Sunday, March 18, 2012

Be Kind to Animals Week

Did you know that May 6-12 marks the 97th annual "Be Kind to Animals Week?" First established by The American Humane Association in 1915 to celebrate the unique bond between humans and animals.

Did you also know that we got our new dog, Holly, from Paws & Claws (our local humane society)?
To celebrate Be Kind to Animals Week and also Paws & Claws, we will be participating in the 18th Annual Paws & Claws Pet Walk fundraiser on May 5th. Our goal is to raise $250 (and maybe more!)

If you would like to donate to Team Johnson's efforts for this fundraiser, please click on this link. Anyone who makes a donation of $10 or more will receive a handmade gift from Holly's mom.......that would be me ;-) You can also read more of Holly's story and see some cute pics of her at this link.

This will be Holly's first official fundraising walk in a group situation. I think she'll be pretty excited to see all her old friends -- the volunteers and staff of Paws & Claws!

I'm sure you're always aware, but when looking for a new furry friend, please keep your local shelter in mind. There are lots of beautiful animals in need of a new forever home. We are really happy Holly has adjusted so well to ours!

P.S. If you'd like to donate to Holly's pet walk, but aren't comfortable with the on-line option, you can send me your pledge using a personal check. Click on my name under the "About Me" link on my sidebar and I'll send you my mailing address. Thanks again!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Early Spring Birding

It looks and sounds like spring has certainly arrived early in Minnesota this year -- after a record-breaking mild winter. We took advantage of nice weather the past two Sundays to drive around southeastern Minnesota and see what kinds of early migrants we could spot. Last Sunday, we were super fortunate to find this beautiful Bald Eagle perched in a tree right along the Mississippi River near downtown Wabasha. I was able to get out of the car and walk right up to this magnificent raptor and he didn't even budge. How lucky was that?
(Sorry, I love this eagle photo so much, I'm making you look at it in another blog post!)

Driving through the Whitewater State Park Wildlife Management Area, I also spotted the first Killdeer of 2012. Glancing down along the river bank, at first I thought this was a bit of trash, but when we stopped and got binocs on it, we could definitely see that it was a shorebird of some kind. A quick glance in the field guide confirmed Killdeer by the two dark breast bands.

This afternoon, we loaded Holly up in the car to drive around the Rochester area and see what we could find. We managed to finally see our first wild turkeys of 2012 and also several Eastern Bluebirds who declined to be photographed. We again saw several Bald Eagles and I managed to get one decent shot during a fly-over. I never get tired of seeing these raptors flying around.
The warm weather and strong southerly winds of the past few days have helped get lots of the ice out on ponds and lakes in the area. We headed out to the landfill reservoir west of Rochester where we had found some good waterfowl last year. It was a wise choice again this spring. As we were walking up to the reservoir, we could see plenty of waterfowl flying in to land. Check it out! These are mostly Greater White-Fronted Geese with a few Snow Geese in the mix too.

Here's some more! The ice was mostly out on this reservoir, at least all around the edges. There was still some in the middle and many of these geese (including some of Rochester's Giant Canada Geese) were just hanging out on the ice.

Before heading for home, we drove around to the other side of this reservoir to see if we could get a closer look from that side. There were more ducks over on this side, including this little group of American Coots.

Here's one look at the ducks. My duck ID skills aren't the best, but through my spotting scope, I managed to see and ID several species, including Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Green Winged Teals, Ringnecked Ducks, and Canvasbacks. I'm sure there were others I missed, but that will give me a reason to head back to this reservoir on another warm spring day.......

There were also several Trumpeter Swans on this reservoir. You can see two of them in this photo below. (BTW, remember you can click on any of these photos to make them bigger!)

Here's another look at all the Greater White Fronted Geese with some other ducks and geese mixed in. See that white one over to the left? That's the white adult Snow Goose. (I think the white bird over to the right is a gull.)

One last stop before heading for home was the County 9 Wetlands just east of Rochester. That lake was still mostly covered with ice, so nothing really noteworthy there except for the juvenile Bald Eagle that flew from a dead tree nearby. You can tell that the geese were not at all concerned with this eagle's presence. And see the houses right in the background? Sadly, the City of Rochester is rapidly encroaching on more wildlife areas.

I hope all of you are enjoying some early spring weather and chances to get outside and see who's flying into your area! Have a good week!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Today I Am 5!!

Today I'm celebrating the 5th birthday of this Nature Knitter Blog! Wow! Isn't that amazing?

My first blog post way back in 2007 also featured a single bird picture -- a Cedar Waxwing photographed right outside my dining room window. I had to travel a bit farther to capture this Bald Eagle photo, but I think it's a good correlation also with how far I've come on this blog. I like to think I've become a better writer and definitely a better picture taker (of course, that nice Canon EOS Rebel camera Mr. Johnson gifted me with a couple Christmases ago helps a lot too!)

I'm grateful to all of you who are faithful followers, even though I've become less than faithful about posting regularly. Thank you for sharing in all of the joys and sadnesses that have occurred in the last 5 years. I'm especially thankful for all the wonderful friendships I've made with bloggers all around the world. I've had the chance to meet so many of you and look forward to meeting more of you in my birding adventures around the U.S.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunflowers & Squirrels

Last summer I planted some sunflower seeds in my garden. I didn't plant the giant sunflowers because I didn't think that anything growing 14 feet tall and with a heavy seed head could withstand the strong winds we sometimes get in our backyard and I didn't want the sadness of seeing those flowers on the ground after a summer thunderstorm. So these sunflowers I planted only grew to about 10 feet tall with much smaller seed heads, but they sure were purdy!
I planted them right by the clothesline so I got to enjoy them every time I went out to hang up laundry for drying. It was also really neat to see who visited those sunflowers -- goldfinches seemed to like them the best!

And once fall arrived with the first killing frost, other birds flew in to take advantage of the sunflower seed bounty, including this handsome male cardinal who really had to work for his treat!

Before the frost arrived, I harvested some of the fullest seeds heads and dried them in the garage so I could put them out for the birds in the wintertime. I added a few to the feeder pole on my deck next to the finch's tube feeders, but never noticed that the finches were too interested in them. However, now that we're getting early spring weather, look who's back from hibernation under the storage shed and found my sunflower seed heads.......

One afternoon last week in a pouring rain, I looked out the patio door and saw this hungry little red squirrel on a very precarious and slender perch helping himself to sunflower seeds.

It was such a rotten day that I didn't have the heart to chase him away and grabbed my camera instead.

I was amazed at his ability to perch on the smallest of branches with just his hind feet and eat his fill of these seeds while seeming to hang out in mid-air.

Here's the branch he was perched on! I still can't believe it was able to hold him -- especially after eating almost all the seeds on this sunflower head!

I have a few of last summer's sunflower heads remaining in the garage to put out for the birds. Hopefully the finches and cardinals will still have an opportunity to enjoy them, but I think their chances are much slimmer now since the red squirrels discovered this treat too!