Also see the 2013 and 2011 MBW summaries following

the summary of the 2018 MBWeekend; note that the previous summaries

include some birds not seen in Mahnomen or Polk counties.


Mahnomen - Polk MBWeekend summary

Aug 31 & Sept 1 - 2 - 3, 2018

While we might have had difficulty deciding on who should be awarded a coveted Junior Tour Leader Merit Badge on this MBW, it was easy enough to decide who should receive Junior Tour Leader Demerits. But at least the one who locked her keys in the trunk and the one who left his phone on the roof of the car eventually emerged from their self-inflicted predicaments relatively unscathed – things could have been a lot worse.

Similarly, one might also say this MBW could have been worse (though that would be an odd way to put it), since there wasn't that much room for it to have been better. I suppose one could have hoped for some genuine rarities to cross our paths – like that Prairie Falcon in Kittson Co our first NW Minn Labor Day MBW back in 2003, the Long-tailed Jaeger and Red Knot at Agassiz NWR on the 2007 MBW, the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron we found in Warroad in 2010, the Liitle Gull at Warroad's sewage ponds on this MBW in 2015, or finding both Little Blue Heron and Snowy Egret together at Agassiz as we did in 2016.

But overall, despite the absence of true rarities, this was a pretty successful weekend. Our composite total over these four days was 159 species, which is about average for a Labor Day MBW. Our best-ever overall total was 171, which we did twice, while our lowest ever was 143 species. On Friday's pre-MBW we had 115 in Mahnomen Co (10 of these species were not found on the main MBW), and the main MBW in Polk Co (including a bit in Marshall) listed 149 species.

The goal of this MBW has always been to find both 20 shorebird species and 20 warbler species. But we've never managed to do both in the same year, as this time we found 17 shorebirds (about average) and 20 warblers (which ties our highest number). Our best shorebird totals were 25 and 21, and the lowest was 13 species, and we've now managed to list 20 warbler species at least 4 times, while our lowest warbler total ever on this MBW was 15.

There may have been no real rarities, but there were several highlights. Red-necked, Eared, Western, and possibly Horned grebes were all at the Agassiz impoundment on the Marshall-Polk county line. The Eurasian Collared-Doves in Waubun represented one of the few records for Mahnomen Co; we also found more predictable ones in Fertile in Polk Co. Our best shorebirds were the 6 Buff-breasted Sandpipers on both sides of the county line at the Agassiz impoundment; a Black-bellied Plover was there too; at the Crookston sewage ponds a Short-billed Dowitcher, Red-necked Phalaropes, and many other shorebirds were terrorized in spectacular fashion by a Peregrine; and on Friday we found both phalaropes at the Mahnomen sewage ponds.

It was nice to find LeConte's Sparrows in both Mahnomen and Polk counties, several dozen Bobolinks (possibly 100 or more!?) were a surprise at the Parnell impoundment in Polk Co, and a late Dickcissel or two made an even more unexpected and surprising appearance among them. And among the warbler highlights were Golden-wingeds, an early Orange-crowned, and several Bay-breasteds, with the woods around the Crookston sewage ponds providing our best warbler waves.

(But where were the magpies – none in 4 days! – and how come I wasn't able to find a single new county bird for my Polk or Marshall county list?)  

Bird List

M = Mahnomen Co pre-MBW (Aug 31)

P = main Polk Co MBW (Sept 1 - 2 - 3; incl birds seen in Marshall Co Sept 2)

Canada Goose          M, P

Trumpeter Swan          M, P

Wood Duck          M, P

Blue-winged Teal          M, P

Northern Shoveler          M, P

Gadwall          P

American Wigeon          P

Mallard          M, P

Northern Pintail          P

Green-winged Teal          M, P

Canvasback          M, P

Redhead          M, P

Ring-necked Duck          M, P

Lesser Scaup          M

Bufflehead          M, P

Common Goldeneye          M, P

Hooded Merganser          M, P

Ruddy Duck          M, P

Ring-necked Pheasant          M

Wild Turkey          P

Pied-billed Grebe          M, P

Horned Grebe          P

Red-necked Grebe          P

Eared Grebe          P (only in Marshall Co)

Western Grebe          P (only in Marshall Co)

Rock Pigeon          M, P

Eurasian Collared-Dove          M, P

Mourning Dove          M, P

Common Nighthawk          M, P

Chimney Swift          M, P

Ruby-throated Hummingbird          M, P

Virginia Rail          P

Sora          M, P

American Coot          M, P

Sandhill Crane          M, P

Black-bellied Plover          P

Semipalmated Plover          P

Killdeer          M, P

Stilt Sandpiper          M, P

Baird’s Sandpiper          M, P

Least Sandpiper          M, P

Buff-breasted Sandpiper          P (also in Marshall Co)

Pectoral Sandpiper          P

Semipalmated Sandpiper          M, P

Short-billed Dowitcher          P

Wilson’s Snipe          M, P

Spotted Sandpiper          M, P

Solitary Sandpiper          P

Lesser Yellowlegs          M, P

Greater Yellowlegs          P

Wilson’s Phalarope          M

Red-necked Phalarope          M, P (also in Marshall Co)

Franklin’s Gull          M, P

Ring-billed Gull          M, P

Caspian Tern          M

Black Tern          P (also in Marshall Co)

Common Loon          M, P

Double-crested Cormorant          M, P

American White Pelican          P

Great Blue Heron          P

Great Egret          P

Green Heron          P (only in Marshall Co)

Turkey Vulture          M, P

Osprey          P

Bald Eagle          M, P

Northern Harrier          M, P

Sharp-shinned Hawk          P

Cooper’s Hawk          M, P

(Northern Goshawk? - possibly seen in flight over Polk CR 44 on Sunday)

Broad-winged Hawk          P

Red-tailed Hawk          M, P

Belted Kingfisher          M, P

Red-headed Woodpecker          P

Red-bellied Woodpecker          M, P

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker          M, P

Downy Woodpecker          M, P

Hairy Woodpecker          M, P

Northern Flicker          M, P

Pileated Woodpecker          M, P

American Kestrel          M, P

Merlin          M, P

Peregrine Falcon          P

Olive-sided Flycatcher          M, P

Eastern Wood-Pewee          M, P

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher          P

Alder/Willow ("Traill's") Flycatcher           M, P

Least Flycatcher          M, P

Eastern Phoebe          M, P

Great Crested Flycatcher          M, P

Eastern Kingbird          M, P

Yellow-throated Vireo          M

Blue-headed Vireo          P

Philadelphia Vireo          P (also in Marshall Co)

Warbling Vireo          M, P

Red-eyed Vireo          M, P

Blue Jay          M, P

American Crow          M, P

Common Raven          M, P

Horned Lark          M

Purple Martin          M

Tree Swallow          M, P

Bank Swallow          M

Cliff Swallow          M, P

Barn Swallow          M, P

Black-capped Chickadee          M, P

Red-breasted Nuthatch          M, P (also in Marshall Co)

White-breasted Nuthatch          M, P

House Wren          M, P

Sedge Wren          P

Marsh Wren          M, P

Eastern Bluebird          P

American Robin          M, P

Gray Catbird          M, P

Brown Thrasher          M, P

European Starling          M, P

Cedar Waxwing          M, P

House Sparrow          M, P

House Finch          M, P (also in Marshall Co)

Purple Finch          P

American Goldfinch          M, P

Chipping Sparrow          M, P

Clay-colored Sparrow          M, P

Vesper Sparrow          P

Savannah Sparrow          M, P

LeConte’s Sparrow          M, P

Song Sparrow          M, P

Lincoln’s Sparrow          M, P

Swamp Sparrow          M, P

White-throated Sparrow          M, P

Yellow-headed Blackbird          P

Bobolink          P

Western Meadowlark          P

Baltimore Oriole          M, P

Red-winged Blackbird          M, P

Brewer’s Blackbird          P

Common Grackle          M

Ovenbird          M, P

Northern Waterthrush          M, P (Marshall Co)

Golden-winged Warbler          M, P

Black-and-white Warbler          M, P

Tennessee Warbler          M, P

Orange-crowned Warbler          P

Nashville Warbler          M, P

Common Yellowthroat          M, P

American Redstart          M, P

Magnolia Warbler          M, P

Bay-breasted Warbler          M, P (also in Marshall Co)

Blackburnian Warbler          P

Yellow Warbler          M, P

Chestnut-sided Warbler          M, P

Blackpoll Warbler          P

Palm Warbler          P (also in Marshall Co)

Yellow-rumped Warbler          P

Black-throated Green Warbler          M

Canada Warbler          P (also in Marshall Co)

Wilson’s Warbler          M, P

Scarlet Tanager          M, P

Rose-breasted Grosbeak          M, P

Indigo Bunting          M, P

Dickcissel          P

*          *          *


August 30 - September 2, 2013

As is typical on most MBWeekends, the weather could have been a lot better – too warm in the mid-80s on Friday and Saturday (as it had been statewide for several days), followed by a drastic change to cold, rain, and wind on Sunday morning for which we were unprepared. At least Sunday afternoon and Monday morning turned out a lot more comfortable and even somewhat pleasant much of the time.

But no matter what the conditions on a MBW, we usually come up with plenty of noteworthy sightings. This time, our species total may have been a relatively modest 143 (including 10 species on the pre-MBW which were not seen after Friday), but keep in mind what the weather had been like, that the best parts of Agassiz are now inaccessible for birding groups, and we decided to skip the Audubon sanctuary (which has become more difficult to bird lately). 

Fortunately, though, we were still welcome at the Thief River Falls sewage ponds where we had our best birding of the MBW on Saturday. Not only were 14 of our 16 total species of shorebirds found here, but most of these were watched simultaneously at leisure along one particular stretch of shore – all at close range and in excellent light. In addition at the ponds, everyone had great views of an uncharacteristically cooperative Nelson's Sparrow, lots of Bobolinks (40+) posing along the fence line, a nice side-by-side comparison of Horned and Eared grebes, and a pair of pale richardsoni Merlins on the way out.            

But there were many other highlights elsewhere. On Friday's pre-MBW at St Hilaire we found an unexpected Red-bellied Woodpecker and a curiously out-of-place Dark-eyed Junco, while later in the day both Virginia Rail and Sora emerged into view on both sides of the Red Lake-Polk county line for the entertainment of even the non-county listers in the group. On Sunday afternoon, an obliging Buff-breasted Sandpiper suddenly flew in and landed next to us at the Warren sewage ponds, a Eurasian Collared-Dove in Alvarado was added to several county lists, Claudia later spotted our only Swainson's Hawk, and why a Philadelphia Vireo would be the lone migrant at Old Mill State Park's picnic grounds is strange.

We also turned up both Sharp-tailed Grouse and Greater Prairie-Chickens, even though these gallinaceous birds are typically hard to find when not at their leks. A Great Horned Owl posing atop a dirt mound and silhouetted by the setting sun was a nice consolation on Sunday evening's owling option. Frustrating was that possible/probable Mountain Bluebird in bad light on Saturday which disappeared as we tried to maneuver for a better view. And, as mentioned above, our shorebird total was 16, and this was matched by our 16 warbler species, although the best of these on Friday (Golden-winged, N Parula, Canada) were brief views by only a few.

Special thanks are certainly due to Wayne Johnson who provided our access to the Thief River Falls sewage ponds, also to the manager at Thief Lake MBW who provided air-conditioned relief and indoor plumbing at the office, and to Craig as always for his assistance (and for accepting McDonald's-level sub-minimum wages).


Friday pre-MBW – Pennington, Red Lake, Polk Co's: TRF sewage ponds (briefly), St Hilaire, Red Lake Falls, Old Crossing Treaty Park, 3 flood-control impoundments (Red Lake-Polk county line, Parnell, Agassiz Valley)  

Saturday – Pennington, Marshall Co's: TRF sewage ponds, Agassiz NWR, Thief Lake WMA, Marshall CR 48

Sunday – Polk, Marshall, Pennington Co's: 3 impoundments (Angus-Oslo, Brandt-Angus, Agassiz Valley), 3 sewage ponds (Warren, Alvarado, Argyle), Old Mill State Park, evening owling option 

Monday morning – Pennington Co: TRF sewage ponds, St Hilaire, WMA west of St Hilaire

Bird List

Canada Goose

Trumpeter Swan (pre-MBW only)

Wood Duck


American Wigeon


Blue-winged Teal

Northern Shoveler

Northern Pintail

Green-winged Teal



Ring-necked Duck

Lesser Scaup


Common Goldeneye

Hooded Merganser

Ruddy Duck

Sharp-tailed Grouse

Greater Prairie-Chicken

Wild Turkey

Pied-billed Grebe

Horned Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Eared Grebe

Western Grebe

Double-crested Cormorant

American White Pelican

Great Blue Heron

Green Heron

Turkey Vulture


Bald Eagle

Northern Harrier

Cooper's Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

American Kestrel


Virginia Rail (pre-MBW only)


American Coot

Sandhill Crane

American Golden-Plover

Semipalmated Plover


Spotted Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

Greater Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

Baird's Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

Stilt Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Short-billed Dowitcher

Wilson's Snipe

Red-necked Phalarope (= 16 species)

Bonaparte's Gull

Franklin's Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Black Tern

Forster's Tern

Rock Pigeon

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Mourning Dove

Great Horned Owl

Common Nighthawk

Chimney Swift (pre-MBW only)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Belted Kingfisher

Red-bellied Woodpecker (pre-MBW only)

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Pileated Woodpecker

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Eastern Wood-Pewee

Empidonax, sp. (probably Least)

Eastern Phoebe

Great Crested Flycatcher

Eastern Kingbird

Yellow-throated Vireo

Warbling Vireo

Philadelphia Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

Blue Jay

Black-billed Magpie

American Crow

Common Raven

Tree Swallow

Bank Swallow

Cliff Swallow

Barn Swallow

Black-capped Chickadee

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

House Wren

Marsh Wren

Eastern Bluebird

(Mountain Bluebird / a possible male along Marshall CR 48)


American Robin

Gray Catbird

European Starling

Cedar Waxwing


Northern Waterthrush

Golden-winged Warbler (pre-MBW only)

Black-and-white Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Common Yellowthroat

American Redstart

Cape May Warbler

Northern Parula (pre-MBW only)

Magnolia Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Palm Warbler

Canada Warbler (pre-MBW only)

Wilson's Warbler (= 16 species)

Chipping Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Nelson's Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Lincoln's Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco (pre-MBW only)

Rose-breasted Grosbeak


Red-winged Blackbird

Western Meadowlark

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Brewer's Blackbird

Common Grackle

Brown-headed Cowbird

Baltimore Oriole

Purple Finch (pre-MBW only)

House Finch (pre-MBW only)

American Goldfinch

House Sparrow

*          *          *



I hope those of you who haven't been to Agassiz before don't get the wrong impression. It's usually a very birdy place. Unfortunately, the birding there on Saturday was about as dull as I've ever seen it. Just about all those allegedly drawn-down pools were either overgrown or under too much water to provide us with many shorebirds. But at least we salvaged a small assortment of migrant warblers near headquarters, and, after our visit to the Audubon sanctuary, we came up with a decent total of 18 warbler species in all.

Our shorebird total eventually reached 16 species, thanks mostly to the assortment at the impoundment by the Audubon sanctuary, but also note the golden-plovers and the count of 135 Red-necked Phalaropes at Thief River Falls, plus the Ruddy Turnstone and Baird's Sandpipers at Warren's sewage ponds.

But there were some other highlights as well, including Sharp-tailed Grouse and a somewhat out-of-range prairie-chicken, a richardsonii Merlin hunting shorebirds and kingfishers, a Short-eared Owl flying around at mid-morning for half the group, and surprisingly good numbers of Horned Grebes, cranes, and magpies.

As always, I thank you all for making the long drive up to NW Minnesota (note that Delsie drove up on her own from Illinois!), especially Scott and Jerry Dirks who were along on their very first MBW. And, of course, I/we thank Craig yet again for his always-invaluable assistance on this MBW.

Bird List 

• Po = seen/heard in Polk County (Sept 2 - 4)

• Ma = seen/heard in Marshall County (Sept 3 - 4) 

• Pe = seen/heard in Pennington County (Sept 3 - 4 - 5)

TRF = Thief River Falls

• WPP = Wetlands, Pines, and Prairie Audubon Sanctuary

Canada Goose          PoMaPe

Trumpeter Swan          PoMaPe

Wood Duck          PoMa

Gadwall          PoMaPe

American Wigeon          MaPe

Mallard          PoMaPe

Blue-winged Teal          PoMaPe

Northern Shoveler          MaPe

Northern Pintail          Ma

Green-winged Teal          Po (Friday only)

Canvasback          PoMaPe

Redhead          PoMaPe

Ring-necked Duck          PoMaPe

Bufflehead          Ma

Common Goldeneye          PoMa

Hooded Merganser          PoMa

Ruddy Duck          Pe

Sharp-tailed Grouse          PoMa (incl one standing on CR 12 en route to Agassiz)

Greater Prairie-Chicken          Po (quite unexpected fly-by 4 mi S of WPP) 

Common Loon          Po (Friday only)

Pied-billed Grebe          PoMaPe

Horned Grebe          PoMaPe (lots of migrants at many locations)

Red-necked Grebe          PoMa

Eared Grebe          Pe (only at TRF sewage ponds)

Double-crested Cormorant          PoMa

American White Pelican          PoMa

American Bittern          Ma (Agassiz NWR)

Great Blue Heron          PoMa

Green Heron          Po (Friday only)

Turkey Vulture          PoMa

Bald Eagle          PoMa

Northern Harrier          PoMaPe

Sharp-shinned Hawk          PoMa

Cooper's Hawk          PoMaPe

Swainson's Hawk          Po (2 en route to WPP)

Red-tailed Hawk          PoMaPe

American Kestrel          PoMaPe

Merlin          M (richardsonii female hunting the impoundment N of WPP)

Virginia Rail          Po (Friday only)

Sora          PoMa

American Coot          PoMaPe

Sandhill Crane          PoMaPe (numerous locations)

American Golden-Plover          Pe (2 at TRF sewage ponds)

Semipalmated Plover          PoMa

Killdeer          PoMaPe

Spotted Sandpiper          PoMaPe

Solitary Sandpiper          Ma 

Greater Yellowlegs          PoMa

Lesser Yellowlegs          PoMaPe

Ruddy Turnstone          Ma (Warren sewage ponds)

Sanderling          Ma

Semipalmated Sandpiper          MaPe

Least Sandpiper          PoMaPe

Baird's Sandpiper          Ma

Pectoral Sandpiper          Ma

Stilt Sandpiper          PoPe

Wilson's Snipe          MaPe

Red-necked Phalarope          PoMaPe (incl 135 at TRF sewage ponds)

Franklin's Gull          PoMa

Ring-billed Gull          PoMaPe

Rock Pigeon          PoMaPe

Mourning Dove          PoMaPe

Short-eared Owl          Po (at the future impoundment 6 mi S of WPP) 

Ruby-throated Hummingbird          Po (Friday only)

Belted Kingfisher          PoMa

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker          PoMaPe

Downy Woodpecker          PoMa

Hairy Woodpecker          PoMa

Northern Flicker          PoMaPe

Pileated Woodpecker          Po (Friday only)

Olive-sided Flycatcher          Ma (Agassiz NWR)

Eastern Wood-Pewee          PoMaPe

Least Flycatcher          PoMaPe

Eastern Phoebe          PoMa

Eastern Kingbird          PoMaPe

Yellow-throated Vireo          PoMa

Blue-headed Vireo          MaPe

Warbling Vireo          MaPe

Philadelphia Vireo          PoMa

Red-eyed Vireo          PoMaPe

Blue Jay          PoMaPe

Black-billed Magpie          PoMaPe (several small groups)

American Crow          PoMaPe

Common Raven          PoMaPe

Tree Swallow          PoMa

Bank Swallow          Po (Friday only)

Barn Swallow          PoMaPe

Black-capped Chickadee          PoMaPe

Red-breasted Nuthatch          Po (WPP)

White-breasted Nuthatch          PoMaPe

House Wren          PoPe

Sedge Wren          Pe

Marsh Wren          PoMaPe

Ruby-crowned Kinglet          Ma

Eastern Bluebird          PoMaPe

Swainson's Thrush          Po

American Robin          PoMaPe

Gray Catbird          PoMaPe

Brown Thrasher          Pe

European Starling          PoMaPe

Cedar Waxwing          PoMaPe

Ovenbird          Po

Northern Waterthrush          PoMa

Black-and-white Warbler          PoMa

Tennessee Warbler          PoMaPe

Nashville Warbler          PoMaPe

Mourning Warbler          Po (Friday only)

Common Yellowthroat          PoMaPe

American Redstart          PoMaPe

Cape May Warbler          Ma (Agassiz NWR)

Magnolia Warbler          PoMaPe

Bay-breasted Warbler          Po (WPP)

Yellow Warbler          PoMa

Chestnut-sided Warbler          PoMa

Blackpoll Warbler          PoMa

Palm Warbler          PoMa

Yellow-rumped Warbler          Ma

Canada Warbler          Po (WPP)

Wilson's Warbler          Ma

Chipping Sparrow          PoMa

Clay-colored Sparrow          PoPe

Vesper Sparrow          PoMaPe

Savannah Sparrow          PoMaPe

Song Sparrow          PoMaPe

Lincoln's Sparrow          MaPe

Swamp Sparrow          PoMaPe

White-throated Sparrow          Ma

Scarlet Tanager          Pe (briefly along CR 8)

Rose-breasted Grosbeak          PoPe

Bobolink          PoPe (heard-only fly-overs)

Red-winged Blackbird          PoMaPe

Western Meadowlark          MaPe

Brewer's Blackbird          Po

Common Grackle          MaPe

Purple Finch          PoMa

House Finch          Po (Friday only)

American Goldfinch          PoMaPe

House Sparrow          PoMaPe