Thursday, March 22, 2007

Birds 21-38

Posted by Kirk Mona
The bird counting continues for 2007.

On February 17th I spotted European Starlings in the parking lot of Petco in Maplewood. I'd seen birds in the distance I was pretty sure were starlings already but this day I got a nice up-close view.

On Wednesday February 21st we had a big warm-up and I saw a flock of mallard ducks in a little pond just outside of Woodland Elementary where I was teaching an after school club. The school is very close to the Mississippi and I had seen ducks flying around the week before. I'd also seen ducks flying in Roseville several times but this was a great species confirmation as I could see them up close just like the starlings.

On March 5th I found a flock of Tree Sparrows at the north end of the restoration pitcher prairie at the nature center. I noticed they seemed to be feeding primarily on ragweed seeds which surprised me. They fed from the ground, standing on the foot or two of snow and the seeds were easily accessible.

On March 9th, Julia and I pulled over the car just south of boot lake on Norell to check out a few birds that quickly took off from the side of the road. Fellow naturalist Paul had stopped the day before and saw Horned Larks at this location. Sure enough, the birds flew away and then circled back, landing thirty feet or so up the road from us. With our binoculars we could see the "horns" as well as the yellow breast and black strip of the Horned Lark. Very cool. This was a "lifer" for me as I'd never seen one. I quietly said, "Tally Ho!" as a tribute to Roger Tory Peterson.

On Saturday, March 10th I drove to work a little early to stop near May Town Hall to check out a flock of birds we keep seeing while we carpool. It turns out it is a mixed flock of tree sparrows, juncos and house finches. Someone spotted Lapland Longspurs in this location but I did not see any. The female house finches are similar in appearance. These were my first house finches of the year so they go on the list as well. Strangely, looking in my Sibley book where I write down the birds I see I noticed I haven't bothered to record the house finch yet as an official "life list" bird so this sighting will become my official one.

On March 17th I was in South Dakota for a funeral and the birds were incredible. Unfortunately I was unable to ID many of them as it would have been grossly inappropriate to do so. I did spot my first red-winged blackbird of the year as well as a rough-legged hawk. I saw some waxwings, probably cedar but without a good look though binoculars it was impossible to tell. There were THOUSANDS of geese there migrating. The small flocks were 200 birds, the larger ones were in the thousands. It was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen . There were Canada geese as well as many white geese that were probably snow geese but they were so high up I couldn't tell if they were Ross's geese. None of them were on the ground so that made it hard to get a good look. There were a couple of lakes a few miles off the highway where you could see thousands of geese coming in for a landing like a giant tornado but since my sister-in-law was driving and everyone wanted to get home we didn't pull off.

On March 20t I heard Sandhill cranes and other naturalists spotted them but by the time I ran outside they were gone. I did manage to spot three female purple finches at the feeders though.

March 22nd proved to be a fun day boiling down maple syrup at work. I heard and saw lots of red-shouldered hawks in the woods as I collected sap. I'd already seen some this year but it was still fun. As I came back to the building I was excited to hear the first phoebe of the year! What a great sign of spring. When I heard it again after lunch I waited by the front door and sure enough it landed in a tree near the emergency exit to the upstairs classroom. We've had phoebe's building nests above the door for a few years so I wonder if it is the same male returning to his territory?

On Friday morning I headed down to the Minnesota River to go birding. In the "Bass Ponds" just east of 77 just outside the Black Dog Preserve I spotted Ring neck ducks, American Coots and Gadwalls. Continuing up river I thought I saw a Savannah Sparrow just past the power plant but I won't count it because I can't be sure of the ID. I Spotted a Fox Sparrow at the small park just before 35 W who's name eludes me. Not much of a park.

Since I had more time I drove over to the Minnesota Wildlife Refuge and saw a sharp shinned hawk chasing song sparrows so that's two new species for the year right there. I also saw hooded mergansers. Not new for this year I saw crows, a bald eagle, downy and hairy woodpeckers, chickadees, red winged blackbirds and cardinals.

As I was driving home I spotted a Turkey Vulture over the Mississippi just of 5 near Fort Snelling. That put me at 47 for the year and I thought that would be it but while picking up Joy for lunch on Saturday the 24th Chelsey spotted a Great Blue Heron fishing near her apartment. Very nice. That's 38 and I'm off to Arizona.

European Starling
Mallard Duck
Tree Sparrow
Horned Lark
House Finch
Red-winged Blackbird
Rough-legged Hawk
Purple Finch
Phoebe
Ring Necked Duck

American Coot
Gadwall
Fox Sparrow
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Song sparrow
Hooded Merganser
Turkey Vulture
Great Blue Heron

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