We are a mother-daughter biologist/blogger team, taking on a project to photograph, research, and write about the many different plant, animal, and insect species in our backyards — although sometimes the backyard has a global rather than local perspective.  We live in Minnesota, one of us is a recently retired biology professor, and the other one is a former biology major, nurse, and now stay at home mom. Needless to say, we have plenty of time on our hands, and we want to share our love of our backyards with you!

Our influence on each other is one of the fun aspects of this partnership.  Daughter excels in people photography (see Greater Good Photography), and has introduced mom to better cameras, better lenses, etc.

That's me with the new Canon 100-400 mm telephoto lens!

Mom with the new Canon 100-400 mm telephoto lens!

Mom keeps trying to get daughter to go bird watching, enticing her with telephoto shots of scarlet tanagers and colorful spring warblers.

backyard biology blogger

Thanks for reading.

97 thoughts on “About

  1. This is great! Thanks. I particularly liked the comments about the tree frog. We have one that crawls out of our grill as it heats up. This has been going on for a couple of months now. He/she was very tiny and jumpy the first time but now is big, very fat and unafraid. I am concerned about unintentionally grilling him/her but he/she seems to be able to avoid that consequence. I guess he/she knows that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the grill.

  2. Alison and Sue,
    Great blog. Thank you for adding me to your distribution list.
    I have a small request, could you please use my gmail email address rather than the comcast?
    Thank you. Look forward to learning more about the ecology of Minnesota.

  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog as well. This is a great blog you’ve got here! I love the idea of sharing photos and facts about the flora and fauna all around us because a better understanding of these things facilitates greater appreciation of them. And I like how your photographs clearly demonstrate the ideas you discuss in each post (like showing the pollen on the legs of pollinators)! Keep it up!

  4. Pingback: An Award! How Exciting! « Bookin' It

  5. Hi, Sue! Just wanted to let you know I have nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. I hope this will be welcome news for you. Some people choose not to participate, others enjoy the opportunity to visit new-to-you blogs and to be visited by new-to-you bloggers. To see more about the award and accepting this nomination, please visit my post at http://www.marciameara.wordpress.com

    Have a great day!

  6. Pingback: Science blogs that I recommend | Science on the Land

  7. Sue, thanks for your many visits and comments on my blog. I finally had time today to check out your blog (I’ve been meaning to for some time) and wanted to say that I enjoy your photos and writing.

  8. Great blog with wonderful photos! I was trying to find out what a ‘black wasp on milkweed’ was, and Google directed me here. Now I know it’s a Great Black Wasp – thanks! My milkweed also hosted what looked like a tiny hummingbird moth, about 1/3 the size I’m used to seeing. Would you know if this a young one, or is there another species?


  9. Pingback: Sunday’s Blog of the Week: Backyard Biology | Bookin' It

  10. One of your followers, Marcia suggested your blog. I really like it. Great pictures. I love birds and nature. So I’ll be visiting so often. 🙂

  11. I just love the photograph of the banana flower. Who knew? And the one of the birds reflecting on the water is wonderful. I have a question for you. I am self-publishing a book about young Theodore Roosevelt as a naturalist, and am interested in using your photo of the American redstart on the cover. Can you email me at lowmarg1@frontier.com with information about the cost? I am also a retired teacher, and my daughter is a photographer with a WordPress blog, cozywalls.

  12. Hi. We are contributing authors for the national magazine, American Surveyor, and, in our never-ending search for inspiration we came across your
    cowbird-chick-begging-1 photo. We would like your permission to use, and annotate, this image. A high def photo would help. What credits would you like? We will use it as a metaphor for surveyors who lay eggs in people’s backyards that hatch into neighborhood boundary disputes. Chad & Linda at ericksonlandsurveys@gmail.com

  13. beautiful photos! It brought joy to my heart to see someone appreciating the natural world in this way. I watch birds with my one year old son under our apple tree…so amazing to see him relating to them already at his tender age! I would love to use your singing song sparrow for a Facebook page for my singing group “Song Sparrow Circle”. Is that possible? What would you like in return? let me know! Ruth at

  14. Hey Sue – Love your pictures of Africa and your comments on them. I’m still working on mine. It was great to enjoy Africa with you and Steve. Did your bags make it back? Jerry

    • Yes, we retrieved the bags, and made it home with everything intact. I have finally downloaded my 4370 photos and organized them by date. Now the fun begins!

  15. Stumbled upon this blog while researching the type of nest my daycare provider had cut in half and has displayed outside of their entry door this Fall (it turned out to be a Bald-faced Hornet Nest – easily identified by the wonderful blog post you had about them). I’m a biology major myself and currently work as an Environmental Planner for a county government in Michigan. I love all things nature. I really enjoyed perusing this blog for a bit this morning. Thanks! I signed up to get your new posts. 🙂

    • thanks, Jacy. You are exactly the kind of audience I hope I will reach this blog. I hope you will continue to read, enjoy, and comment on the posts as they appear.

  16. Sue
    Would it be possible to use your image of a hummingbird on our native plant banner. We would credit you for the use. We would need a 300 dpi photo if that is possible.
    Thanks for considering this
    Moosa Creek Nursery

      • This is the one the girls were interested in. We are a native plant nursery and the arctostaphylos is perfect.


        [image: cid:44C0A658-11DF-4BAE-9692-10E7796FC334@sd.cox.net]

        *From:* Back Yard Biology [mailto:comment-reply@wordpress.com] *Sent:* Wednesday, December 10, 2014 4:49 PM *To:* hkraus@moosacreek.com *Subject:* [New comment] About

        Sue commented: “Thanks for your interest in my hummingbird photos. Which one did you want a copy of?”

        • Sorry, Hank, but which date of the blog does that photo come from? I can’t follow the link in your message.

          Is it the first photo on April 14, 2014?

  17. Sorry Sue. I am not very good at this software. I have a copy of a low res image but do not know how to attach it to this post. It is a annas hummingbird in a arctostaphylos. Can I send a copy of the image to you?

  18. Dear ladies

    I am writing to you to ask for permission to use one of your gorgeous pictures I happened to find online (when looking for images), of a duck followed by a train of young ducklings. I am an English teacher, working at an international school in Europe, trying to inspire my fellow teachers to work with Apple technology in the classroom. I would be using your picture in an iBook and in a Project Plan.
    I look forward to hearing from you.


  19. Dear Sue, I would like to contact you to obtain permission to use one of your Sable Antelope photo for an International Science Fair Expo report, presentation and exhibition board.

  20. I stumbled across your blog today…I am an osprey researcher, have been studying them here for 22 years , worked on the reintroduction, and am trying to monitor all known osprey nests in the metro area. I am very familiar with the nests you have photographed except the one on Ballfield lights in Maple grove. Could you tell me more about where that one is? You might also enjoy my Facebook page about my studies. https://www.facebook.com/Twin-Cities-Metro-Osprey-Watch-218968924786696/timeline/?ref=hl
    You can email me privately at osprey.mn@gmail.com
    Vanessa Greene

  21. Hello Sue!

    I have enjoyed looking at your pictures of trumpeter swans and other various waterfowl. I work on a National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota that provides crucial winter habitat for Trumpter Swans. I was wondering if I could take a couple minutes of your time to ask you some questions? Your insight and help is greatly appreciated.

  22. Dear Sue, I was wondering if I could gain your permission to use a couple of your Trumpeter Swan Photos? I’m making a brochure for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the toxicity of lead sinkers to feeding swans. You just have some awesome shots of swans feeding. I would be sure to include your name as the photo credit. You can e-mail me back any time at keatingjd@lopers.unk.edu. Thanks Sue! Your pictures are awesome.

  23. Dear Sue,
    I am a graphic designer living Upstate New York (my husband is a photographer from Minnesota!) and I’m working on multiple projects for Flying Deer Nature Center, our local wilderness school.
    I came across a beautiful chickadee photo of yours that I would love to get your permission to use in our 2016 calendar.
    If you are interested I will be happy to send you the layout, so you can see how it would appear (and, needless to say, you would get a photo credit!)
    Flying Deer is a not-for-profit and I donate all my hours, because I believe in their mission, which is to teach children and adults “nature literacy.”
    Thank you for your beautiful blog, I am happy to have stumbled upon it!

  24. Dear Sue:
    I am a biologist with the USDA currently working with the KDFWR and the Xerces Society to develop a pollinator habitat handbook and reference specific to KY. This publication would be freely available to the public, but is mostly a guidance document for USDA NRCS field staff (~125 pages draft currently). I was in need of some photographs of particular pollination and came across your picture of the ruby-throated hummingbird on a cardinal flower. I am asking permission to utilize this photo for educational and information purposes and inclusion in the KY Pollinator Handbook. I will be happy to provide you a copy of the publication upon completion later this spring. You will receive full credit for the use of the photo. Please provide me a specific credit citation. Feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns. Thanks in advance for your consideration

  25. Hi! I came across your blog while looking for pictures of chickadees stashing seeds. You have a lovely one in your “Safety in numbers” post. I work with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game and am working an educational kids magazine called Alaska’s Wild Wonders. This issue is all about adaptations. The magazine is distributed for free to schools across the state. Could I use this photo in the magazine?

    Thanks so much,

  26. Hi Sue,

    I work for an educational publisher and we’d like to use your image of Plum Creek. Could you please contact me at the email address I’ve provided to leave a comment? Thanks!

  27. Hello Sue,
    I am the director of a volunteer online English tutoring school that helps children who are kept out of school by poverty, war, or social pressures. We help Syrian refugee children, girls in Afghanistan, children in Nepal, etc., etc. Might we be able to use one of your photos of the ducks tipped up in the water (September 2015) for the online books we make for the children? On this blog page you can see the type of books we write to help the children not only learn English, but help to restore a sense of joy in their lives: http://mrschipsflips.blogspot.com/ Thank you so much for considering this request!

  28. Hi,
    I’m interested in contacting the owner of the red tailed hawk photo posted on your site. The caption says it was taken from Pentaxforums.com and belongs to gregory_51. Do you have any contact info?


  29. Hi. Could I link to your chipping sparrow/cowbird picture on my naturalist’s blog (allthebirdsofmylife.wordpress.com)? I’m writing an entry about this but I’m not a photographer; I also can’t find a creative commons licensed photo. Thanks for considering!

  30. Thank you Sue, great blog.
    I want to ask you about permission to use one of your woodpecker photos in my research paper and I will save your copyrights in your image.

  31. This year we have swarms of small light brown insects that are very active in the evening, hovering over the grass and flowers. I hope they are not baby mosquitos! Do you know what they might be?

    • Sorry, I don’t know what they could be. Mosquitoes are more of a brown-black color, rather than light brown. Whatever they are, they are probably very attractive to your local insect-eating birds, who always love a feast like that.

  32. Hi there!
    My name is Kara and I work at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in Minneapolis.
    I was researching squirrels eating Ohio buckeye for a display and came across your site. Your pictures are fabulous and I was wondering if I could use one for my project. It would be displayed at Eloise Butler and would certainly have your photo credits. Please write me back if this is or isn’t ok. Thank you!

  33. Hi I was hoping to use some of your photos of birds foraging for a display at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. Please let me know if that would be alright and if so, how you would like me to credit you!

  34. Pingback: A 2016 suggestion for some interesting photographic sites | From guestwriters

  35. Is there a way to contact you about using part of one of your photos on the cover of a poetry anthology i want to donate to our local Poetry Center? Non profit. Your work is WONDERFUL.

  36. Sue, as much as I have liked our blog, my life is too busy to be a regular subscriber and I have tried multiple times without success to unsubscribe. Can you do it for me? Thanks!

  37. Hi, I need help in identifying some water birds a friend took a photo of, is it possible to send yo a photo of them?

  38. Do you know of anybody in Lima , Peru who is working on increasing the Monach butterfly population and would like some milkweed seeds

  39. Hello, I would like to get in touch with you about the permission of using a Black-capped Chickadee leaving nest hole in a tree

    • Hi Sue,

      I’m writing a book and I was wondering if I can get permission to use one of your photos (the tree swallow BLUE bird photo). It would be for one page in which I write about spirituality and the human relations. Please let me know. Thank You.

  40. Sue, Your photos are wonderful! I’m preparing a video podcast for a non-profit nature organization and would like to use a few of your photos of birds eating juniper berries. Would that be possible? If so, how should the credit read? Other guides in the series are at audiblemountdiablo.com

  41. Hi Sue – I’m giving a public presentation on carnivores in winter (https://crowspath.org/programs/adult-programs/wild-burlington-lectures/) and was having trouble tracking down photos of sign from coyotes in estrus until I found your wonderful post (https://bybio.wordpress.com/tag/scent-marking-behavior/)! Any chance I could use one of the images in the presentation (I would of course link back and credit you in the presentation). Let me know. Thanks!

  42. Sue – If you want some great photos to go with how burning a prairie makes the following growing season beautiful, check our Long Lake Regional Park in New Brighton asap. It was burned this spring. Bare ground between plants shows it was a really good hot burn. Visually it is green, purple and orange now – skads of Butterfly Milkweed in bloom at same time and in patches with Leadplant is spectacular. Where? Just sw of junction of I-35W and Hwy 96 on Old Hwy 8. Parking lot adjacent to the prairie. Chase Davies

  43. Hello, may I use a photo as a background on my website? Specifically song-sparrow-7479.
    Thank you!

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