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.

Posts about Bird personalities

Kathy Heidel, longtime naturalist at Carver Park

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: June 13, 2014 - 10:37 AM

Many years ago, when we were living west of Excelsior and my interest in birding was turning seriously serious, I spent much of my birding time at Carver Park Reserve. Many of the bird questions I had — and they were numerous — were answered by Kathy Heidel. She was a naturalist on staff there from 1968 through 2003. Kathy died May 17. 

There must be thousands of people like me who had their questions answered by Kathy. She took your interest in all things wild and natural and sharpened it, in my case to a continuing passion for birds. One day in early spring I hurried to the nature center from a park lake to tell Kathy about the unusual loon I had just seen, a new bird for me. I described it, and she said, gently, with a smile, yes, the Common Merganser. 

Memorial donations are welcomed by Kathy’s family and Three Rivers Parks. They can be sent to: Kathy Heidel Memorial Fund-LNC, Three Rivers Park District, 3000 Xenium Lane N., Plymouth MN 55441. They will be used to continue support of Kathy’s efforts to educate people about the wonders and preservation of our natural resources.

Duluth's Laura Erickson honored

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: February 11, 2014 - 8:42 AM

Laura Erickson, Duluth resident, birder, author, radio personality, and blogger, has been given the Roger Tory Peterson Award by the American Birding Association. She is honored for a lifetime of work on behalf of birding. Laura has been particularly focused on birding for youngsters.

She is author of six books about birds: "101 Ways to Help Birds;" "Sharing the Wonder of Birds with Kids," which won the 1997 National Outdoor Book Award; "The Bird Watching Answer Book;" For the Birds: An Unusual Guide;" and"Twelve Owls" and "Minnesota Birds of Prey," both illustrated by Betsy Bowen, artist from Grand Marais.

Laura has been producer of her own radio show about birds since 1986. This brief and entertaining bit about birds can be heard on public radio stations in Duluth, Grand Rapids, St. Cloud, and Thief River Falls. She also is a busy public speaker. Laura's web address is www.lauraerickson.com

Congratulations to an outstanding educator and ambassador for birding.

Birds sculpted from paper -- amazing

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: January 26, 2014 - 7:29 PM

Artist uses bits of carefully cut paper to craft amazingly life-like birds. Some take as long as two weeks to finish.


Rare opportunity to see work by Hautman brothers

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: October 15, 2013 - 1:17 PM

A rare opportunity to see dozens of paintings by three of the world’s finest wildlife artists is now available at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts in Orono.

The work is by the Hautman brothers, Jim, Joe, and Bob, broadly known for their domination of the federal duck stamp art competitions. Combined, they’ve won 10 federal competitions and more than 50 for state conservation stamps. Jim lives in Chaska, Joe in Plymouth, and Bob in Delano.

The exhibit contains examples of their work with waterfowl as well as a broad selection of paintings of other wildlife species. This is a retrospective, following their careers as artists. Many of the pieces are for sale.

The paintings are on display until Oct. 26. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Friday, and Saturday 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The center is closed Sundays.

The center is located two and a half miles west of Wayzata. Merge onto Highway 12 west from its junction at the westen terminus of I-394. Take the County Road 15 exit. Follow County 15 for 2.5 miles to Northshore Drive. Take a right turn. The center is two blocks ahead on the right.

Oh, the stories to be told

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: February 1, 2013 - 11:34 AM

My birding friend Tink will visit here in February, coming from Virginia to attend the Sax-Zim birding festival in Meadowlands. Before his arrival I had to ask him his real name.

I met Tink in Arizona in 2006. We and our wives were visiting the Nature Conservancy Reserve in Ramsey Canyon. It’s a primo birding spot in the Huachuca mountains in southeastern Arizona. You can see 10 or 12 hummingbird species here on one good August day.

Tink and I have kept up a steady email correspondence for seven years. His visit here is (was) highly anticipated. I felt, in that case, I should know his name.

Tink, as you’ve guessed, is a nickname. When we met he told me his real name, but he didn’t use it in other than official ways, so I didn’t use it, so I forgot it.

There is nothing uncommon about that, for me anyway. I remember birders I meet by the stories I attach to them, the birds we shared, the places we visited in common, the oddities and adventures.

Also in Ramsey Canyon that day was John What’s-his-name, the garrulous one-eyed dynamite salesman from Texas. (I never asked about the eye, preferring to speculate.) John’s story finds him 70 miles outside of Nome, Alaska, searching with friends for the Bristle-thighed (true) Curlew.

Successful in his effort, John decided to walk back to the group’s van. In unvaried and confusing terrain, he confidently hiked the wrong direction, toward the Arctic Ocean.

He was found as a distant silhouette against the ever-bright Nome summer sky, minutes from being subject of a 911 alert. He insisted ever after that he knew exactly where he was.

There’s the house painter from Toronto, who dropped brush and bucket whenever he had airfare, flying to wherever the birding action was. (He had a bird itch in need of frequent scratching, and an understanding wife.) I last saw him on a foggy dock on the California coast.

Friends and I were waiting pre-dawn for departure on a pelagic trip.

We were dressed like Minnesotans, stuffed into all the clothes we had; sea fog has a wind-chill factor. The painter came strolling down the dock in a tank top, shorts, and flip flops.

He was one bird away from reaching 600 on his life list, a very big deal. He had a momentous trip in front of him. He also had no binoculars, dropping his during an enroute stop in Arizona, breaking a lens.

He asked if we had a pair he could borrow. I don’t remember his name or how the trip went, but I can hear those flip flops coming through the fog.

Tink and I became friends when we discovered in Arizona that his birding ID books were weak on hummingbirds. One of ours was better.

“Here, ”I said, “use this one. Send it back when you get home.”

Ever since we’ve traded reports of birding adventures, his chase of a life list of 500 North American species, my list of species photographed.

There are others, good stories all. Birding for me is about the story.

Tink’s Minnesota story will end happily. He will see new birds and push ever closer to 500. Then, he will begin the chase to 600. You can reach 700 North American species with effort. I have friends whose lists are in the 800s. They are subjects of really good stories.

Tink’s name, by the way, is Carleton.









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