Birds, butterflies fill spring skies

Everything changed last Friday and Saturday, didn't it? March 23 brought reports of purple finches, red-winged blackbirds, robins and a single bluebird. By the next day though, bluebirds were everywhere. As my husband and I were out in the meadow...

Everything changed last Friday and Saturday, didn't it?

March 23 brought reports of purple finches, red-winged blackbirds, robins and a single bluebird. By the next day though, bluebirds were everywhere.

As my husband and I were out in the meadow Saturday, cleaning out birdhouses, we could hear bluebirds singing from the jack pines that dot the meadow. "Make sure you clean out the corners!" they seemed to be saying.

We found bluebird nests in three houses, but two nests looked so clean that I'm not sure any eggs were hatched in them. The third house definitely seemed to hold a successful nest.

We found just one tree sparrow nest, which also seemed to have been successful.


The first sparrows returned to the area Saturday, March 24. John and Marlene Weber spotted a chipping sparrow and Dick from Lake Emma Township saw a song sparrow.

Saturday was also the day Deanna from West Crooked Lake saw a meadowlark near her cabin flying along the shoreline.

"I have only seen meadowlarks in open land before," Deanna wrote.

Since her cabin is in a heavily wooded spot, she felt it was "odd" to see a meadowlark there.

John and Marlene reported the first grackles Saturday and Dick from Lake Emma reported sandhill cranes that day.

Flocks of juncos were also out and about March 24. Kathie Cole of Little Sand Lake reported them, as did Dick, who saw both dark-eyed and slate-colored.

By Sunday and Monday, even more birds were making a comeback. Dick reported seeing killdeer and herring gulls March 25, and by Monday morning, March 26, a phoebe and a ruby-crowned kinglet had made their way to his place.

Stan from Becida spotted one evening grosbeak Monday.


Ducks were also showing up Monday, March 26. Buffleheads, hooded and common mergansers and common golden eyes were plying the open water on Fish Hook near the Y Steak House.

I also received the first report of wood ducks in the area. Dick saw a flock of about two-dozen birds in a swamp Wednesday, March 28.

Great blue

Our long-legged friends returned to the Long Lake rookery Thursday, March 22.

"Spring is truly here," wrote Doug Rathbun.

A great blue returned to the north end of Straight Lake in Osage around 7 pm. Monday, March 26.

"This is the earliest we've seen it here," Kay Joyce wrote. "He's fishing successfully!"

Butterflies, moths


John Weber saw his first overwintering Compton's tortoiseshell butterfly at Spider Lake Saturday, March 24. Dick from Lake Emma spotted the first overwintering mourning cloak Sunday, March 25.

By Monday, mourning cloaks were everywhere. I saw at least five flying over north Highway 71 on my way to Bemidji and I'm pretty sure that's the butterfly Sue Tomte saw in Heartland Park Tuesday, March 27.

"It had black wings and fringe of yellow on the edge," Sue wrote.

John Weber saw gray commas March 26 as well as several day-flying "The Infant" moths.

Which leads me to my next sighting - or sounding, really. Sunday at dusk I heard bats. I also heard a fizzing buzz coming from some small jack pines in the meadow. It was not a frog sound, nor was it a bat squeak or click.

After doing some research, I now wonder if it was a different sort of bat noise, since bats apparently can make a buzzing sound when they catch a meal. Perhaps the bats were catching some of those infant moths?

I don't know.


I don't know if I really got an answer for Joanie Anderson as to why one lone, male cardinal always waited until a flock of females got done eating before tucking into the seeds this winter. I did gain some insight though from June Osborne's book "The Cardinal."

It's common for cardinals to flock together in groups of four to 60 in winter, but it's also common for individuals to "separate themselves from the group." So, this one male might have been attached to the flock, but not exactly in it. Not all cardinals flock together, either. A breeding pair may winter on their own so they can stay on their breeding grounds.

Osborne also wrote that flocks usually contain about equal numbers of males and females, so I'm wondering if Joanie's flock contained some immature male cardinals, which resemble females.

Final note: Judy from Lake Gilmore, I promise to answer your chipmunk question next week.


The longest recorded life span for a female ruby-throated hummingbird is nine years. For a male it's five.

This week's question is more of a guessing game: As of March 29, how many states away from Minnesota are migrating hummers?

Thank you to everyone for the anniversary wishes. When sending your reports, be sure to give your name and a little information on where you made your sighting. Send to maureeng@

This column is brought to you by Park Ace Hardware.

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