Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Birding in Minneapolis - day one!

A couple of days ago I got back from a short holiday in Minneapolis. Chris had been attending a conference there (the North American Conference on British Studies) with his work  and I was lucky to be able to tag along for a cheap holiday as Chris's employer were paying for the hotel :o) I'd wanted to visit Minnesota for a while, although I must admit that was mainly because of Fargo which is one of my favourite films! However I did a fair bit of research online before we travelled to see what Minneapolis might have to offer other than snow, botched kidnappings and kinda funny-looking guys. I was dead excited to see some new North American bird species as I'd never visited the USA before, and had only been to Canada (Nova Scotia) once.

Minnehaha Park & Falls

Chris and I visited this fine park on our first day in Minneapolis before his conference started; it was a great reintroduction to some of the common North American species I'd seen before, and also a chance to see a few new ones!

Minnehaha Park.
The area surrounding the falls, and the gorge below, were stuffed full of birds! We startled a couple of Blue Jays a few times while walking around, there were big flocks of American Robins everywhere, and a few Dark-eyed Juncos rummaging around in the undergrowth. Upon seeing American Robins, Chris said he realised now why the costume of Robin (i.e. Batman's sidekick) is the colours it is - it obviously doesn't resemble a European Robin, problem solved!

Minnehaha Falls.

Minnehaha Park.
We also saw a few species that were new to me. A mighty Red-tailed Hawk, which had escaped our notice but must have been perching in a tree very close by, suddenly took off right in front of us which was pretty thrilling! Also we spotted two woodpecker species, Red-bellied and Downy Woodpecker. So many woodpeckers in America! Red-bellied Woodpeckers were one of my favourite birds that I saw on this holiday - I loved their bright red heads!

Minnehaha Park.
Walking downstream from the falls we also got nice and close to a Wood Duck, who had not quite yet gained his breeding plumage and was looking a bit dowdy!

Wood Duck who will probably look much better in a few weeks time!

Loring Park and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

In the afternoon on the first day, Chris and I met up with Kieran, one of Chris's colleagues who was also there for the conference. We walked through Loring Park on our way to the Walker Art Centre, and saw the ubiquitous Canada Geese and Mallards; more excitingly for us there was one black squirrel amongst the many greys. We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking Loring Park and hopefully I didn't embarrass Chris and Kieran too much when I whipped my binoculars out towards the end of our meal to more closely scrutinise a fair-sized raptor that had flown across the park and landed in a bare tree! Its size, long tail and direct flight, combined with information I'd gleaned from eBird before our visit, told me it was most likely a Cooper's Hawk - another life tick, bosh!

Loring Park.
After that we headed over the the Walker Art Centre for some Culture! Outside the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden just over the road we saw a large woodpecker at the top of a tree; the light was not great but from the size and shape I thought it was probably a Northern Flicker. As it flew off it had a noticeable large white rump which confirmed the ID, another life tick! By the time we left the Walker it was dusk, and we walked back through the Sculpture Garden which was full of roosting American Robins, through Loring Park again and back towards downtown Minneapolis for dinner. What a cracking first day in Minneapolis.....I would be up bright and early the next morning though for the main birding event of my trip!

View from Minneapolis Sculpture Garden towards downtown Minneapolis.

Canada Geese in Loring Park at night.

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