Category Archives: Spring

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

The Bird’s the Word

So the boss is out and I thought I would play today on my blog, LOL.  Seriously, I just thought I’d throw in a modge podge of photos I’ve taken since Saturday when I posted.  I won’t post until this evening when I get home to add the photos.

On Sunday my sidekick and I took my friend to the refuge to hike the Blue Hill Trail.  After a week of 60’s and 70’s, we woke up to sunny and 38.  Yikes!  We were going to do the 2.5 miles, instead of the 5.  Some day we’ll do the 5 I keep telling myself.  Some day we’ll do the Mahnomen Trail as well.  Maybe Saturday.

At any rate, the day started out chilly.  My friend is looking into places to take her son’s senior photos, so we stopped at one of my favorite red barns, this time a Spring shot.  Found out it is NOT a place for a senior photo shoot, as it is almost under water.  Which is very sad :(

We pulled into the refuge and there were a few cars parked on the trail.  It was a pretty uneventful hike.  I had been raving about the refuge and we didn’t see much.  It is really hit or miss.  We saw an eagle sitting in a tree close to the parking lot.  Several birds were seen on the trail, but too fast or too far away to take a nice photo.  A Downy Woodpecker, a Mallard couple.  A couple of Canada Geese.  I heard a Blue jay and several Black-Capped Chickadees.  We certainly saw more signs of spring.  Lots of muskrat “huts” have sprung up and Canada Geese have made their nests on them.  A very common occurrence at the refuge and everywhere else. 

We stopped on one of the bridges to take photos of the stream, and my sidekick moved on.  She called me (from about a 1/2 block away) on my cell and (what I thought she said) “mom, hurry and get over here, there are 6 sandhill cranes”.  So my friend and I walked silently, slowly to where she was.  Only to find out that she had said “there are 6 eagles soaring”.  UGH!  When we got to where she was they were gone!  I was creeping slowly so as not to scare off the sandhill cranes.  Go figure.  She is still laughing about it. 

Halfway through the trail, my sidekick felt the “urge” and we had to speed it up and get back out to the parking lot and the bathrooms.  Another UGH.  All in all, it was a good hike, a good day.   The sun came out and the temperature rose to the low 60’s.   I hadn’t seen my friend for quite some time and we promised to meet up when the Wildlife Drive opens on the refuge next month.

We had errands to run, and grabbed our bag of bread to feed the ducks at the local pond.  Much to my surprise, we ran into these Ring-Necked Ducks and one lone Redhead.  I’m sure the same one we ran across the other night when I didn’t have my memory card.   The photos aren’t as sharp as I’d like, but these all are firsts for me.  Had to look them up in my Audubon Guide.  They moved further away as she threw bread out.  The mallards came from across the pond looking for the handouts.

On Tuesday, I went for a walk during lunch at the Woodland Trails Park again, looking to find signs of spring hoping to catch some new species.  It was quite windy but fairly mild at about 55 degrees.  I came across a bridge that I discovered last winter and had taken a photo of.  I like to take seasonal photographs of the same thing, in order to show the changes.

I heard lots of birds, just didn’t actually SEE them.  Lots of chickadees, crows, robins.  Then a group of these little fellows.  My Audubon Guide tells me it is either a American Tree Sparrow or Chipping Sparrow?  Maybe my friend Bob Zeller can help me out here?  I know it is not a very good photo to ID with the branch in the way. 

I have about 33 days left in my Project 365 so I have been just driving around for something that catches my eye.  On Wednesday, this was it.  Another barn.  Big shocker.   I was pulled over to the side of the country road with my flashers on and the mail lady actually pulled over and asked me if I needed help.  I thought that was very nice, that doesn’t happen often.  My reply was “Nope, this is just what I do, take pictures of basically NOTHING.”  LOL. 

I had to throw this one in of my beautiful Chloe.  She was my day 330/365 because it was her 2nd birthday.  Full of mischief, this one.  But cuddly when she wants to be.  Which isn’t very often, but we love her nonetheless.

Now today was my favorite day.  I went for a walk at one of my local parks.  Turns out today it was my favorite park :)  LOTS of birds to be seen today.  I only wish I could’ve stayed, but I had to go back to work.  I was barely on the path when I noticed a Cedar Waxwing flying into a tree.  Then another, and another.  They were flitting about like crazy.  A bunch landed on a bush and I started snapping.  They are so cool, and look like the masked bandits or racoons of the bird world.  They mainly eat blossoms and flowers. 

I reluctantly left the Cedar Waxwings and meandered down the boardwalk path.  I heard the Red-Winged Blackbirds singing, and the Black-Capped Chickadees.  Also the Robins.  Then I heard them.  The call I had been listening for.  The Sandhill Cranes.  My sidekick was at a friend’s today, the start of Spring Break.  I texted her immediately and she wanted me to go pick her up, LOL.  However, I only had so much time.  So I promised we would go back after work tonight.  As I walked toward the sounds of the cranes, I pulled out my iPhone and found my Audubon Guide app and played the voice of the crane.  Sure enough they responded and started “croaking” again.  Finally, I saw them.  There were about 8 of them.  They are so hard to see, they blend in so well with the brown grass and cattails.  One flew over to the other side and they were all calling to each other.  I was so sad I had to leave.  And also sad I do not have a 400 or 500 mm lens!  LOL.

I turned to go, and a nice little Bluebird couple past in front of me way too fast.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a red flash, and was so excited it was a cardinal and his lady friend.  I just couldn’t get a good shot, he was avoiding me like the plague.  But thought this was so cute, he’s looking right at me like, “HA, you’ll never catch me!”  His mate is to the left.

On my way back to the car, it was like it was crazy.  Birds galore, LOTS of woodpeckers, like these two.  The whole way back to the car, I was hearing the Sandhill Cranes calling back and forth to each other.  I couldn’t wait for work to get over with so we could go back.

After work, I picked my sidekick up and we headed over there.  No Cedar Waxwings, but a few of the woodpeckers and robins were there.  We walked down the path and played the Sandhill Crane call from my iPhone.  Sure enough we heard back from them.  However, we couldn’t spot them to save our soul.  Talk about disappointment.  We will definitely be headed back tomorrow, LOL.  We did see this Northern Flickr, not a great shot but I think they are cool looking, so wanted to share it.  Also liked the cattails with the sun behind.

We are anxiously planning our short trip to the National Eagle Center on Good Friday in Wabasha, MN.  It is a 2-1/2 hour drive so we are spending the night and coming home Saturday, just in time for coloring eggs and getting stuff ready for church and Easter dinner on Sunday.  We are excited for the trip, and I hope that I get some good photos.  It will be our first time there, and I hear there are several eagle nests along the river near, and lots of parks and photo ops.  We are just happy to be going out of town for some new scenery.

Thanks for stopping by, see ya soon!

Enjoying Spring!

WOWSA has it really been two weeks since I’ve posted?  Why, yes, yes it has!  We have been busy running here and there, and I have been taking photos of course!  We have definitely been enjoying Spring in Minnesota!  We last left off a couple weeks ago and I was getting antsy for the birds to arrive, and a few were arriving here and there.  We have had some outstanding weather here.  It has been in the 60’s and 70’s and we have total ice-out on the lakes and rivers.  We have buds on the trees and grass is greening fast.  Very, very unheard of in most Minnesota winters. It has been a very unbelievable winter, and so far, Spring.

The last couple weeks we have had walks at the park, fed the ducks, and I have hiked some trails.  Signs of Spring are all around!

Here are a few of my Project 365 photos and more, enjoy!

We took a walk at our local pond park one beautiful evening and this was one of the first Red Winged Black Birds we saw this season.

This male Mallard was totally flirting with me and posing, he was so dang cute :) 

Mallards are plenty at this park, as you will see shortly.  However, this night there were a couple of Buffleheads thrown into the mix as well.

Throughout the week, I walked different trails in the area and saw a few “FOS” (first of season) birds for me (the above Buffleheads are included in this category). 

I wasn’t sure what this was while I was taking the photo.  When I got home, my sidekick had to identify it for me :)  A Brown Creeper.  That’s my girl.

This Song Sparrow was singing me a wonderful tune, too bad the branch was in the way.  I hate branches!

This was my favorite that day, the Sandhill Cranes have returned!  My sidekick’s favorite, I wished she would’ve been with me.

And the cattails, I love them when they are in “full display” in the summer months, but I also like to take pictures of them while they are in different seasons!

There was the day we went to our local Dam park.  We had heard of the Osprey nest, but never found it.  However, I got a couple photos of the dam, and we came across this beauty.  A Great Blue Heron rookery.  However, the herons weren’t to be found until we got back into the car and started to drive away, go figure.  But would’ve been too far away to take photos.  It was pretty cool anyway.

Someone obviously was not a happy camper when they left that day, LOL. 

Then there were these hilarious Canada Geese.  There were others across the river and this guy/gal was yelling and running around like a chicken with his head cut off.  I think it was a mating display, but we were cracking up!  There were also a couple of beautiful Woodducks (FOS) across the river, but too far away to get a good shot.  Story of my life.

There was the night that we went for a walk after it had been a bit rainy, and I had gone during the day to the same walking trail.  Residents have been saying there are a couple of whooping cranes calling in the park.  I had heard a couple of squacks, but didn’t know what it was.  When my sidekick and I went back, we heard it again, but didn’t see it.  It would be fantastic, as they are very rare around here, around anywhere I think.  But we did see another set of Sandhill cranes fly over and came across this beauty.  I think it’s my favorite of the whole couple weeks.

We stopped back at the “mallard park” on our way hone and this time brought some bread.  Oh, my.  What fun she had.  At one point she had almost 20 mallards hanging out following her with that bread.  She called herself the “duck whisperer”.  It was hilarious!  We saw and heard a Bluebird couple (FOS) but I was too far away for a good shot.  Not worried, they are in abundance this time of year around here :)

Last but not least, these were taken yesterday.  Woke up yesterday morning to fog and had to stop by the river.  I was 8 minutes late for work :)  My boss laughed because the minute I got to work he said “let’s see the camera” LOL.  Then I walked for a bit at lunch, and this little guy was following me.  “chipmunk stalker”  hehehe…

And I suppose I should throw in a couple barns from the last couple weeks.

We went back to the mallard park today with bread in hand.  Not very many mallards, though.  Seagulls, geese and one lone Redhead (another FOS for me).  Wouldn’t you know, I grabbed my camera to find no memory card.  It was back at home still in my laptop from last night!  UGH.

At any rate, we are headed to my Peaceful Place hiking tomorrow, hoping to find some Sandhill Cranes or other furry or feathered-friends.  We are bringing along one of my old highschool girlfriends, we should have some fun! 

Thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed my photos.  I will try not to stay away too long this time :)

Sheila