MRVAC News

Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer

By Tracy Albinson | October 25, 2016

by Peter P. Marra and Chris Santella. Princeton University Press, 2016.

Review by Mark Lystig

cat-wars-bookCats in America are an invasive species. Like other invasive species, free-roaming (feral and pet) cats impact native species of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Read this concise book to learn more about free-roaming cats and their diseases and why we must reduce their numbers. The authors are not anti-cat, but are concerned about native wildlife.

We own cats but don’t let our cats out. We keep the cats healthier and keep the cats from killing birds. If you must let your cat out, use a leash. Your cat(s) should be neutered and get rabies shots. Infected cats may spread rabies to other animals or humans. Cats have become the number-one domesticated species passing rabies to humans. Cats may have other diseases that may be transmitted both to other animals and to humans: plague and toxoplasmosis (a possible cause of schizophrenia).

Cats are genetically programmed to be hunters. Cats hunt and kill whatever they can. They don’t need to be hungry; cats hunt because they are hunters. One study concluded that cats kill 1.3-4 billion birds, 6.3-22.3 billion mammals, 95-299 million amphibians, and 258-822 million reptiles annually in the United States. While out hunting cats may also spread diseases that may kill any species that does not have resistance. The diseases may kill animals much larger than cats. You can learn about what cats kill, that Trap-Neuter-Release sounds good but doesn’t work, and also learn about the diseases cats can carry and the threats those diseases pose to wildlife and humans.

This book may change your mind about allowing free-roaming cats.

Life is Good: Pass it On!

By Tracy Albinson | October 22, 2016

Support the outdoors by supporting candidates who do, too

By Don Arnosti 

2016-10-19-13-05-59A Minnesota fall – it doesn’t get any better than this. Warm days, cool evenings, fall leaves coming on. Canadian cold fronts drive waves of migrating birds through our backyards – the other day it was a flock of Kinglets and Brown Creepers. Geese “W’s” can be seen and heard at all hours heading south in their ragged lines.

The urgency of the season leads me to take care of chores I’ve been putting off all summer: painting, garage cleaning, working for candidates who love the outdoors as much as I do. Yes, that is an important and necessary “chore” – not just voting, but actively supporting candidates that will work to assure that all I love about Minnesota’s outdoors is available for my as yet unborn grandchildren to enjoy.

We have a real problem in our body politic – you could say a sickness. Partisan gridlock is celebrated by some who believe that a government doing nothing at all is better than one that involves itself in our lives in many ways.

In a year when we are celebrating 100 years of national parks, I heard some at the state legislature browbeating DNR officials who announced that because visitors to the state park system were hitting record levels – they needed more money for rangers and other staff. “Why are the parks losing money?”

When state and federal agencies were ready to work together to pay farmers for 100,000 strategically-located Minnesota River valley acres along ditches, streams and rivers for expanded buffers to improve water quality, the state failed to pass its share of the funds.

Just as Minnesotans have petitioned the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to intervene to assure the Minnesota mining industry is actually regulated under the Clean Water Act (the legislature persistently passes legislation hindering this) – we have a major presidential candidate promising to abolish the EPA if he is elected.

Elections do matter. And our action or inaction has consequences.

Put up your storm windows – check.

Take a fall bike ride to enjoy the colors – check.

Call up your favorite pro-environment candidate, tell them why you support them, and ask, “What can I do to help assure you can represent me?”

Then do it. Contribute that time to knock on doors, put up signs or to call your neighbors, even if it’s hard for you. Do it for your grandchildren.

Then vote on November 8th knowing you’ve done your part to share the beauties of future Minnesota falls with those who as yet have no say in the matter.

Book Review: Birds of New Guinea

By Tracy Albinson | August 31, 2016

by Bruce M. Beehler & Thane K. Pratt

Book review by Mark N. Lystig 

Birds of New GuineaOne of the (many) delights of amateur birdwatching is the opportunity to learn more about where to find the birds, why you find birds where they are, what are the birds doing in the places where you find them (what are they eating, how are they adapted to eat what they are eating, how do they construct—if they construct—their nests, and how old do they have to be when they are able to nest), and to learn more about the environment in general. But as you can see from this list, the opportunity to learn a little soon turns into a quest to learn a lot.

Birds of New Guinea, by Bruce M. Beehler & Thane K. Pratt, is a checklist of the birds of New Guinea, intended as a supplement to the authors’ earlier field guide, Birds of New Guinea, Second Edition (Princeton). Whereas you might wish to carry the field guide with you if you go birding in the New Guinea region, you will want to leave this book behind as it is quite heavy

Part I is an introduction to the area studied, but also to the scientific terminology and the difficulty of determining how to identify birds by family, genus, and species or subspecies. There’s an explanation why DNA studies may not be the final solution to identification that many may believe it to be, and the authors explain their choices in their treatments of species and subspecies. The interesting introductory section may be reason enough to consult this book (28 pages).

Part II is the bulk of the book, and contains the accounts of each family, genus, species, and subspecies the authors have identified (485 pages). There are brief general family and genus descriptions, then more specific species and subspecies descriptions for making distinctions. A comprehensive introduction to the birds of New Guinea, this may be more than you need to know.

Two Bluebird Monitor Positions Open

By Tracy Albinson | August 31, 2016

Eastern BluebirdMonitors wanted for next spring at two established Birdbird Recovery Project bluebird trails: Southview Golf Course in West St Paul and TPC Golf Course in Blaine. Training will be provided. In both locations, a golf cart is available for the monitors’ use if you would prefer not to walk. For more information, please contact Jack Hauser at 952-831-8132 or email jgshauser@gmail.com.

  • Southview Country Club, 239 Mendota Rd E, West St. Paul, MN 55118
  • TPC Twin Cities, 11444 Tournament Players Pkwy, Blaine, MN 55449

Sweating the Details: Buffer Battles

By Tracy Albinson | August 30, 2016

By Don Arnosti

Wetland BufferSummer is upon us and we all revel in getting outdoors to enjoy warm weather, time off and our favorite outdoor pursuits. The cycle of nature that is on full display here in the North is one of the great pleasures of living in Minnesota. Cold/hot. Wet/dry. Bloom/senesce. Our landscape is very complex, every-changing and always interesting.

It is tempting to enjoy our birds and wildlife, spend time with family and not sweat the details. However, someone must mind the store. Details matter. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently released buffer maps proposing to downgrade protections for ditched streams and deep water wetlands in rural areas, by interpreting the Governor’s Buffer law very narrowly. Many streams and wetlands are mapped for just a 16.5 foot buffer – or none at all – when they should be receiving 50 feet of vegetative protection.

Do I think this is because the DNR officials don’t understand wetland classifications or the law? No. It is apparent to me that the DNR is taking a “political path of least resistance.” Thousands of miles of streams in southern and western Minnesota were dredged and straightened years ago to “improve drainage” leaving them legally both a “ditch” and a “public water.” DNR expects more complaints from rural interests and certain legislators if they require the full 50 foot buffer on these waters called for in law; they’re expecting that we, the citizens, will be “away at the lake.”

Conservationists can never sleep! Take a moment to dash off a quick note to the Governor. Ask him to instruct the DNR to interpret his Buffer Law correctly. Demand that “DNR Buffer Maps be changed to require a minimum 50 foot buffer on all public watercourses, even if they’ve been ditched, and that all public waters wetlands receive the 50 foot buffer, as well.”

Governor Mark Dayton
75 Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd #130
St Paul, MN 55155

Write your 5 minute note and get back to enjoying our birds and your family and friends. After all, summer is just too short in Minnesota to  always sweat the details. Thank you for doing your part to protect nature for future generations!

Old Cedar Avenue Updates

By Tracy Albinson | August 30, 2016

Submitted by Sarah Inouye-Leas, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Old Cedar BridgeThe projects at the Old Cedar Avenue area are moving along. Here are a few updates:

  • The archaeological investigation was completed and we are awaiting final recommendations from the State Historic Preservation Officer before we proceed with construction and replacement of the Refuge parking lot adjacent to the new bridge. We hope to start parking lot work within the next month or two in partnership with the City of Bloomington.
  • Based on feedback we have received, the platform at the end of the new boardwalk extending into Long Meadow Lake will be expanded. Reconstruction of the failing dike and the trail from the parking lot to the boardwalk is nearing completion. This section of trail is being upgraded to be more accessible to all.
  • Within the next couple of months, the refuge is planning to have a contractor begin work on the Hogback Trail. This is the trail between Old Cedar Avenue and the Hwy 77 bridge. This section of trail will be upgraded to be accessible to folks of all abilities.
  • On October 8th, Great River Greening will be holding a restoration event, planting native vegetation and removing invasive plants. Visit their website for more information.
  • Work on the Old Cedar Bridge itself is on track and slated to be completed November, 2016.
  • The City of Bloomington will be reconstructing Old Cedar Avenue which is the road leading down to the Refuge parking lot and trail heads. Work is projected to be completed on the road in 2017.

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Celebrates 40th Anniversary with Public Celebration Oct. 8

By Tracy Albinson | August 30, 2016

MNValleyRefugeStretching for 72 miles intermittently along the Minnesota River in the Twin Cities area from Fort Snelling to Henderson, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is an urban oasis for nature and nature lovers alike. The more than 14,000 acres are managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which also oversees the Minnesota Valley Wetland Management District that spans another 14 Minnesota counties.

The refuge is celebrating its 40th  anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016—the same date it was established by Congressional Order in 1976—with a public celebration that coincides with National Wildlife Refuge Week. Events will be held at the Bloomington Education and Visitor, 3815 American Blvd. East. The day-long celebration will include family-friendly and hands-on activities such as birding, exploration, fishing, hiking and more.

“Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is one of Minnesota’s best kept secrets. It provides Twin Cities residents access just minutes from their homes to a wilderness area where they can take advantage of free outdoor recreational experiences that include biking, fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking, bird watching and hunting,” said Tim Bodeen, Refuge Manager. “Featuring a variety of habitats—including lakes, marshes, prairies, oak savannas and floodplain forests — the Refuge offers endless inspiration to artists and nature photographers alike.”

While initially established to provide valuable habitat for migratory birds—including waterbirds, wading birds, waterfowl and passerines—the reserve now serves as a key site in Minnesota for monarch butterfly conservation efforts. It is located less than 10 miles from downtown Minneapolis, making it one of only 17 refuges across the country designated as an Urban Wildlife Refuge. The Bloomington Education and Visitor Center is a one-quarter mile walk from the Metro Blue Line’s American Boulevard 34th  Avenue Station and Platform.

The refuge plans to add additional activities to continue the year-long celebration to commemorate its anniversary. To learn more, visit fws.gov/refuge/minnesota_valley/, call 952-854-5900 or find the refuge on social media at @MNvalleyNWR or facebook.com/MNvalleyNWR.

Financial Report for MRVAC

By Tracy Albinson | August 30, 2016

by Bob Williams, Treasurer

Our latest fiscal year ended May 31, 2016 and I am happy to report that we had another successful year.

We exceeded our goals for our 3 main sources of funding: Birdathon, holiday auction and general contributions. These 3 sources totaled well over $9,000. The other categories that contribute significant income to our organization are memberships, both local and national, and field trips. These brought in over $5,000 and our total income for the year was just over $16,000. As of the end of the fiscal year we had over $36,600 in our checking account and in CD’s combined. For the current fiscal year our income goals are pretty much the same as last year.

Our expenses also were in line with our projections. We made grants totaling $8,500 which is slightly higher than usual. The largest expense for our organization continues to be the printing and mailing of the Trumpeter. Last year we spent about $4,000 on the newsletter. We are currently exploring options on how to significantly reduce this cost. Our total expenses for the year were slightly over $16,000.

This year’s Birdathon was again a great success. There were 6 members of MRVAC who went birding and collected donations: Craig Mandel, Steve Weston, Dianne Rowse, Bob Janssen, Greg Burnes and Bob Williams. So far we have collect $2,750 but there is still time for any of you to make a donation either by sending a check to us at P.O. Box 20400, Bloomington, MN or by going to GiveMN.org.

The more we raise, the more we can donate to worthy projects that further our mission.

Birds’ Nests: HOW do they DO that?

By Tracy Albinson | August 30, 2016

by Clay Christensen, Birdman of Lauderdale

Thursday, October 27

7:00 pm: Socialize with coffee and cookies

7:30 pm: A brief MRVAC business meeting followed by the featured speaker.

Location: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Visitor Center

OrioleJJAudubonHow does a Baltimore Oriole make that graceful hanging nest so high up in the tree? What is a woodpecker cavity nest like inside? What birds nest in tunnels? This talk includes photos of birds at their nests and diagrams showing how nests are made. Clay is the always entertaining author of The Birdman of Lauderdale based on the many columns he wrote for the local Park Bugle newspaper. His publisher has made copies of his book available for free to attendees of this program.

Where: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center 3815 American Blvd E, Bloomington. Take Hwy 494 to 34th Ave. Go south to American Blvd; turn left and go 2 blocks. Center will be on your right. Enter through the door at the middle of the building.

Public Transit: Accessible by METRO Blue line (Hiawatha light rail), The Visitor Center is a couple of blocks east of the American Boulevard stop.

Volunteer to Lead/Co-lead Bird Walks

By Tracy Albinson | June 26, 2016

BInoculars at ArboretumBy Cheri Fox 

We’d love to have a few more MRVAC field trip leaders! 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.

Where do you like to bird when you are birding alone or with a few friends? Birding by bike or canoe might be fun! Pick your favorite park or trail and contact me, Cheri Fox, about adding an outing to next year’s schedule. I can be reached by phone at 612-590-1261 or email at cherifoxj@gmail.com.

Upcoming Events