Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Karl Bardon art/photo exhibit in Duluth

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird identification, Bird personalities Updated: July 23, 2014 - 9:02 AM

If you get to Duluth yet this summer, the Great Lakes Aquarium on the south side of the harbor complex is well worth a visit — for an exhibit of paintings and photographs of birds.

Duluth resident Karl Bardon’s multiple talents are on display in a selection of stunning photos and beautiful paintings. The photos are relatively recent work, and include the best single photograph of an owl I’ve ever seen. The paintings reflect a near life-long interest in art.

Karl has worked at Duluth’s Hawk Ridge as a raptor counter during the annual fall raptor census since 2007. In summer he works for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on the state biological survey program. He began and continues a non-official count of non-raptor bird species in the fall as well. He has worked in the Arctic radio tracking eider, in the Gulf of Mexico studying trans-Gulf migration from the platform of an oil-drilling rig, and searching for Tapaculos (bird species) in Chile. He also has spent many seasons as the waterbird counter at both Whitefish Point in Michigan and Cape May, New Jersey. His bird-related field work is extensive. 

His paintings ( art degree came from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis) reflect his broad interest in birds. The photos are chosen mostly from a set he did one foggy spring day on Park Point when grounded warblers let him get within touching distance for detailed portraits. The owl photo that hangs outside the exhibit gallery, shows a Great Gray flying with a vole in its mouth. This is a large image, detailed, the colors of the bird and its northern-Minnesota setting looking like the work of an artist carefully choosing his colors. It’s an extraordinary photo. Other owl photos from northern Minnesota accompany it. All are for sale.

Karl told me that his specialty has been waterbirds, having spent many seasons at Whitefish Point and Cape May. “But after witnessing the awesome migration through Veracruz, Mexico as an official hawk counter in 2006,” he said, “I decided raptors are pretty cool, too.” This fall will be  Karl’s  fourth season at Hawk Ridge.

He grew up in North Oaks in the Twin Cities where his father got him into bird-watching at an early age,  A quick synopsis of his birding work can be found at the Hawk Ridge website (http://www.hawkridge.org/about/staff.html#Karl).

Karl is as active in Minnesota birding as his time allows, certainly one of the state’s best birders, one of its most productive. This exhibit gives him a well-earned spotlight. See it if you get to Duluth. It closes Sept. 8.

The aquarium is worth a visit at any time. Exhibits cover Minnesota waters, Lake Superior at the fore, of course, plus some salt-water displays. There are a few birds on display, lots of fish in aquariums that stand tall, floor to floor, and wonderful exhibit of otters, with chances for you to watch those animals being fed. 

Below, Karl’s photo of a Blackburnian Warbler.

Birding Community E-bulletin

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird biology, Bird conservation, Bird sightings Updated: July 21, 2014 - 1:06 PM

Birding Community E-bulletin for July 2014. Always interesting, the bulletin contains short takes on news of birds and bird conservation, including a summary of rare birds seen in North America during the previous month. The archive contains issues from 2004 to the present.

http://refugeassociation.org/news/birding-bulletin/

The Three-Minute Outdoorsman

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird books Updated: July 15, 2014 - 2:21 PM

This should be a good read. University of Minnesota ornithologist Dr. Robert Zink has written a book entitled “The Three-minute Outdoorsman : Wild Science from Magnetic Deer to Mumbling Carp.” It’s published by the University of Minnesota Press. Book stores should have it; the Hennepin County library does. I’ve read one piece from the collection, and it was informative and entertaining. I can tell you more once the library delivers the copy I’ve requested.

Black flies in silent attacks

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird biology, Bird travels Updated: July 14, 2014 - 9:13 AM

I have Black Fly bites, four of them large enough to be seen from across the room. This doesn't make me exceptional. It does make me itch. I was in Caledonia Saturday for a meeting of a Quail Forever group, devoted conservationists focused on Northern Bobwhite. Minnesota has a few of those birds in Houston County. We were sitting in a farmyard at picnic tables beneath large shade treess, all very pleasant. I noticed a small flying insect on the table in front of me, and smacked it. Dead but intact, it offered close examination. I thought I could recognize the humped shape of a Black Fly, the shape that gave them one of their several folk names -- Buffalo gnat. Speaking to the group briefly about birds I mentioned the Black Fly problem in central and northern parts of out state. While I was talking a cell phone rang, a member of the small audience having a short conversation. He happened to be a veteranarian. The call, he told us, came from a local DNR biologist who had just arranged transportion to The Raptor Center in St. Paul for a Bald Eagle chick so bothered by the flies that it crawled out of its nest and was injured in a fall to the ground. There was some surprise that the flies were attacking birds way down there in Houston County. A few hours later Thurman Tucker, active QF member and advocate for the species disappeared from lunch. Unannounced, he was hurrying home to Minneapolis, so many fly bites on his face that one of his eyes was almost swelling shut. My bites weren't apparent until I got home, and my wife took a look at me. The one on my left temple is the size of a half dollar coin, the one inside my left elbow quarter-size, the bites on the back of my neck no more than a nickel. No itching last night, but they itch like blazes. I felt no bite nor any insect on my skin while being bitten, an absolute stealth attack. There were no swarms around our heads, thankfully, like the swarms seen on and around heads of Common Loons, one of the bird species under particular attack. The fly I killed on the table was about 1/8th of an inch long. I wonder if bites received by birds swell, and do they itch? Is it the attack itself which drives birds to distraction and death or is it the aftermath, the swelling and itch? 

Monday morning -- I also wondered about the impact of the files on domestic and wild mammals. I await information from the University of Minnesota Extension Service. I did visit with a vet in Duluth, assuming that the flies have been or are as much as a problem there as anywhere. The doctor with whom I visited said she had seen no cases of noteworthy response to fly bites on pet animals. I found remarks concerning livestock on a web site in Europe (these flies are everywhere). Swarms of flies are said to send cattle and horses into panic-driven runs. Hundreds of bites on one animal can produce enough stress and/or allergic reactions to cause death. Flies can gather in nostrils and throats in numbers sufficient to suffocate the victim. I can find no such local reports. The good news is that the flies have a life span of about a month, hatching basically an event occurring broadly at the same time. We are soon to find respite. 

Here, from the Internet, is a photo of a black fly, hardly looking like the terror it can be.

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