A hometown newspaper with a local office, local owners & lots of local news

Birding bonanza is a delight

For birding enthusiasts, it's hard to beat May in northern Minnesota. There was a day last week that we'll remember for a long time.

Often, we plan an extended trip to go explore and look for birds in May, but we're just too busy this year. So, instead, we stayed close to home.

And it was amazing.

We decided to see what would happen if we looked for different species of birds all within a 15-mile radius of the farm here near Barnum. We awoke at dawn to a slight drizzle, but put on our rain gear and walked the perimeter of our farm with binoculars and a camera. The list of birds began to grow with some of our farm birds: tree swallows, American kestrels, golden winged warblers and more. By the time we were done at the farm, we were amazed to have identified more than 36 species.

Inspired, we took off to one of our favorite spots near Moose Lake. We were seeing many birds and getting very excited when things got even better. By chance, two highly respected birding guides, Cindy and Kim Risen, showed up. Kim and Cindy have led birding trips around the world, and they got out their long-range spotting scope and pointed out many new birds for us, including hundreds and hundreds of swallows zooming across the water.

Then we turned our attention to the woods where we would see more than 19 different warblers and three scarlet tanagers. In just a couple of short hours, we would identify 63 species at that location.

We were stunned.

We got home and tallied up our total. In all, we had amassed more than 80 species of birds. Could we get to 100?

As we were sitting at the table, Heather-

Marie gasped. Sitting on our patio was a redheaded woodpecker - a bird we'd never seen at the farm before. We looked on in awe at this magnificent bird, which seemed to be cheering us on. We watched it for a while, but then decided to keep looking.

Quickly, we packed up our gear and headed out. As the sun grew low on the horizon, we drove down the backroads to our favorite beaver pond, where we heard an American bittern and saw a green heron.

We circled down through the lakes nearby and saw a loon and a kingfisher, even as a beaver smashed its tail against the water in warning.

We knew we were close, but where could we find more birds as the sun was setting? We swung into the Barnum high school and spied the osprey, snug in its nest, that rests on a pole towering above the school.

We returned home as darkness descended and walked out into our field to see if we could find one last bird. Sure enough, we heard the mating sounds of the American woodcock.

Our friends and family had been cheering us on all day and encouraged us to head out to listen for owls, but we were tired and content.

We went inside and counted up our total. We'd identified 92 birds - all in the diverse, beautiful area we get to call home.

Today, we're back to work farming, but with smiles on our faces.

John Hatcher teaches journalism at the University of Minnesota Duluth and, with partner Heather-Marie Bloom, grows vegetables at Rising Phoenix Community Farm in rural Barnum.

Rendered 06/17/2024 23:15