MRVAC News

MN Give for MRVAC

By Greg Burnes | November 4, 2019

One way that MRVAC is able to raise money each year is by participating in the annual fundraising event in Minnesota known as Give to the Max Day. Many nonprofit organizations choose to participate in the event put on by GiveMN and this year’s event will take place on November 14, 2019.

You can make your donation online using a credit card and the site will also ask you if you want to cover the fee that GiveMN charges each non-profit organization for each donation they receive. In addition, you can schedule your donation well ahead of time which is advisable as the website can be overloaded on the day of the event. Another benefit of using the GiveMN website are the bonuses that organizations can receive that are randomly selected during the day. Last year we received a $100 bonus, but many bonuses can be much higher.

This year it is our goal to raise $1000 on Give to the Max Day. To make your contribution please visit www.GiveMN.org and look for the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter page. Thank you in advance for your support.

2019 Holiday Auction – at REI Bloomington

By Greg Burnes | November 4, 2019

2019 MRVAC Holiday Auction Thursday,
November 21, 2019, 5:00 PM
REI Community Room, Bloomington MN

Mark your calendars for the annual MRVAC Holiday Auction! This year’s event will take place in the REI Community Room located at 750 American Boulevard West in Bloomington.

Set up will begin at 5:00 PM, the live auction begins at 6:00 PM, and cleanup will conclude by 8:30 PM. Please bring your checkbook or cash to pay for any items that you take home. Donations of items to be auctioned off are appreciated.

If you cannot make it to the auction but would like to donate an auction item, please send an initial email to jhsweet0201@gmail.com. The funds raised from last year’s auction went towards bird education, research, and conservation in the river valley in the form of grants that were awarded to local organizations and schools.

Red-headed Woodpecker Recovery

By MRVAC | February 28, 2019

By Jim Stengel, Red-Headed Woodpeckery Recovery 

The Red-headed Woodpecker Recovery project (RhWR) is now in its twelfth year of working to halt the decline and promote the recovery of Red-Headed Woodpeckers (RHWOs) in Minnesota through habitat preservation and restoration, research, and public education. Volunteers have done surveys of RHWOs from the project’s beginning. 

At the University of Minnesota’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve in East Bethel, trained citizen science volunteers locate breeding pairs of RHWOs and their nest trees, and many continue to monitor the birds through their breeding season. Since 2017, we have also sponsored collaborative research there. Our lead researcher, Dr. Elena West, is currently planning this year’s field work, procuring tracking devices for the birds and hiring field assistants, while we are also welcoming new members, engaging new volunteers, and raising money to fund this research. We hope that you can join us in this exciting endeavor! 

You Can Help 

You can help by reporting RHWO sightings on eBird. If you find one or more active nests outside of Cedar Creek, let us know. If you own or manage oak savanna or property with dead or decaying trees of any kind, save the snags wherever safety and health permit, and limit understory growth in support of RHWO habitat. 

If you’d like to join us as a trained citizen scientist to survey and monitor RHWOs at Cedar Creek, plan to attend an orientation there on Saturday, April 13. Or sign up for a guided tour of Cedar Creek’s RHWO nesting territory. For more on these and other opportunities, visit www.cedarcreek.umn.edu 

You can also help us and the birds by joining Red-headed Woodpecker Recovery project for just $20/year. 

Contributions of $150 and $210 will purchase radio-transmitters and geolocator devices that we attach to birds to study their habitat use and incubation in cavities. Contributors get to name and follow the bird wearing their device. Any amount you donate would help us match a current pledge of $2500. For updates and more information please see www.rhworesearch.org. 

Donate online or make checks payable to Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis (RHWR on the memo line) and mail to Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis, P.O. Box 3801, Minneapolis, MN 55403-0801. 

Book Review

By Anne Hanley | June 22, 2018

Butterfly Gardening: North American Butterfly Association Guide, by Jane Hurwitz 

Published by Princeton University Press 

This very attractive book is a good introduction to gardening for butterflies. Interspersed with lots of great photos you will find an overview of the main butterfly families and some guidance on identification. If you have enjoyed some butterflies in your yard and are thinking about making it more attractive to a wider variety of butterflies, this book is a good place to start. 

Some butterfly books and articles focus only on nectar plants for your garden, but this book spends equal time on the plants that support the caterpillars. You will see that various species feed on grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees. 

I also learned that not all butterflies consume flower nectar; some eat tree sap, rotting fruit and animal dung. This isn’t going to help you select plants for your front yard, but you might consider setting up a hanging shelf for watermelon rinds or other fruit. 

Nearly half the book describes gardens and gardening tips for different parts of the country. The two chapters most relevant for our area are “Butterfly Gardening with Trees: Eastern Deciduous Forest” and “Prairie-Plant Inspired Butterfly Gardens: the Grasslands”. 

In the Resources – Plant and Garden Design section of Butterfly Gardening, I was pleased to see Heather Holm’s book Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants. 

You will also want to look for local plant information – e.g. the plant list at http://nababutterfly.com/regional-butterfly-garden-guides/ and click on the Minneapolis one, written by Kathy Heidel. Some of you will remember Kathy Heidel from her years as a naturalist with Three Rivers Park District and the MRVAC bird ID classes she co-taught with Karol Gressor. 

Or try the plant list from the Xerces Society: https://xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/plant-lists/ 

If you want detailed information on Minnesota native plants including photos of the plant in all stages of development with details on growth habit, bloom time, color and where it is found in the state, visit https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/ 

Volunteer to Lead/Co-lead Bird Walks

By Cheri Fox | June 22, 2018

Would you be willing to share a favorite birding spot with other MRVAC members? Birding by bike or canoe might be fun! Pick your favorite park or trail, somewhere close by or further afield, and then contact me, Cheri Fox, about adding an outing to next year’s field trip schedule. We’d love to have a few more field trip leaders. I can be reached by phone at 612-590-1261 or cherifoxj@gmail.com.

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. 

Bluebird Monitors Wanted

By Anne Hanley | May 4, 2018

Wanted: A monitor to check an Eastern Bluebird trail at Southview Golf Course: 239 Mendota Rd E, West St Paul, MN 55118.

Duties include checking a dozen bluebird boxes once/week starting May 1st for a minimum of 12 weeks.

One line abbreviated notes are taken and summarized at the end of the year to report results to BBRP (Bluebird Recovery Program). Training and data will be provided.

Contact Jack Hauser at jgshauser@gmail.com or call 952-831-8132

Wetland Monitoring Opportunity

By Anne Hanley | May 4, 2018

Hennepin County is seeking citizen scientists to gather data about the health of wetlands in their communities. Wetland Health Evaluation Program (WHEP) volunteers will work with other citizen scientists to monitor bugs and plants in wetlands. No experience is required, but an interest in wetlands, bugs and/or plants is encouraged. Hennepin County provides all of the training, equipment, and leadership.

Teams will be formed in the Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Corcoran, Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, Medina, Minneapolis, Minnetonka and Plymouth areas. Everyone is welcome in these cities and neighboring communities to join a team.

Applications will be accepted through June 1. For more information, contact Mary Karius at mary.karius@hennepin.us or 612-596-9129

Red-Headed Woodpecker Recovery

By Matthew Schaut | May 4, 2018

Final Report for MRVAC for 2017 Summer Research Season

By Keith Olstad, Convener, Research Team, RHWO Recovery Project, (612) 940-1534

Last December, our Red-headed Woodpecker (RHWO) Recovery research team submitted a grant application to the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter. Our primary request was for funds to defray expenses for increased volunteer and professional field-work to begin to answer these questions:

  1. What factors govern RHWO nest productivity and survival of juveniles into the next year?
  2. What “internal” factors (e.g., sex, body condition) and/or “external” factors (e.g., food availability, weather, population density) drive RHWO to overwinter at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve (CCESR) or migrate?
  3. Where do RHWO go when they migrate? Do they migrate to the same place each year?

We were deeply gratified to receive a $3,000 grant from the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Club in 2017. We express a small part of our gratitude with this report on the application of these funds to critical research done this past summer, and offer to do a program for MRVAC detailing our work to date.

With support from a variety of funding sources (as reported in our initial grant proposal), we were able to hire a post-doctoral research coordinator, Dr. Elena West, to coordinate the work of our field research team. Dr. West worked half-time through the summer, and will continued to work this fall through December to analyze our data and formulate our research field work for 2018. Working with Dr. West at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve (CCESR) were two full time seasonal research assistants, Candace Stenzel and Jesse Beck. Resources provided by MRVAC defrayed expenses for field work done at CCESR by this team and by about thirty-six volunteer “citizen scientists”, and helped with laboratory expenses for data analysis.

During the course of the summer, the field research team “processed” sixty-six RHWO at CCESR, fifty adults and sixteen nestlings/fledglings. (“Processed” refers to capturing, banding, taking measurements, drawing blood samples and feather samples for DNA analysis, and possible use of location devices, listed below.) Thirty-nine RHWO were newly banded, and twenty-two nests were monitored. Twenty adults were outfitted with geo-GPS backpacks, of which eight were recovered in late summer and early fall, meaning that CPS and/or geo-locator data were gathered from these birds. Fifteen juveniles were “marked” with radio backpacks, allowing their movement to be tracked. In all, seventy-two birds were captured.

Parallel to the work of the field research technicians, thirty-six citizen science volunteers contributed 1,550 hours to the 2017 summer RHWO research season. They worked on five specific projects:

  1. RHWO nest location;
  2. RHWO parental effort in feeding nestlings;
  3. Food use identification;
  4. Oak tree tagging;
  5. Nest cavity porthole installation.

Data collected to date will be analyzed for preliminary results during late fall and early winter of 2017. Blood samples taken from summer RHWO captures will receive lab analysis over the 2017-18 winter. Spring 2018 recaptures of transmitter birds will allow downloading data regarding winter locations of these RHWOs.

In addition to the research conducted on RHWO, over the summer fifteen guided hikes and programs about this project, led by RHWO Recovery Project volunteers, provided rich educational opportunities to over 200 people at CCESR.

The research team of the RHWO Recovery Project created a partnership with Dr. Henry Streby at the University of Toledo, who is initiating similar research in Ohio and other states. This partnership will make it possible to compare different population’s genetic patterns and adult and juvenile activities on a broader geographic scale for more conclusive research results.

A new round of grant requests will be issued in the coming months to support and expand our exciting research.

And thank you once again for your most generous contribution to the recovery of this splendid bird.

World Migratory Bird Day Event at the Refuge

By Anne Hanley | May 3, 2018

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge will debut the Discover Nature App, a new mobile guide and trivia game, during World Migratory Bird Day festivities Saturday, May 12, at the Refuge.

The Discover Nature App guides visitors as they explore three units of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, providing points of interest and information on the Refuge’s diverse wildlife, habitat and history. The app also offers a family-friendly trivia game to play while visiting the Refuge. Interactive features allow users to upload and share their own experiences and photos of Refuge wildlife and habitat.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and partners will also host a special event that day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day at the Refuge’s Bloomington Visitor Center. Visitors can learn how to download and use the app, then walk Refuge trails on their own or join a Discover Nature walk at 12:30 p.m.

The May 12 event will also include a program by the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center, bird-themed arts and crafts activities, mist netting and bird banding, and more.

The Discover Nature App is available now for free by searching for “Discover Nature” on iTunes or Google Play. Download the three Minnesota Valley units ahead of time to come prepared. The app will automatically open up when users arrive at the Bloomington, Rapids Lake or Louisville Swamp Units of the Refuge. Maps with access points and trails information are available on the Refuge website, fws.gov/refuge/Minnesota_Valley/map.html.

The Refuge’s Bloomington Visitor Center is located at 3815 American Blvd. E., Bloomington, Minnesota, 55425.

Visitors are encouraged to wear weather-appropriate clothing and shoes, and to pack a lunch or snacks if they plan to stay for the day.

For Refuge information, visit fws.gov/refuge/minnesota_valley/ or call 952-854-5900.

2018 Birdathon: May 1-15

By Bob Williams | May 3, 2018

It’s time to prepare for the 2018 MRVAC Bird-a-Thon FUNdraiser! 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.

Download your Birdathon Pledge Form here!

You get to pick a day between May 1 and May 15 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. This 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. We have also supported efforts like the Red Headed Woodpecker project.

Ideally, all donations that you collect should be submitted to Bob Williams by June 1, 2018. You can contact him at 612-728-2232 or by email at bxwilliams@cbburnet.com. It is best to give the donations directly to Bob at one of the general meetings, but they also can be mailed to MRVAC at PO Box 20400, Bloomington, MN 55420. You don’t need to sponsor a birder to donate; direct donations are welcomed as well!

You may also donate via the MRVAC GiveMN site.

Get your pledge form, and go forth and bird!