One of the pleasures of serving on the MRVAC Board is encountering interesting, kind people. A very recent encounter included meeting with a recently bereaved woman and her son to receive a generous donation in the memory of her husband Tim Leahy who had long valued MRVAC. To everyone’s surprise, it turned out that our past Treasurer, Bob Williams, was related to them!
Those married to dedicated birders might be familiar with the kind of behavior Jared Diamond relates about himself in The World Until Yesterday while he is floating in the sea off the Indonesian coast with several other unfortunates many miles from shore holding onto the wreckage of a capsized canoe. While aware that he has only an hour or two to be found prior to the abrupt tropical sunset and ensuing darkness ending any probability of surviving, he still finds himself noticing the beauty of the natural scene around him and paying attention to and striving to identify the birds flying around him. Even in dire situations we can still find some joy.
In my last musing, I admitted my despair. Kind people have responded with encouragement to keep fighting and not succumb to despair. That is not a danger for me. I firmly believe it is healthy to be honest about the existential realities of living – we are creatures bounded by time, certain to die, weaving the threads of time and space that constitute being within a process we call evolution which takes no prisoners. At some level, we all know this. The current dire environmental situation brings it to the fore of consciousness where it becomes hard to ignore, and where the appropriate evaluation of our odds does merit despair. Yet we are all still attuned to natural beauty, enjoy our families and have good days.
I went to Isle Royale National Park in June with my son, our first trip to the archipelago. In the trip report I’ve written for the Geological Society of Minnesota, I write that I have never taken more congruent breaths in my life! John Keats might indicate why:
I had a dove and the sweet dove died;
And I have thought it died of grieving.
O, what could it grieve for? It’s feet were tied,
With a silken thread of my own hand’s weaving.
Sweet little red feet! Why would you die –
Why should you leave me, sweet bird! Why?
You lived alone on the forest-tree,
Why, pretty thing, could you not live with me?
I kissed you oft and gave you white peas;
Why not live sweetly, as in the green trees?
On Isle Royale the habitat was congruent with what our ancestors experienced during the long duration of hominid evolution. Only in modern times have our feet been tied by a silken thread; civilization’s delicacies have entailed the loss of the forest green. It matters. To the dove inside each one of us, and to the birds and other creatures still trying to survive in a denuded and rapidly altered world.
I will keep up the fight, even with incongruent breath. My current priorities are preserving the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act. Please join me!
Published by Princeton University Press
This very attractive book is a good introduction to gardening for butterflies. Interspersed with lots of great photos you will find an overview of the main butterfly families and some guidance on identification. If you have enjoyed some butterflies in your yard and are thinking about making it more attractive to a wider variety of butterflies, this book is a good place to start.
Some butterfly books and articles focus only on nectar plants for your garden, but this book spends equal time on the plants that support the caterpillars. You will see that various species feed on grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees.
I also learned that not all butterflies consume flower nectar; some eat tree sap, rotting fruit and animal dung. This isn’t going to help you select plants for your front yard, but you might consider setting up a hanging shelf for watermelon rinds or other fruit.
Nearly half the book describes gardens and gardening tips for different parts of the country. The two chapters most relevant for our area are “Butterfly Gardening with Trees: Eastern Deciduous Forest” and “Prairie-Plant Inspired Butterfly Gardens: the Grasslands”.
In the Resources – Plant and Garden Design section of Butterfly Gardening, I was pleased to see Heather Holm’s book Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants.
You will also want to look for local plant information – e.g. the plant list at http://nababutterfly.com/regional-butterfly-garden-guides/ and click on the Minneapolis one, written by Kathy Heidel. Some of you will remember Kathy Heidel from her years as a naturalist with Three Rivers Park District and the MRVAC bird ID classes she co-taught with Karol Gressor.
Or try the plant list from the Xerces Society: https://xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/plant-lists/
If you want detailed information on Minnesota native plants including photos of the plant in all stages of development with details on growth habit, bloom time, color and where it is found in the state, visit https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/
It’s hard to know, but the world may have ended the day the uber-handsome Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, bought the moribund Kinder-Morgan pipeline for 4.5 billion dollars. Part of me hopes he did it in order to shut it down. The rest of me suspects he has revealed that Canada is a petro state. That Canada is not any different from Russia or Saudi Arabia (or what used to be called the United States). That the Earth as we know it has ended. As Bill McKibben says – “game over.”
How is it we continue to live in a post-apocalyptic world? It’s not something I can wrap my mind around.
Trudeau’s incredible betrayal is matched by the infamy of my local politicians at the local level. Here in pseudo-liberal Minneapolis I am told that it is too expensive to build carbon neutral housing. (It’s not too expensive, really, it’s just that the return on investment might take a little longer – or have to take account of environmental costs…) If Minneapolis can’t/won’t do it, I guess nobody will. The situation is disgusting, and these people disgust me. Individual bad choices or unwillingness to make the tough, right choice is going to continue to get us in trouble. But this is nothing compared to dooming Gaia itself – this good Earth and all its creatures – to ecocide.
Yet we go on. I go to work. I read. I play the piano. I maintain my MRVAC affiliations. I bird. I enjoy my children and my grandchild. Nothing I do anymore, however, is taken for granted. The birds I see today I know I may not see tomorrow. My grandchild I know may die of asphyxiation if the ocean’s bluegreen bacteria stop producing oxygen in sufficient quantities. Or he may die due to a run-away greenhouse gas reaction, leaving the Earth in the Venusian condition. What a tragic waste of a beautiful thing, a water-blessed, blue planet, maybe the only one in the cosmos.
Tell me what to do with this.
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 email@example.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.
Wanted: A monitor to check an Eastern Bluebird trail at Southview Golf Course: 239 Mendota Rd E, West St Paul, MN 55118.
Duties include checking a dozen bluebird boxes once/week starting May 1st for a minimum of 12 weeks.
One line abbreviated notes are taken and summarized at the end of the year to report results to BBRP (Bluebird Recovery Program). Training and data will be provided.
Contact Jack Hauser at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 952-831-8132
Hennepin County is seeking citizen scientists to gather data about the health of wetlands in their communities. Wetland Health Evaluation Program (WHEP) volunteers will work with other citizen scientists to monitor bugs and plants in wetlands. No experience is required, but an interest in wetlands, bugs and/or plants is encouraged. Hennepin County provides all of the training, equipment, and leadership.
Teams will be formed in the Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Corcoran, Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, Medina, Minneapolis, Minnetonka and Plymouth areas. Everyone is welcome in these cities and neighboring communities to join a team.
Applications will be accepted through June 1. For more information, contact Mary Karius at email@example.com or 612-596-9129
Final Report for MRVAC for 2017 Summer Research Season
By Keith Olstad, Convener, Research Team, RHWO Recovery Project, (612) 940-1534
Last December, our Red-headed Woodpecker (RHWO) Recovery research team submitted a grant application to the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter. Our primary request was for funds to defray expenses for increased volunteer and professional field-work to begin to answer these questions:
- What factors govern RHWO nest productivity and survival of juveniles into the next year?
- What “internal” factors (e.g., sex, body condition) and/or “external” factors (e.g., food availability, weather, population density) drive RHWO to overwinter at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve (CCESR) or migrate?
- 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 Club in 2017. 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:
- RHWO nest location;
- RHWO parental effort in feeding nestlings;
- Food use identification;
- Oak tree tagging;
- 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.
And thank you once again for your most generous contribution to the recovery of this splendid bird.
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge will debut the Discover Nature App, a new mobile guide and trivia game, during World Migratory Bird Day festivities Saturday, May 12, at the Refuge.
The Discover Nature App guides visitors as they explore three units of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, providing points of interest and information on the Refuge’s diverse wildlife, habitat and history. The app also offers a family-friendly trivia game to play while visiting the Refuge. Interactive features allow users to upload and share their own experiences and photos of Refuge wildlife and habitat.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and partners will also host a special event that day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day at the Refuge’s Bloomington Visitor Center. Visitors can learn how to download and use the app, then walk Refuge trails on their own or join a Discover Nature walk at 12:30 p.m.
The May 12 event will also include a program by the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center, bird-themed arts and crafts activities, mist netting and bird banding, and more.
The Discover Nature App is available now for free by searching for “Discover Nature” on iTunes or Google Play. Download the three Minnesota Valley units ahead of time to come prepared. The app will automatically open up when users arrive at the Bloomington, Rapids Lake or Louisville Swamp Units of the Refuge. Maps with access points and trails information are available on the Refuge website, fws.gov/refuge/Minnesota_Valley/map.html.
The Refuge’s Bloomington Visitor Center is located at 3815 American Blvd. E., Bloomington, Minnesota, 55425.
Visitors are encouraged to wear weather-appropriate clothing and shoes, and to pack a lunch or snacks if they plan to stay for the day.
For Refuge information, visit fws.gov/refuge/minnesota_valley/ or call 952-854-5900.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
- By Frédéric Jiguet & Aurélien Audevard; translated by Tony Williams
- Published by Princeton University Press
- Paper list $29.95; ISBN 9780691172439
- 448 pages; 5×7 ½ ; 2,200 color photos and maps
- Publication date: March 22, 2017
This is a new field guide for the birds of Europe. It’s small enough to carry with you in the field (if you don’t mind toting a 1 ¾ lb. book). It has photographs, not drawings, and the authors have pointed out the field marks for each bird commonly found in the area, but the field marks are not emphasized as much as they might be in a drawn guide.
There are photos of the male, female, and juveniles where the plumage differs, and flight photos for many species where that might help identification. There are also some photos of vagrants that do not have the field marks identified. (European warblers tend to look pretty drab—to me—so you can get a warbler “color fix” by looking at American warblers in the vagrant section in the back, although most are shown in winter plumage.)
In the identification section of each species they give the average length or wingspan, and note any characteristic behaviors, as well as differences between races or subspecies where relevant. Where appropriate, they describe the male’s song and often the normal species contact call. Then a description of the normal habitat for the species is given where not obvious (e.g., at sea). Range maps showing the breeding, wintering and resident areas are included.
All the data is located on the same page; you don’t have to refer to a different section for any data. They have followed the “modern” taxonomic order as far as possible, but recognize that the order(s) has been subject to change in light of recent developments. Due to the changes, the scientific names may have changed from earlier guides, even if the common names are the same.
This claims to be the first comprehensive field guide to all the species recorded in Europe, including resident winter visitors, common migrants, and rarities. The guide covers 860 species, with 2,200 photographs. This is probably the best guide to have for the most recent scientific data on each species.