So today’s winner for the photography challenge were the two sparrows that I managed to get a picture of two weeks ago on an afternoon walk.
Unfortunately, I can’t really tell which type of sparrow these two are. I know that there are several different types that call Stillwater home during spring to fall months, but I’ve never really been good at telling them apart.
It is even more difficult to tell them apart when you’re looking at their back ends (as the most distinguished marking are usually on the front & head). I do know that the sparrows like to sit and fly through the tall grasses and bushes along the edge of the lake, so hopefully this summer I will be able to get some other pictures and maybe even determine which sparrow species I’ve been photographing lately.
The winner of today’s photography challenge is our national
emblem—the Bald Eagle. Truthfully, it wasn’t until I got home and put the
pictures on the computer that I realized that I managed to get a fairly decent
picture of one in flight.
I’m not a stranger to photographing Bald Eagles, when we would go up to northern Minnesota and stay at the family cabin, we’d usually see a Bald Eagle or two perched on the top of some of the trees.
While the eagle is in the raptor family, it is actually an
opportunistic predator. It will hunt, though it does by either watching from a
high perch and then swooping in to catch the prey unexpected or by cruising low
over the water or land. It is known to be a scavenger feeding on dead carrion.
It will also harass other fishing birds (such as Ospreys) and steal their food
They usually have one or two young a year, though if it is a
scarce year in terms of hunting only one of the young may actually survive (the
strongest one to get to the food dropped in the nest). It is usually four or
five years before the eagles will mate, and they may mate for life. They may
also reuse the same nest, adding to it each year making it bigger and bigger.
It isn’t unheard of Great Horned Owls stealing the nest of Bald Eagles.
What are some other cool facts about Bald Eagles?
It was almost beaten by the wild turkey for choice of the
national emblem (that was the bird that Ben Franklin wanted chosen).
They have been observed to “play” with plastic bottles or
other objects (such as sticks).
The largest nest on record is in St. Petersburg Florida and
was measured to be 2.9 meters in diameter (or 9.5 feet) and 6.1 meters (or 20
The young bald eagles (under the age of five) spend the time
in nomadic exploration, and fly hundreds of miles.
They can have long life spans—the oldest recorded bird was
~38 years old. It had been hit and killed by a car in New York in 2015; it had
also been banded in New York—but in 1977.
As much as I would love to try to get a picture of their nest–I know that they’re probably not nesting around Boomer Lake, and therefore I won’t be trekking in to see if I can spot the young being fed. Now if I was up at Lake Vermilion–that would be another story (though I’d have to be extremely careful not to drop my camera into the lake).
So today’s post is going to be on the short side–mainly due to the fact that it is a Monday, and it took me a little longer than I thought it would in choosing today’s picture series.
So on my walk yesterday I managed to get several pictures of this heron fishing for it’s lunch. I really liked the result of this picture, where you see the water actually splashing up as it goes under water to grab it’s meal. This was after it had already caught and eaten one fish.
So I was able to quickly snap a picture of the heron coming up with the fish caught in its beak.
Then I managed to snap the picture of it swallowing the fish–though it popped it in quicker than I could get the picture–but you can see it’s throat slightly bulging from where the fish is sliding down to it’s stomach.
By the time I got around to the other side, to where I could try to observe without scaring it off, that is when I managed to get the picture at the top. I was a little too far off to notice if it actually had caught the fish or not (and if it did–it quickly swallowed it).
Hopefully over the course of the summer, I may actually be able to get a photo series of it fishing from start to finish.
So on my walk today around Boomer Lake, I noticed that it isn’t just the geese that have already hatched a brood this year–there is a small number of baby mallards on the lake now as well.
I came across this family starting to swim out into the lake, shortly after seeing a great blue heron catch it’s morning snack.
So some facts about how mallards nest and raise their young:
Usually the female will form a shallow depression/hole in moist areas (that are usually close to the water), and as she is doing that she is pulling vegetation towards her. So in other words—she makes a nest in a area that provides ample protection and material to line her nest.
She will lay anywhere from five to fifteen eggs (with the average being seven to ten), and the incubation time is anywhere from twenty-three to thirty days (so basically three to four weeks). The young are able to leave the nest within a day after hatching. They stay with their parents (mainly the mother), and are able to fly within fifty-two to sixty days after hatching. Mallards usually have just one brood a year (as it is basically three months from egg laying to the time the ducklings are able to fly), though if they have the first one early enough in the year—they might have a second one mid to late summer.
Today’s winner for the photography challenge is the
Baltimore oriole that has decided to nest around Boomer Lake. These birds are
yet another indication that spring is fully here and that summer is right
around the corner.
I noticed several brightly colored birds flying around a
tree and managed to stand still long enough that I manage to get a couple of
decent pictures. One was definitely a mature male Baltimore oriole and the
other was either a female or a younger male (as it was a lighter orange color).
The Baltimore oriole can be found east of the Rocky
Mountains (and part of that range is actually their migratory paths for heading
north). They winter down in Mexico, Florida, Central America, and the
Their diet consists of insects, berries and nectar. In terms
of the insects, they eat caterpillars (even the hairy ones that other birds
avoid), beetles, grasshoppers, wasps and spiders.
What are some other cool facts about Baltimore orioles?
They prefer only ripe, dark-colored fruits (mulberries,
cherries, purple grapes) and will ignore other ripe fruit that aren’t as dark
in color. They will also take sugar water as well.
The only thing New World and Old World orioles have in common is that they are brightly colored, have long tails and long bills, and build woven hanging nests. Old World orioles are in the family Oriolidae, while the orioles found in America are in the family Icteridae.
They raise three to six young a year (usually about four to
five), and the female will incubate the eggs for about two weeks, and then
after hatching both parents will feed the young. The young will usually leave
the nest about two weeks after hatching.
In terms of how the Baltimore oriole will adapt to the
continuing changes in temperatures is something that is still being studied—it may
gain ground in terms of summer/breeding territory, but it could lose it’s
winter grounds potentially in the southern US (namely Florida). As most of its
winter grounds are in the tropics—more data will be needed to see how they
So the winners of today’s photography drawing were two scissor-tailed flycatchers I spotted on my weekend walk around Boomer Lake. This is one place in town where you can almost be guaranteed to see at least one scissor-tailed flycatcher (depending on the time of day).
So there were two male scissor-tailed flycatchers trying to stake out some territory around one sheltered area (numerous small bushes) at the lake.
Both were sitting proudly on the branches of various bushes that were just starting to leaf out.
But then they decided that the area may not be big enough for both of them, and they started fluttering around (I’m assuming to try to establish dominance in the area), and this was the best picture I could get of them both in flight–of course flying away from me at that point.
It will be interesting to try to keep count of how many I see on any given weekend (even though I know that I may or may not be counting the same bird several times) as we get into the summer months. I know that on Saturday I saw at least four, and then I saw two on Sunday–which means that there are at least four scissor-tailed flycatchers up at Boomer Lake right now.
Today’s photos are brought to you by the family of Canada geese I saw walking this morning.
So this year there are quite a few geese pairs that are raising their first brood of the year.
This pair has hatched four for the first round of young this year.
They actually managed to slow the little bit of traffic down this morning as they were playing in the street, before deciding to go graze in the grass.
I love how cute and fuzzy the young gosling look, though I was smart and stayed a good distance away from them. I don’t need to tangle with overprotective geese parents–they’re technically mean enough as it is without them thinking I’m a threat. Though since they’ve already started having broods–my early morning walks may be curtailed due to just the normal number of geese at the lake.
Though I can always take the morning walk and try to see how many different song birds I can find (instead of looking for different waterfowl). Decisions, decisions, decisions—we’ll have to see how the summer goes.
Today’s photograph is brought to you by the migrating
white-crowned sparrow. This sparrow actually spends the winter months in the
southern part of the United States (and Mexico) before heading back to the
northern parts of the US and Canada.
The diet of these sparrows is mainly seeds, though they will
eat insects as well. During the summer months is when they will eat insects and
spiders (as that is what they feed the young). Though they will also feed on
berries and small fruits as well during the spring, summer, and fall months.
Winter is mainly feeding on seeds of weeds and grasses, though they will grace
bird feeders as well during this time.
Depending on the part of the country that they are breeding
in the birds may have one to three broods per year (more the further south they
are). The female will sit on the eggs for about two weeks, and then once the
young hatch both parents will feed the young. The young will usually leave the
nest within a week to a week and a half after hatching.
Some other cool facts about the white-crowned sparrow
Young male sparrows learn the basis of the mating call
during their first few months by listening to the songs being sung in their immediate
Migrating sparrows can cover a large distance in a short time period. Sparrows that breed in Alaska will then fly approximately 2600 miles south to winter in southern California.
They will share territories with fox sparrows but will chase
out chipping sparrows and dark-eyed juncos.
The loud singing is usually the males, and the quieter and
more variable singing is the females (which may only be during breeding season
or looking for food in the winter).
These sparrows actually have song dialects, as they tend to
return closely to the area that they were raised.
The winner of today’s photography challenge is the turkey vulture. While I was on my walk this weekend, there were quite a few that were soaring overhead and I actually managed to get a couple of decent pictures of at least two of them.
Since turkey vultures are scavengers, they can be seen
soaring overhead in the suburbs, out in the country over farm fields and even
around different areas such as landfills, construction site and even trash
heaps. They’re early risers, they will roost together in large numbers on
telephone poles, towers, fence posts, and dead trees. I might have to try
taking a walk near dusk and see if I can spot any roosting around the
neighborhood (as we live close enough to some farm land) in the evenings.
One weird fact for the turkey vulture—it can be found in part of the state (Oklahoma) year-round, and then other part of the state only during the spring-fall months (basically the breeding season). We’re in the part of the state that only sees them from spring to fall.
Another interesting little fact—they try to ensure that their
nests are isolated and away from any potential human contact. They will nest in
caves, abandoned bird nests (namely hawks and herons), and even abandoned
buildings. They also only have partial nests (they never actually finish
building the nest).
While they currently aren’t listed as an endangered species
they do face some threats from humans that impact their numbers. At times they
do fall victim to lead poisoning (due to eating carcasses of animals that were
shot by hunters but got away from the hunters), also victim to poisoning (if
they eat the carcass of an animal that had been poisoned by humans). Also they
have been trapped and killed due to the misconception that they spread disease
by eating rotting meat.