Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Birding

Today was the first time in 95 days that our temperature topped 40 degrees. Even though it was mostly overcast, we decided to go for a drive and see if we could spot any good birds. Our first stop was the nearby reservoir to see if there was any open water yet maybe attracting some waterfowl. We got there only to find that the only open water was in the ice fishing holes drilled by these fishermen. I was amazed at the number of people fishing! We watched one guy drilling through the ice and it looked to be at least 16-18 inches thick yet! But the weatherman is predicting highs in the 40's all next week, so the end of the 2010 ice fishing season isn't far away.

I was keeping my eyes open for newly arrived spring migrants including grackles, red-winged blackbirds, or maybe even a bluebird. We didn't see any of those birds, but we did have to slow down for this early season possum trotting across the road.

There were horned larks everywhere! For me, these are the most difficult birds to photograph. They are so flighty and will take off if the car comes within 100 yards of them. I managed to photograph this one after Mr. Johnson stopped the car and we waited for the flock to land on the road behind us. (The birds were still quite a ways back, so this photo isn't the greatest, and even though you can't see the "horns" of this lark, you can still see its black facemask.)

We turned another corner next to a plowed cornfield where most of the snow had already melted. Something interesting caught my eye in this field. Can you see it?
"Stop, stop, stop the car!" I ordered my driver. My window was down and I was trying to get my camera ready to take a photo. I could tell this bird wasn't a pheasant, but I had no idea what it was. I took a couple quick photos and then got my binoculars on it again to see any other field marks to help in the ID. Fortunately, on this trip, I remembered to bring my big Sibley guide along and after seeing the orange face and throat, plus the rufous barring on the chest, I was able to ID this bird as a Gray Partridge. Way cool! There were actually 2 of these birds in the field here and although it wasn't a life bird for me, it's been years since we've seen them in SE Minnesota.

A lot of the streams and rivers are starting to melt and these Canada geese were enjoying the shallow water and the chance to pick at grass on the riverbank.

On our way home, we spotted a huge flock of turkeys walking up this driveway. These birds all looked pretty healthy after this long winter.
It appeared that all of these turkeys were hens, and since we can only take toms during the spring turkey hunting season, the size of this flock shouldn't be affected by the upcoming spring hunt. In fact, with this many hens around, the future of wild turkeys in SE Minnesota looks pretty good!


Mama Pea said...

Love that very last picture of the turkeys, Ruthie. Of course, we never see them this far north so your pictures are a treat. Sounds like the two of you had a lovely outing.

Our geese took their first spring baths in our icy pond water today . . . and they looked like they were really enjoying it. (Br-r-r-r-r!)

Anonymous said...

What a nice birding adventure or for some a nice fishing adventure. Enjoyed the pics of the birds, cool partridge. We haven't seen them in years either. Thanks for the ride along.


Jayne said...

What a fun day... and a partridge to boot! Couldn't help but see the little string of partridges from the beginning of The Partridge!!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

wow getting to see that partridge is great! Doesn't 40 feel wonderful??!! Love that first burst of spring time warmth.

troutbirder said...

Your right Ruthie. Its been a long time. When I used to hunt pheasants and partridge I'd get an occasional "Hun". There were always very flighty and hard to catch up to...

RuthieJ said...

Thanks Mama Pea. I'm amazed at how far north in the state the turkeys have gotten though. Lynne has a nice flock of them at Hasty Brook (near Floodwood).

Glad you enjoyed the ride Mom. Sorry we didn't make it to the Pirates show, but it turned out to be just too nice of a day to spend the afternoon indoors.

Oh Jayne, the Partridge Family was one of my favorite shows! Thanks for the little gray partridge certainly does look like the ones on the show!

40 felt great Lisa! And just being able to see the sun for a few days again. We're in for clouds and rain the rest of this week, but hopefully that will take our snow down -- you can see how much is still on the ground around here!

Hi Ray,
Hungarian Partridge was the first thing I thought of too, but none of my field guides used that reference. Glad you said that to confirm.....

Anonymous said...

That last picture of the turkey parade is wonderful!

I never had the nerve to walk on the ice during all our years in the Midwest. Logic told me that if there were trucks and cars sitting on a lake, the ice would hold me. Still wouldn't do it.

Ruth said...

We are enjoying unseasonably warm weather too. But I have yet to see a Red-winged blackbird or Grackle and they were here by this time last year.

RuthieJ said...

Thanks Mary Lee.
Terra firma is always my first choice too! I remember years ago when we used to snowmobile, we rode across Rainy Lake. It creeped me out to be riding the marked trail and then look 20 feet away and see a "thin ice" sign or even open water!

Hi Ruth,
I hope your spring-like weather continues. Rain showers here today but still lots of snow on the ground and no more early migrants have shown up in the backyard either.