"Wood duck. Mallard. Lesser Scaup. Any other ducks?"
Heads shook no.
"Downy, Hairy, Pileated." Any other woodpeckers?" I asked.
"Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher. Any other flycatchers? Bill? John?"
A double "no."
Warblers were next -- Orange-crowned, Nashville, Yellow, Magnolia, Cape May, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Pine, Palm, Black-and-white, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat. Wow! Thirteen species of warblers in three hours of morning observation.
"Now for the grosbeaks, buntings, towhees and sparrows. Any grosbeaks?" I asked as I continued to combine the tally of the birders present for the "Big Day" Count at the Northland Arboretum on May 11.
"Rose-breasted," responded Bill Brown, one of the participants.
"Spotted turkey," chimed John Richardson, expert birder and president of the Brainerd Lakes Area Audubon.
"What?" I said, turning to look at John, whose sense of humor often surfaces during these bird-lover gatherings.
"A Spotted Turkey" he emphatically repeated, somewhat bewildered by my questioning his knowledge.
"A Spotted Turkey? And a flamingo too?" I retorted.
"Yes, it used to be the Eastern Turkey, but now it's the Spotted Turkey."
We all laughed as we discovered John's British accent was disguising the towhee part of "Spotted Towhee." I heard "turkey." He was saying "towhee."
After I had called off the various categories and individual species, I asked if there were any other species seen. "Dipper," Bill Brown piped up.
"Dipper?" several people asked in unison. Another round of disbelief and chuckling took place.
These enjoyable exchanges are an example of the camaraderie often shared by birders and wildlife watchers. Without exception, we have the best time on these outings where local birders get together to observe the birds in our midst. By the time we finished recording the avians on the Arboretum's bird checklist, we had noted 64 species. Not bad for a few hours of fun and exercise.
We ended the foray with a potluck lunch and photo session. Ken Perry and Robert and Mariah Crabb tended the grill and Kay LaFrance, arboretum director, allowed us to use the building.
What makes the Big Day event at the Arboretum so special is the fact that this 600-plus acre site, comprised of the Arboretum, Paul Bunyan Jack Pine Savanna and the old Fremling Tree Farm, is an island of wildlife habitat in the midst of a sea of development. I fear that without protection of additional acreage adjacent to the area the habitat and corridors of travel needed by birds and other wildlife will be fragmented and degraded. We must continue to value, preserve and protect the lakes area's unspoiled wilderness.
Here's a list of the birds we identified in the arboretum on May 11:
Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Mallard, Lesser Scaup, Osprey, Killdeer, Yellowlegs, Ring-billed Gull, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue Jay, American Crow, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Winter Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Veery, Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush, American Robin.
Orange-crowned Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Spotted Towhee/Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Harris's Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco. Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch.
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