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.

Baiting owls would be illegal

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird conservation Updated: April 15, 2014 - 5:16 PM

The harassment a handful of photographers visited upon Snowy Owls here this winter has made it into a bill being considered by the legislature. A few photographers working in the the city of Ramsey and in Dakota County lured owls close for photographs by using live or fake mice. This caught the attention of officials at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. An amendment to the omnibus DNR bill before the legislature would make it a petty misdemeanor punishable by a $300 fine to visually lure an owl in the wild.

White-winged Scoter being seen near downtown

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird identification, Bird sightings Updated: April 10, 2014 - 4:42 PM

A White-winged Scoter is being seen near the east end of Boom Island, which is at the west end of Nicollet Island near downtown Minneapolis. This species is regular in Minnesota during migration, but most often along the North Shore. It is unusual to have one mid-city, particularly one so loyal to a single location. It has been seen in or near this location for several days. Best viewing is from Boom Island. Enter the park from Sibley Avenue and drive to the far end (Washington Avenue east from downtown, left turn on Plymouth, right turn onto Sibley Street NE). A short walk will take you to the river bank. Check water near the channel between the islands. White-winged Scoters breed from central Canada northwest into the interior of Alaska. They winter along both coasts. The bird has been identified by staff at Audubon Minnesota as a female hatched in the spring of 2013.

Ramsey most recently in southwest Minnesota

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 7, 2014 - 9:12 PM

Ramsey, the Snowy Owl named for its winter location in the City of Ramsey north of Minneapolis, most recently was reported from a location in southwestern Minnesota. The owl is carrying a small transmitter that sends location information via cell-phone towers. It had not been heard from for several days, apparently out of cell range. From Ramsey, about three weeks ago, the bird had moved to a point four miles south of Hutchinson. It should soon begin return to its northern-Canada home territory.

Burrowing Owl, almost in Minnesota

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 5, 2014 - 10:40 PM

Driving around western Minnesota Saturday, Jude and I found a Burrowing Owl 12 feet west of the Minnesota state line, at the edge of a South Dakota farm field. The owl was next to a burrow. This species is rarely seen in Minnesota, and equally rarely ever seen close but not quite. We have photos to be posted tomorrow, Sunday. 

Red-tailed Hawks mating

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird biology, Nesting Updated: April 14, 2014 - 10:44 PM

These are photos of a pair of Red-tailed Hawks mating. I've been watching this pair for about two weeks, ever since I discovered their nesting site. A few days ago I was fortunate enough to be on site and in the right place when their brief mating encounter took place. Both birds are using their wings for balance. The male is on top. The female has raised her tail and pulled it to the left. (Her tail is light, showing a reddish tint). In the first photo the male has his tail (dark rectangle) in its usual position as he mounts the female. To transfer sperm, the male also twists his tail to the left ( second photo) to facilitate contact of his cloaca with the female's cloaca. This particular encounter lasted about five seconds. Development of the egg in the female takes about 24 hours. The female will lay one egg per day until she has a complete clutch of one to five eggs. Incubation takes from 28 to 35 days. If the egg has markings, those are deposited on the shell during its passage through the uterus. Rapid movement through the uterus produces streaks of color, slower movement spots. Red-tailed Hawk eggs are white or buffy, marked with buff, brown, or purple.  

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