The Outside World, In and Around Duluth

Posts tagged “Minnesota

Eagle Hunting Mallard

A couple of months ago, I saw a mature bald eagle hunt and finally catch a mallard in the water. It was pretty cool to see, and I didn’t figure I’d get to see anything like that again soon. I was mistaken.

During this year’s Brrrrdathon (supporting the Friends of Sax Zim Bog), I had the chance to see – almost – that entire scene played out again.

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Winter cattails, blowin’ in the wind

Before they get to this fuzzed stage, you can cook and eat them like corn on the cob!

Tettegouche Visitor Center

I was heading up to the Boundary Waters about a month ago, and I saw that the Tettegouche State Park‘s new Visitor’s Center was looking almost complete. Because I’m a big fan of the MN State Parks system, I decided to stop by and chat with Park Staff this past weekend, to see what they thought of their new building. They like it.

A few weeks ago, the Tettegouche State Park recently had the ‘soft opening’ of their new Visitor’s Center.

Their old Visitor’s Center was built in 1986, and was expected to serve about 28,000 people annually:

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It wasn’t open for five years before Tettegouche staff were feeling pinched. In 2012, the Tettegouche Visitor’s Center was handling 332,000 people per year – about twelve times the number the building was designed to accommodate.

Tettegouche was established as a State Park in 1979. Compared to its more famous neighbor to the South, Gooseberry State Park, which was founded in 1934, Tettegouche is a relative newcomer. Despite Tettegouche having almost 10 times the acreage and significantly more access points, Gooseberry has been a jewel of a park for over 75 years.

However, as I drove up on Sunday afternoon, the 50+ cars in the parking lot made it seem like Tettegouche’s time may be coming.

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I took a walk around the back of the building and was impressed with the new amphitheater:

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Also on the back of the building, they have a big open area with a fireplace that looks like a great gathering spot:

The architecture looks reminiscent of the David Salmela-designed Gooseberry Falls Visitor’s Center, which was apparently intentional, according to park staff.

One area where the Tettegouche Visitor’s Center far-exceeds the Gooseberry Visitor’s Center is in the attention to energy and sustainability. In the parking lot is a 24.3 kilowatt solar array:

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This array is expected to generate over a third of the visitor center’s energy needs. Additionally, the walls are 8″ thick structural insulated panels. The design also includes a significant upgrade to Tettegouche’s stormwater handling, with expanded rain gardens and water handling features.

Inside, most of the exhibit space is done (the line on the carpet in this photo indicates a still-being-delivered exhibit):

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For the regular visitor, the interior is smaller than the Gooseberry visitor’s center. There is less exhibit space and a much smaller gift shop. However, the two buildings are almost the same size – in fact, according to park staff, Tettegouche’s visitor’s center is exactly one cubic foot smaller than the Gooseberry visitor’s center. Since Tettegouche services several State Parks, it houses the staff for those parks, whereas Gooseberry’s office space is just for Gooseberry.

The building isn’t an unalloyed success – it was originally budgeted at $4.2 million, with an expected completion in 2011. The current budget is $7 million, and although the visitor’s center is open, the official opening won’t be for another month or two.

When I visited, the visitor’s center was in heavy use. The Duluth-based musical group Four Mile Portage was on what they are calling their “North Shore Dance/Bike/Busk Tour,” playing gigs from Grand Marais to Duluth, as they rode from park-to-park on their tandem bicycle. They were set up in the amphitheater, picking banjo, playing fiddle and singing. The cash register at the gift shop was constantly ringing people up, for the ten minutes or so I was chatting with the park ranger. The license plates on the cars in the parking lot were from dozens of states. I think it’s safe to say that the Minnesota DNR has made a good choice.

Here’s a FACT SHEET about the new building.

 


Bird ID When the Bird is Missing

Well, most of the bird was missing.

I was walking the dog a few days ago and we came upon a bit of mayhem that ended badly for some bird:

All that was left were a couple clumps of feathers and some flesh. Whatever had taken the bird down had been thorough.

I spent a long time trying to figure out what sort of bird this was. Obviously, a larger bird – those feathers were at least six inches long. And with that rufous edging, I didn’t figure it was an owl.

Here’s a picture of another clump of feathers with a nice little chunk of meat:

A raptor didn’t make any sense. I mean – a raptor having taken this bird down made sense, but those don’t look like any raptor from around here.

So how do you identify a bird when you only have a few feathers left?

I’m not sure what anyone else does, but I asked my question over at Flickr’s Bird ID Help Group. It’s pretty cool how people – random strangers – pitch in and help other random strangers. It’s stuff like this that makes me feel hopeful for our future.

I asked if anyone recognized the bird from which these feathers were from, and the first response was a ring-necked pheasant:

Hmm.

Maybe.

Hard to tell.

Well, what is a pheasant’s range in Minnesota? The MN DNR was the natural place to turn for that question:

Image: MN DNR

Duluth is just above the letter ‘P’ in the word ‘Prospects.’ Yeah, I don’t know. It seems pretty far out of the range (as of September, 2011).

I don’t know – the bird doesn’t look quite right… the range didn’t seem right… I wasn’t wholly satisfied, and said so.

That’s when someone pointed me to the US Fish and Wildlife’s Feather Atlas (who knew there was such a thing?!).

I browsed for a while, looked at the ring necked pheasant (and lots of other birds’ feathers), but nothing really seemed to satisfy. The feathers I found out walking were vibrant, and the pheasant feathers in the atlas were pretty muted:

The right-most feather in the above link seemed close. Maybe.

Then another person shared this image:

Image: continentalfeathers.com/

Bingo (and from a feather wholesaler, of all things!).

Sure enough, that’s it.

It still doesn’t entirely make sense to me that the pheasant would be this far out of its normal range. But the bigger and more satisfying thing I took from this little adventure was that people can be good and helpful, and for no reason other than to to be good and helpful.