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Cranes, Herons & Egrets

Cranes, Herons & Egrets

The Elegance of Our Tallest Birds Stan Tekiela, author of Cranes, Herons & Egrets, shares with us his love for these majestic birds. Cranes, herons, and egrets are long-legged, elegant birds that are amazing to watch. Seeing them near our homes or while out for a walk or bike ride greatly enhances our outdoor experience. Because they tend to be tall, large, colorful, and fairly obvious, we take much joy in being able to observe and identify them easily. Cranes are the royalty of the bird world. No other birds represent such beauty, stateliness, and grace. Since the dawn of time and across every nation on this planet, cranes have drawn the admiration of people. From their soul-touching call to their magnificent flight, Sandhill and Whooping Cranes adorn North America with their presence. The Splendor of Cranes If the Sandhill Crane is the main event, then the Whooping Crane has to be the highlight! The tallest bird in North America, this majestic creature was nearly driven...

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Maple syruping

March Chores and Maple Syrup

In this week’s column, Stan Tekiela talks to us about maple syrup, a uniquely American product. I love this time of year. March is a transition month and often heralds the beginning of spring, even here in the frozen north. Many of our backyard birds are singing their spring mating and territorial songs. Some early migrating birds, such as Bluebirds and Horned Larks, are already arriving. The male Goldfinches have molted their old, drab, gray feathers for a new coat of bright yellow feathers. It is also the time to get out and clean out your Wood Duck boxes or to put up new ones. The Wood Duck, along with the Common Goldeneye and the Hooded Merganser, is a small duck species that nests inside cavities. Providing these ducks with a safe, warm, and dry place to nest is essential. So, before the ice is off your pond, it’s always good to inspect your...

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The Chicken Mushroom Announces Its Presence Loudly

Today, Teresa Marronne and Walt Sturgeon share with us some fascinating facts about the colorful Chicken Mushroom. Unlike other edible mushrooms that seem to use natural camouflage to hide from the eager forager, the Chicken Mushroom (Laetiporus) announces its presence loudly. Its bright colors, large size, and frequently elevated location make it easy to spot from a fair distance. The mushrooms are found in association with live, dead, or dying trees. The appearance of Chicken Mushrooms on a living tree is a signal that the tree has been attacked by the mushroom’s parasitic mycelium (thread-like fungal roots), which can sometimes be seen as whitish fibers in cracks in the wood. The fungus causes heart rot of the host tree. Three different species are found in our area. All grow as a grouping of thick, stemless, fan-shaped caps; individual caps may be up to 12 inches wide but are generally smaller. Caps are some shade of orange to yellow-orange, with a fair amount of variation among different groupings...

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Grandmother with kids

LARK Toy Store

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 grandparents who want to use the time together with their grandchildren to laugh, have fun, create memories, and grow. LARK Toy Store should come with a warning: Be prepared for an imagination overload! Your grandchild won’t be the only one who is overwhelmed. LARK Toy Store is the place for people of all ages to let go of their inhibitions, where play is king, where design and art meld, where shopping and games come together. Who would imagine such a place exists just outside the quiet river town of Kellogg, south of Wabasha? This grandchild’s paradise has it all: an outdoor miniature golf course, an indoor carousel, a bookstore, a candy store, a woodcraft workshop and—oh, yes—a toy store! Original owners Sarah and Donn Kreofsky...

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Children reading books

Animal Hospital Books Are Perfect for Kids

Stories centered around an animal hospital (or wildlife rehabilitation center) have it all: There are animals, helpful doctors, injury, and recovery. These topics are highly interesting to most young readers, making a wildlife rescue story quite compelling. As an added benefit, such picture books foster a love for and an appreciation of nature. I had the pleasure of editing two books by Christie Gove-Berg. My introduction to these wonderful centers came via Esther the Eaglet in 2015. A year later, another animal hospital was featured in Christie’s Maggie the One-Eyed Peregrine Falcon. These books are absolutely perfect for children, and here’s why. Kids Love Animals It’s practically a universal truth: Children adore critters of all shapes and sizes. Dogs and cats are the standard, but wild animals hold a special allure. They are unique and exotic, often talked about but rarely seen. A nonfiction book about them is a treasure, especially one that tells a captivating tale—and has photographs...

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American Beaver

American Beaver Braves Cold and Snow

In today’s post, Stan Tekiela shares with us his encounter with an American beaver. On my recent Wyoming mountain adventure to study and photograph Bighorn Sheep, one afternoon I was thrilled to find an American Beaver (Castor canadensis) along a frozen mountain stream. The temperature was below freezing, there was no wind, and a light snow was falling. It was perfect winter weather, but that normally means that beavers are deep in their dens waiting for spring. However, this brave beaver was out and about, despite the cold and snow. Beavers that live in cold climates, where the water freezes solid, don’t hibernate. They remain awake all winter, but they are forced to restrict their activities to the space inside their lodge or under the ice. This is why it is so important for beavers to store enough food to last them the entire winter. Beavers live in family units called colonies, which often consist...

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Bear hibernation

The Miracle of Hibernation

Stan Tekiela, author of Bears: Black, Brown & Polar Bears, explains the miracle of bear hibernation. Black and Brown Bears are perhaps best known for the fact that they hibernate in winter. Hibernation is not a response to changing weather, extreme cold, or lots of snow, as many people believe—it’s a reaction to reduced food supplies. Thus, bears in captivity, which are fed regularly, do not hibernate. Similarly, many bears in the wild won’t hibernate when food is abundant during mild winters without snow. Hibernation in bears is a state of inactivity with a high degree of dormancy. Metabolic rates, heart rate, breathing, and body temperature are greatly reduced at this time but still functioning. During summer, Polar Bears go into walking hibernation, a state in which their metabolic rate is reduced, but they are still active. Grizzly Bear hibernation is different from the deep sleep hibernation experienced by groundhogs, chipmunks, and other similar animals. It usually takes these critters several weeks to attain their extremely low metabolic rates. It doesn’t...

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Coastal Redwoods

Coastal Redwoods

In this week’s column, Stan Tekiela talks about his visit to the Californian coastal redwoods. California is known for many things—sunny beaches, Hollywood, Disneyland, its designation as the Garlic capital of the world—well, maybe not so much for this last one, but you know what I mean. However for me, California has some of the most beautiful places on Earth and some of the most amazing wildlife. I am always on the lookout for the unusual or the underdog or the cool thing that isn’t so flashy. So I headed for the Coastal Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens)—the tallest trees in the world! On my recent trip to California, I took a day out of my wildlife photography schedule to visit a stand of old growth Coastal Redwoods. You really need to stand at the base of one of these magnificent trees to really understand their grandeur. The Coastal Redwoods grow along a narrow band of...

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American Goldfinch

About Birds and Plants

Today, Stan Tekiela, author of Backyard Birds: Welcomed Guests at Our Gardens and Feeders, talks to us about the relationship between birds and plants. Often the most complex relationship between birds and nature is right in front of us, but we don’t see it. For example, Blue Jays are critically important for forest regeneration. A number of studies link the dispersal of oak trees to Blue Jays. Jays collect, disperse, and cache oak acorns, then later forget where they hid some. The forgotten acorns sprout into oak trees, which extend the stand from the mother tree almost 400 yards per year. Blue Jays surpass squirrels as successful oak tree planters. Birds in flight can disperse acorns farther away from the mother tree than a scurrying squirrel. Some botanists even speculate that oak trees with smaller acorns have an evolutionary advantage, as their acorns are more likely to be dispersed by Blue Jays, Acorn Woodpeckers, and other birds, rather than squirrels. The...

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Flying Squirrel

Flying Squirrel—A Mysterious Critter

In today’s NatureSmart column, Stan Tekiela shares with us about flying squirrels. I’ve always found the critters that are less well known or more mysterious to be the most fascinating. A good example of this is the flying squirrel. I have recently photographed a wonderful little Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys Volans). There are more than 40 species of flying squirrels in the world, but only 2 species live here in North America. Besides the Southern Flying Squirrel, we also have a Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus). In general, the Southern Flying Squirrel lives across most of the eastern half of the country, while the Northern Flying Squirrel lives in the northern states and across Canada. Both the northern and southern flying squirrel are closely related to other tree squirrels. All are in the family Sciuridae. The big difference between flying squirrels and other more familiar tree squirrels is that flying squirrels are nocturnal. All of our...

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