It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Blackpoll warbler chips outside my bathroom window. I look through the screen.  It chips and flies away as if to say, "You just got served!" I did?  I got served.  Holy crap, is it on?  According to Mike McDowell's blog, it's on. Fall migration has totally hit and from looking online, some of the hottest action is at Hawk Ridge.  Check out this photo of a peregrine falcon eating a sharp-shinned hawk on the wing.  Yeah, migration is on!

coon rapids dam

Yesterday, I was supposed to lead a bird walk at Coon Rapids Dam.  No one showed, so I took it as an opportunity to "rove."  We rangers will sometimes just walk around in different parts of our park and be there to chat with people.  Walking around with my uniform, spotting scope and camera, I'm basically a walking sign, "Come and talk to me!" People do.


I didn't get very far because I found a spot right on the bank of the low Mississippi River that was just chock full of birds. This cedar waxwing was surrounded by palm warblers, one Cape May warbler, yellow-rumped warblers, hundreds of robins, one Philadelphia vireo and a red-eyed vireo.  Behind me were gulls, herons and egrets so it was a great spot to point out birds.


I got this shot of a great egret and when I downloaded it noticed that there was also a drake mallard in the shot too--the drake is coming out of his eclipse plumage. His head is almost all green with that patch of brown. Ducks must be so relieved to be finished with their molt in the fall. I can't imagine what it must feel like to have thousands of pin feathers coming in at once.

canada geese

I met a new birder Paul who was also taking photos. He said that he was relatively new to birding, but it's been awhile since I've met someone excited about geese. He took photos of them every chance he got--which is great. I think many birders overlook the "common" birds and he was focused on getting the best flight shots of them possible. He inspired me to take a few shots, I like getting photos of them squabbling.


The big treat for me were the sparrows. Check out Mr. Mutton Chops above--I love song sparrows, when you catch them in just the right angle, they have such a great pattern on their heads. Song sparrows are fun this time of year, they are in fresh plumage, the tee up nicely for photos and I LOVE listening to young song sparrows in a bush practicing their songs for next spring. They don't quite have it down and the sing over and over sound like sort of song sparrows.

song sparrows

I saw a group of four song sparrows as I was leaving. After I got a few shots, I continued the walk back to my car. I noticed something scurry like a mouse across the trail. Only it wasn't mouse shaped, it was bird shaped. "Lincoln's sparrow," I thought to myself. I set my scope up to where it had scrambled into the grasses and waited, knowing it would pop out again.

lincoln's sparrow

And it did. I love me some brown birds and a Lincoln's sparrow is always a great during migration. It has streaks like a song sparrow, although not as thick. They can even have a central breast spot like a song sparrow, but they don't quite have the mutton chops that the song sparrows have. Ah, what a great sparrow to find.

starlted tree

As I went up the trail to the parking lot, I apparently startled a tree. In fairness, it was dozing on the job so kind of had it coming.