North Ottawa Impoundment  ~  Howard Towle photo

Traverse I MBW

April 7 in Traverse, Stevens, Grant, Big Stone

April 8 in Stevens, Big Stone, Traverse

From Craig... The weather played an important role on the Traverse County I MBW. On Thursday, we experienced NW winds of 25 mph, with gusts to 50 mph, and light snow for portions of the day. So, most of our birding was done from the vehicles. But what made this into one of those magical birding days were the sheer numbers of birds that the weather held in the area. Tens of thousands of geese, including Snow, Greater White-fronted, and Ross's were observed in flocks on the ground and in continuous skeins in flight. Tundra Swans were heard and seen in large groups as well. There were also fields with 100s of Lapland Longspurs, and one of our final sightings of the day was a flock of 1000s of blackbirds that descended on the town of Browns Valley. 


The weather cleared for our Friday adventure, although at times the winds were so strong I found it nearly impossible to open my car door! Other highlights included the fleeing cottontail rabbit that just missed my head as it jumped past me at the White Rock WMA, and getting to see a couple of white-tailed jackrabbits. 

Traverse II MBW

April 8 afternoon pre-MBW in Stevens, Pope

April 9 in Stevens, Big Stone, Traverse, Grant

April 10 in Stevens, Grant  

While no one had a cottontail blown into their face on Traverse II, we did manage to see a mink in the middle of a Stevens County back road on Sunday morning. We also managed to escape the brutal winds that forced the first group to bird from the cars most of the time. Yes, it was too windy on Friday afternoon and on Saturday, but it was nothing we hadn’t seen before out on the prairie. Sunday even bought us nearly pleasant weather as the winds died down to barely noticeable, the temperatures flirted with 50 degrees (not the 30s that Craig et al. endured), and the rain promised in the forecast never developed. Naturally, we were able to come up with more species than Traverse I with the moderate weather, and the two groups combined produced a composite species list in the mid-90s.

At first, though, it looked like most of the geese on Traverse I had left the area, as we failed to come up with any huge flocks until late Saturday afternoon. Small numbers of all the geese were found, and a nice variety of ducks was seen in several places, along with the sights and sounds of both swan species. But finally we came across a flooded area in northeastern Traverse with an estimated 9,000-10,000 Greater White-fronted Geese, and a short time later we found all the Snow Geese at the North Ottawa impoundment. Our guesses put the number of Snows (mixed with Ross’s) at a minimum of 15,000, though there may have been over 20,000 of them, plus several thousand white-fronteds as well. As Howard’s photo above suggests, it was quite a sight (and sound!) when they all took off and resettled into a nearby part of the impoundment.  

Other highlights on Traverse II were a lone (and injured?) Snow Bunting stumbling around on the ice on East Toqua Lake, nice looks at Lapland Longspurs (some of the males in near-breeding plumage) in a field and puddle near Wheaton, a pair of out-of-range Common Ravens at Pine Ridge County Park (that may have been nesting?!), and we ended our MBW with a lone Sandhill Crane flying across Hwy. 9 as we approached Morris.   –KRE

Bird List

- Traverse I = 76 species (incl. 3 not seen on II)

- Traverse II = 91 species (incl. 18 not seen on I)

- composite total = 94 species

Snow Goose

Ross’s Goose

Greater White-fronted Goose

Cackling Goose               II only

Canada Goose

Trumpeter Swan

Tundra Swan

Wood Duck

Blue-winged Teal

Northern Shoveler


American Wigeon


Northern Pintail

Green-winged Teal



Ring-necked Duck

Greater Scaup               II only

Lesser Scaup


Common Goldeneye

Hooded Merganser

Common Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser               II only

Wild Turkey

Ring-necked Pheasant

Pied-billed Grebe

Rock Pigeon

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Mourning Dove

American Coot

Sandhill Crane               II only


Least Sandpiper               I only

American Woodcock               I only

Greater Yellowlegs               II only

Ring-billed Gull

Herring Gull

Common Loon               II only

Double-crested Cormorant

American White Pelican               II only

Great Blue Heron

Turkey Vulture

Northern Harrier

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Bald Eagle

Red-tailed Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk               II only

Belted Kingfisher               II only

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Pileated Woodpecker

American Kestrel

Merlin               I only

Eastern Phoebe

Blue Jay

American Crow

Common Raven               II only

Black-capped Chickadee

Horned Lark

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Cedar Waxwing               II only

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Brown Creeper

European Starling

Eastern Bluebird               II only

Hermit Thrush

American Robin

House Sparrow

House Finch

Purple Finch               II only

Lapland Longspur

Snow Bunting               II only

Fox Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Vesper Sparrow               II only

Song Sparrow

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Western Meadowlark

Red-winged Blackbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

Rusty Blackbird

Brewer’s Blackbird               II only

Common Grackle

Yellow-rumped Warbler               II only

Northern Cardinal               II only


April 7-8 and April 8-10, 2022


March 28 - 29, 2024

A disoriented MBW group wondering if they lost their way as Craig asks,

”What are all these pine trees doing out here on the prairie in Traverse County?”

And still more confusion as Craig wonders: “Why is it so cold with all this snow on the ground?”

(March and the entire winter had been exceptionally warm with hardly any snow.)

~ photo by Darcy Pinotti ~

MBW Summary

...courtesy of Guest Columnist & aspiring Junior Tour Leader John Quinn

(with a handful of minor edits [and annotations] by KRE)

When I pulled a local woman out of a snow bank while birding my way out to Morris on Wednesday, I felt assured that karma would pay me back with a first look at a rarity capable of impressing Kim, our self-confessed Spineless Wishy-Washy Tour Leader. Little did I know he would bail because of a little snow. (20 inches! Duluth, Two Harbors top snow totals as storm winds down - Duluth News Tribune | News, weather, and sports from Duluth, Minnesota) [They finally plowed the alley so I could get out of my garage/driveway on Thursday morning –KRE]

Holy Thursday found us down to the final twelve. Seemed full of portent without knowing the ultimate sacrifice required. Thursday's morning dawned clear and cold: 7 degrees at 7 am. Luckily, I was welcome to join Jeff Stevenson and Jerry Pruett, along with Frank Forsberg, in the #3 car. Or was I? These are a couple of seasoned professionals with long lists, forgotten winter wear, and recent cataract surgery. Jerry spotting the Northern Shrike near Browns Valley in Traverse County, at 100 yards away and at 50 mph, was an adequate demonstration of his capabilities. (If you're a history buff, Browns Valley has an interesting place in Minnesota history, as does the rest of the Minnesota River Valley. See Joseph R. Brown in Wikipedia, and 10,000 years before the Browns Valley Man in

prehistoric-period – skip down to “Plano” for the story. I also recommend North Country, The Making of Minnesota, by Mary Lethert Wingerd.)

Jeff shared his county goal with me. I looked at my count for Stevens Co. I had a long way to go from zero, but it sure felt great to double my count every time we stopped. Jeff added several new birds to his county list. It did get me thinking about my county lists. Is there a self-help group for that compulsion? It was a good day with the usual and some unexpected birds. I don't believe I have ever seen that many Ring-necked Pheasants in a day. Ten of us – not 12 – dined together at day’s end, so it wasn't the Last Supper. I ended up with 50 species on my eBird list for Traverse. The highlights for me were the brilliant light-morph Rough-legged Hawk and the brightly plumaged Pine Siskins and Red-breasted Nuthatch that came to Craig’s Attractor. (No Kim and no Agitator 5000 this time.) Also, no Junior Tour Leader needed as Agitator Site Selector. Craig did it all by himself. [Craig simply calls his screech-owl recording the Attractor, I call mine the Agitato5000, and on a previous MBW John had to learn where to place the Agitator to become a J.T.L. –KRE]  

Friday was warmer but the wind chill – while looking at the Tundra and Trumpeter swans in Stevens County – nearly froze my eyeball to the scope. We toured Grant County adding a few birds to Jeff's county list and a lot more to mine. I think I might enjoy being a county lister! (“Hold up team, I think I need a Black-capped Chickadee in this county. Can we drive through every small town looking for feeders? Please!”) I did check off Herman's Sewage Treatment Ponds. We wondered if our fearless leader knew how many there were and how many he had visited. [There are 404 that I know of, and I’ve been to 402 of them –KRE] And is this where I report that Jerry egged Jeff on to drive around the perimeter of the sewage ponds so he could look into the nearby lake? The early Yellow-headed Blackbird was a nice plus. 

Thanks to Craig’s courageous and accommodating leadership we visited North Ottawa Impoundment and one additional location on our way home. Just to make us all happy. It did involve a few flip-arounds but we managed quite well. The best birds of the day for me were the Lapland Longspurs near Winston. [More apparent disorientation here...was this actually in Wheaton or Winsted instead? –KRE] One of the true benefits of birding as a group: others, including me, had dismissed them as another flock of Horned Larks. Thankfully, someone said "Stop!,” or as translated for Jeff into Minnesotan: “Ahh, ahem, would you mind, if it isn't a lot of trouble, to consider pausing here just for a moment. If it isn't a bother.” [When driving, Jeff demands that you simply stay “Stop!” and nothing else if you want him to stop for a bird –KRE] We had excellent looks at several birds. I recorded 31 species for the day. 

Using the Darn (it was Good Friday, after all) Book, I visited Lake Emily in Pope County on my way home. It was still mostly frozen with some waterfowl way across the lake. Then I drove through Glacial Lake State Park. It was almost birdless. I eyed Lake Minnewaska, near Starbuck and Glenwood, on my way back to Minneapolis but the wind had whipped up waves and I didn't see much reason to stop as I drove by. 

Mammals: Fox Squirrel, Red Fox, White-tailed Deer, River Otter, Muskrat, twelve disciples of Kim, and a few barking farm dogs. 

Thanks for the good trip and see you all soon. Just how many counties are there in Minnesota anyway...?

Bird List (68 species; compiled by Craig Mandel)

• Tr = Traverse County (Thursday)

• Gr = Grant County (Friday) 

• St = Stevens County (Thursday, Friday)


Snow Goose          Tr

Greater White-fronted Goose          St, Tr, Gr

Cackling Goose          St, Tr, Gr

Canada Goose          St, Tr, Gr

Trumpeter Swan          St, Gr

Tundra Swan          St, Tr, Gr

Wood Duck          Gr

Northern Shoveler          Tr

Gadwall          St, Tr, Gr

American Wigeon          Tr, Gr

Mallard          St, Tr, Gr

Northern Pintail          St, Tr

Green-winged Teal          Tr, Gr

Canvasback          St, Tr

Redhead          St, Tr

Ring-necked Duck          St, Tr, Gr

Greater Scaup          Tr

Lesser Scaup          St, Tr

Bufflehead          Tr, Gr

Common Goldeneye          St, Tr, Gr

Hooded Merganser          St, Tr, Gr

Common Merganser          Tr, Gr

Wild Turkey          Tr

Ring-necked Pheasant          St, Tr, Gr

Rock Pigeon          St, Tr, Gr

Eurasian Collared Dove          St, Tr, Gr

Mourning Dove          St

American Coot          Tr

Killdeer          Tr, Gr

Ring-billed Gull          Tr, Gr

Herring Gull          Tr

Great Blue Heron          Gr

Northern Harrier          Tr, Gr

Bald Eagle          Tr, Gr

Red-tailed Hawk          St, Tr

Rough-legged Hawk          Tr, Gr

Red-headed Woodpecker          Gr

Red-bellied Woodpecker          Tr

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker          Gr

Downy Woodpecker          Tr, Gr

Hairy Woodpecker          Tr

Northern Flicker          Gr

Pileated Woodpecker          Tr

American Kestrel          St, Tr, Gr

Merlin          Tr

Northern Shrike          Tr

Blue Jay          St, Tr, Gr

American Crow          St, Tr, Gr

Black-capped Chickadee          St, Gr

Horned Lark          St, Tr, Gr

Red-breasted Nuthatch          Tr, Gr

White-breasted Nuthatch          Tr, Gr

European Starling          St, Tr, Gr

American Robin          St, Tr, Gr

House Sparrow          St, Tr, Gr

House Finch          St, Tr

Pine Siskin          Tr, Gr

American Goldfinch          Tr

Lapland Longspur          Gr

American Tree Sparrow          Tr, Gr

Dark-eyed Junco          Tr, Gr

Song Sparrow          Tr

Yellow-headed Blackbird          Gr

Western Meadowlark          Tr, Gr

Red-winged Blackbird          St, Tr, Gr

Rusty Blackbird          St, Tr

Common Grackle          St, Tr, Gr

Northern Cardinal          St

*            *            *