Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Eyas Update

So . . . . How are those Kestrel Nest Boxes doing??
Well, look for yourself!!
The picture above was taken from inside the box that overlooks the field right by the side of the house.  We were surprised, Richard and I, to still find one of the parents sitting tight in the box.  This is the male kestrel.  You can tell because he has the grey patches on his wings.  Isn't he such a lovely little falcon!  The picture does not show, but the eggs are still present.  I could only see three, as the others were being covered by the parent.  It is possible they have started to hatch, and that is why he was sitting so tight.  I did not want to give more disturbance than my nest inspection, so we closed everything up and left.  We'll check again in about 10 days or so. 

How about the other box?
Well . . .
The sunlight streaming into the box makes it a little hard to see what is going on, but there are four baby kestrels in there, along with one unhatched egg, and half a mouse.  The size of the mouse will give you some perspective on how SMALL those eyas kestrels are.  The parent birds left just as we arrived, and flew around our heads, although at a very safe distance, all the time we were there. It is possible that last egg is a good one, just has not hatched yet. Again, like the first box, I conducted my inspection quickly, a couple quick pictures, then sealed everything up and got away quickly so the parents could return. We'll check again in 10 days to see their progress.

The box we gave to Dr. Gray, that hosted the starling nest, provided warm, tasty food to the hawks this last week.  Of the 5 in the box, I caught 3, with 2 escaping.  Richard also inspected the nest which was placed on the side of a shed on his friend and co-worker Laurie's farm, over in Wisconsin.  It was empty, other than a small fledgling wasp nest, which was removed.

I couldn't be happier!  Two of the boxes we placed are housing new kestrels.  Hopefully they will return year after year, and more will adopt the boxes that are empty.

Itasca State Park

The second half of our little adventure up north was to have a night out camping.  There are many State Parks to choose from, but I decided being up in the vicinity, I simply had to go visit Itasca State Park.  It is unique among the many lakes as being the agreed headwaters of the Mississippi River.  Many other sources feed into the River on it's long trek to the Gulf of Mexico, but Itasca Lake is the place where it all begins.
The river begins as a spillover at the northern tip of the lake.  It is the shortest distance from shore to shore at any point in the river, and can be walked over.  Here is Richard doing it.
And here I am, very gawky looking.  The rocks were a bit slippery, and I didn't want to get baptised by the lake.  Hmmm . . . need to get back on the diet!
It's a very beautiful area!  Minnesota, being the state with 10,000 lakes, mostly has them grouped further up in the North.  It's still early enough, and cool enough at night, that the mosquitoes were not much of a nuisance yet.  We went to sleep in the evening, and woke up in the morning to the serenading of a Wood Thrush. We were also most fortunate to have camped at a lake with a resident pair of Common Loons.  Their haunting song is the sound of the Minnesota wilderness.  A Barred Owl hooted a time or two as well in the evening, but only in passing.
I learned a valuable lesson which I'll share.  Those little metal "bear proof" food vaults that are available at some parks, and were at this one, may be proof against bears, but were not, in our case, proof against racoons.  We woke up to half our groceries pulled through a small opening at the bottom and under the vault, where the two doors come together, where some clever racoon hands could twist into and extract some midnight goodies.  All my granola bars were eaten, as well as half a loaf of lemon bread picked up at a bakery in Rochester . . . the half they were able to pull through the small opening.  The other half, having been all touched by racoon hands, got tossed into the woods for the next night.  The sardine cans were all dragged out, but their cleverness did not extend to knowing how to open them . . . I'm sure they would have liked the sardines if they had only known.  So, lesson for all . . . push your bags way back to the back of the vault.  Maybe then your breakfast will be there when you get up in the morning.

This was a first camping trip of the season.  I enjoy camping with Richard, and road trips.  We have a Minnesota State Park pass, so should visit some more of the many parks to be experienced.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Viking Getaway

Would you like to get away with someone special for an interesting evening or weekend? Or, would you like to experience something unique and fun? Then perhaps you should go visit the Nordic Inn in Crosby, Minnesota.
If you link over to the web page you can read all about how it came into being far better than I can describe here. It is an old converted church.  A lot of work has gone into the conversion.  Currently the gardens are being worked on, improved, to grow many of the vegetables and fruits which will be incorporated into the meals.
When you arrive, you will be greeted by your host, Steinarr. In his absence, you will not fail to come to the notice of Thor, his very affectionate Great Dane. If you pull on the chain at the door, a ram's horn doorbell will announce your presence.
The Viking Brew and Bed is the realized dream of a very unique person. Here he poses with his mother, who visited the next morning. She was instrumental in creating many of the decorations and wall hangings which give the Inn a very authentic atmosphere.  I failed to take a picture the previous evening when Steinarr had his Viking tunic on, handing over the bar the honey mead he has brewed himself. 
If quick delivery of bawdy humor from a pun master is not your cup of tea, then the Nordic Inn may not be for you. However, if you enjoy going to the Rennaissance Festival, have an open mind, perhaps a thespian heart, and are willing to experience something out of the ordinary, then I highly recommend you come visit. If you have many friends, there is a weekend murder mystery and feast that can be experienced. Richard and I had Steinarr all to ourselves, as we visited during the middle of the week. The food was hearty, and came in very large proportions.  It was an enjoyable and unique experience.
We had rented the Odin's Loft, which occuplies the top floor of this converted church.  Here is the staircase leading up to it.
Half the room is occuplied by half a Viking longship.  It reaches out over open space, supported by an intricately carved beam below.  A king-sized bed is positioned in the middle of the ship . . . and even though there is a very open, very non-private feel to the positioning of the bed, and this half of the suite, it is actually quite well designed, and private.  It's truly the best room in the house!
Here Richard stands at the end of the longship, with the customary dragon's head mast.  It overlooks the main room of the Inn, the bar and the fireplace, collectively called Asgard. 
Tucked behind Odin's Loft is a private bathroom, complete with the largest bathtub/hottub in the place. The other two themed rooms have a bathtub/hottub as well, but this one was the largest.  Oh, and in case you noticed below, as I did, the plastic liner looking a bit dingy, that is just a trick of the camera and lighting.  All was clean and well maintained.  Many of Steinarr's hand-made costumes and weapons decorate the walls.
On the ground floor there are two more rooms.  This one below is the Jarl's Den.  It is decorated with horns, antlers many animal pelts, to include a full black bear.  There is even an example of one of his mother's Racoon Pecker Clocks.  That's a story in itself . . . you'll just have to go visit and ask!  
If you are interested in occupying a more feminine room, there is the Freya's Boudoir.  It would make the perfect room for a romantic weekend getaway.
Thor demonstrates the comfort to be found in Asgard.  There are two more, smaller rooms that can be rented.
We had a really good time during our visit, and hope to come again sometime, but coordinate for a party of friends so we can experience the full feast and murder mystery.  Anyone interested?

(Bring Your Own Crazy Viking)

I did!

Big Girl Feathers

Today was the first time I've noticed some of Hit Girl's new feathers showing.  I had seen blood quills last week in her tail, but now they are irrupting out of the sheath.  Upon taking her picture and looking at it, I see there are a whole lot more than just the first red tail feathers.  The bright red arrow points those out.
The yellow arrows are pointing to fresh primary feathers, which I had not noticed before, though she has been loosing major feathers now for over a month.  The dark red arrows are pointing to body contours, which are showing some of the red which her whole body will have when she is done with the process.

My "little" girl is getting her grown up feathers.

Monday, May 14, 2012


After lunch we checked the other boxes.  The one placed in the back fields showed the following:
Those are kestrel eggs.  We did not see any kestrel exit as we drove up, but I did see a bird, a small falcon, circling around the area as we set up the ladder and looked inside.

The third box which is installed on Olga's farm was empty.

That makes 2 out of 3 of the boxes kept on the land that Rich's dad and brother farm being used by the target species for which they were put up.

We went up town and checked with Dr. Gray, the retired veterinarian here in Spring Grove.  We gave him a box last year, as he expressed his enthusiasm for kestrels.  With his permission, we checked on the box we had given him, and which he had mounted out in the country.  It had the following:
Yep . . . those are starling babies.  Dr. Gray does not care for them, so with his permission we will probably come back in a week and pull those babies.  They will make tasty, fat hawk food.

I have registered my boxes, and Richard and I will monitor them.  Within the week perhaps we will have the chance to see what Laurie's box is doing, if anything. 

Come back and visit soon.  I hope to have pictures of kestrel eyases soon!

KRAP Update

The Kestrel Residential Accommodation Partnership (KRAP) put up some nest boxes last year to invite kestrels to move in and make lots of babies.  So how are those kestrel nest boxes doing this year?  Last year they only produced starlings, with the exception of the box that was placed on Laurie's farm over in Wisconsin.  A family of flickers took up residence there.  I have been observing the box that is the closest to the farm, which overlooks the field next to the road leading to the house.  Kestrels have been spotted this year all around the area, vocalizing, sitting on the wire over the box, and sitting on the box.  I have been hopeful that they took up residence, but have kept my distance so that I don't scare them off if they were house shopping.  Today I decided to verify.

There is a website that I have linked to here on my page, where you can register a nest box, record your observations, as well as observe an active nest by web cam.  That will be my next stop after this blog entry, to register this nest box.  Richard brought a ladder, and he peeked into the box.  He had to remove some securing wires first.  As we came near to the box I saw a female kestrel exit quickly.  No one defended the box while we were there.  When he peeked inside, this is what he took a picture of.
This box is a success . . . so far.  We secured the box and left right away.  I watched from a distance for awhile, and did not see the female return to the box, but I did see the male fly back with food in his talons (looked like a small mouse) and she joined him in the air, vocalizing.  They landed in a small tree, the only one near the nest box, and she took possession of the food.  He then flew off towards the horizon for some more hunting.  I left after watching her for a few minutes eating her lunch.  The web site indicates it is OK to make a quick nest box inspection.  It is a warm day, 80s, so the eggs should be OK unattended.  She probably went back after her lunch.

I'll follow their progress and report here.  We may also check on the other two boxes that we put up near here.  Laurie hasn't noticed any activity at her box this year, yet.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Another Rare White Bird

It's a terribly dinky picture taken with my cell phone . . . but proof of another rare white bird.

I was spending a day headed to Madison for Farmer's Market, and a day of shopping with my girlfriend.  I stopped by Dave's home on the way to give him "payment" for his kind gift of bells which I brought to the Minnesota Falconer's Game Dinner.  He now has an assortment of Spring Grove Pop, as well as an assortment of dark stout beers, his favorite.  While leaving his home and headed over to my girlfriend's, I saw one of the rare Whooping Cranes foraging for some breakfast in one of the fields.  I used to live in that area, and around there spotting a Whooper is not such a rare happening, as the Necedah Wildlife Refuge is the location where many have been trained to follow an ultra-light, and to where many of the adults are now returning.  If interested, here is the blog of the organization that is working with these most endangered birds:

Operation Migration

I didn't have my camera along . . . and certainly didn't have my spotting scope, thus it is not a very great picture.  Still proof . . . I did see one yesterday.