More snow birds

Nope. Still no pictures from an RV park in Florida or Arizona. These are more images from recent trips to northern Minnesota in search of avian winter residents – the Great Gray Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, and Rough-legged Hawk. Click on any image for a larger version.

Northern Hawk Owl 2273 WEB

Rough-legged Hawk 1 0895 WEB

Great Gray Owl 4 1449 WEB

Northern Hawk Owl 0182 WEB


New images to the website

Here are a few recent images added to the new website. As always, your comments and feedback are welcomed! Click on any image for a larger version.


Tamarack Gold 7349 copy


North Shore Rose WEB

LUNCHTIME – Wilson’s Snipe

Wilson's Snipe 9011 WEB


Lakeside trail from Windigo IR 2 WEB


Moose 18 WEB



Snow birds

Sorry to disappoint you if you were thinking this was a collection of flashy photos of Minnesotans seeking relief from winter weather in Arizona or Florida. Quite to the contrary, these snow birds – Great Grey Owl, Hawk Owl, and Rough-legged Hawk – are from farther north in Minnesota around the Eveleth area. Here are a few images from a recent trip with more to follow…click on any image for a larger version.

Great Gray Owl 3 0622 WEB

Northern Hawk Owl 2271 WEB

Rough-legged Hawk 2537 WEB

Great Gray Owl 6 2109 WEB

Northern Hawk Owl 2313 WEB

Rough-legged Hawk 2562 WEB



NEW website – FINALLY!!!

After too many months of promises, I FINALLY have a new website that will be accessible for all electronic mobile devices. My previous website used Adobe’s Flash player for the photo galleries and they would not display on iPhones and iPads but the new site will remedy that situation. As well, I have added new galleries for birds and wildlife along with new imagery in the landscape gallery. Here are a few of the forthcoming images – feel free to click on any image for a larger version.



red-headed woodpecker – the flag bird

I grew up seeing red-headed woodpeckers as a matter of course. Its loud “queeerp” call always beckoned a search for it. I even remember its nickname as the flag bird – red, white and deep navy blue. Over the last fifty years they have declined on an average of 2% per year – a cumulative decline of 70%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Their decline is due mostly in the past half-century to habitat loss and changes to its food supply. The following is from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology –

“Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 1.2 million, with 99% spending part of the year in the U.S., and 1% in Canada. The species rates a 13 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Red-headed Woodpecker is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. The species is also listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.”

As well, here are some “cool facts” from the Cornell Lab –

  • The striking Red-headed Woodpecker has earned a place in human culture. Cherokee Indians used the species as a war symbol, and it makes an appearance in Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha, telling how a grateful Hiawatha gave the bird its red head in thanks for its service.
  • Pleistocene-age fossils of Red-headed Woodpeckers—up to 2 million years old—have been unearthed in Florida, Virginia, and Illinois.
  • The Red-headed Woodpecker was the “spark bird” (the bird that starts a person’s interest in birds) of legendary ornithologist Alexander Wilson in the 1700s.

Red-headed woodpecker 1 WEB

Red-headed woodpecker 2 WEB

Red-headed woodpecker in flight 1 WEB

Red-headed woodpecker in flight 2 WEB


Timeless rite of spring – sandhill cranes

Last week I was south of the Twin Cities driving the backroads around Vermillion, MN. While the sightings were sparse I did get to hear and see a dozen or so Sandhill Cranes fly over and saw several in a field too far off for a decent photograph. But it reminded me of a trip years ago to the Platte River in Nebraska where the timeless spectacle of the Sandhill Crane migration takes place. What follows are photographs of mine but the text is an excerpt from http://www.nebraskaflyway.com

Each spring, something magical happens in the heart of the Great Plains. More than 80 percent of the world’s population of Sandhill Cranes converge on Nebraska’s Platte River valley—a critical sliver of threatened habitat in North America’s Central Flyway. Along with them come millions of migrating ducks and geese in the neighboring rainwater basins. The cranes come to rest and refuel for a month as they prepare for the arduous journey to vast breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska and Siberia. They arrive from far-flung wintering grounds in northern Mexico, Texas and New Mexico on an epic journey of thousands of miles.

For centuries they have come to rest and restore themselves. The shallow braided channels of Nebraska’s Platte River provide safe nighttime roost sites. Waste grain in crop fields provides food to build up depleted fat reserves needed for migration. Adjacent wet meadows provide critical nutrients and secluded loafing areas for rest, bathing and courting. During their stop in Nebraska, cranes gain nearly 10 percent of their body weight.

There is no question: The arrival of the cranes on the Platte River—and the millions of other migratory birds that visit each spring—is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the continent. NOTE: You can enlarge any image on the blog simply by clicking on the image.

Sandhill crane dawn 3 Platte WEB

Sandhill cranes WEB

Sandhill crane flying Platte WEB

Sandhill flying Platte WEB

Sandhills in flight 3 Platte WEB

Geese in flight 2 Platte WEB

Sandhill crane silhouette WEB

Cranes over Platte River WEB



While meandering south of Saint Paul last week, I came upon a merlin actively hunting a small roadside field. It tolerated my presence for about 20 minutes and then disappeared into a distant thicket of pine trees where I suspect it had a nest. I felt very fortunate to get any shots of the bird in flight given its fast and erratic flight. I learned recently that their name comes from the French word esmirillon meaning “lady hawk.” During the days of Medieval falconry all female falcons were referred to as “merlins.” Noblewomen, especially, used merlins to hunt skylarks.  NOTE: You can enlarge any image on the blog simply by clicking on the image.

Merlin 1 WEB


Merlin in flight 2 WEB


Merlin 2 WEB


Merlin in flight 1 WEB


Red-tailed hawk – three in one

On a recent morning dog walk through Como Park I was lucky enough to spot this Red-tailed hawk in a nearby tree. It allowed me to get fairly close and to take a series of shots against an overcast sky which provided an ideal background for combining three of the better shots into one. NOTE: You can enlarge any image on the blog simply by clicking on the image.

Hawk x 3 WEB


Flights of Fancy • Trumpeter swans on the Mississippi River

In this in-between time of late winter coming into spring, the landscape isn’t always so picturesque. So at some friends’ invitation, I went with them to Monticello to see the Trumpeter Swans that winter over there. The warm water that is discharged by the power plant keeps the river open and hundreds of waterfowl are easily seen from the banks of the Mississippi River. On a cold and very windy day, the ducks, geese and swans were very active and it made for a challenging diversion from the often slower-paced and methodical shooting of the landscape. NOTE: You can enlarge any image on the blog simply by clicking on the image.

Swans in flight 2 WEB copy

Swans in flight 1 WEB

Swans in flight 3 WEB

Swans in flight 4 WEB

Swan in flight 1 WEB


Record snowfall for February 2 in Minnesota

Before the last available light of the afternoon disappeared, I was able to make a quick trip down to Como Park during the peak of the record-breaking storm.  I spent more time trying to keep snow off the front of my lens than I did taking pictures. NOTE: You can enlarge any image on the blog simply by clicking on the image.

Feb storm 2 WEB copy

Feb storm 1 WEB copy

Feb storm 7 WEB copy


Sax-Zim Bog 2016 and Duluth Harbor

This winter’s trip failed to reveal any owls, unlike the past two winter trips where there were multiple sightings of Snowy, Great Grey and Hawk owls. But there was still a lot of sublime sightings amid the mostly overcast and snow-flurried skies. The last photograph is from Canal Park in Duluth’s harbor where a first-year Ivory Gull, a bird more at home on the arctic pack ice, has been drawing quite a bit of attention. NOTE: You can enlarge any image on the blog simply by clicking on the image.

Gray JayGrey Jay 1 WEB

Pine Grosbeak (male)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak WEB

Snowshoe HareSnowshoe Hare WEB

Pine Grosbeak (female)
Pine Grosebeak (F) WEB

PorcupinePorcupine WEB

Black-capped ChickadeesBlack-capped chickadees WEB

Evening GrosbeakEvening Grosbeak (M) WEB

Common RedpollRedpoll in flight WEB

Gray JayGrey Jay WEB

Ivory GullIvory Gull 3 WEB



Not-so-common visitors

The Pileated woodpecker and Red-bellied woodpecker are not-so-common visitors to my urban feeders in the city of St. Paul.  They are more common in wooded areas like those around the St. Croix River near Stillwater, Minnesota where these were photographed.

Pileated Woodpecker 1 Feb 2016 WEB


Red-bellied woodpecker WEB


birch detail

This is an image I introduced later in the 2015 season from the area of Fort Snelling State Park.

Birch Pano WEB


North Shore of Lake Superior

I had the opportunity to participate in the Grand Marais Art Fair in the middle of July and spent a couple of days meandering back home with a stop along the Gunflint Trail to view the prolific growth of lupine as well as a stop at Cascade River State Park.

Lupine NEW WEB


Cascade Falls WEB


a state of extremes

While I might still marvel at a scene such as this…

Como snow scene WEB


I am really ready to experience a scene such as this…

JTG pano WEB

Both scenes are from Como Park – click on either image to see it in a larger size.


2015 trip to Sax-Zim Bog

The most recent trip to Sax-Zim Bog in north central Minnesota provided two occasions to see the Great Grey Owl which had eluded us on the previous trips of the last two winters.  The other images are of birds we see infrequently around here save for the Black-capped Chickadee.  The birds in order of appearance are the Great Grey Owl, Pine Sisken, Black-capped Chickadee, Grey Jay, Purple Finches, and Common Redpoll.


Great Grey Owl WEB


Pine Siskin WEB


Black-capped Chickadee WEB


Grey Jay 2 WEB


Purple Finches WEB


Common Redpoll WEB