Powderhorn Birdwatch “Inspiration surrounds us”

Yellow-rumped WarblerBY JOHN KARRIGAN

So much for my Bald Eagle excitement last month. Last year I saw one or more Bald Eagles in the park almost every day in late fall before the lake froze. This year my Oct. 27 eagle sighting was my only perched-on-a-tree-in-the-park sighting. A few other people have reported park sightings. I have seen a few eagles overhead in the famed Powderhorn neighborhood but none majestically perched in the park. Of course the great Powderhorn Lake froze up quite a few days earlier than in the last few years. I don’t know the exact freeze-up date this year. The freeze-up no doubt discouraged eagles from the park.
On Nov. 22, a very noisy group of crows, mobbing a large raptor passed over the block. I am pretty sure it was an eagle they were mobbing, but not positive. I am fairly sure I will see a fair number of eagles at various places on or near open waters of the Mississippi River this winter, but maybe not any more at Powderhorn.
In early November, there were still a few Canada Geese, Mallards and Wood Ducks on the lake along with a couple of Black-crowned Night Herons, a Pied-billed Grebe, and Ring-billed Gulls from a few to around one hundred.
On Election Day, I did see two Cooper’s Hawks over the Park building and I did see two very small birds that could have been the Ruby-crowned Kinglets that I look for and sometimes find on Election Day.
I believe serious birds do keep an eye on who votes in Powderhorn and this year, Election Day was also the day of Mildred Miller’s funeral. The birds might have been in Powderhorn to recognize the passing of Mildred, one of the true leaders and thinkers of the Powderhorn Park neighborhood. I and many other Powderhorn people were of course saddened by her death and I was troubled that it had happened too late to be in the November Southside Pride, but between her daughter-in-law Shari Albers and Publisher /Editor Felien there was a time and a place to put information about Mildred in the November Pride. Thank you.
Yes, I know some of my writing has nothing to do with birds or nature. I will go back to birds for a while.
While I have not seen many birds in the park in November, the back yard has been busy with mostly the usual suspects:  lots of American Goldfinches, Dark-eyed Juncos, English Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees, and a fairly regular number of Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Mourning Doves, Blue Jays and American Crows.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, I attended a discussion at the Hennepin History Museum on the life of renowned local birder Thomas Sadler Roberts. The bird sanctuary near Lake Harriet bears his name. The interesting presentation was led by Susan Leaf, author of his recently published biography, “A Love Affair with Birds.” Of interest to me was her mention of Dr. Walter Breckenridge, former curator of the Bell Museum on the campus of the University of Minnesota. He was one of several artists whose bird drawings appear in Roberts’ “Birds of Minnesota.” I was fortunate to meet Dr. Breckenridge on a spring birding weekend in western Minnesota in 1995. He was only   92 then. I was in awe of Dr. Breckenridge and the other leader of the Salt Lake (Salt Lake on the Minnesota-South Dakota border) birding weekend, Goodman Larson, a little younger than “Breck,” as Dr. Breckenridge was known. We lost Breck in 2003 at 100 years, and “Goodie” a few years after that. We soon learned that the two were very much regular guys, and birding with them and their families was a fantastic learning experience. Some of the darn younger people on that birding weekend were only in their 40s, 50s and 60s (actually there were also many younger than that). Anyway we really learned a lot from these older people and we would go out with them, their friends and families instead of some of the younger birders who did what some call “speed-birding” or “drive-by birding.”
By his last year of the Salt Lake birding weekend, Breck’s eyes and ears were losing a little bit and at the Larson farm woodlot, I helped Breck locate Yellow-rumped Warblers. I always thought helping Walter Breckenridge, one of Minnesota’s greatest bird artists and naturalists, find some birds was one of my greatest accomplishments.
I hope the winter and holidays go well for everyone.

Comments and observations are always welcome. Send them to me, in care of Southside Pride. Thank you.

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