October program: Dr. Elena West and the Red-Headed Woodpecker Project

Find out what an intense study of Minnesota's largest concentration of red-headed woodpeckers has revealed about migration routes and wintering locations.  Tracking devices on some of the birds and nest cameras are several of the tools researchers are using to discover some surprising stories.  Join Dr. Elena West, the lead researcher, as she reveals some of these beautiful birds' secrets at the MRVAC members meeting Thursday, Oct. 28, 7;30-9 p.m.

Please join our meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (571) 317-3122

Access Code: 196-812-333

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts: https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/196812333

MRVAC-funded pollinator garden update: Jefferson High School

By Lee Ann Landstrom
Board Member
A small crew of helpers has been faithfully watering the new garden all the blistering hot summer.  Jefferson High folks planted the
garden during the early June heat wave. It looks great! Some plants are flowering and there
are numerous insects using the flowers already! The teacher coordinator is looking forward to enlisting
fellow classes to utilize the garden or for students to just enjoy it during daytime breaks. The Earth Corps
club will be recruiting new members to help with weeding, watering, and maintenance.  Photo by Liz Erdmann.

Update on MRVAC-funded pollinator garden at Normandale Hills Elementary

By Lee Ann Landstrom

Board member

The project manager says the plants are in “good shape overall”! There was some die-off from improper planting and heat stress, but she says at least two-thirds of the plants are still alive -- some are even flowering growing despite the drought.  The stepping stones that the students painted look really nice and provide a good path for people to walk through the garden without compacting the soil.


September program: Biodiversity & Research in the Sax-Zim Bog

Research at the Sax-Zim Bog includes surveying Golden-winged Warblers and owls, and supporting those who study specific species in the bog.  But it’s more than that, Clinton Dexter-Nienhaus, the bog’s head naturalist says.  It also can include documenting biodiversity by citizen scientists through organized surveys such as the bog’s annual BioBlitz and Christmas Bird Counts, or reports on iNaturalist. Clinton will review the different research projects happening in the Sax-Zim Bog and share some of the interesting and exciting results.  The Thursday, Sept. 23 program begins at 7:30 p.m.  Please join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.


You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (408) 650-3123
Access Code: 497-588-413
New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts: https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/497588413

Want to help? Monitor Burnsville bluebird houses

By Nikki Pyle

The city of Burnsville needs a volunteer to monitor bluebird houses.

I am Nikki Pyle, a Gold Medal award Girl Scout. For my Gold Medal project I built 12 bluebird houses using a MRVAC grant for the house materials and worked with the city of Burnsville to install the houses in Terrace Oaks Parks. I am offering a community class Aug. 29 at 2 p.m. as part of the requirements of my project. It will involve walking through Terrace Oaks Park to see the houses, learning how to monitor and clean the houses properly and understand the importance of bluebirds and other birds in our area.  If you can monitor the houses as a city volunteer, please attend this session. If you cannot attend but would be interested in helping with the bluebird trail, please contact me at swimtastic1206@gmail.com.

Thank you.

2021 MRVAC Birding Weekend slated for Aug. 21-22

By Bob Williams

One of MRVAC’s main missions is conservation education, especially youth education.  The COVID-19 pandemic has put a crimp in our usual “Bird-a-thon” fundraiser, so we’re scheduling another birding weekend to help fundraise for conservation education.

We hope everyone is planning to participate.  Here’s how:   Go to your favorite birding spots on either Saturday,  Aug. 21 or Sunday, Aug. 22, and keep a list of all the species that you can identify for each day.  Tell us what birds you found so we can compile a complete list for each day.  Small prizes will be awarded for the person who IDs the most species for each day and for the person who IDs the most unusual bird each day. Results will be published in the Trumpeter.

Our goal is to have at least 100 birders participate.  We can achieve our fundraising goal if each birder raises at least $25.  You can make online contributions here on the website or mail a check made out to MRVAC to PO Box 20400, Bloomington, MN  55420.  If you have any questions about the birding weekend, please contact Bob Williams by email at drbop6789@gmail.com or by text at 612-991-0727.  Please practice safe birding – social distancing and masks.  We want everyone to stay safe and healthy!

MRVAC-funded pollinator gardens underway

By Lee Ann Landstrom, Board Member

Rain and pollinator gardens in three Bloomington schools are in place this summer, thanks to contributors to the Minnesota Valley Audubon Chapter’s grants program.

Normandale Hills Elementary School

MRVAC – with Nine Mile Creek Watershed District’s help and expertise -- co-sponsored a rain and pollinator garden at Normandale Hills Elementary School. The project’s goals were to reduce mowed turf areas on school grounds; increase pollinator and bird habitat; create a teaching garden for students to learn about phenology, plants, pollinators, birds and other natural processes; and contribute a community site to help neighbors learning about conservation.  It was planted May 21.

They transformed a grassy low spot into a beautiful raingarden with all plants pollinator favorites attractive to different bird species.  More than 100 parents and student volunteers prepared the shallow basin by removing sod and adding compost, mulch and a fence.  Fifth graders then helped plant more than 400 native flowers and shrubs. As a bonus, students made stepping stones in art class to create a path through the garden. Teachers plan to use the project as part of their lessons, giving students a real-world application for their studies.

The project wasn’t without challenges.  Sod mitigation was tough when covering it with tarps didn’t work, so they rented a sod cutter to remove some of it.  Another challenge was the fire drill in the middle of teaching nearly 70 students how to plant a root-bound plant plug.  Some of the plants did not get correctly planted as a result and will have to be replaced next year.

The fifth graders now have a better understanding of watersheds, raingardens and their function and native plants.   They deemed flower-planting fun, and there’s a system set up to water them over the summer.  The watershed district will install an interpretive sign – citing MRVAC as a donor – in the garden to teach passersby about its purpose.  It will continue to work with the school to replace plants as needed and create lesson plans that include the raingarden.

Jefferson High School

I assisted in planting the large pollinator “Unity” garden at Bloomington’s Jefferson High School June 4. This is a project of the Earth Corps club at the school. Earlier, volunteers cut and turned over the sod to kill the grass. The Tree Guys and Joel Sniegowski donated mulch and delivered it to be spread on the overturned sod. So the site was ready for 541 neonicotinoid-free native plants, planted by volunteer students, National Honor Society students, Jefferson teachers, Rotarians, Isaac Walton League members, Oak Grove Church parishioners and school neighbors.  Teachers and neighbors created a plan to water the site twice daily to combat the long, hot, dry spell.

Funding came from: MRVAC ($1,500), Lower MN Watershed District, Bloomington Rotary, Will Steger’s Climate Generation, World Citizen Scholarship and several individuals. The club is working with teachers in different areas, including science, art, English and special education. Several student clubs will do follow-up maintenance. Here is a link for a winter presentation about the project: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1HiEm3zyUh4M3Xxm-QdsrALRP_VdYBxE0yNsQnsgILWs/edit#slide=id.ga657465f9f_1_158

Photos by Lee Ann Landstrom and Nine Mile Creek Watershed District


Link to: May MRVAC Program Recording -- Vultures, the vet's drugs and the environment

Vultures are essential for ecosystem health because of their role in removing animal carcasses from the environment.  But many threats are propelling the global vulture population decline.  Are veterinary drugs one of the culprits?

In the late 1990’s their populations declined dramatically (99%) in the Indian Subcontinent due to intoxication with diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) used in cattle. Diclofenac was banned in many of the Asian countries involved, but it is now approved for veterinary use in large animals in the European Union. Considering that the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) has over 95% of Europe’s vulture population, what is the risk of diclofenac (and other veterinary drugs) to vultures in the Iberian Peninsula?

Irene Bueno Padilla of the University of Minnesota answered the question, "Are Vultures in the Iberian Peninsula at Risk to Veterinary Pharmaceuticals?”

Here is the program recording link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/GgFwL96riNRtsDb-F3OO4u8DebhLrU7RJZznr1B3UiNOB2Cn4hZHtPG7IV1S1Ig7.MIRKCaL34rKl0M0O Passcode: QX$Ej2W%

Also, a head's up:  Join us for MRVAC's second field trip of the year: Miesville Ravine on Sunday, June 6th at 7:30 a.m. It's free and open to all.  See the events section.

givemn logo

Spring Bird-a-thon: It's happening now!

By Bob Williams

MRVAC Board Member and Bird-a-thon Coordinator

This year we are introducing a new format for our spring fundraiser, formally known as the Bird-a-thon. GiveMN has initiated a spring fundraising event called SpringForwardMN so we are asking you to consider donating during that event. It runs from May1 to May 11. GiveMN has two features that help with our fundraising effort. First, you can donate using a credit card. Second, they offer bonuses at random that may help boost our fundraising drive. All you have to do is log on to the GiveMN website and look for the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter.  If you prefer, you can always donate by sending a check to MRVAC, PO Box 20400, Bloomington, MN 55420. Our goal is to raise $1,000 during this drive. Those who donate at least $50 will receive a link to Birdflight and Music Patterns, a beautiful video put together by the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra.  The money we raise will help us to continue actively supporting area organizations whose projects are in line with our mission statement.  Please consider making a donation and enjoy spring migration safely.  You can find the GiveMN link here:  http://Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter | GiveMN


If you like the Sax-Zim bog, you've gotta see this!

In a beautiful new short film, Tomas Koeck takes you on a tour of what makes the boreal forest -- and our own Sax-Zim bog -- so special.

The National Audubon Society and the folks who work to protect the bog have joined to help produce Sentinels of the Boreal, a 10-minute documentary that points out how important boreal forests are in our bird conservation work.  You'll recognize many of the characters -- avian and human.

The boreal forest is the world's largest piece of forested wilderness in the world, stretching from Maine to Alaska in the Americas and being a prominent biome in Europe and Asia. This forest is home to many different species of wildlife, including moose, warblers and even wolves. Yet few of these species can capture the mystic as one of the most elusive animals in the Americas, the great gray owl. Join Koeck as he takes you on a tour of what makes the boreal forest so special and why one should fight for the survival of this massive forest! Parts of this film were captured right here in Minnesota at Sax-Zim Bog!

Here's the link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRvPnMIfWp4