[mou] Birding about

Steve Weston sweston2 at comcast.net
Sun Aug 10 19:59:16 CDT 2008

Last weekend I went straight west to the South Dakota border for Doug Buri's 
shorebird workshop.  He and Bob Janssen did a super job, especially for 
birders lacking confidence with this group of birds.  The most memorable 
lesson in the seminar was:  The best way to differentiate between 
Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitchers is to look down.  If you are or 
should be wearing shorts, it is a Short-billed Dowitcher.

There were two bird highlights for the seminar field trips.
1)  Doug Kieser's discovery of a Burrowing Owl just three miles from the 
Minnesota border.  We went out later that night and again the next morning 
and found the bird still on the hay bales.  the last birders that first 
evening saw the two parents join the juvenile.
2)  the invisible sandpiper.  Phil Chu (thank you, Phil) gave us directions 
to a field where he had observed a Buff-breasted Sandpiper.  We walked the 
recently burned and mostly bare field chasing Killdeer as we walked.  We did 
flush out a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers, an American Golden Plover, and a 
couple of elusive Baird's Sandpipers that were seen by a few birders on the 
wing.   We had splintered into three groups and a few stragglers, when 
someone flushed a Buff-breasted Sandpiper that we had to have walked right 
by on the way out.  While one the group zeroed in on the bird about 30 yards 
away, others tried to figure out what we were looking at.  We had our scopes 
trained right at one lady, who was about 40 or 50 yards away.  We signalled 
her to stop walking.  She looked at us.  She studied where we were looking. 
She looked around.  She studied the area behind her.  And then started to 
walk over to us to find out what we were excited about.   We waved her to a 
stop and signalled that she needed to walk around.  People were arriving, 
lining up next to us, and easily finding the nearby beauty.   I turned my 
scope over to one of the participants and she gazed through it.  I asked, if 
she had found it.  When she answered negatively.  I looked through the 
scope, figuring that it had walked out of the field and she was having 
trouble locating the cryptically plumaged bird.  But, I could not find it 
and most everyone had lost the bird, which was still only some thirty yards 
away.  One guy who had watched the bird stop and sit down was still on it. 
Another found it when it blicked its eye.  I looked through one of their 
scopes, saw the eye, and carefully noted its location.  I went back to my 
scope, focused it in on the spot, and found...an empty field.  At this point 
Bob Janssen started walking slowly out towards the bird.  When he was about 
10 yards away and still could not see it, It got up and started to walk.  At 
this point just about everyone (but Bob) could focus in on the bird.  It was 
amazing how well it blended in.

On Tuesday and then again on Friday I checked the Jirik Sod Farms in Empire 
Township in Dakota County, hoping to find some Buff-breasted migrants. I 
found none.  The only shorebirds were Killdeer.  The best bird of the week 
was a single Loggerhead Shrike on the wire along 180th Street between Emery 
and Fischer west of the 180th Street marsh.  Of course, this does not 
include the finds in Yellow Medicine County last Sunday evening.

I have seen quite a few bats of late.  On Monday I found what I believe to 
have been a Big Brown Bat flying in the basement of the Mall of America.   I 
also observed several of them at my house in the late evening flying in the 
company of a smaller bat, probably a Little Brown Myotis.  I wish I could do 
better at differentiating them.

Well, time to get back to my microscope and the bugs, leeches, and other 
critters of the wetland awaiting me.

Steve Weston on Quiggley Lake in Eagan, MN
sweston2 at comcast.net


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