I was excited to spot another type of sparrow. Although this is not one of my better photographs, I still wanted to share it because I think this sparrow is so beautiful!
The white eye ring was what helped me to distinguish this sparrow from others. Before I started taking photographs, I thought all sparrows were the same type. I am learning that there is a large variety of sparrow species and they look very different.
It was such a beautiful afternoon that I couldn’t wait to get off work and hit the trail. Today I wanted to stay close to home, so I decided to hike along the Hennepin Canal. My first stop was out at Lock 26. A friend of mine said that there might be some red-headed woodpeckers out along the trail. I was a little girl the last time I saw a red-headed woodpecker, so I was anxious to get out there! I was disappointed that nothing much was moving in that area. I heard a couple of bluejays, and scared up a couple of wood ducks, but that was about it. So, I packed up and headed toward Prairie Park thinking I might spot something there. Wouldn’t you know it, as I was about three miles down the road I spotted a bird on a telephone pole; it was a red-headed woodpecker! I stopped and tried to get a picture from my car, but it flew high up in a tree and then a car came up behind me. So, all I have is a couple blurry photos, but I saw him! Next time I will know where to look:)
When I finally got out to Prairie Park I went for a nice hike and enjoyed the beautiful spring weather. As I was walking along a heard some rustling along the ground and then I spotted this cute little sparrow. I got a couple of pictures of him on on the ground but they were pretty dark. But wouldn’t you know it, he decided that he wanted to pose for a picture! So he hopped up on a low hanging tree branch and I was able to get a decent shot:)
I was surprised to see this redhead near Lock and Dam 13 in Fulton, IL on Sunday, April 26. There were very few ducks in this area, and most of the birds in the water were coots. I was ready to leave when I noticed this redhead. He was very happy to get his picture taken!
Redhead ducks are 18 to 22 inches in length. The male (pictured here) has a gray back, black chest and a chestnut red head. His bill is grayish-blue with a black tip and he has yellow-orange eyes. The female is light brown with brown eyes. Her bill is similar to the male’s.
The redheads are diving ducks who eat aquatic plants, insects, mollusks, and fish. They travel in flocks, often with other types of ducks. Redheads breed in the summer where the female will lay 10-15 buff colored eggs. Sometimes she will lay her eggs in another redhead’s nest! Once the female starts incubating the eggs, the male will fly south to molt. The incubation time for the eggs is 23-29 days. After hatching the young can feed themselves. It is takes about 10 weeks for the hatchlings to have the ability to fly.
Yesterday I decided to stop at Lock and Dam 13 in Fulton, Illinois to see if there was anything interesting in that area. I wasn’t disappointed! The first little pond on the road usually has ducks in it, but not this time. Instead, I spotted a pair of sandhill cranes! I didn’t even know that they existed until this spring; since then, I have been trying to capture a clear photo. However, these guys are really skittish and I have never been able to get close to them without spooking them. For whatever reason, that was not the case on this day. I was able to get out of my car and “stalk” them without them flying away.
Sandhill cranes are large migratory birds. They stand 3-4 feet tall and have a wingspan of over 5 feet. They have long, thin necks and legs. Their bodies are mostly gray, but may often look reddish-brown. This variance is because sandhill cranes preen themselves with mud. Perhaps one of most identifiable features of the sandhill crane (besides its size) is a crimson patch on its forehead.
The sandhill crane mates for life. After mating they build a nest on the ground in marsh areas. The nest is formed with sticks and plant materials. The female will lay one or two eggs which will take about a month to hatch. Both the male and female take care of the nest. It takes the babies over two months to become independent.
Their diet consists of mostly plants and seeds. However, sandhill cranes will eat small invertebrates, amphibians, and even mammals if they are available. They live in freshwater marshes and wetlands and can live for over 20 years.
This spring is the first time I have ever spotted a trumpeter swan in the wild. This large waterfowl was swimming above Lock and Dam 14 in Hampton. What surprised me most about this swan is that it was not snow white. As you can tell, the neck and head of this swan has tan overtones. Another thing that surprised me is that it sounds like a goose! The morning that I visited Hampton was a bit overcast, and the light wasn’t the best, but I was pleased that I was able to get a photo where you can see its features.
I never get tired of seeing mallards. I remember as a little girl being fascinated by the bright green head of the male. This photo was taken along the backwaters of the Mississippi River near Hampton, Illinois. This handsome guy was with a lone female dipping in the water for food. The female was much busier than the male, so I was unable to get a picture of her.
Mallards are one of the most common ducks in North America. They are dabbling ducks, which means they dip their heads in the water to get food. Mallards are omnivores; they eat both plants and animals. They live on seeds, plant materials, worms, snails, insect larva, etc. They can live in almost any wetland habitat and sometimes become very tame.
The male mallard is very colorful, but the female is mainly brown and tan. She may have some blue or green on her wings. In the spring females will lay anywhere from 1-13 eggs. It will take about 30 days for the eggs to hatch. Sometime mallards will have two broods in one season.
This young man loves nature! As you can see, he is prepared to explore his surroundings. As an educator I am always pleased when a child takes an interest in something that promotes learning. I get really excited when the child’s interest is in exploring nature; there is so much to learn! I hope that this young explorer will share some of his discoveries with me!