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T.R. Michels'

Trinity Mountain Outdoors

Natural History Magazine TM

 Grand Teton Range

 

Best Minnesota Birding Areas and Birding Schedule I Minnesota Wildlife Viewing Schedule

Minnesota Bird List & Calls I North America Bird List & Calls I Minnesota Mammals List

Wildflower Species of Minnesota / western Wisconsin I Minnesota Butterflies I Bird, Wildlife and Nature Photographs

Recent Tours & Bird and Flower Sightings I Trinity Mountain Outdoor Adventures Natural History Eco-Tours

Tundra / Trumpeter Swan and Bald Eagle Sightings & Tours

 

 Testimonies

Hi T.R.

Wow! What a speedy response! I really appreciate your taking the time to reply.

And while I don't hunt, I admire those who are as knowledgeable about bird behavior as you are, so of course I'm not opposed to consulting a hunter-expert like you! From reading your reports, I can see that you've spent countless hours in the field making observations.

Sharing that knowledge is an invaluable contribution. Thank you!

 

View our Natural History Tour Videos - on YouTube

Why not join us on a Natural History Tour you and your family will really enjoy?

 Turkey Fight Video here I Turkey Fight Photos here I Turkey "Rustle" & Fighting Purr Sound Here

Turkeys Flying Up To & Down From the Roost Video here I Turkey Mating Dance Video here

Canada Goose Fight Video here I Canada Goose Landing Video here

Trumpeter Swan Mating Display Video here I Trumpeter Swan Mating / Breeding Sequence Photos here

Sandhill Crane Mating Dance Video here I Sharp-tailed Grouse Mating Dance Video here

Hooded Merganser & Mallard Mating Display Video here I Drake Mallard Whistle & "Raeb" Sound

Swimming Beaver Video here

Moon Walkin' Takin (antelope) Video here I Whirling Wolverine Video here

  Sora (Rail) Video Here Virginia Rail Video Here

 

 Natural History, Eco-Tour & Travel Magazine

Trinity Mountain Outdoors Home Page

 

Trinity Mountain Outdoors Hunting Magazine

Trinity Mountain Outdoor Adventures Natural History Eco-Tours

Best Minnesota Birding Areas and Birding Schedule

MN Birding and Game Animal Locations & Viewing Schedule

Minnesota Bird List & Calls

North America Bird List & Calls

Minnesota Mammals List

Wildflower Species of Minnesota / western Wisconsin

Recent Tours & Bird and Flower Sightings

Trumpeter / Trumpeter Swan and Bald Eagle Sightings & Tours

 

Bird, Wildlife and Nature Photographs

 

 

Contents

Click the asterisk (*) or link to go to the article.

 

 

Photography

Camera Ideas*

Canon PowerShot 3S IS*

Wildlife Viewing & Photography Insights*

T.R.'s Tips: Locating, Viewing and Photographing Wildlife*

 

Outdoor Gear

Bird and Wildlife Viewing Gear List *

Binoculars Basics*

Spotting Scopes*

Hearing Enhancement*

Outdoorsman's Footwear*

Staying Warm*

 

Bird Biology / Behavior

Upland Sandpiper*

Bird Mating Rituals*

Giant Canada Goose Facts*

Trumpeter Swan Facts*

Tundra Swan Facts*

Sandhill Crane Facts*

Wild Turkey Facts*

Sharp-tailed Grouse Facts*

Prairie Chicken Facts*

Bald Eagle Facts*

Western Grebe Facts*

 

Animal Biology / Behavior

Pronghorn Facts*

Bison Facts*

White-tailed Deer Facts*

Mule Deer Facts*

Caribou Facts*

Moose Facts*

Elk Facts*

Black Bear Facts*

Wolf Facts*

 

Safari Club International News *

Study Shows Hunting is Beneficial*

Wolf Management in the Doghouse*

Alaska Sportsmen Step Up*

Poacher Capture Reward*

Interloping Antelope*

Bald Eagle Boost*

Wolf Management*

Wildlife Surprises*

Just Plain Sick*

More on SCI*

 

Southeast Minnesota Tours

Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge; Bald Eagle, Birding, Waterfowl & Wildflower Tours

Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden & Bird Sanctuary

Cannon River Valley & Sogn Valley; Bald Eagle Nesting, Birding, Fossil & Birding Tours

Winter Bald Eagle, Tundra Swan & Waterfowl Tours

Winter Trumpeter Swan Tours

Wildflower Tours

Weaver Bottom Birding Tours

Elk Bugling Tours

Fossil Tours

 

Southwest Minnesota Tours

Jeffers Petroglyphs State Historic Site; Rock Carving & Wildflower Tours

Pipestone National Monument

Blue Mounds State Park

 

Central Minnesota Tours

Carlos Avery Game Refuge; Wolf Howling, Game Animal, Waterfowl & Birding Tours

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge; Bald Eagle, Waterfowl, Wading Birds, Songbird & Wildflower Tours

 

Northwest Minnesota Tours

Lake Superior North Shore; Split Rock Lighthouse, Goosberry Falls, Birding & Wildflower Tours

Gunflint Trail; Wildlife, Birding & Wildflower Tours

St. Louis River Valley; Fall Color & Birding Tours

 

Western Wisconsin Tours

Crex Meadows; Wolf Howling, Sandhill Crane, Prairie Chicken, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Waterfowl, Wading Bird, Shorebird, Song Bird & Wildflower Tours

 

Wyoming; Yellowstone & Grand Teton Parks Tours

Elk Bugling, Wolf, Moose, Mule Deer, Bighorn Sheep, Bear, Trumpeter Swan, Eagle, Osprey, Sandhill Crane Watching, Birding, Site -Seeing

 

T. R. Michels Outdoor Photography

Birds, Animals, Wildflowers, Scenery

 

Tawnya Michels Outdoor Photography

Sunrise, Sunset, Scenery, Swans, Eagles

 

Mike Brooks Outdoor Photography

Birds, Animals, Wildflowers, Scenery

Birding Links

Hawk Ridge

MOU

A.B.A.
North Dakota Birding Society

Illinois Ornithological Society

White Fish Point Bird Observatory

South Dakota Birds & Birding

Iowa Birds & Birding

Wisconsin Society for Ornithology

Michiganbirds.org

UPBirders.org


Northern Michigan Birding

Thunder Bay Field Naturalists

Conservation

Organization Links

The Nature Conservancy

Izaak Walton League of America

National Audubon Society

Wilderness Society

 

Other Links

Trinity Mountain Outdoors Hunting Magazine

Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products Catalog

T.R. Michels Guide Service / Hunting Trips

Whitetail / Elk / Turkey / Waterfowl University & Guide School

T.R.'s Hunting Tips

"T.R.'s Tips" Talk Forum / Message Board

Quotes From T.R.'s Readers

T.R. Michels' Biography

 

White-tailed Deer Information

Whitetail Deer Rut Dates

Whitetail Deer Activity Graphs

 

Elk Information

Elk Activity Graphs

Peak Elk Bugling Dates Chart

 

Turkey Information

Peak Turkey Gobbling Dates Chart

Turkey Gobbling Graphs

 

Advertising Links

Related Websites / Advertising Pages / links to other Websites

 

State Wildlife Offices / Information

 

Outdoor & Animal Theme Screensavers

CCTruckee Bird Pages

Wallpaper By Design

 

State Wildlife Agencies

Alabama Game & Fish Division

Alaska Fish and Game Department

Arizona Game and Fish Department

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

California Department of Fish and Game

Colorado Division of Wildlife

Connecticut Recreation and Natural Resources

Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife

Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission

Georgia Wildlife Resources

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks

Kentucky Deptartment of Fish and Wildlife Resources

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Maine Department of Conservation

Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Massachusetts Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Mississippi Department of Wildlife Conservation

Missouri Department of Conservation

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

New Hampshire Fish and Game Department

New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife

New Mexico State Wildlife Agency

New York Department of Environmental Conservation

North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources

North Dakota Game and Fish Department

Ohio Department of Natural Resources

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation

Oregon Fish and Wildlife Service

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Utah Department of Natural Resources

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

West Virginia Natural Heritage Program

Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources

Wyoming Department of Game and Fish

 

Other United States Natural Resources Related Sites

Black Hills National Forest

Black Elk Wilderness

Buffalo Gap National Grasslands

Department of the Interior The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Division of Bird Habitat Conservation is, to support partnerships that conserve habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

Division of Law Enforcement, Forensic Lab

Division of Refuges

Fort Pierre National Grasslands

Grasslands Homepage

Hunting: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Information related to hunting, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Information Systems Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Information Systems Gap Analysis Project Elk In Kentucky Species Information Bowhunter Observation Viewable Download Maps Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

National Marine Fisheries Service

National Wetlands Inventory The National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service produces information on the characteristic, extent, and status of the National Wetlands and deepwater habitats.

Navajo Nation Department of Fish & Wildlife Navajo Department of Fish and Wildlife. Preserving Wildlife on the Navajo Nation with services from Animal Control, Wildlife Enforcement, Research and Management and Natural Heritage Programs.

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

Northwest Fisheries Science Center

NWT Wildlife and Fisheries Homepage The NWT Wildlife and Fisheries Division web site provides information on NWT wildlife species, hunting and fishing regulations, legislation, publications and links to related wildlife sites.

Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Core Web Page

Region 2 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Home page of the Region 2 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, representing Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas, a bureau in the Department of Interior.

Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration

Teaming With Wildlife

The Bureau of Land Management The Bureau of Land Management administers 264 million acres of public lands, located primarily in the 12 Western States, containing natural, historical, cultural, recreational, and economic resources.

USDA Forest Service USDA Forest Service national headquarters website; the home page and gateway to all Forest Service websites.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission

Wind Cave National Park

 

Canada

Provincial Game Commissions

Alberta Game Commission

British Columbia Game Commission

Manitoba Game Commission

New Brunswick Game Commission

Newfoundland/Labrador Game Commission

Northwest Territories Game Commission

Nova Scotia Game Commission

Ontario Game Commission

Prince Edward Island Game Commission

Quebec Game Commission

Saskatchewan Game Commission

Yukon Territory Game Commission

Publisher's / Editor's Note

Publisher/Editor T.R. Michels, with Canon Camera

Because the outdoors is where I spend the majority of my free time, and where (when I am guiding) it is where I make my living; because I have extensively researched white-tailed deer, turkeys, elk, ducks and geese; because I enjoy looking for and photographing birds, wildflowers and natural scenery; because we are now offering natural-history/eco-tours to the public; and because I am an outdoor writer, I thought it only natural that I start a magazine devoted to articles on the natural history of some of the birds and animals we have seen on our trips, articles describing our trips, and articles or information on tips, techniques and products to use for watching, listening or viewing birds, animals, wildflowers and natural scenic areas.

You'll find photos of many terrestrial (land dwelling) birds in the North America Bird List and the Minnesota Bird List; photos of game animals on the T. R. Michels Outdoor Photography and Mike Brooks Outdoor Photography; and information on Minnesota Big Game Animals on those pages. You can view our latest adventures on my Wildlife and Wildflower Blog.

In this magazine I'll talk about products you can use while looking and/or listening to wildlife, and for photographing wildlife. We'll also have Product Field Tests and Product Reviews.

I hope you enjoy our newest magazine, and reading about our adventures and tours. If you have article ideas or comments on how to improve this magazine feel free to contact me at TRMichels@yahoo.com.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors and may Yahweh-God bless all of you,

T.R. Michels

My Philosophy

As an outdoor writer, author, seminar speaker, outfitter, guide, consultant, researcher, animal behaviorist, naturalist and wildlife photographer - I've always felt that the more I know about the biology and behavior of the animals, the better I will be at understanding what makes them click - meaning why they move, when they move, and where they move. Whether you hunt, photograph or just watch or observe the animals, the key to being successful - is to be in the right spot at the right time - and to do that , you have to understand the animals. As a result of that belief - all of my books start our with what I have learned about the biology and behavior of the animals, through my personal research, and the research of some of the top biologists and researchers in the world. Why? Because I cannot teach you to do what I do, to get as close to the animals as I do, and to be there at the right times, unless I help you to understand the biology and behavior of the animals.

I can't count the number of times I've been hunting, photographing or just enjoying wildlife, that I've heard other people say. "There aren't any animals here", or "where are all the animals". Usually, people say that, because they are either not in the right place, or they are not there at the right time, or they are there under the wrong weather conditions. One of my axioms about animal behavior is, "If it is too hot, too cold, to windy, or too wet - the animals aren't gong to do what they would normally do." Through my personal research, and the researcher of others, I've learned the right weather conditions to see animals, in specific types of habitat.

Through my articles, book and seminars, I will try to help you understand the biology and behavior of the animals, so you can choose the right weather conditions, the right places, and the right times, to see the animals on a semi-regular basis, because there are after all, things that affect the animals, that no one can predicts.

So, if you want to learn more about the animals. and learn abut some very successful tips, tactics and techniques, to get you close to the animals, read my articles and get your copy of my books. I honestly believe I can help you enjoy the animals and get closer to them.

If you have questions, log on to the T.R.'s Tips Message Board, and I'll do my best to help you.

 

May God bless you and your families, ant enjoy the great outdoors,

T.R. 

MN Birding and Game Animal Locations & Viewing Schedule

 

 Bird Watching

 

As I looked out the kitchen window at the farm one warm spring day I was astonished to see three male indigo buntings and five male rose-breasted grosbeaks on the ground. It was the first time I had ever seen an indigo bunting, and I was amazed. Their blue color was astonishing, I don't know that I have ever seen anything as beautiful before.

I quickly called my wife Diane, and my two youngest children Dallas and Tawnya, to see the birds. For the next hour we watched as they fed at the bird feeder, and on the ground underneath it where some seed had fallen.

I don't know what it was about that day, but we saw several other birds. There were the usual house sparrows, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, downy and hairy woodpeckers and mourning doves. But there were also cardinals and blue jays, and a family of four red squirrels. It was a great day of bird watching.

Throughout the spring and summer we have red-headed and red-bellied woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, northern orioles, common grackles, starlings, red-winged blackbirds and brewer's blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, chipping, white-throated and white-crowned sparrows, white-breasted nuthatches, dark-eyed juncos, house finches and goldfinches visit the yard.

Since we were living on an old farm site we also had house wrens, cedar waxwings, crows, barn swallows, bank swallows, common Flickers, robins, ring-necked pheasants and wild turkeys visit the yard. At night Diane saw several raccoons, a family of opossums and several white-tailed deer and coyotes.

Behind the house, in the sky over the old pasture, we regularly saw red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures. In the pasture we had eastern bluebirds, American kestrels, (incorrectly called sparrow hawks), eastern kingbirds, great crested flycatchers, bobolinks, meadowlarks, and common yellowthroats; in the spring we saw and heard upland sandpipers, which are actually a type of curlew - a prairie dwelling "shore bird".

In the grove behind the house I saw catbirds and brown thrashers. I even saw Canada and snow geese, and gray partridge in the bean field not more than a 1/4 mile from the house.

As a hunter and game researcher I spend a lot of time watching animals. I have seen barred and great horned owls, brown creepers and pileated woodpeckers while hunting. I once had a eastern screech owl come within five yards of me while archery hunting for deer. While we were doing turkey and deer research last spring Diane spotted an immature and a mature bald eagle behind the neighbor's house, and we had an osprey hang around the river for about a week one spring.

I'm still hoping to see a scarlet tanager in this area, I've seen only since I was a child near Spicer, Minnesota in the early 1970's. Along the river I regularly see great blue herons, great egrets, black-crowed night herons, mallards, wood ducks, kildeers and sandpipers. In the spring we had a pied-billed Grebe and a pair of common goldeneyes stay on the river. I also saw a horned lark and several snow buntings in the field east of the house.

Obviously I see a lot of wild turkeys and deer while doing my research. But, when I don't see deer or turkeys I use my binoculars to see what birds are making all the noise around me. I spent one whole morning calling turkeys while I watched yellow-rumped and palm warblers catching bugs. I've also been lucky enough to see a pair of coyotes and a pair of cross-phase red foxes while they were hunting.

I've been scared half out of my wits when I jumped several American woodcock while deer hunting, and I've heard ruffed grouse drumming in the woods, but I never saw see one in the three years we lived on the farm. I plan to make bird watching, bird feeding and bird photography a part of our business, through our newly established Trinity Mountain Outdoor Adventures Birding Tours, which you can access by clicking the link.

If you are an avid bird watcher, and want to add a few birds to your Life List, you can view the list of rare and notable birds of Minnesota on our Minnesota Bird List. If you are interested in joining us on a Natural History, Big Game Animal, Birding or Wildfowl Tour, let us know.

Watching birds is a great way to learn about animals and nature. And a great way to get parents and kids involved in the great outdoors.

Enjoy the outdoors,

T.R.

 

Bird Feeding

Don't use generic bird feeds - most of it contains a lot of millet - which will be used by sparrows and starlings and pushed out or spilled by other birds. Cracked corn will attract ground feeding birds, including doves.

Black sunflower seed and safflwoer are used by many finches.

Suet (cooked deer, elk or beef fat) and peanut butter area used by many birds including woodpeckers.

Birds that don't normally visit feeders, such as bluebirds, robins, wrens, and some warblers, are attracted to mealworms. You can offer them in old breakfast food bowls or shallow plastic food dishes that are too slick on the sides for the mealworms to climb. Place the bowls or dishes in an open area where the movement of the mealworms will attract the attention of the birds.

Fruits will attract orioles and woodpeckers. I use a half an orange impaled on a nail to attract orioles. the bright color may cause them to believe another male is in their area, and the juice keeps them coming back. you can also use apple halves.

Ripe bananas and grapes have two potential uses for the bird-feeding enthusiast. First, try placing several overripe bananas in a mesh bag and hang it near your hummingbird feeder. The fruit will soon attract a colony of fruit flies. The hummingbirds will drink the sugar water and alternately visit the "banana bag" to capture the fruit flies, which provide a good source of protein.

A second use of bananas and grapes or grape jelly is to place some on a feeder tray in the spring and early summer, especially during the warbler migration. Peel one side or split the banana lengthwise to expose the fruit. Tennessee warbler, Summer tanangers, and Northern orioles may eat at your feeder.

Here is a great site for determining what type of birdseed to use: Seeds and Grains for Birds.

God bless,

T.R.

Habitat Conservation

I don't claim to know a lot about habitat conservation, other than to say I know we need it, for a variety of reasons. I've lost at least two good deer hunting areas to development since 1997. Obviously those areas also contained songbirds, small mammals, trees, shrubs, herbs, forbs (wildflowers), butterflies and other invertebrates. I've also noticed the destruction of good wildlife habitat (for housing or business development projects) in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and many other states. As a result of this I find myself becoming more interested in, and hopefully more knowledgeable about, both wildlife and habitat conservation.

As I've traveled around the country during the past several years on our Natural History Eco-Tours and family adventures, I've had the opportunity to meet and talk to several different outdoorsman. I recently met the biologist for the "Northern Trail" at the Minnesota Zoo, who manages the wolf, tiger and other exhibits. Then I met the Outdoor Education Manager for the Three Rivers Park District in Hennepin and Scott Counties of Minnesota (which includes the recognized IBA [Important Birding Area] of Murphy Hanrahan Park), and an attorney with the state of Minnesota who writes legislation for threatened or endangered species. And with all of them - our conversation got around to habitat and wildlife conservation.

As a result of talking to Minnesota's State Farmland Wildlife Manager, Al Berner, about such various species as deer, ducks, pheasants, turkeys, sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens - I've come to realize that the loss of habitat for many game species also means loss of habitat for many non-game species, such as insects, fish, small mammals and songbirds. In other words what is good for the game birds, is also good for the songbirds and other types of birds.

While I was talking to Al he impressed upon me the need for habitat restoration such as Conservation Reserve Program lands, and other habitat conservation, such as preserving or maintaining existing prairie and wetland habitat. Many upland bird (game) species, such as pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, prairie chickens, gray partridge, and even turkeys, need large areas of prairies, meadows, swamps, sloughs, fens, oak savanna, etc., for breeding and nesting habitat. Those areas also support Dickcissel, Bobolink, Meadowlark, and various species of sparrows. Many of those areas, because they are often on fairly level ground that might not be suitable for farming, are destroyed to make room for business complexes and housing. I see we just lost an area where I used to photograph Dickcissels in 2007, to farming.

To those outdoorsmen and nature lovers who don't hunt, this might not seem like a concern, except that those areas are also prime habitat for many species of birds, small animals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, wildflowers and other plants. As I lead our natural history tours I've begun noticing the wide variety of native plants, wildflowers and birds that use wetlands, meadows and prairies. I've also begun to realize how much of their habitat is destroyed by human encroachment, in the name of progress.

After watching several programs on the Discovery, History and Animal Planet channels, I've come to realize the importance of wetlands (that serve as important habitat for birds) as barriers to the negative effects of storm surges and flooding. Cattail, sawgrass, rushes and other wetland plants have the ability not only to reduce erosion due to flooding and storm surges, they also have the ability to reduce the harmful effects of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers on the water and plant life, which provides needed habitat for the wildlife (including birds).

When rain falls on land covered with natural vegetation, the plants can slow the flow of run-off until it has a chance to sink into the ground, resulting in only a 10 per cent run off. However, when rain falls on a parking lot, 55 per cent of the water can run off into local brooks, creeks and wetlands; and from them into larger bodies of water.

Run-off water may contain a variety of contaminants including oil, grease, heavy metals and sediments, plus harmful herbicides and pesticides, and fertilizers containing phosphorus, which can promote the growth of algae, often resulting in mass of green scum floating on the surface of the water, and result in algae "blooms" which often turn the water red-brown or blue-green.

Any of these conditions can result in less sunlight entering the water, causing less photosynthesis by native aquatic plants, resulting in less oxygen content in the water, and the possible spread of less beneficial and /or non-native and invasive plants, which do not help maintain the balance of the eco-system.

The preservation or creation of shallow swamps, sloughs, ponds or lagoons, between run-of water and/or streams, and deeper bodies of water, with their native vegetation, can greatly increase the natural filtration of water. Plants such as cattails, saw grass and sedges that may have extensive root systems which survive in shallow water, not only slow the speed of the water, but also trap sediments, and can filter out and use some of the contaminants that may cause a negative impact on the ecosystem plants in deeper waters.

Habitat Destruction for Economic Gain

Destruction of prairies and meadows for the development of agricultural, business and residential property reduces grasses, sedges and forbs (wildflowers) that provide seeds, pollen, forage and nesting habitat for birds, habitat for small mammals, which in turn support raptors and predatory mammals. Without beneficial ground cover (used by ducks, geese, grouse, songbirds, small mammals, insects, etc.), much of the precipitation that falls on the ground (which would normally soak slowly into the ground) may run off, often eroding the land (which causes further destruction of the habitat) and form gullies that may quickly funnel the water, with any contaminants, into creeks, streams, rivers, sloughs, marshes, ponds, lakes and larger bodied of water.

The construction of even the most primitive of roads in any type of habitat often leads to this same type of erosion, and the same type of habitat destruction and surface and water pollution. Off-road vehicle use often destroys ground cover, which again results in water runoff, and the eventual erosion of the topsoil, and the creation of more gullies; and the cycle continues. I've seen the destruction that the development of gravel roads into the sagebrush flats and foothills of the Rocky Mountains near many towns creates.

Agricultural fields and livestock pastures often allow runoff of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and animal waste into creeks, streams, rivers, sloughs, ponds, lakes and rivers; which affects aquatic plants, fish and invertebrates; in turn affecting mammals and birds. This can easily be alleviated by creating buffers of natural vegetation to stop or slow the water from running directly into the water. These buffers can act as habitat for birds and other wildlife. Livestock also cause erosion of the banks of watersheds when they destroy natural vegetation and breakdown the banks. This can be avoided by erecting fences to keep the cattle away from the water

Section Line (as in road-ditch) Habitat

Al Berner informed that by law, the 33 feet on either side of the right of way on all section lines (four of them in on square mile, running from east to west and north to south surrounding the square mile) belongs top the state, and if it was left in natural conditions, would provide thousands of acres of habitat for wildlife in Minnesota. Basically what this means is that the 33 feet on either side of many roads in Minnesota, plus all of the land on section lines without roads, could be left in natural habitat, But, farmers rarely recognize these lines, or honor the laws that forbid them from burning, plowing, mowing and planting those right-of-ways. And to top it off the city, county and state often mow the ditches, effective destroying the habitat, which is not only used by pheasants and ducks to raise young (which often gets the hunters and trappers up in arms), it also is used by many birds and small mammals.

Fire Suppression

Fires, whether from natural causes such as lighting, or caused by humans (intentionally or unintentionally) on prairies and meadows, and in brushy areas and forests, have been part of the natural process of plant regeneration for centuries. Even naturally caused wildfires can be beneficial as they reduce natural fuels, which in turn reduces the chances of wild fires in the near future. Wildfires also expose mineral soil for seedbeds for regeneration of wind-disseminated species, such as fungi, mosses, grasses, forbes and many tree species. The reduction in vegetation in turn helps in the control of insects, diseases, and competing vegetation. As a result of this wildfires often result in the improvement of natural ecosystems and wildlife habitat as varied as wetlands, prairies, brushy areas and forests.

Native Americans often deliberately set fires to clear the land for horticulture, to improve access to some areas, and to change the composition of the plant community to attract game animals (such as bison). Early settlers set fires to assist in preparing the soil for agriculture and to eliminate stubble from the fields in the fall.

However, because of the destruction of human life, property, and resources by wildfires, the general government policy for most of this century has been to utilize man-made fire for the suppression of wildfires. The use of media campaigns such as Smokey the Bear, and Bambi fleeing from a fire, combined with fire suppression practices has resulted in a build up of vegetative fuels in many areas. Fire ecologists expect it will take several years of wildfires to establish a natural fire regime in many ecosystems.

In some areas where fire has been prevented from conducting its natural role in the environment, private and governmental agencies and scientists are setting controlled fires to mimic natural fire and improve landscape health and community safety. "One of the hard lessons we've learned is that eliminating or suppressing all fires actually increases the risk to people, damages natural habitats and drives up fire fighting costs" said Susan Harris, state director for the Nature Conservancy of Missouri.

Years of forest management practices that have eliminated wildfires has resulted in many forests becoming choked with thick undergrowth and small trees, that naturally occurring fires would normally eliminate. After years without fire, these forests become tinderboxes that are prone to hotter burns that are harder to control and pose a greater risk to communities than normal. These intense fires can have the ability to severely damage plant and wildlife species.

The Benefits of Fire

Many plant and animal species need fire to reproduce and thrive. Plants that need fire to reproduce and thrive are referred to as "burn-species". Some of the "burn species" plants are ephemeral annual herbs and forbes that have found an unusual means of adapting to environments that are for the most part unfavorable to their survival.

In the first year after a fire has temporarily diminished dominant forms of vegetation these herbs and forbs may appear and flourish, and upon maturation, they leave their sees behind. Although these plants may disappear from the landscape within a few years of a fire, the seeds can remain viable for up to 100 years or more. The goal of the seeds is to re-colonize the area after another fire. The plants may also appear from time to time in areas disturbed by other means, such as along sections of recently cleared trails, on land slides, and even along the areas of new road construction.

White-tailed deer, doves, quails, turkey, sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chicken are game species that benefit from prescribed fire. Habitat preferences of several endangered species, including the Florida panther, gopher tortoise, indigo snake, and red-cockaded woodpecker, are also enhanced by burning. The benefits to wildlife from fires can be substantial; fruit and seed production is often stimulated; herbage, legumes, and browse from hardwood sprouts may increase in both quality and quantity; and openings are created for feeding, travel, and dusting.

After years of fire suppression in many areas, land managers now have to go back and ignite fires to mimic the natural fires these species depend on. Prior to settlement by the Europeans, occasional fires were an integral part of many ecosystems, and native plants and animals had adapted to the occurrence of wildfires. Forests were a more varied blend of old and young trees, and some forests were more open in character. Fire recycled the nutrients of the dead wood for use by growing plants, and conditioned the forest floor for the regeneration of species that are dependent on disturbance of the forest floor.

Pine trees of many species are a prime example of species that benefit from fire. During high intensity burns, the sealed cones of many pines open up, allowing dispersion of seeds over the fire-cleared ground. Anyone who has visited Yellowstone Park since the latest wildfires there has seen the abundant re-growth of not only the pine trees, but of many grasses, wildfires and shrubs; which have provided new habitat for many species or birds and mammals. In many areas pine trees are failing to regenerate due to past fire control practices.

The federally endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a fire-dependent species. It nests only in mature pine trees that are free of surrounding underbrush. Researchers believe the Red-cockaded Woodpecker colonies in many areas have been abandoned because the sites have become too brushy. Periodic fires would control the brush, which may provide predators with access to woodpecker nests.

Entire ecosystems often need fire to maintain their natural diversity of plants and animals. Many pine-oak, oak forests, and oak savannahs have poor reproductive success without occasional fires. Little or no oak regeneration has occurred in some areas as a result of fire suppression. Oaks provide acorns in the fall, which are an important food source for black bear, white-tailed deer, turkey, and other wildlife.

Part of the problem with "the idea of conservation" is that we humans may have begun to realize too late that in order for this planet, and us, to survive, we must conserve, and preserve, much more of the native habitat of the entire world, than we ever realized - until just the last century, after much of the important and needed habitat has already been destroyed - by us. We need to look at not only saving a particular wildlife or plant species, but saving the surrounding habitat and other species that are all dependent on each other for survival and reproduction.

Eco Systems and Eco-system Management

What is an Ecosystem?

In recent years conservationists have begun to realize that in order to properly maintain and manage wildlife habitat, they need to look beyond just the immediate area or species of concern, to a much broader area, in which the microbes, animals, plants, and geology of the habitat interact as an entire system, that interacts within itself.

The Glossary of Forestry Terms for the Province of British Columbia defines an ecosystem as "a functional unit consisting of all the living organisms (plants, animals, and microbes) in a given area, and all the non-living physical and chemical factors of their environment, linked together through nutrient cycling and energy flow. An ecosystem can be of any size-a log, pond, field, forest, or the earth's biosphere - but it always functions as a whole unit"

Most Americans are familiar with the term "Yellowstone Ecosystem" which the US Government uses to define the interaction of microbes, plants and animals of the area surrounding Yellowstone Park. This area encompasses not only the caldera or crater of the Yellowstone volcano, but also stretches of the Bechler, Fall, Firehole, Gallatin, Gardiner, Gibbon, Lamar, Lewis, and Yellowstone rivers. One of the original descriptions of the "ecosystem" of Yellowstone took into account the range of the endangered grizzly bear. The Yellowstone Ecosystem was later defined as the range of the cutthroat trout in the area, and later still to the range of the antelope, bison, elk, whitebark pine and other species - until the ecosystem has grown to what it is today, a large part of northwestern Wyoming, and smaller parts of southern Montana and eastern Idaho.

One definition of ecosystem management was expressed by J. Stan Rowe in 1992. "Ecosystem management is the application of the ecosystem approach in the conservation, management, and restoration of regional and local landscape ecosystems. It means that everyone attends to the conservation and sustainability of ecosystems, instead of sharply focusing on the productivity of individual or competing resources -- which has been our traditional mode of operation." An ecosystem can be as small as a backyard or small watershed, or as large as the planet earth.

 

Wildlife Photography

T.R. Michels photo

Unfortunately, on the day when I saw a wide variety of birds at our bird feeder, all I had was a Canon Sure Shot, which wasn't up to shooting pictures of birds at 15 yards. Fortunately (for me) my children bought me a Canon Rebel EOS 2000 35mm camera for my fiftieth birthday, with Canon's 35-80mm EF lens and 80-200mm EF lens.

In 2006 I bought a Canon PowerShot S3 IS Digital (that I mainly use for video and audio files, to identify birds if I can't see them). The nice thing about the digital cameras is that they have eliminated the need to buy film and have it developed. I have also added a Canon Rebel XTi digital to my camera arsenal, a Tamron 70-300mm AF telephoto lens, a Tamron 2x converter, and a tripod. But, I'll still use the Rebel 2000 35mm because there are times when I need slides for seminars.

For most deer photos you will need a 200mm or stronger lens, possibly a 1.4x or stronger converter, and a sturdy tripod. You may also want to purchase a mono-pod or window mount camera holder, so you can take pictures from your vehicle. My wife and I have worked it our so that she drives slowly down the road, while we both look for deer. When we see a deer close enough to photograph, she slowly drives to as close as we think we can get without alarming it, and I shoot photos from inside the car. To steady the camera you can use pillow to lay across the top of the window, and then place the camera on top of the pillow.

If you are serious about wildlife photography, I suggest you either use a portable blind, or buy one or more sets of camouflage clothing to match the vegetation and season when you are photographing, and appropriate camouflage fabric or netting to cover the tripod and camera. The more concealed and camouflaged you and your gear are the closer you can get to animals, and the less likely you are to alarm them.

Camera Ideas

For serious wildlife photographers one of the best formats is still a 35mm SLR camera, with several lenses, using film or slides, with slides preferred by many magazine editors. But, it is much cheaper in the long run to switch to digital cameras, which may use optical or digital magnification. Optical magnification is what you should look for, because it provides clearer images with the higher magnification needed at distances. And, more and more magazines are not only accepting, but requesting digital images, because they are much easier to process.

Obviously digital cameras can save the average photographer a lot of money, even in the short run. I recently took about 20 rolls of film to my daughter, who manages a Sam's Club photo shop. For single 3x5 prints it cost me $55 to get them developed; plus the $30 to purchase the film. If I want to use them on the internet I have to scan them, and I loose come clarity.

With a digital camera I can download the photos to my computer, delete the ones I don't want, and then use either a color printer or a photo printer to print my own photos; or I just upload them to my web site, or my Flickr account. I can also have them developed at a photo shop.

Stepping Up

If you want to get better photos, have them saved at larger sizes, and be able to more powerful lenses, without spending too much, I'd suggest a Canon Rebel XT or XTi digital ($400-$650), and a lens of at least 200mm or larger. The XTi has 10 megapixels, and saves photos as large as 36x54 inches, so you can take far-off photos and crop them to whatever size you want. I picked up a used Tamron 70-300mm zoom lens for $129, and a Tamron 2x converter for $99 at National Camera exchange. For serious photography, at distances beyond 20 yards on big game, you might want to step up to the Tamron 200-500mm zoom lens (as low as $700), or the Canon 100-400mm (as low as $1100).

The cameras I see most frequently on our birding tours are the Canon "D" bodies, and the lens I see most often is the Canon 100-400mm autofocus, with a 1.4x or 2x adapter. I'm guessing at least 50 % of the people we meet are using this setup.

If I ever get rich - that is the setup I'll buy.

 

Watch these Canon PowerShot S3 IS Videos by T.R. Michels on You Tube

Canada Goose Dominance Fight

Goose Photos

Hooded Merganser & Mallard Mating Display

Duck Photos

Trumpeter Swan Mating Display Video

 

Wild Turkey Mating Display

Sharp-tailed Grouse Mating Display

 

Bald Eagle Photos

 

Sandhill Crane Mating Display

Sandhill Crane Photos

 

Watch these other videos

Bald Eagle Fishing Video

Young Osprey Eating Fish

 

Bison Fight

Bison Photos

Moose Fight

Moose Photos

White-tailed Deer Fight

Elk Photos

Elk Fight Video

Hippopotamus Mating Display

 

Wolf Photos

 

Upland Sandpiper

I'd just finished digging up some ground for a vegetable garden when I heard a long, drawn out "wolf whistle"; whit - whew. As I listened again I realized the sound was coming from the air above the neighbor's CRP field, where I could see some large birds flying.

I went to the house, grabbed a pair of binoculars and looked at the birds. They had long wings, a small oval head and a short bill. In order to get a better look I walked across our pasture and then into the CRP field.

That's when I saw one of the large birds perched on the power lines. It looked like huge sandpiper or shore bird. I'd seen something of similar size when I saw long-billed curlews while I was turkey hunting west of Valentine, Nebraska. But, these birds didn't have a long curved bill like those birds, and the bill was not curved, so it couldn't be short-billed curlew.

I watched the birds for a few minutes, then headed home to get out my Petersen's Field Guide to North American Birds. Once I reached the section on shore birds I found my birds. They were upland sandpipers (Bartramia longicauda), a member of the curlew family. I'd added a new bird to my Life List. I plan to go back and get some pictures of these birds.

Upland sandpipers can be found along states and provinces bordering the Great Lakes, and throughout the plains states from northern Texas to southern Canada. They are primarily birds of open prairies.  

 

Bird Mating Rituals

Trumpeter Swans, T.R. Michels Photography

Some of the most interesting wildlife behaviors in nature involve the mating rituals of birds, such as the flight displays of ravens and crows, and raptors such as eagles. Sandhill and whooping cranes have elaborate mating dances, during which they flap their wings and jump up and down.

The birds of the Phasianidae family, including prairie chickens, sharp-tailed grouse, ruffed grouse, pheasants and turkeys use calls or other sounds to establish dominance or proclaim their readiness to mate. Ruffed grouse and pheasants drum by beating their wings. Turkeys strut, spit and boom (often incorrectly called drumming) by inflating an air sack in the middle of their chest then expelling excess air from the sack to create a loud "spit" and then the remaining air is let out to produce a low pitched boom; vrrooom.

Prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse often come together on mating grounds referred to as "'leks" where the males perform elaborate mating ritual by stomping their feet, lower their wings, shake their tails and use sounds such as clicks, rattles and booms from inflated air sacks on their neck or chest to establish dominance, declare a territory and attract females.

Western Grebe

Some species of grebes have elaborate aquatic mating displays during which they raise their bodies up from the water, stretch their necks skyward, bow their heads and dance or run across the water.

Both trumpeter and tundra swans have beautiful aquatic mating displays during which they raise up from the water, face each other, spread their wings, bow their necks and swim side by side.

Observing these mating rituals is one of the most captivating experiences in wildlife watching. Why not join us on one of our spring tours to watch, photograph or video these fantastic displays?

 

Common Golden Eye Mating Display

Barrow's Goldeneye Mating Display

Common Golden Eye Mating Display

Ruddy Duck Mating Display

 

Western Grebe Mating Display

Great-crested Grebe Mating Display

Grebe Fight

 

Woodcock Mating Call

 

Capercaillie Mating Display

Ruffed Grouse Mating Display

Greater Sage Grouse Mating Display

Prairie Chicken Mating Display

Turkey Strutting Display & "spit" Sound

 

Bowerbird Mating Display

Black-footed Albatross Mating Display

Great Frigatebird Mating Display 

Oystercatcher Mating Display

Golden-collared Mannikin Mating Display

Emu Mating Display

Bird of Paradise Mating Display

Bird of Paradise Mating Display 2

Mocking Bird Mating Display

 

Mating Displays of Several Birds

 

Duck Breeding Behavior

Steller's Eider in breeding plumage

Waterfowl biologists refer to the mating behavior (courtship behavior as opposed to actual breeding) of ducks, geese and swans as "pair bonding". Many people know that geese mate, or pair bond, for life. After they pair bond the male and female stay together during nesting, and the young stay with the parents through the fall and winter. The young geese don't usually leave their parents or begin to pair bond until they are on the wintering grounds during their fist or second year. This means that, during the hunting season, most geese are still in family groups consisting of the male, the female, and their young.

Ducks, on the other hand, do not mate for life; they regularly form a pair bond with a new partner each year. But, the male and female don't stay together to raise the young, and the young don't stay with the females very long. The drakes of most duck species leave the hens as soon as they start to nest, or shortly after. The hens then raise the ducklings by themselves. During the summer the hens molt (which leaves them flightless); and the young ducks grow their first flight feathers and begin to fly. After the young ducks learn to fly they may no longer associate with the hen, and they are generally on their own.

Both young and old ducks then begin forming loose pair bonds from late summer through early winter. Pair bonding by older Mallards may begin as early as mid-August. Pair bonding by other puddle duck species may occur from mid-October through winter, and by divers from mid-winter through early spring. Pair bonding is often accompanied by aerial courtship flights and displays, and by calls that are associated with pair bonding behavior. As a result of this social behavior, ducks are not normally in family groups during the hunting season; they are usually in flocks consisting of unrelated individuals and newly bonded pairs.

 

Duck Plumage

Because adult ducks (those over a year old) pair bond in the fall, the males often exhibit what is referred to as 'breeding plumage" in the fall, winter and spring, this breeding plumage is often the most colorful plumage they exhibit during the year. Since ducks often breed (as opposed to pair bond) in the spring, they continue to exhibit breeding plumage from fall, until after they have bred and nested in the spring. Male ducks often have what is referred to as "eclipse plumage" in the summer. Because the males cannot fly when they molt, they often exhibit colors resembling females, which are often brown or gray for camouflage purposes, to help them avoid predators when they are nesting.

 

Giant Canada Goose Facts

T.R. Michels photo

The giant Canada goose (Branta candensis maxima) 45 inches in length, with up to 72 inch wing spans, and weights up to 15 pounds. They were thought to be extinct until Dr. Harold Hanson of the Illinois Natural History Survey, and other researchers, rediscovered them in Rochester, Minnesota in 1962. They now number over a million birds, comprising over a third of all Canada goose subspecies in North America. All of the geese that nest in Minnesota, about 50,000, are giant Canada's.

Giants are the largest subspecies of Canada goose, and because their size allows them to withstand cold temperatures better than smaller geese, they are able to stay farther north in the winter than the smaller subspecies. Giant Canadas in urban areas like Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minnesota, and Chicago and Elgin, Illinois, may not migrate at all.

Unlike most other geese, giant Canadas often mate at two years of age; the smaller subspecies of Canada geese often mate when they are four years old. Giants generally nest farther south than the smaller Canada goose subspecies, often in areas where there is more abundant forage for their large appetites. Because giants don't nest in inhospitable sub-arctic regions like their smaller relatives, they often breed earlier than other geese and they generally have better nesting success than other geese, with clutches of from 2-12 eggs; smaller geese usually have 2-6 eggs per clutch.

As a result of their large body size, and their habit of living in urban areas, giant Canada geese are less susceptible to predators than other geese. In the urban areas where many giant Canada geese live, all of the young may reach six months of age. Since giant Canadas nest farther south and winter farther north than other geese, they also receive less hunting pressure (as little as 50 days) than geese that migrate from as far north as Canada and the Arctic Circle to the Gulf Coast (which may be subjected to as much as 120 days of hunting). The earlier mating habits, higher reproduction rates, lower predation rates, and less hunting mortality of giant Canada geese has led to a population explosion of giants in many areas. Giant Canada geese have become a nuisance in many urban areas, where they leave droppings and destroy grass on parks, golf courses and lakeshore properties.

The giant Canada geese that nest in the Interlake region of Manitoba, between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Winnipegosis, stage on Silver Lake in downtown Rochester, Minnesota and the surrounding rivers, ponds and gravel pits on the Rochester (Minnesota) Goose Refuge. About half of the 35,000 geese that stage on the Rochester Refuge each year remain in the area through the winter; the others migrate to areas near Kansas City, Kansas

Canada Goose Dominance Fight Videot

 

Trumpeter Swan Facts

Trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) reach lengths of 60 inches, with wind spans of up to 95 inches. They weigh from 21 to 35 pounds, and can live up to 25 years. Nesting trumpeters can be found in western Montana, along the borders where Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska meet, and in central Minnesota and east central Wisconsin. They were once common throughout North America, but due to market hunting for down and feathers, plus subsistence hunting and egg collecting, they were presumed to be exterminated by the 1880's. In 1919 two nests were found in Yellowstone Park.

Minnesota swan restoration began in 1996 by the Hennepin County Parks commission. In 1982 the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources began a recovery program. By 1994 the project and released 215 swans, and there was an estimated free-flying flock of 250 birds in Minnesota. These birds winter on the Mississippi River just north of Minneapolis. This wintering area currently hosts about 900 swans from mid-November through late February.

Swans are bottom feeders, using their long necks to search for plants and tubers to eat from the bottoms of ponds, lakes and rivers. They begin nesting in mid-April, with nests as large as sex feet across, they often use muskrat or beaver hives as nesting platforms. They lay from 3 to 8 eggs, but have only a 30% hatching success ratio. Incubation lasts 33 days.

Newly hatched swans, called cygnets, may gain 20% of their body weight each day; they are fully feathered by 7-8 weeks, but are unable to fly until 15 weeks, they begin daily practice flights in mid-September. Cygnets are gray-colored for their first year.

The young swans remain with their parents throughout the winter. They are usually chased away from the parents during their second winter, but may stay with their siblings up to two years, thus most of the small groups seen flying consist of a mated pair, and their young of the past two years. During their second year young swans choose a mate on the wintering grounds; they remain mated to until one of them dies.

Young swans usually nest the first time between 3 and 6 years of age, on nests in remote areas, where they claim a territory of 3-6 acres; with a long expanse of open water, which they use to taxi before they take flight.

Lead poisoning from shotgun shell pellets, illegal hunting, power lines, predators and loss of habitat are the main threats to trumpeter swans.

Trumpeter Swan Mating Display Photos

 

Tundra Swan Facts

Tundra swans (Cygnus columbianus) reach lengths of 52 inches, with wingspans of 85 inches. They can be distinguished from trumpeter swans by the yellow patch between the dark bill and their eyes.

Male swans are called cobs; females, pens; and young, cygnets. The clutch size varies from 2-8 rough-shelled, pale yellow creamy-white eggs, which hatch in about 35 days. The cygnets stay with the adults for about one year; at about 15 months they get their adult plumage.

Swans mate for life, however, if one of a pair dies the other will find a new mate. They gather and pile up grass, sedges, and mosses to make nests, often within 100 yards of the Arctic coastline. The nests measure about 6 feet across and 12-18 inches high. During incubation the females care for the eggs by themselves while the males stand guard.

To achieve flight, swans face into the wind, run along the surface of the water for 15 to 20 feet, flap their wings and beat the water with their feet alternately until they gain sufficient headway to become airborne. They fly in v-shaped formations, and achieve speeds up to 100 miles per hour with tail winds. They have been sighted at elevations of 6,000 to 8,000 feet.

Formerly known as whistling swans, tundra swans nest in the Arctic and stay there during the spring and summer. Birds of the western population winter along the west coast into California, southern Idaho and northern Nevada. Birds of the eastern population winter from Chesapeake Bay to North Carolina. They often stop along the Mississippi River in southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin before they continue on to their eastern wintering grounds.

Pairs and flocks of these large beautiful birds can often be seen along the lakes and back waters of the Mississippi River from Read's Landing, Minnesota and Alma, Wisconsin to northern Iowa from mid-October to February, with peaks of up to 16,000 birds in November. As many as 9,800 tundra swans have been sighted near Brownsville, Minnesota in the fall.

Their spring arrival is unpredictable; they often arrive in small flocks and remain for only a short time. Large concentrations of swans arrive in the fall beginning in late October, and they often stay until late November or until the water freezes.

Listen to a Tundra Swan Call.

 

Sandhill Crane Facts 

Sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) are generally gray in color with occasional rust-colored streaks. Adults have a red forehead, while yearlings have a dark brown forehead. Adult sandhill cranes vary in height from thirty-four to forty-eight inches. The differences are not due to age, but rather to the genetics of the individual subspecies. Lesser sandhill cranes have a wingspan of approximately six feet; greater sandhill cranes have a span of seven feet. Although they appear large when they fly they only weight six to ten pounds.

Snadhill cranes mate for life, pairing up for the first time during the winter before their third birthday. They always lay two greenish-brown eggs; both parents take turns incubating. The first egg laid hatches a few days before the second egg. However, it is rare that both of the young survive the first year of life. Yearling birds stay with their parents for one year. When the parents return to the nesting grounds, last year's offspring are kept out of the parents' territory. When cranes fly in groups of three, the middle bird is usually the single surviving offspring.

The typical diet of a crane depends upon the time of year. On wintering grounds in Texas, about half their diet is tubers from sedge, a grass-like plant. On the staging grounds along the Platte River and other areas, over eighty percent of the diet is corn. On their nesting grounds over fifty percent of the diet is made up of bulbs of arrow-grass and other aquatic and semi-aquatic species.

Listen to Sandhill Crane Calls.

 Sandhill Crane Mating Display

 

Whooping Crane Facts  

 At one time there were more than 10,000 whooping cranes in North America. But, due to hunting, human encroachment, egg poaching and habitat loss the population of the tallest bird in North America was reduced to 21 in the 1940's.

There are 237 cranes in the flock that summers in Canada and another 280 that live in captivity or as part of a flock reintroduced in the eastern U.S. The only population of wild cranes, which migrates each year between Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Alberta, Canada, and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, this year researchers found 224 birds in Texas after the migration. A smaller, reintroduced group of 60 whooping cranes now lives in Florida year round.

On October 5, 2006, 18 whooping cranes left the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, and began their 1,228 mile trip to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, where they arrived on December 13, 20o6. The cranes followed a group of ultra-light aircraft on their first migration. In, addition, a pair of whooping cranes that had previously made the trip brought their one offspring with them.

Researchers are hopeful that this reestablished flock will flourish in the future.

 

Wild Turkey Facts

Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are a large grouse-like bird reaching lengths of 17 inches, with weights of large mature males reaching 25 pounds. Their heads and upper necks have very few feathers, and the males are able to change the colors of the head and neck from white, to blue and red.

During the spring mating season (March- June) the males or "toms" as they are called, fan their tails, fluff up the feathers of their chest by inflating the air sack underneath the skin of the chest, tuck in their heads and drag their wings o n the ground to proclaim dominance and attract the females. They also gobble loudly, and use air from their inflated air sacks to "spit" (a loud exhale) and "boom" (often incorrectly referred to as drumming) in their attempts to mate with the females.

There were originally six subspecies of the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) in North America and one related species, the Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata) in Central America. The originally discovered subspecies (M. gallopavo gallopavo) is now extinct due to hunting. Of the other five subspecies only the Gould's Turkey is in danger; it occurs in extreme southwest New Mexico, southeast Arizona and adjacent regions of Mexico. It is listed on the endangered species list.

The Eastern Turkey (M. g .silvestris) is the most widely distributed subspecies of the wild turkey. It occurs east of the Missouri River to the Atlantic ocean, the southern and western parts of Minnesota, the eastern third of Kansas and Oklahoma, and eastern Texas and northern Florida. The Florida subspecies (M. g. osceola) occurs in the southern portion of Florida. The Rio Grande (M. g. intermedia) subspecies occurs mainly in the western portions of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, with transplants in small portions of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and South Dakota. The Merriam's (M. g. merriami) subspecies occurs in South Dakota, and portions of most of the mountain states from Canada to Mexico. Hybrid or intergrade turkeys are found in areas where two or more subspecies occur; these birds may exhibit characteristics of one or the other subspecies, characteristics of both subspecies, or characteristics between the two subspecies.

Listen to a Turkey Gobble

Wild Turkey Fight Video

Turkey Roosting Video

Turkey Mating Display

 

Sharp-tailed Grouse Facts

Sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus) are a stocky, round-winged, chicken-like bird reaching lengths of 15 inches. They have a short crest on the crown of their heads, and a narrow, pointed tail with white outer tail feathers. The males have yellow combs over their eyes, and pinkish to pale violet ir sacks on their necks, which they inflate to make mating calls when they dance on the breeding grounds, or "leks" in the spring. They have brown plumage with darker brown, black and tan chevrons around the head, neck, back and under parts; their legs are feathered to the base of their toes.

They can be found in mixed grass prairies from western Nebraska, North and South Dakota and eastern Montana into Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchan, with populations in northwest Minnesota and west central Wiscsonsin.

Listen to Sharp-tailed Grouse at BirderBlog.com by typing "Sharp-tailed Grouse" in the Search Box and clicking on "Sharp-tailed Grouse Sounds". 

Sharp-tailed Grouse Mating Display

 

Prairie Chicken Facts

 

Greater Prairie chickens (Tympanuchus cupido) are medium-sized, stocky, round-winged, chicken-like birds with a short, rounded, dark tail. Their bodies are buff colored with barring on the breast, back and wings; the belly has darker bars. Adult males have a yellow-orange comb over their eye, dark, elongated head feathers that can be raised or lain along their neck, and a circular, orange unfeathered neck patch they inflate when they are calling and displaying on the spring mating grounds called "leks". They inhabit much of Nebraska and Kansas, with populations in eastern North Dakota, northwest Minnesota and east central Wisconsin.

The lesser prairie chicken is similar, but has a differently shaped pink neck patch and generally paler plumage, with more finely barred sides on its body. The two species almost never overlap in range and habitat.

Listen to Prairie Chicken Calls

 

Bald Eagle Facts

 

The national bird of the United States, the bald eagle (Haliaeetus lecuocephalus), reaches lengths of 31-37 inches, with wing spreads if 70-90 inches, and weights of 8-15 pounds. While it was an endangered species in the 1950's and 1960's, it has made a fantastic comeback. As a result of conservation measures, and the ban of several pesticides, bald eagles can once again be found throughout North America. Nesting populations can be found along the Atlantic coast, the Mississippi River drainage, and the Rocky Mountains as far south as Nevada.

While the birds are often identifies by their white head and tail, different ages of eagle exhibit different amounts of white on their heads; 1 year old birds are uniformly brown in color and the beak and eye are dark; 2 year old birds have gray-brown or whitish, they have a white line on their head, and their back and bellies become speckled with white; 3 year old birds become lighter, with a contrasting dark eye stripe, and the bill and eye become yellow; 4 year old birds are mostly dark with some white spots, the head and tail are generally white, but the tail may have a dark band at the end.

One of the largest wintering populations of these birds can be found along the Mississippi River from southern Minnesota to northern Iowa. In some years hundreds of these great birds can be seen along the river, but numbers depend a lot on the weather. Because fish are one of the major food sources of bald eagles, they need open water where they can catch fish. When lakes, rivers and streams freeze up in many areas, hundreds of eagles may be seen on the upper Mississippi from December through February.

Listen to a Bald Eagle Call

 Bald Eagle Photos

Bald Eagle Fishing Video

Young Osprey Eating Fish

 

Western Grebe Facts

Western grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis) have long streamlined bodies for diving. The upper parts of the body are black, lower parts are white. The back of the long slender neck is black; the front is white from chin to belly. They have a pointy black crown on their head, a red eye surrounded by black, and a long thin yellow bill. They reach lengths of 20-24 inches.

They perform several elaborate dances during spring mating. One in which the two birds rapidly "run" across the surface of the water until both birds dive down into the water. In another dance the two birds raise their bellies out of the water and rub each other with vegetation held in their bills.

These birds nest in dense, noisy colonies on large lakes and marshes. The nest is built floating on water and anchored to reeds. They lay 3-4 eggs with an incubation period of about 23 days. They young chicks can often be seen riding on the back of the female. They feed on small crustaceans and fish.

Western Grebe Mating Display

Great-crested Grebe Mating Display

Grebe Fight

MN Birding and Game Animal Locations & Viewing Schedule

 

Safari Club International News

Study Shows Hunting is Beneficial

National Geographic News reports that independent researchers in Great Britain have concluded that hunting and shooting are positive aspects of wildlife conservation.

Scientists from University of Kent in southeast England published a study in Nature saying that farmers who hunt and shoot can help restore Britain's lost wildlife. The study found that hunting and shooting provide an extra incentive for landowners to voluntarily get involved in environmentally sustainable farming practices.

"According to our research, it's people involved with country sports who take up these subsidy schemes," said Nigel Leader-Williams, professor of biodiversity management at the University of Kent. "They plant new woodland because they want foxes and pheasants to live in it." 

 

Wolf Management in the Doghouse

Two recent court rulings have set back wolf management in the U.S. SCI has expressed concern over these two federal court decisions that have prohibited effective management of growing gray wolf populations, and hindered the potential for sportsman participation in said management.

In one case last August, the honorable Judge Garvan Murtha, of the U.S. District Court of Vermont, issued another disappointing ruling against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's attempt to reclassify the gray wolf species from "endangered" to "threatened" status. On Sept. 13, wolf management received a third judicial setback when the honorable Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, took action prohibiting Michigan and Wisconsin from lethally taking problem wolves preying on livestock and other domestic animals.

"Who else but our appointed state and federal wildlife officials have the expertise and the authority to ensure that the Endangered Species Act is properly enforced and our nation's wildlife is scientifically conserved?" said SCI Executive Director Tom Riley. "SCI will continue to support the reclassification of the gray wolf and will support the Service's efforts to rectify these erroneous judicial rulings."

The contention surrounding wolf reclassification began in October of 2003 when a cabal of animal rights organizations, including Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and others, brought to the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon a case challenging the USFWS' authority to change the gray wolf's ESA classification. SCI intervened in that case, together with the Oregon Hunters' Association, the American Farm Bureau and the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, to support gray wolf recovery achieved by the USFWS and to help the USFWS defend against the challenge that had been waged against the rule to reclassify wolves.

Instead of recognizing the USFWS' monumental conservation efforts that resulted in the recovery of large, healthy and viable wolf populations in both the Eastern and Western United States, the Oregon Court invalidated the USFWS' Final Rule to reclassify gray wolves from "endangered" to "threatened" status. As a result, gray wolves throughout the United States retained their "endangered" classification. The USFWS has reserved the right to appeal the Oregon Court's ruling, but has indicated that an appeal is unlikely.

The Vermont case, brought by a second set of Plaintiffs, also offered a disappointing result for gray wolf recovery. The Vermont Court's opinion does nothing to overturn or modify the current "endangered" status of gray wolves imposed by the Oregon Court's determination. In addition, Judge Murtha addressed some issues that were outside the focus of the Oregon Court's previous ruling. He ruled that the USFWS had improperly deleted a proposed Northeastern Distinct Population Segment of wolves, without first giving the public an opportunity to comment on the matter, and that the USFWS improperly lumped the Northeastern states into a single Distinct Population Segment that also included the wolf populations of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In the Sept. 13 ruling, Judge Huvelle invalidated the permits that Michigan and Wisconsin had been using under permit authority issued by the USFWS to cull the two state's problem wolves, and ordered that no further wolves be taken under those permits. The USFWS admitted to the Court it had inappropriately issued the states' permits without first publishing notice of the permit applications and without allowing public comment on the applications. Both Michigan and Wisconsin have submitted new permit applications and the USFWS has published a Federal Register Notice to solicit comments on the wolf depredation permits. Once a thirty day comment period is completed, the USFWS can move forward to issue new permits to replace those invalidated by the Court.

SCI-First For Hunters is the leader in protecting the freedom to hunt and in promoting wildlife conservation worldwide. SCI's 173 Chapters represent all 50 United States as well as 13 other countries. SCI's proactive leadership in a host of cooperative wildlife conservation, outdoor education and humanitarian programs, with the SCI Foundation and other conservation groups, research institutions and government agencies, empowers sportsmen to be contributing community members and participants in sound wildlife management and conservation. Visit www.safariclub.org or call 520-620-1220 for more information.

SCI's record-breaking 33rd Annual Hunters' Convention hosted more than 19,700 sportsmen from 50 countries around the world. Thanks to over 1,100 top exhibitors helping hunters realize dreams around the globe, the Convention raised nearly $11 million for SCI and the SCI Foundation. To register to attend SCI's 34th Annual Hunters' Convention, in Reno Jan. 18-21, 2006, call 888-746-9724 toll-free or visit www.safariclub.org.

 

Alaska Sportsmen Step Up

A coalition of conservation-sportsman groups, including SCI's Alaska (ROAR 5.3) and Alaska Kenai Peninsula chapters, are challenging a proposed animal-extremist-backed ballot measure seeking to ban bear-over-bait hunting (ROAR 5.3) in that state.

According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Mirror, the coalition is informing voters that backers of the ballot initiative are not registering with the Alaska Public Offices Commission in an effort to hide their true out-of-state origins. The coalition also has engaged Pac/West Communications to assist in its advocacy efforts.

"One of our main themes is, 'Don't let out-of-state extremists come in and manage Alaska's game,'" said Pac/West spokesman Jerod Broadfoot. The measure is slated for vote during the Nov. 2, 2004 general election. 

 

Poacher Capture Reward

The Associated Press reports Alaskan authorities are investigating a series of poaching incidents which began along the Knick River approximately two months ago.

A $4,500 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for poaching more than six Dall sheep, a moose, and a mountain goat. According to wildlife officials, there are no leads yet in the investigation.

Anyone with information concerning these incidents should contact their local law enforcement officials or Alaska Fish & Game's Wildlife Conservation Division.

 

Interloping Antelope

New Mexico's oryx herd (ROAR 3.5), which was first introduced in the 1960s, is closely monitored by wildlife management professionals. It has shown an ability to push out indigenous species, to cause habitat damage, and now may represent a new threat to that state's wildlife.

According to The Associated Press, state wildlife biologists are investigating if a previously unknown virus similar to malignant catarrhal fever that was found in a recent oryx study poses a threat to New Mexico's other wildlife. Catarrhal fever is difficult to transmit but, once deer and elk acquire it, the disease almost always is fatal.

According to NMGF Director, however, the investigation is not far enough along to "sound the alarm on the oryx."

 

Bald Eagle Boost

Good news regarding the United States' official bird, the bald eagle. ESPN.com reports that for the first time in more than 100 years, two of the regal raptors have been spotted nesting near the Little Calumet River on the southern border of Chicago, Illinois. According to US Fish & Wildlife, until now, most Illinois eagle sightings have been along the Mississippi River.

The eagles' exact location is being kept secret by state officials and bird enthusiasts so the pair will not be scared away from their nest by curious onlookers.

SCI urges Chicago residents to heed the concerns of state wildlife officials to help expand the range for bald eagle.

 

 Wolf Management

The US Fish & Wildlife Service announced a proposal to give Idaho and Montana more wolf management authority over their packs, which are part of the reintroduced northern Rockies wolf population. At some 750 animals, northern Rockies wolves have more than doubled initial USFWS population growth projections.

Sportsmen can submit comments on the Idaho/Montana proposal by writing to USFWS; Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator; 100 North Park, Number 320; Helena, MT; 59601; westerngraywolf@fws.gov.

In Alaska, according to The Associated Press, aerial sportsmen culled some 114 wolves in the Nelchina Basin near Glennallen and near McGrath. The action was taken to help stem moose predation.

 

Wildlife Surprises

Conflicts between humans and animals continue to underscore the need for proactive wildlife management programs using legal hunting as a tool to help minimize risk:

ESPN.com reports a deer broke into a Kalamazoo, Mich. business, causing damage and startling employees before escaping and being stuck by two vehicles.

Foxnews.com notes a sea lion weighing some 1,500 pounds dragged a fisherman off his boat in Alaska. The fisherman suffered minor injuries and a shredded pants seat.

Associated Press says an alligator bit the leg of a 65-year-old woman riding in the back of a pickup truck through Florida's JW Corbett Wildlife Management Area.

Reuters reports a retired crocodile hunter saved the life of an 11-year-old girl attacked by 10-foot crocodile while she was swimming.

Just Plain Sick

PETA continues to show a total lack of sensitivity and propriety.

Its new Canadian billboard campaign leverages the horrific acts allegedly perpetrated by accused British Columbia serial killer Robert Pickton. According to news reports, Pickton allegedly mixed his victims' remains with pig meat from his farm. The PETA billboard depicts a girl and a pig, with the statement "Neither Of Us Are Meat".

SCI sends condolences to the family members of the murder victims ruthlessly exploited by the shocking anti-meat campaign. To sign a petition calling for greater IRS scrutiny of PETA's tax-exempt status, visit: www.petitiononline.com/rvkptaex.

 

More on SCI

Founded in 1971, SCI is the leader in protecting the freedom to hunt and in promoting wildlife conservation worldwide.

With some 200 chapters around the globe, the 501(c)(4) non-profit association is a tireless advocate for the more than 45 million sportsmen and sportswomen who, through their legal hunting activities, represent the single largest source of money necessary to maintain wildlife populations and habitats, to conduct wildlife research and to enforce wildlife laws. For more information about SCI, visit www.scifirstforhunters.org or its government relations Web site at www.sci-dc.org.

SCI Foundation funds and manages worldwide programs dedicated to wildlife conservation, outdoor education and humanitarian services. For more information about the 501(c)(3) Foundation, visit www.sci-foundation.org or its International Wildlife Museum Web site at www.thewildlifemuseum.org.
 

Birding Links

Birding Optics Blog: http://www.opticsblog.com/

Index of Recent Birding Listserv Traffic (North America) - This site gives you a great look into what birders are talking about across the country right now: http://server1.birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/

Index of Current Rare Bird Alerts (RBAs) - Here are RBAs, the regular alerts on the most interesting birds: http://birdingonthe.net/hotmail.html

Index of Birding Festivals - This page from the website run by Bird Watcher's Digest; it can lead you to a birding festival, near or far: http://www.birdwatchersdigest.com

Index of Birding Trails - This page is also from Bird Watcher's Digest, with a way to look up exciting birding-routes: http://www.birdwatchersdigest.com

ABA's Code of Birding Ethics - Here are the essential rules of birding afield: http://www.americanbirding.org

Google Maps - This is one of the best ways to help guide you to your next birding site: http://maps.google.com/

 

BIRD CONSERVATION

MN Audubon Society http://www.mn.audubon.org/

National Audubon Society http://www.audubon.org/

North American Bird Conservation Initiative - The NABCI site provides you with an essential guide to integrated bird conservation in North America: http://www.nabci-us.org/

Important Bird Area Program - The IBA Program is a land-based conservation program prioritizing important sites year-round: http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/

Bird Observatories in North America - Find all the bird observatories in North America through this site: http://www.nmnh.si.edu

American Bird Conservancy - This organization is doing important work in a number of different bird-conservation area: http://abcbirds.org/

BirdLife International - BirdLife is a global alliance of organizations working to preserve the world's birds: http://www.birdlife.org/

Birders' Exchange - A fine project of the American Birding Association, designed to get binoculars, field-guides, scopes, and other vital equipment to our counterparts in Latin America and the Caribbean: http://www.americanbirding.org/bex/

Visit Owling.com, A Site Dedicated Exclusively to Owls.

Hearing Enhancement

One of the pieces of equipment. that hunters use, that can greatly enhance your wildlife viewing experience while you are birding, is a pair or amplified hearing aids or headphones. I've used them for years to research deer, elk, turkeys and pheasants, and recently I began using them on birding trips, so that I can hear and can locate birds in wooded areas, and here far off birds, or hear them better.

I've used hearing aid type amplification from Blast Busters, and amplified headphones such as the Sport Muff from Silver Creek Industries and Walker's Game Ears manufactured by Affinity Medical Technology. They have greatly improved my ability to hear the softest calls of the birds, and enjoy the total experience of observing wildlife.

 

 Outdoorsman's Footwear

If you are serious about looking for birds, animals, wildflowers and scenic areas you are going to have to do some walking. Although you can enjoy nature from the car in many areas, in most instances you will have to walk, sometimes several miles, to find and observe rare birds, big game animals, wildflowers and the scenic views of rivers, streams, lakes, waterfalls, flower covered meadows, ravines and snow covered mountain peaks.

I've covered many, many miles in my studies of deer, turkey and black bear in the woods, swamps, hills and ravines of Minnesota, and many more miles walking in high meadows, rock-strewn slopes, blow-down covered woods, and steep mountains looking for elk, mule deer and black bear in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. And I've worn out several pairs of boots along the way.

Notice I said boots, not shoes. Although I've worn shoes on birding and wildflower trips, I generally put on a good pair of waterproof hunting boots, with soles that can grip anything from loose sand to lose or wet rocks, because I usually find myself wanting to look over the next hill or across a stream to see what is there.

Hunting boots are made to support your arches, and provide you with comfort when you walk long distances. A good pair of hiking boots can also provide the ankle support many people need when they ascend or descend steep terrain. And, if nothing else, boots cover your socks, which means you won't get them covered with burrs and stickers.

I've been wearing La Crosse and Danner boots for a long time. In fact, I've never worn anything else since the late 80's. My latest pair of La Crosse boots are their Broadside GTX models with Gore Tex and leather uppers, and 400 grams of Thinsulate. They are, without a doubt, the lightest, most comfortable boots I've ever worn.

I have two pinched nerves in my left leg, one is the sciatic nerve, which causes me pain in the left buttocks and hamstring. The other is the femoral nerve, which causes me extreme pain in the inner thigh and the heel of my foot. Normally when I stand or walk for a long time I am in a lot of pain. I don't know how many hours I've worn my Broadsides or how many miles I've covered in them since I got them, but it has been a lot. But, not once have I been in pain, and not once have my feet felt sore.

If you do a lot of hiking or walking in the outdoors I strongly suggest you invest in a good pair of hunting boots, because, unlike many hiking boots, they are made to be quiet, which if you are looking for birds or big game, is a must.

To view the wide variety of boots that LaCrosse and Danner offer click on their links.  

 

Staying Warm

Heat Exchanger

Years ago I received a Heat Exchanger face mask from Polar Wrap. The mask, which contains a coiled breathing tube which goes through a small radiator-type heat exchanger, is designed to keep the person wearing it warm, by warming cold outside air before it got into the wearer's lungs; thereby keeping the lungs and the blood flowing through the lung warm.

I was skeptical at first, but after I took a 45 minute walk, dressed in jeans, shirt, a medium insulated jacket, baseball cap and no gloves, in a 15 degree windchill, I was absolutely amazed. Although my hands were exposed to the cold air, and the skin was cold I did not feel the cold. And my entire body was warmer than if I had not been wearing the mask.

After years of wearing the mask I believe it is the single most important piece of gear a person can wear if they want to stay in temperatures below 40 degrees F. It comes in several different colors and camo patterns, and in both face mask and fool hood designs.

Another important aspect of the mask is that it has proven extremely helpful for anyone who suffers from respiratory diseases, such as asthma. My daughter has chronic asthma, which causes her lungs to stop functioning when the temperatures are below 40 degrees.

Warm Air Mask & Health Mask

Polar Fleece recently sent my daughter a Warm Air Mask, a neck sleeve containing the heat exchanger coil designed for non-hunters; and a Health Mask, a surgical style mask, designed with electrostatic material to keep the wearer warm.

Tawnya can now enjoy the outdoors and her passion for wildlife photography worry-free.

For more information on these products log on to the Polar Wrap website

 

 

 

 

Check Bird Migration Radar - as it Happens

Check this in the evening, when dusk migrations begin. Look for northerly winds pushing into your area. Here

 

Bird and Animal Facts Pages

(with several videos)

Here

New Live Bird & Animal Cameras

If you enjoy watching wildlife, zoo animals and aquarium fish, this is the place to go. We are linked to over 100 wildlife cameras.

New Bird and Animal Videos & Photographs 100's of bird and animal videos, and photographs of rare or endangered species.

American Museum of Natural History Articles of interest on Natural History

WorldTwitch Reports on Rare Birds around the World Here  

Journey North
A Global Study of Wildlife Migration and Seasonal Change Here

History of the Grizzly Bear & the challenges they face Here

 

Minnesota News

MN Audubon News

The Minnesota legislative session ended on May 18. In the five-month session, Audubon Minnesota, state chapters and our Environmental Issues Committee played a pivotal role in passing legislation that will provide long-term, strengthened protection for our state’s native birds. Here

"Lights Out" Law Protects Migrating Birds Saint Paul MN, May 18, 2009

The Mississippi Flyway just became a little safer for migrating birds as a result of legislation signed into law by Governor Tim Pawlenty over the weekend. The "Lights Out" law was sponsored by State Representative Phyllis Kahn (DFL – Minneapolis) and inspired by Audubon Minnesota’s "Lights Out" program. Here

Audubon Victories in the Legislature

Audubon Minnesota, state chapters and our Environmental Issues Committee played a pivotal role in passing legislation this year that will provide long-term, strengthened protection for our state’s native birds. Here

Declining MN Bird Numbers

Audubon study reveals dramatic declines for many of Minnesota's most familiar birds.

Some of the most recognizable and beloved birds in Minnesota and the nation are declining at an alarming rate, according to the National Audubon Society. The recent analysis by Audubon reveals that many of the nation's common birds nose-dived over the past 40 years, with several down nearly 80 percent. Read more Here

 

National & International News

GrandCanyon - Older Than Thought

Lemurs Hunted, Eaten Amid Civil Unrest, Group Says August

Newt Cuts Itself to Use Ribs as "Concealed Weapons" August

Sea Snakes & Fresh Water July-August 2009

Falconry Talon Hunt June 2009

Wolves or Potatoes?

Groups threaten Idaho potato boycott if state goes through with wolf hunt, but no one taking up proposal to bring wolves to their state. Story

New Study to Help Save the World's Most Spectacular Hummingbird - Other Rare Birds to Benefit Thursday, August 06, 2009

American Bird Conservancy Petitions EPA to Ban Import of Food Containing Deadly Pesticide Residues

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Scientists to Investigate Impacts of Wind Energy on Migratory Wildlife

Thursday, July 23, 2009

House Passes Bill to Protect Migratory Birds

Monday, July 20, 2009

Administration Announces Withdrawal of Controversial Oregon Logging Plan

Monday, July 20, 2009

Senate Committee Passes Bill to Conserve Rapidly Disappearing Migratory Birds

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Brazilian Land Purchase Doubles Protected Area for Bird Once Thought Extinct

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Study Finds Outdoor Cats Easy Prey for Coyotes, Recommends Keeping Cats Indoors

Thursday, July 02, 2009

 

Volunteer to Protect Nature

Volunteers play an important role in protecting the natural resources and maintaining the recreation areas managed by the Corps of Engineers. Nationwide, over 50,000 volunteers contribute 1 million hours of services annually at Corps lakes and projects an estimated value of $18.7 million. Read More

Bird Song Changes - Sound Alarm Over Habitat Fragmentation June 10, 2009

New research published in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology has found that changes in bird song could be used as an early warning system to detect man-made ecological disturbances. Although much previous research has focused on bird song and vocal mimicry, this is the first study to analyze the role played by habitat loss and fragmentation on song-matching.

Editors Note: Many birder have seen this habitat fragmentation, particularly with grasslands and grassland bird species. With the ending of CRP contracts on a lot of property in southern Minnesota - I've seen , and we all will see, more fragmentation of prairie/grassland habitats. And I've heard what may be the changing of bird songs in these smaller habitats as a result of it.

On a recent trip to the Randolph, Kenyon, Nerstrand area of SE Minnesota, I noticed that a lot of former CRP lands were now planted in row crops. In two areas the Bobolinks were forced to move from the field they had been using for several years - to another field across the road - in order to find suitable breeding territories and nesting habitat. At the Randolph Industrial Park I heard a male Western Meadowlark perform several different songs, some of which I did not recognize. You can listen to these different songs here.

Not only may the change of songs in a bird species be an indicator of habitat fragmentation; habitat fragmentation could eventually lead to several new types of bird songs, with the eventuality of new subspecies of birds as a result of habitat fragmentation. It is this disconnect, of not hearing and seeing their neighboring birds (as a result of varied or fragmented habitats), that led to the division of one finch species into the diversity of finch species on the Galapagos Islands - which later led to Charles Darwin's theory of the Origin of Species.

Are we on the verge of the split of many animal and plant species into several new subspecies, and eventually into new species, as we humans continue to alter and fragment the habitat of the planet we live on? Read the whole article here.

Gray Wolf Management Transferred to States May 4, 2009

Gray wolves in parts of the northern Rockies and the Great Lakes region are officially off the endangered species list today, opening the possibility of public hunts in some states for the first time in decades.

New Bird Biodiversity Study

Study suggests bird counts and birding efforts are best before 9:30 AM.

Birds May be able to Smell - Better than we Thought

Sight and hearing are the most important senses for birds, at least this is what was thought. Bird DNA studies by researchers have now provided genetic evidence that many bird species can smell. Here

 

Conservation & Ecology

20 Top Bird Habitats in Trouble

This is a great "paper". Every bird lover should read it. Here

Fish and Amphibians in Trouble

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 40 percent of American freshwater fish and amphibian species, including this red-sided dace, are classified as being at risk.

NEARLY $12 MILLION FROM STAMPS FOR REFUGE AQUISITION

In early March, the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved the purchase of wetland and grassland habitat that will be added to seven units of the National Wildlife Refuge System to secure breeding, resting and feeding habitat.

These acquisitions are funded mostly with proceeds from sales of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, otherwise known as the Duck Stamps (mainly from hunters, TR).

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission oversees the use of Stamp funds for the purchase and lease of these wetland and grassland habitats for the Refuge System.

The commission includes Senators Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Representative John Dingell of Michigan and Rob Wittman of Virginia, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

These recent Refuge System acquisitions include:

  • Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Camden, Gates and Pasquotank Counties, North Carolina - acquisition of 51 acres.
  • San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, Brazoria and Matagorda Counties,Texas - acquisition of 1,454 acres.
  • Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, Pondicherry Divisions, Coos County, New Hampshire - acquisition of 80 acres.
  • Grand Cote National Wildlife Refuge, Avoyelles and Rapides Parishes, Louisiana - acquisition of 265 acres.
  • Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Wapato Lake Unit, Washington and Yamhill Counties, Oregon - acquisition of 225 acres.
  • North Central Valley Wildlife Management Area, Colusa County, California - acquisition of 388 acres.
  • Grasslands Wildlife Management Area, Merced County, California - a permanent easement of 1,077 acres.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the 1934 amendment to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that created what we know today as the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp.

New Study Pinpoints Extinction Epicenters

Safeguarding 595 sites around the world would help stave off an imminent global extinction crisis, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read the article here.

Millions of migratory birds are being killed every year by communications towers. April 14, 2009 Here

Obama Signs Land Conservation Act into Law March

This will provide significant habitat conservation for many priority bird species including Black Swift, Greater Sage-Grouse, and the Northern Spotted Owl.

Read the Article Here

Administration Moves to Restore Endangered Species Act March 4, 2009

Here

"Unsung Species" Ignored On Endangered List

The global extinction crisis - ignores thousands of affiliated species that are also at risk of being wiped out, making the list of endangered species much larger and more serious than originally thought. Here

Global Warming Could Be Affecting Wolf-Moose Balance

Wolf population up, moose population down in Isle Royale National Park, the home of a 46-year study of predators and their prey. Researchers suspect that a global warming trend may be behind the shift. Here

Mammals

6,000 Rare, Large River Dolphins Found in Bangladesh March 31, 2009

A previously unknown population of Irrawaddy dolphins discovered in Bangladesh has given scientists "great hope" for the survival of the rare species. Here

Up to 2,000 New Orangutans Found on Borneo April 13, 2009

Apes found in unlikely habitat. Here

Nearly One In Four Of World's Mammals At Risk Of Disappearing Forever

Comprehensive assessment of the world's mammals has confirmed an extinction crisis, with almost one in four mammals at risk of disappearing forever. Here

Mammals That Hibernate Or Burrow Less Likely To Go Extinct Feb. 2, 2009

The best way to survive the ill-effects of climate change and pollution may be to simply sleep through it. Here

Vocalizations Help Lemurs Pick Mates of the Right Species

Some Malagasy mouse lemurs are so similar that picking a mate of the right species, especially at night time in a tropical forest, might seem like a matter of pot luck. However, new research suggests that vocalizations help them pick a partner of the right species. Here

Pygmy Tarsier Rediscovered

Rare member of primate family rediscovered on Sulewesi Island. Here

Reptiles

Tree Lizard's Quick Release Escape System Makes Jumpers Turn Somersaults Feb. 23, 2009

Up to fifty percent of some lizard populations seem to have traded some part of their tails in exchange for escape. Here

Amphibians

New Amphibians June 16, 2009

A bug-eyed salamander and a colorful poison frog are among 12 species possibly new to science recently found in the mountains of Ecuador.

Here

Axlotl Salamander Endangered

Rare Mexican salamander in real trouble.

Chytrid Fungus Devastating Rare Frogs

Recent global decline of frog and salamander populations caused by emerging diseases as major causes. One particularly new pathogen, the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis appears to be especially lethal, and is implicated in massive declines and extinction in Central America and Eastern Australia. Here

Insects

Creation of Oases for Endangered Monarch Butterflies

Waystations for monarch butterflies are sprouting up around the country, with milkweed plants and flowers such as zinnias that produce lots of nectar. These gardens will provide oases for the butterflies to lay eggs and feed during their migration. Here

Fish

Fish Researcher Demonstrates First 'Non-visual Feeding' By African Cichlids Apr. 13, 2009

Most fish rely primarily on their vision to find prey to feed upon, but a University of Rhode Island biologist and colleagues demonstrated that a group of African cichlids feed by using their lateral line sensory system to detect minute vibrations made by prey hidden in the sediments. Here

Click here to see how a few different fish species have evolved into the colorful Malawi Cichlids of Lake Malawi.

 

Endangered Species Profile

NEW SPECIES PHOTOS: Jumping Spiders, Odd Gecko, More Here

 Black-footed Ferret Profile

Rare ferret information. Here

Red Wolf Profile

Limited reintroduced population survives on the peninsula in eastern North Carolina between Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. Here

 Vancouver Island Marmot

This following is from http://www.animalinfo.org/

The Vancouver Island marmot is a housecat-sized rodent weighing 3 - 6.5 kg (6.6 - 14.3 lb). It prefers sub-alpine open areas above 1000 m (3300'), in south to west-facing meadows. The flowering parts of alpine plants are its preferred food. The Vancouver Island marmot prefers open areas that provide good soil for burrowing, plentiful herbs and forbs to eat, and suitable rocks for lookout spots. It lives in colonies comprised of one or more family groups, and monogamous pairings are the norm.

The Vancouver Island marmot has never been abundant in historic times. It is endemic to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. By 1990 it had been reduced to 1/3 of its former range in the mountains of Vancouver Island, due in part to habitat disruption caused by logging.

"With a population numbering fewer that 100 animals, Vancouver Island marmots must be considered as one of North America's most critically endangered mammals. Only by increasing both their numbers and distribution can the future of this engaging rodent be secured. For this reason the Recovery Plan emphasizes captive-breeding combined with marmot reintroductions to formerly occupied sites." (Bryant 1998)

 

MONTHLY RARITY FOCUS

On the morning of May 14, park survey volunteers Doris Leary, Lesley Royce, and Carole Adams discovered a Greater Sand-Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii) in breeding plumage at Huguenot Memorial Park in Jacksonville, Florida.

This species regularly breeds from Turkey to western Mongolia and southern Siberia, and winters in the southeastern Mediterranean area, South Africa, and Australasia. There is one previous record for this accidental species in North America - a bird at Bolinas Lagoon, Marin County, California, 29 January to 8 April 2001. The Jacksonville bird appears to be only the second record for the Western Hemisphere.

The Greater Sand-Plover was initially seen at Huguenot lagoon. Later, it was located closer to the park’s family beach, where it was observed a number of times chasing away Wilson’s Plovers.

Hundreds of observers went to the park to see the sand-plover, with some flying into the Jacksonville airport, or else driving to the park from far away out-of-state locations.

The bird was seen through 26 May, except for a couple of days when extreme weather conditions, including wind, rain, and severe storm surges made observations impossible.

To see a photo of the bird taken by Roger Clark, see: Sandplover For an article on the sand-plover in the ORLANDO SENTINEL, see: Sandplover

The above article is courtesy of Steiner Birding at http://www.steiner-birding.com

IBA NEWS: BAFFIN ISLAND WILDERNESS

Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are not simply meaningful for identifying sites, but they can be crucial in highlighting and deepening the protection of these sites.

An example of this transpired in early September, when the Canadian government announced that it will protect more than 1,737 square miles of Arctic wilderness in the Nunavut Territory by establishing three new National Wildlife Areas. These three sites, all located on or adjacent to the northeast side of Baffin Island, are Niginganiq (Isabella Bay), Qaqulluit (Cape Searle), and Akpait (Reid Bay). The areas include two globally significant IBAs.

"This is great news for Canada's birds, biodiversity nd the cause of wilderness preservation," said Julie Gelfand, president of Nature Canada. "Two of Canada's Important Bird Areas are found within the Qaqulluit and Akpait National Wildlife Areas. This means critical breeding and feeding grounds for millions of migratory birds will be preserved."

The Qaqulluit (ka-koo-loo-eet) and Akpait (ak-pa-eet) National Wildlife Areas are inhabited by many seabirds, including, respectively, Canada's largest colony of Northern Fulmars and one of Canada's largest colonies of Thick-billedMurres.

Once a site is designated as a National Wildlife Area, natural features integral to the location are protected from disturbance, and activities considered harmful to species or their habitats are prohibited. Wildlife research and interpretation may take place in these areas, but these activities require a permit.

For additional information about worldwide IBA programs, and those across the U.S., check the National Audubon Society's ImportantBird Area program web site at: http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/ The above article is courtesy of Steiner Birding at http://www.steiner-birding.com

 

IKE: DAMAGE TO BIRD HABITAT

And while we are on the subject of hurricanes, reports are still coming in about the impact of Hurricane Ike on the immediate Texas coast, and we can share some news items pertaining to destruction at birding areas and bird habitats. The 110-mph winds and a 20-foot storm surge certainly had an impact.

As an indication of the force of Ike, the five-mile-long Texas City Dike across from Galveston was almost washed away. Celebrated as the world's longest manmade fishing pier, the dike is in such disrepair that city leaders say it will remain closed indefinitely. The dike is primarily a birding observation site, though not necessarily vital bird habitat. But, in case you were wondering, the adjacent habitat was clobbered.

The Bolivar Flats and High Island Sanctuaries, run by the Houston Audubon Society, suffered. Bolivar Flats was littered with debris, including at least two large shipping containers. Oil and hazardous material spills have been reported. At High Island, litter, broken trees, dead and bloated cattle, and vegetation saturated by intrusive saltwater mark the scene.

A number of Texas State properties have reported damage, including the J. D. Murphee Wildlife Management Area (with an oil spill impacting an estimated 1,200 acres) and the Bessie Heights Marsh of the Lower Neches WMA (with some oiling on about 2,000 acres). Concern over these spills involves threats to waterfowl, ducks and geese expected to start arriving in late October.

The impact to three local National Wildlife Refuges - Anahuac, McFaddin, and Texas Point - has also been considerable. Aransas NWR, a bit farther down the coast, was also hit. Hurricane Ike caused an estimated $260 million in damage to the refuges. The destruction of structures, roads, and visitor facilities was one element, and habitat devastation, especially the saltwater inundation of freshwater and brackish habitat, along with oil leakage, was another. In many areas, prescribed burning may prove to be the first step in recovery. Elsewhere, it is hoped that a good rain will flush out some of the salt, reviving a zone currently brown for miles.

For more details on the cost of the effort at refuges, see the National Wildlife Refuge Association assessment:

The above article is courtesy of Steiner Birding at http://www.steiner-birding.com

 

The Negative Impact of Cats

About 6,000 birds are killed by cats in the United States each minute This includes feral cats, farm cats, and the pet cats that are often put out for the night or allowed to roam freely during the day. The American Bird Conservancy has led an important campaign called "Cats Indoors." This effort can only be strengthened with knowledge and action by bird lovers, such as the groups and individuals that participate on this list. For more information, visit: http://www.abcbirds.org/cats/

 USSA Briefs Senators on Connection Between Endangered Species Recovery and Sportsmen

America's premier sportsmen's rights organization today testified before U.S. Senators on the key connection between hunting and successful wildlife conservation.

United States Sportsmen's Alliance (USSA) Director of Federal Affairs William P. Horn testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and why the proposed listing of polar bears as threatened throughout its range will prove detrimental to healthy and presently sustainable polar bear populations.

Horn was invited to testify by Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairman of the Committee and Senator James Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Committee. Horn served as Assistant Secretary of he Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the agency responsible for the ESA, from 1985 to 1988, before joining USSA. He is considered one of America's top lawyers on endangered species law, and also serves on the Board of Environmental Sciences and Toxicology of the National Academy of Sciences.

Environmental organizations want polar bears listed as threatened because of projections that Arctic sea ice will diminish in 50-plus years as a result of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

In his testimony Horn pointed out that listing polar bears as threatened based on a 50-year prediction would produce adverse consequences, not only for polar bears, but for all wildlife. Environmentalists plan to use the listing as a means to force reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and power plants among other things. The groups will likely bring lawsuits to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to enforce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions regulations. The enormous costs of overhauling and fundamentally changing the FWS mission will leave little if any money for actual endangered species or other traditional fish and wildlife programs.

"The USSA is committed to making sure that lawmakers are aware that sportsmen continue to be the key element in the conservation of wildlife," said USSA president Bud Pidgeon. "Listing the polar bear as threatened will stop limited hunting, and cut off key revenues that fund vital polar bear research. We are proud to represent sportsmen before Congress on this critical issue."

Science shows that many polar bear populations are at historic highs and that there are no imminent threats to the healthy, huntable populations.

It is well established that many polar bear populations are at or near record highs, have increased substantially since the 1960s, and sustain carefully managed subsistence and sport hunting programs. The latter programs, conducted primarily in Canada, generate important local income and ensure that Native communities are vested in polar bear conservation. The partnership between these communities and Canadian wildlife officials has yielded effective scientific bear conservation and management resulting in improved sustainability of 11 of 13 polar bear populations in Canada.

American sportsmen comprise approximately 90 percent of the foreign hunting clientele in Canada, pouring millions of dollars into polar bear conservation and management, not to mention the financial benefits to the local communities. American hunters are the primary source of essential funding for conservation and research that allows for continued success of the populations.

The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance is a national association of sportsmen and sportsmen's organization that protects the rights of hunters, anglers and trappers in the courts, legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress and through public education programs. For more information about the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and its work, call (614) 888-4868 or visit its web site: www.ussportsmen.org.

 

Tawnya Michels Outdoor Photography

 

THE BIRDING COMMUNITY E-BULLETIN

This Birding Community E-bulletin is being distributed through the generous support of Steiner Binoculars as a service to active and concerned birders, those dedicated to the joys of birding and the protection of birds and their habitats. You can access an archive of our past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA), and on the birding pages of Steiner Binoculars

 RARITY FOCUS, April 2009

There were not many accessible or lingering rarities for the month of March. There were, however, several one- or two-day wonders including a Baikal Teal in Washington State, a Rufous-backed Robin in Arizona, a Garganey in Louisiana, and a Western Spindalis in Florida. One bird that did stay for a few days and entertained a lucky group of birders during its stay was a Common Crane in Nebraska.

March, as many people probably know, is when the crane migration occurs along the Platte River in Nebraska. Hundreds of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, along with thousands of bird watchers, annually assemble between Grand Island and Kearney, Nebraska, to witness the spectacular early spring crane migration. In 2008, about 180 miles west, and upriver from Nebraska's "crane central," a Common Crane appeared on March 18th.Gail Bleidt first observed the Common Crane in a field on the 45-acre Crane Valley Ranch that she and her husband, Pete, own near the North Platte River just outside of Lewellen, Nebraska. The Bleidts often have over a thousand Sandhill Cranes using their lower fields in the spring. The Common Crane was present for several hours on 18 March, and was re-found on the mornings of 20 and 21 March. Interestingly, some Colorado birders actually spotted a Common Crane in the same area two years ago.

The Common Crane is an Old World species, a vagrant to Canada and the United States. In North America the species is usually found with migrating Sandhill Cranes. (See page 152 of the latest National Geographic Guide for more details.) There have been approximately 17 previous reports of this species in North America (some almost certainly representing multiple sightings of the same individual), most having occurred in September-October or March-April. It is assumed that some of these birds have become "attached" to Sandhill Crane groups originating in Siberia and following them during their migrations. There are more sightings of this species in the lower-48 states in Nebraska than in any other state.

WHOOPING CRANES LEAVING TEXAS IN REDUCED NUMBERS

As March ended, we learned at the last hour about the drop in numbers of Endangered wintering Whooping Cranes on the Texas Coast. Apparently, 2008-2009 was the worst winter on record for these regal birds. Total winter mortality in the vicinity of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, the primary wintering area for this species, is estimated at six adults and 15 chicks, a loss of almost 8 percent of the wild flock - a flock that contained a record 270 birds in the fall.

The remaining cranes are now on their return northward journey to Wood Buffalo National Park on the border of northern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories of Canada where they nest.

We hope to have more details in May.

 MORE ON BIRDSTRIKES
 
Immediately after the February Birding Community E-bulletin was sent out, the National transportation Safety Board (NTSB) indicated that there was organic material - "snarge" - found in both engines of the commercial jet that was dramatically ditched in the Hudson River on 15 January. (Snarge is the name used by investigators when referring to organic remains found on planes. Snarge actually means "snot and garbage.") To see our February report, check: here

By mid-February, researchers at the Smithsonian Institution confirmed that the snarge removed from the A320 aircraft was from Canada Geese. There is no way to know how many geese were involved in the incident.
 
To read an interview with Carla Dove, director of the Smithsonian‚s feather identification lab, see: here

 

SHEDDING SOME LIGHT
 
Also on the topic of birds and aircraft, in early February the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced plans to conduct a study to determine whether steady-burning sidelights on tall communications towers can be safely eliminated without endangering air traffic. These steady-burning sidelights are known to attract nocturnal migrating birds and cause fatal collisions with such structures.
 
Current FAA guidelines on towers over 200 feet require the utilization of red or dual-type lighting systems including the use of steady-burning sidelights mounted at various intermediate levels (depending on tower height). These requirements, now over 30 years old, may no longer be applicable, based on current lighting technology. Furthermore, blinking lights are suspected of causing far fewer bird deaths than steady-burning lights.
 
The study should begin later this year, with a report and recommendations hopefully announced before the start of 2010.

 

SODSAVER: WALLFLOWER
We have reported multiple times in the past on the expectations for "sodsaver" in the last Farm Bill, most recently in June 2008: here

A "sodsaver" element in the Farm Bill would be vital to an entire spectrum of grassland birds. The "sodsaver" provision was originally intended to eliminate taxpayer incentives to cultivate crops on virgin native grasslands, and it was that it would be mandatory nationwide. (Ripping up 10,000-year-old prairie would not have been forbidden, just not eligible for subsequent federal subsidy.) Final passage altered the bill's language to apply only to parts of five prairie states (i.e., Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota), and then only at the option of those states' individual governors.
 
The sign-up target for the governors to respond was 15 February 2009. Guess what? To date the governors have passed on taking advantage of this conservation opportunity. Democrat? Repubican? No matter. No takers. The "sodsaver" so far remains ignored and unused. Still, some optimists feel that the governors may be waiting for some further ruling on language.
 
If anything, an almost toothless "sodsaver" on the books is evidence for the need to strengthen the provision in the next Farm Bill, as well as the need to make it compulsory across the country. America's native prairies deserve as much.

CONCERN OVER THE SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER
 
Astute bird conservationists are well aware of the plight of the Red Knot - a situation closely associated with the decline in the availability of horseshoe crab eggs at the crucial Delaware Bay stopover site for Red Knots. Researchers have recently raised concern over yet another species, Semipalmated Sandpiper, whose decline may also be linked to the Delaware Bay.

Swan, Bald Eagle and Wintering Northern Bird Tours

November, right after the northern lakes and rivers freeze up is usually best time for tundra swans, and there are generally some bald eagles around. The swans will leave for the east coast when the back waters of the Mississippi, or the Mississippi River itself, freezes. Tour information.

 T. R. Michels Outdoor Photography

January through March is usually best time for trumpeter swans north of Minneaplis/St. Paul, and for bald eagles south of Minneapolis/St. Paul. However, we regularly see bald eagles in the twin cities throughout the year.

Winter is a good time to head to northern Minnesota to see boreal chickadees, black-billed magpies, Canada Jays, ruffed and spruce grouse; plus wintering crossbills, several owl species, long-tailed and harlequin ducks, scoters and many pelagic birds such as gulls, terns and jaegers. Duluth may also have a few western migrants, such as Townsend's solitaire, western tanager etc. If you would like to join us on any of these tours e-mail us at TRMichels@yahoo.com.  

 

Windpower: National Academy of Sciences Announces the Obvious

In early May, a report was released by the National Academy of Sciences on the environmental impact of wind-energy projects.

Among other things, the report criticized "the lack of any truly coordinated planning" in the rapid growth of wind farms across the country. It specifically encouraged federal, state, and local governments to pay more attention to the planning, regulation, and location of wind-energy projects at sites where there could be threats to wildlife, or where scenic landscapes could be adversely impacted.

Wind currently provides less than one percent of he nation's electricity; however, it is still the fastest-growing alternative to fossil fuel-produced power.

The report noted that the percentage of birds killed by collisions with wind towers and their spinning blades is relatively low compared to the numbers killed by automobiles or collisions with buildings and other lighted structures. As wind power increases during the next two decades, wind turbines could also begin to threaten local populations of certain bat species and continue to impact birds, especially along unspecified "migration corridors."

Although the report failed to break any new ground, it did report that, "In light of the lack of follow-up by environmental impact studies . . . more careful tracking of bird and bat populations, behavior, migration corridors, and other factors that may affect their risk of collisions with turbines is warranted, especially for threatened or endangered species." To provide an organized approach to the use of wind energy and its effects on the environment, the report's evaluation guide recommended using systematic pre- and post-construction studies to explore potential wildlife and other impacts to improve how such facilities are built, located, and operated.

Mandated by Congress, this report was drafted by a group of academics assembled by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Science.

That the obvious findings were accompanied with trumpet and fanfare came as a surprise to some observers, as did the recommended guidelines on "aesthetic impacts" since the recommendations came from a body ostensibly assigned a "scientific" task.

The Academy's summary can be found here: http://dels.nas.edu

The above article is courtesy of Steiner Birding at http://www.steiner-birding.com

 Biofuels and Birds

Although this article is primarily about how biofuel production may affect waterfowl nesting, it also applies to many ground-nesting prairie bird species, and other organisms. Read the entire article: http://www.ducks.org/DU_Magazinel

Bird DNA Studies

DNA studies reveal new species, and combine other species.

In February of 2007 it was announced that genetic testing among North American birds may have revealed as many as 15 new bird species among 643 types of birds studied between Arctic Canada and Florida.. Scientists from the University of Guelph (the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario) and Rockefeller University, along with colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and the Royal Ontario Museum revealed the Canadian-led results were.

Look-alike species representing 15 potential "splits" into two different species include the Northern Fulmar, Solitary Sandpiper, Western Screech-Owl, Warbling Vireo, Mexican Jay, Western Scrub-Jay, Common Raven, Mountain Chickadee, Bushtit, Winter Wren, Marsh Wren, Bewick's Wren, Hermit Thrush, Curve-billed Thrasher, and Eastern Meadowlark.

The split in these 15 species would result in 30 species, with 15 "new" species.

The study also revealed 14 pairs of birds currently classified as separate species are so genetically similar that they could actually represent varieties of the same species. The 14 pairs of birds with separate identities were almost genetic "twins," a trio of birds representing a DNA "triplet," and eight gull species that were practically identical. The study also determined that many of these species are actually indistinguishable to the human eye and ear.

The "lumps" of "virtually identical" taxa potentially include the Snow Goose and Ross's Goose; Black, Mallard and Mottled Duck; Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teal; King and Common Eider; Western and Clark's Grebe; Laughing and Franklin's Gull; California, Herring, Thayer's, Iceland, Lesser Black-backed, Western, Glaucous-winged and Glaucous Gull; Red-naped and Red-breasted Sapsucker; Black-billed and Yellow-billed Magpie; American and Northwestern Crow; Townsend's and Hermit Warbler; Golden-crowned and White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed and Yellow-eyed Junco; Snow and McKay's Bunting; Great-tailed and Boat-tailed Grackle; and Common and Hoary Redpoll.

The only birds of these species that are so differently marked/colored as to appear to be two distinct species are the King and the Common Eider.

Note: This lumping of species would result in 39 species being reduced to 14 species.

The possible result of these DNA studies could be a loss of 10 North American bird species.

 

Wildlife Viewing & Photography Insights

After years of researching white-tailed deer, elk, turkey and waterfowl, and photographing them, I've learned that in order to observe the natural behavior of birds and animals, and get pictures of them you need to: 1. Understand their behavior, so you know when and where they are most active, 2. Be where they are when they are most active, 3. Get as close as you can without disturbing them, 4. Use good high-powered optics such as binoculars, spotting scopes and camera lenses and, 5. Use amplified earphones to hear their sounds better

You can learn about the daily and seasonal behavior of birds and animals by reading books about them, going to seminars, learning from others, or by personal experience. I suggest you do the first three before you learn by personal experience, because it will cut down on your learning curve time. Then spend as much time as possible observing and listening to the animals as you can.

For years I've told people in my seminars, "If you let them (meaning if you pay attention to the animals), they will teach you something." I don't think there is any substitute for personal experience, especially when it comes to understanding wildlife.

You can help your chances of seeing more birds and animals, and see them closer, by looking for them where they are either accustomed to human and human related behavior (in which case you may not have to worry as much about disturbing them); or look for them in areas where they are not disturbed by humans and human related behavior (in which case you may have to use ways to avoid alarming the animals, such as camouflage and concealment).

In many instances you may also have to take steps to avoid making loud or unnatural sounds, such as talking, sneezing, coughing, the noise of your feet as they touch the ground, or your clothes rustling as you move or brush up against vegetation. Quietness and stealth are important when you try to get close to birds and animals.

Keep your voice low, open and close the doors of your vehicle as quietly as possible, don't stop your vehicle suddenly if you see something; either slow down until you come to a stop, or go by, turn around and then approach slowly. Use vegetation or terrain to stay out of the visual range of the animals, wear soft, quiet camouflage clothing, or use a blind when you can.

If you are trying to get close to mammals you may also have to use products to help you reduce human and unnatural odors, which will often alert the game to your presence, with the result that they hide or flee. Use unscented antibacterial hair and body washes, antiperspirant, and body sprays designed for hunters, and odor-reducing clothing designed for hunters (not activated carbon suits, they don't work). Use Contain antibacterial clothing, or No Trace or Eliminator scent reduction clothing. Wear latex or rubber gloves on your hands, and rubber or rubber bottom boots to eliminate odors from your hands and feet, especially if you are looking for any mammal. Unnatural scents alert more mammals than most hunters, non-the-less photographers and animal watchers realize.

In many cases you can look for birds and animals that are accustomed or semi-accustomed to humans in city, county, regional, state or national parks. You can expect many big game animals, migratory waterfowl, and hunted upland birds and small game to be more wary and elusive than some birds, because they are hunted, even if they are in parks. The same can be said about birds and animals in many wildlife management areas (WMA), because some type of hunting is often allowed on management areas.

Since many wildlife refuges (WR, NWR) don't allow human activities within their boundaries, expect the birds and animals to be more wary and elusive there; unless there is a lot of human activity nearby, or the birds and animals have become accustomed to human intrusion. You can also use food to attract birds and animals to your location. Many wildlife photographers use food, or "bait" as it is called, to get carnivores such as mountain lions, wolves, coyotes, foxes and bears to come to particular areas where blinds are set up. You can also use bait or food plots to attract white-tailed and mule deer. Since hunting and baiting is often prohibited on public land, using bait can be very productive on private land that borders private land, especially for white-tailed deer. Bird feeders are nothing more than bait for bird watchers.

One of the biggest problems I notice when people try to locate, see or watch wildlife, especially at the national parks I visit, is that they wake up at their normal times, have a big breakfast, and then expect to see birds and animals between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM (which is often the resting or loafing period for many birds and animals).

Looking for many birds and animals during midday hours is often futile, because of them are what scientists refer to as "crepuscular"; which means they are most active within a few hours before and after both dawn and dusk. This is particularly true of most big game animals.

If you want to see more animals you have to get up well before sunrise and stay for 1-3 hours, and get to where the animals are most likely to feed, mate or otherwise be active at or before the time when they are active. Or you need to get there 1-2 hours before sunset and stay until you can no longer see.

Scientific studies have shown that some songbirds are most active during particular hours of the day; the only way to figure out when, is to look for information on the internet, or do your own study.  

 

Birding; Locating The Birds

There are a few simple steps you can use to be more successful as a birder.

1. Be quiet. Birds are easily startled by loud noises and will flee to cover. It is almost impossible to sneak up on a bird, because birds hear much better than human beings do. By minimizing noise, you can get much closer to a bird. The overwhelming temptation, when seeing an especially exciting bird, is to yell: "WOW! LOOK AT THAT! IT'S RIGHT OVER THERE!" Bird watchers learn quickly that the same message can be whispered. The result is that the bird is more likely to remain for everyone to see, for a long and leisurely look.

2. Avoid sudden movements. Just as loud noises startle birds, so does sudden movement. Getting close to a bird means stalking it, moving slowly and deliberately. Sudden, jerky movement, even when swinging your binoculars up to your eyes, can make a bird nervous enough to fly away. The closer you are to a bird, the more slowly and quietly you should move.

3. Follow the crowd. In the nonbreeding season (the winter months in most of North America) many small songbirds join flocks of mixed species both for protection and to make finding food easier. Typically these flocks are largely silent, but there will almost always be one or two birds making call notes. Following a single calling bird will often lead you to a larger feeding flock. In fall, a single chip note from high in the trees may signal the presence of a dozen or so warblers. In winter a seep sound from down in the thicket may mean that 20 or more sparrows, towhees, cardinals, and other seed eaters are present. Following a solitary chick-a-dee-dee call may lead you to a mixed flock of chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, kinglets, and woodpeckers.

4. Study the habitat. Each bird is specially adapted to a particular habitat. Meadowlarks prefer large open fields, woodpeckers need trees, sparrows favor thickets. What you see will depend in large part on where you look.

5. Work the flocks. Your chance of finding an unusual bird is far greater in a flock, just because you have more birds to look at. Banding studies have shown that when you think you have ten chickadees in your yard, there are probably 20, and when you think you have seen all 20 sparrows in the brush pile, there are probably 20 more.

6. Be patient. A sparrow hopping around in a bush will eventually move into a spot where you can get a good look. Bird watching is often about being patient and waiting for the birds to show themselves.

7. Get the sun at your back. It is not always possible, but moving around so that the sun is behind you will make it much easier to see and identify birds. When the bird is between you and the sun, color disappears, and the bird you are trying to identify may be just a black silhouette.

8. Try pishing. Sometimes, no matter how patient you are, no matter how slowly and quietly you move, you just cannot get a good look at the bird. When this happens, bird watchers try a technique called pishing. Pishing involves making small, squeaky noises by kissing the back of your hand or making a low whistled pish by blowing air through your closed teeth. Small birds are attracted to such sounds and will often pop into view to investigate. Here's how to pish: Clench your teeth, open your lips and whisper the word pish.

9. Avoid brightly colored clothes. Many birds have poor color vision, but bright clothes, like whites, will contrast with the surrounding environment and enhance the appearance of movement. Wear darker colors or earth tones to blend into the background. There is no evidence that actual camouflage clothing works better than neutral, dark clothing.

10. Look around. Many bird watchers, focused on the flock in the thicket, forget to look at the other habitats around them. In particular, they forget to look up and thus miss the flock of geese or the soaring hawk. Or, while studying the ducks on the lake, unaware bird watchers may ignore the flock of kinglets in the trees behind them, and miss seeing a new bird.

 

Wildlife Photo Shots

Color and Contrast

When you take photos just to show you saw a bird, animal or flower, it doesn't make much difference what the setting or background looks like. But, if you want to have a pleasing photo, one that looks good, or that you may be able to sell, try to look for a contrasting background or contrasting or bright background colors, to make your pictures "pop" or have eye appeal

Taking photos of a bald eagle against a gray sky (like the one above) is not very eye-appealing. Compare this photo with a gray sky to the following photos with blue sky.

Take Three

When you take photos of birds and animals, especially large animals such as deer elk, sheep etc., and many bird and flower shots, you should take at least three different photos:

1. Take a photo at a distance showing the subject and its surroundings, leaving lots of space around the subject - enough space that an editor can add text to the photo without obscuring the subject

T.R. Michels Outdoor Photography

2. Take a close up photo of the subject with some background around it, preferably with some offsetting color or texture, to make the photo have "eye appeal" and to highlight the subject.

3. Take a "tight shot" of the subject, such as an individual flower, or a bird or animal's head, or head and shoulders, so that you can clearly see the textures, features, horns, antlers or coloring of the subject.

 

Patience & Speed

While these two words seem to be at odds with each other, when it comes to wildlife photography, they often must go together.

Patience is a definite asset when you are trying to photograph any wildlife. What you want is a clear, possibly photogenic, shot - where you can see all or most of your subject. Small birds in particular present a problem. Many insect eating birds, such as warblers and flycatchers, are constantly on the move. What you have to do to photograph them is be sure your camera is set for fast moving photos, and be patient enough to wait for the subject to present you with a clear shot.

At the same time, because many birds do not hold still for long, you must be able to get on the subject quickly, and focus your camera quickly. One way to do this is to focus the camera on the general area of where you see the bird, and do not zoom in too tight. What you want is a fairly large photo, with lots of background, in which you can quickly take a photo when the subject presents a clear shot. You can then crop the photo when yo9u get home.

I recently had to do this when my wife and I played "hide and go seek" with a pair of Eastern Towhees foraging in the leaf litter beneath a row of shrubs. Eastern Towhees are one of the most colorful of the Emberizid (sparrow) group.

What I saw at first was a small bird with a patch of reddish-brown on it. And then I realized what they were, and had to try for a photo. The birds would flit from branch to branch, and from the branches to the ground - rarely holding still enough, or presenting themselves in the open, long enough for a clear shot.

They would move, and we would quickly walk to where they were, get our cameras up, and hope for a shot. I eventually got two focused photos,

either of which was in the open. But, eventually, I got the two photos below.

I had basically this same scenario occur five days later. We had been seeing lot of migrating Yellow-rumped Warblers, hoping to see some other warblers with them. But, seeing nothing but Yellow-rumps we had almost given up.

And then, suddenly, Diane said, "That one has an orange head." I quickly brought my camera to focus on the bird, and was astonished to see the bright orange head of a Blackburnian Warbler. I'd never seen one before, but had been hoping to see one sometime in my life, because they are undoubtedly one of the most colorful warblers in North America . I never dreamed I'd be able to photograph them.

This one was no more than 20-30 feet away as it foraged in the trees just above our heads. I focused my camera on the trees, and waited. As the bird showed itself from time to time, I pressed the shutter button. I eventually got about 10 shots. And, while most of them were either out of focus, or the bird was not in the open, I ended up with the two photos below.

 

 

T.R.'s Tips: Locating, Viewing and Photographing Wildlife

Become part of the Environment

1. Wear natural colors or camouflage, or use a hunting blind.

2. Don't wear scented perfume, lotion or sprays; you don't want the animals to smell you.

3. Try to keep the wind from blowing from you to game animals.

4. Keep movement to a minimum, walk softly, and be quiet' you don't want the animals to be disturbed by the sight or sound of you.

5. Use vegetation and terrain to hide from animals, or break up your outline.

6. Try not to show a shadow.

7. Remember that your reflection may be caught in water; and alert the animals.

Observe, but Don't Disturb

1. Choose locations where you can watch and learn, without the birds or animals smelling seeing or hearing you.

2. Be patient. Wait in areas where you think animals may come to, let them come to you, don't purposely spook them in order to see them or get a picture. If you see animals, and they don't present the shot you want, be patient until they do, or wait for another time or place.

3. Use your vehicle as a blind. While animals in many state and national parks are accustomed to humans, and will put up with a lot of human intrusion and disturbances, those in many Wildlife Refuges (WR) and Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) may become alarmed when you stop your vehicle, especially if you get out of the vehicle. Learn to observe and photograph the animals from within the confines of your vehicle.

4. Savor the experience of seeing the animals in their natural environment, and learn from them, and about them.

Use Your Senses

1. Observing birds and animals and learning about them requires all of you senses. Use your sense of smell, your hearing and your sight to take it all in, and help you locate the animals.

2. Start by taking in the foreground, then take in a wider area. Use binoculars or spotting scopes to view animals better in dark conditions, or when they are far away.

3. Use your peripheral vision rather than moving your head. When you do move, do it slowly, or when the animals aren't looking, or can't see you.

4. Look for out-of-place shapes or colors (bright colors, dark colors in light places, light colors in dark places), horizontal lines in areas of vertical lines, vertical lines in areas of horizontal lines, shapes that don't resemble or fit into the surroundings.

5. Look for out-of-place motions; a sudden movement, a stealthy movement, the jumping around or flight of a bird or small animal may be all that gives it away.

6. Look above and below you; birds and animals inhabit niches from the ground to shrubs, from the lower branches of trees to the tips of trees, and all elevations of the air above you.

7. Increase your hearing ability by cupping your hands behind your ears, and turning around to hear sounds from any direction, or use amplified headphones to hear better, and hear sounds from farther away.

8. Pay attention to your instincts. If you feel a chill, or the hair on the back of you neck stands up, it may mean an animal is nearby. If you think birds or animals might be in one direction or place, instead of another, check it out. The more time you spend observing birds and animals in natural environments, the better your instincts will become.

9. When birds or animals stop moving or calling, or begin calling urgently or loudly, pay attention, it may mean a predator or large animal is nearby.

Take it Easy

1. Relax your muscles, walk slowly, going step by step in some situations, and don't swing your arms; birds and animals can detect tension and unnatural movements.

2. Make yourself small or unnoticeable; if birds or animals see you, stop moving. When they aren't looking or can't see you, take cover or slowly lower yourself to the ground or crouch on your heels. If you can hold still (without an animal smelling you) for 3-4 minutes, they will usually forget you are there, or forget exactly where you are.

3. Don't stare at animals; they often interpret a direct stare as a threat or challenge.

4. If you alarm a group of birds feeding or resting in wooded area, and they fly away, hold still for several minutes and be quiet. If nothing more disturbs them they may come back and give you a chance to identify them.

Think like an Animal

1. Figure out the best time of day to see the animals during particular activities. When do they rest, eat, drink or breed? Dusk and dawn are often good bets.

2. Animals and birds may not move when it is too hot, too cold, too windy, or too wet; they are generally most active when it is nice. If the weather is inclement think about what you would be doing, and how you would react to the current weather conditions if you were the birds or animals. Where would you go to find forage, to rest, to breed or find protection from the elements. Read field guides and articles or attend seminars to learn more about the normal daily and seasonal activities of the animals, and how they react to the weather. To learn how game animals react to the weather read the "Biology and Behavior" columns in Trinity Mountain Outdoors Hunting Magazine.

3. The "edges", where two types of habitat meet, are good places to look for birds and animals. Generally speaking, birds and animals use edges (the borders between two different types of habitat) because edges provide a wider variety of foods and cover. You may also see species from two or more types of habitat in areas where those habitats meet.

4. Look for birds and animals in "high use" areas; resting areas, forage areas, watering areas, and breeding areas, and trails or travel corridors between them. Look for vegetation, water or terrain that might cause game animals to move through a bottleneck. Game animals often use trails and old roads; look for places where they join or intersect. Birds and animals often use branches, ledges or high terrain overlooking water and forage areas before they come in to drink or eat.

5. Take note of the season and the weather conditions; consider whether the animal may be interested in breeding, feeding, resting, migrating or looking for security or thermal cover. Then use that knowledge to locate the animals and choose the best places to see them. After a rain, snowstorm or strong winds, or after a prolonged hot or cold spell, birds and animals often become active.

6. Know what foods bird and animals eat, and which foods they prefer; and look for them. Many birds and animals feed heavily on berries, nuts and acorns, ripening fruits, flowers, grass seeds and invertebrates and insects during certain portions of the year. Locate those food sources at the right time and you will probably locate the birds and animals. Or "bait" the animals by using their preferred foods to get them to come to specific locations; like bird feeders and deer or bear feeding stations.

 

Bird and Wildlife Viewing - Gear List  

  • Warm socks (for winter, preferably wool)
  • Sturdy shoes or boots for hiking
  • Waterproof hat
  • Rain gear
  • Wind breaker
  • Wind pants (optional) Warm fleece jacket or sweater, or insulated vest
  • Toiletries (toilet paper, moist towelettes)
  • Sunglasses
  • Leak proof water bottle
  • Compass, GPS and topographical map if needed
  • Site map for natural areas
  • Day pack or fanny pack (large enough to carry water, snacks, toiletries, extra clothing and gear)
  • Insect repellent
  • Snacks (granola bars, chocolate, peanut butter cups, hard candy)
  • Medication (Benadryl, Coricidin, Pseudaphed, Nasal Spray, Aspirin, Tylenol)
  • Emergency Medication (epi-pen, asthma inhaler, insulin)
  • Camera with 35mm lens for close ups, at least 400mm lens for birds, tripod etc.
  • Binoculars, at least 7x35
  • Bird, flower, butterfly and animal check lists for specific areas
  • Animal, bird, tree flower, butterfly reference books for identification
  • Cell phone for emergencies

 

Binocular Basics

Good optics are essential for observing birds and animals. If you are serious buy the best optics you can afford. For many situations you want optics with light-gathering capabilities, which means good objective lenses and coatings. I'm no expert, but I've read that for hunting purposes the magnification (first) number of your binoculars should be four to five times the objective lens (second) number, such as 7x32, 7x35, 8x40, 10x42 or 10x50.

Magnification

The first number of the binoculars is the magnification power; 7x binoculars magnify the image seven times.

Objective Lens

The objective lenses of binoculars are the front lenses. The diameter of one lens, given in millimeters, is the second number on the binoculars; 7x42 binoculars have objective lenses of 42mm. The diameter of the objective lens determines the light gathering ability of the binocular; larger objective lenses generally mean greater detail and clarity. This is particularly important in low light conditions.

Doubling the size of the objective lens quadruples the light gathering ability; a 10x50 binoculars has almost twice the light gathering capability as 10x35 binoculars, and four times the light gathering capability of 7x25 binoculars. However, bigger objective lenses are not always better. The size of the objective lens should be considered along with exit pupil, and the intended usage of the binocular.

Exit Pupil

The diameter, in millimeters, of the beam of light that exits the eyepieces of each side of a pair of binoculars is the "exit pupil". The larger the exit pupil, the brighter the image obtained will be. Large exit pupils are advantageous under low light conditions and at night. The exit pupil of the binoculars should correspond with the amount of dilation of the pupil of your own eye after it has adapted to the amount of light while you are using them. This is normally between 5mm and 9mm, which is the maximum dilation of the human eye; which tends to decrease with age.

To calculate the size of the exit pupil of an optical eyepiece divide the size of the objective lens by the magnification of the binocular; the exit pupil of 7x42 binoculars is 42 divided by 7, which equals 6mm.

Field of View

The size of the area that can be seen while you are looking through a pair of binoculars is referred to as the "field of view". The "angular field of view" is usually marked on the outside of the binocular in degrees. This is the width of the angel, in degrees, that you can see out of the binoculars.

The "linear field of view" refers to the how large an area can be seen at 1,000 yards; it is generally expressed in feet. A larger "field of view" means you can see a larger area through the binocular.

The field of view is related to magnification power. Generally speaking greater magnification creates a smaller field of view. A large field of view is often needed when the object is moving, or when the user is moving.

You can use the "angular field of view" to calculate the "linear field of view" by multiplying the angular field by 52.5; binoculars with an 8° angular field of view have a 420 foot linear field of view; 8x52.5 equals 420.

Coatings

The lenses of binoculars are often coated to reduce light loss within the binoculars, and to reduce glare.

Reduction of light loss and glare results in improved clarity and contrast of the image.

Lens coatings range in quality from "coated" and "fully coated", to "multicoated" and "fully multicoated". Coated lenses are the lowest quality and may result in a poor product. Fully coated lenses are economical and can work well, depending on your needs. Multicoated or fully multicoated lenses are the best; fully multicoated lenses give the best light transmission and the brightest images. However, beware of optics using lenses that are heavily colored. They will cut down on light transmission. High quality lens coatings will be fairly light shades of blue, green or violet.

The Right Binoculars

Obviously price, size, weight and what you use binoculars for will determine which binoculars you should use, and what you do use. Hunters can get by with compact 7x35 binoculars because they are often looking for large animals, but light gathering capability is important, because big game animals are often most active at dusk and dawn, when there are low light conditions.

Birders often need more magnification, because they are looking for something small, and often far away. Light gathering capability may be a factor for birders, especially if they are looking for birds in dense woods, when it is overcast or at dawn and dusk.

At Trinity Mountain Outdoors we use

Simmons Master Series 10x42. I've found them as low as $199.95 at B& H Photo on the internet.

 

Spotting Scope Basics

Focal Length

Focal length is the distance (in mm) of an optical system, from the lens (or primary mirror), to the point where the scope is in focus (focal point). The longer the focal length of the scope, the more power it has, and the larger the image and the smaller the field of view it has. A scope with a focal length of 2000mm has twice the power and half the field of view as a 1000mm scope.

Most scope manufacturers specify the focal length of their scopes, but if it is unknown and you know the focal ratio of the scope you can use this formula to calculate it: focal length is the aperture (in mm) times the focal ratio. The focal length of a 200mm aperture with a focal ratio of f/10 is 200x10, which equals 2,000mm.

Magnification

The power, or magnification, of a scope is the result of the combination of the focal length of the scope and the focal length of the eyepiece used with it. You can determine the power of a spotting scope by dividing the focal length of the telescope (in mm) by the focal length of the eyepiece (in mm); a 20mm eyepiece used on a 2000mm scope has a power of 100 (2000 divided by 20 equals 100).  

 At Trinity Mountain Outdoors we use

Simmons Master Series 20-60x42x. I found it for as low as $414 at Adorma Camera on the internet. It comes with a soft case for the scope, a table-top tripod, and a hard sided carrying case.

 

TIP OF THE MONTH: CLEAN IT UP!

Invariably the most important and most expensive pieces of equipment that birders have are their binoculars and spotting scopes. Sure, cameras and recording equipment can fit this description, but for most birders it's their optics that are most valuable.

The only maintenance that optics regularly need is a periodic cleaning of the lenses. By "regular" we mean after every few field trips, or whenever conditions such as wind-blown dust or sand, salt spray, or breadcrumbs from a lunch afield mandate that they be cleaned. The key to optical maintenance is to be careful. Whenever possible use a camel-hair brush to remove dust from the lenses, either water or spray-on lens-cleaning liquid to wash them, a clean chamois cloth or soft optical cleaning cloth to wipe them dry. In a pinch you can use your own saliva and the end of a cotton t-shirt, but this should be avoided whenever possible, since this is how the fine coating on expensive lenses can become scratched or otherwise compromised. There is no good reason why a lens-cleaning kit can't be regularly brought into the field in a small plastic bag, or carried in your backpack or field-guide pouch. Always remember to blow on the lenses before cleaning them, too. This helps to remove larger dust and dirt particles before applying liquid to the lenses. If fine optics are treated appropriately, they can last a lifetime.

 

View Trinity Mountain Outdoor Adventures North American Natural History Eco-Tour Schedule.

View a Schedule of the best times to see Minnesota / western Wisconsin Birds and Animals.

View Schedule of when to view the Wildflower Species of Minnesota / western Wisconsin.

View and listen to the Birds of North America.

View and listen to the Birds of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

View the Mammals of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Go to Trinity Mountain Outdoor Adventures Natural History Eco-Tours & Travel Magazine.

 

© Copyright 2006 - 2009, T.R. Michels / Trinity Mountain Outdoors

All information on this site is the copyrighted material of T.R. Michels / Trinity Mountain Outdoors, and/or the respective authors. Federal law prohibits copying or other use of this information without the written permission of the publisher or respective authors.

 

 T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Outdoors

E-mail: TRMichels@yahoo.com Website: www.TRMichels.com

 

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