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.
I’ve been in touch by email with an architect in New York City, partner in a large firm there, who has an interest in the Vikings stadium under construction because she believes strongly in bird-safe buildings. She gave me links to web pages that contained information new to me, which doesn't mean it's new.
One of the links was to the Minneapolis daily business newspaper “Finance and Commerce.” In late April it carried an excellent article by Frank Jossi that answers a couple of my questions. I also received information from the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.
I learned that 60 percent of the stadium roof will be made of a partly transparent building material known at ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, a fluorine-based polymer). It comes in very thin sheets that will be used to form what you might call pillows, inflated by air pressure (but not subject to the puncture failure and collapse we saw at the old stadium).
Jossi explained that the stadium will have glass 20-feet-wide at the top of its exterior walls, just beneath the ETFE roof. And there is the 200-foot-wide wall of glass on the stadium’s west side that is causing concern among birders. Maybe the 20-foot surround is regarded as a problem, too; I’ve not heard it mentioned in particular. But it is glass, and it does reflect.
The figure commonly used for the amount of glass on the stadium’s exterior is 200,000 square feet. Actually, and this is the question the authority did answer, the amount is 180,000, not that that makes much difference.
There will be some pattern to the ETFE roofing material. It lets sunlight pass; that could cause a serious heat problem, a greenhouse effect. The material will contain two dot-matrix patterns, Jossi wrote, to block some sunlight and heat. Birders wish such patterns would be incorporated in the glass, to lessen reflection.
A Rufous Hummingbird, breeder in the Northwest, has been coming to feeders in a yard near Le Sueur since Sept. 13. Mary and Steve Nesgoda have been hosts to the bird as well as about 240 birders who have come to their farmyard to see this unusual visitor. The bird is an adult male, only the fourth of that plumage documented in the state. Eleven immature or female birds also are on record. A friend and I saw the bird Friday afternoon. Rufous is the western species most likely to wander east in the fall. Given its habit of wandering in this direction it probably has a good chance of successfully reaching its wintering grounds along the Gulf coast. How long it will stay is a guess. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds also were seen at the Nesgoda's feeders. Identification books describe the bird's gorget -- its throat feathers -- as brilliant orange. I think sunlight would be needed to see that color, and Friday definitely did not offer sunlight.
Here are the 10 bird species most difficult to see in Minnesota, migrant or resident, as chosen by Bob Janssen, the state's birding godfather. (Thanks, Bob.)
Little Blue Heron
WINTER FINCH FORECAST
Each fall Ron Pittaway of Ontario gathers information on the tree-seed crops that will or won’t keep some of our hoped-for winter bird visitors north of us. From a variety of sources he collects data on three species of trees key to winter bird food — spruces, birches, and mountain ash trees.
Here is his forecast, with my disclaimer that things might not go exactly this way. Our thanks to him for this annual peak into the future at this winter’s feeders.
One good piece of news is that cone crops are called poor west of Ontario, which might help birds in that region to move south.
Do not expect to see Pine Grosbeaks. Mountain ash crops are good in key Canadian areas. That is likely to keep these birds north.
We should see Purple Finches. They feed on seeds of coniferous and deciduous trees. Those seed crops are low. (Purple Finches favor black oil sunflower seeds at feeders.)
Red Crossbills are unlikely. Red and white pine cone crops in Ontario are good.
White-winged Crossbills are possible in areas where cone crops are strong.
Common Redpolls should return after an almost complete absence last winter. Birch seed crops are poor to average in Canada’s boreal forest. (Redpolls prefer niger thistle seed at feeders.)
Hoary Redpolls: watch for them in northern redpoll flocks.
Pittaway’s report says Blue Jays have been migrating south out of Canada.
Red-breasted Nuthatchs will be moving south because spruce cone crops, important to that bird, are low to average in number.
Bohemian Waxwings are predicted to stay north this winter because the mountain-ash berry crop throughout the boreal forest is very good to excellent.
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