Thursday, April 30, 2009

osprey web cam

I have been out and about on lakes in the last two weeks, which has been kind of fun despite the fickle weather. Yesterday we didn't get much for fish in our nets (we're doing a survey for muskellunge, the barracuda of the north) but I did see lots of birds, including bufflehead, goldeneye and bluebill (scaup) ducks, loons, broad winged and sharp shinned hawks, and the first yellow rumped warblers and ruby crowned kinglets of the spring for me. And osprey. We saw two of them, and they seemed to be following us for a while, maybe looking for a dead fish or two.

It later dawned on me that I had seen an osprey nest platform at a farm not too far from the lake we were on, and I recalled seeing a sign that said they had a Web cam on the nest. So when I got back to the office I Googled it and found this site: (For some reason the video only shows up on Internet Explorer; not so good for a Firefox fan like me)

I believe this is the same osprey pair we saw. The female is sitting on the nest and they have three eggs! I'm going to be following this site; thanks to the Schjeldahls of Windemere Township for providing a nest site and sharing the results with everyone!

Monday, April 20, 2009

pond dog

"Please take me to the pond? Oh will you please? I love the pond! Oh please?"

That is how I have been greeted the last few afternoons. Sally is relentless. So I even caved in today, when it was about 40 degrees and windy. That's how dogs are.
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

northern prairie skink

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We have a new addition to the list of Wildlife Known To Inhabit Sand Creek. Which is always good. Hooray for biodiversity!

Starflower and Mr. Attitude found this little lizard hanging out by the pond yesterday. The photo is larger than life; the red jasper stone in the upper right hand corner is about an inch long. I don't know how they managed to find something that small! But then again, these kids are no strangers to critters of all shapes and sizes around here. They thought it was a cross between a snake and a salamander at first.

I did not even think we had any lizard species around here. The northern prairie skink is one of the only, if not THE only, lizards found in Minnesota, and I think we're at the northern extreme of its range. But to see such a little one suggests that there are more, and they are reproducing.

Once again, the photo credit goes to Starflower. I have pretty much relinquished my Canon Powershot A520 to her, while I'm using the Kodak EasyShare Z740 more lately.

Friday, April 17, 2009

treasure found

Wow. This is the BIGGEST agate I have ever found!

This morning at work I had an unexpected errand across the river to our fish rearing ponds. We had some major work done there last fall, re-routing the drainage and stuff, so there was a lot of loose gravel and rock there, either recently placed or dug up from the work. I don't know. Anyway, as I was surveying the new layout I glanced at the ground and saw a stone that demanded picking up. I have been walking gravel roads for over thirty years now, and I know a Lake Superior agate when I see one!

This one is incredible. It has nice fine lines, and viewed from the end the lines form a heart shape. It is about four times the size of most of the agates I have picked up over the years.

For a rockhound like me, this is SWEET!

P.S. I hate to have the frog chorus as an afterthought ever, but tonight the sound is beautiful here. Peepers, wood frogs and Western chorus frogs.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

budding out

I have this wonderful place to stop and watch the Kettle River while I'm waiting for Calvin's baseball practice to be over. The school is just up the hill, but this land is all part of Banning State Park. Lovely. This willow was in a spring mood yesterday. We've had highs in the 60's and sunny weather all week. I have to remind myself that I'm not too busy to enjoy it, and the enjoyment is free.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

play ball!

(look at beyond the outfield. Nothing but woods! I love it!)

Calvin had his first baseball game yesterday. Although he is in sixth grade, the school is hard up for ball players so he is playing with seventh and eighth graders on a combined middle school team. That did not bode well for their first matchup; the opponents' team consisted of mostly eighth graders, or beyond. Calvin's team is about 50 percent sixth graders, most of whom have not played organized ball more than one season.

I won't dwell on the final score, and neither did the coaches. Calvin did get the first (of two) runs for his team, on a walk and stolen bases. He is third in the starting pitching rotation, so expect to hear a pitching scouting report next week!

The red winged blackbirds were reluctant to give up the field to human activities.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

the long awaited day

With a string of sunny days with temperatures in the 50's, the ice is finally losing its grip on lakes. I've been watching the ice on the pond darken and pull away from shore further each day. Yesterday there was finally enough open water for a very excited Labrador to do what she enjoys best.

Sally was wondering why Mr. Attitude and I were standing on shore. Cold? What cold?

She was shivering just a bit as she did the shakeoff.

I came across something unusual a few feet from the water:

These remains were once a fairly good sized black crappie. From time to time a few odd bluegills have ended up in the pond, never to be seen again. I vaguely recall helping a few very small crappies find their way to this body of water at least two years ago, but I never saw any sign of them. Until now. I'm guessing this one succumbed to low oxygen levels, and floated up on shore when the ice receded. Some lucky critter made a meal of it.

It's another beautiful day here. I hope you enjoy your day!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Killdeer conference

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While I was waiting at the school parking lot to pick up Calvin from baseball practice (An activity I am getting used to this week), I heard a commotion by the side of the road, near one of those nice mitigation ponds they dug when they developed the school site. I looked and saw this group of three killdeers. What could they be discussing?

It has been a busy week, with baseball practice, parent teacher conferences, and of course Twins games to watch. I have been running whenever I get a chance, but not two days in a row yet. Tonight was the best run in a long time; I heard the first frogs of the season! 1.2 miles, running hard a lot of the way.

Tonight we have clear skies and a full moon will be rising shortly. The woodcock will be displaying, and the ruffed grouse will be drumming all night. This is the real spring moon.

The kids have tomorrow off of school; I'm not so lucky.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

are we fans?

Ummm. yeah. Rabid fans at that.

Although the boys were actively celebrating, notice Starflower, lower left corner. She had had enough by close to 10 PM.

The Twins pulled off a ninth inning, two out victory over the Mariners tonight. Way to go Casilla!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

dueling woodpeckers

We were at my uncle's lake home today for an early Easter family get together. After the meal, as we were all sitting around in a post-meal stupor, the kids excitedly told me there was a huge woodpecker at the feeder. I grabbed the camera, and I was so excited to get a shot of a pileated woodpecker I didn't even notice the downy in the photo! I rounded out the day by seeing hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers. And some first-of-year great blue herons, common mergansers, and oh yes, the trumpeter swans. Great birding day!
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New bird at Sand Creek

This morning as I was walking to the house from the cabin after checking my seedlings, I heard a strange honking sound coming from out by the road. It wasn't Canada geese, it wasn't even our obnoxious gray geese. Was something wrong with one of the neighbor's cows?

I looked down the driveway just in time to see two enormous white birds flying low, their raucous bugle calls filling the air. Trumpeter swans! WOW!

Trumpeter swans have made a comeback in Minnesota during my lifetime, thanks to the efforts of the Department of Natural Resources and Hennepin County Parks. They are still relatively rare but their numbers are increasing and it's not unusual to see breeding pairs in small lakes around here. With luck I'll find a breeding pair this summer to document for the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


The night before last, Mr. Attitude lost the second of his top front teeth. His toothless smile is adorable, and I'm glad this all happened well before sweet corn eatin' season. Still I can't help but think, this is the last of my children to lose his baby front teeth.

Today Calvin starts baseball practice. He will be playing for a combined-grade middle school team. I think he will be one of the more prepared sixth graders there; in the last few days he has described details of the batting stances of all of baseball's top hitters, and ever since it has been warm enough to go outside he has been practicing pitching and fielding. Still I can't help but think, my oldest kid is now playing on a sports team for his school!

And I can't forget Starflower. Today I took her to the doctor with her 100th case of strep throat. Okay, maybe I exaggerate a bit, but it seems she comes down with strep pretty often!