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.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Banding - May 22, 2016

Birding has been a tough row to hoe lately. The numbers of birds seems unusually low this spring and while the species are as diverse as we would expect, it's one here and one there. Pretty slow in general

Having said that we weren't sure what to expect for this mornings banding program at Ritter Farm Park in Lakeville, MN. Well, the numbers don't sound impressive but we had fun handling birds that are not an every day capture.

We had 9 birds of 8 species. The only species we caught 2 of was Common Yellowthroat. One male and one female. Everything else was a single but fun none the less.

This Bluejay was unexpected only because jays are smart enough to avoid our nets. When we do catch one it tends to be a youngster who will know better the next time.
 Our only Brown Thrasher of the day was nice to have in the hand. We do catch these once in a while but it's always fun to show the people attending our program because many have never seen on before, especially up close.

Other species caught were American Robin, Gray Catbird, Baltimore Oriole and Red-winged Blackbird (female).
 The star of the day was this White crowned Sparrow. A surprise since they are not that common in this area and when we do see them it is usually a bit earlier in the migration season. I believe this bird was the most photographed of the day.
 By looking at the coloration of the supercilliary line (the white line above the eye) and the white stripe on the the top of the head we could determine a couple of things. One was that this is an after second year bird (hatched in at least 2014 if not earlier) and that it was of the eastern subspecies of the group.
 I think it was obvious to the visitors to our program that this was a special bird just by the way the banding team reacted. A bunch of fanboys couldn't have been happier!

I'm not sure what the next week or so hold for migration activity but keep looking because you never know what might show up.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Radar Images Raise Expectations

Finally a night with good migrant movement in my area. It looks like the migration intensity is slowing down in the southeast and is concentrated mostly in the states of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. The southwest coast of lake Michigan is really heavy. It looks like the main activity right now is just reaching the Minneapolis area. Tomorrow might be a busy day.

Good Birding!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Spring Might Finally Be Here

    The stars aligned today with sunny skies, warm temperatures and no demands on my time for a big chunk of the day. So what do I do? Go see who has arrived back in the midwest recently.

   I spent the afternoon hitting all the usual spots and had a pretty good day. One stop was at a spot that had traditionally been really good. It is a small marsh along 140th street in Rosemount, MN. A few years ago the public works department did some work there and what was a once thriving wetland all but disappeared. Since then it has not been a regular stop. Heard from another birder though that the marsh held more water this year because of the rains this spring. Even though much of the state is pretty dry, the marsh looks better. Not what it used to be but good enough to host at least 3 male Yellow-headed Blackbirds. I have never seen them there before!

Went on to other good locations and ended up with a pretty good day list. Here are the highlights:

I had 2 Lark Sparrows along the road east of the 140th St. marsh. Good look while they perched on a fence.

1 Loggerhead Shrike in the traditional location along Emery St. Most likely nesting again this year.

The mudflats at Lake Byllesby are extensive and there were 9 species of shorebirds right along the shoreline. These included - Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper and Wilson's Phalarope. Not big numbers but nice variety.

Final stop at Ritter Farm Park in Lakeville had FOY Olive-sided Flycatchers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Swainson's Thrush.

Had it not been so windy I would have probably seen even more species but for a sunny Sunday afternoon this was pretty nice.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Birding on a Sunday Afternoon

As hard as it seems for spring to get here, I was able to get out this afternoon and do a little birding. I wasn't sure how good the birding would be since the winds were pretty stiff. Luckily they also brought some warmer temperatures. We may have hit 60 degrees today.

I headed down to Erikson Pond (180th Street Marsh) to see if any new waterfowl had shown up and I was not disappointed to find American Widgeon, Greater White-fronted Goose and this fellow -
 There were 4 Wilson's Snipe probing the wet grasses for food. They didn't appear bothered by all the other waterfowl around.
Lots of male Red-winged Blackbirds are on territory but along with them I did get a chance to see my first Yellow-headed Blackbird. This pond is the most reliable spot for Yellow-headeds that I know.

As I was rolling along the road, looking for anything else exciting I stumbled upon this Northern Harrier.
With the wind and the bird's constant motion it was hard to get a steady shot. I was ready to chase it down the road for a better shot when all of a sudden it turned and faced me. This is the best look I got.
It would be nice if it were a little clearer but there is no mistaking that facial pattern. A fun afternoon and a few more FOY birds. A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Leucistic Bird Hanging Around

A couple of posts ago I asked for opinions on a bird coming to my backyard feeder here in Minnesota. The majority of opinions were that I was being visited by an aberrant House Finch.

Well it's still around and I got a better look at it.

Even though the photo was taken through a window screen this is about as well as I have seen it. The primaries and wing coverts are actually lighter than the rest of the bird. The eye is dark. I still think this a House Finch, though a couple of people suggested an escaped canary.

So the question today is not about species (unless someone has a better ID), the question is about the mechanism of the strange feather color. I assume something genetic but not albinism. Whatever the cause it seems the bird is in good health, has been present for a while and doesn't seem to mind the snow.

Pretty fun having this bird around. Now if I could just coax that Lewis' Woodpecker in Wisconsin over to my suet feeder...

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What is going on in the Southeast?

   Checking radar tonight just to see when the big storm coming out of the Rockies is going to hit Minnesota, I noticed a huge blob of color in the southeast.
 This looks like a lot of migration movement in a relatively concentrated area of the country. With all the strange birds showing up in Minnesota and Wisconsin I wouldn't be surprised to see lots of birds still moving south near the coast.
   Might be worth a look around in the backyards of the Gulf Coast States.