Call for Trumpeter Award Nominations

By Matthew Schaut | January 11, 2018
Mark & Becky Lystig receive the 2016 Trumpeter Award

Each spring for 14 of the past 16 years, MRVAC has presented the Trumpeter Award to one of its members for outstanding long-term contributions to MRVAC. We are soliciting nominations from you; tell us who you think should be our next recipient.

Please send in a nomination by January 31. The selection committee, which is composed of the previous years’ recipients, will review the nominations and forward their choice to the Board. The award will be presented at a subsequent meeting.

There are two ways to get a nomination form:

Completed applications can be submitted online, emailed to Becky  at, or mailed to Becky Lystig, 1741 Sartell Ave, Eagan, MN 55122.

Previous Trumpeter Award recipients:

  • 2001 Karol Gresser
  • 2002 Joe White
  • 2003 Pat & Jack Telfer
  • 2004 Edith Grace Quam
  • 2005 Craig Mandel
  • 2006 John Rehbein
  • 2007 Lois Norrgard
  • 2008 Jack Mauritz
  • 2009 George Tkach
  • 2010 Bob Leis
  • 2011 Anne Hanley & George Skinner
  • 2012 Steve Weston
  • 2013 Bob Williams
  • 2016 Mark & Becky Lystig

Holiday Auction & Give to the Max Raises Money for Educational Projects

By Bob Williams | January 11, 2018

We had a very successful and entertaining Holiday Auction at the Refuge Visitor Center on November 17. We raised $2753 which is just a bit less than the $3000 we raised last year.

Our fabulous auctioneers, Mark Lystig and Scott Clark sold at least 100 items donated by members as well as these generous companies:

  • All Seasons Wild Bird Store – Bloomington
  • Cornerstone Copy Center, Burnsville
  • Eagle Optics
  • Great Harvest Bread Company
  • Lakewinds Natural Foods – Richfield
  • Lunds/Byerly’s
  • Nothing Bundt Cakes, Eden Prairie
  • Valley Natural Foods Co-op (Burnsville)

We also raised about $630 on Give to the Max Day ($1400 less than last year).

The chapter has also received $30 in the mail from the appeal in the Trumpeter and $325 from my Facebook fundraiser.

We want to thank everyone who donated either at the auction or online.


By Tracy Albinson | November 9, 2017

“East Side Takes Flight! The Minnesota Flyway as a Whole Family Experience”

MRVAC donated $3000, in addition to some support from MOU, for this project.

The East Side Neighborhood Services (ESNS) project journey began in mid-September with a family overnight field trip to the annual Hawk Ridge Festival in Duluth, Minnesota. Families of the Glendale Townhomes traveled to Hawk Ridge and participated in the free family activities which introduced them to bird watching and bird appreciation. They stayed overnight at the East Side Neighborhood Services campground, Camp Bovey, in Gordon, Wisconsin.

In addition, throughout the fall, there will be after school programs on dynamics of flight, wing technology, and the geographical relevance of the Minnesota River Valley through an education series that will involve 6-site visits by staff from Silverwood Park (Three Rivers Park District).

Youth will work on bird-related art projects, observe local bird wildlife within the Prospect Park and East River Parkway, and study bird artifacts with naturalist twice weekly for three weeks. They will participate in a field trip to Silverwood Park with activities facilitated by Silverwood Park Staff.

Meanwhile, in Northeast Minneapolis, the after-school program Mulberry Junction will construct a bird habitat viewing area outside the windows of the East Side Neighborhood Services Adult Day at Friendship Center, a program that provides daytime care and support for 20-25 seniors weekly.

On two separate weekends (October 7 and 14), families from the Luxton Learners and Mulberry Junction programs were invited to attend a family bird watching hike along the East Bank trail system near the Glendale Townhomes. Board members of the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Society (Monica Rauchwarter and Greg Burnes) will lead bird-watching hikes equipped with binoculars and appropriately translated bird-identification guides in Somali and Spanish so as to bridge any language barriers otherwise inhibiting immigrant families from fully benefiting from the experiences.

All three programs will culminate in a joint family night meal and bird appreciation festivity at Luxton Community Center on November 2. Families of students who attend the programs will be invited to share photos, students’ written stories, and art projects detailing their bird-related family and afterschool program projects.

Jean Emmons, the co-leader of the weekend, informed me that everyone who went was part of a multigenerational family: grandparents with grandkids, parents with children, blended families. Everyone was from an underserved population.

They spent two nights at a small camp, Bovey, in northern Wisconsin that Eastside Neighborhood Services has managed to maintain. None of the participants had ever canoed before or seen the star-filled night sky. None had ever been to Duluth, experienced hawk migration or seen Lake Superior. They hiked at Hawk Ridge, met banded hawks and received quality attention from staff on the Ridge. Sparky Stensaass met the families and donated materials to the ESNS program. One young lady spent hours learning about dragonflies.

The kids and their parents exulted in Lake Superior – some even swam in the lake! Everyone got ice cream on the ride home. As Jean said — “you get the full experience!”

People of color learn they aren’t permitted the same rights to nature white people take for granted. These people were able to experience nature, have adventures, meet and immerse themselves in Lake Superior, be turned on to birds and dragonflies and the night sky.

This grant definitely fulfills MRVAC’s mission in the most glorious way!

Matt Schaut


Dear Matt, Steve, Greg, and Monica-

The Luxton Takes Flight project is off to a strong start! We just completed our weekend family trip to Hawkridge and Camp Bovey, WI. Though I’ll be sending you a more detailed recap toward the end of the month, I was too excited to wait and wanted to drop a quick line of gratitude immediately!

In the last 16 years of working with youth and families, I’ve participated in very few events that have even come close to the fun and the beauty of this weekend. Thank you for giving our East Side community this special experience. I so appreciate the willingness of both your agencies to work together and each fund a portion of the same project — without your willingness to work together, we truly could not have made this happen.


James Taborda-Whitt, Youth Program Manager

East Side Neighborhood Services, 1700 2nd Street NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413

Chip Notes: November-December, 2017

By Matthew Schaut | November 9, 2017
Kirland’s Warbler, Joel Trick, USFWS

My son and I took an epic road trip this August through Canada using Parks Canada’s national park pass. The day we arrived in the Yukon Territory the temperature was 94 degrees Fahrenheit. In the Northwest Territories, I swam in the Great Slave Lake. It was warmer than Lake Superior. The Native Dine people speak about the ominous heat of the last two summers. We did a big figure eight, came back from the high latitudes via the national parks in southern Alberta and British Columbia.

Dry dry dry.

Smoke from fires in British Columbia prevented a clear view of the mountains. Sections of Yoho and Mount Revelstoke National Parks closed due to active fires. We walked on the Columbian Icefield in Jasper, thrilling, but much diminished. We ended our national parks tour in Glacier National Park, Montana. Glaciers there, but so diminished they didn’t really make the experience for us. I feel we threaded a needle; we could see a couple of small fires the park was “keeping an eye on.” After we left, they turned into conflagrations.

Dry dry dry.

Canada bears a lot of the blame for global warming, despite its small population. You can’t drive through the prairie of Saskatchewan or the oilfields of Alberta and British Columbia without being confronted by agribusiness and petrodollars. Public radio is complicit. Every news item concerning Native Americans was preceded and followed by oil industry ads.

We all know the Earth has passed the threshold into a new reality. The hurricanes of 2017 are historic, and will be followed by the hurricanes of 2018 and 2019 and 2020 . . . . The Caribbean Islands and Gulf Coast may become uninhabitable. Will even the wildlife be able to survive if islands are continuously scoured of vegetation by hurricanes? There go wintering songbirds. There goes the Kirtland’s Warbler. The historic wildfires of 2017 throughout western North America. The high temperatures and new (lack of) moisture regime will continue. There is no refuge.

We could still do much to mitigate the impacts. But our leaders play. Truly they are execrable. We won’t mention the travesty that is our Presidential politics, and the damage currently in the EPA and the Agricultural Department, etc. I will mention just how diligently Rep. Nolan – DFL, is working tirelessly to desecrate Minnesota’s water’s, and Minnesotan’s right to due process and public input in environmental affairs — all to benefit the avarice of a multinational corporation.

What makes a public servant go rogue like this? It’d be nice to think the Democratic party politicians would be allies; few Republicans (name one) currently are. Nolan has apparently found a more rewarding constituency?  Being a steward of the environment, thinking unto the 7th generation so our descendants have a world to inherit. Doesn’t seem rewarding to so many in politics and industry. Why? Imagine if our governor was not an honorable public servant? We could have Flint’s water throughout Minnesota as well. Michigan’s governor simply does not care. Neither does Nolan, apparently.

Our leaders play games.

The heat rises.

The oceans roar.

The world burns.

Species go extinct.

Cultures die.

Fight people. Fight with all you’ve got!

Matthew Schaut

We Need Good People! Volunteer Opportunities

By Anne Hanley | November 9, 2017

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.

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: ) 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:

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.)

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!

Field trip leaders and assistants  If interested, contact Cheri Fox at

MRVAC 50th Anniversary Celebration Report

By Anne Hanley | November 9, 2017
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.

Mmmmm . . . Treats!

By Anne Hanley | September 2, 2017

Treats Needed for Upcoming Meetings 

If you can bring a few dozen cookies, bars or some easy-to-eat snack to share at the October or subsequent meetings, please call Robin, the Social Chair, at 612-723- 2632 or email to

Bird Surveys in Renville County

By Bob Janssen | September 2, 2017

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

Treasurer’s Report: 2016-2017

By Bob Williams | September 2, 2017

By Bob Williams, MRVAC Treasurer 

Our last fiscal year, June 1, 2016-May 31, 2017, was another successful one. We exceeded our income budget for our 3 most important categories of income i.e. Birdathon, Holiday Auction, General Contributions. This meant that we did not have to dip into our reserves to meet our budget.

On the expense side we had an unexpected expense for the new website, which was well worth it, but in other categories we came in below budget so it all averaged out in the end. Our total income for the year was $16,143.50 and our total expenses were $15,450.70. We still have 4 CD’s totaling a little over $20,000 and a nice cushion in our checking account so we can handle most surprises at least for the foreseeable future.

Our current fiscal year is off to a good start as well. We have received donations for Birdathon totaling over $2,000 and we expect a few more before the end of the calendar year. If you would still like to contribute, please send your checks to MRVAC at PO Box 20400, Bloomington, MN 55420 made payable to MRVAC or go to our page on where you can use a credit card.

Since we are no longer sending the Trumpeter by mail to the majority of our members, our projected expenses for this fiscal year are lower than last year. This should allow us to make even more grants than we did last year to help fund the worthy programs of the organizations that apply.

Finally, I would like to let people know that I plan to resign as Treasurer at the end of this fiscal year, May 2018. If there is anyone out there who would like to take over this task, please let me know at or at 612-728-2232. It is not a particularly difficult task and I would be happy to help you with it during the first year; June 2018 to May 2019.

2017 Holiday Auction: November 16

By Anne Hanley | August 31, 2017

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: