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

This Golden-winged Warbler among early fall migrants

This Golden-winged Warbler was photographed two days ago in Duluth by birder Will Stenberg. He found it in his yard. The bird most certainly was a migrant, a bright and early sign of fall. Birds already are on the move out of breeding habitat, heading south. Fall migration is always slow, unlike spring when breeding dictates haste. Birds will be dribbling through the Twin Cities into October. We had a small dribble yesterday in our Orono yard. We watched a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher picking insects from the leaves of a large maple tree. It and several chickadees, most likely locals, were working high over our heads, always darting, never still. There might have been a warbler in there, too, but we couldn’t ID it. The gnatcatcher could have been a local nester, although we almost never see one here. They breed from Kanabec County, north of the Twin Cities, down a wide swath of the state along the Mississippi River, and along the southern portions of the Minnesota River.

Birder discovers a new whale species

The story came out of Alaska: birder discovers a new species of mammal, a very large species.

The story is two years old, recently offered on an American Birding Association blog.

Found was a new whale species, known so far only by its scientific name: Beradius beringiae. It’s a member of the beaked whale family.

Birder Christian Hagenlocher conducting research on islands in the Bering Sea, discovered the dead mammal washed ashore on St. George Island

Birding on St. George is uncommon. Most birders go to  a companion island, St. Paul’s. It worked for Hagenlocher, though: he was in the midst of a North American Big Year quest.

He didn’t recognize the whale. He took photos, giving those and his description to Karin Holser, a mammal biologist working with seals on both islands.

She also could not give the whale a name. She sent photos to biologists in Alaska and beyond. An identity was established. The whale was unknown but technically not undiscovered. An unidentified skeleton in an island school, tissue samples in a Japanese museum, and stories told by Japanese whalers, all belonged to the new creature. Three mysteries solved.

Birding on St. George turned out to be pretty good. Hagenlocher saw a female Smew, Whiskered Auklet, several stints, Gray-tailed Tattler, King Eider, and a pair of eurasian (white-fronted) type Barn Swallows.

He went home with a longer list and a very good story.