Saturday I had to go put in a ranger appearance at an event at Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary for an open house they were holding. It's a great little park that still needs some work, but as more people hang out there, cool things will be found. This park has such interesting features--a closed up cave that is of spiritual significance for Native Americans, caves that used to store beer for the North Star Brewery built in the 1850s (the brewery was later bought by Jacob Schmidt). In the late 1880s the area was used as an industrial area and rail yard. It was turned into a park in 2005 and yes, it needs some work--buckthorn and garlic mustard city and the old railroad yard has left all kinds of nasty things in the soil, but a dedicated group of volunteers has been working hard to turn it around and over the years, this will be a bright gem in the Twin Cities park system.
Here's a young male kestrel who was on patrol for food in the area. He was mobbed by a few goldfinches but he mobbed a Cooper's hawk when it flew through--no one is going to partake of his food source! I spent most of my time with local birder and excellent bird guide for St Paul Audubon, Julian Sellers. I noticed he had photos of an orchard oriole out and I remembered that this past spring when I was Bruce Vento, we heard an orchard oriole singing on territory. Julian said that he and his wife saw the male this summer feeding three young! That's a great bird for an urban area and for this new park.
At first, we didn't see too much in the way of birds, which surprised me since Carpenter Nature Center was so full of migrants on the move the day before. But between the nearby highway and active railroad tracks, hearing chip notes is a challenge. I walked over towards the tracks and found this grassy area to be CHOCK full of birds.
Mostly eastern bluebirds--they were all over and scattered about. Not sure if they were after grasses or lethargic grasshoppers hidden amidst the grass and low to the ground.
House finches and sparrows were mixed in with the bluebirds. Above are a couple of female sparrows and a chipping sparrow. You may be saying to yourself, "Hey, that chipping sparrow doesn't look like the ones I see at my feeder in the summer." But they change color and kind of look like clay-colored sparrows in the fall. There were also white-throated sparrows, Lincoln's sparrows and fox sparrows mixed in.
The real fun were all the goldfinches. And boy do they hide well in their brownish plumage! I would walk down a path completely unaware and then a big flock would explode out of the grasses around me. But soon enough, one finch would return to the food source and others would follow.
I think these are common sunflower heads, but I'm not sure. Whatever they were--the goldfinches were digging it. If you didn't know they were there, they totally blended in despite their furious feasting.
It's a great little park and again, I think we're going to see some great birds there the more people check it out.