October 14 - 15 - 16, 2016

Red-throated Loon, Agate Bay, 16 October 2016 (KRE photo)

Though perhaps too warm Saturday afternoon (70 degrees!) and with dark overcast that morning, the weather during these three days was still quite decent overall. True, the conditions weren’t conducive to producing much migration, but it never rained (or snowed) on us, nor did the high winds forecast for Friday ever materialize. And for the most part the birding was as decent as the weather, and we came up with a fairly impressive list of interesting highlights.

On Friday’s pre-MBW, we spent most of the day in Two Harbors in Lake County, with a drive up to Castle Danger to end the day. Here we had close looks at a freshly-plumaged adult Grasshopper Sparrow, which is quite unusual anywhere in NE Minnesota; almost as unusual was the juvenile Red-throated Loon we then found after lunch, and later we came up with three Surf Scoters. Noteworthy as well in Two Harbors were four meadowlarks (0-1 is normal here) and a few Cackling Geese, and there was a nice-looking Am Golden-Plover at Castle Danger’s sewage ponds.

There wasn’t quite as much bird activity on Saturday, but three White-winged Scoters and a Dunlin at Park Point brightened up the overcast morning, as did a couple of Black-bellied Plovers and a Bonaparte’s Gull. Things then slowed down a bit until we finished the day in Knife River back in Lake County, where there was lots of activity as numerous robins and other birds swarmed around the mountain ash trees.

We then returned to Lake County on Sunday where we had a brief view of an early juvenile Northern Shrike, an unexpected fly-by Red-bellied Woodpecker, and a fly-away Black Scoter in Knife River – and finding all three scoters is not easy to do. And back in Two Harbors there was yet another Red-bellied (0 is normal in NE Minn), a late Tennessee Warbler, and the Red-throated Loon was not only still present but also uncharacteristically close to shore.               


BIRD LIST (78 species)

• PRE = found only on Friday’s pre-MBW

• MBW = found only on main Saturday-Sunday MBW

  (species not marked PRE or MBW were found on both)

Cackling Goose     PRE

Canada Goose      

American Black Duck      MBW


Northern Pintail      PRE

Green-winged Teal       MBW

Redhead      MBW

Ring-necked Duck      PRE

Surf Scoter      

White-winged Scoter      MBW

Black Scoter      MBW

Bufflehead      PRE

Common Merganser      MBW

Red-breasted Merganser      MBW

Ruffed Grouse      MBW

Red-throated Loon      

Common Loon      

Horned Grebe      MBW

Red-necked Grebe     

Turkey Vulture      PRE

Bald Eagle      

Sharp-shinned Hawk      PRE

Cooper’s Hawk     PRE

American Coot      PRE

Black-bellied Plover      MBW

American Golden-Plover      PRE

Dunlin      MBW

Bonaparte's Gull      MBW

Ring-billed Gull      

Herring Gull      

Rock Pigeon     

Mourning Dove      

Red-bellied Woodpecker      MBW

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker      

Downy Woodpecker      

Hairy Woodpecker      


Northern Shrike      MBW

Blue Jay      

American Crow      

Common Raven      

Horned Lark      PRE

Black-capped Chickadee      

Red-breasted Nuthatch      

White-breasted Nuthatch      

Brown Creeper    

Golden-crowned Kinglet      

Ruby-crowned Kinglet     

Eastern Bluebird      

Hermit Thrush      MBW

American Robin      

Gray Catbird      PRE

European Starling      

American Pipit      MBW

Cedar Waxwing      

Lapland Longspur     

Tennessee Warbler      MBW

Palm Warbler      

Yellow-rumped Warbler      

American Tree Sparrow      

Chipping Sparrow      MBW

Savannah Sparrow      

Grasshopper Sparrow      PRE

Fox Sparrow      MBW

Song Sparrow      PRE

Lincoln's Sparrow      PRE

Swamp Sparrow      PRE

White-throated Sparrow      

Harris's Sparrow      

White-crowned Sparrow      

Dark-eyed Junco      

Northern Cardinal      PRE

Western Meadowlark      PRE

Rusty Blackbird      

Common Grackle      PRE

Purple Finch      MBW

American Goldfinch      

House Sparrow

*          *          *


October 2 - 3 - 4, 2015

Well, the October 2 pre-MBW was supposed to be along the North Shore, but we made it only as far as Two Harbors before we turned around. We had at least found two Surf Scoters at Stoney Point, a cooperative Lapland Longspur and a late House Wren in Two Harbors, but the migration that morning was almost non-existent, the winds off the lake were starting to pick up in the early afternoon, and there had been sightings in previous days of California and Lesser Black-backed gulls at the Superior Entry breakwaters. So we regrouped back at the Superior Entry, only to be greeted by sustained 25-30 mph winds that made gull-watching quite a challenge. But everyone was able to get good scope views of a second-year Thayer’s Gull on the breakwall on the Minnesota side – a decent enough consolation prize since those two rarer gulls were no where to be seen.

The east winds on Saturday weren't supposed to be as bad, but by the afternoon they were again blowing at 25-30 mph. We spent the morning at Park Point and at least turned up both a fly-over American Golden-Plover and a fly-away Black-bellied Plover, along with an immature Franklin’s Gull (a Duluth rarity) which appeared on the ballfield for the benefit of about half the group who hadn’t yet departed for lunch. Though the winds were from the wrong direction, we spent the early afternoon at Hawk Ridge and predictably saw hardly any raptor movement (but at least we were entertained an officious and overly-zealous traffic officer/volunteer who apparently had nothing better to do). Since the winds were still too strong off the lake, we wisely elected to spend the rest of the afternoon somewhat out of the wind at Indian Point and on Clyde Avenue near Morgan Park along the St Louis River. Here we found an unexpected Virginia Rail (most were even able to briefly see it), somewhat late Solitary and Spotted sandpipers, a cold Eastern Phoebe, and our best views of a close and cooperative Harris’s Sparrow.


It was a relief when the winds actually did subside on Sunday, although the migration was still slow. (After 4-5 days of persistent fog and drizzle finally ended the previous weekend, a rush of migrants pushed through the last few days of September, so that relatively little was still around to see during our MBW.) But on Sunday morning at Stoney Point, Two Harbors, and Castle Danger, we relocated the Surf Scoters and found a late Black-throated Green Warbler, some found the Cackling Goose again (a few had also seen it on Friday), and there was another Lapland Longspur posing for all to see at close range. Some of us then made another try for gulls at Park Point and Superior Entry before returning home but came up empty. In all, then, we managed to come up with 78 species, which was understandably fewer than normal (the mid-80s is probably our average on this MBW), with 55 species on Friday's pre-MBW (7 of these were only seen that day), and 71 on the main Saturday-Sunday MBW.


• NS = seen on October 2 “North Shore” pre-MBW

• FD = seen on October 3-4 Fall Duluth MBW 

Cackling Goose          NS,FD

Canada Goose          NS,FD 

Wood Duck          FD

American Black Duck          FD

Mallard          NS,FD

Green-winged Teal          FD

Redhead          NS,FD

Greater Scaup          FD 

Surf Scoter          NS,FD

Hooded Merganser          FD

Common Merganser          NS,FD

Red-breasted Merganser          NS,FD

Common Loon          NS,FD

Pied-billed Grebe          NS,FD

Horned Grebe          NS,FD

Red-necked Grebe          NS,FD

Double-crested Cormorant          NS,FD

Great Blue Heron          FD

Turkey Vulture          FD

Bald Eagle          NS,FD

Sharp-shinned Hawk          NS

Virginia Rail          FD

American Coot          FD

Black-bellied Plover          FD

American Golden-Plover          FD

Spotted Sandpiper          FD

Solitary Sandpiper          FD

Franklin's Gull          FD

Ring-billed Gull          NS,FD

Herring Gull          NS,FD

Thayer's Gull          NS

Rock Pigeon          NS,FD

Belted Kingfisher          NS,FD

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker          NS,FD

Downy Woodpecker          NS,FD

Hairy Woodpecker          NS,FD

Northern Flicker          NS,FD

Pileated Woodpecker          FD

American Kestrel          NS

Merlin          NS,FD

Eastern Phoebe          FD

Blue Jay          NS,FD

American Crow          NS,FD

Common Raven          NS,FD

Horned Lark          NS

Black-capped Chickadee          NS,FD

Red-breasted Nuthatch          NS,FD

White-breasted Nuthatch          NS

Brown Creeper          NS,FD

House Wren          NS

Winter Wren          FD

Golden-crowned Kinglet          FD

Ruby-crowned Kinglet          NS,FD

Swainson's Thrush          NS,FD

Hermit Thrush          NS,FD

American Robin          NS,FD

European Starling          FD

American Pipit          NS,FD

Cedar Waxwing          NS,FD

Lapland Longspur          NS,FD

Palm Warbler          NS,FD

Yellow-rumped Warbler          NS,FD

Black-throated Green Warbler          FD

Chipping Sparrow          FD

Clay-colored Sparrow          FD

Savannah Sparrow          NS,FD

Song Sparrow          NS,FD

Lincoln's Sparrow          NS,FD

Swamp Sparrow          NS,FD

White-throated Sparrow          NS,FD

Harris's Sparrow          NS,FD

White-crowned Sparrow          NS,FD

Dark-eyed Junco          NS,FD

Red-winged Blackbird          NS,FD

Purple Finch          NS

Pine Siskin          NS,FD

American Goldfinch          FD

House Sparrow          NS,FD

Also see the 2016 and 2015 MBW summaries

following the summary of the 2018 MBW



OCTOBER 10 - 11 - 12, 2018

Mediocre "digiscope" image (due to the wind and rain) of the adult Sabine's Gull

still in breeding plumage at the Park Point Recreation Area. (KRE photo)

"Digibin" image of a cold Cape May Warbler in Two Harbors

trying to find insects with temperatures in the mid-30s. (KRE photo)

In a way, the two photos above pretty much sum up our Duluth-based MBW – a rarity blown in by those destructive gale-force winds off Lake Superior on Wednesday, followed on Thursday by a late-lingering migrant try to deal with 20+ mph NW winds, snow, "highs" in the 30s, and some January-like wind-chills that made life difficult for both birds and birders. Note that this time the W in MBW stood for Weekdays, designed to avoid higher lodging costs and leaf-watching traffic so characteristic of fall weekends here. But any delusions of brilliance your Spineless, Wishy-washy Tour Leader might have had with this strategy quickly vanished when he canceled Tuesday's birding (when the weather was supposed to be bad but turned out to be somewhat reasonable) and rescheduled it for Wednesday (when that meteorological event had earlier been forecast to be winding down – but didn't).

Still, we somehow managed to come up with a grand total of 96 species (the most ever on this MBW?!) during these three days. In addition to the adult Sabine’s Gull huddled on the Park Point ballfields among the other gulls (nice spotting, Judy), some of our better finds included: Surf and White-winged scoters on the bayside of Park Point, plus 3 Ruddy Ducks there on Friday (a rarity in NE Minn); 8 shorebird species, highlighted by Black-bellied and Am Golden-Plovers, Dunlins, and Pectoral Sandpipers on the flooded Park Point ballfields (especially on Friday when all 4 foraged together in front of us); hunting Merlins at almost every place we went; late-lingering Blue-headed Vireo and Gray-cheeked Thrush; non-stop Am Robins by the 100s migrating down the N Shore on Thursday- Friday, along with good numbers of Blue Jays, both kinglets, thrushes, sparrows (12 species total), Rusty Blackbirds, and Yellow-rumped Warblers; a few early and sought-after Bohemian Waxwings; and 6 warbler species (all of them desperate to find insects in the cold): Orange-crowned, Nashville, American Redstart,

a late Cape May, Palm, and Yellow-rumpeds – the latter species at almost every place we went (under the watchful eyes of Merlins).

But perhaps the most impressive birding we had was saved for last on Friday afternoon, when the winds had finally moderated and the sun came out, and those of us still in town watched dozens of Yellow-rumpeds forage around the edges of the standing water on the Park Point ballfields, as both plovers, Dunlins, and Pectorals ran around just behind them.  

We all thank Dave Benson for his co-leadership – especially on Wednesday when I got to stay inside most of the day! And I thank all of you who came out despite the weather and got soaked, wind-blown, and wind-chilled in the process – but at the same time managed to maintain your patience and a good-natured attitude through it all.

Bird List

• W = seen on Wednesday, Oct 10 (48 species)

• Th = seen on Thursday, Oct 11 (80 species)

• F = seen on Friday, Oct 12 (67 species)

Snow Goose          W,Th

Canada Goose          W,Th,F

Wood Duck          F

Mallard          W,Th,F

American Black Duck          W

Northern Pintail          F

Green-winged Teal          W,Th

Greater Scaup          W,Th

Lesser Scaup          F

Surf Scoter          Th

White-winged Scoter          Th

Common Merganser          W,Th,F

Red-breasted Merganser          W,Th,F

Ruddy Duck          F

Horned Grebe          Th,F

Red-necked Grebe          Th,F

Rock Pigeon          W,Th,F

Mourning Dove          W,Th,F

Black-bellied Plover          Th,F

American Golden-Plover          W,Th,F

Sanderling          W,F

Dunlin          Th,F

Pectoral Sandpiper          Th,F

Wilson’s Snipe          F

Spotted Sandpiper          Th

Greater Yellowlegs          Th,F

Sabine’s Gull          W

Bonaparte’s Gull          W

Ring-billed Gull          W,Th,F

Herring Gull          W,Th,F

Common Loon          Th,F

Double-crested Cormorant          Th

Turkey Vulture          Th,F

Bald Eagle          W,Th,F

Northern Harrier          Th

Sharp-shinned Hawk          Th,F

Cooper’s Hawk          Th

Broad-winged Hawk          Th

Red-tailed Hawk          Th,F

Belted Kingfisher          F

Red-bellied Woodpecker          F

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker          W

Downy Woodpecker          W,Th,F

Hairy Woodpecker          Th,F

Northern Flicker          W,Th,F

Pileated Woodpecker          Th

American Kestrel          F

Merlin          W,Th,F

Blue-headed Vireo          Th

Blue Jay          W,Th,F

American Crow          W,Th,F

Common Raven          W,Th,F

Horned Lark          W,Th,F

Black-capped Chickadee           W,Th,F

Red-breasted Nuthatch          W,Th,F

White-breasted Nuthatch          F

Brown Creeper          W,Th,F

Winter Wren          Th

Golden-crowned Kinglet          W,Th,F

Ruby-crowned Kinglet          W,Th,F

Eastern Bluebird          W,Th,F

Gray-cheeked Thrush          Th

Swainson’s Thrush          Th

Hermit Thrush          W,Th,F

American Robin          W,Th,F

European Starling          W,Th,F

Bohemian Waxwing          Th

Cedar Waxwing          W,Th,F

House Sparrow          Th,F

American Pipit          W,Th,F

Purple Finch          Th

American Goldfinch          Th

Lapland Longspur          W,Th,F

Snow Bunting          Th

American Tree Sparrow          W,Th,F

Chipping Sparrow          W,Th,F

Clay-colored Sparrow          W,F

Savannah Sparrow          Th,F

Fox Sparrow          Th,F

Song Sparrow          W,Th,F

Lincoln’s Sparrow          W,Th,F

Swamp Sparrow          F

White-throated Sparrow          W,Th,F

Harris’s Sparrow          Th,F

White-crowned Sparrow          W,Th,F

Dark-eyed Junco           W,Th,F

Red-winged Blackbird          Th

Rusty Blackbird          Th,F

Common Grackle          W,Th

Orange-crowned Warbler          Th

Nashville Warbler          Th,F

American Redstart          Th

Cape May Warbler          Th

Palm Warbler          W,Th,F

Yellow-rumped Warbler          W,Th,F

Northern Cardinal          Th

*          *          *