I can tell it's going to be one of those days where speed and efficiency elude me.
Weekend company, cabin confinement, the cold, pre-Christmas crabbies, the onset of SAD, fibromyalgia fatigue, moody Monday - any and all of these could be the cause of my sluggishness and not-so-pleasant state of mind.
I know I'm in trouble when I start my day at the desk with a chocolate sundae.
However dismal the day thus far, I did begin writing this column a few minutes ago with a laugh. To get thoughts flowing, I typed www.mou.org into my Web browser to see what interesting birds were spotted during the past week.
To my surprise, the familiar, forest green and black background of the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union Web site had turned to soft gold, light orange and baby blue.
A quick glance rendered a minimal smile on my face as I noted I had accessed Maharishi Open University. Now I hope I don't start receiving messages and mail from the site. The birding site I meant to open was www.moumn.org.
Let's look at the statewide rare bird alert for Dec. 1. The weekly report by Anthony Hertzel is a compilation of interesting bird sightings based on calls and e-mails from Minnesota residents.
Birds mentioned this time include an unidentified ibis seen on Spring Lake in Dakota County, an adult glaucous gull in Dakota County and a surf scoter at in Washington County. Somewhat late was the yellow-bellied sapsucker seen in south Minneapolis and a Carolina wren in St. Paul. A Townsend's solitaire was reported in Sherburne County.
Closer to home in Wadena County, a varied thrush has been visiting the home of Joe Clark near Park Rapids. Birders are welcome to visit if they call ahead. Contact Joe at (218) 837-6405 for directions and details.
Is there anyone who missed seeing a great gray owl during last winter's massive influx? You have another chance. Cindy Risen found one along Kestrel Avenue about five miles north of Tamarack in Aitkin County on Dec. 1.
While great grays and northern hawk owls headlined last year, nary a snowy owl was seen by most active birders. So it was with particular interest that I noted several snowys have already been spotted, including one at the Minneapolis /St. Paul airport near the newest runway.
Sightings in the northern part of the state came from St. Louis, Cook and Lake counties, which is less surprising. However, I'm intrigued by snowys being reported from southern counties like near New Germany in Carver County and near Henderson. Secondhand accounts were also given of snowy owls in Kandiyohi, Fillmore and Freeborn counties.
I'm thinking these sightings of snowys so early and so far south may be unprecedented. I'll keep tabs on owls again this year, so if you spot one let me know.
Other bird-related happenings in December and into the new year are the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Counts. We're lucky to have several counts taking place in our region, including the Crosby CBC, which will be held on Saturday, Dec.17. The group will depart at 8 a.m. from Heartland Kitchen caf on Main Street, one block east of the junction of Highways 210 and 6. The Bee-Nay-She Bird Club sponsors this fun outing, which was started by Jo Blanich in 1967. Newcomers and novices are welcome. This is a great opportunity to meet and be paired with expert birders like the Blanichs, Warren Nelson and Pam Perry.
The Pillager CBC will be held on Sunday, January 1. We'll meet at 8 a.m. at the restaurant at the junction of Highway 210 and Cass County Road 1. The count is sponsored by the Lakes Area Audubon Bird Club. Again, everyone is invited to participate. John Richardson, Sandy Roggenkamp, Mike North, Don and Carol Crust and Ken and Pam Perry are some of the members who will share their birding expertise.
Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge north of Aitkin and Itasca State Park also conduct Christmas Bird Counts. There are 65 counting areas in Minnesota.
During the Minnesota 2004-05 CBC, 336,368 individual birds were tallied statewide. That's the fifth highest census total in state history. Two new species (cackling goose and green heron) were added to the composite CBC, bumping up the count day species to 199.
In April there was a confirmed sighting of an ivory-billed woodpecker in the big woods of Arkansas. The last report of ivory-billed woodpeckers in the CBC database was of two birds seen in the Singer Tract in Louisiana during the 38th CBC in 1937. Other sightings were reported on the earlier 34th and 30th counts.
The final birding December event I'll mention is the annual meeting of the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union on the first Saturday in December. Features include a new video of the ivory-billed woodpecker, details of an ecology study of the red-shouldered hawks at Camp Ripley, a video on the northern owl invasion last year and a presentation on "Searching for Bird Endemics South of the Border."
Last but certainly not least, Pam Perry was presented the 2005 Thomas Sadler Roberts Memorial Award at the meeting for "Outstanding Contributions to Minnesota Ornithology and Birding." Hats off to Pam! Bee-Nay-She members Jo and Steve Blanich and Warren Nelson have received this prestigious award in previous years, acknowledging the caliber of birders we have here at home.
If you love birds, think about getting more involved. Fill feeders with seeds and suet, buy a bird field guide, check out the MOU web site, show up for a CBC activity, attend a local bird club meeting. Enjoy these wonderful feathered friends that add so much beauty and pleasure to cold winter days.
Andrea Lee Lambrecht, naturalist and outdoors photographer, can be reached at email@example.com
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.