Sunday, July 17, 2016

Wrapping Up Minnesota

I've gotten behind on here everyone.  There have been some epic stories and birds that have been told and seen as of late.  But first, I need to wrap up my trip to Minnesota that took place this past June.  It was one of the funnest birding trips that I have been on, and the trip still has two more stops that I am going to include on this post.

On my last day in Minnesota on June 14th, Josh and I went to Sibley State Park, which was my second visit to the park on my trip.  Steve Gardner took me to the park on my first full day in Minnesota, and on my last full day in Minnesota, Josh and I decided to explore the park extensively.  This visit provided a great chance to see some of the key birds that entertained us throughout the trip and study them more, as well as find a few key species in the area.  When we got out of the vehicle, this female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker greeted us.

And for only the second time on the trip, we had visuals of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  This one was a female.

Least Flycatchers sang and called in a few spots along the Sibley State Park trails.  The song isn't much you know, "Tri-bick".

A cooperative Field Sparrow popped up while we were watching the Least Flycatchers and our attention shifted to the sparrow.  Throughout the trip, the song of this bird was commonly heard in many of the locations that we visited that had open habitats.

When we came along the edge of a pond and were by tall grass and marsh, this Swamp Sparrow provided us with amazing views as it sang away.

Swamp Sparrow habitat usually means that there is a Common Yellowthroat nearby too...

I think Scarlet Tanagers follow Josh around.  Because a pair of them showed up.  Josh and I spent the next twenty minutes enjoying the first big highlight of our trip.  And of course, I'll always remember this phenomenal bird as my 500th life bird!  I'm not gonna say much else about SCTA, because pictures are worth a thousand words..

Josh and I heard a Blue-winged Warbler near the parking area upon starting time at Sibley.  Things got even better when we heard a second Blue-winged Warbler who had a female with him.  Range wise, Josh and I were observing these birds in the western-most limits of their range.

Sibley State Park has a good habitat variety.  Josh and I went through some open woodland, lake, marsh, brushy edges, fields, and then of course, dense woodland.  We heard a bird singing, "Teacher, teacher, teacher", which is the distinctive song of the Ovenbird.  It was close to the road we were on, and we walked a few steps off of the road to find and observe the singing Ovenbird.  This is a bird I love, and it's also very bizarre for a warbler.  It walks along branches as well as the forest floor.  I'll never forget that when I heard this bird and started looking for it, I caught it's movement as it was walking back and fourth along the long branch it was singing on.

We then took some time to watch, observe, and listen to this neat warbler.  The sight of it walking on the branches was my favorite.

Josh then found a vireo nest and a Yellow-throated Vireo to go along with it!

It wasn't much longer after the vireo sighting that a storm had started to move in and would fill up the rest of the day.  Josh and I had to bail, which would complete the birding from the last day.  Back at the Wallestad's house, Melissa made one of the best steak dinners I've ever had in my life.

This now brings us to June 15th, when I would fly out of Minnesota and back into my heat-filled Phoenix.  There was a spot in Minneapolis where Josh and I stopped at to search for a few red-morph Eastern Screech Owls for a few hours.  I've wanted to see a red ESOW for T.O.B.Y. badly, but the two hour search at the park we were at came up empty.  However, there was a fantastic consolation when this Pileated Woodpecker decided to land in front of us.  I'll present a few pictures of the Woodpecker while I wrap up this incredible vacation and birding trip.

The trip was outstanding for birding and my total count for life birds added was 26 species!  When I was asked about how many lifers I would get before the trip took place I predicted 20 at the very most.  It's always good to underestimate and be completely wrong.  The trip saw me not only bird in Minnesota, but in North Dakota and Wisconsin too.  Those life birds were: Yellow-throated Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, Great-crested Flycatcher, Acadian Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Veery, Wood Thrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Sedge Wren, Field Sparrow, Chimney Swift, Ring-necked Pheasant, Bobolink, Red-headed Woodpecker, Yellow Rail, Henslow's Sparrow, Le Conte's Sparrow, Upland Sandpiper, Gray Partridge, Cerulean Warbler, Whooping Crane, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Golden-winged Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Kirtland's Warbler, and Eastern Whip-poor-will.

My top 5 favorite life birds on the trip were:  Scarlet Tanager, Red-headed Woodpecker, Upland Sandpiper, Cerulean Warbler, and Whooping Crane.  Had we had seen a Kirtland's Warbler visually, then that bird would easily be in the top 5 for the trip.  My very favorite bird for the trip however was Short-eared Owl because it was a key addition for T.O.B.Y. as well as my second ever observation of the species.

A huge thanks goes out to Josh, Melissa, Evan, and Marin Wallestad for everything on the trip.  Thank you to Sandy Aubol for the Short-eared Owls and North Dakota experience.  Thank you also to Josh's buddies Steve Gardner, Garret Wee, and Setophaga Kirtlandii for helping us find birds and good birding locations.

This trip to Minnesota has covered many posts here on my Blog, and this post is finally the concluding post.  I hope you all have enjoyed reading about this trip and the wonderful bird life that Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin have to offer.  This is the 13th post, and for a quick summary, the complete lists for the posts covering this trip have been:

1.  Toby Goes to North Dakota
2.  Surpassing 500 Life Birds
3.  Empids and Thrashers and Warblers, oh my!
4.  Stepping into Kandiyohi County
5.  Lake Elizabeth and a Restored Prairie
6.  Birding Grand Forks and East Grand Forks
7.  You Should Go Up Land to Felton
8.  A Partridge in a City Field
9.  An Eastern Warbler I Had Always Wanted to See
10.  Necedah
11.  The War to See a Warbler
12.  Birding Minnesota by Day and Night
13.  Wrapping Up Minnestoa

As I close, this is hopefully only the beginning of me visiting the East more and birding it more.  It was a blast and writing about it has been a blast too.  Stay tuned for an upcoming post regarding a few adrenaline rushing birds back here in my home county of Maricopa County, Arizona.


  1. That was fun to give some serious attention to the local birding spots--something I just don't really do. I think your fresh perspective on our "regulars" made it more fun for me to go exploring in the back yard. And with birds like the SCTA and BWWA, it just goes to show that there is good stuff everywhere--you just have to get out and look for it.

    Congrats, Tommy, on a very successful trip with many lifers, a key Owl, and a lot of memories. The whole family enjoyed your visit.

    1. Thanks Josh! I'm glad my fresh perspective made local birding more fun! Those two birds, SCTA and BWWA were fun to find and it was cool they were in the same immediate area as one another.

      It was an epic trip!