The weather is ugly! The route to Hudson Bay through Duluth is even worse!
Yup, the rains have come over the past few days, and the recreation fields at the end of Park Point have been turned into mud flats. The shore birds on their way up to Hudson’s Bay and points north love the food opportunities on these new mud flats to reload, rest and feed. There is one big problem for the shorebirds and all the song birds migration through the Duluth area … Merlins!
Park Point Playing Fields Marbled Godwit and Dunlins
Back on the Home Front … Amity Creek Eastern Towhee, Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks, American Tree Sparrow, White-Throated Sparrow and Blue Jays
At one point this afternoon, I had 40+ Blue Jays in the yard!
One of Many Merlins Tracking the Migration … Songbirds Beware!
Had a super time hiking this morning on the dikes of the MacQuarrie Wetlands near Wrenshall, Minnesota. My good friends, Mike Furtman, had keyed me in to this amazing habitat just outside of Duluth. Quite frankly, I was amazed to find these wetlands in the Namadji River watershed, only a couple miles off one of my bike routes (Military Road). If you know the Nemadji area, you understand rolling hills.
Although the Trumpeter Swans in the first photo may look peaceful and graceful, the situation is 100% different. I watched the lead swan get chased away by “many couples” from various wetland ponds shortly after sunrise this morning. The cob (male swan) was trying to “swipe someone else’s woman”, and in each case the bonds formed by the couples were strong and they jointly chased away the interloper ... trumpeting the entire time. It was noisy beautiful!
The ponds had only gone ice free a few days before, and the “early migrants” were not about to give up their prime nesting spots to late arrivals … let alone break up a perfectly good relationship.
Chasing the Interloper … Trumpeter Swans
A Porcupine Surveying the Scene this Morning
Young Love at my own feeders … Pileated Power
Duck, Duck, Duck, Goose! (the higher in the air of the two immature bald eagles had just swept in a “goosed” the other eagle … and perhaps even stole some breakfast).
Back to Minnesota … back to Winter, or is it Spring?
This morning I drove over to visit the Wisconsin State Hwy #13 grasslands near Cloverland and the Roy Johnson Mitigation Wetlands. Given none of the lakes or area ponds are ice free, and the fact that one could still find snow in the deep reaches of the forests, I had low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to find an area that was thinking Spring might be around the corner.
Canada Geese and Trumpeter Swans were finding minuscule openings of water to stage, and a few early migrants … mainly red-winged blackbirds, robins and American Kestrels were present in reasonable numbers. Early arrivals of other grassland birds were not yet present.
Still lingering in the area were Rough-Legged Hawks like the one pictured below as it waited for more favorable weather and southerly winds to push northward. When I return home I found a few Goldfinches starting to wear their summer plumage.
The winds continue to roar. Apparently there is a HUGE low pressure system north of us in Ontario. The end result has been two days of steady 35 mph winds, with frequent gusts to 50 mph. We have lost at least four trees in the yard / woods next to our house. One even made a glancing blow to the home, but thankfully no damage was done.
In short, it has not been good for birding or photography. With conditions like these, birds tend to hunker down and wait for better weather. The forecast show calming conditions (7 mph winds) and sun tomorrow morning. My plan is to take my first real birding excursion in some time.
Yesterday afternoon I tried to find a section of Lake Superior shoreline where I might find huge breaking waves, but when the winds blow out of the WSW our Minnesota shoreline is somewhat protected. While wave chasing near Gooseberry State Park I did find a few windblown Snow Buntings migrating back to the Arctic, and upon getting home my friendly neighborhood cardinal made an appearance. After a long Minnesota winter it is always nice to see some red in the woods!