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 Minnesota birding sites

State parks best for birding

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: May 4, 2015 - 10:40 PM

Beaver creek valley
Blue Mounds
Gooseberry Falls
Judge C. R. Magney
Mille Lacs/Kathio
Monson Lake (least known, one of his favorites)

Janssen is author of the recently published guide to birds in Minnesota's state parks.

One migration day in Duluth

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 17, 2015 - 11:22 PM

This  report was posted to the email list of the Minnessota Ornithologists' Union by Karl Bardon, an excellent birder in Duluth. He does bird counts during spring and fall migrations for the Hawk Ridge Nature Center. The bird movements discussed occurred on April 12. This report has some age, but it shows the massive number of birds that can be on the move on a given day. Migration is in its early stages here. Be alert.

Bardon's report:

There was a mass migration event along the Duluth-Superior lakeshore on Sunday
April 12th, including 34,000 American Robins, plus smaller numbers of Rusty
Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Pine Siskins, Purple Finches, and Northern
Flickers (low hundreds of each), and a few Common Redpolls, Yellow-rumped
Warblers, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Although I have seen migration of
this magnitude in fall, this day was so amazing because all the birds were
so low and close, at tree height, with a continuous river of songbirds from
sunrise until nearly noon. Raptor migration was equally impressive with
1083 Red-tailed Hawks counted including 9 dark morph Westerns, plus 676
Sharp-shinned Hawks, 442 Turkey Vultures, 158 Bald Eagles, 24 Rough-legs,
12 Northern Harriers, 3 American Kestrels, 2 Merlins, 1 Peregrine Falcon, 1
Osprey, 1 Northern Goshawk, and 1 Swainson's Hawk. With two successive days
of very strong south winds, this is probably the best landbird flight I
have ever seen here in spring:). Smaller numbers (but still impressive)
continued on Monday (eg, over 5,000 robins and 289 flickers).

Many Snowy Owls back again this winter

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: January 2, 2015 - 12:26 PM

Many Snowy Owls are being reported in Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Wisconsin again this winter, although it’s nothing like last year. Not yet, anyway.


Project SnowStorm, the owl tracking effort that began last winter, is back in business, its blog on-line and available (http://www.projectsnowstorm.org). The blog is keeping track of current sightings.


One recent post was written by Jean-Francois Therrien, senior research biologist at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. He’s been studying Snowy Owls in the Arctic for years with Laval University in Quebec. His report documents a 2014 owl breeding season that surpasses the 2013 season believed to result in the mass movement south last year. 


The study Therrien is doing is on Bylot Island in Nunavut, Canada, above Baffin Island. The core study area covers 39 square miles. Previous record number of nests found there was 13, in 2004. This past summer the team found 20, a high density.  


Expanding the count area brought the total nests found to 116, far more than the previous high count of 33, from 2010 in the same area. Lemming density was lower this past summer than in 2013, however, so it is expected that fewer young Snowy Owls fledged. “Nonetheless,” Therrien wrote in the blog, “we are expecting to see some Snowies this winter, but we’ll have to wait to see if the numbers get close to what we had last winter.”


It also was reported that some of the owls equipped with geolocaters last winter are beginning to move south into cell-phone range. This is important because the data collected on the devices, strapped to the owls’ backs as they spent their summer in their Arctic breeding territory, record and store the information, downloading it when the birds get within range of a cell-phone tower. Analysis of the information so far available is underway. 


Owls coming down this season also will be tagged when possible. The study continues. Stay tuned.

(A good place to check on numbers and locations of birds reported recently in Minnesota is on eBird, a Cornell Lab site that lists reports it receives from birders. Find it at http://ebird.org/ebird/subnational1/US-MN/activity?yr=all&m=

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)

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

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

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



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