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Super Animal Powers

Jump, Little Wood Ducks—The Tale of a Picture Book

Marion Dane Bauer shares with us how she and Stan Tekiela worked together to produce Jump, Little Wood Ducks, their latest children’s book. Jump, Little Woods Ducks is my fourth picture book to be illustrated by the naturalist and photographer Stan Tekiela. While most of my picture books have been more traditionally illustrated by artists, working with Stan has been a privilege and a joy. On our first book together, Baby Bear Discovers the World, Stan said, “You write the story. I’ll make the photos happen.” I did, and he did. He borrowed twin black bear cubs from a wildlife reserve and took them in his truck to different locations. He set them up to perform the acts of the runaway baby bear in my text. Stan used twins, as filmmakers often do when working with young human children, so that if one wasn’t cooperating he would have a chance of getting what he needed from the other....

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Children reading books

Big Birds, Baby Birds, Birds Everywhere

All of nature seems to be in reproductive overdrive or, perhaps more accurately, hyperdrive. Just look around: Baby birds seem to be everywhere. And adult birds are busy all day trying to fill the mouths of their begging fledglings. The rush for reproduction is bases on a limited amount of time to get the job done. I don’t think it is well understood that most birds only reproduce once per year in the spring. Yes, some of our smaller species of birds will reproduce twice each season, but the point is that they only reproduce in spring. They don’t migrate down south at the end of summer and start reproducing all over again. Many of our larger species, such as Osprey, Bald Eagle, and the Common Loon, only get one shot at reproduction each season. If something happens to their eggs or babies, then it’s all over until next year. Many of...

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Animal Tracks of the Northwest Playing Cards

Artwork of Amazing World of Dinosaurs Author on Permanent Display

In today’s post, James Kuether, author of  The Amazing World of Dinosaurs, shares with us how he created a 16- x 20-foot version of his dinosaur drawings for the Science Museum of Minnesota. When creating natural history art that incorporates dinosaurs, the challenge is to communicate the enormous size that many attained. So when museums began requesting my images to accompany their fossil displays, they naturally wanted those images to reflect the scale of their subjects. My first request for a mural-size image came from the Science Museum of Minnesota. This was my hometown museum, a place where I’d spent countless hours studying the dinosaurs in their collection. Late last year, they embarked on a redesign of their dinosaur exhibit and asked me to create a 16- x 20-foot version of one of my images. Having never created anything that size before, it was a daunting request. I create my artwork completely in the computer...

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Children reading books

Bug-Eating Woodpeckers

In this week’s column, Stan Tekiela talks to us about the woodpecker's love for bugs. Stan is the author of Remarkable Woodpeckers: Incredible Images and Characteristics. Perched nearly 20 feet in the air, looking down at the forest floor below, I was waiting for a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers to return to their nest cavity to feed their babies. I love these moments. Sitting in my modified tree stand high up in a tree, I’ve been here long enough to completely blend into the forest. A hummingbird flies up to my face to check me out. Shortly after that, I watch a female Wood Duck flying through the dense forest canopy at high speed. How she doesn’t run into a branch is beyond me. Hour after hour, I watch and photograph a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers coming and going from their nest as they feed their newly hatched babies. Watching the birds coming and...

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The Amazing World of Dinosaurs Playing Cards

Amish Country of Wisconsin

Today, we are visiting Amish Country in Wisconsin with Mary M. Bauer, author of Wisconsin Day Trips by Theme. Steeped in a bygone era, the Amish are known for their traditional pacifist ways, horse-and-buggy travel, colorful handmade quilts, and plain clothes. Wisconsin has the fourth-largest population of Amish in the U.S., with the first families moving to Medford in 1920. Overcrowding in the East and increasing land prices have made relocating to Wisconsin an attractive alternative for the growing community. Based on their concept of Christian humility, the Amish adopt a “plain lifestyle,” forgoing modern conveniences, such as electricity, cars, telephones, computers, etc. Many of the Amish operate small bakeries, furniture shops, and quilt shops on their farms. Watch for signs detailing business hours; they are not open on Sundays. For a more personal glimpse into the Amish lifestyle, there are several tours available. See the Amish Tours section in this chapter...

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Children reading books

Prairie Chickens Perform an Unusual Mating Ritual

In this week’s column, Stan Tekiela shares with us the mating ritual of Prairie Chickens. I’ve been spending a lot of time this spring filming some of the most strange and unusual mating rituals of the bird world. First I spent several evenings with the timber doodle, better known as the Woodcock. How this shorebird of the woodlands started its elaborate late evening sky dance no one will ever know. Now I am photographing Prairie Chickens on the vast windswept prairie. The elaborate dancing and displaying of these crazy birds is a sight to behold. Honestly, the drive of these birds just to reproduce each spring is astonishing. Before daybreak, in complete darkness, I pulled up my truck to the side of a minimum maintenance road. I could barely open my truck door because the wind was blowing so hard. With each push of the door it came swinging back at me...

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Cauliflower Mushroom

Cauliflower Mushrooms—A Prized Delicacy

Today, Teresa Marrone and Walt Sturgeon share with us information about another prized delicacy, Cauliflower Mushrooms. Many books show pictures of Cauliflower Mushroom (Sparassis spathulata, Sparassis americana) in a basket, on a plate, or displayed proudly in someone’s hands. The first reason is to show the impressive size that this mushroom reaches, but the second may be that hunters who find this delicacy aren’t willing to show anyone exactly where in the woods they found it! Cauliflower Mushrooms are saprobes, getting their nutrients from the buried roots of dying and dead trees. They’re found alone or in groups in mixed woods next to deciduous and coniferous trees. This large, brain-like cluster mushroom is easy to recognize. It is made up of a mass of creamy white- to tan-colored folds growing from a branching base. Some describe it as looking like a pile of egg noodles. Large examples may be up to 12 inches across, but most specimens are much smaller. This mushroom doesn’t...

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Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird—The Helpful Garden Bird

In this week’s column, Stan Tekiela talks about one of his favorites birds, the Eastern Bluebird. The warming winds of spring bring us many fun and interesting birds and critters. One of my favorites is the Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis). A member of the thrush family, the bluebird is closely related to the American Robin. In fact, you can see the similarities between these birds in the posture, body proportions, movements, and also in the matching rusty red chest. Both birds are prolific insect eaters, finding most of their food directly on the ground. Because of this diet, these birds need to migrate to areas where they can find insect food during winter. Even though both birds are well known for migration, neither of them make long distance migrations like some birds such as the warblers or hummingbirds. Eastern Bluebirds are late to leave in the fall, often staying around until Thanksgiving, and they...

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Partridge Falls

Join Lisa Crayford, author of Waterfalls of Minnesota, on a journey to Partridge Falls, located on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation. Partridge Falls is one of my favorite falls on the North Shore. It’s also one that takes some time and effort to reach; while I highly recommend a visit, you need to be very careful. The falls are located on Partridge Falls Road, a minimum-maintenance road full of rocks and potholes. I highly suggest that you take a vehicle with four-wheel drive, as well as an extra tire, bottled water, and some snacks and sandwiches. (If you can do this trip toward the end of September, you’ll be fine driving slowly because the view of fall colors will be amazing.) The falls are located at the end of Partridge Falls Road. As you make it back to the end of the road and to the Pigeon River, park your vehicle and get ready for a short hike down a wide path....

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Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron Nesting

In this week’s column, Stan Tekiela discusses the nesting habits of the Great Blue Heron. There’s a large and very common bird that people see on a regular basis, but rarely does anyone see it nesting. The bird is the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), the largest and  tallest of the North American herons. The name is often shorted to just “GBH.” It is found in every state in the nation in good numbers. Some regions see this long-legged bird all year long, while others see them in warmer weather only. This bird is a great example of how common names often don’t make any sense. Let’s break down the name. Great refers to being the largest of its kind. I can agree with that part of the name. What I have problems with is the “blue” part of the name. I have photographed this bird in all stages of its life and in more parts...

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