Staging Birds

I've been out at the state fair this week doing different things and mostly answering bird questions.  Although, there was a minor foray into bird rescue.  A young cowbird was lurking around the DNR stage and during a rather long and arduous pan pipe concert, it was weaving in and out of the bleachers.  People kept asking us to rescue it but every time I checked on it, the bird was taking advantage of the ample supply of fair food droppings under the bleachers and would fly away irritated when humans would try to grab it.

Many people had questions about pelicans.  Quite a few are staging or gathering in larger flocks for fall migration around the Twin Cities--you might see some birds staging for migration where you live.  This can include all sorts of species like swallows, blackbirds or waterfowl.  The above photo is a flock of American white pelicans that were circling over the Mississippi River last week.  I've seen quite a few gathering along the river on our park's canoe trips.  I got a slight pang of excitement when we canoed a section that was loaded with birds during our aerial waterfowl surveys...which start at the end of this month.

Here are some pelicans and double-crested cormorants staging on Lake Vadnais--based on the pelicans and cormorants in this photo alone, I would say this might be an ideal spot for fishing...although, I don't think fishing is allowed on this side.  The part of staging is that gives you a chance to see large concentrations of birds or...

...odd groupings of birds.  Above is a great blue heron, some mallards, a couple of cormorants and a ring-billed gull.  Since they aren't breeding, there aren't too many territory squabbles.  It's interesting to see that when one bird starts preening (putting feathers in place and conditioning with oil from a gland on their back with their beaks) the rest soon follow suit.

Even great egrets are staging (every white thing in the above photo is an egret).  But they do not appear to allow the closeness that pelicans and cormorants allow with each other.  Even if a bird flew too close, you could hear their belchy cloaks in protest.

It's interesting to watch these groups when they are not feeding or preening.  They all seem to be waiting for something, for some cue.  Perhaps it's combination of signs: feeling a certain heft to their bodies from all the fat put on for a marathon flight along with the length of daylight and winds out of the north to help them push south.