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Brooks Rownd | profile | all galleries >> Hawai'i >> Stranded In East Hawai'i >> Nov 19-23, 2010 - Saint Paul, MN tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Nov 19-23, 2010 - Saint Paul, MN

My visit to Minneapolis-St. Paul the weekend before Thanksgiving was productive, though it was plagued by difficult weather that cut my outdoor time in half and prevented me from going as far afield as I would have liked. Regardless, it was WONDERFUL to be back in the crisp cold air of winter again. I visited Lake Vadnais the most often, where I have a long history. I took a lot more interest in identifying and counting the floaters this year, and also made a couple visits to the edge of Bald Eagle Lake to study the rafts of ducks and gulls. Unusually, I only visited Crosby Farm Regional Park twice this trip due to icy roads and a day when it was mysteriously closed. Finally, I visited the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge area of Minnesota Valley NWR. I saw a few new species, but aside from Townsend's solitaire they were all ducks that I had simply ignored before. Sadly I was unable to find any red-breasted nuthatch or pine siskin, and was unable to get out to Sherburne NWR.

I decided to put the entire MSP portion of the trip into this single report, so there is a lot of description and notes, and the photos are allllll the way at the bottom. Unfortunately I didn't take any scenery photos due to the cold. My fingers were frozen much of the time I was outside.

Nov. 19, 2010 - Visiting St. Paul on the first leg of my Thanksgiving trip. I arrived on Friday the 19th, and went directly to Crosby Farm Regional Park in the morning. I did the full loop around both the large and small ponds. The weather was 35-40F, variably cloudy with some breeze, and dry. The North side of the loop along the bluff was sheltered from the wind and some sections of the trail were thick with winter birds. There were a number of ducks on the ponds, and a few Canada geese. The south side of the loop was very quiet, as these areas were being swept by the cold wind coming across the pond. At one spot 4 woodpecker species and a few other birds were all congregated together in a big mob. Crosby is always a good winter area, and I got a lot of opportunity to re-familiarize myself with the Minnesota bird calls and behaviors. I was still confused by a lot of things, but soon getting the hang of it again.

After finishing at Crosby I went up to Lake Vadnais to count my usual areas. A couple years back I saw siskins in the junipers here, and there is presently a Townsend's solitaire. I did not manage to find the solitaire on my first attempt, but I didn't actually cover all of the junipers. After getting to the coffee shop I read that someone reported the solitaire just 20 minutes after I counted the area. There were numerous other birds. I counted the road, the side trail, and the north-south trail down through the junipers along the northeast lakeside. Eventually the light started fading and I called it a day pretty early. I collected numerous photos of the flotillas of ducks at Crosby and Vadnais so I could study them and enter some numbers in my checklists. Ducks are an area where I need a lot of practice. After I make some progress with ducks I need to work in my gull identification.


Crosby Farm 9:40-13:10

Leg 1, 09:40 to 10:24, from parking lot along North shore of small pond to boardwalk, 500 m
Overcast and calm

BCCH-14, WBNU-4, AMCR-5, DOWO-4, HAWO-1, RBWO-2, NOFL-1, CAGO-4, MALL-27, RNDU-1

DOWO, HAWO, RBWO and NOFL all interacting at same spot, with BCCH etc

Leg 2, 10:25-12:01, along north shore of large pond from boardwalk to East end, 1200m
Overcast and calm

BCCH-28, WBNU-8, AMCR-2, DOWO-10, HAWO-5, RBWO-5, PIWO-2, NOFL-1, NOCA-2, AMRO-11, 
MALL-6, RNDU-54, BLJA-2, HOFI-1, NOSH-4, REDH-2 (photo), GADW-1 (photo)

Unknown sparrow with lightly striped head and flanks, and breast spot.  Sweet "tseet" call.

Leg 3, 1205-1245 South shore paved trail of large pond to crossroads w/ bench, 1500m
Clear, sunny and windy

1-3 buzzy something with chickadees near conifers, didn't think of waxwings at time
unidentified gull, unidentified raptor

Leg 4, 1247-1307, bench to parking lot along South side of small pond, 550m
Windy mostly cloudy


Vadnais Lake 1350-1535

Snail Lake parking lot 1350-1400 point count


Vadnais leg 1 - 1406-1432, along road from parking lot to lakeside junipers, 500m travelling count 
plus 40 acres on lake

BCCH-6, NOCA-2, BLJA-4, CEWA-14, HAWO-1, AMCR-3, MALL-17++, COGO&RNDU-check photos
CANV/REDH-2, COGO-22 and RNDU-270+ in photos, but not clear if other photos are same 
groups or not.
Townsend's Solitaire was reported just 30 minutes later with same waxwing flock!
Unknown gull, many ducks which are mostly ringneck

Vadnais leg 2 - 1435-1458, side trail through pine plantation to junction with north-south trail, 500m


Vadnais leg 3 - 1458-1535, north-south trail to and along lake edge junipers, 600m

BCCH-8, BLJA-3, HAWO-1, DOWO-1, WBNU-1, DEJU-2, MALL-5+, RNDU-4+
4+ deer nearby
same flotilla of ducks on lake - do not doublecount
unidentified raptor, unidentified gull

Nov. 20, 2010 - Saturday morning was very cold. It was about 17F when I stared at 8AM, with a high near 20F. Saturday morning I returned to Lake Vadnais at 8AM for another attempt at finding the solitaire. It wasn't easy. I searched the junipers with others from 8-9AM, with no sightings. However, I heard an unusual and constant mumbling from one of the junipers where a mixed flock was feeding. After counting in the conifers and warming up I returned to the lakeside junipers where another person had found the solitaire in the southernmost juniper tree, and it was still doing the constant mumbling I had heard earlier. Got a bad but adequate ISO 800 photo for the collection.

In the afternoon I went back down to Crosby Farm, where I hoped the river valley would give me some shelter from the biting cold wind. It was actually pretty cold at Crosby as well. I only did the leg of the trail from the parking area along the south shore of the small pond, and then gave up due to the cold. I went to the coffee shop to work on my photos and eBird counts.

11/20/2010 - MSP

Vadnais Lake - 8AM-12PM

8-9AM round trip along junipers along lakeside, hoping to find solitaire.  400 meters 
travelling count plus 50 acres on lake.


Cold (17F) breezy clear morning. Count along the section of the lakeside 
drive with junipers. Fewer ducks than yesterday, and more gulls and swans.  
Many ducks scared off before I arrived by the first group of joggers.

Several unidentified gulls over lake.

Fewer birds present when I passed through the area again at about 11AM-noon.

TOSO was constantly babbling hidden in a juniper among misc species the first 
time around. Later in the morning it was alone in the last juniper, still 
babbling, and only occasionally coming to the outside of the tree for berries. 
I did not hear this babble during yesterday's count which covered about half 
of the juniper strip.

1000-1042, trail through conifer plantation, 600m


1240-1323 Crosby Farm, trail from parking lot to duck hide along south shore of small pond, 700m


birds notably absent where cold breeze blows off pond

Nov. 21, 2010 - Saturday night I got trapped in Robbinsdale by freezing rain, and then I slept in late on Sunday morning, waiting for the roads to improve. I didn't do any outings. I did stop at the south shore of Bald Eagle Lake to see what was floating on the water. I scanned a large flotilla of ducks and gulls, and eventually set to counting once I identified the main components of the flotilla's population. Mallards, ring-necks, goldeneyes and redheads in large groups, and there was a single long-tailed duck that I looked at for a long while to make sure of the ID. Eventually I got good views of all sides, and was certain of its identity. The weather was heavy overcast, nearly fog, 35F, light rain - actually quite nice compared to Saturday.


  Bald Eagle Lake, 1435-1515 (20 minute count plus confirmation viewing)
  Count duck and gull flotilla on south shore of Bald Eagle Lake, covering 27 acres.
  Freezing rain the night before, but 35F and rainy sloppy now.

  MALL-6, RNDU-20, REDH-40, COGO-28, gulls-10, long-tailed duck-1

long tailed duck viewed well from all sides

Nov. 22, 2010 - Monday morning was calm, overcast and just below freezing, with freezing drizzle becoming snizzle and then sparse flurries, which ceased in the early afternoon. I stayed at the coffee shop until after rush-hour to avoid dangerous traffic, and I had no plans to leave the White Bear-Vadnais area with today's uncertain forecast.

I went to Lake Vadnais first. In the forest it was more quiet than over the weekend. Many of the ring-necked ducks were replaced by new rafts of common and hooded mergansers, but otherwise the birds were just the same. I was pleased to find a trio of golden-crowned kinglets right away, which I had not seen since October 2008. I ran into the solitaire with the flock of cedar waxwings, and then 50 meters further along I heard another solitaire in the same juniper I saw it in on Saturday. It seemed that there were two of them, but when I returned to the first location and kept watch I was unable to confirm two birds instead of just a single bird moving around. The last surprise of the day was a belted kingfisher zooming along the lakeshore.

When the flurries intensified I went back to town, and then later to Bald Eagle Lake. I counted the flotilla of ducks and gulls along the south shore of the lake. Then I did a little loop through some of the Ramsey County open space on the west side of the lake, and counted goldeneyes in the bay on the west side of the lake. The mixed forest, marsh and meadow "open space" area was very quiet. I called it a day early since it was getting colder and little daylight was left.

11/22/2010 - MSP
Starts overcast 30F, snizzle starts as I'm leaving Lake Vadnais.  
Just overcast while I'm at Bald Eagle

Lake Vadnais - 0945-1152

  0945-1010, lake drive, 400m from parking area to edge of East lake


  1025-1055, lake drive, 450m from edge of East lake to edge of West lake

  Count land an water birds separate - travelling count 450m and area count 87 acre/0.35km^2


  Saw solitaire in 2 different trees, but could not find first one to confirm.  

  MALL-40 HOME-215 COME-30 RNDU-24 TRSW-6 RNGU-18+

  1130-1152, Side trail to north-south trail, 550m


Bald Eagle Lake - 1330-1505

  1330-1350, South end of Bald Eagle Lake flotilla, 27 acres, 0.11km^2

  MALL-6 COGO-52 RBGU-8 RNDU-46 REDH-49 BUFF-7  Scaup? - 15+

  Uncertain about possible scaups - will have to study pix more.  
  scaup head shape inconclusive for lesser vs. greater
  could I be mistaking some scaup males for redheads? 

  1410-1505, West side of Bald Eagle Lake open space area 1.2km


  1445-1455, West bay of Bald Eagle Lake, 20 acres, 0.8 km^2

  COGO-32 RBGU-1 and two floaters on opposite side not adequately seen.  

Nov 23, 2010 - My last morning in MN was cold and clear, but fortunately calm. I first went to Bald Eagle Lake, where the number of ducks was diminished a lot. Then I visited Lake Vadnais, where the water was steaming in the morning Sun. The population of floaters changes daily. The large numbers of common and hooded mergansers were dominant. Less ducks. Over a dozen gulls. There were large overflights of migrating geese, swans and cranes. The Townsend's solitaire was still posing for photos. There were a lot of woodpeckers along the lakeside drive, perhaps taking advantage of the rising sun shining on the trees along the edge. The belted kingfisher again zoomed past me along the lakeshore.

After leaving Lake Vadnais I was going to visit Crosby Farm, but the gate there was locked for no obvious reason. Instead I went over to the old Cedar Avenue bridge in the Minnesota Valley NWR, which is usually an area I visit a lot when the weather is more cooperative. I thought this would be the best area to find brown creepers, but I didn't find any. There were a few woodpeckers and some flickers, lots of Canada geese napping on the river ice, hordes of robins loading up on fruits in the riverside trees and shrubs, etc. Unfortunately I did not find the barred owls in the spot where they were hanging out last autumn.

Nov 29, 2010 - Crosby Farm Regional Park - On my way back to the airport I stopped at Crosby Farm at dawn for my last outing of the trip. It was overcast, lightly breezy and 35F - pleasant. I did the loop trail around the small pond. Overall it was very quiet, except for the huge mob of robins digging in the leaf litter on the west and south shores of the small pond. The most significant score is that I found the only brown creeper of the Minnesota portion of my trip.

Crosby Farm small pond loop, 0733-0910, 1.75km

Townsend's Solitaire
Townsend's Solitaire
Townsend's Solitaire
Townsend's Solitaire
Townsend's Solitaire
Townsend's Solitaire
Townsend's Solitaire
Townsend's Solitaire
American Tree Sparrow
American Tree Sparrow
Townsend's Solitaire
Townsend's Solitaire
Townsend's Solitaire
Townsend's Solitaire
Pileated Woodpeckers
Pileated Woodpeckers
Woodpecker Standoff
Woodpecker Standoff
Woodpecker Standoff
Woodpecker Standoff
Woodpecker Standoff
Woodpecker Standoff
Migrating Cranes
Migrating Cranes
Redhead Duck
Redhead Duck
Ring-Necked Duck
Ring-Necked Duck
Lake Vadnais
Lake Vadnais
Lake Vadnais
Lake Vadnais
Lake Vadnais
Lake Vadnais
Minnesota Valley NWR
[ Minnesota Valley NWR ]