Saturday, May 31, 2008

A couple more birds

On Saturday, May 31st, I took a few minutes to hike down to the bog while some glue dried on a work project. The Great-crested Flycatchers were going crazy down there! I did end up seeing two new birds for the year. I finally got a good look at an ovenbird and just before seeing the ovenbird I heard the long call of a Winter Wren. Sure enough I spotted him just a little further up the trail.

124 Ovenbird
125 Winter Wren

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Storm

The sunday before Memorial day a tornado ripped through the community of Hugo, Minnesota. It has been well covered in the media. What most people don't know is that the storm next visited where I work at the Lee and Rose Warner Nature Center. The photo below shows where we believe was a tornado entered the forest along the edge of the prairie. If you look closely, the enormous oak tree on the right has no top, it has been completely sheared off. We're looking at a one hundred foot around hole in the forest. The trees were toppled in a clockwise direction in the circle.

The path of destruction continued in an easterly direction and through the middle of a garlic mustard study area set up by graduate students from the University of Minnesota. Many of the study plots were crushed. Here I am by one of the trees in the study area for size reference. There were actually three swaths of destruction through the center as near as we can tell. Interestingly they all seem to converge at one point down by the lake. That are looks particularly bad.This third photo is from the area where all the paths of destruction converged. You can see the incredible forces involved as this enormous oak tree was literally twisted apart.
In the long run, this sort of thing is totally natural. Large old inflexible trees fall while young trees tat can bend more easily survive. The big canopy hogging trees are felled and new young trees that survived will begin the race to fill the gaps in the canopy. There's a catch though. We've mucked around with the natural order of things. The forest is infested with invasive european buckthorn. It is often kept in check under the canopy of trees deep in the forest but when a large tree falls it creates ideal conditions for the buckthorn and it crowds out native species for the light. The native trees can't compete. It will be interesting to see how the forest copes with this latest hit.

More photos here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Here's a quick bird update for the week. It was a good week! Sunday I swung by Lake Como while Chelsey and Camden we on a play date and I saw a Northern Rough-winged Swallow.

Monday at work Paul pointed out that the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were back. He always seems to be keyed into their return. They were all over the tops of the trees right outside the front door.

Tuesday, May 20th I helped set up some mist nets in the morning with Paul and a volunteer. We walked past the area where we usually see Blue-winged Warblers and sure enough we could hear the buzzy electric like call. The bird flushed across the street but we were setting nest there too and we soon spotted the bird. I had a few minutes at the very end of the day so I swung by the bog to see who would be there in the afternoon. I didn't even have to go down onto the boardwalk. In the afternoon the sun shines on the north end of the bog and I spotted a little bird taking a bath in am open spot near the edge of the bog. He flew up into an alder bush and I could see right away that it was a Chestnut-sided Warbler. There were many redstarts around as well. Wednesday morning I headed to the bog for a quick look around and saw a Wood Thrush on the hill on the south side. Coming back across the boardwalk I could see a small bird in a maple tree leafing out. I took a look and it was a very yellow warbler. I watched for a few minutes as he madly hopped from branch to branch and soon I could see a little black cap. It was a Wilson's Warbler! Woo hoo, that's a lifer. On the way home I saw my first Eastern Kingbird on a barbed wire fence along Norell ave just south of work.

Thursday I escorted a group down to the lake at work and on the way back I saw my first Scarlet Tanager of the year. They are always breathtaking. I could hear a lot of Red-eyed Vireos as well and finally got a good look at one. That was also a first of the year. On the hike back I also saw American Robins, Great-crested Flycatchers, White-breasted Nuthatches, and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Over the Memorial Day weekend I went to my inlaws house in Wisconsin and saw a Tufted Titmouse and House Wrens in their yard. Both first of the years. The little wren was taking nesting material into a nestbox.

Sunday, May 25th a likely tornado or possibly straight line winds ripped a swath of destruction though the nature center. Tuesday we went out as a staff to assess the damage on the trails. I'm post more about that later but the good news is that during the hike I spotted a wealth of new birds including three lifers. I saw a Blackpoll warbler, a Blackburnian Warbler and a Canada Warbler. For my year list I also added Mourning Warbler and an Eastern Wood-pewee. It was the best view of a Mourning Warbler I'd ever had and it was gorgeous. The Blackburnian Warbler was breathtaking as well.

2008 Running Bird Tally
106 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
107 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
108 Blue-winged Warbler
109 Chestnut-sided Warbler
110 Wood Thrush
111 Wilson's Warbler
112 Eastern Kingbird
113 Scarlet Tanager
114 Red-eyed Vireo
115 Warbling Vireo
116 Swamp Sparrow
117 House Wren
118 Tufted Titmouse
119 Blackpoll Warbler
120 Mourning Warbler
121 Eastern Wood-pewee
122 Blackburnian Warbler
123 Canada Warbler

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Birds of 2008 (104 & 105)

Today I was back out at work to teach a birthday party. One of the bird banders caught a yellow-throated vireo, the same species that I saw at the tops of the trees on Thursday. Here it is.

My afternoon group canceled so I went for a short hike on a beautiful day. I wanted to see a field sparrow. As soon as I got to the field I heard thunder and the wind picked up. The day turned dark and I knew I wasn't going to see much. I saw song sparrows, a robin a common grackle. I headed over to the farm property we own across the street to look for a swamp sparrow and check on things. I discovered someone had stolen the pump well. I didn't see a swamp sparrow. I did however spot a beautiful male American Redstart. Yea!

As soon as I got back to the building to do more work inside, the weather blew over and it became beautiful again. Typical.

I heard the banders caught a golden-winged warbler so that's another species I'll have to keep an eye out for on the property. While I worked at my desk I could see a little bird flitting around in a tree out the window so I put up my binoculars and sure enough, a Cape May Warbler.

2008 Running Bird Tally.

104 American Redstart
105 Cape May Warbler

Thursday, May 15, 2008

103 birds!

I went down to the bog at the end of the day and saw my first in the wild common yellow throat. I had already seen one from bird banding but I don't count that. Just before I took the above photo a gray catbird landed in front of me but I didn't get the camera on him fast enough! Speaking of fast moving hard to catch with a camera birds, here's a female western palm warbler. You can see she has a leg band. I wonder if we banded her or if someone else did?

I could hear great tailed flycatchers and did eventually catch a glimpse of one. I also photographed this least flycatcher (below) after I phished a little to draw him in.

I posed a really poor photo of a northern waterthrush last month. The new photo below is still not great but it looks like a masterpiece compared to the old one.

I got a decent photo of a myrtle warbler. They are everywhere this year!

I was really hoping to see an american redstart but that will have to wait for another day.

On Thursday I took a brake at work from some intensive computer time trying to plan 2008-2009 program schedules to hike down to the bog. I saw a Swainson's Thrush which was nice though the photos I took are not worth posting. I did get this decent shot of a black and white warbler.

At the end of the day I could hear a bird up in the trees above my car. I was hoping it might be a scarlet tanager but figured it was a robin. It was singing awfully lazy though. I saw a little tiny bird forty feet up and pointed my binoculars. Sure enough he was the one singing. It was a yellow-throated vireo. Man I need to work on bird call ID more. That put me at 103 birds for the year. It feels good to be over 100 before June!

2008 Running Bird Tally
98 Common yellow-throat
99 Gray Catbird
100 Least Flycatcher
101 Great-crested Flycatcher
102 Swainson's thrush
103 Yellow-throated vireo

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Return of an Elusive Bird

Saturday, May 10th I saw an Orange-crowned Warbler at work while I waited for an afternoon group to arrive. While down at the lake teaching canoing a Ruby-throated Hummingbird whizzed over the kids heads while I explained strokes. That was my first hummingbird of 2008. I could hear ovenbirds as well but didn't see them.

Sunday was mother's day and I saw my first House Finch of the year at their feeders. Returning home that evening I heard the first chimney swifts of the year as I got out of the car and quickly looked up to catch of glimpse of them.

Today, Tuesday May 13th seemed like a pretty dreary day but it wasn't too bad for birds and I didn't even leave the building! While I worked on 2008-2009 schedules I could see birds flitting around in a maple tree out my office window. I looked though my binoculars and they were Nashville Warblers. A beautiful yellow bellied sapsucker landed in the same tree while I watched. I looked again a few hours later and I'm glad I did. The birds I saw later were Tennessee Warblers! That's a first of the year for me! Woo hoo. A while later I was curious if anyone had recorded Tennessee Warbers on our bird tally at work. I strolled into the classroom and looked out the window at the feeders. Wow, there were a lot of birds in the drizzly rain. There were nuthatches, and lots of beautiful American goldfinches, ohh there's the Baltimore Oriole and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and . . . what's that on the ground? Holy sh*t! I ran full speed across the building, flung open the office doors and shouted "RED HEADED WOODPECKER!!!" while I grabbed my new SLR camera off my desk. Everyone in the office poured out behind me as we ran across the building and then slowed as we approached the windows. It was still there! Some of my co-workers had never seen on in their lives so it was really fun. While I shot photos, a number of turkeys showed up too.

I haven't seen a Red-headed Woodpecker at Warner in six years. There was one there my first year but they haven't been around since then. He was having a grand old time with the trees so hopefully he'll stick around all summer and nest. I shot a lot of photos but the lighting conditions were horrible. The shots look better if you click on them to view the larger sized images. I threw in a shot of the Baltimore Oriole I really like and the female Rose-breasted Grosbeak as well. Enjoy!
While driving home I also saw an indigo bunting which was a first of the year for me. Sorry, no photo. I saw it for about half a second.

2008 Running Bird Tally
92 Orange-crowned Warbler
93 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
94 House Finch
95 Chimney Swift
96 Tennessee Warbler
97 Indigo Bunting

Friday, May 09, 2008

Phoebe Webcam up and running

Paul and I got the Phoebe webcam up and running this week at work. New cables and adapters arrived on Tuesday so I hooked it all up and when I looked at the computer I could see there was an egg. Two days later there was still only one egg so I was a little worried. We went to change the angle of the camera to get a better image of the nest but it didn't seem to make a difference until we realized the images were not refreshing. We reset everything and poof, there were magically three eggs! That means by a stroke of luck I got the camera up exactly on day one of egg laying! The second egg must have been laid yesterday the third this morning. The photo above is of the three eggs. We thought we had it all working but at about 3:45 yesterday it lost signal again. Paul re-set it at 8:00 in the morning today and there was a phoebe on the nest! It was there for maybe 30 seconds and when it left there were four eggs! We can't say for certain that it laid it right then but it seems likely as she doesn't seem to ever return to the nest unless she is laying eggs as she is not incubating them yet.

The photo below is a live shot it is updated every 20 seconds and the blog just grabs the current image. It will not refresh unless you re-load the blog or go to the actual Cornell website and watch there. We are doing this in collaboration with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Hopefully the plague of bad technology that cursed us last year will not continue.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Grosbeaks and Orioles

Look who's back. Tuesday I saw my first Rose-breasted Grosbeak the the feeders. Look at that beak! Chomp!

Thursday the Orioles showed up. We put the feeders out one or two days ago. Good timing. Look at this bird. He KNOWS he looks good. At the end of the day I went along on our new traditional Thursday at 3:00 hike. Paul spotted a blue headed Vireo and I got a good look too. There were many chipping sparrows and song sparrows but we could hear clay-colored sparrows and field sparrows. The clay colored make a buzz-buzz-buzz call that you might mistake for an insect. The field sparrows make a call that our former director Tom Anderson described as someone dropping a ping pong ball. It is a series of rapidly ascending notes and the frequency between them increases as well. I eventually saw the clay colored sparrow and probably saw the field sparrow. Paul saw one and I got my binoculars on it but I could never have told what it was from the look I got so I'm not counting it. There will be plenty of opportunities to see field sparrows.

2008 Running Bird Tally
88 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
89 Baltimore Oriole
90 Blue-headed Vireo
91 Clay Colored Sparrow

Monday, May 05, 2008

Birding Carlos Avery

I had a great time birding at Carlos Avery WMA on Monday, May 5 with my co-workers as a staff development morning. Here's our bird list for the entire day. A couple of these birds were seen offsite of Carlos Avery.

Red-winged Blackbird, Canada Goose, Blue-winged Teal, Mallard, Song Sparrow, American Robin, Hooded Merganser, Great Egret, Great Blue
Heron, American Crow, Brown-headed Cowbird, Eastern Bluebird, Pied-billed grebe, Tree swallow, American Goldfinch, House Finch, Common Grackle, Myrtle Warbler, Palm Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, American kestrel, Bufflehead, Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, Common Loon, White-Crowned Sparrow, Northern Flicker, American Coot, Swamp Sparrow, Yellow Warbler, Northern Shoveler, wood duck, Northern Cardinal, Gadwall, Northern Harrier, Cliff Swallow, Barred Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Merganser, Lesser Scaup, Mourning Dove, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Wild Turkey, Song Sparrow, Sandhill Crane, Ring-necked Duck, Bald Eagle, Ring-billed Gull, Slate-colored Junco.

That's 50 birds for the day. I did manage to get some photos with my new camera. I got this shot of a "butter butt" aka the Myrtle Warbler. It isn;t the best shot ever but I live the water in the background.

I had a chance to get some great shots of Great Egrets. There were two of them who posed for some fun shots. I'll probably post more later but I don't have a lot of time to look through them all right now. Be sure to click on them for the larger view. you can see some beautiful breeding plumage.

Two other fun shots. There were lots of blue-winged teal but I only managed to capture this one half-way decent shot as they were very shy.
The last shot is this long view of a sandhill crane. Maybe I'll try to crop it in later. Click for more detail. It is hanging out in a recently burned area.
That's all for now! It was a good day of birding and nice to try out my camera. I need more practice with it but it was a good start. That morning I also caught a passing glimpse of a Red-headed Woodpecker on Co Rd. 15. It flew out and landed on a street sign just as I passed.

2008 Running Bird Tally
82 Red-headed Woodpecker
83 Palm Warbler
84 Yellow Warbler
85 Cliff Swallow
86 White-Crowned Sparrow,
87 Northern Flicker

Thursday, May 01, 2008


One day after I saw an elusive eastern towhee in the woods on out on our highway clean-up, guess who showed up at work? I didn't have my new camera yet but I got this decent shot anyhow. Today I was at Lake Calhoun for the Great Strides walk for Cystic Fibrosis (more on that later). Almost as soon as I got out of the car I saw a little bird on the ground. It was a black-throated green warbler! It was so close I didn't even need binoculars. I guess being at the lake it was used to people. Being a migrator you wonder if it spends time near people in the south as well. The barn swallows were in full force at the lake and I also saw several pairs of horned grebes. There was a raft of coots hanging out on the west side of the lake.

2008 Running Bird Tally
79 Black-throated Green Warbler
80 Barn Swallow
81 Horned Grebe