The Christmas Bird Count is coming up soon

Please watch this video from PBS about the history of the Christmas Bird Count and how it has evolved into what it is today. And then consider volunteering to help count birds in your area – all are welcome no matter what your skill level is.



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more Grosbeaks…

Evening Grosbeak, male

Evening Grosbeak, male

Evening Grosbeak, female

Evening Grosbeak, female

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Pine Grosbeaks

Grosbeak, pine

Pine Grosbeak

Yesterday morning, I heard the warbly calls of the Pine Grosbeak. They are a harbinger of winter! At the time, there was an advancing cold front moving into the upper Midwest and there was snow in the forecast. Average arrival date for the Pine Grosbeak is: Oct 19 to Nov 10th.

They are one bird that migrates south to winter in northern Minnesota. Pine Grosbeaks breed in Canada and spend most of their time in those northern climes. In the winter months, they regularly wander south to northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan. During years of bad seed crops they may “irrupt” and wander as far south as southern Minnesota and Iowa.

Pine Grosbeaks are beautiful birds! When the dark dreary days of the coldest season intrude on our lives, the Pine Grosbeak is there to brighten it up. The bright red of the male bird makes a nice addition to a usually white background. The female is a beautiful bronze or russet color.


Female Pine Grosbeaks


The Pine Grosbeak is in the Finch family and they are the largest Finch in that family – they are primarily seed eaters and readily come to feeders filled with sunflower seeds.

Pinicola enucleator  is the scientific name. Let’s break that name down and see what it means.

The genus name Pinicola is from Latin pinus, “pine”, and colere, “to dwell”

The second part of the name (the species name) is also Latin: enucleator, “one who ‘shells out,’” from the bird’s way of husking the pine seeds.


The Pine Grosbeak can seem quite tame at times and they don’t take flight immediately that makes them a fun bird to watch.

Pine Grosbeaks are circumpolar, which means they occur throughout the far northern hemisphere including Siberia, Finland, Sweden, Norway and other northern countries.

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Another rare bird visits Cook, MN


Red Phalarope

The Red Phalarope is a shorebird, but one that likes to swim about quite a bit. They breed up in the arctic and winter out in the open ocean. Wow, this bird got a little lost wandering all the way to Minnesota.

The Red Phalarope is considered a “casual” bird in Minnesota, that means that it has been reported to the MN Ornithological Union (where such records are kept and archived) only 3 times in the last 10 years. This record is only the 5th time the Red Phalarope has been reported in St Louis County.

Phalaropes are really interesting birds. There are 3 species of Phalarope that can occur in Minnesota, Wilson’s Phalarope, Red-necked Phalarope and the rare Red Phalarope. They reverse roles when raising their families. The female is more colorful and even a little larger. The male raises the chicks after they have hatched.

As I mentioned before, the Red Phalarope winters out on the open ocean far from land. They follow rip tides and upwellings where warm and cold water create currents. They often associate with Whales and eat the same foods that Whales eat.

In the summer they nest on the remote tundra way up north above the arctic circle. This bird that was found in Cook was very tame and unwary of all the birders that were coming to see it. You can tell that they are not familiar with all the dangers that modern civilization entail. They don’t know what people are and as such have no fear of humans.

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Flowers are still blooming

black-eyed susan

Black-eyed Susan

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Norway Trail



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new bird at Crane Lake

woodpecker, red-bellied

Red-bellied Woodpecker


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Black Moon arisin…

September 30th marks an important lunar event. A Black Moon will occur in the early morning hours. A Black Moon means that there was a new moon twice in one month.

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Fall Sparrows

sparrow backside

sparrow backside

Many birds molt in the summer after their breeding season is over. New feathers grow in and it helps them when they migrate the many miles to their wintering grounds.

Some birds change so much they are hard to identify. Like the sparrow in the above photo.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

The Chipping Sparrow is a common backyard bird. In the fall they lose the rufous cap, but they do retain the dark line that runs through their eye.


In this photo, the bird on the right is the ubiquitous bird that occurs in our forests of Voyageur country, the White-throated Sparrow. The White-throated Sparrow does not change much when going into winter, but the juveniles are different and hard to i.d.

The bird on the left is a White-crowned Sparrow, and it’s a juvenile or first winter bird. It is very different than the adult. The White-crowned Sparrow breeds further north in Canada and only migrates through our area.

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Hiking in the fall

Fall is the best time to check out the hiking trails in the Crane Lake area. The bugs are gone and the weather has cooled and the leaves are beginning to change color.

The Herriman Trail is one of the best trails the area has to offer:


Beaver work

A beaver has been busy working on a big tree on the trail.


mature Aspen tree

This is the tree that the beaver has been working on. What a prize it will be when it topples. Beavers use their oversized teeth to work on the trunk over several days. Their hope is that mother nature will come along and help. A strong wind would take this tree down finishing the beaver’s work.

sawed off log

sawed off log

Sometimes the trail can get overgrown or maybe a tree has fallen on the trail. When that happens you want to carefully search for where the trail continues. One sure way to know you are on the right track is to look for logs that have been intentionally cut by a saw.

cut log

cut log

Another trail marker is the Rock Cairn. These landmarks are usually placed by the trail to indicate the correct path to take.


Rock Cairns

Parts of the trail goes over ledge rock where there isn’t much vegetation to mark the trail. This is where rock cairns come in handy. Look for the next pile of rocks and you know you are on the right track.

ledge rock

Trail over ledge rock

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