Friday, October 29, 2010

Mallards on an October Day

I don't really have anything to say about this photo. I just liked the cluster of ducks on the plaza, and the way they were arranged as the female approached me, and the fine array of speckles on her breast and neck.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fall Day at Frontenac State Park

Yesterday we spent a wonderful day outdoors in Frontenac State Park, located along the Mississippi south of Red Wing. We'd arranged to meet fellow nature blogger Bruce Ause of Red Wing Nature Notes, a blog I admire and am inspired by. He was leading an interpretive hike in the park, which we joined, after which we'd planned to have Bruce show us other favorite spots in the park.

As always, click on any of the photos to see them much larger. It's definitely worth doing!

One of the many scenic overlooks from the park's bluffs

Cottonwood tree in prairie succession area

Woodlands on a perfect fall day

Oak branches against the sky

Bench and overlook where we stopped to eat our lunch

Goldenrod gone to seed

This is our new friend and guide on the hike, Bruce Ause, who in 1970 became the founding director of the Red Wing Environmental Learning Center. We felt lucky to benefit from the knowledge and experience he's gained from 30-plus years conducting outdoor education programs in the area and leading interpretive hikes like this one as a DNR volunteer.

In the uplands area of the park, we saw quite a few bluebirds, a ruby-crowned kinglet, a meadowlark, some dark-eyed juncos, a red-breasted nuthatch, several types of sparrows, plenty of chickadees, one or more yellow-rumped warblers (we had a nice view of the warblers in the treetops from our lunch bench at the top of a steep drop-off), a turkey vulture, and a sharp-shinned hawk (no eagles today, that we noticed -- they will be gathering more along the river as other fishing sources start to freeze over). We also saw three deer quite close to us as we walked through open, grassy areas.

Another view of the river and the Wisconsin-side bluffs, with puffs of smoke in the Old Frontenac area below, perhaps from leaf- or brush-burning

After finishing the uplands part of our our hike, Bruce suggested that Dave and I might enjoy heading down to river level to follow the trail that crosses Wells Creek out to Sand Point -- so we did. Down here the trees were far bigger and older than most we had seen up above. There was a definite "forest primeval" sense to the place.

A lengthy boardwalk traverses some of the wetter areas along this .7-mile trail. It appeared that at least part of the boardwalk had been underwater during the recent flooding. Here, a tree had fallen across the boardwalk, knocking one section down. There was a fetid, swampy smell to these wetter areas.

Wells Creek, seen from trail bridge

The trail ended at the edge of the water, where usually there is a good area of mudflats attractive to shorebirds. Right now it is all underwater, and all we saw were gulls, grackles and (more excitingly) two belted kingfishers.

Thanks, Bruce, for a marvelous outing. We couldn't have picked a better day for it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day - Water!

Blog Action Day is an annual event, held every October 15, that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action. This year's topic is water.

We in Minnesota and the Great Lakes/Upper Midwest region are among the earth's fortunate when it comes to water -- in most cases we have abundant sources of fresh water and reliable water treatment and distribution services. That's not the case everywhere, as I'm sure you know.

According to
  • Every 20 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease.
  • 890 million people lack access to safe water.
  • 2.5 billion people don’t have a toilet.
  • The majority of the world’s illness is caused by fecal matter.
  • More people on earth have cell phones than toilets
And think about this:
  • In just one day, more than 200 million hours of women’s time is consumed for the most basic of human needs — collecting water for domestic use.
  • This lost productivity is greater than the combined number of hours worked in a week by employees at Wal*Mart, United Parcel Service, McDonald’s, IBM, Target, and Kroger, according to Gary White, co-founder of envisions the day when everyone in the world can take a safe drink of water. It is easy to take for granted ready access to a safe supply of drinking water. Yet nearly one billion people lack this most basic commodity. Creating accessible, safe water supplies in developing countries liberates people to live healthier, fuller, more productive lives.

Petitions by|Start a Petition »

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October Afternoon

We took a drive west and northwest of Northfield this afternoon to admire the autumn colors and to see what was out and about in the bird world in southern Minnesota.

We stopped at two or three lakes (the best was the one on the north side of Hwy 19 just after the first roundabout west of Lonsdale) that had good populations of birds, seeing probably hundreds of Canada geese, dozens of Mallards and Coots, at least a dozen Pied-billed Grebes, a pair of swans with four large gray cygnets, five shorebirds (probably two Lesser and one Greater Yellowlegs, plus two Killdeer), a huge flock of gulls in the air, a few Red-winged Blackbirds, a handful of Ruddy Ducks, a handsome Redhead, a couple of Ring-necked Ducks, some Northern Shovelers, and a Great Blue Heron that slowly circled its lake, trying to land without success on several treetops and then returning to the treetop from which it had started. Of all of these, I only captured the heron in a presentable photo. But the fall leaves presented easier subjects for photography.

Click on any of the photos to see them larger.

Autumn color at Union Lake, where the only birds we saw were three gulls

Great Blue Heron on a treetop overlooking a lake in New Market (photo taken through the spotting scope)

This wildflower is a bit puzzling. The flower head certainly looks like a type of clover, and it does have trefoil leaves (arranged in groups of three) as clovers do, but these somewhat elongated, hairy leaves don't look like those of a typical clover. Still, I assume it belongs somewhere in the clover family.
(Click on the photo to see the fine hairs on the leaves and stem.)

Virginia creeper on a tree trunk, backed by yellow maple leaves

Hilly rural road

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tiny Moth

A few days ago this tiny moth was resting on the external door jamb at my office. Its wingspan couldn't have been more than about an inch. I have browsed through my Butterflies and Moths Golden Guide, but haven't made even a tentative identification. Does it look familiar to anyone out there?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

First Junco

Dave noticed our first Dark-eyed Junco of the season foraging on the ground in front of the house this afternoon. October is peak migration month for juncos moving through Minnesota, according to Robert Janssen's Birds in Minnesota, though the migration period extends from August into December. Juncos will be with us here in southern Minnesota until the spring, when they return to more northerly climes.