Friday, May 24, 2013

Birding Vacation Minnesota

We were in Minnesota with most of Matt's family last weekend at a golf tournament/family reunion.  It was a blast.  I love Matt's family.  Perhaps I am too exuberant about this, but I don't care.  They are awesome.  I love them like the family I was born into.  So, I had a great time hearing stories from the cousins about Matt and his brothers as little boys, watching Sharon laugh and enjoy herself with her sisters as I so like to do with my own sisters, learning more and more cool stories about Matt's grandmother who passed away just before the trip, watching the boys joke with their uncles and aunts, road-tripping with Matt and Adam like we used to when I first met him--this time with the added bonus of Ryan as well.  Its so all around pleasurable for me.
So, it wasn't like I needed a cherry on top or anything, but oh, did I get one--in the form of birds.

Matt and his brothers reported seeing what they suspected to be orioles during the first nine holes of golf they played.  I had been knitting in the club house as it was pretty raining in the morning so I had seen nothing of the sort.  Before the second nine holes Matt asked me to snag his binoculars from the car so he could have them in the golf cart should the birds reappear.  I had intended to follow them so they could show me where they saw the birds, but I got distracted.  So, a while later I was cruising around the golf course taking photos with Heather, one of the younger relations, and whamo!  there was a flash of brilliant orange in the trees to my right.  

At this point I basically abandoned ship, telling Heather to go ahead without me, as I headed down the slight hill to the wooded riparian area that edged the course--camera in hand.

I'm not sure how long I was down there.  A while.  I was overcome with joy that I couldn't possibly have left and time didn't matter.  It was like bird paradise.  They were everywhere and oh so obvious and bright.  One after the other in a most wonderful parade.

That first oriole only allowed me a few quick glimpses.  Soon enough though I could tell their calls apart from the other birds and was able to track them from tree to tree by sound as well as sight.  Baltimore Oriole.  We don't get those in Montana.  And they were thick in those trees.  Each one could make my heart soar though.  The joy did not diminish as I spotted one after another.  Amazing.  Color like that seems almost unreal.
Dozens of Yellow Warblers flitted by me quickly as they shot from tree to tree.  Their melodious burble filled the wooded space from their high perches overhead.  We have a few of these stunning lemon yellow creatures that frequent our yard at home.  The males, like the one below, have a nice maroon or chestnut colored streaks across their breasts.   They are so small and sing so very sweetly.  Yellow Warbler is a more than apt name.
All of the sudden I noticed there was a black and white bird not fifteen feet away at just about eye level.  I didn't see it fly in--all of the sudden he was just there.  He turned towards me as he fluffed his feathers and revealed a striking and lovely reddish pink heart shape on the breast.  I'd never seen one before, but I knew it immediately from my extensive study of the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America--a Red-breasted Grosbeak.  He preened and fanned wings and tail almost non-stop as I watched.  He appeared to be strutting for someone, but I only saw the one, single bird, so maybe I am misinterpreting things.  The females are mostly brown though...so maybe I just couldn't see her.
Not long after, a very small bird landed on a branch overhanging the river.  Before I could get him in frame with the camera (he was so small it was hard to make out any detail with the naked eye other than flashes of yellow) the little thing disappeared behind the river bank.  I waited in posed silence and to my delight he returned to the branch just a few moments later--wet from the river and apparently in need of a good fluffing.  Even though he wouldn't sit still for all his fluffing I could tell I'd never see this bird before either.  But, the name didn't immediately jump to my mind.  I had to look it up later.  He turned out to be a Cape May Warbler--a species that only passes through the United States, but does not really live here.  They breed in Canada's boreal forests and winter in the warmth of Central and South America, as well as the islands of the West Indies.  So, what I mean by all that is that it was a wonderful chance that I happened to witness the lovely bird at all.  He is on his way back to Canada to have babies.  I's sure glad he needed a drink and bath along the way!
There was also a Catbird that was meowing loudly from some thick bushes.  I mean, its call sounded just like a meow.  It was nutty.  I'd seen Catbirds before, but I don't remember hearing them before.  Another very apt name, I guess.
There was also Hairy Woodpeckers, a few Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, a Chipping Sparrow, and Black-capped Chickadees.  Not to mention ferns and flowers and fungus galore.
I could have stayed down in that wooded glade for a long, long time--even longer than I did--but I heard Matt's brother give a whoop (I presume it was a good hit) and so I came back up and out onto the green manicured lawn to join them and tell Matt all about all the birds I saw.  I think I caused a chuckle and some surprise--appearing as I did out of nowhere, far from the club house or a cart.

I watched the Baltimore Orioles fly back and forth across the fairways all the ride back to the last hole.  So stunning and brilliant orange in the sunshine.  Like a gift for the eyes.  Traveling is made all the more exciting and thrilling for me by the prospect of new and unusual birds for me to behold.

4 comments:

  1. Glad you had an enjoyable visit with family. That's what it's all about. And living near Baltimore for the past decade, you'd think I should have seen an Oriole by now, but nope, the only Orioles I see are in sports section of the paper...

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  2. Wow! I have seen most of those birds but not often. The Baltimore Oriole once as a kid on the other end of the state.

    I had a cat bird that loved bbq sauce. It would eat it out of the cup when I cooked out!

    This is a glorious time of year for birds and you hit the jackpot!

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    1. Jackpot indeed! Birds are so fascinating to watch!

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