Last Sunday we headed over towards Waseca, an area that seems to have a few more lakes, small ponds and wetlands, and also an area where we used to see these birds years ago on trips to Mankato. Maybe spring is a better time to search for the YHBs or maybe their numbers really are declining as we didn't find any in the Waseca area. After leaving there, we headed south towards I-90 and the return trip towards home. Along the way, while we were standing alongside the road scanning another cattail shoreline for YHBs, we were fortunate to have a woman (who was also a birder) stop and tell us about a spot just few miles ahead where there was a flooded field and she had just seen a tremendous number of Common Egrets. She was right! We were able to pull into the field drive and experience this amazing sight.
This photo shows just a small portion of the huge number of Common Egrets in this field. Our best guesstimate was that there were between 75-100 egrets here (certainly the largest number of these birds I've also ever seen in one spot). Mixed in with the egrets were a few Great Blue Herons, Giant Canada Geese, a number of big gulls (Ring-Billed or Herring, I couldn't tell for sure), and some White Pelicans. And if you click on the photo above to enlarge it, you'll also spot an Eastern Kingbird on the fencepost in the lower right-hand corner.
Shortly after we got out of the car to look at all the birds, the pelicans decided to take flight and I was able to get this nice photo of their fly-by. These birds are so beautiful in flight, don't you think?
Yesterday, we decided to head to the far western portion of the state where I was sure we wouldn't have any trouble finding YHBs. We took Sophie with us so we wouldn't have to worry about her staying home all by herself for a long time......besides she's a bird dog anyway so maybe she'd bring us some luck on the trip!
We turned off I-90 at the Lakefield exit and headed north towards South Heron Lake. Took a couple detours to county parks and other wetlands, but no YHBs were spotted. After arriving in the town of Heron Lake, we turned east on our way to North Heron Lake. Just out of town and right across from the Heron Lake BioEnergy plant, we came upon another flooded farmfield that offered our best bird sightings of the day. Unfortunately, no YHBs were present, but the pond was full of gulls, geese, shorebirds, and a few ducks.
My shorebird ID skills are poor, so I'm unable to positively identify some of these birds and I hope that any of you who are reading this blog may be able to provide names for these birds (in spite of my somewhat poor photographs).
This first one I do know.......Killdeer!
There were large numbers of these gulls -- I'm going with Franklin's Gull, based on thewhite wing-tips and large white eye-ring (plus the range map in my field guides indicated this is the summer range for this gull).
There were juveniles and adults.
Here's a cute little unidentified peep. Any thoughts? Maybe a Least Sandpiper? It was pretty small and I'm going by the white spots on the wings and the light stripe over the eye and darker stripe behind the eye. I believe I've heard shorebirds have already started their southward migration through Minnesota also.
Here's another look at the huge numbers of gulls that were hanging out in this pond. Look at the size difference between the Franklin's and those big ol' Ring-Billed or Herring gulls in the middle of the picture!
Here's another shorebird I need help with identifying. Sorry the photos are such poor quality! This one was a bit larger and taller......maybe the size of a Lesser Yellowlegs. Could it be a Lesser Yellowlegs?
The dark wings kind of threw me off, plus in the photo below, it looks like it has a lot of white underneath its chin. I didn't notice that its legs were a really bright yellow, so Solitary Sandpiper was another possibility....
One more look........
Another Least Sandpiper?
Here's another Killdeer. I just put this photo in because I liked the reflection in the water.
Special thanks to Hap in New Hope who left a comment to correct my ID of this bird from a Killdeer to a Semi-Palmated Plover -- LIFER!!
And here's one more with 3 different peeps, reflecting nicely in the calm water!
Do you think those 2 bigger peeps are Pectoral Sandpipers? They have the yellow legs and are just a little bit smaller than that Killdeer on the right.
So I'm officially giving up on the search for the Yellow-Headed Blackbird for this year. We put over 360 miles on the car just yesterday and it's time to stop the insanity! I'm thinking it's just way too late in the year to find them and maybe next year we'll start earlier in the spring, when territories are being established and hopefully the YHBs will be more active and vocal.