We met at 6 a.m. (!) in the parking lot outside Vermilion Community College. Eight of us piled into a van with the heater going on high. It was a brisk 28 degrees. The sun was just beginning to show on the eastern horizon. Today is the first of a six-session field-based class on the Ely-area birds. I was lucky to get a spot on the roster.
Around 6:20, Bill Tefft (VCC instructor) started us out near the Birch Lake Dam on Highway 1 south of Ely. The water is exceptionally low this year, and while the returning ducks are usually all clustered on a small area of open water, they have already begun to disperse since the ice was history as of four days ago. On both the running water side (north, I think) and the lake side, there was only a small amount of duck and bird activity.
Eagle on nest – eggs likely to hatch in a few weeks
Bill pointed out the old dike along the lake side (south, I think), telling us the area is usually good birding. An old road on that side leads to the CC Camp, which is also good birding.
Heading back toward Ely, we turned in at the old Ely airport. (A sign says Forest Concrete and there is a State sign for the snowmobile trail access; White Street is directly across the Highway.) We followed the very rutted road circling an old ball field. Bill says this is reliably a good birding area.
Here we again saw/heard a song sparrow. Bill says it is the only bird singing so early, but out where I live on the lake, I have heard the Red-winged Black Birds and the Evening Grosbeaks exchanging “notes” about their winter adventures.
Killdeer in the grass of the old ball field
Northern Flicker on the fence
European Starlings in the grass
Then we headed through town toward Ely Memorial High School. Bill said that a common raven was trying to nest in the tall lighting platforms that surround the high school football field. Alas, we were unable to see a nest. However, we did spot a raven carrying a stick right there, so they may be undeterred. More on that potential conflict in future notes, I think. We circled around the school compound to the 4th Avenue side and spotted a long-established raven’s nest in the tall spruces alongside that busy area.
We were back at the college campus by 7:45 a.m., psyched up for our next trip.