Also see the 2014, 2013 , and 2008 MBW summaries

following the summary of the 2017 MBWeekend



March 25 - 26, 2017

Great-tailed Grackle, Worthington, Nobles County (Jena Highkin photo)


Well, our first MBW of the 2014-15 season finally managed to take place, although there were times I had my doubts if it ever would! The prolonged winter first prompted a one-week delay, a snowstorm then nearly canceled the later weekend, and there were associated adjustments in the participants list, the car-pooling arrangements, and when we would be able to finally meet in Worthington on Saturday. But I think those of us who were eventually able to attend this past weekend saw more than enough to make all that tinkering with the logistics worth the trouble.

I agree that Saturday was colder and windier than we would have preferred, but on Sunday it warmed up some and the winds moderated. In all, we came up with a respectable total of 80 species: 75 in Nobles Co (73 of these on Saturday) and 64 in Jackson Co Sunday morning. Of course, that first-county-record grackle was probably our most significant find, as the singing male at L Okabena on Saturday morning was relocated and briefly joined by a female a few blocks away that afternoon. And, in a different way, it was equally exciting to witness that nice movement of eagles and other raptors passing over Heron Lake late Sunday morning – this actually provided a visible sensation that spring migration was finally underway.

Despite the lousy March weather, the goose migration had already passed through SW Minnesota for the most part, although we still managed to observe all 5 species in low numbers. But at least one Ross's Goose did fly over the Perkins parking lot as we assembled on Sunday morning, and a bit later we drove by a few hundred Greater White-fronteds along I-90 en route to Lakefield. Despite the relative lack of geese, there was also a good variety of ducks (18 species in all) found at several wetlands where the ice was on its way out. In addition, we came up with some relatively early migrants: a heard-only Greater Yellowlegs, a group of Baird's Sandpipers, a couple of fly-by Franklin's Gulls, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Tree Swallow, American Pipit, and a few Yellow-headed Blackbirds.


N = found in Nobles Co (all but 2 species on April 5)

J = found in Jackson Co (all on April 6) 

Greater White-fronted Goose     NJ (largest flock along I-90 en route to Lakefield)

Snow Goose     N (only modest numbers)

Ross's Goose     N (one overhead at Perkins with Snow Geese Sunday morning)  

Cackling Goose     NJ (just a few)

Canada Goose     NJ

Trumpeter Swan     N (pond just S of Worthington)

Wood Duck     NJ

Gadwall     NJ

American Wigeon     NJ

Mallard     NJ

Blue-winged Teal     NJ

Northern Shoveler     NJ

Northern Pintail     NJ

Green-winged Teal     NJ

Canvasback     N

Redhead     N

Ring-necked Duck     NJ

Lesser Scaup     NJ

Bufflehead     NJ

Common Goldeneye     NJ

Hooded Merganser     NJ

Common Merganser     NJ

Red-breasted Merganser     N (uncommon in SW Minn)

Ruddy Duck     N

Ring-necked Pheasant     NJ

Pied-billed Grebe     N

Double-crested Cormorant     NJ

American White Pelican     NJ

Great Blue Heron     NJ

Turkey Vulture     NJ

Bald Eagle     NJ (nice migration over Heron Lake on Sunday)

Northern Harrier     NJ

Sharp-shinned Hawk     NJ

Cooper's Hawk     NJ

Red-tailed Hawk     NJ (incl dark-morphs, and a "Harlan's" along the Rough-legged


Rough-legged Hawk     N (lone dark-morph bird)

American Coot     NJ

Killdeer     NJ

Greater Yellowlegs     N (heard-only at Indian L)

Baird's Sandpiper     J (small flock at the S end of South Heron L)

Franklin's Gull     N (fly-over at Perkins Sunday morning), J (distant fly-by seen by Herb

          at North Heron L) 

Ring-billed Gull     NJ

Herring Gull     NJ (uncommon in SW Minn)

Rock Pigeon     NJ

Eurasian Collared-Dove     NJ (several sites)

Mourning Dove     NJ

Great Horned Owl     N (heard-only at L Bella), J (Sparks Park)

Belted Kingfisher     J

Red-bellied Woodpecker     J (heard-only)

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker     N (Indian L)

Downy Woodpecker     NJ

Hairy Woodpecker     NJ

Northern Flicker     NJ

American Kestrel     NJ

Blue Jay     NJ

American Crow     NJ

Horned Lark     NJ

Tree Swallow     J (spotted by Herb at South Heron L)

Black-capped Chickadee     NJ

White-breasted Nuthatch     NJ

Golden-crowned Kinglet     N (heard-only in Worthington by Linda)

American Robin     NJ

European Starling     NJ

American Pipit     N (cowering out of the wind at L Bella)

Cedar Waxwing     NJ

Lapland Longspur     NJ (fly-overs briefly seen/heard by some)

American Tree Sparrow     NJ

Fox Sparrow     N (heard-only by a few in Worthington)

Song Sparrow     NJ

Dark-eyed Junco     NJ

Northern Cardinal     J

Red-winged Blackbird     NJ

Western Meadowlark     NJ

Yellow-headed Blackbird     N (along the Rough-legged road)

Rusty Blackbird     NJ

Common Grackle     NJ

Great-tailed Grackle     N (incl a female briefly seen with the male)

Brown-headed Cowbird     NJ

House Finch     NJ

House Sparrow     NJ

*          *          *


You certainly can't blame those who accepted the option to stay home, given that spring migration was so reluctant to get underway. Still, the six of you who decided to come along for this abbreviated one-day MBW at least had lots of waterfowl to look at, along with one unusual land bird, for a total of 51 species. Yes, I admit it was cold that day as it never made it out of the 20s, but at least the winds were light to moderate, and the absence of snow on the ground gave us some hope that spring was an imminent possibility.

Though virtually everything else was still frozen, the aerators on Okabena, Round, and Little Spirit lakes provided enough open water for water birds. The best showing was at Lake Okebena where we had an estimated concentration of at least 5,500 geese. It was certainly impressive that perhaps 3,500 or more of these were Cacklings and at least 1,500 were Greater White-fronteds – I'm pretty sure that I had never seen so many of these two species at any one spot in Minnesota. The curious thing was that so few Canadas were present (maybe a couple hundred) and that not a single Snow/Ross's Goose was present!

In all, 22 of our 24 species of water birds were at Okabena (including locally rare/uncommon Greater Scaup and Herring Gull). We eventually found 8 distant/unidentified white geese at Round Lake (which could have been Ross's), and our Gr White-fronted Goose total was augmented by an additional 850 individuals at Little Spirit Lake.

Admittedly, though, the land birding was pretty slow as hardly any northbound passerines were around. But at least a small flock of longspurs gave us a good look near Round Lake, and that well-marked (i.e., relatively unmarked) Hoary Redpoll near Indian Lake was obviously farther south than it should have been.

Thanks to all six of you for braving the elements and participating in this interesting and successful day. And special thanks to Brian for his pre-MBW scouting report and for making sure I didn't get lost during the day!  Kim  


N = seen in Nobles Co.

J = seen in Jackson Co.

Greater White-fronted Goose     NJ

Snow/Ross's Goose     J  

Cackling Goose     NJ

Canada Goose     NJ

Trumpeter Swan     NJ

Wood Duck     N

Gadwall     NJ

Mallard     NJ

Northern Shoveler     NJ

Northern Pintail     N

Green-winged Teal     N

Canvasback     NJ

Redhead     NJ

Ring-necked Duck     NJ

Greater Scaup     N

Lesser Scaup     NJ

Common Goldeneye     NJ

Hooded Merganser     N

Common Merganser     NJ

Ruddy Duck     N

Ring-necked Pheasant     N

Bald Eagle     NJ

Northern Harrier     N

Red-tailed Hawk     NJ

American Kestrel     NJ

American Coot     N

Ring-billed Gull     NJ

Herring Gull     N

Rock Pigeon     N

Eurasian Collared-Dove     N

Mourning Dove     N

Great Horned Owl     N

Red-bellied Woodpecker     N

Downy Woodpecker     N

Blue Jay     N

American Crow     NJ

Horned Lark     NJ

Black-capped Chickadee     N

White-breasted Nuthatch     N

American Robin     N

European Starling     N

Cedar Waxwing     N

Lapland Longspur     J

American Tree Sparrow     N

Dark-eyed Junco     N

Northern Cardinal     N

Red-winged Blackbird     N

House Finch     N

Common Redpoll     N

Hoary Redpoll     N

House Sparrow     N

*          *          *


Some of you may have seen Craig Mandel's posting about his MRVAC trip to Lac Qui Parle Co, in which he so blatantly tried to show us up with his waterfowl numbers. (Grounds for immediate dismissal, of course!) 

Never mind: it was still the greatest waterfowl show I can ever remember seeing in Minnesota. Especially memorable was standing along Hwy 86 just south of I-90 on Sunday morning and watching flock after flock of geese steadily flying north under a blue sky. Even the wind was comfortably light to moderate at the time, unlike the strong, cold winds of the day before. Obviously, the conditions were favorable for so many birds to be concentrated: hardly any open water on the lakes, both where we were and farther north, left all those geese with no where else to go. My only regret was being unable to count them all; I'm sure the number of Greater White-fronted Geese especially would have set some sort of Minnesota record.

My thanks to all of you for being part of one of the best MBWs ever; and that's saying a lot, considering there have been no fewer than 268 of them as we start our 23rd season.  

Bird List (total 82 species) 

• N = seen in Nobles Co (76 species; mostly on March 29)

• J = seen in Jackson Co (58 species; all on March 30)

Greater White-fronted Goose   NJ (tens of thousands?!)    

Snow Goose   NJ (tens of thousands?!)

Ross’s Goose   NJ (dozens, mostly in flight)

Cackling Goose   NJ (tens of thousands?!)

Canada Goose   NJ (a.k.a. Honkers) 

Trumpeter Swan   N (pair from Iowa in that White Starling's yard; thanks for the tip,


Wood Duck   NJ

Gadwall   NJ

American Wigeon   N

Mallard   NJ

Blue-winged Teal   N (just a few early arrivals)

Northern Shoveler   NJ

Northern Pintail   NJ

Green-winged Teal   NJ

Canvasback   NJ

Redhead   NJ

Ring-necked Duck   NJ

Greater Scaup   N (at least one female at L Okabena!)

Lesser Scaup   NJ

Bufflehead   NJ

Common Goldeneye   NJ

Hooded Merganser   NJ

Common Merganser   NJ

Red-breasted Merganser   NJ (uncommon migrant in SW Minn)

Ruddy Duck   NJ

Gray Partridge   N (pair seen twice by part of the group near Round Lake)

Ring-necked Pheasant   NJ

Pied-billed Grebe   NJ

Great Blue Heron   J (spotted by Diane at a distant rookery)

Turkey Vulture   NJ (a few early arrivals)

Bald Eagle   N (only one fly-by at L Okabena)

Northern Harrier   NJ

Sharp-shinned Hawk   J

Cooper’s Hawk   N (in courtship flight at L Okabena!)

Red-tailed Hawk   NJ

American Kestrel   NJ

American Coot   NJ

Killdeer   NJ

Greater Yellowlegs   N (foolish early migrant at L Okabena)

Franklin’s Gull   N (a few early migrants at L Okabena)

Ring-billed Gull   NJ

Herring Gull   N (a few adults at L Okabena)

Rock Pigeon   NJ

Mourning Dove   NJ

Great Horned Owl   NJ

Red-bellied Woodpecker  NJ (Hawkeye Co Park: another tip from Brian; also in


Downy Woodpecker   NJ

Hairy Woodpecker   N

Northern Flicker   J (only one)

Eastern Phoebe   N (another foolish migrant at L Okabena)

Northern Shrike   N (near L Ocheda; also an unidentified fly-by shrike at Hawkeye Co


Blue Jay   N

American Crow   NJ

Horned Lark   NJ

Black-capped Chickadee   NJ

Red-breasted Nuthatch   N (unexpected at a Worthington feeder and in Lake Bella Co Park)

White-breasted Nuthatch   NJ

Brown Creeper   NJ

Golden-crowned Kinglet   N (Hawkeye Co Park)

Ruby-crowned Kinglet   NJ

Eastern Bluebird   N

American Robin   NJ

European Starling   NJ

Cedar Waxwing   N (Hawkeye Co Park fly-bys)

American Tree Sparrow   NJ

Fox Sparrow   NJ (lots of these)

Song Sparrow   NJ (just a few early migrants)

Lincoln’s Sparrow   N (early at Lake Bella Co Park)

Swamp Sparrow   N (ditto)

Dark-eyed Junco   NJ

Lapland Longspur   N (fly-by flock near Round Lake)

Northern Cardinal   J

Red-winged Blackbird   NJ

Western Meadowlark   N (just a few early migrants)

Rusty Blackbird   NJ (several seen and heard at many locations!)

Common Grackle   NJ

Great-tailed Grackle   J (two uncooperative birds along Hwy 86)

Brown-headed Cowbird   J

Purple Finch   N (Lake Bella Co Park)

House Finch   NJ

American Goldfinch   N

House Sparrow   NJ

Ross's Geese  ~  Brewster sewage ponds   ~  Brian Smith photo

Yes, of course we were miserable during Saturday's dampness, northeast winds, and temperatures that never emerged out of the 30s. And Sunday wasn't much better during the intermittent rain, although the winds did ease up a lot. Still, you have to remember this is March – it never snowed on us, the prairie winds are often stronger, it stayed above freezing all weekend, and none of the wetlands were frozen.

Though almost all the geese had passed through weeks ago during February's warm spell, this first MBW of the 2017-18 season still came up with a nice selection of ducks and other water birds. Virtually all the expected duck species were present in good numbers (but where were the pintails?), and the Common Loon, Herring Gulls, and Horned Grebe at Lake Okabena were all nice finds for this part of the state. There were also fair numbers of Gr. White-fronted Geese lingering at a few spots, but our most interesting waterfowl stop came at the Brewster sewage ponds where a group of no fewer than 55 Ross's Geese were present, even though there were only 15 or 20 late-migrating Snow Geese with them. Normally a flock of white geese consists of maybe only 1-10% Ross's, but here about 75% of the flock were Ross's!

Our land-based birding efforts in the fields, thickets, and woodlands were mostly lackluster: hardly any raptors passed through in the low overcast, and sparrows (except for modest numbers of juncos) were almost non-existent. There were plenty of grackles and other blackbirds around, including several Rustys and a couple of uncooperative Brewer's, but Jackson County's Great-tailed Grackle population wasn't in evidence. Our best finds away from the wetlands were a few Franklin's Gulls foraging over some fields, an apparently new Great Blue Heron rookery in a wooded WMA, some grounded Lapland Longspurs viewed in the spotting scopes, and an early but elusive Fox Sparrow. But certainly our best find was the pair of E. Screech-Owls by their nesting (or roosting) cavity in Worthington. Three of us found the cavity and the copulating pair on Saturday evening, and the presumed female was visible for the entire group the next morning as she continually called from the cavity entrance.


BIRD LIST (68 species total)

N = Nobles Co (mostly March 25)

J = Jackson Co (mostly March 26)

Greater White-fronted Goose        NJ

Snow Goose        NJ

Ross's Goose        NJ

Canada Goose        NJ

Trumpeter Swan        J

Wood Duck        NJ

Gadwall        NJ

American Wigeon        NJ

Mallard        NJ

Blue-winged Teal        NJ

Northern Shoveler        NJ

Green-winged Teal        NJ

Canvasback        NJ

Redhead        NJ

Ring-necked Duck        NJ

Lesser Scaup        NJ

Bufflehead        NJ

Common Goldeneye        N

Hooded Merganser        NJ

Common Merganser        NJ

Red-breasted Merganser        NJ

Ruddy Duck        NJ

Ring-necked Pheasant        J

Pied-billed Grebe        NJ

Horned Grebe        N

Rock Pigeon        NJ

Eurasian Collared-Dove        NJ

Mourning Dove        NJ

American Coot        N

Killdeer        NJ

Franklin's Gull        NJ

Ring-billed Gull        NJ

Herring Gull        N

Common Loon        N

Double-crested Cormorant        NJ

American White Pelican        J

Great Blue Heron        J

Bald Eagle        NJ

Northern Harrier        N

Red-tailed Hawk        NJ

Eastern Screech-Owl        N

Belted Kingfisher        N

Red-bellied Woodpecker        J

Downy Woodpecker        NJ

Hairy Woodpecker        N

American Kestrel        NJ

Blue Jay        N

American Crow        NJ

Horned Lark        NJ

Black-capped Chickadee        NJ

White-breasted Nuthatch        NJ

Brown Creeper        NJ

American Robin        NJ

European Starling        NJ

House Sparrow        NJ

American Goldfinch

Lapland Longspur        N

American Tree Sparrow        NJ

Fox Sparrow        N

Song Sparrow        J

Dark-eyed Junco        NJ

Northern Cardinal        J

Red-winged Blackbird        NJ

Western Meadowlark        NJ

Rusty Blackbird        NJ

Brewer's Blackbird        N

Common Grackle        NJ

Brown-headed Cowbird        N

*          *          *

Eastern Screech-Owl  ~  Chautaqua Park, Worthington  ~  Tom Malone photo