Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Photograph Finds

I have a life list for the wildlife I have seen, and I also have a life list for wildlife I have photographed.  Of course, I have seen way more than I have captured with a camera, so I get quite excited when I get something new photographically.

Today I biked from the Lock 22 and headed East past the feeder basin.  After I got to the feeder basin, I spotted eight double-crested cormorants!  I've never seen them on the canal before, so of course, I was quite excited!  The only shots I could get of them was as they were flying by after they spotted me.  These guys are hard to photograph (for me), as they are super skittish and very fast flyers.

Double-Crested Cormorant

On the way back, I spotted a little brown creeper on a tree.  I've seen these many times, but have never gotten a picture.  From what I've read about creepers, they lay their eggs behind loose bark at the base of trees.

Brown Creeper

Finally, right before I got back to the truck, I spotted the awesome little spotted sandpiper feeding around a semi-submerged log.  I couldn't decide which photo I liked best, so I'll just put them both here.

Spotted Sandpiper

I love the fact that I'm still seeing new birds along the canal.  Usually, the smaller birds just tick me off when trying to take pictures.  It seems that just as I get the shot lined up, they fly away!  Grrr!  Cardinals are the worst at this.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

More Flood Damage

I hiked down to the Spring Creek aqueduct today in hopes of photographing some tracks after the flooding.  I was quite surprised to see the at the water levels were still quite high, and the debris from the cornfields has blocked up the underside of the aqueduct.  I normally walk underneath, but it is going to be awhile before I get to do that again.  It will take a few more milder rains to clean out the debris.

Regardless of my disappointment of not finding any tracks, I still got a couple of nice wildlife shots on the way back.

Squirrelly Peek-A-Boo

Hooded Merganser in Flight

Friday, April 19, 2013

After the Floods

Yesterday, our seasonal monsoon ripped through the area giving us 4-5 inches of rain in a 24 hr. period.  The creeks overflowed, some streets flooded, and even the Green River levee broke in an area.  I spent last evening cleaning up water from the basement.

Today, the cold came back and we even had a bit of snow fall.  Regardless of the crappy weather, I needed to escape so I took the fat bike out to see what the weather had done to the canal over by Annawan.

Yes, another fat bike pic:)  I can't help myself!

After a couple of miles, I reached the aqueduct right outside of town.  The creek was certainly up, and I would have loved to see what it looked like yesterday, but instead, the aftermath.

While there, I spotted a new bird species for myself.  I captured both male and female yellow-rumped warblers.  They were feeding below the aqueduct on the flotsam and jetsam that had accumulated there.

Female Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Male Yellow-Rumped Warbler

One final surprise awaited at the aqueduct.  An otter had visited here just today, so I'm hopeful that I may soon get a good closeup of it. 

Otter Tracks

I rode down a couple more bridges, but my ride was cut short by a flat on the way back:(  This will be a new adventure.  This will be the first time I've changed a flat with these monstrous tires.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Weekend of Flighty Firsts!

I have and do spend so much time on the canal, I often wonder when I will stop seeing new things.  Luckily, that hasn't happened yet:)  Honestly, I don't think it will ever happen.  I used to think "new" had to be species, but now that's certainly not the case.  There are so many animal habits that I have never seen, and those are pretty much endless.

Saturday, I took a nice long bike ride over to the Feeder Canal Basin by Sheffield.  This is the area where the north/south feeder canal empties into the east/west channel.

ONce I got on the southern trail, I spotted a very large bird swooping down around a flock of ducks that were in the water.  I could tell it was a raptor.  It was too big to be a red tailed hawk, so I started to think eagle.  Right after I thought that, it let out its call and I knew what it was instantly, but I really couldn't believe it.  It was an osprey!  The only place I've seen osprey is in Florida on vacation.  I know they migrate up and down the Mississippi River, but I've never seen them.  This osprey flew directly over me twice so I got a good look, and heard its call several times.  No mistake at all.  The downside to this guessed it......I didn't have my good camera, just the point and shoot:(  I wanted to kick myself.

On the way back, I could see two large birds sitting right on the path.  I was hoping for osprey, but I had a hunch about what it was.  I rode my bike slowly closer, and then got off to walk it slowly.  I got my tiny little Nikon ready and took a new photo every 5 yards or so.  By the time I got closer, I already knew they were turkey vultures, but they were showing an interesting display.

They stood there like this for quite some time, and to me, it seemed territorial because they usually fly away on first sight of me.  These guys were standing their ground a bit.  I kept moving closer, and they finally got nervous and flew away.  It was evident what they were guarding when I got there:

Two new firsts!  A new species for the canal and a new behavior!  I sulked a bit that night, angry at myself for not strapping my camera to my back.  Stupid!  Stupid!  Stupid!  Someday I'll learn.

Today, I decided to leave the bike at home, strap on the camera, and take a hike in the same area.  I really wanted that osprey.  Just as I was pulling up to the parking area, I spotted 10 turkey in the field.  Nothing new here, but they were fun to photograph.

Not long after getting out of the car, I got a nice shot of this red-winged blackbird.  Nothing new here either, but I love to get them when they are calling.

Now for something new!  I spotted two northern flickers doing their mating dance!  I've never seen this before and it was absolutely fascinating!

I wandered down a couple of bridges and spotted pintails, northern shovelers, and mallards, but couldn't get any decent shots.  I decided to move and head back over by Atkinson where I had seen the otter in the last know, the other time I forgot to bring my good camera!

The otter has been busy marking up the exact same spot with his scat.  The last time I was here, I only found one old pile, but there were four new ones marking the trail from the canal to the little drainage ditch.

Not seeing the otter, I wandered down a bit further and came across another first!  Two great white egrets were sitting on the path of the canal!  I've seen them on the rivers, but never on the Hennepin.  Very skittish birds, they are.

A long winded post, lots of photos, and several "firsts" to add to my Hennepin Canal experiences.  The setting of dusk drove me back to the truck reluctantly, but I just had to get one photo that wasn't a bird!


Monday, April 1, 2013

A Pleasant Surprise!

Man, have I gotten fat!!  I weighed myself about a month ago and found that I weigh more than I ever have.  Time for diet and exercise habits to change drastically!  I've set a 50lb goal for myself, and so far I've lost 10lbs through rigorous racquetball and lots of biking.  My nutritional habits have changed considerably.....I miss McDonald's so much:)  I have to say that I feel so much better already, so hopefully I can make this a change rather than a diet.

So what does being fat have to do with the Hennepin Canal?  Well, nothing other than the fact that I have replaced my photography endeavors with biking for awhile.  Not permanently, but less photography, more exercise!  I love to ride the canal, and although I've been leaving the big camera at home, I still bring my point-and-shoot along with me.  Of course there won't be any detailed closeups of critters, but instead, photographic evidence of animals better than most bigfoot sighting photos:)

Today I biked past Atkinson, and it was quite a brisk ride.  As I'm cruising along, I spot what I strangely thought was a black garbage bag blowing across the ground on the other side of the canal.  Have you ever had one of those optical illusion moments where you aren't seen things correctly, and then all of a sudden reality slaps you upside the head!?  This was one of those moments.  After adjusting my eyes, I realize it is an otter on the south bank sniffing around!  This is only the second otter I have ever seen on the canal.  I dropped the bike down, got the little point-and-shoot out of my pack, and proceeded to slowly stalk a little closer.

The otter wandered down the bank toward the ditch creek, so I jumped on my bike and hauled a## to the bridge and onto the other side (what a great workout).  I stopped and abandoned the bike about 50 yards from where I had last seen it and proceeded to quietly creep forward.  When I was about 20 yards away, I was spotted and he dashed across the path and back into the canal.

Thinking I had seen the last of him, I just stood on the edge peering into the water, but apparently, this guy was quite curious and cautiously swam around the area looking at the ugly beast that had just disturbed him.  He even vocalized a bit at me!  It was more of a chuffing sound, which was really awesome.  Shortly after, he disappeared out of sight.

I walked the rest of the way to where I had seen him first.  There was a nice path going from the canal down into the drainage creek.

I was hoping to find some tracks or sign.  I did find some old otter scat, but nothing fresh.

This little surprise made a bike ride definitely worth it.  I'll be revisiting this spot later in the week with my good camera.  Despite the point-and-shoot camera and super cropping, I'm happy with the otter evidence collected today.  It's great to see otters in the Hennepin, and hopefully we will be able to enjoy them for years to come!