And the melting continues during a weekend heat wave of 50 F. Ring-billed Gulls hitched a ride on an ice chunk as it floated down the river toward Coon Rapids dam.
Their ride had to end, though, as their ice berg approached the dam spillway.
It’s officially spring, and with the change in seasons comes a change in the state of water — from solid to liquid form.
But open water in this frozen northland is a signal to the wildlife that another winter has passed, and it’s time to get on with the rituals of spring time: namely singing up a storm, strutting the feather finery for the ladies, and getting started with the production of the next generation.
I remember sitting in the dark before dawn near some feeders in southeastern Arizona two years ago, just to catch a glimpse of a rare visitor to the area, the Streak-backed Oriole. After 3 hours we did catch just a brief glimpse of “the bird” (there was only one). Now two years later, I find they are common in this part of Mexico, and seem to like to enrich their fruit diet with a few flowers (perhaps containing nectar) plucked from various vegetation.
Like most Orioles, males of the Streak-backed variety are the most colorful, with females being considerably duller and less orange. However, the species ranges from northern Mexico (occasionally venturing into southern Arizona) where the two sexes are completely different in color, through most of Central America, where the two sexes become more and more similar in coloration going south.
Why would there be such a difference between coloration of females from the northern vs southern extent of their range?
Apparently, Streak-backed Orioles maintain permanent territories year-round in the southern part of their range, where the bright coloration of the females helps territory defense. In more northerly areas, the orioles maintain only a breeding territory, and may undergo short migrations away during the non-breeding season!
The Monte Coxala resort where we are housed for our pickleball camp has some beautiful gardens, and where there are flowers, there are usually birds. And this area has some brilliant red birds, in particular.
House Finches though quite beautiful here, are eclipsed by the numerous Vermillion Flycatchers that frequent the gardens.
A brief respite from this…
to revel in this…
That was the North Shore of Lake Superior this weekend. So much wind they closed the lifts at Lutsen mountain, and the outer doors of our motel blew right off their track.
Wind and cold temperatures make for a stark landscape. It’s more attractive with some people in it — cold hikers!
Just being out in this environment for a couple of hours at a time makes me marvel at the abilities of animals to survive in it.
Because it’s not cold or snowy enough in the Twin Cities (hah!), we drove north for a weekend of skiing in a blizzard in the hills above the north shore of Lake Superior.
But then the blizzard began, and conditions were so much worse for outdoor activity. I tried to photograph the lake shore, walking through hip-deep snow drifts, against high velocity winds. Ugh, how do people live here in the winter?
You can only blog about our white on white environment here in Minnesota for so long before it becomes quite boring. Let me just say that I think my husband and I moved over a ton (literally, I calculated the weight of the cubic feet of snow removed at 2400 lbs) of the white stuff from walks and deck after the 10+ inch dump on Wednesday. That was NOT the frivolous fun; playing with some recent photos using SnapSeed photo software was.
I started with a forest trail I photographed in Oakland, CA, and added some of the critters I have photographed in the backyard here in MN.
Judicious cropping, removing ugly skinny tree from dead center of the photo, lightening and warming up the image, and then adding a few forest friends, and voilà, a more pleasing (I hope) image to look at.
of course it’s fake, but just frivolous fun with fotos…
If you google that question, you’ll find that gray squirrels can jump at least 4 feet straight up in the air, and at least 9 feet horizontally. I’ve had a peanut feeder hanging in the buckeye tree about 7 feet from the trunk of the tree all winter, and just today a gray squirrel finally figured out how to get to the feeder. (Shot through the window looking into the afternoon sun with a terrible reflection.)
The momentum of the landing creates a violent swing in the feeder, which can dislodge the squirrel that might be just hanging on with its toes.
After several failed attempts involving collisions with the plastic dome over the feeder,
the squirrel successfully launched itself from just the right height on the tree trunk, with just the right trajectory arc, to land most of its body on the side of the feeder.
Athletic and smart, that’s the gray squirrel key to success.
Setting my camera up at the window opposite the bird feeder and shooting at its fastest rate (10 frames per second) allowed me to capture birds in motion flying to and from the feeder. The House Finches were leisurely about their arrivals and departures, so combining images using SnapSeed photo development software nicely illustrated the flight mechanics involved in a landing in one male House Finch.
White-breasted Nuthatches are not only bigger birds (thus taking up more space in my camera’s limited field of view), but came in much faster and departed much more quickly than the finches.
But those little Chickadees are really tough to capture. They flew in quickly, grabbed a seed or a peanut and departed just as quickly. I rarely got more than one image of the same bird on approach to the feeder, which meant they were entering the camera’s field of view in less than 0.1 second.
I guess if you’re little and vulnerable, you need to be quick. And Chickadees definitely are that, quicker than my eye can follow.