American Bison in Winter, an Iconic Image

Each winter, Stan Tekiela leads a photography group to Yellowstone National Park, and at the top of the list for most participants is capturing an image of an American Bison. This iconic image of the “frosty bison” usually involves a large bull bison standing near a hot spring, covered in frosty crystals. Well, during his last trip, Stan found more than a frosty bison—he discovered a snow-encrusted bison. This, of course, got him thinking about how these bison can survive extreme cold and deep snow. Read on. The American Bison (or simply Bison) is sometimes call a buffalo. However, the name buffalo is not correct because the American Bison is not related to the Old World Buffalo or the Asian Water Buffalo. While all these animals are in the Bovidea family, they are not closely related. The American Bison’s closest living relative is the European Bison, which is found only in...

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Wild about Wisconsin Birds

Helpful Tips for Young Birders

Adele Porter, author of Wild about Wisconsin Birds: A Youth’s Guide to the Birds of Wisconsin, has some great tips for young birders. Move Slowly and Blend In Sudden movements may startle wildlife. Take a lesson from the American Bittern, a bird found around shallow wetlands and lake edges. The bittern eats small prey such as crayfish, frogs, and fish. It catches them by S-L-O-W-L-Y stalking along shorelines. The bittern’s best moves are almost as slow as the hour hand on a clock. Bitterns also stand still, watching, until dinner swims a little too close . . . gotcha! Just as moving slowly can help you see more birds, so can blending in. The bittern knows this too. Its grass-colored feathers are a great disguise. Because part of being a successful wildlife detective is working unnoticed, it’s smart to wear drab-colored clothing. Camouflage patterns that match your surroundings work great. Birds will be less...

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Coyotes at Yellowstone National Park

Naturalist and wildlife photographer Stan Tekiela set out into Yellowstone National Park to capture pictures of coyotes. Here is his report! I had been searching the snowy mountain landscape the entire morning and had come up empty-handed—no coyotes in sight. It was a cold morning with temperatures in the single digits, but the bright sun and lack of wind made it very comfortable. Just the week before, a storm draped a 30-inch-thick blanket of snow on the ground. This is exactly the weather and snow conditions I was hoping for during my winter trip to Yellowstone National Park. The colder the temperatures and the deeper the snow, the easier it is for me to see, observe, and photograph wildlife. On the Lookout for Coyotes While waiting at a prominent overlook in a particularly wide valley, I finally saw a coyote trotting in my direction. I knew this was going to be a good photographic opportunity, and...

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Birds of Minnesota Highlighted in Field Guide

In today’s post, Stan Tekiela, author of the Birds of Minnesota field guide, tells us where to find birds in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Millions of people in Minnesota have discovered the joy of bird-feeding. Setting out feeders is a simple and fun way to bring birds and their beauty closer to you. Watching birds at your feeders and listening to them often leads to a lifetime pursuit of bird identification. More than 1,100 species of birds are found in North America. In Minnesota, upwards of 425 species of birds have been documented throughout the years. These bird sightings have been diligently recorded by hundreds of bird-watchers and are part of official state records. At nearly 87,000 square miles (225,000 sq. km), Minnesota is the 12th-largest state in the country. Despite its large size, it has a population of only about 5.5 million. This is only about half the population in the Chicagoland area...

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Black-capped Chickadee Stands Out at Feeder

Stan Tekiela was recently alerted by a homeowner that a Black-capped Chickadee visiting her feeders didn’t look like the others. Stan went to investigate, and here is what he discovered. I am fascinated by all aspects of nature. It doesn’t matter if it’s insects, reptiles, amphibians, plants, rocks, or mammals. I love it all. But for some reason, birds seem to rise to the top of my interest meter. Perhaps it is because there are so many of them. There are more than 10,000 species of birds in the world. By comparison, there are about half that number of mammals. Or perhaps it’s because you can look outside and see a bird at just about any time. Birds range from tiny hummingbirds to the gigantic flightless birds such as the Ostrich and Emu. Some birds are incredibly common and are found throughout the world, such as the pigeon, while others are rare,...

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Birds’ Nests Come in all Shapes and Forms

Stan Tekiela, author of Birds of Minnesota, tells us about the different nests you may find in your neighborhood. They come in all different shapes and forms! Birds’ nests are a true feat of engineering. Imagine constructing a home that’s strong enough to weather storms, large enough to hold your entire family, insulated enough to shelter them from cold and heat, and waterproof enough to keep out rain. Think about building it without blueprints or directions and using mainly your feet. Birds do this! Scouting for the Right Site Before building, birds must select an appropriate site. In some species, such as the House Wren, the male picks out several potential sites and assembles small twigs in each. The “extra” nests, called dummy nests, discourage other birds from using any nearby cavities for their nests. The male takes the female around and shows her the choices. After choosing her favorite, she finishes the...

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Screech-owls

Searching for the Elusive Western Screech-owl

Stan Tekiela, naturalist and wildlife photographer, searches the southern Arizona desert for the elusive Western Screech-owl. Let’s join him on his adventure! Exploring the desert at night ranks up there as one of my most favorite adventures. Recently, my photographer partner and I were in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona, searching for the elusive Western Screech-owl. After driving many miles deep into the dark desert, I had parked my truck near a dry creek bed, which in this area is called a “wash.” The first thing you notice in the desert at night is the amazing blanket of stars above. From horizon to horizon, thousands of stars light up even the darkest, moonless night. The desert is filled with many species of cacti, but it’s only the narrow strips lining the washes where any trees grow. Not only are the trees restricted to these areas, but the trees don’t grow very...

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Foraging in North America

In his book Foraging in North America, Tom Anderson attempts to get you to think of wild plants in a different way—as food! For most of human history, wild plants were the mainstay of our diet. Rich in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that nurture good health and strong immune systems, the irony is that today many wild plants are demonized. For proof, look no further than the herbicide section of your local hardware store or the common names for many plants, which often include the pejorative word “weed” (e.g., pigweed, chickweed). In his book, Tom features 12 plants that are among the top foraging targets, thanks to their accessibility, familiarity, nutritional value, and abundance. Better yet, when compared to cultivated garden plants, wild edibles require far less care, are hardier, and are excellent sources of nutrients. The Virginia waterleaf prefers shade or partial sun and tends to flourish in rich woods or floodplains....

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