Somebody Wanted A Long Weekend Off

Gorgeous, isn't it? I went to the Minnesota River Valley Visitor's Center to do some digiscoping today. We got some snow on Friday and there were a few flurries on Saturday and I figured I could get some fun shots in the snow.

But the center was closed. Now, come on--the sign reads about bad roads and winter weather and it's true that we got about 3-5 inches on Friday--but, this is Minnesota, that's nothing. I could understand if this was a remote park miles from a town with a gravel road, but this center is right off a major highway in the south metro area of the Twin Cities across from the airport. And to prove my point, here is the road the visitor's center is on:

Pretty darned cleared off if you ask me. I think it was Easter Weekend and the employees wanted an extended weekend off--and who can blame them? But it was a balmy thirty degrees and I went to get some photos anyway. All the feeders were empty and many had been taken down (I assume put away for the weekend to prevent theft), but as always, I have an emergency bag of bird seed in the car and scattered some around the feeding area.

The two platform feeders were way too high for me to fill with seed, so I just scattered it on the ground--and the birds came in for it right away. The cardinal and junco were eating peacefully side by side, but when the female house sparrow flew down, the cardinal wanted none of her. I just love that little tableau above.

Ah, look at this! It's the rarely seen woodpecker worm tunneling out from the snow to get some mixed nuts. It's so weird to see a downy woodpecker hopping around on the ground like a robin. I'm sure there's a Dune reference to be made here, but I can't think what it is. Oh! And that reminds me, someone asked in a previous entry what a snow flea is. They are a bug you can see even in summer weather, but since they come out early while there is still snow on the ground, they are easier to see in winter. You look at the base of a tree on top of the snow and if you see what looks like dust moving--that's snow fleas. You can read more about them here. Believe it or not, there is also a snow mosquito and I've already seen one of those this week too.

I could hear red-winged blackbirds all over and I saw this flock in the distance, but when I looked at them through the scope, I realized they were brown-headed cowbirds.

And the males were wasting no time in displaying to the females. In the above photo, there is a female cowbird on the left and the male is in mid chirp on the right--cowbirds, hold off, there really aren't any nests for you to deposit eggs yet...except for bald eagles and red-tailed hawks and they aren't gonna buy your tiny eggs in their nests. I tried to get a video of the cowbird display through my scope. You can watch it below, but the cowbirds get almost completely muted by the red-winged blackbirds and robins singing around them. Towards the end you will hear a western meadowlark--that's my cell phone, not the actual bird. As migration progresses, I may have to switch my ring tone to a sound I won't actually hear in Minnesota.