Monday, May 31, 2010

Union Lake Outing

We tried an outing close to home late yesterday afternoon, heading just west of I-35 and south of Hwy 19 to Union Lake, a nice-size lake that has quite a few homes around it but in general remains fairly rustic in feel, with a lot of open country, both farmland and undeveloped land, around it.

Great Blue Herons were definitely the bird of the day. We saw a lot of white pelicans as well, but couldn't get close enough to get any decent photos. In the photo immediately below, two Great Blues perch on dead tree snags above the water. This was taken at considerable distance and cropped significantly, so the resolution isn't too great, but it was a nice opportunity to see two so close together.

Next, a heron in flight, also taken at quite a distance. Note how straight they align their legs and body for good flight aerodynamics. Herons tuck their necks back in flight, so if you see something that looks like this but its neck is sticking out as far in front as its legs are in back, it's probably a Sand Hill Crane.

Then we noticed a heron much closer to us, walking along a nearby dock.

Balancing on one leg...

We also saw some non-avian life forms, including this turtle by the side of the road...

...and this handsome and well-endowed horse, along with two others...

...and something like a woodchuck, which I didn't get a picture of.

But the highlight of the day for Dave was spotting one of his favorite birds, the Bobolink. We didn't capture a photo of this grassland-loving bird (grouped with the meadowlark and just before the blackbirds in the normal field-guide taxonomy), but the habitat shown below is just what it likes. It is a distinctive bird, the breeding male being black underneath and largely white above, with a pale yellow cap on its head. Its song is described as "a rolling, bubbling, jangling series of notes, given in flight."

Open grasslands are disappearing even faster than wetlands, especially with people now more sensitized to the issue of wetland preservation. While the Cornell Lab of Ornithology doesn't list the Bobolink as a bird whose conservation status is of grave concern, they do note that it is declining over much of its range, with earlier mowing of hay fields than in the past leading to loss of nests, and subject to being shot as an agricultural pest on its wintering grounds south of the equator.


Northfield Public Library said...

I live on the west side of Union Lake. Today I was out kyaking and saw 3 eagles on the north end, two mature and 1 juvenile! Pretty cool. There is also some really gross alge- turquoise globs that smell bad. I hope that goop doesn't hurt the wildlife around here.
Kathy Ness

Penelope said...

Nice, Kathy! I've heard bird-watching by boat is a nice way to go, but I haven't tried it yet.