Red-headed Woodpecker Recovery Project

Research Team Final Report for MRVAC for 2017 Summer Research Season

By Keith Olstad November 25, 2017 

Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed Woodpecker, courtesy USFWS

Last December, our Red-headed Woodpecker (RHWO) Recovery research team submitted a grant application to the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Club. Our primary request was for funds to defray expenses for increased volunteer and professional field-work to begin to answer these questions:

  1. What factors govern RHWO nest productivity and survival of juveniles into the next year?
  2. What “internal” factors (e.g., sex, body condition, etc.) and/or “external” factors (e.g., food availability, weather, population density) drive RHWO to overwinter at Cedar Creek ecosystem Science Reserve (CCESR) or migrate
  3. Where do RHWO go when they migrate? Do they migrate to the same place each year?

We were deeply gratified to receive a $3,000 grant from the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter. We express a small part of our gratitude with this report on the application of these funds to critical research done this past summer, and offer to do a program for MRVAC detailing our work to date.

With support from a variety of funding sources (as reported in our initial grant proposal), we were able to hire a post-doctoral research coordinator, Dr. Elena West, to coordinate the work of our field research team. Dr. West worked half-time through the summer, and will continued to work this fall through December to analyze our data and formulate our research field work for 2018. Working with Dr. West at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve (CCESR) were two full time seasonal research assistants, Candace Stenzel and Jesse Beck. Resources provided by MRVAC defrayed expenses for field work done at CCESR by this team and by about thirty-six volunteer “citizen scientists”, and helped with laboratory expenses for data analysis.

During the course of the summer, the field research team “processed” sixty-six RHWO at CCESR, fifty adults and sixteen nestlings/fledglings. (“Processed” refers to capturing, banding, taking measurements, drawing blood samples and feather samples for DNA analysis, and possible use of location devices, listed below.) Thirty-nine RHWO were newly banded, and twenty-two nests were monitored. Twenty adults were outfitted with geo-GPS backpacks, of which eight were recovered in late summer and early fall, meaning that CPS and/or geo-locator data were gathered from these birds. Fifteen juveniles were “marked” with radio backpacks, allowing their movement to be tracked. In all, seventy-two birds were captured.

Parallel to the work of the field research technicians, thirty-six citizen science volunteers contributed 1,550 hours to the 2017 summer RHWO research season. They worked on five specific projects:

  1. RHWO nest location
  2. 2. RHWO parental effort in feeding nestlings
  3. Food use identification
  4. Oak tree tagging
  5. Nest cavity porthole installation

Data collected to date will be analyzed for preliminary results during late fall and early winter of 2017. Blood samples taken from summer RHWO captures will receive lab analysis over the 2017-18 winter. Spring 2018 recaptures of transmitter birds will allow downloading data regarding winter locations of these RHWOs.

In addition to the research conducted on RHWO, over the summer fifteen guided hikes and programs about this project, led by RHWO Recovery Project volunteers, provided rich educational opportunities to over 200 people at CCESR.

The research team of the RHWO Recovery Project created a partnership with Dr. Henry Streby at the University of Toledo, who is initiating similar research in Ohio and other states. This partnership will make it possible to compare different population’s genetic patterns and adult and juvenile activities on a broader geographic scale for more conclusive research results.

A new round of grant requests will be issued in the coming months to support and expand our exciting research.

Please feel free to contact me with further questions or concerns about our project’s use of your grant, and to explore setting up a program for MRVAC detailing our work and our vision for future work. And thank you once again for your most generous contribution to the recovery of this splendid bird.

Contacts: Keith Olstad, Convener, Research Team, RHWO Recovery Project (612) 940-1534

Chet Meyers, chair of the Red-headed Woodpecker Recovery Project (612) 374-5581

Audubon Chapter of the North Woods Receives Century Farm

By Bryan Wood, Audubon Center of the North Woods

Ruby & Roger Trapp

Once in a while, an act of generosity leaves you humbled by its magnitude. You can’t help but take a step back, astounded by the goodness of people and their desire to want to leave the world a better place. You marvel at the kindness individuals can show through an organization transformational gift and during these times saying thank you to them simply isn’t adequate. They deserve much more as you try and adequately express your profound gratitude.

Roger and Ruby Trapp are those people. With the substantial help of Audubon Center of the North Woods Board Member Susan VanGorden, Mr. and Mrs. Trapp this summer completed a land transfer of their 101-acre century farm to the Audubon Center of the North Woods. This land, which marks the north boundary of ACNW’s property, has been in Roger’s family since his grandfather Alfred McKay purchased it in 1900. Roger was born there and grew up on the farm that produced flowers, produce, pick-your-own raspberries, chickens, turkeys and cattle. The farm is still in operation today, producing corn.

Of the 101 acre tract the Trapps gifted to ACNW, 48 acres is tilled farmland, with the remaining 53 acres a mix of beautiful hardwood and conifer stands. This land gift would be met with great enthusiasm at any time, but is especially exciting now as it fits into ACNW’s larger plan to have a working educational farm in the future. Food in many aspects is where we each have the largest impact on our planet. Indeed, 70% of all human land use is for food production and the current food system is heavily reliant on fossil fuels for fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, production and distribution. The average item on an American’s plate has traveled 2,000 miles. With our population expected to reach over 9 billion by 2050 and climate change threatening to reduce crop yields by 25%, our ability to feed the world, while caring for our planet is of paramount importance. A United Nations study concluded that the only way to sustainably do that is through local, polyculture farms that are more resistant to disease and less energy intensive.

Over the coming years, ACNW plans to turn the 48 acres of farmland into an organic, polyculture farm where produce, permaculture, pollinators, free-range poultry and grass-fed beef intermingle to provide food for our meals served at the Dining Hall. With the farm contiguous to our existing property, it easily allows for myriad educational opportunities with our K-12 schools, summer camps, post-secondary courses and adult programs. This all will require funds to build up the farm and its infrastructure and efforts will now begin towards securing those funds.

In a way, the Audubon Center of the North Woods is coming full circle. Our existence is due to the generosity of the Schwyzer family donating their farm to become a nature sanctuary and in our first 48 years, environmental education has been taught primarily through nature study.

Today, there is increasing interest in society on where our food comes, the impact it has on our land and water, and how we can make more environmentally conscious choices. As we approach our 50th anniversary, we are poised to expand our environmental programs to include agriculture through a working, educational farm that will provide learning opportunities for individuals and empower them to grow or raise more of their own food and make informed choices. And we have Roger and Ruby Trapp to thank for that. Their farm and legacy will live on as it educates and inspires for generations to come. “We believe in getting kids outside, and want others to enjoy the farm as I have.” Roger said. We invite you to join us in expressing our deepest gratitude to Roger and Ruby, and to join us on this exciting journey ahead.

We Need Good People! Volunteer Opportunities

MRVAC can always use volunteers for both short term projects and longer term commitments.

Treasurer  Bob Williams will retire as Treasurer in May 2018. He is willing to coach the new Treasurer through the first year. Duties include checking the PO Box, depositing checks, paying bills and reporting on account balance, income and expenses and keeping current with state and federal filings. bxwilliams@cbburnet.com

Board members  meet once a month. During the meetings, the board makes decisions about spending money (i.e. the grants offered by the chapter – see more about past awards on the web: http://mrvac.org/grants/ ) responds to requests. The board also plans ways to raise money, attract members and increase diversity.

Board members periodically take on a special project approved by the board like helping with the fundraising auction, planning a special celebration, finding volunteers to help with an event at the refuge, attracting new and retaining existing members, recruiting speakers, helping partner organizations (e.g. 2 board members led 2 field trips for East Side Neighborhood Services, related to their grant).

There is no immediate opening on the board, but interested persons could start attending meetings now to get up-to-speed! Contact Rick Magee, MRVAC secretary or any other board member: rrickvex@live.com

Membership chair  – welcome everyone attending the monthly meetings (make sure someone is at the nametag table) send the annual renewal mailing to local members and work with National as needed to keep membership list up to date. (Greg Burnes is filling in for now.) gburnes@comcast.net

Newsletter editor  – Anne Hanley would like to take a break for 2 years until she retires. If someone could fill in, that would be marvelous! anne_hanley90@hotmail.com

Field trip leaders and assistants  If interested, contact Cheri Fox at cherifoxj@gmail.com

MRVAC 50th Anniversary Celebration Report

Bob Janssen introduces speaker Al Batt

The 50th  Anniversary celebration on September 28 was a wonderful evening. It included delicious snacks including Italian bruschetta trays, fruit plates and caprese skewers from Kowalski’s, organized by Betsy Magee and Robin Kutz. In addition to the savory snacks, there was a magnificent cake – marble with white frosting and a teal MRVAC logo in the center.

As people checked in, they had an opportunity to get their photo taken in front of their favorite Chef Eric Gideon Baker’s photo in the gallery.

Thanks to our photographer-extraordinaire for the evening, Media Mike Hazard!

Bob Janssen introduced Al Batt with a story about how Al promised to show him a black billed cuckoo in Freeborn County but somehow Bob never did get see a black billed cuckoo – and is still missing one for his Freeborn County list.

Al Batt told delightful stories about how his love of birds started along with moving examples of how individuals have made a difference, making the world better for people and birds.

He describes Freeborn county residents enlisting local business to clean up Albert Lea Lake (including pulling a quarter of a steer out of the lake and depositing it in the Hormel board room), Owen Johnson’s persistence in building local support and persuading the legislature to create Myre-Big Island State Park to his father taking time out from milking cows to watch a Snowy Owl with young Al, as well as Al’s own commitment to taking children out birding.

His talk ended with ‘Thanks for all you do’, reminding us again that we can each make a difference.

Robin Kutz wheels in the food.
Betsy Magee sets up in the Visitor Center.

Holiday Auction! Thursday, November 16

Get some of your holiday shopping done, have fun and raise money to support a variety of environmental education projects. Come and bid often, bid high and have fun doing it for our environmental education program!

If you can donate auction items or provide refreshments, thank you!!

Where: Our annual fundraising auction will be held at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center: 3815 American Blvd E, Bloomington

When: Thursday November 16, 2017 at 5:30-9:00 pm

  • 5:30 pm  Drop off auction donations, check out the items on offer and enjoy  refreshments.
  • 6:45 – 8:15 pm  Live auction – Mark Lystig and Scott Clark team up again. If you attended in past years, you know they are not to be missed!
  • 8:15 – 8:55 pm check out and clean up

Why: Raise money for Refuge needs and other environmental education projects

Who: You and your friends. Please come to the Auction and buy something – we’ll have items in every price range.

  1. Make plans to drop off your contribution ahead of time. Coordinate with Anne: 952-936-0811(h), anne_hanley90@hotmail.com
  2. Please let Robin Kutz know if you can bring some snacks. Call her at 612-723-2632 or email robinkutz13@gmail.com
  3. If you need to bring your items on Thursday evening, please make every effort to deliver them between 5:30 and 6:15 pm so people can preview your items before the bidding starts.

To tempt you to attend, here are some Auction items we know about so far:

  • Vortex Raptor 8.5×32 Binoculars, retail value $99.99. Quality porro prisms; mid-size, wide angle design featuring waterproof, fog-proof construction and fully multi-coated optics -delivers a bright, crisp image with excellent color fidelity—even in low light conditions. This binocular can be easily adjusted to fit anyone.
  • Tripod for camera or scope
  • Monopod
  • Bird feeders: tube type, new
  • 2-volume boxed set of the 1966 Original Water Color Paintings of John James Audubon. It is in mint condition.
  • Bavarian Mints (Rita Baden)
  • Krumkake ($10 flat rate per dozen) (Cheri Fox)
  • Bread
  • Wine
  • Gift certificates
  • Ceramics
  • Ugandan basket (red, pine green, tan and brown with white accents)
  • Ugandan handcrafted 28” multi-strand beaded necklace (cinnamon and lime green colored)
  • Bird of your choice custom crossstitched on clothing or household item (sandhill crane, scissor tailed flycatcher, red bellied woodpecker, etc)
  • Bald Eagle plush toy 9” tall, Jaag brand

2017 Christmas Bird Count & Soup Supper: December 16-17

You are invited to join us for the 118th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). All levels of experience are welcome. Young birders with good eyes and ears are especially appreciated as an addition to a team of more experienced birders with good ID skills. Come help us count the birds!

Three counts are associated with MRVAC:

  • Bloomington CBC  – Saturday 12/16 – Contact: Bart Anderson 612-719- 6103, andersonbartlee@gmail.com.
  • Excelsior CBC  – Saturday 12/16 – Contacts: Howard Towle towle001@umn.edu.  *Call Howard no later than Dec 9 to participate
  • Cedar Creek Bog CBC  – Sunday 12/17 – Contact: Steve Weston at sweston2@comcast.net.

Potluck Soup Supper, Saturday, 12/16

On Saturday, 12/16, gather between 4:30 and 5 pm to help set up for a potluck soup supper  at the Diamond Lake Lutheran Church, 5760 Portland Ave 55417. Juice and coffee will be available from 5 to 5:30 and the meal begins at 5:30 pm. Please bring soup, veggies, fruit, bread or dessert. Please contact Robin at 612-723-2632 or robinkutz13@gmail.com if you have soupsupper questions. You are welcome at the supper whether you counted with the Bloomington CBC or not.

The Bloomington CBC  (Saturday, Dec. 16) is centered on the Black Dog Power Plant on the Minnesota River and includes parts of Bloomington, Burnsville, Richfield, Eagan, Apple Valley, and smaller parts of other cities. If you would like to help count in this area, contact Bart Anderson (see above).

The Excelsior CBC  (Saturday, Dec. 16) is centered on the intersection of Hwys 5 and 101 in Eden Prairie and includes parts of Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Excelsior, Chanhassen, Chaska and Shakopee. If you’d like to help count in the SW Metro area, please contact Howard Towle (see above) no later than December 9 as it is hard to rearrange the groups at the last minute.

Alternatively, you can participate in the Excelsior count by helping to cover a portion of Carver Park . Please contact Kirk Mona (the naturalist at the Lowry Nature Center) no later than December 9 if you would like to arrange to bird a specific portion of the park: Kirk Mona, Naturalist, Lowry Nature Center at 763-694-7650.

For the Cedar Creek Bog CBC  (Sunday 12/17) in northern Anoka and southern Isanti counties, please contact Steve Weston (see above). There are not expected to be many openings available to participate in this count.

2017 Holiday Auction: November 16

Please think about what donations you could collect for the fundraising auction Thursday November 16.

We could especially use a few larger items like a boat trip, use of a cabin, a homemade dinner or a behind the scenes tour.

Please email the committee with your ideas or let us know in advance, ideally by October 1 if possible, about your contributions so we can mention them in our publicity:

Wild Ones Native Plant Tour: August 13

Join the tour of five Minnesota River Valley yards with native landscaping; get some ideas for your own yard and see how various plants look ‘in person’.

An Aug 13 tour of native plant gardens in the Bloomington/Burnsville area includes gardens belonging to MRVAC members Becky Lystig, Liz Stanley, and Pat Stevesand. A 4th garden is a woodland reclaimed from buckthorn. All 4 gardens support bird habitat. The 5th location, adjacent to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, is a series of neighborhood curb cut rain gardens that mitigate water flowing into the Minnesota River.

For details go to prairieedge.wildones.org and click on Summer Tours at the top of the page. Then scroll to the bottom to Download the tour brochure. The tour is a fundraiser for the Prairie Edge chapter of Wild Ones.

Salt Lake Weekend Birding Recap

By Ken Larson – – PrairieMarshFarm@Comcast.net 

On April 29 over 100 birders from around the state searched the lakes, wetlands, woods and prairies of Lac Qui Parle, Big Stone and Yellow Medicine counties, finding 147 species of birds. Cold wet weather 2 days before and the later date for the weekend resulted in a good variety of waterfowl, raptors, shorebirds, warblers and sparrows.

Some of the best birds of the weekend were the Black-necked Stilt at Lone Tree Lake and a Prairie Falcon in southwestern Lac Qui Parle County, both reported by Jason Frank. Scott and Marilyn Scott spotted a Golden Eagle near Big Stone Lake and three miles northwest of Madison, Rebecca Flood was the first to spot a large flock of over 648 American Golden Plovers. Nearby at Madrena WMA, three White-faced Ibis, 123 American White Pelicans and one Western Grebe were spotted. Two Ferruginous Hawks were seen as well as numerous Swainson’s Hawks. Altogether 23 shorebird, 15 sparrow and 5 warbler species were counted.

All the birders involved extend thanks to the City of Marietta and the American Legion Womens Auxilary for breakfast and lunch and to the City of Madison and the Sons of Norway for dinner. Anyone wishing a complete list can email me directly at PrairieMarshFarm@comcast.net or find it on the MOU web site: http://moumn.org/saltlake/.