Crex Meadows – Part II

Day Two at Crex Meadows.

Apparently the water is really high this year at Crex.  I heard there has been so much rain this week that there’s flooding in Duluth and along the north shore.  All this water has been good for the waterfowl, though.  Everywhere I look I see baby ducks, loons, geese, & swans.

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The wildflowers also seem to be doing great with all the wet weather.  Here is some butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa, a kind of milkweed) – and sure enough, the butterflies love it!

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Swans are everywhere again this morning.  Here is one cooperative individual.

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The left one in the picture below is banded on the neck, #82K.  Wildlife biologists band swans to track their movements, health, and reproduction.

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I snapped this picture of a Common Loon.  They are fairly common back home in the metro Seattle area, but we usually see them in late fall, winter, and early spring when they are in their dull winter plumage – not their spiffy breeding outfit.  It’s fun to see them in their full-summer glory.  This is a cool shot because I took it right before the loon gave its characteristic call.  When calling, loons tip their heads back slightly.  In this photo you can see the narrow “chin strap” that is above and in front of the thicker neck band.  The chin strap is often hidden when loons are swimming in their normal posture.

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The call of the loon sounds haunting and mysterious.  In fact, it’s used (over-used?) quite a bit on TV and in the movies to provide some “here we are in the scary wilderness” sound effects.  What’s funny is that the actors are usually supposed to be in the middle of a desert, or on an African savanna, or some place that has never, ever been visited by a Common Loon.  And if a loon were unfortunate enough to end up in the middle of an Arizona desert (their calls are used a lot in Westerns), they certainly wouldn’t be giving their territorial breeding calls!

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Loons take care of their young for some time until they’re old enough to fend for themselves.  Here’s daddy loon offering a little fish to a fuzzy youngster, who promptly gobbled it down.  Baby loons often times hitch a ride by climbing on top of their parents’ backs and let mom or dad paddle them around.

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A late-morning thunderstorm put an abrupt end to the birding and wildlife watching.  I’m heading back to the Twin Cities now, and tomorrow I’m flying to Michigan for a couple days before heading back to Seattle.  Why Michigan?!  Why for only a couple days?  I’ll post an update from there in a couple days with answers!

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