Tom Thompson of Duluth sent this picture he took while on South Padre Island in Texas earlier this month:
They grow them big in Texas, eh?
Back in the Northland, Tom caught these lovely images of a swan on White Lake last week:
“He/she didn’t stay long but it was a pleasant surprise,” Tom writes. “I would think they are showing throughout the area by now. Unfortunately, I don’t think one would stay long even if one chose White Lake to raise chicks because the speed boats and water skiers would chase them out.”
Meanwhile, I finally added a northern mockingbird to my life list. I saw it last week while I was in Atlanta, on the campus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I thought it was a mockingbird, but I had to wait until I got home to my bird books to be sure. The white patches on its wings when it flew clinched it.
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Diane Spicer took these pictures on Wednesday of a mallard couple taking to a human structure to enjoy the sun on Caribou Lake.
What better way to spend a sunny day?
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Check out this clip from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s great blue heron nest cam. You’ll see both herons fly up to the nest, followed by up-close views. And I mean really close. It’s here:
I was pleased over the weekend to see two turkey vultures soaring overhead for the first time this spring. They are so beautiful in flight — not necessarily so attractive up close. I’ve also had male goldfinches at my thistle feeders in their bright yellow outfits for the first time this spring. My only fear is that they’re starting to push out the pine siskins. Siskins have been one of my favorite birds lately, because I can be a foot or two away and they’ll still come and feed. A pine siskin is one bird that you really do have to see up close to fully appreciate.
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Bob King, aka Astro Bob, spotted this northern shrike in a large field with a few trees in Lakewood Township just before sunset on Thursday:
It’s a great picture, and also a great find, I think. “The Crossley ID Guide” describes the northern shrike as an “uncommon and incredibly hardy n. species found in open areas with trees.”
Its cousin the loggerhead shrike is describe as “common in the SE, rare to the N. but declining almost everywhere.”
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Joe Nowak of Cloquet reports that he has been seeing a male and female varied thrush couple feeding in his yard. Joe says he has never seen one before, and his bird book shows that its normal habitat is the far western United States.
A varied thrush is about the same size as a robin (which is also a thrush), but it looks like a robin that has gotten dressed for dinner. It has a black necklace and black slashes on an orange head. Its back is a mottled orange-and-black pattern. That’s the male. The female’s colors are duller, Joe notes.
I’ve never seen a varied thrush, although I think I have heard of them being spotted in Minnesota. It’s certainly a rarity for this region, and an excellent find by Joe.
I checked the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union’s rare bird alert for Duluth, and there were no other reports of varied thrushes. However, the weekly report is scheduled to be updated later today, I believe.
Have you seen a varied thrush? Where and when? I’d be interested in your reports, and I’m sure Joe would, too.
By the way, you can call for a recording of the weekly Duluth rare bird alert at 218.834.2858. You’ll learn not only about rare and unusual birds seen in the region, but about new arrivals during migration seasons.
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