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Great Crested Flycatcher

The Great Crested Flycatcher

In this week’s column, Stan Tekiela talks to us about the Great Crested Flycatcher, a very common but not commonly seen bird. There are a few birds that are very common but not commonly seen. In other words, these birds are found in good numbers all across our region, but you just don’t see them. One good example of this is the Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus). It is not a secretive bird; in fact, it’s bold enough to sound off with a very loud and distinctive call that echoes throughout the forest, announcing its presence. Starting in late spring and throughout the summer months, you can easily hear the distinctive “weeping” whistles high up in the treetops. Most birds will stop calling while nesting so they don’t attract attention to their nests, eggs, or young. But this is not true of the Great Crested Flycatcher—no, they keep on calling all summer long....

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Dinosaur Destinations

Trilobites—The Stars of U-Dig Quarry

Jon Kramer, Julie Martinez, and Vernon Morris, authors of the book Dinosaur Destinations, explore the most exciting dinosaur and fossil sites near you. Today, we take a look at the U-Dig Fossils quarry located in Utah. Found about an hour west of Delta, Utah, the U-Dig quarry is the place to go if you want to find trilobites. Trilobites, which became extinct before the Age of Dinosaurs, were oceanic arthropods related to present-day spiders and scorpions. At the U-Dig site, zillions of trilobites were buried in the deep, dark muds of an ancient sea. Here, you find direct evidence of what scientists call the “Cambrian Explosion,” a period in time when life on Earth diversified very quickly. Trilobite populations, in particular, went bananas, and they ruled the Earth for many millions of years. Trilobites—Way Older than Dinosaurs Maybe we’re going a little off the dinosaur track here, but you’re gonna love it! Compared to trilobites, dinosaurs are young pups. Trilobites rose to prominence more than 500...

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Monarch Butterfly

In today’s blog post, Stan Tekiela shares with us the intriguing world of the Monarch Butterfly. There are so many amazing and marvelous aspects of nature. Take the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus), for example. This may be the most familiar and recognized butterfly in North America, yet I’m not sure that it’s understood just how special this winged creature really is. It’s right under our noses, but we don’t seem to appreciate it. Unfortunately, due to unprecedented drops in population over the past 10 years, this butterfly is now being considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a candidate for the endangered species list. Recently, I’ve been photographing all of the life stages of the Monarch Butterfly in my studio, and I must tell you that I am so impressed with this insect. Even after 30 years of studying wildlife and traveling to the far corners of the world to photograph...

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Grandmother with kids

Minnesota Children’s Museum

In their book Grandparents Minnesota Style, Mike Link and Kate Crowley provide opportunities for adults and children to spend more time discovering Minnesota together. The book is designed for today’s grandparent who wants to use the time with grandchildren to laugh, have fun, create memories, and grow. The first children’s museums were established in the U.S. in the early twentieth century, but it wasn’t until the ’60s that they really evolved into the type of places we are more familiar with today. The Minnesota Children’s Museum first opened in December 1981 in Minneapolis. Attendance grew rapidly, leading to a series of moves. After 20 years of success and continued growth in attendance, the Minnesota Children’s Museum undertook a major expansion of its downtown St. Paul space and exhibits in 2015, completing it in early 2017. Minnesota Children’s Museum One of the Most Child-Engaging Places in the State Today, the museum boasts four floors that...

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Spruce Grouse

The Spruce Grouse—A Most Elusive Bird

In this week’s column, Stan Tekiela takes us deep inside the northwoods of Alaska in search of a hard-to-spot bird, the spruce grouse. Deep in the northwoods of Alaska, and stretching eastward to the dense conifer forests of Maine, lives a bird that superficially looks and acts more like the familiar Eastern Wild Turkey. It is the Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis canadensis), also known as the Fool Hen, Black Partridge, Canada Grouse, and Spotted Grouse. Standing about 15-17 inches tall, it’s a good-size bird. You would definitely notice it if you saw it, not like those small, brown, nondescript birds. It resembles a chicken or perhaps a miniature turkey. Some who might be familiar with the Ruffed Grouse might also be confused. But the Spruce Grouse is much darker then the brown Ruffed Grouse. Male Spruce Grouse are nearly black with large white spots on their sides and belly. They have a bright red patch...

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Dinosaur Destinations

Waco Mammoth National Monument

Jon Kramer, Julie Martinez, and Vernon Morris, authors of Dinosaur Destinations, explore the most exciting dinosaur and fossil sites near you. Today, we take a look at Waco Mammoth National Monument, a famous enclosed bone bed of mammoths located in Waco, Texas. About Waco Mammoth National Monument On a fine spring day in 1978, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin embarked on a search for arrowheads and fossils near the Bosque River. They soon stumbled upon something else altogether: a very large bone eroding out of a ravine. They took the bone to the Strecker Museum at nearby Baylor University, where it was examined and identified as the femur of a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi). The museum organized a team to search for more bones, and digging soon began. This paleontology party hasn’t stopped; since then, scientists have found 19 mammoths. Today, the dig site is now enclosed and climate controlled, and it was recently named a National Monument. Waco Mammoth National Monument—A River of Mammoths When you...

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Starry sunset

101 Amazing Sights of the Night Sky

George Moromisato’s 101 Amazing Sights of the Night Sky is a curated guide to the best the night sky has to offer. This magnificent full-color guide will be available in March 2017. George shares with us some tips and pointers that make a night under the stars exciting and meaningful. Once, we were all astronomers. Before electric lights banished the Milky Way, and before digital clocks announced the time, and way before GPS satellites let us know exactly where we were on Earth, the night sky was our entertainment, our timepiece, and our compass.ofUnderstanding the night sky was a matter of life or death. The North Star guided wandering hunters back home, and the rising of the constellations determined when planting should start or when the Nile might flood. Today, thousands of years later, we’ve gained knowledge our ancestors could never imagine.  We are awed by the scale of the universe, thrilled by the beauty of colliding galaxies, and humbled by the work and dedication...

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Searching for the Elusive Bobcat

In this week’s column, Stan Tekiela discusses the elusive bobcat. I’ve been sitting for hours, driving for days, and staring through binoculars at distant hillsides for longer than I can remember, searching for the bobcat (Lynx rufus), the smallest of our wild cats. Today, I am in California, trekking the foothills, hoping for a glimpse. No doubt the Bobcat is the most widespread and common of our four cat species (bobcat, lynx, cougar, and jaguar). In some regions of the country, bobcats can be fairly common, while in others not at all. Here in California, they are fairly common but extremely hard to find. Days upon days of searching have resulted in seeing about eight bobcats so far. Spotting them isn’t the hard part. Getting close enough to capture some images is. When approaching these wild cats you must take into consideration not only not being seen and heard but also not being...

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Mountain Lion

Mammals in the Desert

If you took a flight over a desert, what would you think as you flew over? Many people would probably think they were flying over a barren wasteland. But deserts aren’t dead; far from it, they are teeming with all sorts of specialized plants and animals. The Sonoran Desert alone boasts more than 500 species of birds, 130 species of mammals, more than 100 species of reptiles, and more than 2,500 plant species. And if you spend any time in the desert, you’ll see, hear, or smell evidence of all of this life: Coyotes howl during the evening, owls call out, breezes bring the sweet smell of flowers and plants, and it’s impossible to miss the towering saguaros, the flowering ironwood trees, and the vivid displays of wildflowers, or the butterflies and hummingbirds zipping from one bloom to another. There are four major deserts in North America. The Chihuahuan Desert is the largest and covers about 175,000 square miles in Mexico, with fingertips in southern...

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Bluebirds in winter

Winter—A Challenge for Our Resident Birds

In this week’s column, Stan Tekiela discusses how challenging winter can be for birds. Winter can be a very challenging time for the birds who don’t migrate. The rigors of winter, lack of food, reduced access to fresh water, and extremely long and cold nights do represent a lot of challenges for our resident birds. The other evening I was out filming a pair of Barred Owls. The sun had set and the blue shadows of winter descended upon the landscape. I call this the cobalt hour: after the sun sets, when everything outside is cast in a cobalt blue color. It’s a magical time of a winter day. I was hiking back to my truck with my oversize camera and tripod hoisted over my shoulder when I heard a Pileated Woodpecker giving a loud call. Glancing to my left, I saw our largest woodpecker species land on a dead tree and slip into...

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