Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ice cover and summer recap

With the lake now completely covered in ice (and park staff starting to clear the snow off the ice in preparation for the winter skating rink), most of the common migratory breeding birds from the park have now departed. So I figured now is a good time for a recap on the summer. There were a couple of things that struck me about this summer in comparison to last summer (since I've only been paying attention to birds at the park for two years, that's the only reference point I have):
  • Great Egrets seemed to be significantly less common this year than last. The last one I saw was in July.
  • Green Herons were relatively plentiful at the park last year, but I didn't see a single one this year. I did see them at other places around Minneapolis, so they were around, just not at Powderhorn Park. Very curious.
  • The robins were pretty scarce over the summer, but they're quite abundant so far this fall and into the start of winter.
  • Pied-billed Grebe was relatively common last fall, with multiple sightings in both September and October. This year I didnt' see a single Pied-billed Grebe in the park after April.
At the end of the yar, my park list stands at 106 species

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's a Crow's World

So, the transition has happened at last. It started slowly. A few more crows showed up in the park. Then a few more. Meanwhile, the Canada Geese started slowly heading for more hospitable climates. And some time in the past week or so, the Most Common Bird of Powderhorn Park™ has officially switched: from Canada Goose to American Crow. It was an orderly transition, though not a quiet one.

I know for some people the start of crow-gathering-season is not necessarily a welcome event, but I can't help but appreciate the sheer volume and personality of the crows, especially in such large numbers. Their antics and garrulousness provide endless entertainment where otherwise there may not be much interesting to observe.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fall is coming

So, although I've been at the park regularly and observing birds there, I've neglected to update this blog in a very long time, so here again is a little recap of the past few months.

I've noticed a couple things about this year compared with last:

First, we had very few warblers coming through during the spring. I think I had a total of 8 warbler species, and for most of those I only saw a single bird of the species. I did see my first-ever Ovenbird at Powderhorn Park in June, which raised the total to 9 for the year, and it appears that the fall migration may bring a few more warblers our way. I've already added several additional species for the year (though they haven't showed up at Powderhorn Park yet): Black-and-white, Canada (a new species for me as well), Chestnut-sided, and Wilson's.

Secondly, it seems that heron numbers are down a bit at the lake compared to last year. I've seen a great blue heron regularly, but great egrets are rare, and green herons are basically non-existant this year. For a while, I was seeing a black-crowned night-heron or two regularly, but they also disappeared for quite a while this summer.

Some other less-common birds seen at the park since last update: Eastern Screech-Owl, Indigo Bunting, Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Kingbird, and Cedar Waxwing.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Over my lunch hour, I took my usual walk around the park. I had seen bluebirds for each of the past two mornings and heard some bluebird twittering from the north end of the park. Following the sound led me to a bluebird nest, with both parents bringing food to a nest cavity near the upper playground. Also in that area, I discovered a White-breasted Nuthatch nest cavity.

Since it's been a while since my last post, I'll just include a brief list of some of the notable species I've seen in the last couple of weeks (species I've never seen before marked with a *, species that i've not seen at powderhorn before marked with a +). Notice the relatively large number of flycatchers and unfortunately low numbers of warblers:

  • black-crowned night-heron
  • cooper's hawk
  • spotted sandpiper
  • chimney swift
  • olive-sided flycatcher
  • eastern wood-pewee+
  • yellow-bellied flycatcher*
  • least flycatcher
  • great crested flycatcher
  • blue-headed vireo*
  • red-eyed vireo
  • eastern bluebird
  • swainson's thrush*
  • orange-crowned warbler
  • nashville warbler
  • american redstart
  • common yellowthroat
  • lincoln's sparrow
  • white-crowned sparrow+
  • baltimore oriole+

Monday, May 10, 2010

A few more warblers

Well, a few other warblers besides yellow-rumped warblers are finally coming through the park. They're not particularly easy to see due to the amount of leaves that are already out, nor are they particularly numerous yet, but in the last couple of days I've seen yellow-rumped (obviously), orange-crowned, and palm warblers. This morning I saw a lone Northern (I think) waterthrush (also a warbler, though a rather drab one).

Besides warblers, I've been seeing the spotted sandpipers regularly, and this morning I saw my first white-throated sparrows of the year at the park -- at least 20 of them feeding on the hillside below the tennis courts.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Solitary Sandpiper

It came back after the craziness of May Day (which was wonderful, of course):

Solitary Sandpiper

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A new sandpiper

In a brief walk around the lake this morning, I noticed two small sandpipers. However, they weren't the Spotted Sandpipers I've been seeing for the last couple of days, they were Solitary Sandpipers -- another bird I hadn't yet seen at the park before. I also saw a few yellow-rumped warblers and a couple of ruby-crowned kinglets after having not seen them in over a week. It feels like the warbler wave is going to start hitting fairly soon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


First mallard ducklings of the year spotted on the north side of the lake near the reeds around noon.

Sandpiper and Swallow

This morning I had my first really good look of the year at a Spotted Sandpiper at powderhorn lake (I had seen 3 sandpipers a few weeks ago early one morning but didnt' have my binoculars and couldn't get close enough to verify whether they were spotted sandpipers or not). In addition, I saw my first Tree Swallow of the year at the park, along with several red-winged blackbirds and the first song sparrow I've seen since they did the grass burn along the waterline.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Return of the Night-Heron

So, the Black-crowned Night-Herons (or perhaps just one) are back in the park. I've seen one for the last couple of days, generally hanging out on the island.

I saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker as recently as Friday, so my previous pronouncement that they have moved through the area appears to have been premature.

Hermit thrushes can still be seen regularly. My high count was 4 of them on last Wednesday afternoon.

The Scaup is still (somewhat inexplicably) hanging around in the middle of the lake.

Sunday afternoon I went out to Theodore Wirth park for an hour or two in the afternoon. The most noteworthy sightings for the day were a Pileated Woodpecker, a single male Belted Kingfisher (my first of the year), and a small group of Northern Rough-winged Swallows (a new bird for me).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Yet another new park species for me over the lunch hour: a lone Greater (I think) Scaup diving in the middle of the lake:

Greater Scaup

There were also a couple pairs of blue-winged teal at the lake over the noon hour.

I observed a pair of great egrets flying over the park last night, but they didn't stop at the lake. I haven't seen the yellow-bellied sapsuckers for a few days, so I assume they've moved on through the area. The hermit thrush is still hanging around, though.

More butterflies showing up all of the time as well:


Monday, April 19, 2010


Not much new at the park in the last few days. The one strange sighting over my lunch hour today was a couple of parakeets (Budgerigars, I think) hanging out in the trees along the west side of the lake. At first I had assumed that the harsh chirping that I was hearing was just a group of house sparrows until I saw a small long-tailed yellow/white/blue bird fly between the trees. I guess somebody is missing a pet.

I also saw another field sparrow over lunch hour.

Over the weekend, I took a trip down to the Minnesota Valley NWR, and had a really good afternoon of birding. Beautiful weather, a bunch of first-of-the-year sightings (white-throated sparrow, tree swallow, trumpeter swan, cedar waxwing, ruddy duck, lesser scaup, redhead) and a good look at my first red-necked grebe (thanks to a look through a friendly stranger's scope). I also saw a ton of yellow-rumped warblers, some hooded mergansers and killdeer, horned grebes, bald eagles, blue-winged teals, ruby-crowned kinglets, brown-headed cowbirds, etc. etc.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Kinglet invasion

These guys are everywhere right now:

ruby-crowned kinglet

My first sighting of a Blue-winged Teal at Powderhorn park:

blue-winged teal

The pair of bluebirds I spotted a while ago seem to be sticking around, I even observed them checking out a hole in a tree over the lunch hour. If we're lucky, perhaps they'll nest in the park this year. The Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are still around as well.

Warbler Alert

I spotted my first warbler of the year last night. It was a Yellow-rumped warbler, as you might expect. I have not yet found any more this morning, but it looks like the warbler wave will be starting soon now.

In somewhat less exciting news, this morning I spotted my first Brown-headed Cowbirds of the year.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sapsuckers and Sparrows

The Northern Shovelers don't seem to be around anymore, but they're being replaced by plenty of other new birds. Migration seems to be heating up again, as I've had a few new-for-the-year sightings (including a couple birds I've never seen before) in the last couple of days. The new arrivals to the park include at least two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (which seem to be juveniles since I couldn't see any red on their heads), a lone American Coot, a Chipping Sparrow, and my first-ever sighting of a Field Sparrow:

Field Sparrow

In addition, I'm still seeing lots of phoebes (several of which are singing their "phoebes" quite loudly and persistently), lots of flickers, occasional hermit thrushes, up to 4 pied-billed grebes at a time, and a ruby-crowned kinglet.

I also took a quick trip over to lake harriet yesterday to see some of the reported horned grebes that showed up after the rain storm. There were reported to be at least 150 of them on the two lakes, but I think most of those were only viewable with a high-powered scope. I did have very nice looks at a small group of four horned grebes, along with a pair of buffleheads, a flock of red-breasted mergansers, and numerous pied-billed grebes and coots.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Shovelers, and a recap of the past week

My first Northern Shoveler sighting at Powderhorn Park:

Northern Shoveler

There were two pairs on the lake over the noon hour today. (Update: they were still there at 7pm in the evening)

Also notable of late: yesterday morning I saw upwards of 10-15 Eastern phoebes, so they're certainly back in numbers. So are the Northern Flickers, of which I saw at least 10 on my walk this morning. Other sightings over the lunch hour include a gorgeous breeding-plumage male Swamp Sparrow (with a bright rufous-red cap), and a solitary hermit thrush skulking in the conifers near the tennis courts.

I've also been seeing double-crested cormorants and pied-billed grebes regularly. I usually see at least one grebe on my walks around the lake, but there have been up to 2 or 3 at a time. The great blue heron has also been around somewhat regularly.

I saw my first mourning doves of the year last week.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hermit Thrush, Cormorant fly-by

A couple new arrivals sighted in the last couple of days. A hermit thrush was skulking around near the conifers by the tennis courts early Saturday morning. This morning, I saw a flock of 16 cormorants fly over the lake, though they didn't stop. I assume the resident cormorants should be setting up shop on the island in the near future.

Last night I saw a pair of great blue herons at dusk, the first time this year I've seen more than one at Powderhorn. Also, I had another pied-billed Grebe sighting this morning.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Rusty Blackbirds

A new bird for me at Powderhorn Park tonight: a flock of 30+ Rusty Blackbirds landed in the huge tree near the tennis courts at the top of the hill. This morning I saw my first Northern Flickers of the year, as well as a large number of skittish Song Sparrows and at least one more Brown Creeper.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Brown Creeper


One of four or five I saw this afternoon. Also found a single ruby-crowned kinglet.

Picking Up Steam

Well, the new arrivals have been showing up at a much faster pace the last few days. Yesterday morning on my walk around the lake, I saw my first Great Blue Heron of the year and a lone Pied-billed Grebe on the lake. I haven't seen either of them since then, so I don't know whether they were just briefly passing through or if they're just hiding very well now. Up near the tennis courts, a small group of Fox Sparrows was foraging in the conifer trees.

Over lunch hour I went out for another walk around the lake and got great looks at a pair of beautiful bright blue Eastern Bluebirds. This is the first time I've personally seen bluebirds at Powderhorn. There were also a good number of Dark-eyed Juncos still hanging out in the vegetation along the shorline.

Last night at dusk, I caught a brief glimpse of a bat flying through the sky.

This morning on my walk, in addition to the proliferation of song sparrows belting out their tunes, I saw my first Eastern Phoebe of the year, as well as a pair of Cooper's Hawks gathering nesting material. Hopefully they'll nest in the park again this year.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Return of the Kinglets

On Saturday morning on my daily walk around the park, I heard the tell-tale high thin zee-zee-zee of a kinglet as I walked by the tennis courts on the top of the hill on the southwest side of the lake. There were at least 4 golden-crowned kinglets flitting through the conifer trees, foraging. With that, I declare spring officially here. They were still in the same area on sunday as well.

On that note, I've found the conifers and brush in the area around the tennis courts to be consistently the best spot in the park to see songbirds. It's a real shame that the park board came through last fall and clearcut all of the underbrush from this area as it was great habitat for migrating warblers, vireos, flycatchers, etc. I'm going to try to keep notes on how many migrating birds I see in this area of the park this year compared to last. I hope it isn't significantly reduced, but I fear it may be.

I also took a trip down to the bass ponds at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge over the weekend with a couple neighbors. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and the waterfowl is definitely coming through the area. The spring melt has pushed the water level up to at least 10 feet above its normal level, which resulted in a bit of flooding of paths and walkways, but we were still able to get through most areas. A brief sampling of sightings: bufflehead (my first), mergansers (both hooded and common), blue-winged teal, killdeer, american coot, and quite a large number of song sparrows.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Song Sparrow, Gulls, Eagles

The lake is teeming with gulls at the moment. They're mostly ring-billed, of course, but there are a few herring gulls mixed in here and there. I love it when we get the flocks of migrating gulls stopping over on their way north. They're so boisterous -- I just love to watch and listen to them "sing".

It's also been a couple days since I saw my first song sparrow of the year. I've only ever seen one at a time, but I suspect there are couple hanging out in the reeds and grasses along the banks. Soon they'll be joined by many others, I'm sure.

On Thursday, a group of 3 bald eagles soared over the park. I was hoping they might stop for a snack at the lake, but alas, they flew right on by.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wood Ducks and Bats

Yesterday before the cold snap arrived, I saw my first pair of wood ducks on the lake. Walking home in the evening, I saw at least one bat flying around. He seems to be out very early. I hope he finds enough to eat.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

First Gulls of the year

Over the lunch hour, I walked down to the lake and saw the first gulls of the year hanging out on the ice in the middle of the lake. There were only two: 1 ring-billed and 1 herring gull. There also seem to be quite a few American Tree Sparrows hanging out in the reeds and grasses along the lake lately.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Spring is definitely in the air. The water fowl are showing up back in our beloved park. The first mallards of the year showed up at powderhorn on march 8. I saw a pair of very cold-looking ducks huddled near the only little patch of open water on the lake. By the end of the week, there was substantial open water and there are at least 40 mallards on the lake. They were joined by the first group of Canada geese on March 13, and there are still just a few (about 3-4) at the lake so far.

Outside the neighborhood, I went down to black dog lake for a couple hours this beautiful sunday and got a really nice look at a northern shrike and some common mergansers. Other than that, the birding was pretty slow, but the weather was so beautiful that it didn't matter too much.

Winter Recap

oy, this blog has been neglected. Perhaps due to the fact that things have been a bit slow bird-wise over the winter. I've also got a new son now, so it's a bit harder to get out as much as I'd like. But, it's springtime, and things are starting to feel alive, so perhaps I'll resurrect this site for a little while as well.

A quick recap of major sightings since the last post:

At Powderhorn, in addition to the usual suspects, I saw orange-crowned warbler, nashville warblers, kinglets (golden- and ruby-crowned), cackling geese, a variety of sparrows (including white-throated, fox, and american tree sparrow), pileated woodpecker, and a suspected peregrine falcon flying over the lake.

At other locations, I've added the following species to my life list: Lincoln's sparrow, green-winged teal, northern pintail, gadwall, tundra swan, white-crowned sparrow, savannah sparrow, bonaparte's gull, winter wren, rusty blackbird, greater scaup, hooded merganser, common goldeneye, common merganser, long-tailed duck, merlin, northern shrike, and just recently a wilson's snipe.

So perhaps the winter wasn't quite as slow as I thought...