House Finch

By , March 23, 2013 6:00 pm
House Finch 3/22/13

House Finch 3/22/13

We keep waiting and hoping to see sings of Spring. In particular we are hoping to see the Spring birds come in. A few days ago we saw a few Red Crossbills, but nothing else. So, it was with particular pleasure that we had a male House Finch at our feeder yesterday afternoon. We had last seen one November 19th last year. Usually they come in March. In 2008 we saw them as early as March 2nd. Last year which had an extremely early Spring, they came in on March 13th.

Today on our drive we saw Wild Turkeys and Horned Larks. We still wonder why we never saw them before. They can blend in with the vegetation but they are so active it is almost impossible to miss them. The Turkeys we seem to find in the same place on the back roads on our way to Little Falls. (Love the manure smell, another less pleasant reminder of Spring and the coming planting season.)

Horned Lark 3/23/13

Horned Lark 3/23/13

Wild Turkeys 3/23/13

Wild Turkeys 3/23/13

More signs of Spring

By , March 10, 2013 1:52 pm
Female Cardinal 3/9/13

Female Cardinal 3/9/13

Yesterday we had more snow. In fact we had 3 inches of heavy wet snow that has now become patches of ice in our driveway. Still there are continued signs of Spring. The male Northern Cardinal has started singing. In the past few days we have seen the female along with him. Cardinals here are very skittish so I have to take pictures behind 3 layers of glass. Hence the photos are a bit soft.

4 Red Crossbills at the suet feeder

4 Red Crossbills at the suet feeder 3/10/2013

Horned Lark 3/6/13

Horned Lark 3/6/13

Today Shawnne woke me up to say she thought she saw a Pine Grosbeak in our yard. She was close, it was a Red Crossbill. Neither of us had ever seen one before so it was a treat for us. There were at least four of them and they were among the many Common Redpolls. I have posted one photo of the four at the suet feeder. Again it is a bit soft but it show them clearly.

The Crossbills are just passing through but the Horned Larks we saw last week are going to be resident here. So I have one more photo taken on Wednesday 3/6/13. Doesn’t he have an angry face?

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

Favorite Photos of 2012 – pt 10 – Pine Grosbeak

By , January 28, 2013 12:25 am
Pine Grosbeak 12/2/2012

Pine Grosbeak 12/2/2012

January is a dismal month for birdwatching in Minnesota and 2013 has been no exception to that rule. What is worse is coming after a warm year with a very warm winter, this Winter has been much colder than last and many birds we get regularly haven’t bothered to show up.  We haven’t had any Red-winged Blackbirds or Northern Shrikes this year. In order to fill the gap I have made a series of posts featuring my photos of last year. In part this is to disguise the dismal start we have had this year, and in part to display some of the better photos that almost nobody sees after they are shot.

I have a few other birds I haven’t covered from last year, but most are common birds like the Chipping Sparrow, or birds that I cover each year, such as our Zonotrichia friends. So, I will end my series here.

So, the last favorite photo will be the Pine Grosbeak.  This bird is one we had never seen before. It does appear rarely in NJ, but we never saw it there.  It showed up 5 times, twice in November and 3 times in December.  It is one of the more beautiful birds, even more so considering we only saw what was either female or immature examples. The red colored male didn’t stop. It is not skittish at all. The bird was hanging out chomping on berries in our neighbors yard and it didn’t seem bothered by my attention.

Pine Grosbeak 11/14/2012

Pine Grosbeak 11/14/2012

Pine Grosbeak 12/1/2012

Pine Grosbeak 12/1/2012

Pine Grosbeak 12/2/2012

Pine Grosbeak 12/2/2012

Pine Grosbeak 12/17/2012

Pine Grosbeak 12/17/2012

Favorite Photos of 2012 – pt 9 – Sparrows

By , January 26, 2013 6:54 pm
Clay-colored Sparrow 5/1/12

Clay-colored Sparrow 5/1/12

There are some sparrows that are very common and show up predictably every year at our feeders. There are others that are hardly rare, but which take a bit more effort to see. We had a fantastic day birding on 5/1/12 and one of our visitors was the Clay-colored Sparrow. We only got one good picture that day and I guess that is good enough. The Clay-colored showed up a few more times, but never close enough for a photo.

The next bird is the Fox Sparrow. It is more common that the other birds on the page, but it doesn’t seem to like having his photo taken.

After that we see the Lark Sparrow. I have only seen it once in all my bird watching years and that was April 25th at Lake Maria State Park.

On the next row we have the Savannah Sparrow. This one we saw near our home on a road passing by a pasture. Knowing what we know now we have a good chance of seeing it a few more time next year. It is a very attractive bird, and I hadn’t realized how attractive once I was able to look at the photos I took.

That last bird is the Swamp Sparrow. It is a common bird in much of the country but hard to spot in the reeds it likes to live in. We only saw it 4 times last year (and only 4 times since coming to Minnesota). Again now that we know where to look, we should see it a bit more often this year.

Fox Sparrow 3/28/12

Fox Sparrow 3/28/12

Lark Sparrow 4/25/12

Lark Sparrow 4/25/12

Savannah Sparrow 6/30/12

Savannah Sparrow 6/30/12

Swamp Sparrow 9/19/12

Swamp Sparrow 9/19/12

Favorite Photos of 2012 – pt 8 – Cedar Waxwing

By , January 22, 2013 7:39 pm

Cedar Waxwings in the leaves 5/19/12

Cedar Waxwings in the leaves 5/19/12

“Oh, it’s a long, long while
From May to December
But the days grow short,
When you reach September.”

Those words are from September Song and looking at the observations of the Cedar Waxwing I was reminded of that song. Those birds are usually with us from May to September. They are easy to miss but they are not easily bothered by people so if uou hear them and try to find them you will see them. My wife who can hear better than I always hears them before she sees them. That is not something I have ever done even if they are on top of me. The first picture was taken in May when the flock was hanging around a tree in our driveway. We rarely have to leave home to see them.

At this point in the Winter we are quite ready for Spring and the return of the Waxwings.

Cedar Waxwing 5/14/2012

Cedar Waxwing 5/14/2012

Cedar Waxwing 5/19/2012

Cedar Waxwing 5/19/2012

Cedar Waxwing 5/25/2012

Cedar Waxwing 5/25/2012

Cedar Waxwing 7/28/2012

Cedar Waxwing 7/28/2012

Favorite Photos of 2012 – pt 7 – Northern Flicker

By , January 21, 2013 9:01 pm
Flickers 5/2/2012 taken at Crow Wing State Park

Flickers 5/2/2012 at Crow Wing State Park

One of the more attractive Woodpeckers is the Northern Flicker.  It is one of the more common birds but it is a bit skittish. The best opportunity to shoot it is when it is foraging for worms in the grass. It can be seen along with Robins on many afternoons. 

The first photo is of a pair taken at Crow Wing State Park on May 2, 2012

The other photos were taken in or around our house.  We saw those birds, last year, from March 12 through early October.

Flicker 4/3/2012

Flicker 4/3/2012

Flicker 9/20/12

Flicker 9/20/12

Favorite Photos of 2012 – pt 6 – Dickcissels

By , January 15, 2013 7:16 pm
Dickcissel 6/30/2012

Dickcissel 6/30/2012

The Dickcissel is a common bird found in grasslands in the Central US. It can also be found along the East Coast. When I lived in NJ there were numerous sightings each year. If you aren’t looking for it and not in a position to hear it, as were aren’t when we are driving along the road, this bird can be easily mistaken for the House Sparrow. Once you step outside the car and listen you cannot mistake it for anything else. It is an attractively colored bird. It is not shy so if you can get close you should be able to get farely good photographs.

We cannot wait for Spring to get another chance to see and photograph this remarkable bird.

Dickcissel 7/11/12

Dickcissel 7/11/12

Dickcissel 7/13/12

Dickcissel 7/13/12

Dickcissel 8/1/12

Dickcissel 8/1/12

Dickcissel 8/10/12

Dickcissel 8/10/12

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