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Posts Tagged ‘Barred Owl’

Virginian Tiger Moth, Spilosoma virginica

Virginian Tiger Moth, Spilosoma virginica

After surgery this past summer, I watched videos about birds and read novels featuring birds and butterflies.  But soon I became bored and badly in need of a wildlife fix – something real and alive – and I wouldn’t be up to birding for a few weeks.  National Moth Week had been two weeks earlier and it gave me an idea.  I could leave the outside lights on and just step outside my back door with a camera.  I could stay out for three minutes or thirty and I could go out in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep.  Photos could be leisurely reviewed the next day and I could attempt to identify what I saw.  My plan worked perfectly with just one side effect; it fueled another time-sucking hobby.  I saw over 130 species of moths during the past three months and now I am seriously addicted to “moth-ing” in addition to birding.

Moths are just drab little brown and gray things – is that what you are thinking?  Well, take a look at this gorgeous thing, a Zebra Conchylodes.

Zebra Conchylodes

Zebra Conchylodes, Conchylodes ovulalis

This Tulip-Tree Beauty few into my family room where I photographed it, and then it flew back outside when I opened the door.  How cooperative!

Tulip-tree Beauty

Tulip-Tree Beauty, Epimecis hortaria

And could anything be more lovely than this delicate Pale Beauty?

Pale Beauty

Pale Beauty, Campaea perlata

I discovered an amazing diversity of size, color, shape, and behavior in moths. But my quiet time alone outdoors in the beautiful summer nights resulted in the discovery of much more than moths. Insects! There are thousands and I saw a lot of them. This Mayfly was a surprise that took me quite a while to identify. I was left feeling as I did after first seeing an Eastern Towhee in my yard. How could this amazing creature have been right here in my yard and I never noticed it before!

Mayfly

Mayfly, perhaps a Hexagenia limbata or Litobrancha recurvata.

Here’s another interesting insect, a Florida Predatory Stink Bug.  Yes, it’s a “good guy”, native and its prey consists of plant-damaging bugs, beetles, and caterpillars. I think that this is a 5th instar nymph.

Florida predatory stink bug

Florida predatory stink bug, Euthyrhynchus floridanus

Most of the insects that I saw this summer still need identification. If you recognize anything in my Flickr “Backyard Insects” set, please leave a comment here or on Flickr.

I learned that Barred Owls call nearly every night in late summer; not always their “Who cooks for you?” song, but frequently the gentle “hoo-ah” of owl conversation.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl photographed in my yard a few years ago. They breed in my neighborhood.

A couple of times I jumped when I heard something behind me and turned around to find as many as three raccoons on the deck rail.  When fall arrived, the raccoons stopped visiting.  Where they teaching the young ones where to get an easy meal of left-over bird seed?  They certainly enjoyed the “foot bath” on my deck.

Enjoying a drink

Raccoons visited my deck every night for a few weeks during the summer.

Neoscona crucifera

Neoscona crucifera, probably a female based upon its large size.

Recently I posted this photo of a large spider on Facebook with a request for an ID.  One person commented, “What a beauty!”  I felt a little ashamed that someone had to tell me that this was a beautiful living creature.  I’m vowing to be more open-minded and expand my notion of wildlife beauty beyond plants, birds, butterflies and moths.

Learning to appreciate diversity in nature is never-ending for me.  Every time that I open my eyes a little wider, I’m astounded by the beauty and wonder of life.

More moth photos can be seen in my Flickr set Moths of Forsyth County, NC

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Great Gray Owl

Great Gray Owl hunting in the Superior National Forest. Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

The Great Gray Owl was actively hunting in a bog in the Superior National Forest as we watched it from the side of Minnesota Highway 2 north of Two Harbors.  It sat in the tops of trees surveying the ground below in the early morning light.  Every couple of minutes the owl  flew to a different tree, always alert, but not seeming to care that we were watching.  The fifteen minutes that we stood there in the serene beauty of the north woods was a wonderful start to the five-day trip.  This owl was not in a known location, but Erik had found it simply by knowing the habitat and carefully watching.  The Great Gray Owl is the tallest North American owl with a height of 24 to 33 inches.  It has the largest wingspan of five feet, but it is just a big ball of fluff.  It preys mostly on rodents with its small feet and talons.  Both Great Horned and Snowy owls weigh half again as much and have larger feet and talons allowing them to capture lager prey.

Our group of birders

Our group of birders – Gary Ludi, Shelley Rutkin, Myrna Harris

Myrna Harris and I had flown to Minnesota the day before where we met our guide, Erik Bruhnke, and Gary Ludi from Atlanta, for the Partnership for International Birding trip.  On the first day, we birded a little in Minneapolis and then headed north where we saw the first owls of the trip, two Snowies at the Superior airport in Wisconsin.  We learned that it was definitely not an irruption year, but that owls were actually rather scarce.  Still, we could not stop ourselves from teasing Erik that we expected an owl every day.

After our Great Gray Owl flew deeper into the woods and out of sight, we continued north.  There were long stretches without any birds at all, but the ones that we did find were the northern specialties that had motivated us to travel to northern Minnesota in January when sane people were heading south.

Myrna - warming up in Isabella

Myrna – warming up in Isabella. The temp outside was -9 degrees F.

In Grand Marais, we found a flock of Red Crossbills and Common Redpolls with one Hoary Redpoll and one White-winged Crossbill.  Four finch species in one binocular view!  An even more exciting find was a flock of about 30 Bohemian Waxwings.

Bohemian Waxwings

Bohemian Waxwings. Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

They were close enough to see well with our naked eyes, but with bins and scopes we could see every feather. These are BIG birds! Bohemian Waxwings are only one inch longer than Cedar Waxwings, but they weigh almost twice as much (56 grams vs. 32 grams). Their breasts and bellies are gray rather than the gorgeous bronze of Cedar Waxwings, but their classic waxwing head and face, intricate markings on the wings, and Rufous undertail coverts make them just as beautiful.

Bohemian Waxwings

Bohemian Waxwings eating snow. Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

Day three of the trip was spent entirely in Sax Zim Bog.

Sax Zim Bog

Sax Zim Bog

I recorded only 21 species that day, but three of them were lifers.  Our owl for the day was an extremely cooperative Northern Hawk Owl who allowed us excellent looks.

Northern Hawk Owl.  Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

Northern Hawk Owl. Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

A common bird in the bog, but exciting for me was Ruffed Grouse – seven of them!  This grouse was close to becoming a nemesis bird, but I can now claim it as a lifer.  Most of them were adeptly clambering around in the tops of shrubs or trees, foraging on buds.  We also had a wonderful view of a Sharp-tailed Grouse.

Sharp-tailed Grouse.  Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

Sharp-tailed Grouse. Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

One of my favorite new birds is Pine Grosbeak – big, lovely, easy to identify, and very cooperative.

PineGrosbeak

Male PineGrosbeak. Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee – an adorable Minnesota specialty. Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

Next it was time to look for gulls.  But first we wanted one more look at a Snowy Owl, so we headed back to the Superior airport early on our fourth day.  This time we found a Snowy perched in the top of a tree.  This is not common behavior for a Snowy, but it allowed us to get the scope on it for a quality view.  Crows harassed the poor bird and we could see the Snowy hiss at them.

Snowy Owl.  Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

Snowy Owl being harassed by American Crows. Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

Satisfied, with our Owl encounter of the day, we headed to the Superior landfill and Wisconsin Point to look for gulls.  We found only Herring Gulls and fly-over Glaucous Gulls.  But back at Canal Park in Duluth, we walked to the water’s edge and discovered a beautiful Iceland Gull right in front of us.  This is the kind of gull that makes gull watching fun.  Erik also found a Thayer’s Gull, another lifer for Gary, Myrna, and me.

Iceland Gull.  Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

Iceland Gull. Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

We celebrated our life gulls with one last visit to Sax Zim Bog where we found Redpolls everywhere, including five Hoaries.  We also saw Pine Grosbeaks, two Northern Shrikes, and other bog birds including Bald Eagles, which we saw four of our five days in Minnesota.

Black-capped Chickadee and Hoary Redpoll

A Black-capped Chickadee checks out a Hoary Redpoll. Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

Common Redpolls

Common Redpolls were the most numerous feeder visitor. Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

Red Squirrel

Minnesota’s Red Squirrels were much cuter than our Gray Squirrels at home.

The last day of our trip came all too quickly, but we had seen most of the expected birds.  The Boreal Owl just wasn’t meant to be for this trip.  Ironically, they started showing up as soon as we returned home.  So, our main target for the drive back to Minneapolis was Rough-legged Hawk.  We finally found a distant dark morph Rough-legged Hawk at Crex Meadows in Wisconsin.  The distance was too great to see detailed field marks, but we could see the characteristic hovering behavior.  The Rough-legged Hawk is one of only two large raptors that hover regularly when hunting.  The other large raptor that hovers is the Osprey.  Although the bird was not close, it was exciting to see the special hunting behavior that makes it unique.  On that last day, our owl for the day was this beautiful Barred Owl.

Barred Owl.  Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

Barred Owl. Photo by Erik Bruhnke.

We boarded our plane for home with happy memories of winter in Minnesota and dreams of returning in the warmth of spring.  This trip was January 16-20, 2013.  Partnership for International Birding sponsored the trip and Erik Bruhnke of Naturally Avian was our guide.  Many thanks for Erik for a wonderful trip and for granting permission to use his beautiful photos in this post.

Erik and Shelley - trying to stay warm!

Erik and Shelley – trying to stay warm!

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