Craziness and Flying

I'm in the process of trying to film some videos and in the midst of bird walks, banding, counting ducks, so there's been a lull in blogging.  Hopefully, I'll have some video snippets up tonight--or at least a photo of a purple finch!  Meanwhile, if you are not faint of heart, check out this link to a photo of some sort of mantis that has captured a hummingbird.  Not the first time this has happened or is this sort of thing just an insect related event, arachnids get in on bird eating too, but certainly one of the most in focus photos of such an event. lake pepin

Meanwhile, I have started a new project for the park service--counting ducks along the upper Mississippi River from a small plane.  I have a fear of flying, but it stems more from feeling a lack of control from not being able to watch what the pilot is doing.  In a small twin engine, I'm right there with him, helping him watch for aerial hazards as we fly below 500 feet to id waterfowl.  We were so low, as we passed boaters on Lake Pepin, they would wave and we would wave back.  I also had to giggle, I kept having the soundtrack from Wings playing in my head the whole time.


Not too many ducks moving through, but we saw TONS of American white pelicans, double-crested cormorants, and ring-billed gulls.  It's the weirdest experience, I'm considered part of the flight crew for this and part of duties include pointing out potential hazards like towers, wires, and oh hey, five turkey vultures right overhead.  Our pilot is awesome and I'm looking forward to watching the the change in waterfowl along this stretch of river.  So, species we saw this week:

Trumpeter swans (about a dozen), Canada geese (lots), mallards (lots), pintail (few), green-winged teal (few), great blue herons (some), great egrets (flocks gathering for migration), bald eagles (overheard the pilot say, "We get out of our way for them, they don't get out of our way."), coot (a few), pelicans (tons), and cormorants (tons).

Spider Attacks Bird


Maybe you've gotten this story already in your inbox, but according to early reports, it's true!

It's a spider eat bird world out there! I don't know if you noticed Mum Of Critters comment in the previous post, but here is a story of a spider with a bird from Australia! According to an article from, a giant orb spider appears to have captured and killed a chestnut-breasted mannikin in Atherton, near Cairns:

There's a much more "heart breaking" photo for those who are squeamish when it comes to cute birds meeting a nasty end at this link.

Joel Shakespeare, the head spider keeper at NSW's Australian Reptile Park said he had seen golden orb weaver spiders as big as a human hand but the northern species in tropical areas were known to grow larger. Mr Shakespeare said that the bird, a chestnut-breasted mannikin which appears frozen in an angel-like pose in the pictures, is likely to have flown into the web and got caught. "It wouldn't eat the whole bird," he said. "It uses its venom to break down the bird for eating and what it leaves is a food parcel." Queensland Museum's Greg Czechura is reported as saying cases of the Golden Orb Weaver eating small birds were "well known but rare".

"It builds a very strong web," he said, but also added that the spider would not have attacked until the bird weakened due to its struggle to free its wings. "The more they struggle, the more tangled up and exhausted they get and they go into stress."

Read the full story here.

This reminds me of a few years ago and Bird Watchers Digest had photos of a praying mantis eating a hummingbird, show at this link. While trying to google the link to the photos, I came across a YouTube video of a mantis with a hummer. Man oh man, it can be a bug eat bird world out there: