Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
The Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow that has been drawing birders to a site in Bloomington was on location Monday. About 30 people got a good look. The bird is a lingering migrant that has found cattail habitat at the Bass Ponds to its liking. The ponds are part of a Bloomington natural history area. The land is on the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Google “bass ponds bloomington’ for information and directions. It’s an excellent place to see birds of many kinds – songbirds, shorebirds, water birds, raptors, and more.
The sparrow has most recently been seen foraging out of the cattails on a small mud flat adjacent to a beaver dam near the shore of a backwater of the Minnesota River. The best place for viewing is a narrow strip of land leading to the dam. It was crowded on Monday; see photo.
I took pictures before and after the crowd. Also present for photographs were an American Pipit, Rusty Blackbirds, a Swamp Sparrow, a Red-tailed Hawk, a male Harrier, and Canada Geese. Today, the flight path of passenger planes landing at the International Airport was directly overhead. Every few minutes a large plane roared past, making conversation impossible, but having no apparent impact on the birds.
This sparrow species nests as near as Aitkin County, in the large marsh straddling Highway 65 south of the town of Aitkin. It also can be found in Crex Meadows Wildlife Area north of Grantsburg, Wis. Range maps show its breeding territory angling from northwest Minnesota far into Canada.
This particular individual (or more; as many as five were accounted for one afternoon two or three weeks ago) is popular because it is easy to see (duh). During spring, when it is singing on territory, it’s a tough one. It sings from down in the grass and reeds, rarely coming into view. Its song is small and weak, an unmusical tsssk. This then is an opportunity not often available. The bird is likely to be here until foul weather pushes it south.
Birders are below, followed by the object of their affection, Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow.
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