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The Amazing Skills of Flying Squirrels

In today’s post, wildlife photographer Stan Tekiela shares with us his fascination with Southern Flying Squirrels. As a naturalist/biologist, I am interested in all aspects of nature. I am just as fascinated by the plants as I am with the insects. I am also thrilled by the birds and the furry critters too. But nothing has thrilled me as much lately as the adorable flying squirrels that live in my yard—in particular, Southern Flying Squirrels (Glaucomys volans). We actually have two species of flying squirrels in the U.S.: the Northern Flying Squirrel and the Southern Flying Squirrel. The northern flyer is located in the extreme northern states from Minnesota through New England and well into Canada. The southern flyer occupies the eastern half of the country from the Great Lakes to Florida and all points in between. The Southern Flying Squirrel is slightly smaller than the Northern. The southern flyers have white...

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Grandparents Bond with Grandkids at Ethnic Festivals

In today’s post, Mike Link and Kate Crowley share with us how ethnic festivals can be a great way for grandparents to bond with their grandchildren. As grandparents, it is likely we are only two, three, or four generations removed from those who immigrated to the United States. Most European immigrants came in the 1800s and early 1900s; tragically, many people of African descent arrived against their will over 100 years ago. More recently, immigrants have arrived from Asia, Africa, and Central America. All of these people and cultures have been thrown together into what is often called a “melting pot,” but I consider it more of a “stew pot” because, while we are in the same country, living next to one another, together we create a delicious dish of traditions and beliefs, but we retain our identity. We are like bits of carrots, potatoes, and onions—unique in flavor and appearance and proud of our places of origin. In Europe, people find...

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The Amazing World of the Snail Kite

Naturalist and photographer Stan Tekiela helps us to discover the world of the amazing snail kite. In the biological world, if you are adapted to a specific habitat or have evolved to feed on a specific kind of food, you are called a species specialist. Conversely, if you are not adapted to a specific habitat or food, you are called a species generalist. Species specialists have a hard time living anywhere outside of their specific habitat or feeding upon anything other than what they have evolved to eat. As their environments change or food supply becomes scarce, these species don’t do very well and populations tend to drop. On my recent trip to southwest Florida, I had the great fortune to spend some quality time with a snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis). The snail kite is a bird of prey (raptor) that lives in southern Florida, parts of Mexico, the Caribbean, and much of...

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Breakfast Hot Dishes Perfect for Cold Winter Mornings

As the temperatures fall, breakfast hot dishes are the ideal way to lure your family to the the table. Here are two fabulous recipes from Theresa Millang’s Great Minnesota Hot Dish, the go-to source for comfort food for years. Cinnamon French Toast Hot Dish Ingredients 2 cups whole milk 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 3 eggs, lightly beaten 12 slices whole wheat bread, cut in half crosswise 2 tablespoons butter, melted 1/2 cup powdered sugar 11/2 cups golden raisins 21/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon Preheat oven to 400˚F. Combine milk, vanilla, and eggs in a medium-size bowl; whisk until blended. Dip bread slices in milk mixture to coat. Layer 1/3 coated bread slices on bottom of a buttered 9x9-inch square glass baking dish; drizzle evenly with 1/3 butter, 1/3 sugar, and 1/2 raisins. Repeat layers once, going a different direction with the bread. Top with remaining 1/3 bread, 1/3 butter, and 1/3 sugar. Top with ground cinnamon. Cover and bake 25 minutes. Remove cover; bake 15 minutes. Serves 6. Make It Modern: Substitute 12 slices buttermilk bread for whole wheat bread. Scrambled Eggs 'n' Broccoli Ingredients 4 tablespoons butter, divided 1/4...

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Stan Tekiela Captures Grandeur and Beauty of Bighorn Sheep

In this week’s post, photographer, author, and naturalist Stan Tiekela reports about the bighorn sheep he encountered in the narrow mountain valley in western Wyoming. It was a picture-perfect winter day. The sky had a thin veil of clouds that would occasionally spit out large fluffy snowflakes that would drift straight down to the ground as if in slow motion. At other times the sun would peak out. The temperature was well below zero, and the best part was, there was no wind—it was calm and quiet. I had been searching up and down this narrow mountain valley in western Wyoming for several days for bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis). Suddenly, I heard a crack that sounded like a gunshot come from the steep rock cliffs above me, a sharp and clear crack that echoed off the valley walls several times before the valley fell silent again. I knew the bighorn sheep must be nearby. Weeks (if...

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Two Ham Hot Dish Recipes Sure to Delight

Today we share with you two ham hot dish recipes sure to delight the entire family. Hot dish is a tradition throughout the Midwest, but in Minnesota, it’s legendary. In print since the year 2000, Theresa Millang’s Great Minnesota Hot Dish has been the go-to source for this comfort food for years. We hope you enjoy these super-easy-to-prepare dishes. CHEESE AND SAUSAGE PASTA BAKE  Ingredients 1 pound pasta 1 pound Polska Kielbasa or smoked sausage 1 (24-ounce) jar spaghetti sauce 2 cups cottage cheese 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese Preheat oven to 350˚F. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Slice sausage into 1/2-inch pieces, and cook in a large skillet over medium heat until lightly browned. Stir in pasta and spaghetti sauce. Gently stir in cottage cheese and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Pour pasta mixture into a lightly greased 11x7-inch baking dish. Top with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese. Bake30 minutes. Serves 4–6. HAM ’N’ NOODLES HOT DISH Ingredients 8 ounces spaghetti...

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The Northern Goshawk, a Secretive Bird

In today’s post, naturalist and photographer Stan Tekiela shares with us the secretive world of the northern goshawk. On a trip to Northern Minnesota for the annual raptor migration, a good friend and licensed raptor bander had captured a juvenile northern goshawk as part of his ongoing research project. I had a group of 14 bird watchers with me, and we had a wonderful chance to see and learn about this remarkable raptor. Not only could we see it up close, but we got a chance to hear it call—a rare opportunity. The northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) is a member of the accipiter group of hawks. It is closely related to the sharp-shinned hawk and the more familiar cooper’s hawk, which is found in many of our backyards. These hawks are known for their short powerful wings and extra-long tails that help them zip through dense forests while chasing birds, such as...

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Updated and Improved Night Sky Guide

We’re excited about this new edition, and we’re celebrating with a GIVEAWAY! First, here’s more about the updated and improved Night Sky guide. Stargazing is among the most peaceful and inspiring outdoor activities. Night Sky: A Field Guide to the Constellations, the award-winning book by Jonathan Poppele, makes it more fun than ever! The Night Sky guide takes a simple approach to finding 62 constellations by focusing on one at a time. It teaches readers how to locate any constellation in relation to the Big Dipper, the North Star, and the top of the sky. It also includes mythology, facts, and tidbits—plus, it comes with a new and better red-light flashlight for night reading. With two ways to locate each constellation, readers will know where in the sky to look and what to look for! What else is new in this updated edition of the Night Sky guide? Night Sky now features all the...

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