Lost Weekend

This weekend wore me out. I am not a creature meant to spend lots of time in high temperatures and hot sun, but I found myself in it quite a bit. The upside is that I don't notice while I'm having fun and observing birds, but the downside is that when I get home, I am exhausted down to my bones.

Check it out, the monarch chrysalis on our radiator came out this weekend. That was timely because I had my Monarch Ranchin' class on Saturday morning at Staring Lake Outdoor Center. Stan helped out a little...well, actually he started out by distracting the group by releasing a chicken in the outdoor center--wacky boy. But after we had been out searching for monarch eggs and caterpillars, he put them under the Outdoor Center's microscope-it was very sweet to see the details of the eggs up close.

As soon as I was done at the Outdoor Center, I had to zip right over to meet my buddy Amber to do 2 back to back bird programs for The Raptor Center at CONvergence. This is our third year doing it, you may recall some of my photos from last year. I didn't have time to do the parties this year. After we finished our programs and drove back to TRC to put the birds away, I had to zip home and get ready for a friend's birthday party.

This is one of my favorite bird programs that I get to do as a volunteer. For one thing, people at a science fiction and fantasy convention are happy and in a good mood, they are seeing old friends and discussing a favorite topic--and they're in costume (note the lovely lady dressed as a fairy in the above photo). This year, one of the new staff at TRC came along to observe the program and at one point she leaned over in surprise and said, "I just saw a Dalek! I mean, a life sized actual Dalek!"

I was really impressed that she knew what a Dalek was. She already had cool points in my book anyway, she's the one who has been rehabbing the young porcupet.

It's fun to try and guess different costumes, (I think the one in the photo above is an Andorian) I also recognized Dr. Who, Brak, Sailor Mercury, and I saw at least four different Indiana Joneses at four different ages. I even saw someone dressed like Young Frankenstein! The woman who arranges for us to come is named Erin. As we were packing to leave, we thanked her for having us out and the generosity of the group (we always get great donations from this group on top of the program fee). I asked that she keep us in mind for next year. She said TRC would be back and added, "I always ask for you and Amber because you guys get us and what we're about." What an awesome compliment and it totally made my day.

This morning I was back at Staring Lake to lead an "urban bird trip". I would have advertised in the blog, but it was a last minute trip for me--I was subbing for the original trip leader. I took the group to couple of spots on the south side of the metro area, near the airport. There were a couple of unusual birds (for Minnesota) reported there and also, they are just great general birding spots. We heard and glimpsed and Acadian flycatcher at The Old Cedar Avenue Bridge and we heard and glimpsed a Bell's Vireo at Black Dog Preserve. I find that both of those species are more exciting to hear than to see.

The real star of the show ended up being Virginia rails. We passed another birder while listening for the Acadian who told us that the rails were putting on quite a show, so our group hightailed it out to the observation deck. When we arrived, a sora scuttled out of the way and is wasn't long before we heard the Virginia rails grunting. We were able to glimpse an adult chasing a younger bird. I played the Virginia rail call on my birdJam and the adult gave up the chase and came straight for us. He ran under the deck, around us, and zipped in and out of the reeds. It even paused to give its grunt call right back. The bird was moving way too quick for me to digiscope it (I snapped the above photo with my point and shoot), however someone in our group had a nice camera and...

Rob Grant got the above shot of the Virginia rail! Thanks, Rob, for letting me use your image in the blog. I have to say, I've called rails out before but these were hands down the best looks I've ever had at a Virginia rail. The bird soon ignored our group and continued its chase of the younger bird. We stayed for quite some time observing other species of birds and still the rails would scurry about us.

We also had great looks at marsh wrens--this guy popped up and sang for so long that everyone in the group got a good look through my spotting scope and I had a chance to digiscope it. Wow, a wren sitting still--who knew? I really enjoy doing these low key birding trips where we just enjoy the usual birds and get a few surprises in the process.

After the trip, I came home, took a long hot bath and napped a good portion of the afternoon. Tomorrow, I have to do Showcase Minnesota and then it's off to check the bees. Last week, Non Birding Bill and I put in some frames from the healthy Olga hive that were full of eggs and larvae in the hopes that the queenless Kitty hive would raise one of the eggs into a queen. I'll check for queen cells and if there aren't any, I'll have to combine what is left of Kitty with Olga.