Yo, Mom, Terri--y'all are gonna want to pay attention to this entry. I think we need to do a weekend at this place!
Wednesday, Explore Minnesota started it's pilot project of Bed & Breakfasts & Birds (BBB). What we are trying to do is help teach bed and breakfasts how to market to birders who travel around looking for birds. We also want to help people become local bird guides. Many people guide, but very few are paid what they are worth (if at all). The goal was also to get guides a chance to meet bed and breakfast owners in their area so they could get more business. The B&Bs could offer birding packages to guests or have a guide list on hand for guests who visit and are looking for someone to take them out. The end of the workshop featured a short walk for the guides to show their birding skills.
Bobolinks were a hit with many of the B&B owners--many of whom hadn't really noticed them before. Man, I must say, this year has been the year of the bobolink for me. I remember being a kid and looking through my field guides thinking about how cool it must be to see and hear one of those.
The workshop was hosted at the Loghouse and Homestead Bed and Breakfast in Vergas, MN owned by Suzanne Tweten. This is the Loghouse, it was built circa 1889 by Suzanne's great-great grandparents! There are framed bits of newspaper throughout the loghouse that were found inside the walls, it's cozy and beautiful and perfect for a girlfriend getaway--or birding getaway.
When Explore Minnesota was making my lodging arrangements, they asked if I had a room preference. Being the wiseacre I am, I said that I wanted the least crappy room. So, I ended up in the Fredholm Suite--complete with hot tub, a box of chocolates, and the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in. Organic, fair-trade coffee awaited me in the room--at night I could hear loons singing off of Spirit Lake in front of the B&B. It was an almost perfect night--except for the lack of Non Birding Bill.
The property is loaded with ruby-throated hummingbirds, this male is flaring out his wings and tail fighting for his position on the feeder. A female hummingbird had taken hold of this feeder, and some males she allowed to feed and others she chased off. After a little flaring, this male was allowed to stay. Later on, they both retreated to a tree and he started a mating display, his flare up at the feeder must have appealed to her.
Here is the female chasing off a different male. Check out the differences in the tail. You can see white tips to the tail feathers of the female on the feeder. There is no white on the male's tail in the top left hand corner of the photo. Female ruby-throats are kind of little Murphy Browns. They mate with the males, drive them out of the territory, build the nest and raise the chicks completely on their own.
I had timed my travel to this meeting to get some digiscoping done. The meeting and workshop started at 10am on Wednesday morning and was about three and a half hours from where I lived. I drove up Wednesday before the meeting, so that way I could spend the night and digiscope like crazy Thursday morning and take my time driving back to the Twin Cities. Above is Chloe, the Suzanne's spaniel showing me that my breakfast was ready. The food served at this place is FANTASTIC. Suzanne served me a broccoli, cheese, ham and egg dish with olive bread. My favorite part was the warm blueberries with cream cheese. Not only is the food tasty, they also grow some of the ingredients right there on the property and try to buy food locally as often as possible.
Chipping sparrows nest in many of the trees. This one was preening his feathers and I have so many weird photos of him--but he was in great light, so I had to post them. Kind of reminds me of Audubon paintings--he was always posing birds in weird ways. Seriously, has anyone ever seen an egret pose like this?
The highlight bird for me was this male golden-winged warbler. This was the mellowest warbler I have ever seen. One of the guides had noticed him during the walk and saw that he was carrying a caterpillar around--as if on his way to feed chicks. When I saw him, he was singing on territory and not bothered by me in the slightest.
He was even stretching! Warblers are tough birds to digiscope, so I couldn't believe my luck in this one being so relaxed and easy to see. I think I took about 92 photos of him in all different kinds of light. I was even able to get a video of his song:
Isn't that just a weird song for a bird that looks like that? Many associate warblers with musical twittery calls, and this guy sounds like Froggy from The Lil' Rascals.
The trails are well maintained and you can do a prairie loop or walk though woods. I will warn, it's quite tick heavy this year in Minnesota. Something interesting that I'm noticing is that when I wear fruitier smelling lotions, I get fewer ticks on me. On Wednesday when I was walking around, I had on "Juniper Breeze" and had three ticks--three wood ticks and one deer tick (all attached). Thursday, I wore "Cherry Blossom" spent way more time in tall grass areas and found only one wood tick and it was not attached, but crawling around on my hip. I started noting this at the Detroit Lakes festival when people were really getting ticks, and I was getting very few. I was wearing Cherry Blossom then as well. Something to think about.
And, I have to end this on another bobolink photo. If you're going to be up and around the northwestern end of the state, I highly recommend staying at the Loghouse and Homestead, there's great birding on the property and there are quite a few birding areas nearby including Rothsay Prairie, Fergus Falls, and Tamarac NWR just to name a few.
Okay, I forgot I had a bobolink video, so I'm going to end with a singing bobolink: