Sunday, March 11, 2012

Early Spring Birding

It looks and sounds like spring has certainly arrived early in Minnesota this year -- after a record-breaking mild winter. We took advantage of nice weather the past two Sundays to drive around southeastern Minnesota and see what kinds of early migrants we could spot. Last Sunday, we were super fortunate to find this beautiful Bald Eagle perched in a tree right along the Mississippi River near downtown Wabasha. I was able to get out of the car and walk right up to this magnificent raptor and he didn't even budge. How lucky was that?
(Sorry, I love this eagle photo so much, I'm making you look at it in another blog post!)

Driving through the Whitewater State Park Wildlife Management Area, I also spotted the first Killdeer of 2012. Glancing down along the river bank, at first I thought this was a bit of trash, but when we stopped and got binocs on it, we could definitely see that it was a shorebird of some kind. A quick glance in the field guide confirmed Killdeer by the two dark breast bands.

This afternoon, we loaded Holly up in the car to drive around the Rochester area and see what we could find. We managed to finally see our first wild turkeys of 2012 and also several Eastern Bluebirds who declined to be photographed. We again saw several Bald Eagles and I managed to get one decent shot during a fly-over. I never get tired of seeing these raptors flying around.
The warm weather and strong southerly winds of the past few days have helped get lots of the ice out on ponds and lakes in the area. We headed out to the landfill reservoir west of Rochester where we had found some good waterfowl last year. It was a wise choice again this spring. As we were walking up to the reservoir, we could see plenty of waterfowl flying in to land. Check it out! These are mostly Greater White-Fronted Geese with a few Snow Geese in the mix too.

Here's some more! The ice was mostly out on this reservoir, at least all around the edges. There was still some in the middle and many of these geese (including some of Rochester's Giant Canada Geese) were just hanging out on the ice.

Before heading for home, we drove around to the other side of this reservoir to see if we could get a closer look from that side. There were more ducks over on this side, including this little group of American Coots.

Here's one look at the ducks. My duck ID skills aren't the best, but through my spotting scope, I managed to see and ID several species, including Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Green Winged Teals, Ringnecked Ducks, and Canvasbacks. I'm sure there were others I missed, but that will give me a reason to head back to this reservoir on another warm spring day.......

There were also several Trumpeter Swans on this reservoir. You can see two of them in this photo below. (BTW, remember you can click on any of these photos to make them bigger!)

Here's another look at all the Greater White Fronted Geese with some other ducks and geese mixed in. See that white one over to the left? That's the white adult Snow Goose. (I think the white bird over to the right is a gull.)

One last stop before heading for home was the County 9 Wetlands just east of Rochester. That lake was still mostly covered with ice, so nothing really noteworthy there except for the juvenile Bald Eagle that flew from a dead tree nearby. You can tell that the geese were not at all concerned with this eagle's presence. And see the houses right in the background? Sadly, the City of Rochester is rapidly encroaching on more wildlife areas.

I hope all of you are enjoying some early spring weather and chances to get outside and see who's flying into your area! Have a good week!


Gaelyn said...

Great to get out on these spring-like days.

stephen said...

The early arrival of Spring weather certainly is wonderful! As well, to observe the return of so many of the migrant birds.
Your photographic capture of the Bald Eagle perched in the tree and the fly over are gorgeous.

troutbirder said...

Great post Ruthie and congratulations of the 5 year anniversary. Hasn't the weather and the birding been great the last few days. Gary Erickson toured the Iron Mine ponds late yesterday and it was great. Saw lots of bluebirds and a singing Eastern Meadowlark along with those White Fronted everywhere...:)

RuthieJ said...

You got that right Gaelyn! Even though it was an easy winter (by Minnesota standards anyway), I still love that warm spring days have arrived so early.

Thanks Stephen. I hope you're getting out & enjoying this weather too! I'm looking forward to finally making it to Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden this spring!

Thanks Ray! and thanks for the update on the iron mine ponds -- I'll put a trip to Fillmore County on my birding agenda for the upcoming weekend.

Ruth said...

Spring has sprung early. Looks like an interesting birding trip.