As I was driving I-90 last Tuesday evening, I saw an enormous swarm of bats over an otherwise typical farm field. It was abnormal. Usually up here, a person sees one or two bats at a time. Did they just all come from the same roost, or are they on the move?
I saw the first flight of geese heading southward. Sure, one might say they were just settling down for the night, but that person hasn't been here all summer. There haven't been more than two geese around all summer. This was a flock of about 20.
Snapping turtle hatchling emerging from the nest. The diameter of its shell is roughly the size of a 50-cent piece.
As I was out walking on Wednesday evening, (swatting bugs all the way, mind you), I saw monarch butterflies, one at a time, each heading south. They have continued trickling through all week. How does a monarch know which way is south? It's just a little bug! Sometimes we don't give animals the credit they deserve. I found more information on monarch migration.
Friday afternoon, I returned to the park after lunch and discovered hundreds upon hundreds of blackbirds in a small cluster of trees. When they took flight, their wingbeats sounded like rain. I haven't seen so many birds in one place since I visited Knife River Indian Villages in December, 2007.
When I walked out of the visitor center on Friday evening, I noticed a cooper's hawk standing in the grass near the side doors of the building. It looked at me, cocking its head back and forth, but did not move for a few minutes. I just watched it watching me until it decided to move off.
Speaking of raptors, if you've been watching the St. Mary Osprey Cam over on the right hand side of my blog, the only osprey you see in there anymore are the three juveniles. Based on historical observations by myself and other rangers there - we had a logbook - the juveniles leave around September 15, about one month after the adults leave. Just before the snow comes, whenever that is (any day now), the osprey will be gone.
I've been hard at work this week updating the park website and have cleared up a lot of content throughout the website. I also filled out the Pipestone National Monument History & Culture section, which I thought would help a lot since this is primarily a cultural park. There is still more work to be done.
I've also been pulling pictures together to enter in the 2010 Passport Photo Contest. The winners from each region get their park's picture on the regional stamp that goes in the National Parks Passport Book and they are a collectible item for park visitors in gift shops across the nation. Neither Theodore Roosevelt NP nor Pipestone NM have ever won the contest and thus are still eligible to win. My goal is to win not once but twice, once for each region.