Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Monday, January 18, 2016

Some unexpected winter birds

(Since I wrote this blog entry on Friday, January 15, right before leaving for California, there's been another appearance of an Ivory Gull immature in Canal Park on Friday (but as of this writing on Monday morning, not since), and two Black-legged Kittiwakes appeared in Canal Park on both Saturday and Sunday. Meanwhile, I got an email Friday about a Yellow-rumped Warbler that has been visiting a feeder in Hovland, north of Grand Marais!)

Ivory Gull
Duluth's Ivory Gull

This winter lots of amazing birds have been turning up here in the northland. We started out 2016 with a New Years Day Ivory Gull in Canal Park. That one stuck around for a nine days. We don’t know what happened to it—the cold front that sent it packing also sent most of the waterfowl and other gulls away.

On January 12, Bill Tefft reported an immature Ivory Gull being mobbed in an Ely backyard. That one was on the ground and seemed traumatized by mobbing ravens. Bill said that Muff Shumacher and her neighbor took it to the vet clinic for examination and subsequent consultation with the local wildlife rehabilitator. As soon as it had recovered, it flew away. We don’t know if it was the same individual that had been in Duluth, but there’s at least some chance that it was.

Birders who surged into Duluth to see the Ivory Gull also headed to the Superior harbor to see a gray Gyrfalcon that has been hanging out by a grain elevator for the past few years. This year a young female is there, too. Disturbingly, many of the acquisitive birders haven’t been satisfied with the fine looks available from the road, and have been driving into work areas that are clearly marked no trespassing. Their bad behavior jeopardizes access for all of us. 

Kathleen Preece's Mourning Dove. Copyright 2016 by Kathleen Preece
My friend Kathleen Preece has been hosting a Mourning Dove near Bemidji this winter. Most doves wisely fly the coop—their bodies are hardy enough to endure if they have enough food, but their fleshy feet are prone to frostbite if they can’t spend most of the day roosting with their tummy keeping their toes warm. Kathleen has been providing sunflower seeds, millet, and mealworms, and the dove seems content, especially after Kathleen constructed a little shelter for it.

Kathleen's dove in its little shelter. Copyright 2016 by Kathleen Preece
I’ve had a few reports of individual robins here and there, visiting feeders. We always have at least a few robins through at least January up here, usually in small flocks or mingling with Bohemian Waxwings, found mostly at crabapples and mountain ash. Some of them observe other birds at feeders and check it out. We can help them by providing frozen berries (no need to thaw them—they say easier to eat when they were purchased frozen) or mealworms. People don’t normally feed robins, so they don’t have a normal search pattern for bird feeders. Many never do figure them out, but some do.

American Robin eating fruit
Robins feed on berries in winter

The Indigo Bunting that doesn’t belong anywhere near here was still around at least through Sunday the 10th. I don’t know if it can survive the winter here, but it did at least survive the first bitter cold night. Indigo Buntings aren’t as flexible in their migratory movements as robins and waxwings, so I don’t know if this little guy will be able to head south or not.

January Indigo Bunting
Duluth's very late Indigo Bunting

In other news, the Ivory Gull that was found dead in Superior two weeks ago is still dead.