NEWSLETTERS ~ CURRENT PROJECTS ~ BUTTERFLY COUNT ~ CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT ~ NATIVE PLANTS & PRAIRIE ~ VOLUNTEERING & ADVOCACY
Current News and Projects
Saturday, July 29, 2017 - Chimney Swift Sit
Our first "sit" of the season was not very productive as we only counted fewer than 10 birds entering the chimney at Assisi Heights. Greg Munson, who has been monitoring the swifts, talked about their habits and how we don't understand yet how they choose one roost over another. He also showed us the nest and a dead Swift (photo at left) that he collected from inside the chimney earlier. Over the next couple weeks we'll be scouting the local chimneys and hopefully find their preferred nesting site before our next count.
UPDATE: On July 30 - 450 Swifts were seen entering the chimney at St Pius X Catholic Church. Good numbers have also been reported at Kellogg Middle School and at the Trailhead Chimney in Preston, MN.
Saturday, July 22, 2017 - Annual Butterfly Count
The morning was overcast and wet, in the high 70s and low 80s with very high humidity. We did not see many species on the morning rounds. The skies cleared off for the afternoon and numbers vastly improved throughout the afternoon. The official tally is being prepared and will be posted soon. Many thanks to Joel Dunnette for organizing, to Chester Woods for the loan of a Gator to get around the park, and to all the volunteers who walked the fields and tallied up their sightings!
Update - July 26, 2017 - The final numbers are in. Thirty different species of butterflies were identified during the count including 1 new species - a Leonards Skipper - that we had never seen in the area before. Four species we couldn't identify were also found. A total of 768 individual butterflies were seen by our volunteers. To see the complete list click here (2mb excel file).
July 9, 2017 - Butterfly Class and BUG HUNT - ZVAS had a busy day. First master Naturalist and ZVAS President Joel Dunnette taught a Beginning Butterfly Watching class at Chester Woods. After a short indoor presentation our group of eleven headed to the field. Cloudy skies didn't help us in our search (butterflies like hot sunny weather), but we did find several species including Clouded Sulphur, Eastern Tailed Blue, Great Spangled Fritillary, Red Admiral, Wood Nymph, American Lady, Bronze Copper, and Monarch. Following the Butterfly Class, we hosted our annual BUG HUNT at Chester Woods. 15 kids and adults came out and had fun netting and taking up close looks at these fascinating creatures. Many thanks to Joel for sharing his knowledge with us all. See more photos of the Bug Hunt on our Facebook page here.
July 1, 2017 - There has been a lot of news lately about Poison Hemlock being found in southeast Minnesota. To learn more about this very toxic and invasive plant, and why you should avoid it (and destroy it) if you find it on your property visit z.umn.edu/poisonhemlock.
July 1, 2017 Quarry Hill Nature Center - About 20 people joined us for this morning's walk at Quarry Hill. The weather was cool and sunny to start with clouds appearing later. We saw several good birds including Cedar Waxwings, nesting Robins and Barn Swallows, Great Crested Flycatcher, Red Eyed Vireo, Red Tail Hawk and more. Many summer flowers are also in bloom now making this a very enjoyable walk. Thank you to Terry and Joyce Grier for leading and sharing their knowledge with us. See more photos on our Facebook page.
June 18, 2017 Chester Woods Park - Dragonflies prefer warm sunny weather so today was a bit of a challenge with lots of clouds and cool temps. Still, about two dozen kids and adults came out to have fun catching and releasing these crazy creatures. Leader Joel Dunnette helped us identify our finds which included: Widow Skimmers, Ebony Jewlewings, Prince Basket Tail, Beaver Pond Basket Tail, Eastern Pondhawk, Eastern Forktail, Orange Bluet, Bluets, Whiteface Dot Tail (and there were several we were unsure of). Many thanks to Joel and our volunteers, Bob, Brendan, Kate and Sandy for helping out at this fun event. See more photos on our Facebook page.
June 10, 2017 - Fifteen people joined John Hockema and Gary Erickson on a wonderful field trip to Forestville State park today. John and Gary were excellent leaders and we found a few exciting surprises, including a clearly heard (but not seen) Northern Parula and a singing and posing Winter Wren (both extremely unusual for mid-June). We also had great looks at an Acadian Flycatcher and many others. Some members of the group even saw a Lark Sparrow in the parking lot before the hike started. See you at our next field trip!
June 3, 2017 - Around 20 people came out for this morning's bird walk at Quarry Hill Nature Center. The Barn Swallows are nesting in the pavilion again this year, and a pair of Orioles are nesting in the big Cottonwood tree nearby (which was showering us with fluffy seeds), the goslings are getting bigger and the dragonflies are coursing over the pond. Enjoy summer!
May 23, 2017 - Birds in Love - Steve Weston entertained us tonight with his talk and videos about the mating behaviors of several types of Minnesota birds. We learned that pretty much "anything goes" in the bird world. Some species are faithful to each other, others are only faithful to the nest site. Some mate with all comers, and in some pairs the males raise the chicks while the females goes off to mate again ... sounds kind of like humans! Mating, nesting and rearing of young is all happening now so enjoy the show if you're lucky enough to find a nest to watch.
May 14, 2017 - Hok-Si-La Field Trip - We had to work hard for the birds today - they were in the very tops of the trees and thinly spaced throughout the park. Highlights included a Scarlet Tanager, Bay-breasted Warbler, Yellow-Throated Vireo, Indigo Buntings and a juvenile Hairy Woodpecker (fresh from the nest). But the best shot of the day came as we were eating lunch in the picnic area when a Barred Owl flew into the tree just a few feet from us (even better he was carrying a chipmunk to eat for his lunch) and then we spotted a second owl in an adjacent tree. In all we tallied 60 species of birds for the day. Warblers seen or heard included: Yellow, Palm, Blue Winged, Redstart, Bay-breasted, Nashville, Yellow rumped, Blackburniun, Magnolia, and Pine. Thanks to Terry and Joyce Grier for leading this fun hike. and to Marcella Chester for the great Owl and Hairy WP photos. See more photos on our Facebook page here.
May 8, 2017 - Kutzky Park - the first wave of Warblers has arrived along with some other companions. Sightings included: Yellow, Yellow-Rumped, Nashville, Palm, Black & White, Chestnut-sided, and Redstarts. Also noted were Orioles, Swainson's Thrush, Blue-headed Vireo and Red Breasted Nuthatch.
May 7, 2017 - Hok-si-la Field Trip - On today's field trip to Hok-si-la Park in Lake City and the surrounding area we saw some interesting things ... just not warblers ... so the wait for our favorite migrants continues. However, we did see a Great Horned Owlet, several Great Blue Herons, a Purple Martin, lots of Wood Ducks, a Pileated Woodpecker, a Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, several Cliff Swallows, a Raccoon and a host of other "regulars" ... 44 species in all. We are repeating this field trip next Sunday - hopefully with better results!
April 28, 2017 - Arbor Day In Rochester - A big thank you to our volunteers who helped out at today's Arbor Day extravaganza in Rochester. Hundreds of kids participated, had fun, and learned a little more about the environment. Our two Bird Wheels of Fortune were in constant motion!
April 29, 2017 - Root River County Park Walk - It was cloudy, windy and cold, but five of us did the loop around Root River County Park this morning... and we did find some good birds and even more spring wildflowers. Our most unexpected bird was a Red-Breasted Nuthatch, and we got a good look at an Eastern Towhee and 2 Broad-winged Hawks. There were also many White-throated Sparrows, -Yellow-rumped Warblers and Palm Warblers . More photos are located in our Facebook album
April 26, 2017 - Birding at Kutsky Park - It was cold, drizzly and windy but 6 hardy souls braved the weather to bird at Kutzky Park on Wednesday morning. In addition to the resident birds we saw many Ruby-crowned Kinglets and 5 species of warblers: Yellow-rumped Warber, Orange-crowned Warbler, Palm Warbler, Nashville, and one Black-throated Green Warbler. All in all the morning was quite quite successful.
April 25, 2017 - Quarry Hill Monthly Program - Nearly 80 people came out to hear Kevin Kenow's talk on Common Loon research being done with satellite telemetry and archival geolocator tags. The information they gather helps identify migration staging areas and wintering areas, and much more. We learned a lot and came away with a new appreciation of our state bird.
April 23, 2017 - Earth Day Expo at the Mayo Civic Center. - We met and talked with many like-minded people at today's Expo. It was great fun spreading the word about native plants, pollinators and birds and especially nice to see so many young people taking part. Thanks to all the volunteers who put together this event.
April 22, 2017 - Reservoir field trip. - Lance Vrieze led a group of birders out to our local reservoirs this morning. They visited Sliver Creek, Willow Creek and Kalmar. Sightings included may kinds of waterfowl, a pair of Horned Grebes, and a Sora Rail. These reservoirs are great spots for birding. Click here to see more photos in our Facebook album
April 22, 2017 - Pollinator Parade at Walk at Quarry Hill -We had great fun today at Quarry Hill and talked with lots of interested people about the importance of our native pollinators. Be sure to visit Quarry Hill soon to see their new bee hive which is spectacular!
April 9, 2017 - Whitewater Valley field trip. - A group of 6 birders, led by Joel Dunnette, went on an extensive tour of the Whitewater Valley today and saw 50 species of birds, including multiple nesting Trumpeter Swans and a couple foraging Sandhill Cranes. They got some good looks at a Bald Eagle nest, where two young would occasionally pop their heads up. At Applebee Springs, they walked back to the old spring house and found several very bright, fresh Yellow-rumped Warblers, some of whom were bathing in the spring. Besides birds, Red Admiral butterflies were sighted at several spots. It might be a bit of an 'invasion' year for them. Green Darner dragonflies were also coursing over the waters; they are probably early migrants. Spring wildflowers are appearing was well
April 1, 2017 - Bird Walk at Quarry Hill - It was a great morning for a walk with sunny skies for a change. Our group of 30 saw 19 species of birds - mostly the regulars but we were all happy to see that the Bluebirds are back checking out the nest boxes north of the Nature Center, The Goldfinches are starting to get their bright yellow coloring back and we also saw a Brown Headed Cowbird. Thanks to terry and Joyce Grier for leading and sharing their knowledge about the birds and plants we saw.
March 28, 2017 - About 40 people gathered at the Quarry Hill Nature Center this evening to hear Greg Hoch from the MN DNR talk about Woodcocks. Although they are fairly common birds, few people have ever seen one. Greg explained that their favorite habitat is brushy woods (read not easy to walk through) and they are extremely well camouflaged, blending so perfectly with their surroundings that you can be within inches of one and still not see it. Woodcocks also have a unique feature among birds - a second "hinge" on their beaks - allowing them to flex the tip to better probe for and snatch their favorite foods - worms, grubs and other ground dwelling insects. ZVAS will host a Woodcock Watch on April 13 at 7:30pm at Chester Woods park. See our program listing for details. Woodcock photo by Bill Marchell
March 4-5, 2017 - International Owl Festival - We had a lot of fun at the Owl Festival. Audubon volunteers shared stories about bird encounters, Dave Moehnke entertained the kids with his companion "Oscar the Owl", we were fascinated by the live owl programs and marveled at how many owl-themed items wwere available for sale. Thank you to our Volunteers: Alice, Clifford, Dave, Ruthann, Sandy, Greg, Lance, Joel, Cindy, Keith and Debbie. The photos below were taken by Sandy Hokanson.
March 4, 2017 - We saw several birds this morning on our monthly walk around Quarry Hill. The wind was brisk but the sun was out which made everything better. We found the normal suspects (Chickadees, Nuthatches, Downy, Hairy & Red Bellied Woodpeckers, Junco, Cardinals, Mallards, House, Tree and White Throated Sparrows, Crows) and especially enjoyed a flyover by a mature Bald Eagle. All of the photos below were taken by Brendan Lanpher.
February 28, 2017 - Anna Richey from Conservation Minnesota shared her tips for how to advocate more effectively for the causes you support at our February meeting. An engaged group of 25 listened, asked questions and shared stories about what has worked for them.
No matter how you choose to contact your representatives (email, snail mail, phone or in person) it helps to:
February 4, 2017 - Fifteen people came out for this morning's bird walk at Quarry Hill - despite the cold gray skies and gusty winds. Birds were scarce, even at the Nature Center there were markedly fewer than we normally encounter. We found just seven species: Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatches, House Sparrows and Crows. But have no fear - the birds will be back soon - meteorologic spring starts on March 1.
January 26, 2017 - After being postponed due to weather concerns we were able to have our monthly program about the return of cougars in Minnesota on Thursday evening. Nearly 100 people turned out for this facsinating talk and we want to thank Dr. Michelle LaRue for taking the time to tell us about the Cougar Network projects and how they are tracking the movements of these big cats. She also showed us how easy it is to mistake a bobcat for a cougar (and don't trust all those photos on the internet - many are photoshopped.) Visit http://www.cougarnet.org/ to learn more about cougars.
January 1, 2017 - It was an excellent day to search for birds in the Whitewater Valley Christmas Bird Count. Sunny skies, light wind and mild temps near 30 degrees were welcome. Several ZVAS member joined the many groups who fanned out across the valley and we had good luck finding many species of birds - though not as many waterfowl as we had hoped for. Some highlights were Northern Shrike, Rough-legged Hawk, Kingfisher, Tufted Titmouse, Barred Owl, and White-throated Sparrow. The Whitewater State Park Nature Center will post a full list of birds seen when all the lists are tabulated. Here are a few photos from the day.