Friday, May 25, 2007

Pewee, Bunting and a Swamp Bandit.

Monday, May 21st I went into the kitchen at work and since the window was open I could hear the Eastern Wood Pewee taunting me. I grabbed some binoculars out of my cubicle and within a few minutes I located him perched at the top of an old oak tree on some bare branches.

Tuesday, May 22nd I heard a loud bird call in the same area as the Pewee. The call was quite loud and vaguely familiar. I saw a small bird flitting around in the top of the large oak tree by the garage. I took some binoculars out of the van and peered upwards. Sure enough, it was the Indigo Bunting! I missed them all last year so I was very excited to add one to my list for 2007.

Friday, May 25th I helped Paul set up mist nets for birds class and then hiked back to the building via the meadow. I trained my binoculars on the piles of box elder we cut to create a bur oak savanna. I saw a small bird right away on a pile far away. I had to get closer to be sure but it was indeed a common yellow throat. I expected to see the "swamp bandit" closer to water. I hiked back to the building noting kildeer in the newly plowed field and pulled three deer ticks off my pants. Good times.

In the afternoon I stopped out as Paul took down nets and the bog was quite quiet. A lone bird flew along the tree tops and when it landed we got a great view of a Great Crested Flycatcher with a beautiful creamy yellow belly.

108 Eastern Wood Pewee
109 Indigo Bunting
110 Common Yellowthroat
111 Great Crested Flycatcher

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Birds and Bugs

I taught a bug class out at Lake Elmo Park reserve today. That was at 1:00 and it went until about 1:45. I didn't actually leave the park until about 3:45 as I did two hours of birding after the program. I really hadn't eaten anything but a lot of milk and half a bag of goldfish crackers so I was really hungry by the time I left.

I drove all over the park looking for birds. I started at the amphitheater where I did my program. I spotted a yellow warbler. The first one of the year in Minnesota but I had seen them in Arizona in March. There were red-winged blackbirds everywhere and some common grackles as well as robins, belted kingfishers and a northern cardinal who landed on both sides of my car to inspect my mirrors. In the water was a great blue heron, Canada geese, mallards and some kind of merganser. I heard a common yellow-throat but couldn't find it. I also spotted a little bird that drove me crazy. I think it may have been a vireo. Who knows. It was grey on the back and a little yellow on the belly with a eye ring but no distinct wing bars. I had the national geographic book with me and the more I use it the less I like it.

From there I headed out of the modern campground but quickly pulled over when a flash of yellow flew past my car. I thought it was another yellow warbler, maybe it was but all I saw was an American goldfinch. I poked around that area a bit and spotted a grey catbird on the ground under some bushes. Tally ho!

I next headed to the swimming beach which was closed but a small wetland between the beach and the playground was full of birds. I tried not to look creepy hanging out near a playground with binoculars. I got some more good views of many yellow warblers and barn swallows before there was a flash of orange. Baltimore Orioles! A male and female were working over a large grapevine. Tally ho! (yes I know I'm a dork for using that term but hey, it was good enough for Peterson.)

I next tried the fishing dock and on the way down I spotted a rose breasted grosbeak. Next stop was the primitive campground. As I hiked in I noticed that I had hit my sandaled feet on a fallen branch earlier and my foot was bleeding badly and about of the bottom of my right foot was covered in blood. Hmm. How did I miss that? A band aid to the rescue and I was back birding for a beautiful view of a field sparrow. Gorgeous in a subtle way.

I pushed off into the woods toward the first campsite and watched an egret in breeding plumage for a while. I could hear an eastern wood pewee taunting from nearby so I tried to investigate. A solid wall of buckthorn blocked my path.

I scanned a large oak in the direction of the pewee in a vain attempt to spot him. No luck but a lump on the branch caught my eye. It was either a whip-or-will or a nighthawk. Arhhh! Which one? I slowly worked my way twenty feet though a buckthorn thicket until I could just make out a white spot on the fank of the bird. Nighthawk for sure.

I poked around near eagle point lake but I was getting tired and a close call with poison ivy while trying again in vain to spot a common yellow throat told me to call it a day and get some food.

Here be the yearly bird list additions:
(I had spotted a rose breasted grosbeak at work a week ago but somehow it never made it on the list so I'm adding it now)

104 Rose Breasted Grosbeak
105 Gray Catbird
106 Baltimore Oriole
107 Common nighthawk

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Birds and Orchids

Today I hiked down to the lake with fellow naturalist Paul Smithson. The day was cool and the birds weren't too active. The fully leafed out trees didn't help either. We did spot a Swainson's Thrush and earlier I had seen a Ruby-throated hummingbird. I spotted the bird at the feeders we put out. I watched from Warner's new cafe seating bird watching area in the new exhibit hall. It was fantastic to chomp down lunch and watch birds. The ready supply of binoculars in slots under the counter was wonderful as well. I had seen a hummer caught in a mist net while bird banding earlier in the week which doesn't count for my list so it was nice to see one that I can count.

On out way back from the lake we discovered that the yellow lady slippers are blooming. The photo at the top of the post is actually from last year as I haven't gotten a chance to photograph them this year yet.

As far as birds go I need to find myself my old nemesis the indigo bunting. I never did see one last year and now I see these great photos over on the birdchick blog. Okay, show yourselves!

Bird Count to Date:
102 Ruby-throated hummingbird
103 Swainson's Thrush

Monday, May 14, 2007

101 birds of 2007

Here we are. Take in a big deep breath. I have passed 100 birds for 2007. I know any serious Birder is thinking right now, "it took you till May to get 100 birds? Slacker." Ya well, I'm new to the whole bird thing and other things like having a sick dog kind of consumes all my time. This sure is a lot earlier than I got 100 birds last year though!

Bird 96 was a brown headed cowbird. Two points to make here. First off, why isn't it called a brown headed bison bird? Second, why does everyone hate this bird? I know people who kill them if they see them. Keep in mind, this isn't an exotic species like a house sparrow. Brown headed cow birds are nest parasitizers. Okay, well redhead ducks parasitize mallard nests. Should we kill the redheads ducks too? The problem is that cow birds are an edge species and humans love creating edge everywhere so we're increasing the cow bird population.

Monday night was the MNA board meeting and we met at Lebanon Hills. The meeting went long and the sun had set by the time we left the building. The fun thing about hanging out with a bunch of naturalists is that everyone is pretty keyed into their surroundings. Within a few steps of leaving the building, one word was on everyone's minds.


We could hear "peents" coming from the foggy netherworld around us. Where was the bird? It seemed to come from all directions. Soon we could hear the chirpy wing beats of the rotund little bird zooming around overhead. As we strained to see it we heard more peenting and realized there were multiple birds out doing the sky dance. I'm going to conservatively say three birds but four is probably safe and I would not be surprised to find more. This is in contrast to my experience out at Warner where I work. When we have woodcocks it tends to be just one. My guess is that in a more rural setting where there is more land, the woodcocks are more likely to back down in response to challenges from other males. There are plenty of other places to go. Closer to the city, the woodcocks are less likely to back down as there are no other suitable sites and thus the makes defend a smaller dancing ground. This is just wild speculation on my part.

We spotted several birds flying overhead and eventually ran into the field in the dark to get a good hiding spot to try to see him on the ground. It was too dark already but one time he did hand very close. We could hear him do his little hiccup inhale before the really loud PEENT!.

On Tuesday May 8th I opened my window at work and heard a familiar call I hadn't heard since last year. What is that? Oh course, the eastern wood pewee. I also heard ovenbirds so I needed to head outside to spot them. I had a few things to check on outside at various times during the day and I took my binoculars which ensured that I never say any birds. I did also hear a wood thrush and a great crested flycatcher.

Thursday, May 10th I finally saw chimney swifts. I had heard them earlier so it was nice to finally spot them. I saw them while eating lunch on the deck at work.

I took Friday, May 11th of from work and I was pretty much homebound taking care of the dog. I did spend some time in the yard and spotted a sole goldfinch on my goldfinch feeder. I put this feeder up in December so it is about time someone found it! Hopefully more will be back. There are also regular house and fox sparrows visiting the yard and chimney swifts flying over the house.

On Saturday I heard my first swamp bandits of the year a.k.a. common yellow throats. As I was with a girl scout troop teaching canoing I couldn't break away to spot the bird. I also heard some sort of vireo and yellow warblers. Ahhh, all this hearing and no seeing make Kirk a grumpy boy.

Sunday, May 13th was Mothers Day and I spotted Barn Swallows in the parking lot of Interlachen Country Club.

Monday May 14th was a wild day. It started off when four of us from work, Me, Julie, Julia and Bekah carpooled. On the overpass from Hwy 36 to 35E northbound some idiot came out of nowhere going way too fast and sideswiped Julie's car. We pulled over, called the police and waited. It took a long time for the hwy patrol to fill out the paperwork and I joked that Julie should have gotten in an accident in better bird habitat. Just after I said that Julia spotted a bird sitting on some long grass in the middle of the cloverleaf interchange. She grabbed her binoculars and sure enough, it was an Eastern kingbird. We all passed the binos around and I realized it was bird number 100 for me for the year. So I guess at least one positive thing came out of a bad situation.

Once at work we set out bird banding. We caught a yellow-bellied flycatcher, a catbird, a ruby-throated hummingbird, a common yellowthroat, and two female American redstarts. We didn't have many nets set and they weren't up long as it was just a training session. I don't count any birds from the nets for my bird count as that seems like cheating. I did, however, see a beautiful scarlet tanager up at the top of the trees behind the building. That's 101 birds. We had to call it early to head home so Julie could go to the doctor to make sure her baby was alright after the accident so we didn't go down to the lake for lunch as planned. I'm sure I would have added a handful more birds. Maybe later in the week. It feels good to be over 100 though!

96 Brown Headed Cowbird
97 American Woodcock
98 Chimney Swift
99 Barn Swallow
100 Eastern Kingbird
101 Scarlet Tanager

Friday, May 11, 2007

Thar She Blows!

This is the best clip of video I've seen in a long time. I'm so happy to have stumbled upon it and so happy to share it with you. Behold the power of nature. Ahh let's hear it for storm surges and under-sized storm sewers.

It is actually two clips put together, I love when the guy starts to run in the second half. I'd run like hell too. Apparently is this MN-DOT footage from a storm in July of 1999. The overpass is 35th street on Hwy 35W.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Phoebe Nest Camera

This is really exciting. Warner Nature Center is part of a birdhouse network program with Cornell Lab of Ornithology and last week we installed a nest camera on an Eastern Phoebe nest. The image above is a live image of the nest. If the phoebe is on it you can see her while if she is away feeding you can see there are five eggs. If you are viewing this later in the summer it may show the young as well. If you viewing this years down the road I have no idea what will show up. The camera uses infrared lights so we can keep track of the nest at night as well.

The image is refreshed every 30 seconds though you'll have to refresh your browser page to see it. The way I have it set up here it just grabs the current picture when you visit the blog.

This camera is unique as we have the only camera in the program that is on a "wild" nest. All the other cameras are in nest boxes.

You can visit the cornell website for captured highlights from the season.