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Minnesota Nature Wildlife

Urban Wildlife in Minneapolis

As an outdoor photographer, I am fortunate to live in a large metropolitan area such as the Twin Cities. While most of my favorite spots for capturing wildlife occur in National Forests further north, we have plenty of urban wildlife in Minneapolis and the surrounding suburbs!

Urban Owl
Urban Owl

Wildlife in Minneapolis

Much of the wildlife in Minneapolis lives within city limits year ’round. We’ve got the Mississippi River running between Minneapolis and St. Paul, with dozens of Bald Eagle nests. Great Horned Owls, Barred Owls, a variety of Woodpeckers, Northern Cardinals, White Breasted Nuthatches, and Black Capped Chickadees are just a few of the other bird species that call the Twin Cities home. You can also spot the occasional Red Fox prowling the neighborhoods in the pre-dawn mornings. A little further out into the suburbs are White Tailed Deer, Wild Turkeys, Coyotes, Canada Geese and a variety of Duck species.

Spring and Fall Migration

Birding is fun any time of year, but the spring and fall migrations are especially interesting! Many species follow the Mississippi River flyway between their summer homes in the southern USA or South America and pass through briefly on their way further north to breed and raise their young. We’ve even had Sandhill Cranes build a nest within a mile of the Mall of America last summer! A Loon family also stayed on Lake Harriet all last year.

Lake Harriet Spring Morning
American Coots on Lake Harriet during Spring Migration.

Great Blue Heron Rookery

There is even a Great Blue Heron Rookery on two small islands in the middle of the Mississippi River just upstream of the Lowry Avenue Bridge. The easiest time to see them is before the leaves bud on the trees in the spring. Sometimes the National Park Service offers guided canoe trips that explain more about the herons and their habitat. Did you know that the Mississippi River area in the Twin Cities is actually part of the National Park system?

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

The Mississippi River isn’t the only game in town! The Minnesota River runs through Bloomington and south Minneapolis and is part of a National Wildlife Refuge! Check out the different sections that run from near the MSP airport all the way to Chaska for great birding, hiking, wildlife viewing, and even some old ruins.

MN River Valley Rapids Lake ruins

So, if you don’t have time to get out of town to a “wilder” place, check out some of the spots we’ve got right in our own back yard! You might be surprised to see how much of our space that we share with the urban wildlife in Minneapolis 🙂

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Landscape Minnesota Nature Wildlife

Favorite Photos of 2017

Favorite Photos of 2017

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed! This year had me sticking closer to home in Minnesota, though I did manage to sneak away to the northeastern part of the state several times. Part of what makes a photo special to me is the experience and adventure I had while making it. Here are just a few of my favorite photos of 2017. You’ll find these and more in the online galleries ready to hand on your wall!

Here are the top five in no particular order:

Gooseberry in Winter

Winter Snowy Sunrise
Snowy Beach Sunrise – Gooseberry Falls

Gooseberry Falls State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior can be crowded with tourists during the warmer months of the year, but I had the place all to myself on this winter day. There was a light snow falling while the sun rose. No footprints in the fresh snow. The only sound was from the waves of Lake Superior lapping at the beach and water going over the frozen falls. Pure magic.

Black Bears Everywhere

Black Bear Mother and Cub
Black Bear Mother and Cubs

There are wild Black Bears everywhere when you visit the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary near Orr, Minnesota. I could sit and watch them for hours (and I did)!

Gunflint Trail & BWCA

Boundary Waters Bear
Boundary Waters Bear

My visit to the BWCA in late June happened during the beginning of a monsoon. Five inches of rain in a week. I didn’t get to take as many photos as I would have liked, but I managed to get a few keepers.

Dahlia Trial Garden

Painted Lady Butterfly
Painted Lady Butterfly

I discovered the Dahlia Trial Garden at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum this summer and it’s awesome! I was lucky enough to be there on a day when one of the judges was doing his thing, and it turns out that he liked to talk. He explained the whole process of what the trail gardens are for and how they judge the new varieties of flowers that may or may not make it to market one day. Butterflies like the dahlias, too!

Osprey Fishing

Osprey with a fish
Osprey with a fish.

This Osprey caught a fish at Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield, MN and flew less than 10 feet over my head with it. Wow! I’ve never seen an Osprey that close before!

 

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Minnesota Nature Wildlife

American Black Bears in Minnesota

One of my favorite Minnesota “locals” are American Black Bears!


Black Bear

There are many misconceptions about Black Bears. People who don’t know any better fear them, thinking that they are out stalking unsuspecting hikers or campers for an ambush attack. In reality, they are pretty timid creatures who go out of their way to avoid encounters with people. I’ve been fortunate enough to volunteer with an expert Black Bear researcher in the past and even got to go into a den (with mama bear still in it – she was tranquilized for the duration). I’ll never forget holding cubs that only weighed 3 pounds and didn’t have their eyes open yet. Let’s get to know them a little better 🙂

Black Bear Cub

Black Bear Facts

For a much more comprehensive list of facts about Black Bears, check out the North American Bear Center site.

  • Black Bears in Minnesota hibernate for 5-6 months out of the year. They typically call it a year by late October and emerge from their dens some time in April.
  • During hibernation, their heart rates go down to approximately 8 beats per minute and their breathing is almost imperceptible.
  • They will lose about a third of their body weight during hibernation – mostly fat. Lactating mothers will lose a bit more, while males and non-lactating females a bit less.
  • They do not eat, urinate or defecate during hibernation. Any other mammal would die of kidney failure, but they are somehow able to break down metabolic waste products with no ill effects.
  • Their total cholesterol will climb to over 400 mg/dl during hibernation, while their blood lipid profiles are similar to a healthy human during the summer. No evidence of heart disease.
  • They give birth to their cubs in January. The cubs are born hairless and weigh less that a pound at birth. Dr. Lynn Rogers installed a camera within a wild Black Bear den several years ago and captured a live birth on video, dispelling the myth that cubs are born while the mother bear sleeps…. lol. You can view it here.
  • Once cubs emerge from their dens, one of the first things their mother teaches them is how to climb trees.
  • You will not out run or out climb a Black Bear!
Black Bear Cub Climbing a Tree
Black Bear cub doing what Black Bear cubs do best: climbing a tree 🙂

Where to see Black Bears

Black Bears are common residents of the North Woods and like the forest. I’ve seen them crossing roads in the Superior National Forest on several occasions, walking next to the highway in St. Louis county, running away from me on hiking trails, and had one that stood up on it’s hind legs to get a better look / sniff at me before it calmly turned around and walked away.

Black Bear Cub Sleeping in a Tree
There are few things in this world cuter than a Black Bear cub sleeping in a tree.

If you want a guaranteed sighting of wild bears, the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary near Orr allows visitors to view bears from an observation deck in the woods. Volunteers at the sanctuary put out natural foods for the bears to eat, luring many wild bears to the grounds. The bears are free to come and go as they please and are not captive in any way. You can learn about how and why this all started by checking out the history. Whether it’s a good idea to continue the practice of feeding the bears is a separate argument.

Black Bear Mother and Cub
Mother and cub checking out some food being offered at Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary.

If you really want to learn from the bear experts, check out the North American Bear Center near Ely. They have several captive bears on site, but the founder did much research with local Black Bears for many years and has first hand knowledge of original studies that had never been done by anyone else. They also have a very educational website!

Black Bear Photos

All of these photos as well as several more are now available for purchase in the Wildlife Gallery! All products are printed using archival inks and materials. Choose from prints, gallery wrapped canvases, or metals.

Bring some North Woods wild into your home or office today!

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Landscape Macro Michigan Minnesota Nature Special Event Wildlife Wisconsin

Nature Photography Day 2017

Nature Photography Day is June 15, 2017! So, what the heck is Nature Photography Day?

Painted Turtle Portrait

Nature Photography Day

“In 2006, NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association) celebrated the first Nature Photography Day and placed it in McGraw-Hill’s reference work, Chases’s Calendar of Events. Many media and websites took notice. Since then, people throughout the North American continent as well as overseas have discovered numerous ways to observe and enjoy the day.” – NANPA

Thursday, June 15 2017 marks 12 years of Nature Photography Day! Not only is this a day for photographers to capture the beauty of our natural world, it’s a day to promote the enjoyment of nature photography and celebrate how images have helped advance conservation efforts to preserve landscapes, plants and animal species around the world.

“Consider that the pursuit of nature photography has helped to save species of animals and plants, plus their habitat. Preservation is a legacy. In fact, the world’s first-ever national park—Yellowstone, in 1872—came about thanks to the images of William Henry Jackson.” – NANPA

Echinacea

The North American Nature Photography Association encourages people everywhere to enjoy the day by using a camera to explore the natural world. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – your smartphone camera will be just fine. A backyard, park, or local lake close by can work. Walking, hiking, or riding a bike to take photos are activities that don’t lead to a carbon footprint and it’s appropriate for all ages and abilities. There are LOTS of parks and trails right in the Twin Cities where you can unplug, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. And just being out in nature can ease stress and improve mood!

How and where will you celebrate Nature Photography Day?

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Landscape Michigan Minnesota Nature Special Event Special Offer Wildlife Wisconsin

North Woods Photos at St. Paul Art Crawl 2017

North Woods Photos will be participating in the St. Paul Art Crawl 2017 at Dow Art Gallery and Picture Framing again this year!

Minnesota Moose
Minnesota Moose double exposure

St. Paul Art Crawl 2017

When: April 28 – 30, 2017. Friday 6-10 pm, Saturday noon – 8 pm, Sunday noon – 5 pm.

Where: Dow Art Gallery, 2242 University Avenue West, St. Paul, MN 55114

What: There are 30+ artists currently showing in Dow Art Gallery alone, including myself. Painters, sculptures, fiber arts, 3D, and photography. I will have many matted and mounted prints available for purchase that aren’t typically available at the gallery. Special sales too! A perfect opportunity to pick up gifts for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays or holidays for friends and family while supporting a local artist!

Who: You! It’s a family friendly event, so bring the kids too! There will be snacks and entertainment as well as amazing art 🙂

Blue Mounds Bison Double Exposure
Blue Mounds Bison Double Exposure

Metro Transit will also be offering FREE rides to St. Paul Art Crawl 2017 on Saturday & Sunday. Click on the link to download your free pass!

Hope to see you at “the Dow” for St. Paul Art Crawl 2017!

Categories
Minnesota Nature Wildlife

Wild Bison in Minnesota

Did you know that as of September 2015, Minnesota has two herds of wild bison?

Bison Moody Sky

Wild Bison History

At one time it is estimated that millions of bison roamed much of North America; from the forests of Alaska to the grasslands of Mexico, from the Great Basin in Nevada all the way to the eastern Appalachian Mountains. But by the late 1800s, there were only a few hundred bison left in the United States after European settlers pushed west, reducing the animal’s habitat and hunting the bison to near extinction. Had it not been for a few Native American tribes and intervention by the Dept. of the Interior, bison would be extinct today. Yellowstone National Park is the only area in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times.

These magnificent animals are the largest mammal in North America. Bulls can weigh up to 2000 lbs and stand 6 feet tall, while the cows are about 1200 lbs and reach a height of 5 feet. Calves (aka “Red Dogs” because newborns are orange-red in color) are born in the spring and weigh anywhere from 30-70 lbs at birth.

Bison Calf

Wild Bison in Minnesota

Bison once thrived on the tall grass prairies in western Minnesota, but have been completely eliminated from the wild. Our two “wild” herds at Blue Mounds State Park and now Minneopa State Park are contained within the confines of the park and are heavily managed. There is simply not enough grassland to support the herds, so their diet is supplemented during the winter months. They also receive vaccinations for pink eye during the fall round-up. Today, bison are found in small, fragmented populations and are unable to roam free across the nation due to human land-use. As a result, several small herds of genetically pure bison are managed as one large herd,  so new genes can be added to populations every time bison are removed and added to the various herds during roundups.

Blue Mounds Bison Double Exposure
Blue Mounds Bison Double Exposure

Pure Wild Bison

Approximately 95% of bison living today have beef DNA in their genes because of crossbreeding with cattle at some point in their lineage. The Minnesota DNR and Minnesota Zoo are working to preserve the pure bison species. The wild bison herd at Blue Mounds State Park is one of the most genetically authentic herds left in the US! In September 2015, eight cows from Blue Mounds and three from the Minnesota Zoo were released at Minneopa State Park to create a new wild bison herd. Three calves were born there last summer and a new breeding bull from Teddy Roosevelt Nat’l Park will be introduced to that herd. Four cows at the Minnesota Zoo have also been impregnated with embryo transfers from Yellowstone bison to further expand the genetics, with hopes that one of those offspring (to be born this spring) is a male that will become a breeding bull here in Minnesota.

bison in pond

Where To See Pure Bison in Minnesota

Blue Mounds State Park in the southwest corner of the state near Luvurne. There is a bison ranch that sits adjacent to the park, so the animals you see off to your right when you enter the park are NOT the wild bison herd! Best opportunity to see the “real deal” is by hiking along the Western Loop Trail at the south end of the park.

Minneopa State Park allows passenger vehicles to drive right through the enclosed bison range, but you are not allowed to get out of your car. I’ve had bison walk right next to my car when I’ve been there – close enough that you feel like you can reach out and touch them. (Don’t). There are also hiking trails all along the outside of the bison range, or you may be able to spot them from the Seppmann Mill overlook.

Minneopa Bison

Minnesota Zoo along the outdoor Northern Trail. You’ll also see Prairie Dogs and Pronghorn Antelope in the same general area.

Categories
Landscape Michigan Minnesota Nature Wildlife

Favorite Photos of 2016

Just a few of my favorite photos of 2016:

Favorite Photos of 2016

It’s always hard to decide on which images I like best because so much of it depends on the mood I’m in at the time. Same thing goes when someone asks who my favorite musical artists are.

This past year took me to some old and new places;

  • visiting two different wild bison herds in Minnesota (watch for a separate post coming soon!).

Bison Moody Sky

  • seeing petroglyphs that are older than the Egyptian pyramids just a couple hours from home (probably a separate post coming on that one, too).
  • visiting several Minnesota and Michigan state parks that I’d never been to before.
  • the very familiar North Shore of Lake Superior as well as old haunts on the South Shore of Lake Superior.
Miner's Castle
Miner’s Castle
  • crossing the Mackinac Bridge for the first time in decades (I’ve done more crossings than I can count over my lifetime – being both a former Yooper and Troll from Michigan).
Mackinac Bridge
Mackinac Bridge
  • FINALLY getting my carcass over to Isle Royale National Park for the first time (I even lived in Houghton, MI where park headquarters are located back in the early ’80’s)
Rock of Ages Lighthouse
Rock of Ages Lighthouse
  • seeing the finish of several old and new friends at the tail end of their run across Wisconsin to raise awareness about suicide prevention and mental health (they did it in 8 days. Word).
Defeat the Stigma Run Across Wisconsin Finish
Run Across Wisconsin Finish

There were also some lifers for birding, shooting a few more trail races, and learning new digital photo processing techniques like double exposures (some of which are featured in the video).

Which are your favorite photos of 2016?

Categories
Landscape Minnesota Nature Wildlife

New June Photos From Minnesota

I finally got around to doing some editing of photos that were taken last month – mostly at Blue Mounds State Park, but also some older ones from the North Shore of Lake Superior as well. That means a whole batch of new June photos from Minnesota have been uploaded to the gallery where they are available for viewing and purchase!

Tallgrass Prairie Sunrise
Tallgrass Prairie Sunrise

June Photos

Here are just a few of the shots I took last month.

The sunrises and sunsets were epic! And with open prairie, you can see for miles! At a high point in Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne, MN, you can see as far as Iowa and South Dakota.

Prairie Sunset
Prairie Sunset

As a slow trail runner I seem to attract a lot of buzzards, but this one actually looked me right in the eye…. lol.  No shortage of turkey vultures circling overhead, especially near the cliff walls. Waiting for the rock climbers, I guess 😉

 

Turkey Vulture in Flight
Turkey Vulture in Flight

Beautiful flowers that change by the month here in the northland summer.

 

Prairie Wildflowers
Hoary Vervain

I’ve still got lots more to go through from Pipestone National Monument, Blue Mounds State Park, and Jeffers Petroglyphs. I highly recommend visiting these spots yourself some time soon!

Categories
Landscape Minnesota Nature Wildlife

Blue Mounds Minnesota

Most of the time when I shoot in my home state, it’s within an hour of the Twin Cities or up along the North Shore of Lake Superior. But Minnesota is a large and diverse state, with everything from farmland to deciduous forests to conifer forests, loaded with lakes in most places (but not all), and rolling prairies filled with wildflowers and grasses that get taller than most people. This past weekend, I finally made a trip to the extreme southwestern corner near Luverne, MN to Blue Mounds State Park and the prairies of Minnesota!

Prairie Wall area of Blue Mounds State Park
Prairie Wall area of Blue Mounds State Park

Blue Mounds

Blue Mounds is one of Minnesota’s hot rock climbing spots, so it’s surprising that I’d never made it out here during my climbing days. The Sioux quartzite cliffs stretch about a mile and a half and reach a height of 90 feet. The rock is a beautiful mix of pink, purple, red, orange, and yellow hues that seem to change color with the time of day and direction of the sun. The abundant rock outcrops and shallow soil prevented this small patch of land from being plowed as agriculture moved into the area, but heavy grazing has diminished many of the native grasses and wildflowers that make up the prairie.

Pre-dawn Prairie Sky

The area is rich with Native American history and I highly recommend visiting the Jeffers Petroglyphs and Pipestone National Monument if you ever venture to this area. I may do separate posts about those two locations at some point 🙂

Antique Tepee

I started my day by getting up and out on the trail at 4 am to catch the sunrise. It was a doozy! Hot, humid, hazy, and windy.

Prairie Sunrise

Prairie Sunrise

Blue Mounds Wildlife

While watching the sun rise, there was a herd of wild bison off to my left grazing peacefully and a chorus of morning bird-songs filled the air. Pure bliss. Several of the birds are not regulars in the Twin Cities, so it was fun to see and hear things like Bobolinks, Common Nighthawks, Dickcissels, and Rock Pigeons just to name a few.

Rock Pigeon Shadow
Rock Pigeon pair casting a shadow

Another major Blue Mounds attraction is the aforementioned small herd of genetically pure wild bison that roam the prairie in this park. By genetically pure, I mean that they don’t have beef DNA that most of today’s bison have since many were crossbred (naturally as well as intentionally) with cattle over the years. They can be tricky to spot in the rolling landscape and tall grass, but I did manage to find them. They were too busy grazing with their heads down in the tall grass to get good photos, but still magnificent to watch.

Blue Mounds Prairie Plants

The prairies are beautiful and change by the week with different wildflowers and grasses blowing in the breeze.

Prairie Wildflowers

And yes, there are native cactus in Minnesota! Patches of prickly pear grow in the shallow soil atop the Sioux quartzite outcrops. A few of them were in bloom, sporting beautiful yellow flowers.

Prickly Pear Cactus
Prickly Pear Cactus

Equally spectacular as the sunrises are the sunsets. The mostly Big Bluestem grasses seen in this photo can grow up to seven feet tall!

Prairie Sunset
Prairie Sunset

To See More or Purchase

If you’d like to see more photos from southwestern Minnesota’s prairies, check out the galleries 🙂

 

 

Categories
Minnesota Nature Wildlife

Waterfowl Migration 2016

There have been LOTS of ducks, geese, swans, grebes, mergansers, teals, and other birds passing through the Twin Cities the last few weeks. This year’s waterfowl migration has come earlier than usual with the mild winter and early ice out. It’s always fun to see birds return in the spring as it’s a sign that winter is about over, but it’s especially fun to see the species that are just passing through on their way further north. We have the luxury of seeing Mallard Ducks, Canada Geese and Trumpeter Swans all summer, but some of the others are just around for a week or two.

Here are a few sightings so far for spring waterfowl migration 2016:

Or if you prefer to look at stills:

Spring Waterfowl Migration

As seen on Lake Harriet, right in the city of Minneapolis:

American Coots
American Coots – their feet remind me of aquatic plants!

 

Gadwall Ducks
Gadwall Ducks

 

Red Breasted Mergansers
Red Breasted Mergansers

 

Horned Grebe
Horned Grebe

Also on Lake Harriet so far this spring, Buffleheads, Northern Shovelers, and a Common Loon that has been eluding my camera lens.

As seen at Hyland Lake in the southern suburb of Bloomington:

Hooded Merganser Pair
Hooded Merganser Pair

 

Ring-Necked Ducks
Ring Necked Ducks

 

Trumpeter Swan Fairytale
Trumpeter Swan

Purgatory Creek in the southwest suburb of Eden Prairie still has LOTS of migrating waterfowl including Ring Necked Ducks and Ring Billed Gulls, but most are so far out in the lake I can’t identify them. Here are a few others:

Northern Shoveler Drake
Northern Shoveler Drake

 

Redhead Ducks
Redhead Ducks

 

Canada Goose in Flight
Canada Goose

Everything is on the move right now, so what you see on the lake one day can be completely different the next. In a couple of months, we’ll be seeing lots of summer babies, so stay tuned!

If you’d like to see more waterfowl or other wildlife photography, please visit my online wildlife gallery 🙂