Chip Notes – November-December, 2018

Great Horned OwlThe Fall season of MRVAC-sponsored presentations at the Minnesota River Valley National Wildlife Refuge began with an ample and appreciative audience benefiting from Ben Douglas’ experience in finding rare birds by his own efforts.

Ben’s talk was very well organized and his strategies can be used by any motivated birder. One of the things I most appreciate from his talk was his adaptability. Take birding style. Ben likes to put in some miles when he birds, yet he admits that his good friend Mike Nichol’s style of remaining in one place and seeing what passes by might often be the better strategy. Study migration trends, weather patterns, landscapes, “find your own hawk ridge” and watch what flies by. Observe a single snag. Get to know a specific area very well, in different seasons, at different times of day, in different weather.

The second thing I most appreciate from his talk is his advice to take any observations, any new behavior seen, any new sound heard, as an opportunity to solve a mystery. By remaining actively curious, but even more, by making active efforts to solve the mystery, we become better, more knowledgeable co-inhabitants of the natural world.

I used this attitude on my next walk from my house to the YWCA. This time I didn’t just wonder what that leaf was, I looked it up on my IPhone. Pin oak! Finally, I know what a pin oak leaf looks like! Isn’t it a bit pitiful that it’s taken me this long? Ben advocates that we use the technology at our disposal in the here and now to solve mysteries. I am so used to doing most of my birding in places where there never was and still isn’t an internet connection (typically, the western UP of Michigan), that I don’t automatically avail myself of the internet tools available to increase my knowing of the world. Wired or not wired, I could always be better at jotting down my questions and observations, and taking active steps to solve them as soon as I am able. I tell the persons I serve in my work all the time that treating ourselves with an attitude of curiosity and our problems as puzzles to be solved is a great antidepressant. And it is! It bypasses the worried-ruminating parts of our brain.

The third thing I want to note is that when one uses all of Ben’s strategies, rare birds remain rare birds. Take owls. He shared his tips for finding owls – check evergreen, especially cedar, groves, especially groves along edges of field and prairies. Check EVERY tree. Stare at the tree. Walk slowly. Check again. Put time in over hours, days, months, years… Ben shared that he has indeed found rare owls. Then he showed his chart. If I remember correctly, seven rare owls between 2013 and 2018! Rare owls remain rare owls! Finding them is a hoot, but the real joy is the opportunity of (in Ben’s case) daily immersion in the natural world.

The last thing I want to say is that coming to MRVAC Refuge presentations can have consequences! Ben shared stories of the Minnesota State Parks Big Year he did this year. The seeds of this effort were planted when he listened to Bob Janssen’s talk on the birds of Minnesota’s State Parks a couple of years ago. So be careful if you plan to come to our next talk – you might find yourself making plans to see every kiwi in New Zealand, or something absurd like that…

Finally, a congratulations to the Ney Nature Center. Their grant proposal for binoculars and a spotting scope to allow the youth they serve to be able to view in fine detail the birds they see on birding walks was approved by the MRVAC Board at our September meeting. Have a worthy grant idea!

Know someone who serves our target population (youth, particularly underserved youth) in and around the Minnesota River watershed)? If so, do submit your proposals.

Enjoy a splendid Fall!

December 15: Christmas Bird Count & Potluck Soup Supper

You are invited to join us for the 119th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. 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. Come help us count the birds!

Soup Supper: On Saturday 12/15, 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 soup-supper questions. You are welcome at the supper whether you counted with the Bloomington CBC or not.

Three counts are associated with MRVAC: 

  • Bloomington CBC – Saturday 12/15
    • The Bloomington CBC (Saturday, Dec. 15) 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.
    • Contact: Greg Burnes, 612-205-3071 gburnes@comcast.net 
  • Excelsior CBC – Saturday 12/15
    • The Excelsior CBC (Saturday, Dec. 15) 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.
      • Contact: Howard Towle at towle001@umn.edu or 612-710-1451 no later than December 8.
    • Alternatively, you can participate in the Excelsior count by helping to cover a portion of Carver Park.
  • Cedar Creek Bog CBC – Sunday 12/16

There are about 80 Christmas Bird Counts being held throughout Minnesota. For more information and to participate in other counts go to: http://moumn.org/CBC/locations_map.php.

August 18: Henderson Hummingbird Hurrah

Birds, Butterflies & Blooms

Produced by Henderson Feathers

9 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Rain or Shine!

  • Bender Park: 200 N. Third Street
  • Minnesota New Country School (MNCS): 210 Main Street
  • Garden: Corner of 4th Street & Oak Street

9:00 am – noon: Hummingbird Banding in the garden

9:30 am – 10:30 am: Garden Tour – Master gardener Sarah Malchow

9:30 am: Painting with Lana Beck…$15 fee (2 hour Session)
(Limited Class Size of 12, please pre-register at 507-665-6570 to save a spot!)

10:45 am – 11:30 am: David Rice, Gardener/Instructor (MNCS Speaker)

12:30 pm: Painting with Lana Beck…$15 fee (2 hour Session)
(Limited Class Size of 12, please pre-register at 507-665-6570 to save a spot!)

1:00 pm – 1:45 pm: Donald Mitchell, Master Gardener (MNCS Speaker)

1:45 pm – 2:30 pm: Garden Tour – Master gardener Jackie Smith

2:45 pm – 3:45 pm: Al Batt, Author & Humorist (MNCS Speaker)
Educational Displays: MN River Valley Audubon Chapter
Monarchs – MN Ext. Blue Earth County, Cody Sievert – Bees & More!

4:00 pm: Drawing for Raffle Prizes! Need not be present to win!

9:00 am – 4:00 pm: Children’s Activities – MNCS Library
Includes Coloring Contest / Cash Prizes!!!
Lillipop Clown, Face Painting & More!
Hummingbird Mall Vendors… Food… Raffle Prizes!!!

FREE Fun for the Whole Family!

Volunteer to Lead/Co-lead Bird Walks

Would you be willing to share a favorite birding spot with other MRVAC members? Birding by bike or canoe might be fun! Pick your favorite park or trail, somewhere close by or further afield, and then contact me, Cheri Fox, about adding an outing to next year’s field trip schedule. We’d love to have a few more field trip leaders. I can be reached by phone at 612-590-1261 or cherifoxj@gmail.com.

If you have been thinking about leading a walk but are a little unsure about it, you may set up a field trip with a co-leader. You need not be an expert, you just need to be welcoming to your participants and have some experience with the trip location. For example, it’s very helpful if you have birded there before, know the park features (restrooms, optional trails back to the parking lot) – and where at least a few birds are likely to be found. 

2018 Birdathon: May 1-15

It’s time to prepare for the 2018 MRVAC Bird-a-Thon FUNdraiser! Here’s how to participate: You simply ask friends and relatives to either pledge to donate a certain amount per bird sighted or a specified sum. Some birders will sight over 100 birds on a Bird-a-Thon day, so a pledge of 25 cents per bird could bring in $25.00 from one sponsor.

Download your Birdathon Pledge Form here!

You get to pick a day between May 1 and May 15 as your Bird-a-Thon day. You can bird anywhere in the world for up to 24 hours (less is fine) on your chosen day. This is an opportunity to spend a day birding while raising money for MRVAC. The funds will be used to support birder education efforts, such as programs at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, area parks and nature centers. We have also supported efforts like the Red Headed Woodpecker project.

Ideally, all donations that you collect should be submitted to Bob Williams by June 1, 2018. You can contact him at 612-728-2232 or by email at bxwilliams@cbburnet.com. It is best to give the donations directly to Bob at one of the general meetings, but they also can be mailed to MRVAC at PO Box 20400, Bloomington, MN 55420. You don’t need to sponsor a birder to donate; direct donations are welcomed as well!

You may also donate via the MRVAC GiveMN site.

Get your pledge form, and go forth and bird!

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

Birders and Birding

The older I get the more I like birders, the younger ones especially. Yes, we older birders are OK, even with our faults and some of us, who are really old, with our ignorance of the digital age. I would like to ask your indulgence while I do my best to relate a story of a recent bird trip made up of young birders and one old guy.

In early September I was leading a bird class for North House Folk School at the end of the Gunflint Trail. Josh Watson of Grand Marais was my very able and experienced “young” assistant. Josh did a great job in finding birds like a Golden-crowned Kinglet which I can no longer hear because of their high pitched song. A few weeks after the class my phone rang and it was Josh saying “let’s plan an October trip to Cass County to get your list for the county up to 225”, I replied “That would be just great”. The phone call ended with Josh saying, “I will get the guys (John and Chris Hockema, and Shawn Conrad) together and we will go to Cass County at the end of October and get you three species”. I didn’t have a single scoter species for Cass County so they would be the target birds for our trip. Our plans were to go to Cass County on October 26, 27 and 28.

October 26 came and it was snowing but that did not stop our heading north. I picked up Josh at his grand-mothers house in Ham Lake and we headed for our motel In Pine River, Cass County and the meeting with Shawn Conrad. The three of us headed for Walker and the sewage ponds to look for the reported Harlequin Duck, a really “choice” bird for Cass County. It didn’t take long for us to find the Harlequin Duck, # 223 for Cass County. A Harlequin Duck, a good dinner in Walker and a sound night’s sleep in Pine River really were a good start for the trip.

Early the next morning we were joined by John and Chris Hockema and to my surprise we were joined by Becca Engdahl and her friend, Alex Burchard, two young, up-and-coming and enthusiastic Minnesota birders. Our first stop was the Walker Sewage Ponds to look for the Harlequin Duck which Chris needed for his list. A long search proved futile, we could not find the bird, our first disappointment.

To make a long story short, we spent the rest of the morning touring Leech Lake, Cass Lake, and the Cass Lake Sewage Ponds in hopes of finding any species of Scoter, no luck. Shawn knew of some bogs in the area where we might find a Boreal Chickadee. Beautiful Pine Grosbeaks and Gray Jays were present but no Boreal Chickadees. The day wore on and my list stayed at 223. We were all concerned that our target species, scoters, had all but disappeared or were just not here as we had hoped. Shawn said “let’s try Lake Winnibigoshish, I know some good spots where there should be scoters”. On the way to “Winnie” we traveled through some beautiful wooded evergreen areas, all of us were thinking Black-backed Woodpecker. Mile after mile no luck, all of a sudden Shawn said “STOP”. I wondered why, I hadn’t seen or heard a thing. We stopped and we were all quiet when we heard the tap of a Black-backed Woodpecker stripping bark from a tree. We had difficulty pin-pointing the sound but finally we saw the bird on a downed log, # 224 for Cass County. It was a life-bird for Becca and she crept within 15 feet of the bird, and took wonderful photos and she said it was one of the most rewarding birding experiences she had ever had. Her experience with the woodpecker was a real treat for all of us.

Then Shawn said once again “Let’s go to Winnie, there have to be ducks on there”. We searched the bays and shoreline for over an hour without finding a single duck. Finally our luck changed and we found a bay full of water birds, grebes, both Red-necked and Horned plus a few Pied-billed Grebes and a few Long-tailed Ducks and Lesser Scaup. All of a sudden Josh hollered “there is a scoter”, all scopes went to that spot and there was a White-winged Scoter, #225 for Cass County. This turned out to be the only scoter we saw on the trip but it was a “big” one.

The light was fading but we still had time to check further on “Winnie” but to no avail. There just were not any more waterfowl to be found. We had a great meal together in Walker that evening, a few bottles of beer, lots of bird talk and then a great night’s sleep in spite of Chris’s snoring which shook the whole motel at times.

The next morning we tried the Walker Sewage Ponds again but the Harlequin had disappeared. Birding strategy was discussed and it was decided that we would go over to Lake Superior and look for the reported Red Phalarope in Lake County and the Pacific Loon in Cook County. We failed on the Red Phalarope and then we decided to split up, the young birders would go north for the Pacific Loon and I would head south for home. They got the Pacific Loon and I stopped in Two Harbors where I spotted a small group of birders looking through scopes. They were looking at a Mountain Bluebird which was a new Lake County bird for me. I drove back home a very happy birder, 225 for Cass County and a new county bird for Lake County!

Driving home from Two Harbors I was thinking about how fortunate I was to have young birding friends who were great companions and most helpful with their enthusiasm about finding and enjoying birding, it was a good ride home!

Bird Surveys in Renville County

Lessons in Monoculture Birding

By Bob Janssen, MRVAC Board of Directors 

Here’s my story of how I came to do bird surveys in one of the most intensely agricultural counties, Renville. If you check a map, you will see that the northern boundary is roughly Highway 7. The Minnesota River forms the diagonal boundary.

Common Yellowthroat, courtesy of USFWS

At the MOU spring meeting in St. Paul, I met an old friend, Steve Stucker, who is Director of the Minnesota County Biological Survey. Steve is one of Minnesota’s most knowledgeable birders because of his extensive experience with the geographical distribution of Minnesota birds. I mentioned that I was looking for useful work to keep me busy. Steve told me to get in touch with his wife who is looking for help doing bird surveys in areas in western Minnesota. It sounded exactly like what I was looking for, especially since it might get me back into working with birds.

Jennifer Stucker is the Research Biologist for West Inc who are Environmental and Statistical Consultants doing work in western Minnesota where wind generators are potentially going to be installed. I called Jennifer and was hired and assigned to survey 17 GPS locations in a township in Renville County. I can think of better locations to look for birds but it was work and best of all it had to do with birds!

Surveys were required at each location for 70 minutes once per month. I was trained in the field by one of West’s most experienced people. I thought I knew many things about doing bird surveys but I learned a lot of new techniques while doing these surveys. The surveys included observation of a Bald Eagle nest near to the points I was to survey. Who ever thought there would be a Bald Eagle nest in the “middle” of the corn and soybean monoculture in Renville County?

I have been doing the surveys since April and I have found that this monoculture of agriculture is a great lesson in the changing landscape of Minnesota. This monoculture extends for miles, as far as the eye can see, corn and soybean planted almost to the edge of the road and the ditches along the road where grass and other plants remain which is usually mowed for the hay it produces. Where is there any habitat for birds?

I was really discouraged but as time passed and I grew familiar with the landscape I found out how resilient birds can be. The main grassland habitat that remains is along the drainage ditches which are everywhere. Some of these ditches are 20 to 30 feet or more deep but they are full of grass and other vegetation “spills” out over the top of the ditches. Vesper Sparrows are common along the gravel roads where the ditches and grass occur, Horned Larks, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Yellowthroats and even a few Bobolinks use the ditch grass for nesting. In addition to birds, butterflies are abundant in the sparse habitat along the gravel roads.

Another area that is good for birds in this intense agriculture area is the farmsteads. Most of the homes are surrounded by dense brush and many species of trees which provide excellent woodland habitat for Red-headed Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers and Downy Woodpeckers. Mourning Doves and Red-winged Blackbirds are probably the most common birds in the area, they are everywhere and an occasional Eurasian Collared-Dove can be heard about the farm houses. American Robins, Barn Swallows and House Wrens are present around each farm home. I have even found Least Flycatchers in a few of the woodlots. Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels are seen along the utility lines.

The agricultural portions of Renville County, with their monoculture of corn and soybeans, is not the place to look for rarities but in spite of this, the area provides habitat for many Minnesota birds so there is hope for the species that I have mentioned above.

In a few areas of the county where I am working there are extensive areas of grassland. One Waterfowl Production Area covers almost a square mile and the birdlife here is amazing, Bobolinks and Sedge Wrens are everywhere and can be heard as you drive by this beautiful prairie area. I haven’t had time to study the area but it no doubt has many other species of grassland birds. It shows what the preservation of habitat can do for birds.

The bird that is missing from the whole area is the Western Meadowlark; I wonder what it would take to restore this species to Renville County? What a treat it would be to hear their song drifting over this landscape

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/.

More Birding in Koochiching

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), Gary M. Stoltz, USFWS

In my last article, I wrote about my adventures to Koochiching County in January. These adventures continued into March with the great anticipation of a county lister. Those of us that keep track of birds by county are an “interesting” group of birders. We chase after common birds in remote places and have much fun increasing our county list numbers. This may sound like a strange way to see birds but it really isn’t, it teaches us over and over again what the distribution of Minnesota birds is all about. My latest adventure took me again to Koochiching County, the Minnesota county where I’ve seen the fewest species.

Through a network of birders created by Al Meadows in International Falls I found out that there were Great Horned and Northern Saw-whet Owls being heard near the small town of Littlefork. I had to plan a trip there ASAP to see and/or hear those owls and add them to my Koochiching County list. The trip was postponed for many days because of high winds and bad weather in the area. Windy days are bad for finding owls. Finally on March 21, I headed north. There was lots of snow left on the ground and the temperature was 10 degrees when I reached Littlefork at 5:00 PM. There was no wind and the sky was clear, great for looking for owls.

I met Lori Dobbs at her home. She greeted me like I was an old friend. Aren’t birders the greatest people! She immediately said let’s go and I will show you where I heard the owls.
For the next hour we drove around numerous back roads around Littlefork. Lori explained to me the area and where she had heard and seen both species of owls that I was looking for. After this adventure she led me to the only motel in town and the fancy (only) restaurant in town. I rented a room and then told Lori I would call her later and inform her of my findings. I sat down to dinner and when the waitress came to my table she asked me if I was Bob. Surprised to say the least, I asked how did you know? She replied that Lori and Gordon Dobbs were providing my dinner. What a treat and again I said to myself aren’t birders the greatest?

The sun was setting and I was through with dinner so I set off to find the owls. I went down a deadend road where Lori had pointed out that other birders had heard Great Horned Owls a week or so ago. It was a perfect night for owls, calm, clear and cold. I stopped the car, opened the windows and listened. Within 20 seconds I heard a Great Horned Owl hooting its’ “heart out” loud and clear. I scanned the horizon in the fading light and there was the silhouette of the most beautiful Great Horned Owl I had ever seen, # 222 for Koochiching County and the # 87th county for me in Minnesota for Great Horned Owl!

Northern Saw-whet Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus), Dave Darney, USFWS

I spent the next 3 hours traveling lonely back roads trying to hear a Northern Saw-whet Owl, all to no avail. It was well after 9:00 PM, I was tired after driving 300 + miles since morning. I decided for one last try, close to the motel that was near Lori’s home. It was near 10:00 PM, the stars and Milky Way were out brighter than ever. Before I got out of the car and turned off the engine I vaguely heard something that sounded a bit like a Saw-whet, I passed it off as my ears (brain) hearing what I wanted to hear. I stopped in the Dobbs’ driveway and got out of the car to enjoy the stars. Within 30 seconds there it was, the distinct low whistled “toots” of a Northern Saw-whet coming from some distance away. It was # 223 for Koochiching County, only 2 away from the coveted 225. Isn’t it great that county listers can count heard birds!

I slept well that night in Littlefork. I got up at 5:30 AM to drive to my next birding effort in Cook (St. Louis County), about 70 miles away, to look for an American Three-toed Woodpecker. I was to meet Julie Grahn, a local birder, and another birder named Jack (I never did get his last name) from Kansas City, who also wanted to see a Black-backed Woodpecker and the American Three-toed Woodpecker. We met at the McDonald’s in Cook at 8:00 AM and got into Julie’s car and spent the next 4 hours looking for my nemesis bird, the American Three-toed Woodpecker.

American Three-toed Woodpecker
American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis), by pbonenfant – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2483238

The definition of a nemesis bird is a bird that all your fellow listers have seen but no matter how hard you tried you have never seen one. Well to make a long story short, in spite of Julie’s great efforts and hospitality, the American Three-toed Woodpecker is still my nemesis bird. I did find two Black-backed Woodpeckers which made Jack happy. Julie and Jack went back to the spot after I left for home and saw the Three-toed. See what I mean by nemesis? So it is back to Cook in the near future to see what I can do about a nemesis. Maybe I will write a success story about it in a coming issue of the “Trumpeter”. I sure did meet some great birders on this trip which is always a neat experience.