Ely, MN Chamber Of Commerce
It was a crisp 26 degrees when I pulled into the parking lot to meet the “birding” van. The sun had been up for an hour, rising over an hour earlier than at our first session. We headed out for one of the few open areas in our town – the cemetery. It is apparently a Mecca for birds.
We checked four Bluebird boxes and found “reservations” in three of them. It seems that Eastern Bluebirds are very careful about the placement of even the earliest pieces of grass for their nests. Even if there were only a few pieces of grass, they were tucked neatly around the edges and curved to create the “cup” that would eventually be a nest. The male bluebird sang brightly from a power line while the female played peek-a-boo in a nearby tree. Their melodic song was wonderful to hear. Bill took us through the old part of the cemetery pointing out newly arrived Chipping Sparrows and Tree Swallows.
I was distracted looking at the old grave stones. The oldest date of death I spotted was 1891; Ely had just been founded. Then over to the newest portion of the cemetery where a large area of native, e.g. undesirable, shrubs had been cleared away last fall and replaced by a lovely landscaped planting of – shrubs. The old plants had been safe haven for migrating sparrows, pipits and longspurs so much so that Bill had nicknamed them the “sparrow shrubs.” I was distracted by Forsythia in bloom! In Ely! In April!
Then we drove out to check on a Bald eagle’s nest on Highway 88 (Grant McMann Blvd.). It had been reported that an unbroken egg was found at the base of the tree holding the nest. This is such an unexplainable happening that it led to speculation of whether the eagles might abandon the nest. We watched for several minutes but detected no signs of movement or occupation.
Heading out to Winton we experienced an eagle fly by – something I always consider a blessing. We stopped at the river crossing and observed only male ducks feeding. Bill speculated that the hens may already be sitting on eggs. We saw Mallard, Common Golden Eye, Bufflehead and Common Merganser drakes. Winding our way through Winton and along the shore, we continued to see only the drakes; hypotheses confirmed.
We were unexpectedly joined by photographer Jim Brandenberg when we stopped to watch for Trumpeter Swans where the Shagawa River crosses County Road 18. Jim, too, was watching for these rarities. But no luck with swan sightings on this day. They have been reported on Fall Lake and have nested in recent years in the BWCAW. What a wonderful comeback they have made.