By Rick Magee

It was as a December day, Saturday the 19th. Overcast, cold, but not as cold as other years being between 25 and 30 degrees above zero with no precipitation and little wind. Snow cover was thin, bare in some places, as much as two inches elsewhere. Ponds were frozen, lakes and streams still had areas of open water. It was a good day to go birding. Except that it was 2020 and there was a world-wide pandemic. Participation was limited to people who had been part of previous Bloomington Counts. No carpooling was permitted, nor was gathering for breakfast before going out or for the traditional soup supper and compilation at the end of the day. Nevertheless, it was a successful count for the 62 people who were able to take part.

Each year, the Saturday before Christmas, the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter sponsors the Bloomington Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Our count is a circle with a 15 mile diameter centered on the National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center located near the MSP airport and the Mall of America. It is a suburban area with major rivers, many lakes, forested parks, open areas, and a variety of other habitats.

The 2020 CBC was not remarkable for the number of species seen, but it was a good year. Sixty species were identified. This year was a record for the number of trumpeter swans spotted at 463. Other species of interest were Red Shouldered Hawk, Snowy Owl (at MSP), Winter Wren, Carolina Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-throated Sparrow (5), Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, and Brown-headed Cowbird. Red Crossbills have been in the area this winter and two were found during the count, visitors from the north that are unusual for our CBC. Also of particular interest for our circle was the report of a Broad-winged Hawk late for its flight south to warmer weather. Another report was of 80 eagles in three convocations in Burnsville. One aerie was near the Burnsville dump and the other two were along the Minnesota River. With a spotting scope, about 40 were congregating at the active dumping zone of the landfill.

There were eagles perched alone and flyovers throughout the circle. More than 12,200 individual birds of all species were tallied that day. There were some misses of species we often get other years. They included American Kestrel, Sharp-shinned Hawk, bluebirds, Mourning Doves, and Common Redpoll. They represent our challenge for next year. The 2021 Bloomington CBC will be Saturday, Dec. 18. Have your optics ready!

Editor’s note: You can find the complete 2021 CBC results for this and all Minnesota counts at The report indicates that we had 62 birders in 32 groups that walked 86 miles and drove nearly 600. (No ski miles reported.)