Monday, February 18, 2008

30 birdies for the year

Posted by Kirk
Thursday, February 7th I finally saw some mourning doves. They were sitting on the telephone line on County road 7.

Monday, February 11th I saw mallards in pair flights. I had seen flocks earlier this season but these were the first pair flights. I saw them on the way home over hwy 36. The bald eagles are also consistently at their nest on Keller lake now.

Tuesday, February 12th I went to the St, Croix Watershed Research Station for a strategic planning retreat for work. At lunch some of us walked down to the spring feed creek and ponds. We were hoping to see black ducks or snipe that are sometimes there but there were only mallards. We could hear the high pitched call notes of robins from the trees. Once we looked a little harder we spotted them in groups of three and four. A single male northern cardinal flew past us as we turned to go in. Those were my first robins and cardinals of the year so it was a pretty good little hike.

Saturday, February 16 I came into work for a morning snowshoe program and I took a stroll past windows to see what the feeders looked like. I could see a lot of birds from across the building so I knew it must be a busy morning. even before I was to the window I could see a bird sitting on a branch and my brain told me something wasn't right. That female American goldfinch looked funny. Suddenly it hit me. That's not a goldfinch at all. Look at the black under the beak and is that red on the head? It's a redpoll! That's a life lister for me. I ran for my binoculars and I had a camera on my desk so I snapped this photo. There were four or five redpolls mixed in with the goldfinches. Looking at the photos I'm sure these are common redpolls and not hoary redpolls. How do I know? This gets pretty nerdy.

I got this shot of a redpolls back. If you look at the right hand side you can see the white wing bar. The feathers above and slightly to the right of that white line are the scapulars. They are pretty hard to distinguish from the mantle or cape across the birds back in this photo. On a common redpoll the scapulars are dark while on a hoary redpoll they would look frosty or hoary. Happy now?

Here's a shot a male as he comes in for a landing at the feeder.

Since I had the camera in hand I snapped a few other photos. I got this fun one of a downy woodpecker flapping a wing. There were a number of them in the area.

I also took several shots where you can really see the golden mating colors of the male American Goldfinches coming in. I've been noting this for a few weeks already.

I'd already seen one in passing earlier but I also spotted a pair a Blue Jays that same morning. These birds get a bad rap because they can be a bit of a bully but I think they are one of the most gorgeous birds I have ever seen. They really are spectacular and if they lived somewhere more exotic I'm sure people would fawn over them and dream of the day they could see the hallowed Blue Jay. As is, people tend to ignore this beautiful resident of Minnesota.

Sunday the 17th I had some free time (a rare thing these days) and I decided to make the most of it by heading down to Black Dog Lake. I first stopped at the west outlet and there was a group of mallards and some other waterfowl that flew away when I arrived. I pushed on until there was open water on my right from the power plant discharge. I quickly pulled over when I saw a flotilla of birds. There really wasn't a good place to pull over but I quickly identified them as common mergansers. There were about 50 of them. I then moved on to the eastern outlet just before the power plant and as soon as I stepped out of my car I could hear bald eagles. I quickly spotted a pair of eagles in the top of some trees on the northern side of the road (actually across the pond). I couldn't see a nest anywhere.

I headed out onto the trail on the west side of the outlet and saw a small group of mallards. That appeared to be all there was. I decided to scan the water with my binoculars just to be sure. To my surprise, the water was full of hundreds of common mergansers further out. A rough count pin the number around 200. This was a separate group from the group of 50 I spotted earlier on the other side of the power plant. Leaving the area I saw more mallards in the small stream just east of 77 and then a strange hawk flew over my car and landed in a tree when I got to the top of the bluff. My best guess was an immature red-shouldered hawk. The breast was awfully white. I couldn't be sure and I soon realized I had pulled to the side of the road right next to a no parking sign. I had to move on. I hiked the trail on the other side of Black Dog but all I saw was the smaller group of mergansers but this time from the other side. A sign said that goldeneyes are common in the winter but I sure didn't see any. So, with the sighting of the common merganser's I'm officially at 30 birds for the year. Not too bad for mid-feburary.

26 Mourning Doves
27 American Robin
28 Northern Cardinal
29 Common Redpoll
30 Common Merganser


Danica said...

Danica here-
are there any purple finches? The reason that I ask is that I would have mistaken the first bird for one of those.
I think that I remember a lot of purple finches at the feeder in my old childhood house.
Not sure if they were there in winter though.

Kirk Mona said...

We sometimes see purple finches out here but I see them more in suburban and urban areas. Both purple finches and house finches look a lot like redpolls. The red cap and black throat are key.