Thursday, August 25, 2016

Upcoming Bird Events at Maplewood Nature Center

Hey everyone, I got out to do a little fall migration banding today and had a great time even though we didn't catch loads of birds. The day in the field reminded me that there is a great little city owned nature center in Maplewood, Minnesota where we do banding programs a couple of times a year. They have lots of bird stuff going on so if you'd like to get out and about, here are some of their upcoming programs:

(For all ages)
Join a naturalist on a hike to see and hear migrating songbirds as well as waterfowl. Bring your own binoculars or borrow a pair from the nature center. Participants will learn how to identify birds by
sight and sound as well as keep a record of birds observed during the hike.
* After the hike, learn how to enter the observed data onto to contribute to science and conservation studies.
* All birding skill levels welcome!
* Attend one or all sessions.
* Wear close-toed, sturdy walking shoes.
To register, go to and click on the Register Online Go button.
Call 651-249-2170 if you need help registering.

SESSION 1 - MAPLEWOOD NATURE CENTER, 2659 E. 7th Street, Maplewood, MN 55119
Fee: Prepay $5/person by Saturday, September 19.

Participants will meet at the north end of the park in the west parking lot.
Fee: Prepay $5/person by Monday, October 3.
Directions: From Century Avenue and Hwy 94.
Take Century Avenue north for 6 miles. Turn left onto Joy Road and make second left into the parking lot. The address is 2615 Joy Road, Maplewood, MN 55109.

Participants will meet in the north parking lot.
Fee: Prepay $5/person by Monday, October 17.
Directions: From Hwy 36 and White Bear Avenue.  Take White Bear Avenue south to Frost Avenue, turn west (right).  Follow Frost west to the second roundabout at Frost and East Shore Drive.  Turn south on East Shore Drive.  Turn west (right) at the “y”.  Travel one block to the turn around and park in the parking area. The address on Google is 1998 East Shore Drive, Maplewood, MN 55109.

(For all ages, youth groups welcome)
AT MAPLEWOOD NATURE CENTER, 2659 E. 7th Street, Maplewood, MN 55119
Confusing Fall Warblers—Oh My!  Watch licensed biologists capture, band and release wild birds to learn about age, migration, and populations.  If conditions allow, take a short hike to the floating boardwalk and borrow a pair of binoculars to observe birds.
You may want to bring a camera. 
Free. Drop in.

(For all ages)  
AT MAPLEWOOD NATURE CENTER, 2659 E. 7th Street, Maplewood, MN 55119
Meet an owl up close and learn what makes these creatures such a hoot! 

4:30PM: Halloween Hijinks Puppet Show and a tasty treat.
5:00PM: Raptor Center presentation
6:00PM-7:30PM: Older kids can dissect owl pellets, while younger ones make an owl craft! Learn owl calls and go on a night hike around the pond in search of our feathered friends.

Dress for the weather! Treats and beverage provided.
Register early space is limited!
Co-sponsored by the Friends of Maplewood Nature.
Fee: Prepay $5/person by Wednesday, October 26.
To register, go to and click on the Register Online Go button. Call 651-249-2170 if you need help registering.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Fall is More Than Just Cooler Temperatures

The cold front that has swept down from Canada across the midwest has certainly got the migrants moving. Reports of flocks of over a dozen species of warblers migrating south have been reported in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. I would guess the same would apply to other locations.

Time to refresh your skills on "confusing fall warblers"!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Baby Cowbird

I was sitting in my family room when I heard an incessant begging sound coming from my deck. When I looked out the door this is what I saw:
I immediately knew what it was only because about this time every summer I get one of these youngsters hanging around. I also know that the "parent" raising this bird is working it's retrices off. Sure enough, after just a couple of minutes the adult showed up.
This poor Chipping Sparrow was kept hustling by the constant cries of the fledgling Brown-headed Cowbird. I didn't even have to see the adult to know it was coming into the yard when the begging started.

 Between feedings it was bath time and the cowbird just parked itself in the birdbath.

It must have been like a day at the beach.
Of course, the feeding kept up no matter where the young bird was. Reminded me of the kids who yell to mom for a glass of water when they are perfectly capable of getting it themselves. Not to be anthropomorphic...
Amazingly, the birds pretty much ignored me. The adult was too busy trying to feed "baby Huey" and the youngster was too busy harassing the adult.

If you just keep eyes and ears open you don't have to go very far to see interesting behaviors right in your own backyard. As fall migration begins to accelerate, there should be more and more interesting things showing up in your neck of the woods.

Good Birding!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fall Migration is Just Around the Corner

I've been noticing birds in my backyard that I haven't seen regularly this summer. The Black-capped Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers and White-breasted Nuthatches are always visiting but now I'm seeing new species.
This Rose Breasted Grosbeak likes to hang out and fill up on sunflower seeds. He (juvenile?) has been a regular for over a week now.
I also had a Yellow Warbler hopping around in my apple tree this morning looking for a meal. and a drink from the birdbath. It's nice to have the chance to let the birds come to me instead of having to go out and chase them all over. The temps are just too high for that kind of exertion.

Later in the week it should cool down and then I'll head out to see if any shorebirds are stopping over. Banding probably won't start in a big way for a couple of more weeks.

Good Birding!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Loggerhead Shrike

After years of trying to get a decent photo of a Loggerhead Shrike, I was lucky enough to find one perched in a tree. How cool is that? Enjoy!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Grassland Birds

Of all the groups of birds that are seeing a decline in their populations, one of the most worrisome is the grassland birds. Many of our native prairie species are becoming less and less common as the years pass.

Fortunately one location in my county has a nice variety of prairie birds that are dependable for showing up year after year. Some of these birds used to be common birds around the family farms but aren't any more. I was lucky enough to see a few of these species recently.
 A favorite grassland bird of mine is the Meadowlark. Always a great sign of spring as they show up on local prairies. We get both eastern and western varieties here and the easiest way to ID them is to hear them sing. Western Meadowlarks are more "melodious" in their song.
 A species that is more hit and miss is the Dickcissel. It seems that when we see one we see many everywhere we look. Other years they are few and far between. This year is a good year for Dickcissels but not quite as good as a few years back when there was a report of the species in every county in Minnesota (that's 87 total), even up in the northeast part of the state that is more know as a pine and lake region.
Perhaps though, my true love of all the prairie species is the Bobolink. In some regions it's been called the "skunk" bird because of the color pattern it displays. Their plumage certainly looks "backward" when compared to most species. It is the brightly colored back and their wonderful flight song that make these birds make my heart race a bit when I first hear them in the spring. True neotropical migrants, these guys have tremendous site fidelity when it come to their nest sites. During banding we have caught the same bird on the same little hill two years in a row. Really mind blowing when you think that they had a journey of thousands of miles in between the nesting seasons.

Go out, walk a prairie. Plant some native plants. Listen for the early morning chorus in a grassland. Try to find the native sparrow, be it Grasshopper, Henslow's or Savannah that blends in so well with the terrain. While summer may seem to be a "down" time for birding it's a great time to discover life in the grasslands.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Breeding season

We're in the second half of June and just celebrated the summer solstice but in the bird world we are in the middle of nesting season. Behavior changes and young start to appear as if by magic. I was lucky enough to find a this nest on my school campus.
There are 2 young in the nest but this one seemed to be pretty greedy when a parent came in.

While I was watching this nest I noticed a lot of commotion just to my left. Sure enough, another nest! This woods is a real nursery right now.
Parents were very busy feeding young and doing nest maintenance. They pretty much ignored me while I sat there. These babies were very quiet so I imagine they are a bit younger than the woodpecker young.

It's hard to believe but in just a couple of weeks some of our birds will begin their southward journey and their summer will be over. They must not read calendars.