Saturday, August 11, 2018

Two Wildlife Refuges In Minnesota

Before we head into Minnesota, we'll take you back a bit to Seney NWR on the U.P. of Michigan.  We had forgotten we had some video so got it all put together now. 

Since we do not always have a chance to turn off the van and get out of the vehicle we tend to put the mute on our videos otherwise you'd just hear the air conditioner running.  In this video, however, there is a section where we got out and recorded a bit - so if you have your volume on you'll catch that part when it comes around.

Now, on to Minnesota.  After our trail ride near Duluth, we headed south west and had plans to ride another trail.  However, some heavy rain thwarted that plan and instead we explored two wildlife drives. 

The first refuge we stopped at was Rice Lake NWR. 

Before we even left the parking lot, we spied these two.  O.K.  Admittedly, the first one wasn't hard to spy since Annie had snagged it with her grille!

Skipper ID can be tough on its own but becomes even tougher with death.  So, we'll leave this one unidentified for now.

IMG_7546 Northern Broken-Dash Butterfly (2)
This one, however, was an exciting lifer - Wallengrenia egeremet - the Northern Broken Dash Skipper Butterfly.

There wasn't much to this drive really but we still enjoy touring any refuge we can and creeping along trying to spy critters.

On this day, what we saw the most of was... Deer Flies!  They were piled on the windows and mirrors.

IMG_7560 Eastern Wood Peewee Bird (5)
We sat in a wooded section of the drive and watched this Eastern Wood Peewee play for a while.

IMG_7568 Aphrodite Fritillary Speyeria aphrodite Butterfly
A poor shot through the deer fly infested window of another lifer - the Aphrodite Fritillary Butterfly - Speyeria aphrodite .

Since it was a lifer, Nicole decided to brave the flies to try to get a better shot.  However, the Aphrodite disappeared.

It was replaced though with another lifer - the Meadow Fritillary - Boloria bellona.

IMG_7570 Meadow Fritillary (Boloria bellona) Butterfly (11)
Braving the deer flies made for some difficult shooting which was additionally compounded by the fact that

IMG_7570 Meadow Fritillary (Boloria bellona) Butterfly (12)
this beautiful creature was feasting on a pile of scat (a.k.a. animal poop)!

Well, that is the extent of our journey at Rice Lake NWR.  Not too much to offer but we caught sight of three lifer Butterflies so that was a good day in the end.

On our way into Brainerd, MN for a night at Wally World we spotted this interesting water tower that looks like a castle.

A little investigation reveals that it is one of only two reportedly designed by architect L.P. Wolff and was the first all-concrete elevated tank used by a municipality in the United States.  The windows are painted on, by the way.

The next morning with rain still threatening we took a chance on exploring the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge via the Prairie's Edge 7.3 mile wildlife loop. 

Boy did we enjoy this one!

Thought they were going to have to force us out in order to lock the gate and we didn't even walk any of the trails.

Sandhill Cranes (one big, two little) grazing in a field.

There was beautiful scenery everywhere we looked.

IMG_7602a  Orchard Oriole Bird (5)
Just around a bend in the road we stop to watch our feathered friends and Darlene snagged a shot of our first lifer - the Orchard Oriole.

IMG_7611a Eastern Kingbird Bird (1)
She also snapped a few great shots of an Eastern Kingbird that kept flirting with us.

IMG_7611a Eastern Kingbird Bird (5)

This Field Sparrow was busy feeding the babies she had tucked away in a tiny nest in a bush nearby.

IMG_7629 Grasshopper Sparrow Bird
This new-to-us (a.k.a. LIFER) Grasshopper Sparrow made a brief appearance.

There was so much 'wide open' at this refuge.

Even if we had not seen any critters

we would have enjoyed this drive immensely.

It seemed the scenery was ever changing.

Utricularia vulgaris (Common Bladderwort)

There is an American Bald Eagle sitting in that standing dead tree in the center of the photo.

There he is.

Out there are a lot of birds!

Especially American White Pelicans and Trumpeter Swans.

But what we are really hoping to spot is a Black Tern.  We have been searching for one across three states and many refuges.  Thus far, we have turned up empty.

But, alas, the above photo is our first capture of a Black Tern!  Yes, they were far away from us.

Here's a blow up.  Our camera doesn't have much of a zoom.  Either way, we were super excited to finally snag this lifer!

IMG_7691 American White Pelican Bird (2)
We sat in this spot eating lunch listening to Trumpeter Swans and watching Black Terns and the American White Pelicans fly around.

IMG_7722a (2)
Despite the looks of it, the rain held off for our entire drive.  These trees were filled with Double-crested Cormorants.

The stormy skies added some beautiful drama to the scenery.

We saw another group of Black Terns on our way out and stopped to watch them for a while.  They, however, were feeding an had no intentions of stopping!

As we were exiting the refuge, this cute Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel popped out to say "Goodbye".

Sherburne was a wonderful drive.  Glad we could take you along for parts of it. 

Looks like we've got only one more day of the excessive heat to ride out. Today was 102 and tomorrow predicted to be 105 which means unlivable in terms of hanging out inside of Annie during the daytime.  So, we are still escaping to the AC of various citified buildings.  But come Monday the temps are said to be dropping to a much more pleasant level and we shall continue our wandering ways.

More to come...