Sunday, October 16, 2016

Warm Autumn Keeps Birds Around

We are having an unseasonably warm spell here in the middle of October. Had a great time visiting a "Big Sit" program that the National Park Service held yesterday at Coldwater Spring in south Minneapolis. The bird list from the sit shows how unusual the fall has been. There were several warbler species still around and mixed in with a flock of Robins was a Varied Thrush! All this was seen while people were walking around in T-shirts.

The nice weather has also made banding really easy. Not having to freeze while waiting for the next net run is a pleasure. That doesn't mean that fall isn't progressing. Below is a photo from the last blog entry of what the banding site looked like on Oct. 9. The photo below that shows what the area looks like today.
This is what it looks like at Murphy-Hanrahan Park on Oct. 16th:
Fall colors are starting to peak here and to the south.

Along with being beautiful, the area has had lots of bird activity the last 2 days with many migrants found flitting around through the goldenrods and low bushes.
This male Golden-crowned Kinglet was caught Saturday at our program at the Lowry Nature Center in Victoria, MN. It's not often we see the high numbers of GCKI that have been present lately. Lots of people have mentioned seeing many more than usual.
In the hand it was easy to show our visitors the orange feathers on the male crown. Usually in the field all you see are the upper yellow (golden) feathers.
Newly arrived in the area are Fox Sparrows. One of my favorite sparrows! Beautiful and large so they're easy to handle. This time of fall the Fox Sparrows overlap the last of the Hermit Thrushes so sometimes when walking up to the net I'm not sure what we have until I get close.
 By the look of the bill on this bird it appears to have been feeding on berries of some type. My guess is European Buckthorn. Most of the native berry bushes and trees have been picked clean for a while now.

Totals for banding from both days this weekend are as follows:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet        4
Golden-crowned Kinglet     1
Dark-eyed Junco                2
Black-capped Chickadee   11
Orange-crowned Warbler   3
White-throated Sparrow     3
White-breasted Nuthatch   9
Hermit Thrush                    2
Downy Woodpecker           2
Northern Cardinal              1
Fox Sparrow                      2
American Robin                 1

Total Species = 12
Total Individuals = 41

I'll take those numbers any day but especially in mid-October. Here's hoping the weather cooperates this week too.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Cold October Morning Banding

We're moving into the end of the big migration of songbirds going south. This time of the year we see the late warblers like Yellow-rumped Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler and Palm Warbler. As warbler numbers continue to decline the sparrows are moving into the region.

I spent a cold morning hoping to catch all the birds I was seeing in the goldenrod fields. The banding wasn't hectic but I had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.
This is my little "office" that is completely portable and often overloaded. When I set up the field was covered with frost and a heavy fog hung over the hill.
I really enjoy the chance to just watch the world around me. It really helps when I'm not catching many birds. Some days though the birds are cooperative.
Lots of Bluebirds around but all of them above the nets.
I know lots of people think sparrows are just "little brown jobs" but I think our native species are some of the prettiest birds around.

All fall days should be as nice as today!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Banding Photos

Not much to say except that we had a great weekend banding with the birds of the day on Saturday being Vireos. So without comment, I'll share a few of the birds we handled this weekend. Enjoy!
                                                 Philadelphia Vireo
                                                 Wilson's Warbler
                                                     Least Flycatcher

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Big Migration Behind a Storm Front

We've had miserable hot and humid weather here in the Minneapolis - St.Paul area along with strong storms for a couple of days. Checking the radar though it looks like areas behind the front are seeing big movement tonight. Duluth looks to be the winner around here.
As the front moves east into Wisconsin the birds are taking off. This might bode well for migration banding the next couple of days. Of course, the birds might just keep on going and end up in Missouri. We'll only know if we get out and look.

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!