Posted by: mynaturaldiary | August 11, 2010

Leaving Home

It has been a quiet week in Lake Anna. Phyllis had Sarah, Andy and Stella, the dog, to stay together with old friends of the family, Rachael and her boys. They came all the way from England (imagine, the English in Otter Tail county!). Rachael’s husband said he was a ‘Twitcher’. Phyllis didn’t see him jerk much, so she figured he meant something else by that. They settled on ‘Birder’.

So that’s what a Twitcher was, better lend him the Audobon books. And so Phyllis watched them settle in for a weeks real treat, her house and especially for the ‘Birder’, American birds over the summer blue Minnesotan lakes and sky.

First, an exotic wonder for him, compared to his North Yorkshire home fare.

‘Imagine, hummingbirds this far north. Almost as unbelievable as Elvis putting carpet on the ceiling of the jungle room in Graceland.’

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Next, on the trip up from the Twin cities, a pair of beauties. Red tailed Hawks, in flight,

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

And ‘unbelievable’; Pelicans.

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

In the cooler evening air, on the balcony overlooking the fine view of Lake Anna, Cedar Waxwings made an appearance.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

And hunting over the Lake, Ospreys, with their characteristic ‘W’ shaped wing shape in flight.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

On the Lake, a summer wonder makes itself known with a haunting set of cries, the spirit of the wild North. Loons, the state bird on Minnesota.

Common Loon (Gavia immer)

Once heard, never, ever forgotten. These birds converted our Birder/Twitcher to a ‘Loonatic’. In Europe, they are called the Great Northern Diver, another example of difference in language between the USA and Britain meaning the same thing.

The next day, Black-capped Chickadees made an appearance.

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

‘It looks and sounds just like a Great Tit. But it isn’t, it’s a Black-capped Chickadee.’ Just goes to show, you can travel around the world, see exactly the same thing. Except it isn’t.

A trip to Itasca State Park, to see the Mississippi headwaters revealed in the air 3 Whimbrels

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)

and a Turkey Vulture.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

On the way North to Itasca, past tornado damaged Wadena, the climate subtly changes, and deciduous trees give way to conifers, as the great nothern boreal forest is reached.

Itasca State Park is a delight. The Mississipi headland waters were low, allowing a wary traveller to step across the river (!) and see the lake which feeds it.

By the path of the headwaters were Chipmunks.

Least chipmunk (Neotamias minimus)

In the woods were Downy Woodpeckers.

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

and also Red-eyed Vireos

Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus)

Loons were there, especially on Lake Ozawindib.

On the way back from the park, a Belted Kingfisher stood on the roadside.

Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon)

The next day, back at Lake Anna, another Woodpecker appeared, the Hairy Woodpecker.

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)

And high in the sky, a Bald Eagle (at last!).

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

This particular bird landed on a tree and in full view for 1/2 hr, before chasing after something at the waters edge.

Also on the lake were Double-crested Cormorants.

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

The next day was quieter, with only a Ring-billed Gull as a new bird.

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)

Perhaps the wildlife sensed the Tornadic storms coming, which broke across us that evening, leaving behind this magnificent cloud over Lake Anna.

The cloud showed Mammatus structure. Later an extremely violent lightning storm came from within this cloud, with a strike once every few seconds.

Fortuna smiled on us that night and there was no storm damage. The next day, the skies cleared and a trip to Phelps Mill beckoned. On the other side of the river from the mill was a wood, with a Red-breasted Nuthatch darting amongst them.

Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)

Later in the day, the visit continued to Fergus Falls. An Egretry sits on Lake Alice, frequented by Great White Egrets.

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

These are big birds!

Not so big, however were Franklin’s Gull.

Franklin’s Gull (Larus pipixcan)

This caused our birder a sense of deja vu, since they look very similar to Black Headed Gulls. But they aren’t…

Leaving Home is one of the great rights of passage; we all remember our own. So here’s some pictures of a Minnesotan pair of Barn Swallows, about to leave their nest and travel out into the world. Their parents fly around and call to the birds. But they don’t budge from the nest.

But what fear holds back, nature impels and they make their first flight (2 ft gap) to the window frame.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

They spent all day clinging to the frame. Next day, they were gone, off into the skies.

Alas, travel meant the good camera couldn’t follow our Birder/Twitcher, so most pictures above are stock images, courtesy of Wikipedia. The terrible ones are his alone, made on an iPhone!

More Soon!

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