Thursday, December 28, 2023

NAFA 2023

Some of Jessa's photos from the weathering yard at the NAFA field meet in Kearney last month...

...and one from the field: Stekoa at Pawnee Lake on the first day of the meet.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

A hunter and a hunter's moon

Haggard red-tailed hawk—with some Krider's ancestry, I wager. It doesn't appear so in the photo, but IRL the tail shone nearly pink, enough so that we turned the car around for another look. Lots of white on the head, too.

The grey sky, hayed field, and partially-bare cottonwood tree are all redtail habitat, and make this photo emblematic of autumn in Nebraska. Taken somewhere in Custer County, near as I can figure; we covered a lot of ground that day.

Later that evening, a full moon (or nearly so) rising orange over I-80 and disappearing behind low cloud cover. Photos, as usual, by Jessa, but getting out there is a team effort. 

Sunday, November 5, 2023

What's the rumpus?

Jessa and I returned from the store one afternoon to find a troop of blue jays apparently losing their minds out behind the house. A certain amount of Cyanocitta high spirits we're accustomed to—blue jays evidently like being blue jays, and noisy is just part of the recipe. This was louder, and angrier, than standard blue jay raucousness, so while Jessa put our purchases away, I went out back to see what had them so riled.

Arriving at the alley, I discovered that it wasn't just the blue jays on high alert: a small flock of robins, a pair of red-headed woodpeckers, a downy woodpecker, and a yellow-shafted flicker were all mobbing an unseen predator. I was expecting a Cooper's hawk or a great horned owl...but instead found this sleepy eastern screech-owl trying to take a nap on the telephone wires.

Trying, but not succeeding. I rang Jess on her mobile to come out with the camera, and after a bit of grumbling—she had just got her shoes off—she joined me; all of these photos are hers, by the way. And while I can't really know, I think the owl may have appreciated our presence, as the avian crowd dispersed a bit and things quieted down a little. 

We hear the trilling of screech-owls on a fairly regular basis on our evening walks around the neighbourhood, but we see them far less frequently, and usually not for very long, so this was a treat.

Eventually we too departed the alley, leaving the owl to its nap, and hopefully a successful evening's hunt.

Saturday, November 4, 2023


Back at home, Stekoa enjoying some weathering time and Jessa some time with her camera...

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Gooseberry Falls

During a midday lull in the migration, Jessa and I made a brief visit to Gooseberry Falls State Park, northeast of Two Harbors. The namesake falls are in three parts; this is Upper Gooseberry Falls. 

* * *

Middle Gooseberry Falls lies almost immediately below but slightly downstream from Minnesota Highway 61. The highway bridge can be seen in these photos; indeed, it's very difficult to find a vantage point to shoot the middle falls without the bridge.

* * *

Below a small riffle... Lower Gooseberry Falls. The Gooseberry River does not drain a lake and is not fed by springs; it is dependent entirely on rainfall and snowmelt, and its flow is therefore highly variable. The lower falls was rather thin during our visit, and the cobbles below mostly dry. I've seen pictures of it running much heavier.

* * *

All three of these falls are within a mile of the river's mouth, and combined span only a quarter mile. The Gooseberry runs quietly through its lower reaches; in this last photo, Lake Superior can just be seen through the trees at upper right.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Two Harbors

On a slight hill overlooking Agate Bay in the town of Two Harbors, Minnesota, is Two Harbors Light. Built in 1891-1892, the lighthouse is still in service (though it is now listed as a "private aid to navigation" and no longer maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard).

Actually out in Agate Bay is a second lighthouse, Two Harbors East Breakwater Light. This much smaller structure was built in 1906 and remains in official service.

Two Harbors is very much a working harbour, and has been since the late nineteenth century. The boat below, the Edna G., was built in 1896, spent most of her career (except for two years on the East Coast during the First World War) right here in Two Harbors, and at the time of her retirement in 1981 was the last coal-fired, steam-powered tug working on the Great Lakes.

Dwarfing the Edna G. in the photo below are two enormous railway piers (out of sight to the left is a third, now out of service) from which Canadian National Railway cars loaded with taconite dump the iron ore directly into the holds of cargo ships.

At the time of our visit, one such ship, the Arthur M. Anderson, had just finished loading. (The Anderson, incidentally, was the last ship in contact with the Edmund Fitzgerald and the first on the scene to search for survivors.) We watched her (in the West, a ship is always "she" even if named for a male director of U.S. Steel) slowly back out of the dock and laboriously turn...

...then head out past the breakwater lighthouse to Lake Superior, where she remained in sight for at least an hour, headed up the lake toward Thunder Bay.

By some estimates, up to three-quarters of the steel produced by the United States during the Second World War originated in the Iron Ranges of northern Minnesota, ending up in ships, tanks, and airplanes throughout the European and Pacific theatres. So, some pretty significant ore moving through here...

Jessa and I, though, are more inclined to notice other types of natural resources—squirrels, wildflowers, moss and lichen, even rocks without economic or strategic value—so here are some more pictures from Two Harbors. Enjoy.