Category Archives: Park

The Eagle’s Nest

Not exaggerating, I pretty much see an eagle almost every day. If not, then every other day.  It is still breathtaking.  It is still beautiful.  Every day.  My sidekick and I are self-proclaimed bird nerds.  The Bald Eagle is my favorite of all.  Hers, the Sandhill Crane.

I have taken quite a few photos of eagles in the last few years.  Not all perfect, but all were real.  At the local wildlife refuge with the raptor center booth, as well as in the wild.  We have taken a trip down to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota and viewed beautiful eagles, both at the center and in the wild, including our first Golden Eagle. I have posted several of these photos before and had my own posts on the Eagle Center and the refuge, but thought them appropriate for this post.

Eagles in Red Wing
Eagles in Red Wing
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Juvenile Bald Eagle flying over the refuge
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Angel, a Bald Eagle at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota
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Eagle’s nest on the refuge drive
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Bald Eagles in Red Wing, Minnesota
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Bald Eagle at the refuge
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Sunset with my eagle friends on the refuge
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Looking over the Mississippi for lunch. This was a couple of years ago in the part of the river near the nest. This may be one of “the” eagles :)
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One-eyed Bald Eagle at a Raptor Center booth at the refuge.
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Bald Eagle at the Raptor Center booth at the refuge
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Columbia, a Bald Eagle at the National Eagle Center
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Our first (and only) Golden Eagle at the National Eagle Center
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Looking for lunch over the river
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Again, at the refuge. I think this is one of my first pictures on the refuge.

 

We fell in love with the Decorah eagles online just like everyone else.  We have watched them build their families (tensing up every time those little ones get to the edge just about falling when mom nudges them back in) and the eaglets leave their nests every year, and were heartbroken when they built a new nest last year and we couldn’t watch them.  I even got my mom addicted to watching them on her laptop, before she passed away. We are so excited and hopeful that we will be able to watch the new nest this year.

We also watched our own drama unfold right here in Minnesota when the little eaglet, Harmon, got his leg stuck in his nest and the Raptor Center and Minnesota DNR intervened to help him out.  When he was returned to the nest, we were so sad hearing him crying for his mom at night to come back and take care of him. We were glued to the computer, and just when it seemed like mom was never going to return, we again cried. Tears of joy this time, as mom returned to take care of little Harmon and continued to watch him grow and leave the nest. Technology, eh?

I do feel very fortunate that I live in an area where Bald Eagles are pretty common.  My little town butts up against the Mississippi, and the eagles take advantage. It is prime real estate for them as a nesting spot and food source.  But just because they are common, doesn’t mean I take them for granted.

I first saw the eagle’s nest a couple of years ago in the winter of 2011.  Purely by accident, I must say.  Driving around with my sidekick and her friend, I made a wrong turn and ended up at the end of a dead end along the river in a residential neighborhood.  Yes, I’ve lived in this town for 20 years.  Yes, I’m a woman driver.  Straight ahead was a huge eagle’s nest.  I was proud of my sidekick, who identified it right away.  She is a bird nerd, but only her close friends know it.  At 15, it’s just not cool, Mom.  We sat and wondered if it was active, how long it had been there, was it abandoned?  It sat on private property and we could only view it from the car.  After that day, I would check in from time to time, not very often and not ever seeing an eagle to go along with the nest.

Then last summer, the property owner donated a few acres to the city.  The city decided to turn the land into a nature preserve.  I remember thinking in the back of my head “I wonder if that is the area where the eagle’s nest is?”

After so much hype in our little town with a groundbreaking ceremony and the former property owners present, the nature preserve opened, and Bailey Point Nature Preserve was born. Those of you who know my sidekick will find that fitting, although she will say it is spelled wrong :) We were at the park the second night it  opened at the end of August..  Only because we had previous plans the first night (insert winky face here).

A lot of the area is inaccessible.  Just because it is the river and several islands.  Across one of the thru-ways is a WMA.  On the opposite side of the park is a residential neighborhood.  We pulled into the small parking lot (which was basically the dead end I previously mentioned) and had a hard time finding the eagle’s nest.  Of course, it was the end of summer and all the trees were full of green leaves and there was a lot of tall grass.  It had been a while and we really couldn’t remember where we had seen it.  The park consists of a few intertwining walking trails.  Period.  No play area.  No picnic tables.  No BBQ’s. Perfect.

Since it was summer, the bugs were also out.  We headed down the first walking trail and rounded the bend and saw the eagles nest just to the left in a tree.  No eagles, but it was summer and they don’t always “hang at home” once the kids leave the nest  :)  We followed a couple of trails, enjoyed the nest, other birds, the river and nature in general.   We were excited to go back.  I was looking forward to frequenting this park.

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Someone left this behind. Wonder who it was?
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Buzzing on wildflowers
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“The” Eagle’s Nest
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Pretty sun through the trees
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Wildflowers on the river
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Wildflowers
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Path at Bailey Point Park Reserve

 

 

 

 

Two days later, we were back and saw a juvenile eagle sitting near the nest.  A previous fledgling, perhaps?  I didn’t even know if the nest was active.

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

 After this visit and a few more photos, I wrote a review of the park that was published in the local paper, including the juvenile eagle photo.  I was hoping I could find that online but I can’t.  Now I wish I would’ve taken a photo.  After that, I returned here and there.  Fall turned out to be the busiest we have had in a long time with my portrait photography and her dance team, and we just couldn’t find the time to get back.

With the dance team season over, and not a lot of people wanting to get family photos in -30 below weather, we have now again hit a slow time.  A few weeks ago I pulled into the park’s parking lot after work.  It was late in the day, but I did grab this cell phone pic of the sunset.

Sunset at Bailey Point
Sunset at Bailey Point

I saw one lone eagle sitting in a branch along side the nest.  Wondering where it’s mate was?  Eagles mate for life, as a lot of wildlife do.  Humans should take note of wildlife habits.  Although the female Black Widow spider kills it’s mate so maybe that’s not the best advice.

I returned a few days later on my lunch break and was disappointed the trails were not set up for walking.  After all the snow we have gotten, I would’ve needed snowshoes.  So I sat in the parking lot, listening and watching the birds, and took photographs of the usual winter suspects.  Black-Capped Chickadees, Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Blue Jays, with the occasional sound of a Northern Cardinal off in the distance.  No sign of the eagle.

Same thing a couple of days later, I again went after work, and again one lone eagle sat in the tree before sunset.  I started to think maybe the mate wouldn’t return.  Had it died?  I know that part of the river is still frozen. Unusually so, as it has been open there in the winter for several years. But it has not been this bitterly cold in a very long time.  I had heard that there were eagles that had to go far down river for open water and food.

A couple of weeks ago I pulled in and was delighted to find that the trails had been groomed for walking!  It was a balmy 3 degrees above and I said to myself, “Why not?”  I grabbed my outdoor gear and camera and went for a walk.  No eagles that day, but snow and scenery along the river.

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Downy Woodpecker
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Eagle’s nest off in the distance
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Sad, but I thought a beautiful place right on the river for a resting place?
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Frozen river on this day.
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A bench overlooking the river. Just a bench :)
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Red Bellied Woodpecker

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Last week, it was an awesome 18 degrees and I FINALLY saw two eagles.  One was on a branch, and the other was sitting in the nest.  I was thrilled!  For a minute, I wondered if there were eggs, as mid to late February is when they should start mating and laying eggs.  But then she flew out of the nest for a bit and came back with some sticks.  Tidying up the homestead, getting ready?  Then they both flew off talking to each other to find some lunch, I’m sure.  I realized then there were no eggs yet, as they would never have left them unattended.

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While my camera was trying to zoom in and get a flight shot of one of them, out of my peripheral vision I saw movement and heard scrambling.  I had just taken a photo of deer tracks on the trail shortly before I saw the eagles.  Low and behold there were two deer running across the trail in front of me.  Seriously?!  And my camera was set on flying eagles, not frolicking deer.  And I call myself a photographer?  LOL.  They stopped for a second and looked at me through the woods and went running off.

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My town’s water tower from the edge of the park. Nice view!

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On my way back to the car, I ran into a woman walking her dog and we exchanged the normal pleasantries.  I told her that I had seen a couple of deer and that there had been two eagles in the tree.  She told me that was great, that she hadn’t seen both lately because they must be going further down for food sources since the river was frozen.  I asked if she knew if it was an active nest and she said yes, it’s been active for the last 3 or 4 years :)

I was excited, but yet my mind started wandering to the “I wonder’s”. I wonder if the eagles flew off because they were afraid of me?  I wonder if the presence of people in the park will affect their ability to raise young, or even lay eggs?  If she does, I wonder if she will stay on the nest like she is supposed to, or fly off at the first sign of people?  Then I remembered the Decorah eagles had their nest on a farm.  There were several people and other animals on the farm.

The nest is at a great location, the eagles have a great resource in the river and on the land with rodents.  I can’t measure distance to save my soul, but it is a ways off of the walking trail.  In plain sight, but off.  I just hope stupid little boys won’t get curious and try climbing the tree (no offense to the stupid little boys or the ones who used to be ;)) Maybe a sign is in order.  STAY ON THE TRAIL or some such.  Hmmm…wheels are turning on that one.  Wait…one saved raptor at a time (inside joke which I will share with you all some day)!

At any rate, I have been back a couple of times since then.  Once over the weekend with my sidekick who had an assignment to finish for her photography class.  I can’t believe she brought home a Nikon!  Geesh, some people!  (again, friendly banter to the Nikon users, I am a Canon gal myself).

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A couple of Trumpeters on the river. Which is the same scene, by the way, from the frozen river above. 12 days difference.
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My sidekick. Obviously, dance is not too far away from her mind. Ever.

 

And then again today, where I again saw both eagles in the park.  Along with several Woodpeckers, a few Trumpeter Swans, Blue Jays galore, Black-Capped Chickadees, and a couple of Golden Eyes on the river.  The Cardinal is heard, but not seen, as usual.  My nemesis bird.  That, and the elusive Pileated Woodpecker.

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Another of the nest and one eagle. The other eagle was at the end of the path.
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Again, same view, same swans. Two days later at 39 degrees. What a difference a few days means.

 

So I finally blogged about the eagles.  To get my mind off of another bird for a while.

Hope you enjoy my photos, I am looking forward to sharing more eagle photos with you!

Have a great week and enjoy the warmup. For now!

Sheila

Here Come the Trumpeters

Last Saturday, I had a great winter photo shoot.  It was a beautiful 35 degrees out, and the family I shot were a great group of ladies.  My sidekick and I had plans afterward to go in search of one of the many Snowy Owls that have been spotted up in Stearns and Benton Counties.  This is about a 90 minute drive Northwest.

However, plans don’t always go so well.  I woke up that morning not feeling very well.  My sidekick had been fighting pneumonia and a cracked rib, and my dad was also not feeling well. Tis the season, I guess.  I made it through the photo shoot and just did not want to make that trip.  But I didn’t want to let a warm day go to waste.  Lord knows, it has been below zero since.  They are talking by tomorrow, we are supposed to be colder than it has been in 20 years, 25-35 below REGULAR temperature with wind chills in the 40-50 below range.  The Governor of Minnesota has ordered all public schools closed on Monday.  The bummer part, I still need to go to work!

At any rate, we headed down about 9 miles to the Swan Park we hit every winter.  I have blogged about the swan park before, there is more about it at this link Monticello Swan Park.  This park is located on the Mississippi River.  My sidekick is enjoying her first photography class at school, and had a “panoramic” assignment, so she took a few shots of all the swans.  This year it seemed like there were less than past years.  There are usually at least 1,000-3,000 swans, geese, ducks and other water fowl .  There were maybe 750 this year.  But as we looked across the river, there seemed like there were 750 more.  Next time I will take a video to post, as it is very loud, LOL!

I hope you enjoy the photos of these beauties!

Sheila

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Project 365 Day 1

A little about Project 365:  Project 365 came about by a man who decided to take a photo a day for 365 days. His popularity soared and since then others have followed suit.  I read his story a couple of years ago.  Right now I’m too lazy to look it up again to give details. But I will again, eventually!  There are a lot of people who put their photos into books, do blogs, post to Flickr, etc. I did my first Project 365 from April 2011 to April 2012.  I used my older Canon Rebel DSLR.  I learned a lot about my camera in that year, and learned that I can take a good shot when the stars are aligned.  I now have a Canon T2i DSLR and primarily use this camera with an occasional iPhone shot thrown in.

The great thing about Project 365 is there are no rules. Just take a photo a day for 365 days. That’s it. Most people do that with their phones, and don’t even realize it. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. It can be a photo of the weather, your pet, your big toe for that matter. Anything. Just one photo. I like nature, birds, other wildlife, etc. so mine tend to veer toward that.  But believe me, sometimes it gets to be a bit much. A long day at work, teenager activities, and it’s 10:00 at night and I’m looking for a photo.  You may just see my big toe :)

During my last project, I posted my photo pretty much daily to my FB page From Moments to Memories. I am very busy so I don’t know if I will be able to post daily; every few days or weekly will probably be more like it. I will also post to my photo blog here. I blog about my nature/photo walks and experiences throughout the week and will feature photo stories as well.  So if you’d care to follow, be my guest.

My first photo was taken during sunset tonight on our way home from Snowy Owl searching today.  My sidekick and I set out to see one of the 80 or so sightings in Minnesota this season.  We found one!  And had so much fun following it around from afar in my vehicle, weather was -10 below, with -15 below windchill.  It was too far away for any good photography.  I just don’t have the “heavy” equipment of the professionals.  Still, it was a lifer for both of us and it was exciting.

Time got away from us and I was determined to get a good pic for day 1.  I have passed this place so many times and never stopped.  They recently made it a park and I can’t wait to explore it.

Sunset at Henry's Woods Park
Sunset at Henry’s Woods Park

Hope you enjoy what you see, and if you do, let me know!

Mother’s Day Week

The minute the calendar went from April to May, I felt it.  I knew it was going to be a hard month for us.  My mother passed away January 3, it has been a tough road and will continue to be. Mother’s Day and her birthday were right around the corner. I know she is no longer suffering and in a better place.  That gives me a bit of peace, and I know it should give me more.  I guess I am selfish and want her with me.

There have been days where I hear or see something and pick up the phone to call her to tell her about it, only to stop myself realizing I can’t.  Now that Spring has arrived, I see yellow roses, her favorite.  Last week was brutal.  I passed by the Mother’s Day card aisles in the stores and I couldn’t even look at them without getting teary-eyed.  I’ve seen Mother’s Day commercials, and had to turn the channel, me being the blubbering fool.  I got really angry with people complaining about their mothers and give them a piece of my mind.  Whereas just a few short months ago, I was one of them.  Last night I took her old sweater and wrapped it around me and cried myself to sleep.

It  has been rough for me and my sidekick to say the least.  And from what I hear, my sister is also having a hard time.   We would text each other blubbering gibberish.  Our moods fitting, as we snapped at each other on text a couple times over stupid things.  My dad pretty much doesn’t know what to do with himself these days.  I’ve even thought about taking him out to the refuge with us for the drive.  Maybe soon.

So on the advice of family and friends, I took the day and made it about me.  What??!!  How dare I be a mother on Mother’s Day!  We reminisced about Mom and remembered the good times.  All we have now are memories, and nothing is going to change that.  Learning to accept the things I cannot change has been a big struggle for me, but in the past couple years I have come a long way in that regard.

I told my sidekick this weekend was about me.  And her.  Afterall,  it is because of her that I AM a mother.  The only thing my ex gave me worth holding on to, and  I will treasure her forever.  So I made plans to stay busy doing what we like doing best, and hopefully make the best of this dreaded Mother’s Day weekend.

Friday was a splendid day weather-wise.  During my lunch break, I took a little stroll through my favorite park for birding in the Spring.  I pulled up and instantly heard several songbirds singing and I immediately wished I didn’t have to go back to work.  I heard and saw a cardinal, several Yellow Rumped Warblers, etc.  I walked the trail and several small Downy and Hair Woodpeckers were flitting about here and there.   Sandhill Cranes were calling in the distance and I knew I had to bring my sidekick back in the evening, as they are her favorites.  I have only been bird watching for a couple of years now, not nearly long enough to identify birds by their song.  Some yes, most no.   I once read that Minnesota is one of the top 5 states for birding, as we get well over 300 species during migration in Spring and Fall.  Maybe by the time I retire I will know most of their songs.

As I walked the path hoping to see a new warbler or a Baltimore Oriole, First of Year (FOY) for me, I stopped suddenly as I heard a Rose Breasted Grosbeak.  I love these beautiful birds.  They sound like Robins on steroids, LOL.  At any rate, I first heard, then saw the female.  The male was not too far behind.  I was so excited, as this was indeed FOY for me.  I kept walking, and saw an Eastern Bluebird, sparrows (there are so many species it is so hard to differentiate which one), the usual suspects around here. Canada Geese nesting finally, a male Wood Duck.  I always end up dilly dallying and my lunch hour goes so fast.

I got about halfway around the trail and realized it was time to start back.  I turned around and headed back, only to be stopped again by the female Rose Breasted Grosbeak.  However, this time I saw some nesting material in her mouth and followed her with my eyes to see where she may go.  Low and behold she flew about 10 feet off the path into a nest.  No eggs yet, but I was so excited, what a find for me!  The male came and sat above me on a branch checking me out.  With our very late Spring and cold weather, we are just starting to get buds on the trees so she is very visible from the path.  My first thought was that I really hope the buds and trees come in fast so more passersby don’t interfere with the nest.  I got a few shots in, not too many, as they are very skittish birds.

Female Rose Breasted Grosbeak
Female Rose Breasted Grosbeak
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Male Rose Breasted Grosbeak

My sidekick and I returned that evening after dinner.  We saw the nest, but no sign of the birds.  I am hoping to keep track and monitor the nest for babies, but then I will be very sad if something happens to them.  Nature at it’s finest, I guess.  Taking the good with the bad.

Saturday morning we had plans to attend the Spring Celebration at the refuge, as it was Migratory Bird Day.  We got up at 5:30 (yes, on a Saturdaymorning, much to my teenager’s chagrin).  It was 34 degrees, cloudy, windy and very cold.  We had signed up for the birding tour which was from 7:00 to 11:00 am.  The first part of the tour was a caravan  around the refuge on a couple of the DNR roads which are not usually open to the public.  The chilly, windy weather made it hard, as the birds were not out and about.  We saw some shorebirds, including, Lesser Yellow Legs, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper.  Several Blue Winged Teal, Trumpeter Swans, Sandhill Cranes, and a couple of Bald Eagles.

The hearty people of the bunch decided at 9:00 to go on one of the trails hiking.  My crabby, tired, cold teenager was not so eager. So we just went on the wildlife drive, saw several birds, highlights were an American Kestrel and a Ruby Crowned Kinglet, nothing too out of the ordinary.  The wind was blowing so hard I had to keep the windows up in my vehicle and the sand was flying all over we couldn’t see anything, so we headed out.

The refuge headquarters was having a plant sale, so we stopped there on our way home.  I always like to see what birds are at their feeders, I had been hearing good things.  However, the wind always plays a factor and there wasn’t too much next to the Red Winged Blackbirds and White Breasted Nuthatch.  BUT, we did scare up this guy digging around on the ground eating up the bird seed dropped by the birds.  The workers at the refuge tried sending him home with me, LOL.

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On Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, we had every intention of hitting two parks and walking some trails.  However, the early morning on Saturday did us in and we slept in on Sunday.  I also had a couple of meltdowns over my own mom, but wanted to concentrate on new memories and traditions with my daughter.  By the time we headed out of the house it was after noon.  We headed to a Nature Center in a suburb of the Twin Cities.  They had some great birds at their feeders and had some nice walking trails.   Saw my FOY Baltimore Orioles, they do have a lovely sound.  We saw a number of birds, and some Canada Geese nesting, which was also a FOY for us because of the late Spring.  Toward the end, my back was giving out with all the walking, so we decided to call it a day.

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Baltimore Orioles

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Palm Warbler

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Sunset on the Mississippi

All in all, not many photos for the week but lots of birds seen and heard finally after such a rough Spring.  Just not close enough for photos.

Hope everyone has a fabulous week!

Sheila

Sprinter

I have been busy to say the least.  I have been out and about taking photos, just not a lot of time to write about it.  Here in Minnesota we have had a long, harsh winter.  We had 15 inches of snow on April 18 in my neck of the woods.  A week later it was another 6.  Very sad that some of the birds came back too early to the cold and snow.  Some did not get enough food, and I heard some froze to death, unfortunately.  I was frantically throwing out birdseed during the snowstorm and sweeping my deck off for my juncos, chickadees and finches.  I saw a photo from my birding group of a robin feeding at a suet feeder.  You don’t see that every day.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  We had “lovingly” calling it a cross between Winter and Spring “SPRINTER”!

But that melted within a couple of days and we have been enjoying some mild spring weather, FINALLY.  However, I hear up in northern Minnesota the lakes still have many inches of ice on them.  Our big opener fishing weekend is coming up this weekend, and some are joking they may be ice fishing!  After the storm of the 18th, my sidekick had a snow day and I took a snow day from work.  We drove around (I have AWD, so not so bad) and I took photos.  We brought buckets of birdseed to sprinkle at several parks for the birds.

Yesterday was a good day weatherwise, as is today.  We were able to head to a local birding hotspot on Saturday, saw a nice Palm Warbler, but didn’t get the shot of course; and yesterday took a walk and saw a first-timer for me, the Orange Crowned Warbler.   Have been seeing several Great Egrets around here and there.  Also, I went all winter without seeing a cardinal. Kind of unusual in a Minnesota winter, to not see a Northern Cardinal.  Now all of a sudden I’ve seen several couples flitting about.

This weekend is Mother’s Day and weather-permitting, we have nature things planned.  Saturday is a migrating bird tour with the local refuge and Sunday I think we are going to a local state park for some hiking.  More to follow on this.

At any rate, I just wanted to pop on and post some photos that I have recently taken and catch up a bit.  There is a big mix of photos in this slideshow, from winter/spring.  Hope you enjoy!

 

Thanks for looking!

Winter Barn
Winter Barn

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Female Hooded Merganser and Greater Scaups
Female Hooded Merganser and Greater Scaups
Female and Male Hooded Merganser
Female and Male Hooded Merganser
Canada Honkers
Canada Honkers
Mallard
Mallard
Male Drake Mallards fighting over Female
Male Drake Mallards fighting over Female
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Chilly Muskrat

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Hermit Thrush
Hermit Thrush

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American Robin
American Robin
Yellow Rumped Warbler
Yellow Rumped Warbler
Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker

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Bald Eagle nest at the refuge
Bald Eagle nest at the refuge

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Great Egret
Great Egret

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Self Portrait
Self Portrait

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Orange Crowned Warbler
Orange Crowned Warbler

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Female Downy Woodpecker
Female Downy Woodpecker
Signs of Spring
Signs of Spring

More Snow

We have been busy going through my parents’ things to prepare for my dad moving in with me.  It truly is amazing what people accumulate through 57 years of marriage.

At any rate, we have had some more snow and I got out a couple times during my lunch hour to take a few photos last week.  After a while, they all start to look alike.  LOL.  I just thought I’d pop on quickly and dump these new ones into the cache :)

I am taking a day this weekend for me and my sidekick for a little road trip, weather-permitting.  I am going to try to go in search of the infamous Snowy Owl.  Sightings have been popping up throughout Minnesota this winter.  Not as many as last year, but a few nonetheless.  This year it is considered a Boreal Owl irruption, however, this is way up north and I don’t have the time or means to get up there this season, so I have to live vicariously through my birding friends.

Also wanted to get a few barns in the snow.  Forecast by the end of the week is for a major snow storm to come blowing through Thursday through Friday.  Hopefully out of our hair by Sunday for a fun road trip.

Hope you all enjoy your week and stay warm!

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Old Man Winter

Minnesota winters are harsh.  I have seen 27 inches of snow in two days, and I have seen -50 F below zero with almost as low windchills.  Not fit for man nor beast.  Seems they used to be harsher when I was a kid. But back in the 70’s (yes, I’m that old) winters were fun. We had way more snow and way more cold.  And yet it didn’t seem to bother us.  We were ALWAYS outside, whether we were making snowmen, snow forts, sledding, etc.  You name it, we did it.  I remember for Christmas one year I wanted the new K-TEL block maker or whatever it was called.  I got it and let me tell you, it was the best igloo maker around!  Rarely did we have snow days when I was going to school.  The big joke around here is when it gets up to 30, it is bikini time!

Last year we hardly got any snow.  We had one big storm dubbed “The Leap Year” storm and that was it.  Mild temperatures and less snow.   We had 30′s and 40′s in January.  Snowmobilers, ice fisherma, resort owners, and photographers like me were disappointed in the lack of snow we had.  I bet we didn’t even have 20 inches.  Everyone was joking that Old Man Winter had been laid to rest.

Well, I’m here to tell you that Old Man Winter is alive and well in Minnesota this year. We have had 30′s, and we have had frigid temperatures.  I have been out walking the last couple weeks, warm and cold.  One day was even 18 below zero on my lunch hour and I headed to the river to see what I could find.  The only thing NOT normal is that we have had snow, but not as much as in other years.  I am sure part of the global warming.

I have also sat on my deck watching the birds.  Not many hang out with us in the winter season because of the cold. We keep the summer stand-by’s like the Northern Cardinal, Blue Jays, Black-Capped Chickadees, and White-Breasted Nuthatches.  We acquire the snowbirds, down from Canada, like the Dark-Eyed Junco’s and Snow Buntings.  And of course, we have the Owls and Woodpeckers in all their glory.  I bought a heated bird bath the other day and just set it up.  Will see if it makes a difference in birds on my deck.

At any rate, here are some photos that I particularly liked in the past few weeks, along with my iPhone weather report, LOL :)

My trip to the river, I think by the time I made it there at noon it was -10 below.  I walked along the Mighty Mississippi taking photos of the steam coming up off the river, and of the swans seemingly totally oblivious to the fact that it was bitterly cold outside.  The water was warmer than the air temp at that time.

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Another day it was in the 20′s and nice and balmy, I checked out my favorite park and it didn’t disappoint.  LOTS of woodpeckers to be seen, although far away so I couldn’t get any photos.  I had all I could do to get back to work on time that day.

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And the day on my deck, taking photos of the Dark-Eyed Juncos and Black Capped Chickadees flitting around my deck, I’d say it was about 15 degrees above zero and snowing.

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As I sit here ready to upload this blog, it is about 10 degrees.  The weather this week looks to be in the 20′s and 30′s all week.  I plan a couple days for walking at lunch.  Back to my favorite park to try my luck in viewing the Pileated Woodpecker that frequents the park up close and personal.  Saturday, my sidekick and I are headed on a 5K for our local community.  The big thing around here is jumping in the lake at the Shiver Elk River every year.  My sidekick wanted to do it, I was afraid I would have a heart attack!  So we settled on the 5K.  However, if I am in the vicinity of the plungers, I will definitely take it upon myself to take a few shots!

Hope everyone enjoys the rest of the week!

1,000 Swans-a-Swimming

A couple weeks ago, we took a drive back out to the Monticello Swan Park.  I blogged about the Swan Park last year here.  This was our first time out there this winter.  The swans are at the park usually from December thru March feeding on the corn the residents hand out.  The numbers this year looked like almost double from last year.  There had to have been 1,000 trumpeters along with some Canada honkers and mallards.  This particular day we had my niece from California and a friend with us.  It was -2 below zero.  She was in a hurry to get out of there, I could’ve stayed all day.

I just wanted to drop a line with some photos of the swan park.  I have been under the weather with a nasty head cold the past few days.  It has been frigid and it has been mild in the past couple weeks.  And I have gone on a couple of winter photo walks I am writing about.  I also spent some time on my deck today with the heavy snow falling trying my best to get the Dark-Eyed Juncos to my feeders for photo opps.  Another blog coming on that note.

Enjoy the swans!

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In the Dead of Winter

I finally got out for a bit during my lunch hour on Thursday and it felt great.  I didn’t have my long lens, so I didn’t get some shots I wanted.  But I didn’t care.  I also didn’t have a lot of time, but I still didn’t care.  It just felt good to be out and about with my camera on a short photo walk taking photos again.  It hit me that I really did miss this.  Camera in hand.  Dead of winter.  Looking for signs of life.

We have been having another unusually warm winter, but this year we have a bit of snow.  It was about 34 degrees and sunny.  I grabbed my dusty binoculars out of the trunk of the old Mercury and headed for the river bank.  There were about 25-30 Trumpeter Swans out a ways on the Mississippi, juvenile and adult.  Also a bird or two singing on shore; however, I didn’t recognize the song.  I frequent this park a lot in the spring, it is known for its Cedar Waxwing population.  Sometimes they stick around in winter, other times not.

I came across tracks that are debatable as far as what species it is.  I am not good at tracking.  Yet.  I also came across a lone Bald Eagle sitting out on a rock.  Waiting for its lunch to swim by, perhaps?  Too far out to tell or get a photo.

I took a few photos of the small stream running into the river and some odds and ends.  Not really taking a picture of anything, just taking pictures.

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Friday brought rain and about 35 degrees around the noon hour.  Yes, rain in Minnesota in January. Very unusual. I had to stop by the funeral home and pick up my mom’s ashes, and lucky for me it is right on the river.  I grabbed my protein shake and away I went.  Unfortunately, I am no stranger to death. I have lost many in my family and also some close friends.  Including my brother in 2005 at the age of 52, after a massive stroke.  When my sister and I picked up my brother’s ashes years ago, we made a joke about seat-belting him in.  Today it was just me.  And no jokes.  It was almost surreal.  But I surprised myself and didn’t turn into a blubbering fool.

I headed down the hill to the river.  I hung out in this area a lot last winter, this was my first time this season.  Nothing much going down there, a couple of Trumpeter Swans swam through.  I again forgot my 300mm and was disappointed.  I still had 25 minutes to kill so I headed down to the boat landing again.   I walked a little path to the river and took in the woods and the surroundings.

I walked through the woods, looking for critters and birds, and just took in nature. This was so much a part of me a year ago and I had come to love it.  The drizzle was melting the snow a bit, there were leaves scattered, left from fall.  I was searching for owls, but heard only the faint sound of some 40 or so Goldeneyes out on the river.  I took some photos of random stuff, not really anything.  I was alone at the park and it was a bit eery.  But I felt so alive and at peace at that moment.  More alive than I had felt in a long time.  I knew that I was meant to do this.  I headed back up the hill to the old car, stopped and got some Chinese and headed back to work.

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As I sat eating my lunch at my desk, I opened my fortune cookie.  I am not one to believe in any of that stuff, but my fortune read “the rubber bands are heading in the right direction”.  I like to think it means something along the lines of my life is finally headed in the right direction, things are coming together, etc.  It felt right.

As I was surfing the web the other night, I came across a saying that hit me like a ton of bricks.

“Today I close the door to the past, open the door to the future, take a deep breath, step on through and start a new chapter in my life”

Oh, and P.S. Sunday I went to the Swan Park.  I have blogged about the swan park in the past.  It was -2 F and there were at least a thousand Trumpeter Swans.  I will save that for the next blog post!

 

Autumn in Minnesota

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Anyone who doesn’t like Fall has not seen an autumn in Minnesota.  We had some beautiful color at the end of September/beginning of october.  I FINALLY got a chance to get out and about and do what I love, taking photo walks. It was a long, hot summer and I really needed Fall to get here.  Memorial Weekend we spent at my sister’s in Duluth.  We stopped at the famous Canal Park and got some shots in of Lake Superior.  We enjoyed great weather until a couple of weeks ago it turned cold and windy  and BAM the fall color was gone.  It is a short season for us, as soon the snow will fly.  We were able to take some photo walks and attend the Wildlife Festival at the local refuge. Great fall color and raptors to photograph.  We also had a fun trip to the apple orchard.

My sidekick and I have been busy with school, dance, work, etc. I even ended up selling my old beat-up blazer a few weeks ago and transferred to an old, beat up Ford Mercury until I can afford something else in the Spring. AFTER the orthodontist payments, lol. Fall has also been busy for me with family photo shoots, and I have had mini-sessions the last two weekends. We have a scheduled trip to Southeastern Minnesota for a “fall color tour” this weekend.  However, the fall color is pretty much gone, and it is supposed to be cold, wet and windy.  Good thing we have a pool and wi fi at the hotel.   Hopefully soon, I will have time to blog hop like I used to and catch up with some of you I haven’t “seen” in a while.

My sidekick celebrated her 14th birthday earlier this month. Where has the time gone? Soon she will be dating, driving, graduating from high school and heading off to college. It goes by way too fast. I am sad to see the time that has past, but I am also looking forward to what is yet to come!

I have also been asked to donate to an upcoming silent auction for breast cancer. I decided to put a few framed prints, a calendar and some matted prints up for auction for this. My sidekick goes to school and has been friends with the woman’s daughter since kindergarten.  It was kind of fun picking out a few of my best prints, and searching for the best frames and mattes.  Hopefully, it will bring some money in for the family.  It is just a little something that I can do for them.

My 52 Week Challenge, however, leaves a lot to be desired. I missed last week entirely. I am seriously considering another 365 challenge at the first of the year. I have to admit, some of my best work has come out of my Project 365. We will have to wait and see.

So that is “what’s up” in my neck of the woods. I hope you enjoy the slideshow!

Sheila