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.
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.
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.
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.
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.