Lake Hollerberg WMA  /  Joanne Dial photo

While we certainly saw some noteworthy birds on this Thursday-Friday-Saturday three-county MBW, perhaps the most interesting part of it was how we lucked out with the weather. The forecasts had called for uncomfortable temperatures into the 80s each day, but mercifully our time was spent in the relatively cool (though humid) 70s, as the afternoon highs in Willmar never made it above 75 under mostly cloudy skies. (There were some overnight storms, but it hardly rained on us at all by day.) The heat certainly did arrive on Sunday when the high in Willmar reached 93 (!), which had originally been scheduled as this MBW’s fourth day, but a week earlier I had wisely canceled this day’s birding for reasons unrelated to the weather.  

Overall, September statewide was warmer than normal, resulting in generally lackluster birding for the most part. Our three-day composite total of 110 species seems like respectable total, although there have been hardly any fall MBWs in this part of the state to make comparisons with and fairly judge how we did. Our slowest day was Thursday, mostly spent in Chippewa, where we could only manage to find 62 species, though we had an additional 8 birds in Kandiyohi and 2 others in Lac Qui Parle, bringing our total to 72. Our count improved to 77 species on Friday, with all but one of these in Sibley, and our highest count was on Saturday with 85 species in Kandiyohi.

On Thursday, though the woods were generally quiet, it was interesting – perhaps unprecedented – to see so many Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Indeed, there seemed to be more kinglets around than all the other woods birds combined. Near Gneiss Outcrops SNA, we called in a pair of noisy “two-fer” Barred Owls that flew across the Minnesota River from Yellow Medicine Co. A short time later near the SNA the skies brightened up a bit to prompt a modest flight of migrant raptors to appear, including several Broad-wingeds and a Peregrine. Later, near the LQP state park office, we were surprised by a flock of apparent goldfinches that included some Pine Siskins – and it seemed likely that siskins actually predominated. The afternoon finished up with both  American Golden- and Black-bellied plovers and other shorebirds at Lake Shakopee.

Friday began with that two-fer road that wound along the Kandiyohi/Swift county line through a nice mix of habitats. Monson Lake State Park was next, where the woods birding was still somewhat on the slow side, but nearby Lake Hollerberg WMA yielded 3 shy but eventually cooperative LeConte’s Sparrows that provided nice views for everyone in the group. It then took some time to reach the Marsh Lake area farther west via the grasslands of Danvers WMA, but we found much of the lake filled with weeds rather than water due to prevailing drought conditions. But at least there was lots of blackbird activity along the road to Marsh Lake dam, and among the grackles was a partial albino with patches of white feathering on the head.

Sunday’s birding began at Robbins Island Park in Willmar, but the low overcast made it difficult to see many warblers or other woods birds, although we were entertained by a Cooper’s Hawk right next to the road that ignored us as it took its time to devour its prey. A traditional shorebird spot along shoulder-less CR 27 proved difficult to bird, but it eventually provided 9 shorebird species, including an unexpected Red-necked Phalarope. (In all, our MBW turned up a respectable total of 14 shorebirds.) The woods at Sibley State Park continued to be relatively quiet, though there was another modest flight of raptors viewed from our vantage point on 1375-foot Mt Tom, and we found some activity in the woods along relatively unknown Timber Lake Rd. (perhaps my most favorite road in the county). Our day and the MBW ended quite successfully at Spicer at Green Lake, where we turned up an unusual Lesser Black-backed Gull – while a distant and unidentified loon was swimming around out on the lake that just might have been a Pacific Loon.  

Bird List

C = Chippewa County, Sept 28

S = Swift County, Sept 29

K = Kandiyohi County, mostly Sept 30

(species not annotated were found in all 3 counties)

Canada Goose  

Trumpeter Swan

Wood Duck

Blue-winged Teal

Northern Shoveler          K

Gadwall          K


Northern Pintail          Lac Qui Parle only

Green-winged Teal          SK

Redhead          S

Ring-necked Duck          S

Ruddy Duck          SK

Wild Turkey          C

Ring-necked Pheasant          SK

Pied-billed Grebe

Western Grebe          Lac Qui Parle only

Rock Pigeon

Eurasian Collared-Dove          S

Mourning Dove

Common Nighthawk          K

Ruby-throated Hummingbird          C

American Coot          SK

Black-bellied Plover          C

American Golden-Plover          C


Semipalmated Plover          K

Stilt Sandpiper          K

Baird’s Sandpiper          C

Least Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper          SK

Semipalmated Sandpiper          CK

Wilson’s Snipe          SK

Solitary Sandpiper          S

Lesser Yellowlegs          K

Greater Yellowlegs          K

Red-necked Phalarope          K

Franklin’s Gull          SK

Ring-billed Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull          K

Common Loon          K

Double-crested Cormorant

American White Pelican

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret          SK

Turkey Vulture

Northern Harrier

Sharp-shinned Hawk          SK

Cooper’s Hawk

Bald Eagle

Broad-winged Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Barred Owl          C (also in Yellow Medicine)

Belted Kingfisher          SK

Red-headed Woodpecker          CS

Red-bellied Woodpecker          CK

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker          CK

Northern Flicker

Pileated Woodpecker          SK

American Kestrel

Peregrine Falcon          C

Eastern Phoebe

Yellow-throated Vireo          S

Blue-headed Vireo          SK

Philadelphia Vireo          K

Red-eyed Vireo          K

Blue Jay

American Crow

Black-capped Chickadee

Tree Swallow          SK

Barn Swallow

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Cedar Waxwing

White-breasted Nuthatch

Brown Creeper          CK

Marsh Wren          SK

Gray Catbird          K

European Starling

Eastern Bluebird          SK

American Robin

House Sparrow          CK

American Pipit          C

House Finch          SK

Pine Siskin          C

American Goldfinch

Chipping Sparrow          K

Clay-colored Sparrow          K

Dark-eyed Junco          SK

White-crowned Sparrow          S

Harris’s Sparrow          K

White-throated Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow          CS

LeConte’s Sparrow          S

Savannah Sparrow

Song Sparrow          SK

Lincoln’s Sparrow          CS

Swamp Sparrow          SK

Western Meadowlark          CS

Red-winged Blackbird

Brown-headed Cowbird          S

Common Grackle          SK

Black-and-white Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Northern Parula          S

Magnolia Warbler          C

Palm Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler          K

Northern Cardinal


September 28 - 29 - 30, 2023

Saulsbury Park, Spicer  /  Doug Kieser photo