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.
Young Great Horned Owls I’ve been watching apparently are old enough to leave the nest, although they haven’t looked that way to me. The birds pictured are an adult and one of her owlets in their nest at Westwood Hills Nature Center. There were/are two chicks. One left the nest Tuesday. The photo was taken Wednesday morning. In one shot here the young bird is stretching a wing, making primary flight feathers visible (adult peering over wing). The feathers appear half developed or less. The pair of young owls I was watching in a nest near Long Lake left their nest seven days ago. They looked very similar to the one pictured. They know best, obviously.
The Great Horned Owl chicks in the nest near our Orono home are growing up. They've lost the chick fuzz. I don't know the date of hatching, but from the looks of them they could begin climbing around their tree in a couple of weeks. They move in and out of the nest before they fly.
The Boreal Owl cuddling the mouse in the photo landed in the Duluth front yard of Will and Sharon Stenberg on April 21. Will took the photo. This was the second Boreal to visit their yard this winter. The owl does look protective of the mouse, doesn’t he? Will said it reminded him of a ventriloquist and its mouse dummy. I saw the two as pals, pals going out to dinner. The second photo, of a Great Horned Owl and its two chicks (cold morning, fluffy chicks), was taken today, Tuesday, April 23, at Westwood Hills Nature Center in St. Louis Park.
Whooping Cranes are back on their Wisconsin nesting grounds. As of April 3, 84 cranes were confirmed arrivals in central Wisconsin. The cranes are part of the reintroduction project centered at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) about two hours east of our Wisconsin border.
Noteworthy is the return of two chicks wild-hatched in Wisconsin last year. They migrated with their parents to wintering grounds in southern Indiana last fall, and now have returned. This marks the first complete migration cycle for wild Wisconsin chicks.
Wild-hatched means they were raised by their crane parents with no human assistance. The flock has been built with birds hand-raised and tended by humans through their initial fall migration.
The crane project is managed by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), an international coalition of public and private groups that is reintroducing the birds to eastern North America. Decades ago this species was extirpated from this part of the continent.
Cranes from this flock sometimes are seen in Minnesota, but I know of no such reports this spring. WCEP asks anyone who encounters a Whooping Crane in the wild to give them the respect and distance they need. Observers should not approach birds on foot within 200 yards. Observers should remain in their vehicle, and no closer in the vehicle than 100 yards. Observers should remain concealed and not speak loudly enough that the birds can hear you. Observers should not trespass on private property in an attempt to view or photograph the cranes.
Whooping Cranes sometimes can be seen at Necedah NWR. Beginning in 2011, cranes also were released at Wisconsin’s White River Marsh State Wildlife Area. These photos of adult Whoopoing Cranes was taken at Necedah in October 2010. Attached to the birds’ legs are radio transmitters that allow the birds to be tracked. In the lower photo a Sandhill Crane is in the foreground.
Complete information on this project can be found at http://www.bringbackthecranes.org/technicaldatabase/index.html
Disregarding a heavy coating of slush on our backyard pond yesterday, 11 Wood Ducks and a pair of Hooded Mergansers spent most of the afternoon there. I was sitting just inside our back storm door, taking photos through the glass of the birds coming to our feeders when the ducks arrived. Sometimes what you want most actually is given. I wanted duck and merganser drakes in the same photo frame. They're our most beautiful waterfowl in my book. And so, they gave me this. The birds mostly ignored each other, but when a Wood Duck got into the merganser's personal space, brief threats were given.
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