Explore Minnesota Birding Update - October 2019

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Explore Minnesota Birding Update - October 2019 
Sandhill cranes / Liz Stanley

This is your monthly Explore Minnesota Birding Update.

Happy birding!

October Nature Notes

Fall colors can be magnificent in October, and fall color drives are a great addition to watching the fall bird migration.

Vast numbers of sandhill cranes are moving southward, and can often be seen at wildlife refuges throughout the state during the month of October. Sandhill cranes are large birds nearly 4 feet high with a wing span up to 7 feet wide. The cranes gather and feed in harvested fields during the day and rest in shallow water at night -- dawn and dusk offer the greatest shows. The graceful flight and raucous calls of thousands of sandhill cranes is a rare and memorable sight. One refuge known for drawing large numbers of sandhill cranes is Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Zimmerman. When visiting, be sure to bring along a self-guided tour map to help you navigate the park.

Impressive numbers of hawks, falcons and other raptors continue their migration over Hawk Ridge along the Lake Superior flyway to avoid open water. The larger raptors generally migrate in October. Just some of the raptors you can expect to see in large numbers include bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, broad-winged hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, northern goshawks and turkey vultures. Raptors can be difficult to tell apart when seen from a distance. Learn how to distinguish between these birds at the Audubon’s Three Basic Ways to Identify Hawks, Eagles, Falcons and other raptors. Also check the Hawk Count to learn daily statistics for nearly 20 species of birds viewed from the ridge.

The Mississippi River is one of the four main migration routes in the United States, with hundreds of bird species passing through. This flyway is excellent for the fall migration during the month of October, as well as fall color. Learn more about the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge. And for information about the many highlights and attractions along the Mississippi River, check out The Great River Road.

Did You Know?

Migrating birds need energy-rich food, as well as meals that don't require a lot of energy to locate. Some of the best foods for migratory and resident birds include black oil sunflower seeds, white millet or millet mix, nyjer and suet. Peanuts are also a great source of energy -- shelled nuts allow birds to expend less energy to consume. If possible, leave a large area of brush clippings roughly 10 feet away to provide birds a safe retreat. A clean source of water is also beneficial. Once your feeding station is set up, watch for hungry sparrows, blackbirds, cardinals, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, woodpeckers and finches. Also keep an eye out for returning dark-eyed juncos, the "harbingers" of winter. As birds establish their feeding patterns, you should be rewarded with a flurry of activity throughout the winter months.

According to the most recent edition of BirdWire, the loss of three billion birds over the last 50 years has motivated many to do whatever is possible to help save our birds. Learn how we can make a difference at 7 Simple Actions To Help Birds.

Upcoming Birding Events

Oct. 5, 12, 19 & 26, Schroeder
Bird Banding at Sugarloaf Cove
View songbirds up close and learn about the banding process and its importance in understanding the lifespan, movement and productivity of songbirds. Donations are appreciated. Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center. 218-525-0001

Oct. 6, 20 & 26, Carver
Bird Watching Trek
Attend a bird walk to learn about the birds that visit the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge during the fall migration. Birders of all skill levels are welcome. Bring your binoculars and favorite field guide. Meet at the Rapids Lake Education and Visitor Center at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. 952-361-4500

Oct. 11, Duluth
Take Flight with Hawk Ridge Gala
Don't miss this inspirational and important evening celebrating and supporting Hawk Ridge. Enjoy a delicious dinner, cash bar, live education birds, book signing, nature & artwork fundraiser, Hawk Ridge Lifetime Achievement Award and guest speaker. Hear about highlights from the spring & fall bird migrations and how your support makes a difference. The event will culminate with a fantastic evening program, "Owls: Souls of the Night,” by Scott Weidensaul, ornithologist and author. Radisson Duluth-Harborview Hotel. 218-428-6209

Oct. 12, Houston
Fall Owl Prowl

Attend an expert-led owl prowl this fall. Owl prowls start at 6 p.m. with a program followed by time outdoors to call in wild owls. Dress for the weather, and try to wear clothes that don't make noise when you move. Please RSVP. International Owl Center. 507-896-6957

Oct. 17, 19, 23 & 26, Zimmerman
Sandhill Crane Tours
In the middle of October, the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge hosts thousands of sandhill cranes. The cranes roost at night in the refuge wetlands, and venture out to area croplands to forage for food during the day. Enjoy guided tours of the best sandhill crane sites in the refuge. Reservations are required. Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. 763-389-3323

Oct. 18, Carlos/Alexandria
Birds and Fall Birding
Many birds have already migrated south, but some are just arriving and others will stay all year. Explore what makes a bird unique, how to identify them and learn other birding tips. Bring your own binoculars or borrow a pair. This hands-on program is family friendly, but children must be accompanied by an adult. Be prepared to spend time outside. Meet at the Visitor Center at Lake Carlos State Park. 320-852-7200

Oct. 18, Center City
The Mysterious Owl
Most owls are active in the evening, which often makes them mysterious and unknown to us. They are especially adapted to hunting and being silent at night. Learn how to recognize their calls and how to make them too. This program will be a hoot! Meet at the amphitheater. Wild River State Park. 651-583-2125

Oct. 19, Bloomington
Bird Watching Trek
Attend a bird walk to learn about some of the 220 bird species that visit the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge during the fall migration. Birders of all skill levels are welcome. Bring your binoculars and favorite field guide. Held along the Bass Ponds trails of the Long Meadow Lake unit. Bass Ponds Trailhead at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. 952-361-4500

Oct. 19, Wabasha
Live Falcons & Wild Things Zoo Attractions
Visit with master falconer Jackie Fallon, meet live falcons and learn about the ancient and exciting world of falconry. Also explore the fascinating world of animals beyond the Mississippi River Valley with the traveling Wild Things Zoo and meet an array of birds, mammals and exotic creatures. Don’t forget your camera! National Eagle Center. 651-565-4989

Oct. 23, Hastings
Saw-whet Owl Banding
Join naturalists as they venture out to band native owls, and learn about the migration patterns of saw-whet owls. Please reserve your spot ahead of time. Carpenter Nature Center. 651-437-4359

Oct. 24, Bloomington
Tales from the Bird Chick
Hear Sharon Stiteler, the "Bird Chick," tell amazing stories and birding tips from her years of birding. Held in the Visitor Center at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. 952-854-5900

Nov. 2, Rochester
Zumbro Valley Audubon Society Bird Walk
Take a casual walk thru Quarry Hill Park in search of migratory birds. Bring binoculars if you have them or borrow some from the nature center. Families and children are welcome. Walks usually last about one hour. Please dress for the weather. Free and open to the public. Quarry Hill Park. 507-328-3950

Nov. 3, Rochester
Tundra Swan Field Trip
Car pool through La Crescent and down the Mississippi River to Brownsville to see early migrating tundra swans and other waterfowl. Dress for the weather, and bring your own lunch and snacks. Meet at the east side parking lot of the Heintz Center (1926 Collegeview Rd E, Rochester, MN 55904) at 8 am to car pool. 507-281-0249

Nov. 9, Shakopee
Bird Watching Trek
Attend a bird walk to learn about the birds that visit the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge during the fall migration. Birders of all skill levels are welcome. Bring your binoculars and favorite field guide. Meet at the Wilkie Unit Trailhead at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. 952-361-4500; 952-854-5900

Recent Bird Sightings

Check the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union web site for recent bird sightings and rare bird alerts.

For additional information, consider joining the Minnesota Birding community on Facebook.


Sandhill cranes at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge / Jim Williams

Hawk banding at Hawk Ridge

Northern goshawk / www.mikelentzphotography

Turkey vulture / David Cahlander

Broad-winged hawk / Liz Stanley

Rough-legged hawk / David Brislance 

Bald eagle / Don Anderson

American kestrel / Bruce Lees

Osprey flying over Hawk Ridge / Karl Bardon     

Rough-legged hawk at the Sax Zim Bog / Sparky Stensaas  

Juvenile sharp-shinned hawk / Karl-Bardon 

Juvenile red-tailed hawk / Larry Sirvio
Dark-eyed junco / Sparky Stensaas

American goldfinch / David Brislance

Tufted Titmouse / David Cahlander

White-throated sparrow / David Brislance

Northern saw-whet owl / Bob Dunlap
Tundra swans near Brownsville on the Mississippi River / Wayne Bartz
Tundra swan at the Brownsville Overlook / Gerald Hoekstra


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