APRIL 2018 - JANUARY 2019

~  Our 33rd Season  ~








Stony River Forest Road, Lake County (KRE photo)

Blue Mounds State Park, Rock County (KRE  photo)

Minnesota Birding Weekends & Weeks (MBW), as it begins its 33rd season, continues to offer unique, modestly priced birding trips in association with the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union (we originated back in 1986 as MOU Birding Weekends). After 32 years, we have now had a total of more than 400 MBWeekends, more than 8,900 registrations, and a composite list of 363 species seen within the state – and note that some MBWeekend fees are even lower than last season.

And be aware as well of our "Frequent Birder" Program – i.e., participants earn $5 "store credit" coupons for each MBWeekend they attend, with these credits accumulating to earn free registrations on future MBWs.

In addition to our selection of MBWeekends, the schedule of out-of-state MBWeeks will continue; please visit the  MBWEEKS  page on this website for further information on these.

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Note that changes in this schedule are possible, and these will be posted on MBWbirds.com.

The fees listed below are PRE-PAID AMOUNTS; fees paid on the day of the MBW

are $5/day more; please see the MBW Registration Page for more information.

The leader for each MBWeekend will be Kim Eckert, except as noted

with Craig Mandel as leader; Dave Benson will also co-lead on some MBWs.

(This leader information is tentative and may be adjusted.)

April 13, 2018 pre-MBW  ~  Martin County

April 14 - 15, 2018  ~  Jackson County

STATUS: This MBWeekend & pre-MBW were canceled due to heavy snow and blizzard conditions.


May 4, 2018 pre-MBW  ~  Pope County

With lakes such as Emily, Minnewaska, and Johanna, along with the oak savannas of Glacial Lakes State Park and Ordway Prairie S.N.A., plus numerous tracts of grassland and marsh, this county has plenty of potential for a good variety of migrants. There are also several productive woodlands such as Barsness Park and elsewhere around Lake Minnewaska for migrant passerines, and Henslow's Sparrows have nested in recent years east of Glenwood – not far from Eckert Lake! ($20 / Base Morris / Leader Craig Mandel)

May 5 - 6, 2018  ~  Traverse County

Usually a part of our annual early-fall shorebird ID workshop, this year's Traverse County MBW will instead see what spring migration can bring, especially in the mudflats and marshes around Mud Lake on the South Dakota border, at the cluster of pastures and wetlands along the Big Stone County line, and especially within the excellent North Ottawa impoundment on the Traverse-Grant County line. Western (and perhaps Clark's) Grebes, Least Bitterns and other herons/egrets are possible (including Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, and especially White-faced Ibis), and perhaps 2017's King Rail pair could return. LeConte's and Henslow's sparrows have occurred at Miller Prairies East and West, and maybe some early spring migrant warblers will be in. ($40 / Base Morris / Leader Craig Mandel)

STATUS as of 17 APRIL 2018:

• Pope pre-MBW  –  FILLED  /  2 on Waiting List  (26 confirmed / limit 26 with 2 leaders)

• Traverse MBW  –  FILLED  /  0 on Waiting List  (29 confirmed / limit 29 with 3 leaders)

(Registering for this MBWeekend could still be considered since cancellations are possible.)


May 10 - 11 (Thursday-Friday), 2018  ~  Lac Qui Parle County I

See the description of this additional MBWeekend in the May 12-13 Lac Qui Parle II listing below. ($40 / Base Montevideo / Leader Craig Mandel)

May 11 (Friday), 2018 pre-MBW  ~  Yellow Medicine County I

Yellow Medicine County includes lots of birding potential for migrants, from the Minnesota River Valley west to the South Dakota border, especially at its numerous wetlands (such as Miedd, Miller, and Del Clark lakes), dense riparian woodlands, and extensive grasslands. Especially interesting is the rolling Coteau des Prairies landscape in the western part of the county where strays such as Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Say's Phoebe (recently nested here), and even Vermilion Flycatcher have occurred. ($20 / Base Montevideo)

May 12 - 13 (Saturday-Sunday), 2018  ~  Lac Qui Parle County II

What better place to be in spring than out in western Minnesota, especially in May, where almost anything seems possible in the fascinating Minnesota River Valley, especially at Big Stone N.W.R., Lac Qui Parle, and Marsh Lake. Here and elsewhere in the county (e.g., at renowned Salt Lake and along the meadows of Florida Creek) we will see a good variety of migrant water and land birds (with maybe a Cinnamon Teal or Ferruginous Hawk among them?). We'll especially watch for shorebirds, sparrows, and other passerines (warblers may be at their peak) – and a Mountain Bluebird or Spotted Towhee could be in the junipers, meadows, unique rocky outcrops, and woodlands along the river – and witness the Townsend's Warbler we found in a juniper grove in 2017! ($40 / Base Montevideo)

May 14 (Monday), 2018 post-MBW  ~  Yellow Medicine County II

See the description of this additional post-MBW in the May 11 Yellow Medicine pre-MBW in the listing above. ($20 / Base Montevideo)  

STATUS as of 17 APRIL 2018:

• Lac Qui Parle MBW I  –  FILLED / 0 on Waiting List  (15 confirmed / limit 15)

• Yellow Medicine pre-MBW  –   4  VACANCIES  (11 confirmed / limit 15)

• Lac Qui Parle MBW II  –  FILLED  /  5 on Waiting List  (14 confirmed / limit 15)

• Yellow Medicine post-MBW  –  7  VACANCIES  (8 confirmed / limit 15)

(Registering for this MBWeekend could still be considered since cancellations are possible.)


May 25, 2018 pre-MBW  ~  Pennington & Red Lake Counties

Except for visiting its famous sewage ponds, birders based in Thief River Falls usually tend to head north into Marshall County and spend little time in Pennington and adjacent Red Lake counties. Accordingly, this extra day (and county listers special!) will focus on the grasslands, wetlands, and woodland thickets of the Glacial Lake Agassiz ridge west of Thief River Falls, the rice paddies in northeastern Red Lake County, Old Crossing Treaty Wayside – and, of course, those Thief River Falls sewage ponds. ($20 / Base Thief River Falls)

May 26 - 27 - 28, 2018  ~  Kittson & Marshall Counties

The attraction to this remote corner of the state in late spring is certainly obvious, given its several renowned sites such as Agassiz N.W.R., Thief Lake W.M.A., the Thief River Falls sewage ponds, and others. Unlike this year's Labor Day MBW focus on Polk County, this MBW will mostly concentrate on Marshall and seldom-birded Kittson counties, with such excellent but relatively unfamiliar sites in Kittson as Larry Wilebski’s Evergreen Acres, Lake Bronson State Park, and Twin Lakes W.M.A. We hope to find a long list of migrants along with a good assortment of summer residents, including Sharp-tailed Grouse, Yellow Rail, Least Bittern, Short-eared Owl, LeConte's and Nelson's sparrows, and other specialties. Previous Memorial Day MBWs here have listed as many as 25 shorebird species, Snowy Egret, a Great Gray Owl nest, Mountain Bluebird, Sprague's Pipit, a total of 195 species in 1997 (with 24 warbler species just at Agassiz headquarters alone – including a Yellow- throated!). And then there was the all-time MBWeekend record of 200 species seen on the 2009 MBW (!), which featured both California Gull and Lazuli Bunting. ($60 / Base Thief River Falls)

STATUS as of 17 APRIL 2018:

• Pennington-Red Lake pre-MBW  –  3  VACANCIES  (23 confirmed / limit 26 with 2 leaders)

• Kittson-Marshall MBW  –  FILLED  /  2 on Waiting List  (26 confirmed / limit 26 with 2 leaders)

(Registering for this MBWeekend could still be considered since cancellations are possible.)


June 15, 2018 pre-MBW  ~  Clearwater County  

Here it is – another "County Listers Special", with both this pre-MBW and the Saturday-Sunday MBW devoted to counties birders generally overlook. Except for Itasca State Park, Clearwater gets less attention than Polk County to the west or Beltrami to the east; accordingly, we will concentrate more on the rice paddies, brushlands, sedge meadows, boglands, Lower Red Lake's shoreline, and their many boreal specialties in the northern half of the county. ($20 / Base Bemidji / Leader Craig Mandel)

June 16 - 17, 2018  ~  Beltrami County

Despite its size and endless expanses of wilderness, Beltrami County has only been included on a only a few previous MBWs, and just superfically each time. The southern half of the county does include a few spruce-tamarack bogs and other boreal woodlands in and around Lake Bemidji State Park, where warblers and other passerines will be in full song – and learning some of them will be the focus of this MBW. Especially intriguing is the vast "Big Bog" country farther north, where we will search for all the grouse, owls, woodpeckers, flycatchers, finches, sparrows, warblers, and other northern Minnesota specialties partial to the boglands of the Upper and Lower Red Lakes region – including that unique Big Bog Recreation Area boardwalk off Highway 72. ($40 / Base Bemidji / Leader Craig Mandel)

STATUS as of 17 APRIL 2018:

• Clearwater pre-MBW  –  FILLED  /  5 on Waiting List  (26 confirmed / limit 26 with 2 leaders)

• Beltrami MBW  –  FILLED  /  5 on Waiting List  (26 confirmed / limit 26 with 2 leaders)

(Registering for this MBWeekend could still be considered since cancellations are possible.)


July 6, 2018 pre-MBW  ~  Becker County

Becker County has been the focus of few MBWs before, so a return to Hamden Slough and Tamarac NWRs is overdue. Hamden and other western Becker sites have lots of marshes and grasslands for nesting water birds, prairie-chickens, grasslands shorebirds, Sedge Wrens, LeConte's and other sparrows. And at Tamarac are more lakes and woodlands with Red-necked Grebes and other water birds, flycatchers (Alder and Willow), warblers (e.g., Golden-wingeds), and other passerines. ($20 / Base Detroit Lakes / Leader Craig Mandel)

July 7 - 8, 2018  ~  Felton Prairie, Clay County

Among Minnesota's many birding areas, Felton Prairie is certainly one of the best – and of the state's remaining tracts of native grasslands it simply is the best. Witness its few remaining Chestnut-collared Longspurs that still breed here and nowhere else in Minnesota, a skylarking Sprague's Pipit found in 2012, Say's Phoebes in three recent years, nesting Rock Wrens a few years ago, and occasional Baird's Sparrows over the decades. More likely at Felton (and elsewhere) in the county: Swainson's Hawk, Greater Prairie-Chicken, Upland Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Alder and Willow flycatchers, Western Kingbird, Grasshopper and LeConte's sparrows, Orchard Oriole – and perhaps 2017's Western Wood- Pewee might return to Buffalo River State Park? ($40 / Base Moorhead / Leader Craig Mandel)

STATUS as of 17 APRIL 2018:

• Becker pre-MBW  –  1  VACANCY  (14 confirmed / limit 15)

• Felton Prairie MBW  –  6  VACANCIES  (20 confirmed / limit 26 with 2 leaders)


August 31, 2018 pre-MBW  ~  Mahnomen County

Mahnomen is another of those under-birded counties (listers take note!) – a place visited by few previous MBWs. Prairie-chickens, LeConte's and maybe Nelson's sparrows could be at the famed Waubun Marsh or another of this county's many grasslands and marshes. Shorebirds should be passing through, along with a variety of woods birds and other passerines – and always-interesting Highway 113 goes from the prairie, through rolling oak savannas, and into boreal forest within a mere 20-mile drive. ($20 / Base Mahnomen)

September 1 - 2 - 3, 2018  ~  Polk County

This will be our 15th consecutive Labor Day Weekend in the northwestern corner of the state, and this year's 3-day MBW will offer a change of scenery. We'll be a bit southwest of usual in Polk County, which includes the Glacial Ridge grasslands region, the flood-control impoundments north of Crookston, and the mixed landscapes around Agassiz Dunes near Fertile. As before, with relatively little birding here in fall, the list of possibilities in this county remains both potentially long and refreshingly unpredictable. We can expect 150 species or so (170 is possible), as some of our rarer finds on this MBW have included Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron (together in 2016), Yellow- crowned Night-Heron, Little Gull (in 2015), Prairie Falcon, Red Knot, Long-tailed Jaeger (!), Blue- gray Gnatcatcher, and Nelson's Sparrow. As many as 25 shorebirds (including American Avocet and Buff-breasted Sandpiper), 20 warbler species, and multiple LeConte's Sparrows have been on this MBW – and we've even found concentrations of Red-necked Phalaropes (145), Short-eared Owls (7+), Black-backed Woodpeckers (6+), and Black-billed Magpies (110). ($60 / Base Crookston)

STATUS as of 17 APRIL 2018:

• Mahnomen pre-MBW  –  5  VACANCIES  (21 confirmed / limit 26 with 2 leaders)

• Polk MBW  –  4  VACANCIES  (22 confirmed / limit 26 with 2 leaders)


September 21, 2018 pre-MBW  ~  Goodhue County

For many years birders have flocked in May to Frontenac, Vasa, Etter, Hok-Si-La Park and other extensive Goodhue County woodlands along the Mississippi River, but these same places should be productive as well in September during fall migration. Interesting water birds can also occur in the many backwaters and ponds along the river (and on vast Lake Pepin itself), and there could be a good flight of raptors (think Mississippi Kite, perhaps?) along the ridges if the weather is favorable. ($20 / Base Red Wing / Leader Craig Mandel)

September 22 - 23, 2018  ~  Wabasha & Winona Counties

Birders usually head down along the Mississippi River Valley in spring for warblers and other migrant woods birds, or in summer for its variety of southeastern specialties, or in late fall for concentrations of swans and eagles. But early fall migration in this part of the state, though mostly excluded from past September MBWs, can be just as worthwhile – both for woods birds in the riparian forests and water birds in the backwaters of the Mississippi and at Whitewater W.M.A. Any so-called "confusing fall warblers" that we encounter will be studied (we might even hit peak warbler migration if this season is on the late side), and there is always the potential for strays from the Southeast if luck is with us – the possibilities too numerous to mention. ($40 / Base Winona / Leader Craig Mandel)

STATUS as of 17 APRIL 2018:

• Goodhue pre-MBW  – 7  VACANCIES  (19 confirmed / limit 26 with 2 leaders)

• Wabasha-Winona MBW  –  FILLED / 0 on Waiting List (26 confirmed / limit 26 with 2 leaders)

(Registering for this MBWeekend could still be considered since cancellations are possible.)


October 9 (Tuesday), 2018 pre-MBW  ~  North Shore I

Tuesday's pre-MBW will concentrate on Lake County along the North Shore of Lake Superior – and possibly as far as some sites in Cook County, depending on the weather and recent sightings of migrants. These are the places beyond Knife River and Two Harbors that we probably will not have time for on Wednesday-Thursday (and that have the same birding possibilities as in Duluth), including Flood Bay, the unique mix of habitats at Castle Danger's sewage ponds, Iona's Beach, and the Beaver Bay-Silver Bay area. ($20 / Base Duluth)

October 10 - 11 (Wednesday-Thursday), 2018  ~  Fall Duluth

The main MBW (in mid-week, when prices are lower and tourists are fewer) will focus more on sites closer to Duluth, as we cover Park Point, Stoney Point, and other spots along the lake as far as Two Harbors. Weather permitting, there's always an interesting mix of fall migrants passing through, including the possibility of a strong raptor flight at Hawk Ridge. Sightings of rare-Regular and Casual species here in October include Ross's Goose, Harlequin Duck, all three scoters, King Eider, Red Phalarope, jaegers, Sabine's and California gulls, Arctic Tern, Pacific and Red-throated loons, Cattle Egret, Say's Phoebe, Rock Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Smith's Longspur, Nelson's Sparrow, Summer Tanager, and more – and the list of Accidentals seen is equally long. ($40 / Base Duluth)

STATUS as of 17 APRIL 2018:

• North Shore I pre-MBW  –  3  VACANCIES  (23 confirmed / limit 26 with 2 leaders)

• Fall Duluth MBW  –  4  VACANCIES (22 confirmed / limit 26 with 2 leaders)


November 1 - 2 (Thursday-Friday), 2018  ~  North Shore II

See North Shore III below. ($40 / Base Duluth Wednesday; Grand Marais Thursday)

November 3 - 4, 2018  ~  North Shore III

The unexpected is literally to be expected here each fall! Past November records include Brant, King Eider, Yellow-billed Loon, Purple Sandpiper, Black-legged Kittiwake, both Ancient and Long-billed murrelets, Inca Dove, Anna's Hummingbird, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Fieldfare, Sage Thrasher, this MBW's Black Guillemot in 2009, Cassin's Kingbird in 2012, 2 Common Eiders in 2014, Vermilion Flycatcher and White-eyed Vireo in 2015. More likely on this MBW (now a 25+ year tradition) are Long-tailed and perhaps Harlequin ducks, all 3 scoters, un-Common loons, Iceland or Glaucous gull, Black-backed Woodpecker, Mountain Bluebird and Townsend's Solitaire (3 of each in 2017), flocks of Bohemian Waxwings, and winter finches. ($40 / Base Duluth Friday; Grand Marais Saturday)

STATUS as of 17 APRIL 2018:

• North Shore II MBW  –  5  VACANCIES  (21 confirmed / limit 26 with 2 leaders)

• North Shore III MBW  –  6  VACANCIES  (20 confirmed / limit 26 with 2 leaders)


January 5 - 6, 2019  ~  Winter Duluth I

Despite the cold, this popular MBW tradition continues with so many possibilities to begin one's year list: Sharp-tailed Grouse, N. Goshawk, northern owls (especially Great Gray, Northern Hawk, and Snowy), Black-backed Woodpecker, Northern Shrike, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Bohemian Waxwing, Snow Bunting, grosbeaks, crossbills, redpolls, and more. Of course, we'll also hope for the unexpected: a Harlequin or some other rare duck (like 2015's Common Eider) or an unusual gull (like 2016's Ivory Gull!) on the lake, a Gyrfalcon in pursuit of pigeons in the harbor, a Spruce Grouse or American Three-toed Woodpecker in a some remote spruce bog, or maybe a Townsend's Solitaire or Varied Thrush or even a Boreal Owl lurking in someone's back yard. ($40 / Base Duluth)

January 7 (Monday), 2019 post-MBW  ~  Winter Duluth II

Because some of Minnesota's winter specialties are so highly sought and often difficult to find, and since heavy snow or extreme cold could negatively impact our travel and birding plans, this extra day should prove useful. The itinerary will depend on how we did on the two previous days – i.e., searching for any key species that might have eluded us earlier (and those less cooperative ones we'd like to see better), or covering some of the birding areas we might not have had enough time for on Saturday-Sunday. ($20 / Base Duluth)

STATUS as of 17 APRIL 2018:

• Winter Duluth I MBW  –  FILLED  /  3 on Waiting List  (15 confirmed / limit 15)

• Winter Duluth II post-MBW  –  FILLED  /  0 on Waiting List  (15 confirmed / limit 15)

(Registering for this MBWeekend could still be considered since cancellations are possible.)


January 11 - 12 (Friday-Saturday), 2019  ~  Winter Duluth III

January 13 (Sunday), 2019 post-MBW  ~  Winter IV Duluth

See the descriptions of this additional MBWeekend and post-MBW in the January 5-6 Winter Duluth I and January 7 Winter Duluth II listings above. (Winter Duluth III $40; Winter Duluth IV $20 / Base Duluth / Leader Craig Mandel)

STATUS as of 17 APRIL 2018:

• Winter Duluth III MBW  –  3 VACANCIES  (12 confirmed / limit 15)

• Winter Duluth IV post-MBW  –  4  VACANCIES  (11 confirmed / limit 15)



for summaries of these (or similar) MBWeekends from previous years


for summaries of these (or similar) MBWeekends from previous years