A couple of weekends ago, I headed over to Greaney, MN on my way to Nashwauk for a family get together. Greaney is located 9 miles west of Hwy 53 on Willow River Road, just south of Orr. I love taking the backroads that criss cross western St Louis County. I was acting on a lead that I had gotten from Tammy about Magpies. And I was not disappointed!
The minute I pulled up to Vi’s Store, there was a Magpie!
They were foraging in the grass – walking along and scaring up bugs – which promptly got eaten!
Then they flew up and crossed the road where they had a couple of young birds hidden in the bushes. The vocalizations the birds were making was very entertaining!
I counted 9 Magpies at this location.
The habitat in western St Louis County is quite different than the Boreal forest that is closer to Crane Lake. Out in Greaney it’s almost prairie like. There are wet meadows mixed in with lowland Black Spruce bogs and also there is agricultural land that’s been cleared and mowed. There were lots of Clay-colored Sparrows, Sedge Wrens and Savannah Sparrows. I need to spend a lot more time out in that area, it could hold some real rarities like Le Conte’s Sparrow and Upland Sandpipers. Until next time…
We took a ride up the lake last weekend and one place that I wanted to visit was Swanson’s Bay. It is in my priority block for the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas www.mnbba.org project. I had never been way back in the bay and I was surprised at how big and out of the way it was. Take a look at the map and see there’s a big swamp on the south side. Lately I’ve been attracted to swampy areas as they seem to be bird “magnets”.
Swanson's Bay in Voyageurs National Park
On the way there we found Herring Gulls sitting on nests. I’m going to keep my eye on those nests and I hope to get some baby Gull pictures in the near future.
Look close at this photo, this Deer is a mother! She must have had her fawn hidden back in the woods while she went to eat and drink water.
It looks like it is going to be a really good year for Blueberries! The rain we have received in June has made the Blueberries big, plump, and juicy! Why does it seem like the first berry that turns ripe in the bunch is always the biggest?
Right now is a really good time to find Woodpecker nests, especially Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Northern Flickers. When you’re walking in the woods, keep an ear out for baby Woodpecker chatter. Baby Woodpeckers, for some unknown reason, keep up a constant chatter when they are still in the nest. Once you hear it, just keep searching for a likely tree that has a few holes drilled in it. Then patiently wait for the parents to show – which shouldn’t be too long – as the parents know they have hungry chicks to feed.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker nest hole
Sapsucker entering nest
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, male
Before they would leave the nest, the adult bird would check to see if the coast was clear. They would look left, right, and overhead before flying out of the hole.
Sapsucker with fecal sac
The male Sapsucker was cleaning house. Here he’s leaving with a fecal sac.
female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
I hiked into this remote beaver pond last week. It was in about 1 mile down an old logging road. This pond was teaming with bird life.
The dead tree snags provide critical housing for cavity nesting birds like Tree Swallows, Eastern Kingbird, Wood Ducks, Hooded and Common Mergansers and others.
Spotted Coralroot Orchid
The White-throated Sparrow had a family nearby and she was pretty upset with my presence.
O.K., O.K., I’m moving on – take good care of your babies!
White-throated Sparrows are one of our most populous birds in the forest. Their beautiful song can be heard through out the day ringing out from the forest. Many times the bird will not appear from the thick cover of the woods, but their song comes through loud and clear. It’s amazing that such a small bird can sing so loud.
Singing from their favored habitat: dense patches of the shrub Mountain Maple.
It’s as if he is saying “I challenge you”! It even looks like he has little horns.
And further on, tucked in the dense stands of the Balsam Fir, is the Magnolia Warbler.
Mallard Hen with ducklings
Under the watchful eye of…
Bald Eagle, immature
Maybe if I hide behind this tree, nobody will notice me…
Always the opportunist, the Bald Eagle doesn’t miss a chance at a possible meal.
Not this time…
The other day I kicked up a family of SPRUCE GROUSE!
Spruce Grouse fledgling
Surprisingly, the young birds could fly fairly well – albeit only for short distances.
Spruce Grouse female
The Spruce Hen was making the weirdest noises as she was kept in contact with her youngin’s. At one point she vocalized a spooky scream.
O.K., O.K., I’ll leave you alone so you can gather up your family.
Back on some of the remote logging roads, in the Superior National Forest, there are Heliports set aside. I suppose they use helicopters to drop firefighters when there’s a wildfire in the forest. Or perhaps they’re used in search and rescue missions or if someone has been injured in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
There must have been a wetland beyond the rock face as I could hear many birds that associate with that habitat: Common Yellowthroat, Alder Flycatcher, Chestnut-sided Warbler. This clearing, some of it natural and some encouraged, was thick with birdsong.
Remote Beaver Pond
My destination was a remote beaver pond that was about a mile in from the Echo Trail. It was a really cool spot, but there wasn’t much for bird activity. But then I was there in the afternoon when most birds are taking their siesta.
However, on the way out I found a pair of Juncos that seemed to be defending a nest site. They got really upset when I walked by and they were causing such a commotion that some other birds came out to see what was going on. They were promptly chased away by the indignant Juncos. I took the hint and got out of there as well.
It looks like we might get a good crop of Blueberries this year. The rain came just in time to replenish the forest plants and the Blueberry bushes!