Eastern Meadowlark  ~  Adrian, Nobles Co  ~  27 May (note white malar area and blackish-brown back & scapular feathers; KRE “digibin” image)

*          *          *


May 26 - 27 - 28, 2012

I have to say that to come up with 133 species here amounts to a pretty successful MBW – especially considering the unfavorable weather (too stormy Saturday morning and too windy much of the weekend), the limited number of wetlands in these two counties (of course, a few sewage ponds and all those flooded fields provided shorebirds and other water birds), the relative lack of significant wooded areas in this corner of the state, and that almost all the migrant passerines had already gone through.

Of course, that surprising (though uncooperative!) Buff-breasted Sandpiper found by Craig's group in that flooded field near Pipestone was perhaps the best of our many highlights, considering that this species is hardly ever seen anywhere in Minnesota during spring migration. A close second had to be the singing Henslow's Sparrows at both Touch the Sky Prairie NWR and Pipestone National Monument; this uncommon and local species is always something special outside of SE Minnesota. (And we almost had another special highlight....however, as much as I'd like to count them as species #358 on our all-time MBW composite list, the Mute Swans spotted by Bill & Esther & Jennifer south of Pipestone on Monday morning turned out to be non-countable "pets".)

Other appropriately "memorable" birds on this Memorial Day Weekend included: a male Greater Scaup at Pipestone's sewage ponds; Least Bitterns at Luverne's sewage ponds (and even seen by Craig's group) and at Woodstock WMA in Pipestone Co; a striking adult dark-morph Swainson's Hawk along Pipestone CR 5; a puzzling adult Peregrine Falcon flying over Blue Mounds; our respectable total of 17 shorebird species (besides that Buff-breasted, the best ones were the Willet and Hudsonian Godwits in that flooded area in Pipestone Co along the South Dakota line; some migrant flycatchers (Olive-sided, Yellow-bellied, Alder) and warblers (N Waterthrush, Tennessee, Blackburnian, Blackpoll, Yellow-rumped) still passing through; the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at Blue Mounds (a rarity in SW Minnesota); an unexpected Lark Sparrow singing at Blue Mounds on Monday; and, of course, those quintessential Blue Grosbeaks at both Blue Mounds and Pipestone National Monument.

BIRD LIST (133 total species: 108 in Rock Co, 113 in Pipestone Co)


R = only seen/heard in Rock County

P = only seen/heard in Pipestone County

(species not annotated R or P were found in both counties)

Canada Goose

Wood Duck



Blue-winged Teal

Northern Shoveler

Northern Pintail     P

Green-winged Teal     R

Redhead     P

Greater Scaup     P

Lesser Scaup     P

Bufflehead     P

Hooded Merganser     P

Ruddy Duck     P

Ring-necked Pheasant

Wild Turkey     P

Pied-billed Grebe     P

Eared Grebe     P

Double-crested Cormorant     R

American White Pelican     P

Least Bittern

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret     P

Green Heron

Turkey Vulture

Bald Eagle     R

Northern Harrier

Cooper's Hawk     P

Broad-winged Hawk     P

Swainson's Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

American Kestrel

Peregrine Falcon     R

Virginia Rail

American Coot

American Golden-Plover     P

Semipalmated Plover     P


Spotted Sandpiper

Willet     P

Lesser Yellowlegs

Upland Sandpiper     R

Hudsonian Godwit     P

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

White-rumped Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

Stilt Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpiper     P

dowitcher, sp.     P

Wilson's Phalarope

Red-necked Phalarope     P

Franklin's Gull     R

Black Tern

Rock Pigeon

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Mourning Dove

Common Nighthawk

Chimney Swift

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Belted Kingfisher

Red-headed Woodpecker     P

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Downy Woodpecker     R

Northern Flicker

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Eastern Wood-Pewee     R

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher     R

Alder Flycatcher

Willow Flycatcher     R

Least Flycatcher

Eastern Phoebe

Great Crested Flycatcher     R

Eastern Kingbird

Yellow-throated Vireo

Warbling Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo     R

Blue Jay

American Crow

Horned Lark     P

Purple Martin

Tree Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Bank Swallow

Cliff Swallow

Barn Swallow

Black-capped Chickadee     P

White-breasted Nuthatch

House Wren

Sedge Wren

Marsh Wren

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher     R

Eastern Bluebird

thrush, sp.     R

American Robin

Gray Catbird

Brown Thrasher

European Starling

Cedar Waxwing

Northern Waterthrush     R

Tennessee Warbler     R

Common Yellowthroat

American Redstart

Blackburnian Warbler     R

Yellow Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler     R

Yellow-rumped Warbler     P

Chipping Sparrow

Clay-colored Sparrow

Field Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

Lark Sparrow     R

Savannah Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

Henslow's Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

Northern Cardinal

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

Indigo Bunting     R



Red-winged Blackbird

Western Meadowlark

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Common Grackle

Brown-headed Cowbird

Orchard Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

House Finch

American Goldfinch

House Sparrow

Well, I’d have to say we have a tie between Jay and Angela in our MBW’s Stone Face competition at Pipestone National Monument – although I suppose we could vote on this as we did on Saturday’s potato side dishes. But I’ll bet there’s no need to vote on which group dinner you liked better, as Sterling’s Cafe & Grill on Sunday took excellent care of us in an hour’s less time than did the relatively inefficient Bluestem Restaurant on Saturday.

And I assume no vote is needed either on what you thought of the weather on Saturday, as we had to adjust our birding itinerary while the rain followed us around almost all day long. Still, it was remarkable that we had no wind to speak of on any of the days, given that the wind is so characteristic of the prairie. So, despite the rain, we managed to come up with no fewer than 142 species on our composite list: 105 on the Nobles Co pre-MBW, and 130 on the main Rock-Pipestone MBW.

Our grand total was also impressive given that relatively few migrants were still passing through this late in May. While we did come up with 13 shorebird species in all, only 7 of these were true migrants heading for points north of Minnesota, and 4 of these were represented by just single individuals – only White-rumpeds, Semis, and Red-necked Phalaropes were plural in number. We did better with passerines migrating farther north, although no migrant waves were present and almost all the species were seen just once or twice: Olive-sided and Yellow-bellied flycatchers, Blue-headed and Philadelphia vireos, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked thrushes, Mourning, Magnolia and Canada warblers, and Lincoln’s and White-crowned (unusually late) sparrows. There were only multiples for Alder Flycatcher and Tennessee Warbler.

Also of note on this MBW were some southwestern Minnesota specialties and even a few unexpected rarities. Foremost among the highlights on Friday’s pre-MBW was that group of 8 Cattle Egrets we turned up south of Worthington. Unusual as well on Friday was the Eastern Meadowlark first heard by Brian Smith across the road from the noisy Adrian truck stop, and it eventually came close enough for us to study its plumage features. Earlier in the day we had an Eastern Screech-Owl obligingly fly into view in one of Worthington’s city parks, two apparently healthy Greater White-fronted Geese were lingering at the former sewage ponds in Worthington, and an injured Snow Goose was equally late just south of town.

During the main MBW in Rock and Pipestone counties, yet another unexpected and out-of-range Eastern Meadowlark was found singing at Pipestone National Monument, and a tip from Nelvina DeKam, long-time resident birder in this corner of the state, led us to another screech-owl east of Hardwick in Rock Co. A non-breeding Common Loon was a surprise in a gravel pit pond just south of Blue Mounds State Park, since this species is hard to come by in essentially lake-less Rock Co; also quite unexpected here was a Lark Sparrow on the outskirts of Luverne; and Blue Grosbeaks – that quintessential specialty of southwestern Minnesota – provided the group with excellent views at both Blue Mounds and Pipestone National Monument.

Bird List (composite total =142 species)

N = Nobles Co, May 27 pre-MBW (101 in Nobles + 4 in Rock = 105 species)

R = Rock Co, primarily May 28 & May 30 (112 species)

P = Pipestone Co, primarily May 29 (108 species)

Greater White-fronted Goose     N pre-MBW only

Snow Goose     N pre-MBW only

Canada Goose     NRP

Wood Duck     NRP

Gadwall     NP

American Wigeon     N pre-MBW only

Mallard     NRP

Blue-winged Teal     NRP

Northern Shoveler     NP

Canvasback     P

Redhead     NRP

Ring-necked Duck     N pre-MBW only

Lesser Scaup     NP

Hooded Merganser     RP

Ruddy Duck     NRP

Ring-necked Pheasant     NRP

Wild Turkey     RP

Common Loon     R

Pied-billed Grebe     NRP

Eared Grebe     NP

Double-crested Cormorant     NRP

American White Pelican     NP

Great Blue Heron     NRP

Cattle Egret     N pre-MBW only

Green Heron     P

Black-crowned Night-Heron     N pre-MBW only

Turkey Vulture     NRP

Bald Eagle     NP

Northern Harrier     RP

Cooper's Hawk     R

Broad-winged Hawk     R (Brad only)

Swainson's Hawk     RP

Red-tailed Hawk     NRP

Virginia Rail     P

Sora     NP

American Coot     NP

Black-bellied Plover     N pre-MBW only

Killdeer     NRP

Spotted Sandpiper     NRP

Solitary Sandpiper     P

Lesser Yellowlegs     N pre-MBW only

Upland Sandpiper     NP

White-rumped Sandpiper     NRP

Pectoral Sandpiper     R

Semipalmated Sandpiper     NRP

Wilson's Snipe     P

American Woodcock     R (Denny only)

Wilson's Phalarope     NRP

Red-necked Phalarope     RP

Franklin's Gull     N pre-MBW only

Ring-billed Gull     NR

Black Tern     NRP

Forster's Tern     P

Rock Pigeon     NRP

Eurasian Collared-Dove     NRP

Mourning Dove     NRP

Yellow-billed Cuckoo     R

Eastern Screech-Owl     NR

Common Nighthawk     RP

Chimney Swift     NRP

Ruby-throated Hummingbird     RP

Belted Kingfisher     NRP

Red-headed Woodpecker     NRP

Red-bellied Woodpecker     NR

Downy Woodpecker     NRP

Hairy Woodpecker     NRP

Northern Flicker     NRP

American Kestrel     NRP

Merlin     N pre-MBW only (Don only)

Olive-sided Flycatcher     R

Eastern Wood-Pewee     NRP

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher     RP

Alder Flycatcher     NRP

Willow Flycatcher     NR

Least Flycatcher     NRP

Eastern Phoebe     NRP

Great Crested Flycatcher     R

Western Kingbird     P

Eastern Kingbird     NRP

Yellow-throated Vireo     R

Blue-headed Vireo     R

Warbling Vireo     NRP

Philadelphia Vireo     R

Red-eyed Vireo     NRP

Blue Jay     NRP

American Crow     NRP

Horned Lark     N pre-MBW only

Purple Martin     NP

Tree Swallow     NRP

Northern Rough-winged Swallow     RP

Bank Swallow     NRP

Cliff Swallow     NRP

Barn Swallow     NRP

Black-capped Chickadee     NRP

White-breasted Nuthatch     NRP

House Wren     NRP

Sedge Wren     NRP

Marsh Wren     NRP

Ruby-crowned Kinglet     R

Eastern Bluebird     NRP

Gray-cheeked Thrush     N pre-MBW only

Swainson's Thrush     R

American Robin     NRP

Gray Catbird     NRP

Brown Thrasher     NRP

European Starling     NRP

Cedar Waxwing     NRP

Tennessee Warbler     NRP

Mourning Warbler     RP

Common Yellowthroat     NRP

American Redstart     NRP

Magnolia Warbler     P

Yellow Warbler     NRP

Canada Warbler     R (Roy only)

Chipping Sparrow     NRP

Clay-colored Sparrow     RP

Field Sparrow     NRP

Vesper Sparrow     NRP

Lark Sparrow     R

Savannah Sparrow     NRP

Grasshopper Sparrow     RP

Song Sparrow     NRP

Lincoln's Sparrow     R

Swamp Sparrow     NRP

White-crowned Sparrow     R

Northern Cardinal     NR

Rose-breasted Grosbeak     RP

Blue Grosbeak     RP

Indigo Bunting     RP

Dickcissel     RP

Bobolink     NRP

Red-winged Blackbird     NRP

Eastern Meadowlark     NP

Western Meadowlark     NRP

Yellow-headed Blackbird     NRP

Common Grackle     NRP

Brown-headed Cowbird     NRP

Orchard Oriole     NRP

Baltimore Oriole     NRP

House Finch     NRP

American Goldfinch     NRP

House Sparrow     NRP

Craig Mandel photo

Well, it almost seems that Lazuli Buntings have been all over the place lately. Besides the one we found in Pipestone, there was another reported over the weekend at a rural feeder in Rock County between Edgerton and Hardwick, along with that continuing bird in Le Sueur County – and that makes at least six Lazulis that I’ve heard of in Minnesota this month. Still, I don’t think that diminishes the significance of the bird we found during our three-day MBW, as we came up with a surprising and grand total of 171 species ! (This includes the wet Eastern Screech-Owl we heard at Worthington’s Chautauqua Park shortly after we left Perkins.) And certainly we would have added a few more birds to the list if our plans on Monday hadn’t been washed away by that relentless rain.

Our MBW's composite total of 171 was grand, indeed, as I was surprised to find this surpassed any of our previous Memorial Day MBWs in SW Minnesota by at least 30 species. In fact, on Friday's pre-MBW alone we came up with no fewer than 142, which matched our previous best MBW total here in 2016 – and it took us three days to find that many then, not just one day this time. Our Jackson County day’s success was mostly due to the 21 warbler species grounded during that cold, wet morning, and we eventually finished with 22 species for the three-day MBW (adding a Golden-winged seen by some at Blue Mounds on Saturday). We also did fairly well with shorebirds as we came up with 18 species, with those flooded fields Brad discovered along CR 4 in Jackson County proving to be the best spot.       

The quintessential specialty of SW Minnesota is the Blue Grosbeak, and we had our best looks and listens near the north end of the escarpment at Blue Mounds; later some had another farther south along the escarpment, and there was a third at Pipestone Nat’l Monument. Another specialty in this part of the state is the small population of Great-tailed Grackles in Jackson County, but we only managed a distant and brief look at one of these. And equally as memorable as these two specialties were all the Common Nighthawks we saw all three days, especially those at rest on seemingly every horizontal branch we looked at, and especially those actually calling as they perched – something I don’t ever recall witnessing before. 

Other highlights included an out-of-season Greater White-fronted Goose at the flooded Jackson County shorebird field, an unexpected Great Scaup and our only Western Kingbird at the Pipestone sewage ponds, a serendipitous and cryptic pair of Gray Partridge en route to Pipestone (they practically disappeared after landing in the field), a family group of 4 Swainson’s Hawks at Touch the Sky Prairie, that group of at least 50 Eastern Kingbirds lining the fences at the Hills sewage ponds, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in both Jackson and Rock counties where the species is rare, and an out-of place Lark Sparrow seen by all at the entrance to Blue Mounds.

Bird List

J = seen in Jackson County; mostly May 24 (plus briefly May 25)

R = seen in Rock County; mostly May 25 (plus briefly May 26)

P = seen in Pipestone County; May 26

Greater White-fronted Goose        J

Canada Goose        JRP 

Trumpeter Swan        J

Wood Duck        JRP

Blue-winged Teal        JRP

Northern Shoveler        JP

Gadwall        JP

Mallard        JRP

Green-winged Teal        J

Redhead        P

Ring-necked Duck        JP

Greater Scaup        P

Lesser Scaup        RP

Hooded Merganser        P

Ruddy Duck        JP

Gray Partridge        R

Ring-necked Pheasant        JRP

Wild Turkey        JP

Pied-billed Grebe        JRP

Red-necked Grebe        J

Western Grebe        P

Rock Pigeon        JRP

Eurasian Collared-Dove        JRP

Mourning Dove        JRP

Black-billed Cuckoo        R

Common Nighthawk        JRP

Chimney Swift        JRP

Ruby-throated Hummingbird        JRP

Virginia Rail        JP

Sora        JP

American Coot        JRP

Semipalmated Plover        J (Brad only)

Killdeer        JRP

Upland Sandpiper        P

Ruddy Turnstone        J

Dunlin        J

Baird’s Sandpiper        J

Least Sandpiper        JR

White-rumped Sandpiper        J

Pectoral Sandpiper        J

Semipalmated Sandpiper        JRP

Short-billed Dowitcher        J (Brad only)

Wilson’s Snipe        RP

Spotted Sandpiper        JRP

Solitary Sandpiper        J

Lesser Yellowlegs        P

Greater Yellowlegs        R

Wilson’s Phalarope        JRP

Red-necked Phalarope        RP

Ring-billed Gull        JP

Caspian Tern        J

Black Tern        JRP

Forster’s Tern        JP

Common Loon        RP

Double-crested Cormorant        JRP

American White Pelican        JP

Great Blue Heron        JRP

Green Heron        RP

Black-crowned Night-Heron        R

Turkey Vulture        JRP

Northern Harrier        RP

Sharp-shinned Hawk        - Cottonwood Co only

Bald Eagle        JRP

Broad-winged Hawk        JRP

Swainson’s Hawk        RP

Red-tailed Hawk        JRP

Eastern Screech-Owl        - Nobles Co (heard-only in the rain) 

Great Horned Owl        J

Belted Kingfisher        JR

Red-headed Woodpecker        JRP

Red-bellied Woodpecker        JR

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker        JRP

Downy Woodpecker        JRP

Hairy Woodpecker        JR

Northern Flicker        JRP

Pileated Woodpecker        J

American Kestrel        RP

Great Crested Flycatcher        JRP

Western Kingbird        P

Eastern Kingbird        JRP

Eastern Wood-Pewee        JRP

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher        JRP

Alder Flycatcher        - Cottonwood Co only

Willow Flycatcher        JRP

Least Flycatcher        JRP

Eastern Phoebe        JR

Yellow-throated Vireo        JR

Blue-headed Vireo        J

Philadelphia Vireo        JR

Warbling Vireo        JRP

Red-eyed Vireo        JRP

Blue Jay        JRP

American Crow        JRP

Horned Lark        R

Purple Martin        JRP

Tree Swallow        JRP

N. Rough-winged Swallow        JRP

Bank Swallow        JR

Cliff Swallow        JRP

Barn Swallow        JRP

Black-capped Chickadee        JRP

Red-breasted Nuthatch        JR

White-breasted Nuthatch        JRP

House Wren        JRP

Sedge Wren        JRP

Marsh Wren        JRP

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher        JR

Ruby-crowned Kinglet        J

Eastern Bluebird        JRP

Veery        J

Gray-cheeked Thrush        J

Swainson’s Thrush        JRP

Wood Thrush        J

American Robin        JRP

Gray Catbird        JRP

Brown Thrasher        JRP

European Starling        JRP

Cedar Waxwing        JRP

House Sparrow        JRP

House Finch        JRP

American Goldfinch        JRP

Chipping Sparrow        JRP

Clay-colored Sparrow        JRP

Field Sparrow        JRP

Vesper Sparrow        JR

Lark Sparrow        JR

Savannah Sparrow        JRP

Grasshopper Sparrow        RP

Song Sparrow        JRP

Lincoln’s Sparrow        J

Swamp Sparrow        JRP

Harris’s Sparrow        R

White-crowned Sparrow        J

Yellow-headed Blackbird        JRP

Bobolink        JRP

Western Meadowlark        JRP

Orchard Oriole        JRP

Baltimore Oriole        JRP

Red-winged Blackbird        JRP

Brown-headed Cowbird        JRP

Common Grackle        JRP

Great-tailed Grackle        J

Ovenbird        JR

Northern Waterthrush        J

Golden-winged Warbler        R

Black-and-white Warbler        JR

Tennessee Warbler        JRP

Orange-crowned Warbler        JR

Nashville Warbler        JRP

Mourning Warbler        JRP

Common Yellowthroat        JRP

American Redstart        JRP

Cape May Warbler        J

Northern Parula        J

Magnolia Warbler        JRP

Bay-breasted Warbler        J

Blackburnian Warbler        J

Yellow Warbler        JRP

Chestnut-sided Warbler        JRP

Blackpoll Warbler        JRP

Yellow-rumped Warbler        JR

Black-throated Green Warbler        J

Canada Warbler        JRP

Wilson’s Warbler        JRP

Scarlet Tanager        J

Northern Cardinal        JRP

Rose-breasted Grosbeak        JRP

Blue Grosbeak        RP

Indigo Bunting        JR

Lazuli Bunting        P

Dickcissel        R

One of 8 Cattle Egrets  ~  Nobles County Road 57  ~  27 May (KRE “digiscope” image)

Eastern Screech-Owl  ~  Chautauqua Park, Worthington  ~  27 May (KRE “digibin” image)

*          *          *


MAY 27 - 28 - 29 - 30, 2016

Also see the 2016 and 2012 MBW summaries

following the summary of the 2019 MBWeekend.


Southwest Minnesota MBW Summary

May 24 - 25 - 26 - 27, 2019