Category: winter birds

Spring perhaps? Well, not quite, but it is coming.

By , March 1, 2013 11:21 pm

horned lark

Horned Lark 3/2/2013

We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Spring looks like it is on the way.   Like all people who live in Minnesota, we are used to Winter weather.  Like most Minnesotans, we tire of it long before it is over.   After a very normal, that is cold, Winter, the signs of Spring are finally visible.   Last week, the man who sells us wood, saw a Robin near Sibley State Park.  Yesterday, in our first attempt to look for birds in quite some time, we saw a Horned Lark. In fact we saw at least 3 groups of Horned Larks.   That was a first for both of us.   We haven’t had any other migrators yet, but one is better than zero.

Sunset is now after 6pm, so the days much longer now.  The weather is getting warmer.  We are seeing highs in the mid and upper 30’s on most days now.  We both have Spring fever.

Today we made another attempt to see birds and saw what was probably 20-30 Horned Larks in at least 3 different places along the road.

horned lark

Horned Lark 3/2/2013

horned lark

Horned Lark 3/2/2013

So few birds these days – when will spring come?

By , February 18, 2013 1:44 pm
Redpolls on Valentine's Day

Redpolls on Valentine’s Day

I am a compulsive record keeper. When I had a large record collection, it was recorded on the pc.  I try to record local weather data, and except for days when equipment is down,  I have been successful in that.   Along with my wife we are both active birders and we use the computer to keep records.   From 1996-2004, I let the recording go but once we moved to MN in 2004 I started it back up.  Since we moved to the Long Prairie area in 2010, we have made every effort to be more consistent and more complete.  We try to make a record of almost all the birds we see.  We do leave out a few, we don’t record the common Pigeon and we don’t record the House Sparrow, a bird which has been the bane of our existence.

Right now it is still winter, but the harshest days have past. Still from a birding standpoint this is about the lowpoint of the year.  A good day for us is 10 birds, Today we may see 8 different species. Even common birds, those that winter over, are missing. We’ve only seen the Goldfinch 18 days this year.  Perhaps the Redpolls are chasing it away.  The Bald Eagle is a bird we don’t ordinarily see in the coldest part of the year, but last year was a warm winter and we saw it multiple times. This winter we have only recorded it once and that was in St Cloud.

I am tired of Winter, my wife is tired too.  We are using a lot of wood. A load that might last 3 weeks in the early December, probably lasts 10 days at the coldest point of the season.  It isn’t just the expense of the wood,  I am tired of splitting wood each day.   My hands are aching and my shoulder is sore.   I have just worn out another pair of work gloves (quality on common items is a thing of the past).   I know that Winter is nearly at an end, but my patience with Winter is also at an end. I have uploaded a picture of a group of Common Redpolls for your enjoyment.

Bird Summary January 2013

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By , February 4, 2013 12:02 am
Pheasant 1/3/2013

Pheasant 1/3/2013

Data doesn’t lie. Sometimes it is reveals things our fallible memories miss. We have just finished with January and my own assumption is that we didn’t see many birds. In an absolute sense that is true, we certainly didn’t see as many birds as we would in a July. We only saw 17 different species, but 17 is the second highest species total in the years I have been counting them in MN. Below is a list of the birds we saw and on how many days we saw them.  What is fascinating is that we saw the Pileated on half the days of the month, yet my perception is that we barely saw them at all (and that is somewhat true, since Shawnne saw most of them.)

American Crow 29
American Goldfinch 12
Black-capped Chickadee 31
Blue Jay 29
Common Redpoll 31
Dark-eyed Junco 3
Downy Woodpecker 31
Hairy Woodpecker 26
Mourning Dove 8
Northern Cardinal 8
Northern Shrike 1
Pileated Woodpecker 15
Purple Finch 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 31
Ring-necked Pheasant 28
White-breasted Nuthatch 31
Wild Turkey 1

We didn’t manage to get any spectacular photos in January but I have posted a few shots we took this January. Above is a male Ring-necked Pheasant below is a Pileated Woodpecker.

Pileated Woodpecker 1/2/2013

Pileated Woodpecker 1/2/2013

Pheasants and Turkeys in December

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By , December 26, 2012 11:37 pm
Pheasant fleeing 12/25/2012

Pheasant fleeing on Christmas Day

This is the time of year that some birds become a bit more visible because what foliage was available for cover in the Summer and Fall is diminished. In the last few days we have been seeing Ring-necked Pheasants around our house and at our feeder.   They had been missing since September.  Today we saw a Wild Turkey on County Rd 1 in Elmdale, on the way to St Cloud.

There aren’t many birds that hang around here in Winter.   The last Red-winged Blackbird was visible on 12/15/12 (we haven’t given up hope that one or two are hanging around but we haven’t see them lately).   So, we try to count any straggler we find.  We have been hearing Kingfishers around the area but we haven’t seen one in quite a while.   We had a tree sparrow a few days ago.

Ring-necked Pheasant at the feeder

Ring-necked Pheasant at the feeder

We are hoping that a Northern Shrike stops by.  They are visible every year but are not predictable.

Below is another photo of a pheasant. It is a bit soft because it is taken through 3 layers of glass.

A slow December

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By , December 14, 2012 12:20 am
Pine Grosbeak 12/2/2012

Pine Grosbeak 12/2/2012

It is hardly news that our December has been a slow bird month.   The lake is finally frozen so the last of the water fowl have gone.   Both the number of birds we see on any day and that variety available are drastically reduced. Even the Red-winged Blackbirds that were so prominent last year have almost entirely abandoned us.  (It does save on suet and seed.)  We have had at least one surprise. Yesterday we saw a Rough-legged Hawk while on our way to Long Prairie.

As far as what we can photograph the Pine Grosbeak has been the best bird in December (and one of the best for the entire year). I am also posting photos of the Red-breasted Nuthatch and the Common Redpoll.

Red-breasted Nuthatch 12/8/2012

Red-breasted Nuthatch 12/8/2012

Common Redpoll 12/13/2012

Common Redpoll 12/13/2012

Eagles and an Early Spring

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By , February 23, 2012 9:29 pm

Female Cardinal

Female Cardinal late in the afternoon

Here is a photo of the female Northern Cardinal. It is a common bird, but for some reason it only appears at our feeder station close to dusk. In the last few weeks the male has come around 5:45. The female seems less devoted to a schedule. This one was taken at 4:40 in the afternoon yesterday. This photo was taken through 3 layers of glass, so much of the resolution of a decent camera is ruined by the extra layers of glass.

In the years we lived in Randall, we would see our last Bald Eagle in December and then usually not see them until March.  For the last 2 Winters we have been in the rental house near Long Prairie, and we have seen them all through the fall and winter.   We have seen them 3 times in the last 2 weeks (twice while walking Sierra after work).  Unfortunately I have not had my camera when the Eagles have made their appearance.  I assume the warmer temperatures are driving the Eagle’s behavior.  When I lived in NJ, the Eagles would be visible in the Winter once the Northern water’s had frozen.   In Minnesota, I don’t know whether that is true. Certainly there isn’t much open water even if our weather is far warmer than normal.

Are we going to have an early Spring?  The temperatures are warm, as much as 8 degrees about normal, this year.  Some of the Chickadees are singing.   The Red-bellied Woodpeckers have been very active of late (not that I know what their activity means).

Below is a photo of a female Pileated Woodpecker. Taken through 3 layers of window glass.

female Pileated Woodpecker

female Pileated Woodpecker

February birding gets off to a good start

By , February 4, 2012 11:16 am

February has gotten off to a strange start but also a good one as far a our birding goes. On Wednesday we both saw an immature Bald Eagle a few miles south of Brainerd, MN. We’ve been seeing Bald Eagles all Winter. I don’t know if that is unusual for others in MN but it has been unusual for us. In the years we were in Randall, neither Shawnne nor I ever saw an Eagle in January, nor did we see them in the last week of December. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to get a photograph of one but these birds are so easy to identify that I don’t think anyone would dispute the sighting.

In the last few days we have seen a Northern Shrike twice. Not a rare bird, of course, but not always one that you see. This one we caught in the act and I have posted one picture (taken through three sheets of glass unfortunately).

Our last bird of note is the Ring-Necked Pheasant. We’ve been hearing them all winter (they sound like an old car horn) and we have seen them a few times in the distance. Yesterday we caught them in our neighbor’s yard. I wonder if they think it is spring?

Ring-Necked Pheasant 2/3/12

Ring-Necked Pheasant 2/3/12

Common Redpolls

By , January 14, 2012 8:21 pm

Common Redpoll 1/13/12

Common Redpoll 1/13/12

Every January we await the arrival of the Common Redpoll. In Randall we saw them as early as December. Since we moved to the Long Prairie area last Summer this has only been our second winter. We saw them late in January 2011. This winter has been very warm so we didn’t expect them at all but the temperature dropped 20 degree from Wednesday to Thursday. So we saw our first Redpoll of the season on Friday morning. We must have had somewhere near 70 in our yard. Today the numbers were a bit smaller, only in the dozens. It is also possible to see the Hoary Redpoll here and they can look very similar at times, but I have looked at dozens of photos from last year (and we had large flocks later in Winter) and none of the photos betrayed any Hoary Redpolls that we had missed in our binoculars.

We still miss a few birds. I have been hearing something that sounds a bit like a Kingfisher, but I we not sure. We haven’t seen any Cardinals yet this Winter, but we know they are somewhere (we see them every Winter). Today I saw four birds that might be a Grouse or a Pheasant but didn’t get a close look. Below is a photo of todays picture of an American Tree Sparrow. Common but a favorite of ours.

American Tree Sparrow

Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close- up

Birds that we see and those we don’t

By , January 4, 2012 7:46 pm

American Tree Sparrow 1/4/12

American Tree Sparrow 1/4/12

We have been seeing Tree Sparrows for the last few days. Yesterday we saw one just before sunset and today we saw them in the morning. We had decent sunshine and I was able to get a fairly good photo. Sparrows can be skittish and even when they are not they often blend into the vegetation. Looking at my records, this is first time we have seen them in January in Minnesota. When we were in Randall we would see them in from late February to April. Given our short experience in the Long Prairie area we don’t know if this is unusual or not but even if not we welcome any Sparrow to our backyard.

About things we don’t see. Both Shawnne and I have been hearing a bird (or a group of birds) making a noise a bit like an old car horn in the next property a few hundred feet to our East. Finally 2 days ago when I was walking Sierra, I actually saw the birds, a pair of Pheasants, flying from that property to a nearby field. I have a decent recorder and should have taken it with me so I could compare what we heard to the possible species. But lazy is as lazy does and I had to wait until I saw them.

End of year birding slowdown

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By , December 30, 2011 4:58 pm

Our birdwatching has slowed to a crawl. We record virtually all the birds we see and in July observations for 2 days would cover 50 lines on a screen. In December I can get almost 6 days on the same 50 lines. During the warm months most of our birding excitement was at home, but now most of our interesting birds are found away from home. Shawnne has seen a Bald Eagle and a Kestrel recently and we both have seen the Red-tailed Hawk. All of these we seen while on the road. We have been hoping for some cold weather and some snow. That usually convinces birds to try for the easy meal at the feeder rather work hard for what’s available in December. The odd weather, I am sure, has affected birdwatching. It is much warmer than usual. It is a bit early for Redpolls, but perhaps if we had some cold weather we might get them here.

The best bird photo recently is of a Pileated Woodpecker. This a photo of a female who has been frequenting our feeders. When we were in Randall we saw them all the time. Here we here them sometimes and get them at our feeders rarely.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

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