Not to get too technical, but a fallout — when it comes to migratory birds — occurs when there are no birds one day and birds are thick the next. It’s affected by weather conditions, or perhaps by magic.
A fallout of birds is quickly followed by a fallout of birders.
That’s what all those people with spotting scopes were doing on Park Point over the weekend — they came in rapid response to a windblown warbler fallout in the Duluth area.
A gentleman from Olmsted County posted on the Minnesota Ornithology Union listserv that he had seen 24 species of warblers in 2 1/2 hours at Park Point on Sunday. Not 24 warblers, 24 species. I would consider that an extremely good year. Actually, it would be unprecedented for me.
To see that many kinds of warblers, you have to really be looking, and you have to really know what you’re looking for.
But at a time like this, you might spot a warbler or two without even trying. That happened to me yesterday, when I was walking home from the West Duluth Menard’s. Just outside of the store, I saw a little bird flitting along the ground. I knew right away it was a warbler, and I also knew that I didn’t know what kind of warbler it was. But I got a real good look. Not all that many warblers have yellow breasts with black streaks. The gray upper parts and the white splotches over the eyes also were “diagnostic,” as the birders say. When I looked it up at home, I was certain I’d seen a magnolia warbler — a “lifer” for me.
Over near Holyoke, Minn., Michelle Weegman and her husband have been seeing American redstarts, which are lifers for them. Here are Michelle’s pictures, first of a male and then of a female:
“We had several pairs of American redstart on our dock between dipping into the lake and for flying bugs,” Michelle writes. “They were so friendly landing on my husband’s fishing reel while he was fishing and sitting near our feet.”
Here’s another bird Michelle spotted recently:
Michelle isn’t sure what it is, and I’m not either, but I’m thinking eastern towhee.
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But Minnesota Public Radio reports that some bird watchers are concerned about all that glass in the plans for their new football station. Birds, as anyone who has windows knows, don’t always perceive the difference between glass and a clear route. Here’s a link to MPR’s report:
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Here’s a TV-reception problem the satellite company might not be able to fix:
Jerry Mc Kenna, who lives on Lake Beauty in Todd County, reports this yellow-bellied sapsucker has been pecking on their satellite dish.
“Very noisy and makes the reception go haywire when he does it,” Jerry writes. “Luckily, we don’t watch much TV until dark.”
Birds demonstrate all sorts of interesting behavior.
Greg Beck took this picture last week of a partridge below the feeder at his house north of the French River:
The partridge was displaying when mallards came too close, Greg writes. The mallards “wanted no part of that and flew away.”
Earlier, on April 30, he caught these pictures, first of a pied-billed grebe …
… and next of an otter …
… on the shore and in Lake Superior, both between the French and Talmadge rivers.
And this goes back to March, an owl on Greg’s ski trail:
Here’s a hint for you when you head out to Chambers Grove park on the St. Louis River in the Fond du Lac neighborhood to take pictures of white pelicans: Make sure the batteries in your camera aren’t dead.
My friend Dan told me he had seen about 200 white pelicans there on Saturday. There weren’t quite that many on Monday, but I counted 75 and missed a couple of groups. There had to have been at least a hundred, and you get really good views of these majestic but odd birds at the far end of the boardwalk and from the trail in the woods beyond.
One of the pelicans soared slowly through the air just in front of me. Even I could have gotten a good picture, I think.
What struck me is how silent pelicans are. Imagine the clamor if it had been 100 Canada geese.
Highlights of my earlier walk on the Western Waterfront Trail — during the only time of the day when it was raining — were a brown thrasher and a spotted sandpiper.
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In addition to compiling life lists of bird species, some bird watchers like to keep track of their First Of Year birds, or FOYs — the first time they see a particular species in a calendar year.
I’m informal about my FOYs, but this is certainly a great time of year to add to the count.
In the past week, I’ve seen FOY song sparrows, goldfinches, chipping sparrows, buffleheads, eared grebes, and I forget what else.
Just this morning, I had an FOY white-crowned sparrow scrounging for safflower.
I also briefly had a raven land on one of my trees. In the Sibley bird book, under Common Raven, the first word in the description is: “Uncommon.” They aren’t all that uncommon in parts of the Northland, but I certainly don’t often see one in my back yard.
Meanwhile, a robin’s nest suddenly appeared on my front porch. I’m not sure if it’s being built on spec or if it’s a certain nesting site.
I don’t think the robins will be happy with my habit of reading on the front porch, if it ever gets warm enough to do that.
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Lake Superior ship-watcher Carole Lent caught this picture of an eared grebe after successfully snatching a smelt:
“Some smelt would get away and the grebe would have to dive in and try a second and third time,” Carole writes. “The grebe would eventually win.”
You should only see grebes and loons on, or very close to, water, as John Myers’ recent story pointed out. If you haven’t read it, you can read it here
But if you’re lucky, you might find a male rose-breasted grosbeak at your feeder. Karl Riggle got these pictures of a grosbeak at his feeders in Ohio:
Mr. R.B. Grosbeak was dining on oil sunflower seeds, Karl reports.
Your bird pictures and news always welcome at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
My goodness. So many birds, especially on the water, so little time.
On my day off yesterday, I strolled the Western Waterfront Trail, where I saw greater scaup (I think), buffleheads, mallards, Canada geese and an eared grebe. Also a shorebird, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.
Then I drove over to Perch Lake, on the east edge of the Fond du Lac neighborhood, where I counted 22 white pelicans amid a multitude of other waterfowl. As I was about to leave, a quintet of double-crested cormorants flew low overhead.
That’s my kind of air show.
But you could go just about anywhere that has open water and see plenty of activity.
Carole Lent took this stunning picture of an eared grebe on Monday. She says it was successfully smelting near the canal.
Carole also offered this collage of horned grebes in love:
The white pelicans seem to be everywhere. I’ve seen pictures of them between Park Point and Hearding Island.
And my colleague Steve Kuchera shared these photos taken on the St. Louis River in the Fond du Lac neighborhood:
But not all of the action is on water. Kirstie Zauhar of Superior shared these pictures of a female and a male cardinal in her yard.
While it’s not in the pictures, Kirstie says she watched as the male cardinal flew over to the female and gave her a seed.
If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
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The good thing about this cold and, in some places, snowy start to May is the old saying: If May comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb.
When it’s 32 degrees on May 3, I deal with it by putting on a warmer jacket, walking faster and spending more time in the Great Indoors.
This white-throated sparrow had another way of dealing with it:
My colleague Bob King, aka AstroBob, aka photo chief of the Duluth News Tribune, shared his picture of this pretty, puffed-up sparrow. He took it this morning in Lakewood Township.
I haven’t seen a white-throated sparrow yet, but I heard one the other day as I walked in my West Duluth neighborhood. (It was a much nicer day.) It’s one of the few birds I can identify with my ears.
By the way, we can watch birds even if we are in the Great Indoors. One way, of course, is to look out the window. Another is to check out Minnesota Power’s three falcon cams, one for each of three nesting boxes. You can get there by going here.
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Now that we’ve established that yesterday’s “mystery bird” was a red-necked grebe, let’s check out its cousin, the horned grebe.
The horned grebe manages to be both elegant and comical at the same time.
Lyle Anderson took these pictures from the Park Point boat launch early on Monday morning:
Here’s a bonus from Lyle, a bufflehead on placid waters:
Ah, how beautiful it was just two days ago …
Meanwhile, Bernie St. George offers a mystery bird of his own from Florida. At least it’s a mystery to me. Bernie sends his bird pictures in greeting card style:
I don’t think it’s a Minnesota bird.
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It’s time for another round of “Mystery Bird.” Can you identify this water fowl?
Carole Lent took this lovely picture from the south pier on Monday while ship-watching. She spotted this duck, or whatever it may be, on the canal.
I showed it to Sam Cook, who thinks it might be a ruddy duck.
Any other thoughts?
There’s more certainty about the two birds Jim Jensen of Esko saw feeding on his field on Saturday. He’s going with common snipe, although American woodcock is a possibility, Jim says.
I’m not sure if they will show up well enough in this format for second opinions, but take a look:
Jim adds: “Finally spring … lots of birds moving.”
There certainly are. I drove up to Gooseberry Falls on Sunday and saw all sorts of bird activity on my way back, although I couldn’t identify anything except gulls. I also counted 17 deer on the drive from Gooseberry to my house in West Duluth. Be careful out there.
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This is a transitional time, as reflected in recent forecasts: a winter storm warning a couple of nights ago … a forecast for a high near 60 on Friday.
The birds know this, which is why we’ve seen so many passing through and others coming to stay. I finally saw my first robin of the spring last Thursday, perched on a branch of one of my trees amid heavy snow.
Jen Flynn of Duluth submitted photos the past couple of days that reflect the transition.
First this lovely shot of a house finch in the snow, taken Monday morning in West Duluth:
And then, two shots taken on Wednesday of a turkey vulture, a bird that has returned within the past few weeks. I love how Jen caught it with wings unfurled in the first shot:
You probably can’t tell in the online version, but I think I even saw some buds in the tree here.
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