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 travels

List No. 8 -- 20 good places to bird, more or less nearby

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: January 27, 2015 - 9:18 PM

20 Birding Hot Spots within 274 miles of Minneapolis 
(as chosen by National Geographic)

Minnesota:
Gunflint Trail
Sax-Zim Bog
Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge
McGregor Marsh State Natural Area
Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge
Felton Prairie
Rothsay Wildlife Management Area
Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge
Beaver Creek Valley State Park
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Wisconsin
Crex Meadows Wildlife Area
Wyalusing State Park

South Dakota
Sica Hollow State Park
Waubay National Wildlife Refuge
Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Newton Hills State Park

North Dakota
Sheyenne National Grassland
Oak Grove Park, Fargo

Iowa
Lost Island Nature Center, Ruthven
Effigy Mounds National Monument (along Mississippi River)

"Birds of Minnesota State Parks"

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: December 26, 2014 - 3:56 PM

A book describing birding opportunities in Minnesota’s 75 state parks and recreation areas is in final proofing stage, with publication hoped for March. This will be a must-have for anyone birding beyond their backyard.

 

The title is “Birds of Minnesota State Park,” the author Robert B. Janssen. He spent 11 years making multiple visits to the parks, to cover both nesting species and migrants.

 

All of the parks are here, from Beaver Creek Valley State Park deep in the southeast corner of the state to Zippel Bay State Park on the shore of Lake of the Woods. Parks are arranged by counties within the state’s four biomes: tallgrass prairie, tallgrass aspen parkland, hardwood forest, and pine forest.

 

Janssen’s text covers habitat of each park, pointing out landscape features that can offer particular birding opportunities. He describes in general the bird families likely to be seen, along with particular areas recommended for close examination for particular species. 

 

The book is fat with maps showing park locations, and details within each park — trails, campsites, water access, parking, and more. Many bird species of particular interest appear in color photos. 

 

The book has 218 pages plus index. The American Birding Association Code of Ethics for birders is included.

 

Janssen is author of “Birds in Minnesota,” a guide to the distribution of 400 species of birds in Minnesota. It was issued in paper by the University of Minnesota Press in 1987, and remains in print. It can be considered an essential for serious birders here.

 

“Birds of Minnesota State Parks” will be published by the Minnesota Division of State Parks and Trails. It will appear under the guidance of Carrol L. Henderson, who guides non-game wildlife programs for the Department of Natural Resources.

 

The comprehensive bird lists found in the book are available online at mn.dnr.gov

 

List No. 7 -- states best for birding

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: December 10, 2014 - 5:47 PM

7 States Best for Birding
Minnesota
North Dakota
Alaska
California
Arizona
Texas
Florida

Eagles along the Mississippi River

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: November 26, 2014 - 1:48 PM

Interested in a little holiday birdwatching? This is a very good time of year to find eagles south of the Twin Cities along the Mississippi River. The opportunity will continue through the winter where there is open water. 

The areas from Red Wing south will be good all the way down to Brownsville. Wabasha has eagles in addition to the National Eagle Center, well worth a visit.

From Red Wing south you can find hundreds of Bald Eagles, sometimes dozens in one location. Look on the ice, and in shoreline trees. You will be on Highway 61, a busy road. Get off the road to view the birds. Don’t try to do your watching from a moving car.

The Tundra Swans that rest late each fall in the wide backwaters of the river at what is called Weaver Bottoms have mostly moved on, continuing migration to Chesapeake Bay. As of last Friday, the 21st, a few hundred remained far from shore at that location. A spotting scope would be necessary for good looks. A good site is called Pool Eight, meaning there is a dam and locks at that river location. Check a map for precise locations.

Best viewing for swans is past. On a good day earlier in November at the right location tens of thousands of Tundra Swans can be seen. Put it on your 2015 list of things to do. 

In deep open water, the river channel, you presently can find thousands of diving ducks and mergansers. A scope will make viewing much more enjoyable.

Given this abrupt start to serious winter weather, a trip sooner than later will be best. Much of the river is frozen over, and more certainly will freeze.

Both sides of the river offer viewing opportunities, by the way (although the Minnesota side brings you closer to the water). Cross at Winona, and return north on the Wisconsin side.

Below, Bald Eagles on river ice near Wabasha, and Tundra Swans at the Weaver Bottoms.

Crane show at Crex Meadows

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: October 17, 2014 - 10:32 AM

Sandhill Cranes by the thousands are putting on a spectacular show right now at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area just north of Grantsburg, Wis. The birds roost in wet meadows on the refuge, flying out in the morning to feed in area crop fields, then returning in the 90 minutes before sunset. Yesterday, a couple of dozen viewers lined Main Dike Road to watch the birds sail over their heads as they dropped into the roost site. It's as close to a bird spectacle as you're going to get around here.

The Crex visitors' center is located at the corner of County Roads F and D. County F is the road you take out of downtown Grantsburg. At D, turn right; the center is on your immediate left. Maps of the refuge are available there. The birds can be seen from other vantage points, but Main Dike Road is best because the birds come to roost immediately north of it. (If there are no maps available, follow County D east from the visitors' center to East Refuge Road. Go left (north), until you reach Main Dike Road, which will T from the left. Follow Main Dike west.)

Yesterday offered a beautiful sunset against which to photograph the birds, fortunate happenstance.

Grantsburg is a 90-minute drive from downtown Minneapolis. Take I-35W north to Minnesota Highway 70, four miles north of the Rush City exit. Follow 70 east across the St. Croix River, and then into Grantsburg. Turn left at the light. Follow the crane silhouettes painted in yellow on the road. The birds are expected to remain in the area into early November. 

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