and skeletal remains from previous day.

Merlin Falcon

Merlin Falcon

I imagine she feels a lot better after expelling that big hunk of waste from her crop.

Merlin

Merlin

Okay, now onto the next bird, and with that she took off after one of the Hairy Woodpeckers that frequent the peanut feeders in the yard.

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Sunset cruise on Crane Lake

Point on Crane Lake

Point on Crane Lake

Glacial Erratic

Glacial Erratic

A boulder left behind by the glaciers, a mere 10,000 years ago. There was a musical band in Grand Rapids named the Glacial Erratics – that’s a pretty good name.

Fragant Fern

Fragant Fern

A beautiful little woodland plant that stays green all winter long…

Crane Lake Sunset

Crane Lake Sunset

A beautiful ending to another perfect day on Crane Lake.

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Bald Eagle Nesting Areas Reopened in Voyageurs National Park

http://www.nps.gov/voya/bald-eagle-nesting-areas-reopened-in-voyageurs-national-park.htm

And other information about Bald Eagles in the Park.

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Sapsuckers and what they do

juvenile male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

juvenile male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

He’s been practising his craft…

Actually this behavior benefits many creatures in the forest. The sap that runs feeds hungry hummingbirds when flowers are scarce and the sap can also attract insects. The insects are food for birds that are attracted to the running sap. It’s really not so bad for the tree either, most trees can survive the attack to their bark.

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It’s been a BERRY good summer!

Chokecherry Shrub

Chokecherry Shrub

The wild berries have been absolutely prolific this summer. Blueberries were stupendous and are still being picked at this late date. They are big and juicy and numerous – it is easy to pick a gallon per hour if you are in the right location(try looking under the ferns). Now the Chokecherries are getting ripe.

Chokecherries

Chokecherries

When the Chokecherries are like this, they are so easy to pick. I was able to pick 5 pounds of cherries in 1/2 hour. The Chokecherries are super tart and the pit is poisonous so processing is necessary to make these berries edible.

First, the berries need to cooked for about 10 minutes, then you must put them through a jelly bag to strain out the juice.

Canning supplies

Canning supplies

The taste of Chokecherry jelly is unparalleled. The tart combined with the sweet sugar is so tangy! I went a little overboard this year, I put up two batches of Chokecherry jelly (along with several pints of Blueberry jelly) and put a good amount of strained juice in the freezer for later this winter when I’m going to try making Chokecherry Wine!

Finished Product

Finished Product

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OMG, there’s a Peep on the dock!

Peep on the dock!

Peep on the dock!

Pandemonium reigned as I got out the camera and snuck in for a closer look.

Sandpiper, one of the peeps

Sandpiper, one of the "peeps"

Shorebirds for the most part will sometimes let you approach quite close. Maybe because this bird had just flown in from the arctic tundra making it “un-used” to modern civilization and all the dangers that may entail.

The smallest of Sandpipers are known collectively as peeps. In the Midwest there are generally 3 species that fall into this category: the Semipalmated Sandpiper, the Least Sandpiper, the Western Sandpiper, and sometimes the White-rumped Sandpiper although the last one is slightly bigger than the other three. Usually the Least Sandpiper is the most common of the Peeps and can be identified by its yellow-green legs. Semipalmated Sandpipers have black legs.  Western Sandpipers have even more subtle differences, and aren’t very common in Minnesota.

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper

There were all these little specks, that were tiny insects, on the dock that the bird was going after. There’s one now! Double take – that speck didn’t have a chance!

semipalmate

semipalmate

Now, what a funny name for a bird this “Semipalmated” thing. In Ornithology, the word palmated refers to the webbing between a bird’s foot. Usually webbed feet are typical of waterfowl like ducks. As you can see in this photo, there is partial webbing between this bird’s toes. And back in the early days, when most birds were identified in the hand, this may differentiate the small peeps. It’s a goofy name and also one that’s hard to spit out when you’re excited, so most people simply refer to them as Semipalms. (there’s also a Semipalmated Plover, so it can get a little confusing when you’re out in the field and there’s tons of shorebirds because both birds can, and do, occur together)

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It’s been a great year for fungi…

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

There is a bumper crop of mushrooms in the forest this summer. The abundant rain that we received earlier in the season has helped everything in the forest thrive.

Is this a Chantarelle mushroom? My field guide says they are “emminently edible”. I haven’t had the nerve to give them a try as I’m not entirely positive about their identity.

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Fall Warblers and the confusion they cause…

Here is a link to a really great website about Warblers. Although the author is from Georgia, the photos can be used anywhere as a reference. There are some great shots of Warblers in their breeding (alternate) plumage as well as their drab winter (basic) plumage. http://www.giffbeaton.com/warblers.htm

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More immatures

immature Junco

immature Junco

The immature Junco from the backside looks very sparrow-like, and the Genus Junco is included in the Emberizidae family which includes Sparrows.  This is probably a Dark-eyed Junco and the scientific name is Junco hyemalis, with hyemalis translating to “winter”, for this is when most of these birds are seen in the U.S.

When this bird took flight, its’ outer tail feathers flashed their distinctive white. In the fall, hundreds of Juncos will line the roadsides and when a car drives by they will all fly up flashing those white tail feathers.

Warbler, Tennessee?

Warbler, Tennessee?

Now, here’s the mystery bird. I’m not sure if it’s a Tennessee Warbler, but it does have the white undertail coverts that Sibley talks about in his field guide. And the pale supercilium, that’s the white streak above the eye, would indicate a Tennessee.
The Scientific name is Vermivora peregrina, with Vermivoa meaning “worm-eating” and peregrina meaning “wandering”. Maybe we should start calling it the Peregrine Warbler! Here’s the kicker, Wilson named the bird because he had only obtained 2 specimens in his lifetime and considered it a very rare bird. Makes you wonder how many other specimens he had collected throughout his life. Alexander Wilson (1766-1813) is considered the “Father of American Ornithology” and named many of the birds we know today. The way they practised ornithology back in the olden days was with a shotgun – times have changed…
Tennessee Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

This is the Tennessee Warbler in his breeding plumage. The gray on the head changes to a yellowish green in the winter.
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