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An open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond

It's a Marbled Godwit breeding battle

Marbled Godwits are migrant grassland nesters with Minnesota as the eastern edge of their U.S. breeding territory. They are more readily found in North Dakota and north-eastern Montana. The photos were taken in Montana in mid-May. The birds were engaged in a territorial battle that a went on for about 10 minutes. This was mostl any airborne battle with brief quiet periods for, I assume, rest. It was a vigorous fight. Most of the species’ North American territory is in Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, centered in Alberta. Minnesota has had breeders in decades past, in a one-county swath stretching from the beginning of the Minnesota River north to our border with Canada. The presence of grassland is the requirement and problem. Wildlife Management Areas and Waterfowl Production Areas are good places to look for Godwits, particularly in spring migration — late April to late May. Look for ponds and lakes with muddy edges. The birds are gone from the state by late July. I took the photos at Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge, seven miles east of Malta, Montana. The refuge is a superb place for birdwatching and bird photography of waterfowl, wetland, and grassland species, the single best national refuge I have visited for those birds.

25 Wood Duck ducklings in one batch

We returned yesterday from almost three weeks of touring, birding, and visiting from here to Arizona. One of the first things I did once the van was unloaded was to check the pond for baby waterfowl. When we left we had a nesting Canada Goose, at least one nesting Wood Duck, and possible nesting by a Mallard and a Blue-winged Teal. Hatching, if it occurred, would have been in our absence. The pond remained empty until Thursday afternoon when a hen Wood Duck appeared with 25 ducklings. There were five pairs of Wood Ducks on the pond for much of April. I suspect more than one hen put eggs in the nest from which this very large brood of ducks hatched. The photo shows 22 ducklings. Three were out of range. Birding in Montana, at Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge, by the way, was fantastic. I'm working on the photos.