MRVAC News

Volunteer to Lead/Co-lead Bird Walks

By Cheri Fox | June 22, 2018

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. 

Bluebird Monitors Wanted

By Anne Hanley | May 4, 2018

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 jgshauser@gmail.com or call 952-831-8132

Wetland Monitoring Opportunity

By Anne Hanley | May 4, 2018

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 mary.karius@hennepin.us or 612-596-9129

Red-Headed Woodpecker Recovery

By Matthew Schaut | May 4, 2018

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:

  1. What factors govern RHWO nest productivity and survival of juveniles into the next year?
  2. 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?
  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 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:

  1. RHWO nest location;
  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.

And thank you once again for your most generous contribution to the recovery of this splendid bird.

World Migratory Bird Day Event at the Refuge

By Anne Hanley | May 3, 2018

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.

2018 Birdathon: May 1-15

By Bob Williams | May 3, 2018

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!

Book Review: Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East

By Mark Lystig | May 2, 2018

Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle EastBirds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East: A Photographic Guide 

  • 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.

Walt Stull: MRVAC’s New Treasurer

By Walt Stull | May 2, 2018

I have been a longtime, but inactive member of Audubon and am looking forward to being more involved as Treasurer of MRVAC. I have been retired for three years and am what I would describe as a recreational birder. My other interests are golf, travel and reading.

Our back yard with woods and feeders is a favorite place to bird especially with spring migration. A favorite out-state place to bird is the Sax-Zim Bog.

Two places in Minnesota I have not birded, but look forward to visiting are the Detroit Lakes area and Salt Lake in western Minnesota. My most adventurous birding trips were to Belize and Ecuador/Galapagos Islands.

Walt Stull, mathemagicland@Q.com

Elect 2018-2019 Board Members

By Matthew Schaut | May 2, 2018

Please join us at the meeting on Thursday, May 24 to vote on the slate of nine candidates for the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter board of directors. At present, here’s the list, but there may be last minute changes;

  • President: Matthew Schaut
  • Vice President: Steve Weston
  • Treasurer: Walt Stull
  • Secretary: OPEN
  • Members at Large (5): Becky Lystig, Ken Oulman, Monica Rauchwarter, Rita Baden, OPEN

Matthew’s Musings

By Matthew Schaut | March 9, 2018

The January 2018 Refuge gathering was an enjoyable affair. What is better than hearing about, and seeing video of penguins in action?

In the audience was a young professional biologist. In her early teens she had applied for and received money from MRVAC to attend environmental summer camps. She sited these camps as one of the key reasons she chose a career studying and positively impacting our precious environment.

If you are aware of an interested youth, or a program which serves youth, now is the time to submit your proposal! This can be done at http://mrvac.org/grants/ or talk to any board member for more details. MRVAC’s mission is to support environmental education with the donation dollars we receive from each of you. Thanks!

It doesn’t seem possible, but the environmental assault seems to have accelerated over the last couple of months. The coastlines have been opened up to unlimited drilling, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been put at risk, multiple national monuments are being opened up to mineral claims, 30% tariffs have been put on imported solar panels, the Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Treaty has been degraded in its ability to protect nonhuman beings, and the Polymet environmental review process truncated – all by executive fiat.

Apparently, that is how our government now works? I don’t know if lawsuits will slow these unconscionable actions, but they will not hurt. I do know that resistance means gumming up the works in every way possible. We must also know what we want and accept no less. (The other side has a clear picture of what it wants – and stops at nothing.) We must do what reason and conscience prompts – and never forget the spirit of Standing Rock or Martin Luther King Jr.’s Arc of Justice. The planet needs this.

The Culture of Make Believe, David Jensen

I’d like to share a book with you, Derek Jensen’s The Culture of Make Believe. It is a model of conscience and soul-searing reflection on the processes in American history and psyches that have always been there, but which we often repress. The book seems prescient because the unacknowledged cruelty has been unmasked by the Trump Presidency but the injustice to the environment and to the disenfranchised have always been dominant processes in our society.

Our Constitution has never fully protected anyone from being enslaved, lynched or from having their village wiped out. Nor, to be frank, did our Founding Fathers. If the current tribulations cause us all to do a little more soul searching and become more engaged in politics, we will all be better for it.

Jensen is a perfect guide. He is passionate, he feels the pain, he refuses to turn a blind eye, he witnesses – and he is kind. I cannot think of a better book to read for these times.

Take care out there.