Sunday, May 24, 2009

My New Favorite Place

Nestled deep in the southeast corner of Minnesota's deciduous forest biome, a birder's paradise called Beaver Creek Valley State Park can be found.
OK, so it's also a paradise for trout fishermen (& women), campers, hikers, and all types of nature lovers, but as a birder, I believe this is as close to Nirvana as I will get without going to West Virginia!

The majority of my birding was done within 200 yds of the main picnic & parking area, but I knew I was in a great spot when I got out of my car at the park office and immediately heard a wood thrush singing in the woods to my right and a warbling vireo in the woods across the road!

Dewy spider web transforms an old rusty picnic table leg into something beautiful

While I was sitting at one of the picnic tables trying to identify even one bird song that I recognized from the chorus around me, I happened to notice this green heron strolling along a log on nearby Beaver Creek.

An Eastern Phoebe built her nest under the eaves of the shelter covering the trail map and announcement boards. Every time someone would come over to check the map, the poor little phoebe flew off her nest. I hope those babies hatch OK!

You would take this trail wouldn't you? I also heard a wood thrush singing in these woods, but I never got a glimpse of the bird.

The trails were pretty rustic--here's what the Hole-In-The Rock Trail looked like after a few hundred feet. Can you see it? I couldn't either and decided it was time to turn around and head back.

Before leaving I decided to walk down one more little trail that paralleled Beaver Creek, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Louisiana waterthrush. This trail was a little easier to follow, but had several wet spots necessitating the addition of boardwalks. With my history of clumsiness, I approached these somewhat slippery board walks with more than a little dread (fortunately, no wet feet this time though!)

Looks like Mr. Robin has found something delicious!

Jack-In-The Pulpit
My birding trip to Beaver Creek Valley State Park was brief (only 2 hours), but in this short time I was able to positively identify 30 birds (by sight and/or sound).

Wild Turkey = Green Heron
Red-Tailed Hawk = Mourning Dove
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird = Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Eastern Wood Pewee = Eastern Phoebe
Yellow-Throated Vireo = Warbling Vireo
Red-Eyed Vireo = American Crow
House Wren = Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Wood Thrush = American Robin
Gray Catbird = Cedar Waxwing
Great Crested Flycatcher = Yellow Warbler
Magnolia Warbler = American Redstart
Common Yellowthroat = Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow = Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
Red-Winged Blackbird = Brown-Headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole = Turkey Vulture

I didn't see the Cerulean Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, or Louisiana Waterthrush. All three of these birds nest in this park and would all be lifers for me. It's nice to know I have at least 3 more reasons for visiting this park again!

If any of you are planning a visit to southeastern Minnesota, be sure to allow some time for visiting Beaver Creek Valley State Park.

I leave you with this little video featuring the song of a Wood Thrush.


Gaelyn said...

Ruthie, what a marvelous new place you've found. Love the dewed spiderweb, looks like old lace. And I remember Jack-in-the-Pulpits as a kid in IL. Maybe the Hole in Rock trail has been maintained this spring. There's no money in any of the park's systems. Glad you where careful on those boards. That's a lot of birds for just 2 hours. Wonderful post and captures.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I can see why this would be a favorite place to visit.

Jayne said...

WOW, just imagine if you'd had more than a couple of hours? :c) What a great list!

Ruth said...

Looks like my kind of place. Your leaves have really opened up and that makes birding quite a challenge now. I hope to get better at bird song ID. The thrushes all sing beautifully as your video shows. The Veery is my favourite.

Mama Pea said...

Thanks for including us on your visit. Your little video at the end was calming, soothing and restorative.

Anonymous said...

We've never to Beaver Creek State Park, it looks so nice. It isn't that far from our place, might be something to check out. Have you ever been to Lake Louise State Park? That's a pretty place too, we know the Camp Host & Hostess.

Thanks for taking us along on this adventure.


Red said...

What a fantastic list!

Isn't it amazing all the things birders can see in an area thousands of others have picnicked at and probably not noticed?

NCmountainwoman said...

Oh, it is a perfect place. The photographs are lovely.

troutbirder said...

It is a beautiful park. We camped there two night last spring and I missed the waterthrush as well. Better luck next time!Actually I got skunked on trout as well :)

jan m said...

You hit the jackpot there Ruthie. That's a nice assortment of birds for one area. I hope you get to go back for those missing three!

Mary C said...

It's fun to discover "new" places, isn't it? One thing I was noticing while reading your post and enjoying the photos -- your state parks sure have lots of trees/foliage compared to our parks here in CA. ;o) I remember way back in 1985 when we took a coast to coast trip in our big old van that the state parks in the midwest have very nice camping facilities, much like national forests. Ruthie, I enjoyed taking the walk along with you.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Gaelyn,
I sure wish I lived a little closer to this state park. I believe they have very little funds available and it would be a perfect place to get some volunteer master naturalist hours in--leading some interpretive programs or even just working on trail maintenance.

Thanks Lisa, it's pretty special for sure and that's a beautiful area of Minnesota. I gave Mr. Johnson a big nudge about looking for a retirement home down there!

Oh Jayne, I was really wishing for a more experienced birder to be with me to help identify some of those calls!

Hi Ruth,
Veery is on this park listing as a common spring bird, but I never heard one.

Thanks Mama Pea, glad you could come along. The wood thrush sang from that same area the entire time I was in the park!

Hi Mom,
It is a pretty park, but fairly small -- probably about the same size as Lake Louise SP, but much more wooded. I never even drove back to see what kind of campgrounds they had, but I bet it would be nice to camp there.

Thanks Heidi. I was surprised that I didn't see any other birders there at all. I would like to go back someday during the week when there aren't so many other people running around -- the park was full for the holiday weekend and there were lots of active little kids all over the place.

Thanks Carolyn. I was glad to find there are still untouched woods like this in the middle of Minnesota's "corn belt."

Hi Troutbirder,
I thought of you when I was visiting this park. I didn't see anyone troutfishing, but saw all the signs along the stream.

Hi Jan,
I was happy to see that the roads were paved all the way into this park. The next time I head down that way, I'll be taking my motorcycle (better gas mileage than the car!)

Hi Mary C,
Now that you mention it, I think most of our state parks have lots of trees -- even many of the parks in our "prairie" locales. The facilities are usually first-rate too and a good value for people who are opting to take vacations closer to home this summer.

Cindie U. said...

I've always wanted to see a Jack in the Pulpit. I remember as a girl thinking just the name sounded neat. They grow in the woods here, but I've not been lucky enough.

Aleta said...

I will definitely put this on my list of places to visit!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Cindie,
I love Jack-in-the-Pulpit. I dug some from the woods years ago and planted them under my deck. They come up every year and have started to spread out now.

Hi Aleta,
Let me know when you come to visit -- I'll meetcha there!

Julie said...

Oh! Sounds like a wonderful place!

Tonyia said...

Shhhh! This is a secret - don't let so many people in on it!

This is our favorite state park. Spring, summer, and fall, we've been there. It's always gorgeous, and the campground is never completely full. There are walk-in tenting sites that are amazing, set back in the woods. There's a variety of hiking: from the steep shady climbs to an open meadow. Way at the back of the park is an old railroad bridge where you can see huge trout in the shadows. Birds and wildlife abound.

It's an amazing place.