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Anything outdoors!  Tornadoes, eagles, blizzards, or auroras.  If it is in the sky, running through the woods or swimming in the water, I'm there!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Thick Ice, Swans, and Night Shots of a Great Horned Owl

Still winter, still cold. Wait, the first day of winter hasn't even officially arrived yet. What? Good day it gets into the +teens. Most days it is either side of the doughnut. It started out looking like this would be one of the best years for good lake ice in about decade. And it is. Kind of. The northern half of Minnesota got blasted with 12"-18" of snow over a 3 day period when there was about 6" of ice. Well, now they are dealing with 6" of ice, 6" of slush (from the weight of all the snow pushing down on the ice), and a think blanket of snow which acts as an insulator keeping the ice from getting thicker or at least freezing the slush into a weak layer on top of the good ice. It's going to take some nighty cold air to fix this problem and it looks like this may happen the week of Christmas.

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In our area of central, MN we only got about 8" of snow out of the system which hammered the Northland plus it has been windy as heck. The wind helps sweep the snow off a lot of the lake allowing the arctic air to work it's magic on the water. One still needs to be careful around the edges (the south and southeast sides especially as that is where the snow ends up), but the rest of the lakes are good. My son and I went to check the ice and found a consistent 14"-15" of good, clear ice on the lakes by our house. Yup, the hard water fishing season is here until March at some point. The pic is of Cullen driving to the next "safe spot" where I am as we work our way to our favorite fishing area.

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Thursday night was interesting as Melinda came home and said she could hear a Great Horned Owl neat the house. This isn't uncommon as the area we live in has a lot of wildlife and from time to time a lot of rabbits. The rabbits are up so the owls are back. Anyhow, my daughter and I took a walk and sure enough, Cailyn found it. It was 8:30 at night but thanks to a tripod, a long exposure, and a somewhat cooperative raptor, I was able to get a few pics. These are off the D300 ISO 800 5s manual focus 200mm crops.

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It is still around here. I hear it just about every evening now.

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The trumpeter swans are doing well in Monticello. Swung over there on Saturday morning. Several hundred are settled in for winter.

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Jim Lawrence feeding the swans. His wife was Sheila Lawrence, the "Swan Lady" who passed away from cancer in April of 2011. It's really nice to see Jim has been able to carry on her legacy.

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This would have been a cool shot had the small branches not been in the way. In addition to scattering loose corn, Jim also fills large plastic totes for the swans to eat out of.

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I never get tired of seeing these gigantic (and noisy) waterfowl. Pretty thankful to have one of the world-class trumpeter swan photo venues within minutes of home.

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Saturday was also a day of other wildlife. Here a group of pheasants look for food in a snow covered soy bean field.

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A red tail hawk weathers a snow squall in meadow near my home.

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Sunday was pretty quiet. The idea was to go look for snowy owls but needed to get some family stuff done so I didn't make it out to the area I wanted to. So, took a quick cruise at sunset. Moonrise over one of the osprey nesting platforms. The storms this fall/winter have already destroyed the nest. I'm sure they will rebuild next spring. I hope they enjoy their winter along the Gulf of Mexico coast as they are going to be busy once the snow and ice heads north again.

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Only saw two eagles. One was right on the river and not in a good area to photograph. The one pictured has been nicknamed "the cow eagle" as she (assuming by the size) I often find overlooking the same pasture of bovine. Not sure why as an obvious food source is not present...or maybe she like cows?

The only funny cow song I know for the occasion.

So, this week will be occupied with the day job. I usually can sneak away for a day to head down to the sacred eagle wintering grounds from Read's Landing to Alma, Wisconsin this week of December but not this year. Maybe Saturday though....

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