The wonderful rain had frozen overnight and all the buds were encased in ice. That’s spring in northern Minnesota.
As we piled into the van (all hatted and gloved again!), Bill told us we were headed out to scratch trees. Scratch trees? Well, if you scratch at the base of a tree having cavities in which birds are nesting, the birds will pop their heads out. Our target was Pileated Woodpeckers. We drove out to the area around the Kawishiwi Campground (Highway #1, just after the second bridge) and parked in the driveway of the Forest Service Research station. There were lots of tall, aging aspen with multiple cavities along the road (holey trees?).
Bill scratched away.
We all watched intently, placing bets on which hole would house a bird. Four trees (with about four holes apiece) before we finally found a woodpecker at home. The female poked her head out and looked us over, turning her head from one side to the other; they must not have binocular vision. After we had walked on down the road she flew out; breakfast time I’d guess.
We were scanning for Eastern Phoebes along the river when a Merlin dived at the birds. The falcon then flew to a phone line and watched us while we watched him: stalemate. We gave up first. Live birds rather than eggs or rodents are the preferred food of these falcons.
Over in the campground we thought we saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet; it was moving around so much that firm identification was difficult – but I’ll trust Bill. Birdsong filled the air: Chipping Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, American Robins, Eastern Phoebes, and an Ovenbird, probably more. The brisk air was loud with birdsong.
We scratched more trees and roused only a tousled-headed camper and his beautiful white dog. More mutual watching. Since coffee wasn’t being offered we moved on.
Bill talked about the Kawishiwi area as being uniquely and reliably full of a variety of birds. He pointed out the trail around the campground that leads through a variety of habitats should be great for birding when we have more time.
On the drive home Bill swung by the old ball field that we had visited on our first session. No much moving there: a couple of Ring-billed Gulls foraging along the road and some Killdeer inside the playing field.
Next week is our last outing.