The Minnesota Christmas Bird Count is underway. The Audubon Society uses information from more than 1,000 members of the public for its annual census of birds.
This video by Milton Blomberg shows off a boreal owl on the Duluth Lakewalk.
Richard Hoeg spotted a snowy owl on Duluth Harbor ice this morning and at first didn’t think it was out of the ordinary. Returning a few hours later, he noticed the owl had only moved a few feet and didn’t flush when a pair of dogs were checking it out. So with the help of a fish net, wood and duct tape, he pulled the owl in and passed it along to Wildwoods Rehabilitation. Hoeg tells the full story on his 365 Days of Birds blog.
In the West Duluth area we get two choruses — a din of birds sing-talking. It’s annoying. It happens at dawn and also dusk. I am wondering if there is an expert who could tell me what type of bird this might be. I don’t have a recording, but it usually goes something like wa-oh wa-oh wa-oh twitter spike. The song is really varied with each “sentence” or “question.” It happens before the crows start their cawing craziness and the seagulls start piping up.
When my boys were young, they found a baby robin in our backyard. That little bird ruled our world for a few days, but more remarkably, it brought me to my spiritual knees. My place in things — motherhood, nature, humanness — all came into question. A decade later, I am still pirouetting with the lessons, the most resonant being my wonderment at the place I hold among animals, which I find to be rather startling. The writer Wendell Berry said in one of my favorite poems, “I come into the peace of wild things.” What I learned was not — and is still not — entirely peaceful. But in being gobsmacked by a few ounces of feathers, I have been able to see the elegance and intelligence of things I didn’t see before. The skills and abilities we are given for our particular deed. It just comes to us. We are so lucky, so blessed, so capable — even while we find the limits of our own animalness.
The robin my boys found was clearly too young to be on her own. She had enough wing feathers to get herself safely out of a tree without a deadly landing, but her landing strip was a backyard ruled by boys and curious dogs. Her appearance at ground level was, of course, a breathless, wide-eyed event for my elementary-aged boys, who instantly and frantically began saving her. I was swearing silently while directing an evacuation of the backyard, contending with that horrible gut heaviness that comes when you know your heart is about to be split open. I peered hopefully out the window with the boys many times before dinner, watching to see if the robin parents would somehow come for her. That was my irrational hope.
Duluth is a bottleneck for bird migration. Birds flying south prefer not to fly over open water, and so follow the coastline until they read the head of the lake in Duluth.
We have a gazillion pine siskins at our bird feeders right now. The feeders have to be filled twice a day to keep up with these ravenous little guys. Does anyone know what the story is? We have had siskins before but never so many at one time. Undoubtedly our seeds are tasty, but …
If you’ve followed Perfect Duluth Day closely for more than a year, you might know that my wife and I are the world’s laziest and lousiest birders. We have cheap binoculars and cameras, and basically just try to keep an eye out while we are engaged in an activity like cross-country skiing. Last year, during an owl irruption in the Duluth area, we saw zero owls. The only snowy owls we had seen in our lives, before today, were in captivity at the Lake Superior Zoo and the World Bird Sanctuary in Missouri.
We had a few failed missions last year, seeking the elusive snowy at Rice’s Point and the Bong Airport. After hearing reports of sightings near Duluth Business University and Wade Stadium this year, we decided to give it another try. We saw a bald eagle at Grassy Point within minutes, and figured that was a good sign. We knew from reading Sparky Stensaas’ blog post about Superior Snowy Owls that it’s generally easier to find them in a stupid place, like on a football scoreboard (in his case) or a piece of industrial equipment (in our case) than in a beautiful wilderness environment, so we were only moderately surprised to find our gal at Erie Pier in West Duluth, perched on a bulldozer.
Some updates from Wildwoods Rehabilitation:
There are three window-strike bird victims in residence — a northern flicker, a juvenile cedar waxwing, and a flycatcher. The flicker came in with a spinal bruise, and was unable to use his legs for several days. Fortunately, he’s made a full recovery after rest and anti-swelling meds, and is ready for release. In the meantime, he’s been pigging out on the mealworms, and has plumped out, just in time for migration, when he’ll need the energy!
This afternoon I was driving back from the dump when I saw a car with its flashers on on Rice Lake Road. I slowed to … basically to rubberneck, but, you know, to see if everything was OK. They were looking at this bald eagle that was staggering along the narrow green space between the highway and the wetland that it passes through.
Wildwoods was brought a barred owl yesterday (deceased, unfortunately, likely from a window collision). This owl, when already at least 1 year old, was banded at Hawk Ridge by Dave Evans back in 1998. Based on this, he is at least 16-17 years old, and the third oldest barred owl on record.