Volunteer Opportunity – Richardson Nature Center

Richardson Bird ViewingThe Richardson Nature Center building features a “wildlife viewing room”. We are looking for additional “backyard” volunteers to assist us in maintaining this space by cleaning, maintaining, and repairing the feeder stations. These crucial volunteers also help with special projects as needed, including the seasonal maintenance of the pond.

This room, visited by countless school groups and visiting members of the general public each year, has floor to ceiling windows which looks out to the ‘backyard’ feeder stations. We offer sunflower seed, safflower seed, thistle, and suet when seasonally appropriate. Visitors love watching the songbirds, turkeys, deer and yes, squirrels.

Please contact Monica Rauchwarter 763.694.7678 for more information

Hopkins Community Ed Birding Class

Beginning Bird Class (Hopkins Community Education)

Four Mondays: May 2, 9, 16 and 23 from 6:30-8:30 pm.

Hopkins Community Education: 952.988.4070

George Skinner and Anne HanleyIncrease your observation skills and your knowledge of birds with one indoor session May 2, followed by three local field trips on May 9, 16, and 23 in Minnetonka, Eden Prairie and St. Louis Park. Instructors (and long-time MRVAC members) George Skinner and Anne Hanley will provide binoculars and field guides for class use, if needed.

Children ages 12 and up are welcome, if accompanied by an adult. $34 fee includes an introductory Audubon membership and access to more free local field trips throughout the year. Course fee is per family. No discounts.

Class space is limited. Please pre-register by calling 952.988.4070 (open M-F, 8 am-4 pm) or online: https://hopkins.ce.feepay.com/course/winter-spring-adult-2016/beginning-bird-watching 

Wintering Golden Eagle Survey Observes Record Number Eagles

Golden EagleThe Wintering Golden Eagle Survey gathers important data to document a regular wintering population of golden eagles in the upper Midwest. This year’s survey broke a record on two fronts. A record number of golden eagles -147 total – with 90 adults and 50 sub-adult/immature were identified.

Combined with our tracking data (see update below), this survey has really expanded our understanding of golden eagles in the Midwest. This year’s survey included surveyors across the blufflands of southeast MN, western WI and northeast IA covering 66 survey areas.

Volunteer observers also document other birds, especially raptors, seen during the survey. This year, volunteers also observed 1,509 bald eagles, which is significant because most of the survey area is focused away from the Mississippi River, where thousands of bald eagle spend the winter. When food sources are abundant even in the bluffs and areas away from open water, bald eagles can be found in many places across the Midwest.

The Wintering Golden Eagle Survey is part of an on-going project to learn more about the golden eagle population in the region, including their migration patterns and habitat needs. The Golden Eagle Project is currently tracking golden eagles using GPS-linked satellite telemetry. More detailed survey results and links to satellite tracking maps are available on the National Eagle Center’s website at www.nationaleaglecenter.org.

Golden Eagle Project update:

The Golden Eagle Project was undertaken in order to better understand the biology and management needs of golden eagles in the upper Midwest and to appropriately disseminate this information to assist landowners and managers in ensuring the conservation of these birds.

In addition to the annual Survey, the Golden Eagle Project continues to track golden eagles in the Midwest using GPS-linked satellite telemetry. Over the last six years, we have put transmitters on six golden eagles. Two of those are still transmitting live signals of their movements throughout the year, and both birds are teaching us more about the range of golden eagles in the Midwest.

#53 Jack is currently wintering along the Arkansas/Missouri border, as he has for the past couple of years. This is a bird that was captured and released up at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory (Duluth, MN) in

November 2012, as he migrated past. He continues to spend his summers in northern Canada, and return to the Ozarks each winter. This is the farthest south we have tracked a golden eagle in the Midwest.

#54 Ripley was captured and released last winter at Camp Ripley in central MN. This bird had been seen on one of the Camp’s trail cams. After some conversation with Camp staff about how often the bird was being seen, the Project determined it would be worth attempting to get a transmitter on this bird. Ripley was released in March 2015. Last summer, Ripley migrated to far northern Canada before returning to central MN this winter. Although well outside the blufflands region, Ripley’s return to central MN means that the possible winter range of golden eagles in MN is much bigger than we may have thought.

#45 Jeanette was released in 2012 near Waupaca, WI. She had been a regular winter inhabitant of the area. Her annual migration to her nest in far northern Canada was an amazing feat. For three years in a row, she arrived at her breeding territory on exactly April 3. This is a journey of more than 2,000 miles. Just this last spring though, she arrived just a few days later on April 6th. On her fall migration back to WI, we stopped receiving a signal in November. A few weeks later we got word that her leg band had been recovered – Jeanette was found dead in a leg hold trap in Ontario.

Here’s what Golden Eagle Project partner Audubon Minnesota had to say:

“It is rare to learn the fate of a bird, even one with a transmitter. You can either assume the transmitter failed, or the bird died. We had been getting some spotty transmissions from Jeanette leading up to her last location, so had assumed it was the end of the transmitter’s lifespan. Only recently did we learn that Jeanette was reported to the USGS Bird Banding Lab as a band recovery through the Bird Banding Office in Canada. The little information we know is that she was caught in a leg-hold trap, typically used to trap wolves and other furbearers. This sort of incidental take does happen and we are working to learn more about how this trap was set and if there are any changes that could be implemented to reduce the potential impact to unintended targets, such as bald and golden eagles. 

 –From Kristin Hall at Audubon MN (Golden Eagle Project partner) 

http://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/golden-eagle-project/ for more about the project and survey

The Golden Eagle Project is a partnership of the National Eagle Center and Audubon Minnesota, with participation from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and funding support from through Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

2016 Birdathon Challenge – May 1-16

by Dianne Rowse 

It’s time to prepare for the 2016 MRVAC Bird-a-Thon FUNdraiser! You get to pick a day between May 1 and May 16 as your Bird-a-Thon day. You can bird anywhere in the world for up to 24 hours (less is fine) on your chosen day.

Click here to download the Birdathon Sponsor Form

StudentsBinocularsThis is an opportunity to spend a day birding while raising money for MRVAC. The funds will be used to support birder education efforts, such as programs at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, area parks and nature centers. If this is your first time doing Bird-a-Thon and you raise at least $100, your name will be entered in a drawing for a magnificent prize.

Here’s how to participate: You simply ask friends and relatives to either pledge to donate a certain amount per bird sighted or a specified sum. Some birders will sight over 100 birds on a Bird-a-Thon day, so a pledge of 25 cents per bird could bring in $25.00 from one sponsor.

Here’s a suggested planning list:

  1. Now through early May: Using a Bird-a-Thon sponsor form, collect pledges from friends and relatives. Forms are available on our website (click here), at MRVAC meetings (welcome table) or you can make up your own form.
  2. Save the date! Put your planned Bird-a-Thon date on your personal calendar. Invite someone to come along, especially a young person with extra keen eyesight.
  3. The week before: Plan your route to a variety of favorite birding spots, including different habitats such as wetlands, forest and prairie. Check ebird.org or the MOU list serves (www.moumn.org) to find out where people are finding unusual birds.
  4. Bird-a-Thon day: Try to start early in the morning when birds are most active. Take notes about each location you bird at, check off birds seen on the checklist, and jot down anything spectacular or interesting.
  5. After your birding day: Type up a short summary of your Bird-a-Thon day to send to your sponsors. Share your memorable sightings and a little about your day. Be sure to include the places you went birding and a copy of your checklist. Conclude by asking for the dollar amount pledged and where to mail a check to you. Ask sponsors to make the check out to MRVAC. Deliver your letters to your sponsors by email or other method.
  6. Turn in your collected funds to Bob Williams, MRVAC Treasurer, by June 1st, by mailing them to: MRVAC; PO Box 20400; Bloomington, MN 55420. Thank you for your Bird-a-Thon effort in support of MRVAC

Excelsior Christmas Bird Count Summary

Submitted by Howard Towle 

Common MerganserSummary: The 2015 Excelsior Christmas Bird Count was held on Saturday, December 19. Conditions were reasonably pleasant with temperatures ranging from a low of 10 to a high of 28 and only a light breeze. The previous warm weather of the fall and early winter resulted in many lakes being partially open and most moving water being completely open. No snow cover made traversing trails far easier than on a normal count day.

The final count of species for the day was 58, a number that was exactly on the 20-year average. However, the count was anything but average. The total number of birds counted on the day was 23,356. By comparison, the total count last year was 5366 birds. The high total count was reflected in the observation that 7 species equaled or surpassed their highest count in the history of the Excelsior CBC. Another 11 species recorded their second highest total in count history. Considering that this count is in its 66th year, this is a pretty remarkable record.

Particularly notable were Common Mergansers – 13,030 were observed on Lake Minnetonka as they staged for their journey south. This exceeds the previous high of 7500 for this species and is, as far as I can tell, the highest count in Minnesota birding history away from Lake Pepin. Other species that were seen in record numbers included Bald Eagle (78), Red-tailed Hawk (53), Merlin (2), Red-bellied Woodpecker (84), Northern Flicker (9) and Pileated Woodpecker (19). Near record numbers were found for Trumpeter Swan (116), Ring-necked Duck (56), Common Goldeneye (415), Hooded Merganser (20), Wild Turkey (120), Ring-billed Gull (223), Great Horned Owl (13), Downy Woodpecker (171), Hairy Woodpecker (75), Eastern Bluebird (8) and Townsend’s Solitaire (3). On the other hand, winter finches were relatively scarce on the count. We didn’t record a single Purple Finch, only a single Pine Siskin and single Snow Bunting, although Common Redpolls were reported in three territories. Red-breasted Nuthatches were also quite rare; only a single bird was found at Carver Park.

Sixty-seven participants took part in the count this year: 7 as feeder-watchers, 21 through the program at Carver Park Reserve and 39 other field observers. Next year’s count will be held on Saturday, December 17, 2016.

  • The 13,030 Common Mergansers were counted by Dick Sandve, Bonnie Mulligan and Charlie Greenman who have been doing the Excelsior CBC together for many years. I’m sure everyone is wondering if it wasn’t really 13,029 or 13,031. Bonnie commented to me that they probably undercounted them as many were far out and obscured by mist rising from the lake.
  • Three Townsend’s Solitaires were found by Joel Claus and Joe Lindell at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, as well as a flock of 25 Common Redpolls. Joe who is new to the count this year noted that both species were lifers for him – now that’s a nice CBC.
  • The team of Renner, Martha and Abigail Anderson, Doug Kieser and Michael Manning covering the Blue Lake Water Treatment Plant and surrounding area found the count’s only Gadwalls (108), American Black Duck (2), Northern Shoveler (5), Ring-necked Duck (56), Lesser Scaup (1), Bufflehead (3), and American Coot (16). They also found the count’s only Belted Kingfishers (2) and Snow Bunting (1), and saw a flock of 25 Common Redpolls.
  • Other species that were reported in only one territory included Eastern Bluebird (8) and Red-breasted Nuthatch (1) found by the hardy crew at Carver Park under the direction of Kirk Mona; Sharp-shinned Hawk (1) found by Joel Claus and Joe Lindell; Rough-legged Hawk (1), American Kestrel (1) and Song Sparrow (1) found by Jerry Bonkoski in the Shakopee area, Northern Shrike (1) found by Laura Hanson, Nathan and Barb Cooley and myself in Chanhassen (really expected way more shrikes given the weather); Red-winged Blackbird (1) found by count newcomers Ken and Susan Schumacher west of Chaska; Common Grackle (1) spotted by Dennis Yockers, Sue Grant and Ken Larson in suburban Minnetonka; and a single Pine Siskin found by feeder watcher Kimberlie Dewey, who is also new to the count. Our feeder watchers seem to turn up one or two birds every year that are not found elsewhere.
  • Eight species were found in every one of the 15 territories in our circle. Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco and Northern Cardinal. The eighth is a little more surprising: Red-tailed Hawk. In the 70’s and 80’s these birds were found in only small numbers, if at all. They have clearly adapted to our urban culture well.
  • Five count-week birds (birds seen three days before or after the official count day, but not on the count day) were located this year. Up to three Short-eared Owls were found hunting in a field off Canterbury Rd on the southern edge of the count circle by Brad Abendroth, 5 Northern Harriers were seen by several observers looking for the owl in the same field and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Purple Finches were seen by John Cyrus at Carver Park.

Tambopata Macaw Project Program

by Annie Hawkinson, www.macawproject.org

Location: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Visitor Center

Thursday, April 28

7:00 pm: Socialize with coffee and cookies

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

MacawThe Tambopata Macaw Project, located in the remote Peruvian Amazon, has been studying parrots and clay-lick use for more than 20 years. This region of SE Peru sees the highest concentration of clay-licks in the world, and every morning hundreds of parrots, alongside other herbivores consume this rich earth along the Tambopata River.

Ms. Hawkinson will speak about her experience as field leader with the project, provide insight into current research and volunteer opportunities, and share breathtaking pictures of Amazonian wildlife.

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.

Birding Guatemala

by Larry Sirvio

Location: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Visitor Center

Thursday, March 24

7:00 pm: Socialize with coffee and cookies

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

Red-lored Parrot
Red-lored Parrot, by Larry Sirvio

Guatemala is an attractive birding destination with more than 720 bird species and a high diversity of ecosystems. Guided by Guatemalan resident Knut Eisermann, we spent several days in the highlands followed by 3 days in the tropical lowlands of Tikal, perhaps the best spot I’ve ever seen for birding. The last few days were spent in southern coastal wetlands which featured good rum drinks as well as some interesting shorebirds and a resident pygmy-owl.

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.

Your Help is Needed for Climate Watch, A New Citizen Science Program

Eastern BluebirdBy Audubon Minnesota

Audubon Climate Watch is a new citizen science program that explores how North American Birds are responding to climate change. In 2014, Audubon released the Audubon Birds and Climate Change report highlighting the risks that climate change poses to birds.

Now, you can help by observing birds and learning more about how birds are responding to climate change.

MRVAC members are needed to volunteer for a few hours during the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Jan. 15-18, 2016. This will kick off the pilot phase of Climate Watch. MRVAC will be a key part of the collaborative team that develops materials and resources, including mapping tools, for Climate Watch and will have the opportunity to represent the Audubon chapter network in helping to create this new national program.

The pilot will focus on areas of predicted change for bluebirds and targeted area maps will be provided so volunteers can survey appropriate habitat within the grid cell. At least 10 volunteers are needed.

If you are interested in volunteering for this project, please contact Greg Burnes, gburnes@comcast.net or Ashley Peters, apeters@audubon.org for more information on how to participate.

Birds of Minnesota State Parks

by Bob Janssen, author & bird expert

Location: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Visitor Center

Thursday, February 25

7:00 pm: Socialize with coffee and cookies

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

Bird-of-MN-state-parksBob Janssen will talk about the 11 years of work he did inventorying birds in the Minnesota State Parks and creating the book Birds of Minnesota State Parks. Learn about the 10 best parks for birds in the state and tips for the best birding in local state parks.

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.

Migrate, Hibernate or Deal With It

by Mark “Sparky” Stensaas, The PhotoNaturalist

Location: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Visitor Center

Thursday, January 28

7:00 pm: Socialize with coffee and cookies

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

SparkyStensaasWinter is a force to be reckoned with in the North. Birds, mammals, amphibians, and even insects not only survive but THRIVE in the winter woods of the boreal forest.

Our visiting winter finches are especially adapted to our harsh winters. Learn how they do it through stunning images and HD video of some rarely-seen critters in this interesting and entertaining presentation.

Sparky will also be signing his new book, Winter Finches & Friends of North America, and have the field guides he publishes for sale as well.

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.