talking nature

On the way home from an early movie the other day around 1 p.m. I got a call from my friend, Travis. Travis is an avid birder and photographer and we often share our bird finds with each other. In his call this time he reminded me that he often takes his camera on his lunch breaks to a nearby cemetery in north Minneapolis named Hillside and that just now he found an American Bittern next to a maple tree.

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When I saw on the Minnesota Ornithological Union’s website that there was a Rufous Hummingbird spotted down near Le Sueur, Minnesota I was immediately intrigued. The only hummingbird that I had ever seen in Minnesota was the Ruby Throated. I had noticed on the Ornithological Union’s checklist (under accidental species) five other species of hummingbirds which included the Rufous. Those only rarely passed through our state.

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For the last 10 years my wife Carolyn and I have gone at least once a year to Hawk Ridge and on several occasions more than once. Hawk Ridge is located along Skyline Drive east and north of downtown Duluth and is one of the premier raptor observation areas in the world. People from all over the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia come every year to observe the migration of raptors at Hawk Ridge.

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Many birders keep yearly lists and lifetime lists, and I’m no exception. Many birders have birds that their friends can find and see but they cannot, and I’m no exception. One such bird for me has been the Virginia rail, which belongs to a group of birds known as rails, gallinules and coots.

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This past week, as my wife Carolyn and I were on a nature hike near Golden Valley, it occurred to me that I hadn’t visited the Colonnade Building in Golden Valley this year to see if there were still Peregrine falcons there. After we finished our hike she agreed to go with me and see if we could see one.

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I read many times the much loved book “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, and saw the movie as well. I would never try to kill a mockingbird but for the last few years I’ve made repeated attempts to find one with no luck. The northern mockingbird, while common in the southern latitudes and out east, is relatively rare in Minnesota.

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If you are not familiar with the great blue heron rookery at the Coon Rapids Dam and you are a birder, or you are just interested in nature, then you definitely should take a look at it. There are over 65 nests there with over one hundred great blue heron currently residing there. It is visible on the Coon Rapids side of the dam and the Brooklyn Park side. The rookery is located on an island in the middle of the river directly west and across the river from Cenaiko Lake. The best view of the rookery is a bit south of Cenaiko Lake.

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If you’re seriously into bird watching, or just get out occasionally, this is the time of year that most bird watchers love the most – the spring migration. Anoka County has several parks that are good for bird watching, including the Coon Rapids Dam, Bunker Hills, Rum River Central, Mississippi West Regional Park and Lock County Park. All of these are going to be part of the Bird Watch Series that will be guided by Gary Swanson, the naturalist at the Coon Rapids Dam.

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If you’re at all interested in birds, or more specifically raptors, you should definitely see the Masters of the Sky program at the Carpenter Nature Center in Hastings. Every year at this time a traveling program from the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, Mo. comes to Minnesota with their raptors from all over the world and puts on a show unlike any other that you are likely to see.

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