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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:

Link to: April MRVAC Program -- Waterbird Use of the North Ottawa Impoundment

Here's the link to the April MRVAC program, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Christine Herwig talk about  waterbird use at the North Ottawa Impoundment.  Christine is assistant regional manager for ecological and water resources in Minnesota’s northwest region.  Located in Grant County, this impoundment was created to reduce flooding along the Red River but has a secondary benefit of providing habitat to birds. Christine will talk about the monitoring efforts and some of the rare and unusual species that have been observed.

Here's the link:

GoToMeeting Transcripts


LeeAnn Landstrom - Northern Cardinal

2020 Christmas Bird Count Results

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.)

LINK TO: March 25 meeting: Rob Schultz on Wolves & Cheetahs

Rob Shultz, executive director of Audubon Minnesota, will talk about his research on cheetahs in Namibia at the March 25 MRVAC meeting. The presentation will focus on the approach to predator conservation in Africa and how this research has altered his perspective on conservation issues in Minnesota.

Schultz should know: He also has served as executive direction of the International Wolf Center in Ely. Audubon Minnesota was established in 1979 and throughout its history Audubon’s committed members have contributed to the rich conservation legacy in Minnesota. The organization and its supporters have worked to create bird-friendly communities, protect water for birds and people, and create a healthy climate.

The link to  the recording of Rob's talk is here

Owls of the Eastern Ice Program: Follow-up and Link Instructions

Dr. Jonathan Slaght, the  Minnesota author who recently published the Times Nature Book of the Year, Owls of the Eastern Ice, followed up on the tales of his adventure with this photo of him standing in typhoon damage to owl habitat.  In the February MRVAC program, Slaght took us on his adventure – part of his Ph.D. dissertation fieldwork – into the Siberian winter to find, study, and hopefully save the world’s largest and most elusive owl.  Typhoon Lionrock, mentioned at the end of his owl book, devastated large swaths of fish owl habitat in 2016.  Fish owls must have large trees with cavities for nesting.  In 2018, Slaght went with Rada Surmach to try to find the nest tree of the pair that lives in that area.  The old nest tree had been knocked down and eventually they did find the owls' new nest tree.   Surmach's photo show some of the devastation that spread over the whole river valley home to the nesting pair.  Because of media ownership issues, we're not able to post a link to the recording on  However, if you're interested in seeing the recording, send a message with a request for the link to Steve Weston,


February Program Link: Owls of the Eastern Ice with Dr. Jonathan Slaght

Join MRVAC members and guests Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m. CST to hear Dr. Jonathan Slaght (rhymes with “cat”), the  Minnesota author who recently published the Times Nature Book of the Year, Owls of the Eastern Ice.  Dr. Slaght will take us on his adventure – part of his Ph.D. dissertation fieldwork – into the Siberian winter to find, study, and hopefully save the world’s largest and most elusive owl.

The book is rich in details about the dense forests of the Russian Far east – Amur tigers, frozen rivers, radioactive hot springs – and the Blakiston’s Fish Owl, a subgroup of eagle owls that specialize in hunting in riparian areas, including grabbing fish from holes in the river ice.  Dr. Slaght is a talented writer who profiles the colorful characters – hermits and fellow fieldworkers alike.  He provides details birders find fascinating, including how to trap a 10-pound nocturnal raptor for study.  He is a wildlife biologist and author working for the Wildlife Conservation Society as its Russia & Northeast Asia Coordinator.

Want a teaser?  Check this out: How Big is a Fish Owl? ("Owls of the Eastern Ice" book teaser) - YouTube

To Join virtual meeting click on this link:
Our Meetings are free and open to all.  We use GoToMeeting, which will require a quick but easy download for first time users to join the meeting.  Instructions:
1) When you first login in you may be asked to enter the ID number (960709157)
2) You will be prompted to choose your audio method and camera by clicking on the settings icon on the top right corner. After that you should be able to hear and see everything or if you choose to call in, dial in to join.
3) We will mute everyone as we get started. You can ask questions by opening the chat window, which we will monitor. Questions will probably be held until the Q&A period after the meeting.

Kaufman January MRVAC program recording now available

Kenn Kaufman's Jan. 28 program on the "Secret Superheroes of Birding" was recorded and is now available.  Click on the link below.

GoToMeeting Transcripts



January 28 meeting: Kenn Kaufman, "Secret Superheroes"

Author, guide and birding expert Kenn Kauffman will be the speaker at MRVAC’s January program – and you’ll find out about the “secret superheroes” of birding Thursday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m.

When we look at how birding has developed in North America, some famous names stand out—names like John James Audubon or Roger Tory Peterson. And it’s true that those people had a big impact on how we go birding today. But they’re not the only ones.  Kenn Kaufman has been researching the history of birding, ornithology and bird conservation, and found that some of the most important, lasting influences came from people who didn’t necessarily become famous as a result. In this program he’ll talk about some of these amazing individuals, his “secret superheroes” of birding.

Join the meeting from your computer, table or smartphone using this link:

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (646) 749-3112
Access Code: 776-411-077

Note: This is not a Zoom meeting, but a GoToMeeting.  The meeting size limitation is now 250. New to GoToMeeting? You will need to download the software. Get the app now to be ready when the meeting starts.  You can do it by clicking on the link, or by going to earlier.

Give to the Max and help MRVAC

By Bob Williams

This has been a difficult year for everyone. It has also been difficult for MRVAC to achieve some of its financial goals for the year that help us with birding and other conservation grants.

We are not able, for instance, to have our annual holiday auction. We are having a special fundraising event in conjunction with Give to the Max Day on Nov. 19. Our board members have pledged $1,325 dollars as a matching grant for this event. We are asking all our members and other friends to donate so we can make up for the lost income that we usually get from the holiday auction. You can go to our page on the website here ( and make a donation using your credit card. Your donation also gives us a chance to win a bonus from GiveMN itself.

There are photographs of some of the events that we have helped to support on our Give to the Max Day web page. We are a 501(c)3 corporation so your donations are tax deductible. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at Thank you for your consideration. Stay safe and healthy.