By Bob Janssen, MRVAC President Elect
It was May 11, 1947, a Saturday morning, and I was on my way to look at birds at Frontenac, the warbler capital of Minnesota. I was 14 years old and I couldn’t drive so my dad said he would take me and a friend on my first birding trip outside the Twin Cities area. We arrived at the old cemetery and it was loaded with birds, Blackburnian Warblers sitting on picnic tables near us. There were Mourning Warblers in the dense undergrowth that surrounded the cemetery. Black-throated Green Warblers were singing their “see-see suzy” song from the tall trees nearby. American Redstarts were everywhere. We spent the whole day watching migrating birds, sparrows, vireos, warblers, thrush’s, flycatchers and wrens pour through the woods at Frontenac. What an experience for a young teenager. I am forever grateful to my father for taking me on this magnificent trip.
A couple of weeks ago I saw the report of a Carolina Wren being seen at the old cemetery in Frontenac. I thought it was time to renew my acquaintance with this area and go and see if I could find the Carolina Wren which would be a new bird for my Goodhue County list. Sunday morning, November 27, 2016, I said to my wife lets go birding and see what the old cemetery at Frontenac looks like after the passage of 60 plus years; I didn’t mention that I wanted see a Carolina Wren. Suzanne is not a birder but she has put up with my birding activities for well over 60 years.
It was a cloudy, dreary day when we got to the cemetery, not a bird in sight, but the area looked just the same as it was many years ago. I decided to play the Carolina Wren song on my tape. No response, after several tries with the taped song. A White-breasted Nuthatch did respond. The best response was from a six foot six human who asked if I had heard the Carolina Wren. I said “No, but I did play the song from my tape”. His name was Ben and he looked disappointed. He said the bird had been seen and heard earlier down the road but he and his group had not seen it. I drove to this area and found five more birders, all of whom I knew. They had heard me play the tape. I suggested we play the mobbing tape and within two minutes the Carolina Wren put on a “show” right in front of us. There were over 25 Black-capped Chickadee’s, numerous Downy Woodpeckers and White-breasted Nuthatches with the wren that had been attracted by the tape. We had beautiful views of the Carolina Wren and it was a life bird for Ben! The Frontenac cemetery once again lived up to its reputation as one of Minnesota’s best birding destinations.