Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Minnesota Home Birding 2013

It was a bizarre and seemingly endless winter, by all accounts, but we’ll soon forget. Remember all the tornados in 201x? Not really. And what about that horribly wet June of 20xx? I can’t recall.

One result of the retarded spring of 2013 has been a very good birding season. The little feathered creatures have been moving through in bunches and they’re easier to spot than usual, due to the delayed leafing out. I’ve already logged 120 species, and our annual Mid-May birding weekend still lies ahead. I’m not counting the mockingbirds, Carolina chickadees, Eastern towhees, and worm-eating warblers we saw in Tennessee. This is Minnesota stuff.

Wood Lake Nature Center, where Hilary and I learned to bird thirty years ago, has been crawling with bright yellow warblers and handsome myrtle warblers, along with a few dazzling examples of more exotic species such as the Cape May and the magnolia.

The orioles are singing like crazy down in the cottonwoods on the north side of Cedar Lake. Flocks of  mergansers dot the surface of Lake Calhoun.

Just yesterday, I looked up from my computer to see two orange-crowned warblers bopping through the honeysuckle bush outside the window. Earlier that morning an ovenbird had been strutting proudly amid the nascent wild geraniums in the back yard. And just this morning, before breakfast, I spotted what I took to be yet another warbler in the elderberry bushes outside the bedroom window. It turned out to be a blue-headed vireo.(See above)

A few minutes later I head the call, “John!” from the other side of the house. I know that awe-filled call, urgent yet cautious; it means there’s something unusual to look at that mustn’t be scared away. I crept out into the dining room, camera in hand. A rose-breasted grosbeak was sitting on the feeder.

A few minutes later we both happened to be looking at the feeder when a monster appeared. “What’s that?” I exclaimed. It looked like a gigantic house sparrow with a black head. The name soon came to me from some deep recess of memory. Harris sparrow.

I remember the last time I saw a Harris sparrow. We were babysitting for some friends and one suddenly appeared on the deck out of nowhere. “Look at that, Abbie; a Harris sparrow,” I said. Abbie may have been eight or ten at the time.

Now a mother of two, Abbie passed her bar exams last summer. 


Amy said...

We had a little bird get into our house yesterday and perch on a windowsill, staring out, most forlorn. It took some effort, but we were able to get it down and back outdoors, where it flew away. Poor thing must have been so confused.

Anonymous said...

Must have been a very good winter for the Harris's sparrow; I've seen 3 in my inner city Minneapolis yard, and have never before seen them here, and I've now heard 3 other birders reporting sightings. How common are they anyway? Beautiful birds!