Friday, February 22, 2013

boreal and great gray

It's an irruption year for owls, which means that they're running out of food up in their normal range in Canada, so they venture south to Duluth looking for food.  It's a great opportunity for people to see birds they might not otherwise get the chance to, but it's kind of sad for the poor hungry owls.

All the same, last Sunday me and George drove up the shore to see what we could see.  While we were looking for the turn off for Stoney Point, we came upon a group of people with binoculars on the side of the road, so we pulled off too, and there in the tippy-top of a half dead pine was a boreal owl, which refused to look at me for every single photo I took.  Still, it is an adorable little kitten of an owl.

By then we were nearly to Two Harbors, so we walked along the shore by Agate Bay, where I took some unpostably blurry photos of unidentified waterfowl and it was awesomely cold and icy.

After that we were looking for a place to get a hot beverage, but apparently everything closes at 3 p.m. on a Sunday in the winter, so we headed back to Duluth, but again right outside Knife River we saw another cluster of binoculared people on the roadside, so we stopped, and this time it was for a great gray owl.

He spent a few minutes hating at some people with a two-foot camera lens (who I think were too close to him) and then flew across Scenic Hwy 61.

And landed in a tree on the other side of the road.

After that I got a much clearer view of him, but he refused to look at the camera.

He soon flew into the woods side of the road he started out on, and the two-foot camera lens people continued to stalk him, and me and George left him in peace.

None of my photos are exactly calendar worthy, but the birds were awesome things to see, the great gray especially.  What a gorgeous face, and what a beautiful bird.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Christmas tree stowaway

We got a permit to harvest a Christmas tree from Superior National Forest, so we drove up to Isabella, MN, and cut down a beauty.  About a week later I found a bug in the house, not exactly a very common occurrence in December in Duluth, so I captured him and looked him up: a Western Conifer Seed Bug.  I'm guessing he must've come in with the tree.  According to my book, they eat the needles and green cones of conifer trees, so I've been keeping him in a 6" x 8" x 10" plastic bug habitat with various pine or spruce twigs that I change every couple weeks.  I haven't seen any evidence that he's actually eating them (there's been no poop on the floor of the habitat) but he is still alive and seemingly healthy, about two months later.  I frequently see him navigating the twigs or scaling the sides or ceiling of his habitat, and last time I changed the greens he flew out and I had to recapture him.  (I had seen him clean his wings before, but had never seen him fly before that.  It was a brief, buzzy, grasshoppery flight of about two feet from the habitat to the windowsill.)  If he survives the winter I'll let him go outside once the weather warms up, and might even release where we found him.  It would be a good excuse to drive out to Isabella again.