Happy New Year - Something a little different from me - Christmas lights at the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky (near Cincinnati, OH) last week. There were many displays and I liked the reflections in the ponds and waterfalls. We visited both the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. In addition to the indoor museums there were Christmas light displays outside at both attractions, and in the summertime I'm sure that the gardens are quite lovely. The photos were taken with the camera on a tripod and are time exposures of several seconds.
(Click images to see larger)
- Animals/Birds of the Badlands, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks 2016
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- Animals of Yellowstone 2011
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We have driven by this tree many times in previous years but never taken the time to stop and enjoy it. The tree, a few miles south of Faribault, MN, has been decorated for several years by Jerry Lageson and has something like 45,000+ lights on it. Most people go whizzing by at 70+ MPH on Interstate 35 and get a fleeting glimpse. There is not an easy exit to get to the side road and requires a few miles south on I-35, then a few more miles back north on county roads, across the interstate, them back south again to get to the tree. This was a perfect early December night right after a new fallen snow. Here is a news feature (after the commercial) from KARE 11 TV.
I call them Winter birds, because Pine Siskins usually spend their summers much farther north, and occasionally show up in our backyard for part of the Winter. Yesterday I counted 53, but I'm sure that number was low, because there were many in the trees and bushes that I didn't count (it helps to have lots of feeders out).They are about the size of a Goldfinch, with a very streaked breast and pointed bill. They eat copious amounts of thistle seed and black-oil sunflower seeds and don't seem to care if they go up the feeder or down the feeder, as long as they get to the seed.
I was notified today that I won two awards in the Voyageurs National Park Association 2018 Photo Contest. Third place for a Common Loon photo and Honorable Mention for a photo of the Milky Way over the Ash River. My two photos are below. You can see all of the winners on the Voyageurs National Park Facebook page.
I also see that the Voyageurs National Park Association used my Milky Way photo as their cover photo on Facebook.
I had an opportunity to photograph the resident education birds at the Iowa Raptor Project near Solon, IA and Lake MacBride State Park. Each bird has a unique story of how it was injured and can't be returned to the wild. They are now education birds open to the public to view the birds and learn about raptors. This is a joint project of Kirkwood Community College and The University of Iowa Recreational Services. [Click the images to see larger and read the descriptions.]
I'm still finding lots of Monarch butterflies - hundreds in this prairie area near Galena, Illinois. I really enjoy taking photos of butterflies and prairie flowers and spider webs with morning dew among the prairie flowers. [Click an image to see larger.]
A molting male Cardinal wrestling with a very large Emperor Moth caterpillar hanging from a branch. The caterpillar put up a good fight, swinging back and forth and curling up in a ball to get away from the Cardinal, but after about 15 minutes it finally got knocked to the ground where the male and female Cardinal promptly pounced on it.
[4 photos and a video- click to see larger.]
Watch the short video:
I got a little carried away with fireworks photos from the first night of the PGI (Pyrotechnics Guild International) convention fireworks show in Mason City at the North Iowa Events Center. Several of the photos are multiple exposures in the camera to stack the explosions on a single image. Click to see lots of photos here -
I went paddling at the Venture Marsh and saw many birds including four new birds to me - a Marsh Wren, Least Bittern, Black Tern, and Common Moorhen. In addition there were the regulars - Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons and American White Pelicans, among others. Paddling the solo canoe is always a great way to photograph birds. [Click images to see larger.]
We often have House Wrens nesting in various places in our yard. This year we had a nest in a birdhouse in the front yard next to the driveway, so it was easy to watch the adults building the nest, bringing insects to the nest to feed the chicks and then to watch three House Wren chicks ready to take their first flight yesterday evening. This morning they had left the nest box.
An interesting 'Birds of Prey' - raptors show at the North Iowa Fair with Jonathan and Susan Wood from the Raptor Project (not to be confused with the Iowa Raptor Project). They had some great birds as a part of their show and told some interesting stories about the birds. You can see the names of the the birds if you click the images to view larger.
A Dickcissel singing among the prairie flowers. Or perhaps I should say a Dickcissel on a thistle (try to say that five times really fast). They often look like a small Meadowlark (different beak) or a female House Sparrow. They are found singing in the summer along fields, meadows and prairies. While looking for prairie flowers, Dickcissels and other birds (and feeding mosquitoes) a rainbow dropped down from the sky. A nice addition to a beautiful summer day. [Click images to see larger.]
I photographed two Whooping Cranes in North Iowa! According to the International Crane Foundation, there are only 757 Whooping Cranes in the entire world - less than 600 in North America. They are the rarest and most endangered bird in North America and the tallest bird at about five feet tall - at least a foot or more taller than Sandhill Cranes. There are two major flyways: from the Aransas National Wildlife refuge on the Gulf Coast of Texas to Wood Buffalo National Park on the northern border of Alberta, Canada; and from central Wisconsin to the southeastern U.S. These two cranes seem to have strayed off of those flyways. (Well, Iowa is a great place to visit.) I'm guessing that they are part of the group of Whooping Cranes hatched and released by the the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, WI, but I am waiting for confirmation. They have identification bands and transmitters on their legs. There was no sign of young birds so I don't believe that they are nesting. They have been hanging out with two adult Sandhill Cranes that do have a young colt (chick) - photo below. According to Paul Hertzel, records from the Iowa Ornithologists Union indicate that there hasn't been a successful nesting pair of Whooping Cranes in Iowa since 1888.
A special thanks to the person that helped me locate these birds. All the photos were taken from the car with telephoto lenses, so as not to disturb the birds. I would never get out of the car and attempt to approach them.
Click the photos below to see a larger.
Just a few notes about my photos. See more on Facebook.