Saturday, May 19, 2007

Birds and Bugs

Posted by Kirk
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