Sunday, June 5, 2016

Birding Minneapolis-St Paul - 30 May 2016

This week's travels took me to Minneapolis, MN for a week-long iPrime 2016 Conference. iPrime is a collaboration between the Surface and Materials Characterization Facility at the University of Minnesota and dozens of large Industrial and Medical Corporations interested in advancing the studies of surface morphology and properties such as composition, adhesion, and energy. I'm attending as a potential user of the Surface Characterization Facility through BASF Corporation's beneficiary supporter of the iPrime Program. That said, I also came to bird...

I flew from Detroit to Minneapolis on Memorial Day, so I had Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning to check out local birding haunts. My first stop was the Bunker Hills Regional Park just north of Minneapolis. With sunny skies and temps near 80F it was pretty much perfect for an afternoon in the field.

I parked in a lot across from a local High School and accessed the paved biking trail just a few feet away. The trail meanders through mature hardwood forests and lowland marsh, so there was plenty of habitats to explore. Red-eyed Vireos were singing from a number of places, and several Hairy Woodpeckers were active in the area.

I found a trail leading to a small, duckweed-covered pond, and enjoyed a quiet few minutes with a pair of Hooded Mergansers and a myriad of dragonflies.

Common Yellowthroats were on territory in several places, so males were singing and making themselves visible. A hike out into the wet field failed to stir up any other warblers or sparrows.

Back to the biking trail and a walk through the woods brought me views of Eastern Wood-pewees, more Hairy Woodpeckers, and the first of many American Redstarts I would find throughout the local region. The "WHEEP!" of Great-crested Flycatchers was also fun to hear.

Tried as I might I failed to find any Lark Sparrows that might be nesting in the preserve, but it was mid-afternoon when bird activity is at its lowest. I did enjoy very close interactions with Ovenbirds, which have a way of splitting eardrums with their "teacher-TEeacher-TEACHER!" calls.

After walking past several horse trails and open fields with not-much activity, I returned to the car and drove around to the horse-riding stables. I spent a few minutes scanning the fields and bluebird boxes (occupied by Tree Swallows) and even managed to see a pheasant or two.

From there I drove west a few miles to French Lake and Diamond Lake. The Minnesota Audubon website mentioned that these lakes were the easternmost locations for finding Western Grebes, so I was curious if any were around. Unfortunately, the view of the lake was only possible from the road a quarter mile away, so it was scoping distance, only. I found a flock of two dozen American White Pelicans soaring and swimming at one end of French Lake, and spotted several small rafts of gulls swimming in the middle of the lake. I did spot a pair of Western Grebes swimming among them, but they looked like white little slivers through the binoculars. So, the view wasn’t the best, but I was able to verify at least one pair of birds.

I continued on around to Diamond Lake where I found a single Common Loon swimming in a shallow portion of the lake, and another Common Loon in the middle of the lake. I then headed back to Minneapolis to look for the Days Inn on University Avenue. 

My workshops were not supposed to start until Tuesday afternoon, so I took advantage of the morning schedule to drive over to Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge a short distance away. Located on the Minnesota River this place is gorgeous! Mature forests give way to marshland with rolling hills and steep trails. 

I hiked down toward the marsh and was greeted by a cacophony of bird songs dominated by House Wrens and American Redstarts. Gray Catbirds, Yellow Warblers, and Great-crested Flycatchers also contributed to the throng.

Lincoln's Sparrow
I found more Common Yellowthroats in this area than I’ve ever had at Pt. Mouillee. Dozens of birds singing all over the marsh. Several were even close enough to photograph. A few Song Sparrows and Indigo Buntings provided some nice views, as well.

A Yellow-throated Vireo was a nice find. Its lazy, “Dree-ay…………Dree-Yay” call was distinctive. A Black-billed Cuckoo would also be heard, but not located in the high canopy of the massive cottonwoods, oaks, and maples that grow here. 

Upon returning to the car, just as the rains started falling, I spotted a Wild Turkey huddling near the Refuge Visitor Center, and took a few pics of it as it headed back into the thicket.

1 comment:

Gary Sonnenberg said...

Hi Jerry,

Thanks for sharing some cool pictures.

I go to the Cities at least once a year (from Wisconsin). It's usually a trip to Woodbury, not Coon Rapids, but I'm surprised you could find so many varieties so close to the main loop around Mpls/St. Paul.

I guess I'll have to pay closer attention the next time we visit there.

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