APRIL 2015  -  JANUARY 2016
~  Our 30th Season  ~

Kidder County, North Dakota

Minnesota Birding Weekends & Weeks (MBW) is now entering its 30th season offering unique, modestly priced birding trips in association with the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union – we originated in 1986 as MOU Birding Weekends. After 29 years, we have now had a total of 358 MBWeekends, more than 7,800 registrations, a composite list of 361 species seen within the state, and all 87 Minnesota counties have now been included on our MBWeekend itineraries over the years.

To mark our 30th year, all MBWeekends (and MBWeek deposits) will be ONLY $30, and plan to join us at Deep Portage Learning Center for our special Memorial Day MBWeekend to celebrate 30 years of MBWs!

And be aware as well of our "Frequent Birder" Rebates: i.e., all participants will earn $5 credits for each MBWeekend they attend, with these credits accumulating to earn free registrations on future MBWeekends. (Note – Because of the reduced fee of $30 for all 2015 MBWeekends, these rebates will not be given this year but will resume in 2016.)   
(In addition to our selection of MBWeekends, the schedule of out-of-state MBWeeks will continue; please visit the MBWEEKS page on this website for further information on these.)

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MBWeekend registrations and fees will be accepted on a “first-come-first-served" basis, based on U.S. mail postmarks (i.e., the date the registration is mailed, not the date it is received), and please note that some MBWs can become filled months in advance. Maximum registration for most MBWeekends is 15 participants (or 30 participants with 2 leaders). 

Multiple MBWs can be included on a single registration form and on a single check: please make checks payable to M.B.W. All MBW registrations must include an e-mail address. Unless a MBW is filled, checks are deposited as they are received and registrations are confirmed by e-mail. 

Confirmed registrants canceling at least one week in advance of a MBWeekend will receive a $25 refund of their $30 registration fee; refunds for later cancellations would depend on the individual circumstances. Those remaining on waiting lists and not confirmed for a MBW will receive full refunds; MBWeekends which are canceled or shortened (e.g., because of weather) would also result in refunds.

A MBWeekend’s meeting time and place, lodging options, the participants list, car-pooling information, etc, are sent by e-mail to those registered, usually about 4 weeks before the MBW. Unless stated otherwise, MBWeekends normally begin at dawn on Saturday, end early to mid-afternoon on Sunday, and are typically based in the same city from Friday night until Sunday.

Transportation, meals, and lodging are generally not included in MBWeekend fees. Participants can make arrangements to car pool to the base city or to share lodging – a list of those registered and lodging options in the base city are included with the MBW's e-mail information. Participants will be able to bring their own food along for meals and/or to eat at restaurants. Birding during MBWeekends is by car-pooled caravans normally limited to four vehicles. 

The Friday pre-Weekend options may be taken separately or along with the corresponding two-day MBWeekends in adjacent counties.

All MBW participants are expected to be members of the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union (http://moumn.org/join.html).

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NOTE: Registering for a MBWeekend after it is FILLED should still be considered
since there could be cancellations, or an additional leader or extra MBWeekend
can sometimes be arranged to accommodate those on the waiting list.
(Full refund of the MBW fee is provided if no vacancies develop.)

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• January 3-4, 2015  ~  Winter Duluth I
• January 10-11, 2015  ~  Winter Duluth II
of these last 2 MBWeekends of the 2014-15 season

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for summary/summaries of this or a similar MBW from previous year(s)

• April 3 pre-MBW  ~  Minnesota River Valley  ~  $30  (Base Redwood Falls)
• April 4 - 5, 2015  ~  Lyon & Lincoln Counties  ~  $30  (Base Marshall)

This forested "oasis" and migration corridor along the upper Minnesota River still remains as one of the most under-appreciated areas in the state. Some of the earlier migrant woods birds should be in, wetlands along the river should yield a variety of ducks and other water birds – while fascinating and unique and rock outcrops, grasslands, and juniper groves attract western strays from the Dakotas?

To witness the arrival of spring, there is no better place than in the prairie wetlands and grasslands of western Minnesota, and some of the best-known areas include Black Rush Lake and Coon Creek W.M.A. in Lyon County, along with the numerous lakes and extensive Coteau des Prairies hillsides of Lincoln County. Here we will look for some of the earlier migrants: concentrations of ducks and other water birds (recent records include Brant, White-faced Ibis, California and Lesser Black-backed gulls), raptors (perhaps a Ferruginous Hawk, Golden Eagle, or Prairie Falcon will fly by?); and maybe even a Long-eared, Northern Saw-whet, Mountain Bluebird, or Townsend's Solitaire in some juniper grove.

STATUS as of 30 JANUARY 2015: 7 VACANCIES (23 registered / limit 30 participants with 2 leaders).


• April 24 pre-MBW  ~  Wabasha County  ~  $30  (Leader Craig Mandel / Base Winona)
• April 25 - 26, 2015  ~  Southeastern Minnesota  ~  $30
(Leader Craig Mandel / Base Winona)

Birders usually head for Wabasha in May for warblers and resident southeastern specialties, or in late fall for swans and eagles. But late April here can be just as interesting at Lake Pepin, the backwaters of the Mississippi, the complex of grasslands and marshes between Kellogg and Weaver, Dorer Pools in Whitewater W.M.A., and in the under-birded woods of Zumbro Falls S.N.A. and Carley State Park.

The long list of specialties partial to this corner of the state has long attracted birders, and some late-April possibilities include Common Moorhen, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-winged and Prothonotary warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, Henslow's Sparrow, and others at such famed places as Prairie Island, Beaver Creek Valley, Reno, and La Crescent in Winona and Houston counties. The potential is also there for a Eurasian Wigeon or Cinnamon Teal lurking among the ducks, or a stray from farther south – maybe even a Brown Pelican, Glossy or White ibis, Black Vulture, White-eyed Vireo, Carolina Wren, or an early warbler like a Yellow-throated, Prairie, Worm-eating or Kentucky.

STATUS as of 30 JANUARY 2015: FILLED (limit 15 participants) / 5 on waiting list; 2 VACANCIES on pre-MBW. (See NOTE on registering for MBWs which are filled.)


• May 15 pre-MBW  ~  Martin County  ~  $30  (Leader Craig Mandel / Base Jackson)
• May 16 - 17, 2015  ~  Jackson County  ~  $30  (Leader Craig Mandel / Base Jackson)

With only a couple of previous MBWs in Martin County, it’s long overdue to include this county in the schedule. Shorebirds and other water birds are attracted to the many wetlands here (e.g., Pierce Lake and several sewage ponds), while an array of warblers and other migrants (possibly at their peak?) can be found in Fairmont's wooded parklands and at Timberlane County Park near the Iowa border.

Though several of our MBWs have featured Jackson County in early spring and fall, it has been 10 years since we have been here in May to cover such productive sites as Heron Lake, the complex of wetlands along the Iowa border, and the woodlands of Kilen Woods State Park and elsewhere along the Des Moines River. Good numbers of migrants of all kinds should be passing through, including shorebirds and other water birds, warblers and other migrant passerines. We will be especially alert for pioneering Great-tailed Grackles, to see if the Black-headed Gulls of Spirit Lake might return, and be be aware that Brown Pelican, Western Wood-Pewee, and Lazuli Bunting have all occurred recently.

STATUS as of 30 JANUARY 2015: FILLED (limit 15 participants) / 0 on waiting list; 1 VACANCY on pre-MBW. (See NOTE on registering for MBWs which are filled.)


• May 22 - 23 (a.m.), 2015 pre-REUNION  ~  Stearns County  ~  $30  (Base Sauk Centre)                                                                              

As part of our 30th MBW Reunion, this pre-MBW will feature the county where I started birding in Minnesota just over 50 years ago, as a student at St. John's University. The impressive woodlands on campus, as well as other woods along the Mississippi River and in the so-called Big Woods, have potential for residents like Red-shouldered Hawk, Acadian Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-winged and Cerulean warblers, and for warblers and other migrants. Our list will also include several wetlands and grasslands species in western Stearns County and the grebes of Lake Osakis, not far from our base in Sauk Centre. (And we won't forget all those sewage ponds – Albany's included.)

STATUS as of 30 JANUARY 2015: FILLED (limit 30 participants with 2 leaders) / 5 on waiting list. (See NOTE on registering for MBWs which are filled.)


• May 23 (p.m.) - 24 - 25, 2015  ~  30TH MBW REUNION  ~  $30 deposit *
(Base Deep Portage Learning Center, Cass County)

The attractive aspect of this MBWeekend is that all the lodging and meals will be at one central location, Deep Portage Learning Center/Conservation Reserve near Hackensack, as we will not only bird but also – as on our 25th MBW Reunion here – reminisce about 30 years of MBWs. The Deep Portage staff includes Molly Malacek, Ben Wieland, and Dale Yerger, who (as they did in 2010) will coordinate our meals and lodging, are thoroughly familiar with the area's boreal specialties, will scout out the best locales, and who will co-lead during the weekend. Cass County, one of those north-central counties with relatively little attention from birders, has much to offer as evidenced by our impressive total of 151 species (without any migrants) on the 2010 Reunion MBW: among these were Yellow Rail, E. Whip-poor-will, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, 19 warbler species (including Connecticut), Le Conte's and Nelson's sparrows, and Red Crossbill. *Note: More later on the balance due (current estimate $100) for 2 nights lodging (May 23-24) and 5 meals (Saturday dinner - Monday breakfast).

STATUS as of 30 JANUARY 2015: FILLED (limit 60 participants with 3-4 leaders) / 3 on waiting list. (See NOTE on registering for MBWs which are filled. ALSO NOTE that the limit in the number of participants may be adjusted depending on the lodging arrangements at Deep Portage, which will be confirmed in March.)


• June 5 (a.m.) pre-MBW  ~  Felton Prairie  ~  $30  (Base Moorhead)
• June 5 (p.m.) - 6 - 7, 2015  ~  Kidder County, North Dakota  ~  $30
(Base Jamestown, N.D.)

Felton Prairie easily ranks as one of Minnesota's premier birding spots: Chestnut-collared Longspurs regularly occur no where else, a Sprague's Pipit was here in 2012, and Baird's Sparrows have turned up over the decades. Other targets: Swainson's Hawk, Greater Prairie-Chicken, Upland Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Western Kingbird, Grasshopper and Le Conte's sparrows, and Orchard Oriole.

Even provincial Minnesota-only listers have to be impressed by the magnificent prairie landscapes west of Jamestown, only a two-hour drive west of the state line. After a pre-MBW morning birding the Felton Prairie complex, this MBW will be spent in Kidder and western Stutsman counties of North Dakota. Here the countless prairie wetlands and vast native grassland tracts regularly host a long list of birds more difficult to find in Minnesota – with several of these mostly or entirely missing from our regular list of breeding species. These include Clark's Grebe, Cattle and Snowy egrets, White-faced Ibis, Ferruginous Hawk (!), Piping Plover, American Avocet, Willet, California Gull, Say's Phoebe and Rock Wren (both local), Sprague's Pipit (now rare), Lark Bunting, Baird's (also rare) and Nelson's sparrows, and Chestnut-collared Longspur. More regular western Minnesota specialties such as those listed above on the Felton Prairie pre-MBW, plus Gray Partridge, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Eared and Western grebes, Wilson's Phalarope, Franklin's Gull, Dickcissel, and others will also be present.

STATUS as of 30 JANUARY 2015: FILLED (limit 15 participants) / 10 on waiting list. (See NOTE on registering for MBWs which are filled. ALSO NOTE that it is possible an extra MBWeekend can be scheduled to accommodate those on the waiting list, most likely on JUNE 12-13-14.)


• June 18 - 19, 2015  ~  Mahnomen County & Itasca State Park  ~  $30 
(Base Mahnomen)

Minnesota’s oldest and most famous state park has seldom been included on the MBW schedule, and mid-June is the perfect time to correct this oversight. Emphasis will be on learning songs of warblers (18 species likely) and the other passerines in the boreal habitats of this scenic area. Black-backed Woodpecker and Boreal Chickadee also occur at Itasca – and summer records have even included Williamson’s Sapsucker and Magnificent Hummingbird! The prairie grasslands and wetlands of Mahnomen County will also be explored on this MBW, and there is even a good possibility of a Yellow Rail or Nelson's Sparrow at the famed Waubun Marsh or at another marsh in the county. 

STATUS as of 30 JANUARY 2015: 6 VACANCIES (24 registered / limit 30 participants with 2 leaders).


• June 20 - 21, 2015  ~  Becker County  ~  $30  (Base Detroit Lakes)

MBWs often include other nearby counties, while Becker County only has been the focus once before and otherwise only gets covered in passing. It is overdue, then, for us to spend some birding time at Hamden Slough and Tamarac N.W.R.s. The first refuge and other northwestern Becker sites include more marshes and grasslands, where water birds, prairie-chickens, prairie shorebirds, Sedge Wrens, Le Conte's and other sparrows breed. And at Tamarac and elsewhere in eastern Becker there are more lakes and woodlands for a wider variety of waterfowl (including Red-necked Grebes), flycatchers (both Alders and Willows), warblers (especially Golden-wingeds), and many other nesting passerines.

STATUS as of 30 JANUARY 2015: 11 VACANCIES (19 registered / limit 30 participants with 2 leaders).


• August 21 pre-MBW  ~  Traverse & Grant Counties  ~  $30  (Base Morris)
• August 22 - 23, 2015  ~  Stevens & Big Stone Counties  ~  $30  (Base Morris)

Traverse and Grant counties, formerly included on the main MBW, now have their own full day with more time to include the mudflats and marshes at Mud Lake along the state line or the excellent concentrations of herons/egrets and shorebirds at North Ottawa impoundment in Grant County. MBWs here have also had both Le Conte's and Henslow's sparrows at Miller Prairies East and West.

This late-summer MBW has now become an annual tradition and evolved into our shorebird ID workshop. If the water levels are right, 20 shorebird species or more are a real possibility here, where there are several productive sewage ponds plus countless natural prairie wetlands in Big Stone County (especially Thielke Lake). Our recent MBWs here have found a good variety of ducks, Western (and sometimes Clark's) Grebes, Least Bitterns and other herons/egrets, Eastern Screech-Owl, impressive masses of migrating swallows, some early fall migrant warblers, Henslow's and Le Conte's sparrows, plus lingering Upland Sandpipers, Western Kingbirds, Dickcissels, Bobolinks, and Orchard Orioles.

STATUS as of 30 JANUARY 2015: 2 VACANCIES (13 registered / limit 15 participants).


• September 4 pre-MBW  ~  Lake of the Woods  ~  $30  (Base Baudette)
• September 5 - 6 - 7, 2015  ~  Northwestern Minnesota  ~  $30  (Base Roseau)

The pre-MBW in under-birded Lake of the Woods County will focus on finding migrants along the shoreline of Lake of the Woods itself, including Arnesen, Zippel Bay, and Morris Point. In addition, the vast Beltrami Island State Forest offers potential for several boreal additions to this weekend's list – with luck, maybe even a Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, or Boreal Chickadee.

This will be our 12th consecutive Labor Day Weekend in this far corner of the state, with the list of possibilities is both potentially long and refreshingly unpredictable. We can expect to see 160 species or more as we concentrate mostly on Roseau County, as we visit Warroad and Springsteel Island (both excellent migrant traps), the vast Roseau River and Roseau Lake W.M.A.s, the always-attractive Warroad and Roseau sewage ponds, and more. There should also be time to venture a bit into Kittson County and farther south around Agassiz N.W.R. and Thief River Falls. Some of our unexpected finds on this MBW have included Snowy Egret, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Prairie Falcon, Red Knot, Long-tailed Jaeger, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Nelson's Sparrow. As many as 25 shorebird species (including American Avocet, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, and once a concentration of 145 Red-necked Phalaropes), and 20 warbler species have been recorded on this MBW, plus Short-eared Owls (with a group of 6-7 in 2014) and Black-billed Magpies (once we counted 110 in a single flock!).

STATUS as of 30 JANUARY 2015: 9 VACANCIES (21 registered / limit 30 participants with 2 leaders).


• October 2 pre-MBW  ~  North Shore  ~  $30  (Base Duluth)
• October 3 - 4, 2015  ~  Fall Duluth  ~  $30  (Base Duluth)

Friday's pre-MBW will concentrate on Lake County along the North Shore of Lake Superior and possibly some sites in Cook County, depending on weather and recent sightings. Places beyond Knife River and Two Harbors that we may not have time for later in the weekend include Flood Bay, the mixed habitats at Castle Danger's sewage ponds, Iona's Beach, and the Beaver Bay-Silver Bay area. 

Saturday and Sunday will focus on sites closer to Duluth, as we cover Park Point, Stoney Point, and other spots along the lake as far as Two Harbors for an always interesting mix of fall migrants of all kinds, including the possibility of a strong flight of raptors at Hawk Ridge. Recent late September-early October rarities here have included Ross's Goose, all 3 scoters, Harlequin Duck, Red-throated and Pacific loons, Western Grebe, Cattle Egret, Mississippi Kite, Gyrfalcon, Red Phalarope, interesting gulls (including California and several Sabine's), Arctic Tern, all 3 jaegers, White-winged Dove, Say's Phoebe (in 2012), Clark's Nutcracker (also 2012), Smith's Longspur, and many others.

STATUS as of 30 JANUARY 2015: 8 VACANCIES (22 registered / limit 30 participants with 2 leaders).


• October 17 - 18, 2015  ~  Rothsay W.M.A.  ~  $30  (Base Fergus Falls)

The renowned grasslands of Rothsay W.M.A. in Wilkin County and vicinity have long been a favored location in fall to see lots of migrant waterfowl, Greater Prairie-Chickens (sometimes still booming in fall), raptors (including Rough-leggeds, maybe Golden Eagle, or even a Ferruginous?), flocks of Sandhill Cranes staging here by the hundreds most years, Short-eared Owls (an evening with 5-10 individuals is even possible), migrating sparrows (including Harris's and maybe Le Conte's or Nelson's), blackbirds, and Lapland Longspurs – with maybe even Smith's among them: once a MBW found literally hundreds of Smith's Longspurs here, including a flock pursued by a Prairie Falcon!

STATUS as of 30 JANUARY 2015: FILLED (limit 15 participants) / 0 on waiting list. (See NOTE on registering for MBWs which are filled. ALSO NOTE that if enough additional persons register, it is possible another leader could be scheduled to accommodate the extra participants.)


• November 5 - 6, 2015  ~  North Shore I  ~  $30
(Leader Craig Mandel / Base Duluth & Grand Marais)

• November 7 - 8, 2015  ~  North Shore II  ~  $30  (Base Duluth & Grand Marais)

The unexpected is to be expected here each fall: past November records include Brant, King Eider, Yellow-billed Loon, Gyrfalcon, Purple Sandpiper, Black-legged Kittiwake, Ancient and Long-billed murrelets, Inca Dove, Anna's Hummingbird, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Fieldfare, Sage Thrasher, Yellow-breasted Chat – and who can forget MBW's Black Guillemot in 2009, the 2012 Cassin's Kingbird, or the 3 Common Eiders in 2014? More likely are Long-tailed and Harlequin ducks, all three scoters, a non-Common loon, Golden Eagle, Thayer's or Glaucous gull, Mountain Bluebird, Townsend's Solitaire, and winter finches. Little wonder this MBW has been a 25-year institution!

STATUS as of 30 JANUARY 2015:
• North Shore I – FILLED (limit 15 participants) / 1 on waiting list. (See NOTE on registering for MBWs which are filled. ALSO NOTE that if enough additional persons register, it is possible another leader could be scheduled to accommodate the extra participants.)

• North Shore II – 5 VACANCIES (25 registered / limit 30 participants with 2 leaders).


• January 9 - 10, 2016  ~  Winter Duluth I  ~  $30  (Base Duluth)

• January 16 - 17, 2016  ~  Winter Duluth II  ~  $30  (Leader Craig Mandel / Base Duluth)

Despite the cold, this popular MBW tradition continues with so many possibilities to begin one's year list: Sharp-tailed Grouse, Northern Goshawk, northern owls (especially Great Gray, Northern Hawk, and Snowy), Black-backed Woodpecker, Northern Shrike, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Bohemian Waxwing, Snow Bunting, grosbeaks, crossbills, redpolls, and more. And we'll also hope for the unexpected: a Harlequin Duck or rare gull on the lakefront; a Gyrfalcon in pursuit of pigeons in the harbor; a Spruce Grouse or American Three-toed Woodpecker in a remote spruce bog; a Townsend's Solitaire or Varied Thrush in a mountain ash; or even a Boreal Owl lurking in someone's backyard.

STATUS as of 30 JANUARY 2015:
• Winter Duluth I – 2 VACANCIES (13 registered / limit 15 participants).

• Winter Duluth II – 5 VACANCIES (10 registered / limit 15 participants).

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NOTE: Registering for a MBWeekend after it is FILLED should still be considered
since there could be cancellations, or an additional leader or extra MBWeekend
can sometimes be arranged to accommodate those on the waiting list.
(Full refund of the MBW fee is provided if no vacancies develop.)