Park Point rocks*

*Actually, it warbles

Last weekend’s brant in Bayfront Festival Park hasn’t been seen since Tuesday, according to the bird trackers.
This weekend, the focus is on Park Point and a multitude of warblers. Given the weather … what perfect timing.
Several serious bird-watchers in the Duluth area (a club I don’t pretend to belong to) reported on the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union’s listserv Friday that 22 kinds of warblers had been found in Park Point. According to Kim Eckert, author of "A Birder’s Guide to Minnesota," all but one of them were found between the bus turn-around area at 43rd Street and the bath house building in the recreation area.
If you’re looking to pick up a warbler or two for your life list of birds, this might be your opportunity.
Or, they might already have moved on. Warblers are like that.
But wait. There’s more.
Eckert and others also reported seeing red knots in at least a couple of places — by the bath house and along the beach near the airport.
I didn’t know what red knots were … it sounds like a kind of chewing tobacco.
I had to look on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Web site to find out. It turns out that red knots are large (9 to 10 inches), bulky sandpipers with a reddish, head and breast in breeding season.
And it’s one of the most well-traveled birds in existence. Its migratory route runs from Arctic breeding grounds to Tierra del Fuego in southern South America. That’s hard to fathom, isn’t it?

A Red-faced Wannabe

I knew this would happen sooner or later …
In my previous post, I identified the hummingbird-rescuer as city editor Catherine Conlan’s husband, John. In fact, John was the hero, but he is the Conlans’ 9-year-old son. Catherine’s husband’s name is Matt.
Thanks to the magic of the World Wide Web, I’ve fixed the mistake and the right names are in the right places now …. I think.

A happy ending

This picture came from Catherine Conlan, who is a city editor at the News Tribune. She and her husband, Matt, and their two children live north of Two Harbors.
Their son, John, age 9, found the hummingbird stuck in their garage the other day, Catherine says. He opened the door and tried to herd it out, but it was so exhausted from battering itself against the windows that it collapsed on a high window sill. John climbed up and retrieved it, carried it outside and put it on the grass. "Its eyes were closed and I thought it was a goner," Catherine said," but after five or 10 minutes it recovered enough to feed on the dandelions in the grass."
After another five minutes, it was zipping around like any other hummingbird. Catherine said she thinks this was a female, and it soon was accompanied by a male hummingbird.
John said he could feel the hummer’s heart beating as he carried it, and that it quivered and was very soft.

Mood indigo

Out of the blue, so to speak, an indigo bunting appeared on my apple tree this afternoon.
I saw an indigo bunting last year, on a hike along Brewers Ridge. This is the first one that I’ve ever seen come to my place. Has anyone had success getting indigo buntings to come to feeders? The book says it feeds on insects and seeds, so perhaps I’ll put out more mealworms. But suggestions would be welcome. I’d love to keep this fellow around.
It stuck to the apple tree while I was watching, then flew out of my line of sight. The metallic blue of the bunting contrasted  with the white-pink buds of the apple tree, which is in its early-blossoming stage, was quite the color treat. I’ll try to get a picture, but I’m not optimistic.

Bear on a ladder

Kevin and Laurie Allen of Solon Springs sent this picture, via e-mail, to the News Tribune. They wrote that they had put up the ladder so they could put seed in their bird feeders. By the time they had come back with the food, something else already was using the ladder.
Bears pose a problem for many of you who enjoying feeding the birds in the Northland. The problem hasn’t occurred in my neighborhood — at least not so far.

The brant, pictured

Far Side of Fifty expressed the hope that there will be pictures of the brant in Bayfront Park.
I have none. Happily, though, pictures are readily available. Simply click on the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union Web site, which is one of the links on the right side of this blog. Then click on the "Recently Seen" tab.
Under pictures of a null in Sherburne County, a long-eared owl in Hennepin County (this picture is a hoot) and a burrowing owl in Clay County, you’ll see two fabulous pictures — provided by David Cahlander and Jim Lind — of the brant in St. Louis County. The pictures will make you want to see this handsome goose for yourself.

  • Reports continued throughout Friday of more brant viewings. I don’t know if it’s still being seen today; it could have blown away in the wind. It’s a little embarrassing to admit that I’m working three blocks away from where the brant has been, but I haven’t managed to get over to take a look.
  • Isn’t it fun to see people all bundled up and enjoying the Memorial Day weekend?

A brant at the Bayfront

The Minnesota bird world has been buzzing about the discovery of a brant in the Bayfront Festival Park area of Duluth.
According to Jim Lind’s weekly Duluth Birding Report, which is sponsored by the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union, the brant first was seen by Lars Benson on Monday. It has been seen every day since then, mostly on the lawn in front of the stage and in the harbor behind the stage. (Perhaps it’s just EXTREMELY early for the Bayfront Blues Festival.)
The brant has been seen as recently as 9 a.m. today.
What is it and why the excitement?
A brant (not a Brent, who was a classmate of mine in school who ran on the cross-country team, played trombone in the band and worked for the Hy Vee grocery store) is a goose that is typically smaller than a Canada goose. Its head and neck are essentially all black, its upperside is dark and its underside is grayish. Its back end is white. According to the many reports that have been coming through this week, it behaves like a Canada goose in that it couldn’t give a hoot whether you’re watching it or not. Children have been seen chasing it, but this hasn’t prompted it to relocate.
The bird book says brants are usually seen on saltwater and are uncommon to rare inland. This means that even serious bird-watchers in Minnesota might never have seen a brant.
The upshot is that if brant sitings persist today, you might see a brant in Bayfront Festival Park over the Memorial Day weekend, and you might also see birders from all parts of Minnesota looking at it.
They might be as fun to watch as the brant.

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On the Split Rock River

Today, I took a gentle hike on the Split Rock River Trail, a loop that’s part of the Superior Hiking Trail, mostly within Split Rock Lighthouse State Park boundaries.
Most of the birds I saw were what-was-thats, could-that-bes and already-seen-’ems. This happens to me a lot.
It didn’t matter. Hiking under cloudless skies, in conditions that were just cool enough to make walking pleasant, along the gurgling Split Rock River and then up on a bluff that provides a spectacular view of Lake Superior was more than enough. Any new and/or interesting birds I saw would be a bonus.
I got that bonus near the end, on the section of the trail that overlooks the lake, just before coming to a small shelter.
A group of birds were partying in a couple of conifers. I saw flashes of color and edged closer to get a better look through the binoculars. The birds were playing hide-and-seek with me, but eventually I focused on a warbler with a fiery orange head giving way to a bit of yellow and then a white breast: my first blackburnian warbler.
There was a lot of color in those conifers, because they also hosted at least one American redstart (orange and black) and warblers with lots of yellow on them — these moved too quickly for me to identify them.
Earlier, I might have seen a magnolia warbler, and I might have seen a sharp-shinned hawk. But I wasn’t sure enough about either of them to count them.

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Finally, a hummer

My first hummingbird of the year showed up about an hour ago.
It chose the nectar from the oriole feeder rather than from the hummingbird feeder. Doesn’t matter. It’s the same thing: one part sugar, four parts water.
I hope it stays and brings its friends. I’ve never had consistent visits from hummingbirds. I think I’ll make a fresh batch of nectar for both feeders before the day is over.

Another lifer

This morning, while I was adding some food to the feeders, a mystery bird landed on the birdbath, took a drink, then took a little bath.
My deck is small, and most birds won’t come that close. (Chickadees and hummingbirds are among the exceptions.) What was this strange little bird that had a yellow breast with dark stripes, a bright yellow ring around the neck, black wings with white patches and rust-colored patches on its cheeks?
It didn’t take long with the bird book — plus another good look from inside through the binoculars — to determine that this was a Cape May warbler. It has been checking in and out all morning, showing most of its interest in the oriole feeder. I can’t tell if it’s the nectar or the grape jelly — or both — that attract it.
The Cape May warbler is a gorgeous bird, and it’s a "lifer" for me — one I’ve never seen before, at least as far as I know.
It also was on my Ten Most Wanted List of birds I wanted to see this year. I’ve seen one other bird on the list so far, a Harris’ sparrow. It also came to me.
It’s not supposed to be that easy.
The birds on my Most Wanted List that I haven’t seen yet:

  • Scarlet tanager
  • Gray jay
  • Boreal chickadee
  • Great gray owl
  • Snowy owl
  • Eastern bluebird
  • Mountain bluebird
  • Northern mockingbird