Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

Mississippi River Adventures

November 2, 2011

Last Friday Aaron and I road-tripped down to Wabasha, MN to see two friends embark on a sailing adventure that started in a tiny Wabasha marina and will end in Belize, Central America (You can follow the adventures in photos and written stories at their website, Sailing to Belize). We left at 4:30am and rolled into Wabasha at about a quarter to seven. We got a tour of the boat and were treated to a really beautiful sunrise. The goodbyes wrapped up and the guys set sail. Those of us who had traveled down to see them off headed into town to warm up and get some breakfast.

After that Aaron and I split off to explore some of the landmarks along the Mississippi River. We started at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. It’s a very pretty building with several exhibits that educate about eagle habitats, behavior and representation in current and historical cultures. The highlight of the museum is a viewing area with five of the center’s permanent eagle residents. The viewing area is open air; the eagles are tethered to an small area around their perches and visitors stand behind a low barricade only feet away from the birds. The eagles – four bald eagles and one golden have all been injured and are unable to be returned to the wild.

This eagle had been hit by a car and never regained his ability to fly. The National Eagle Center gives him a home and helps people learn about eagles.

Next we crossed the river into Wisconsin and drove south to Alma where we visited Buena Vista Park. It shelters many different kinds of songbirds and is kind of breathtakingly gorgeous.

Just a little pretty. Panorama stitched together by cleVR. Click to enlarge.

And since we were there we made a quick stop at Lock and Dam #4 in Alma. We were hoping to see some bald eagles hunting the fish that get injured by the dam, but all we got were a bunch of ring-billed seagulls. Pbth! But I did get cool shot of the dam.

Chatty three-eyed aliens!

The next stop on our list was Rieck’s Lake Park, which is north of Alma and not quite to Nelson, Wisconsin. It is a large lake and flat, open marsh. We saw tons of Canada Geese,  Mallards, and Teals, but weren’t lucky enough to see any Tundra Swans. The view, however, was incredible.

Ducks and Geese hanging out in the lake.

Some small mammal hut – muskrat? Reick’s Lake houses beavers, mink and muskrats.

View from the Reick Bridge site.

After that we went in search of Tiffany Bottoms Wildlife area. Tiffany Bottoms is largely undeveloped and has a great and varied population of birds. We found a parking lot a few miles past Nelson on Highway 25 and started hiking. We never made it to any of the rivers that run through the area (other than the Chippewa, which our path ran parallel to), and we didn’t see a lot of birds, but we found some other forest inhabitants and a set of overgrown train tracks.

Fall Forest Trail 

Eastern Comma Butterfly

Dragonfly

Leopard Frog

Overgrown Train Tracks

After Tiffany Bottoms we headed back to Minneapolis. We had been up since 3:30am and the day’s adventures did us in. We did stop for dinner in Stockholm, Wisconsin on the way back. What a cute touristy town! We walked around a little and shopped at the trinkets stores. And then we went home. What a day!

Signs of Spring: Robins and Goslings

June 5, 2011

I found these two over at the Lake Wood Nature Center in Richfield, MN. If you haven’t been, you must go! It’s hard to believe that you’re in the middle of the woods and also so close to 35W on that section between Bloomington and Minneapolis.

American Robin

This soon-to-be Mom or Dad was on the nest, but spooked when we walked by. The nest is about five feet to the right of the photo, and as soon as we were farther away, the robin flew back up and sat down like nothing had happened.

Gosling, Canada Goose

Siblings and Mom and Dad were a few feet away. Dad was very pissed that I was taking photos of his kids.

Camera Lessons: Bunny Cleans Its Face

March 1, 2011

This morning I learned the basics on how to manually focus my camera. I used the speed shot setting and manual focus in an attempt to watch this bunny cleaning some snow off of his face. He was hidden underneath some dead bushes, but I found relatively clear spot through the branches from which to spy on him.

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My camera is a Nikon D3100 with the Nikkor AF-S 55-200mm VR lens (I was really wishing I had the 70-300mm to help get me through these branches). I was indoors, shooting through a window from about six feet away. Any tips or suggestions for improving next time’s shot are always welcome.

Hiking Cottage Grove Ravine Park

November 12, 2010

I bought this book called Best Hikes of the Twin Cities by Kate Havelin.  It has a list of 31 parks in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the Greater Metro Area.

Each park profile lists the park’s location, directions for how to get there, an overview/history of the park, recommended trails, types of terrain, facilities, costs and contacts.  The author breaks the parks down into several groups:

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  • Kate’s Top 10
  • Night Hikes
  • Hilly Hikes
  • Easy Hikes
  • Birding Hikes
  • Wildflower Hikes
  • Winter Hikes
  • River Hikes
  • Bike Trails

The only thing that I don’t like about the book’s layout are the maps of the park trails.  They’re not very detailed, and the only information that most of the maps provide is the general shape of the “featured” trail.  Accessory/alternate trails aren’t shown and the landmarks are kind of iffy, especially for forested areas.  I’ve tried to use the maps as trail guides a few times and have ended up off the path and unable to make my way back to the “main” route.

But I do like the book for finding and trying out new parks.  Last week we decided that we wanted to take a hilly hike that wasn’t too far away, and using the guide we ended up at Cottage Grove Ravine Park in Cottage Grove Minnesota.  The park in all of it’s autumn splendor and the hills weren’t crazy steep or abundant.  There area was lush, the paths were well-tended, and the lake was very pretty.  There weren’t a lot of people taking advantage of the park, so we felt like we had the entire place to ourselves.

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Snakes!

March 15, 2010

Ah yes, spring has sprung.

Being a rare biologist in a land of chemists and engineers does have the advantage of making me looking totally badass when nature literally rears its head.  While my coworkers cowered in disgust or panic, I was edging forward as close as I could without scaring my subjects into the bushes (and without screaming like a girl and ruining the badassness of the moment).

There are FOUR snakes in this photo!

Yeah for zoom!

Making out under the garbage can.