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As bird migration begins, so does the love for watching the skies

I have been lucky to take advantage of this migration and have spent many hours bellied out on the shoreline targeting the numerous species of shorebirds that have taken a recess and a lunch break

American avocet have a long curled bill.
Contributed / Seth Owens
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Where July was stagnant, August saw a torrent of returning migrants coming through the area on their long trip south. I have been lucky to take advantage of this migration and have spent many hours bellied out on the shoreline targeting the numerous species of shorebirds that have taken a recess and a lunch break on the many potholes and sloughs of North Dakota. Some of these birds may be repeats, but they are the first prospectors of a bustling birding busy season!

American avocet (Recurvirostra americana) - Kelly’s Slough NWR, N.D. - Wild

In the late summer, cinnamon turns to snow in the American avocet as they begin to molt their breeding plumage. The stunning rusty plumage that is so characteristic of American avocets is lost after a hopefully successful breeding season. From a distance or at a glance, you would be forgiven for thinking that these were two completely different species, but their long curved needle of a bill remains.

Sora grow and learn how to fly quickly.
Contributed / Seth Owens

Sora (Porzana carolina) - Kelly’s Slough NWR, N.D. - Wild

Where the adult avocet was losing its luster, this juvenile sora is just filling into its immature plumage.

About three weeks ago, this young bird was still in an egg, but a rich diet of seeds and invertebrates has allowed it to rapidly grow and learn to fly. I was granted a rare look into this little dude’s life before he decided enough was enough and dashed into the nearby cattails.


The buck, which has a massive set of nontypical antlers, had fallen through the ice near the new bridge on Mark Boulevard at the south end of city limits, Fire Chief Rick Beier said.
The annual event at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center is the unofficial kickoff to ice fishing season.
Remember no ice is 100% safe. Have a plan, carry safety equipment and let someone know where you are and when you expect to return. If possible, fish with a partner.
Show hours are noon to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11.
An uncommon bird, the unmistakable woodpecker of grand proportions is a resident throughout Minnesota. From the cottonwood bottomlands of the Red River Valley to the richly forested southeastern
Law enforcement and natural resources agencies such as the DNR all have issued numerous news releases urging people to put safety first on the ice. Unfortunately, you can't legislate common sense.
When fishing early ice it is important to be quiet, especially in shallow water. Noise travels well through the ice and cold water, and fish will spook.
The late-season hunt will open Friday, Dec. 16, and continue through Sunday, Dec. 18. DPAs open to this CWD management hunt are 184, 605, 643, 645, 646, 647, 648, 649 and 655.
The ‘Keep It Clean’ campaign started at Lake of the Woods. More recently, Upper and Lower Red Lake, Mille Lacs Lake, Lake Vermilion and the Fairmont Chain of Lakes came on board.
Catch rates of channel catfish and walleyes were considerably higher than previous surveys.
Snow Friday will be followed by some chilly temperatures
The Center for Biological Diversity says current plan neglects huge swaths of current and potential wolf range.

The least sandpiper is a smaller bird with a wingspan of nearly a foot.
Contributed / Seth Owens

Least sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) - Kelly’s Slough NWR, N.D. - Wild

With a whopping wingspan of 10 to 11 inches, this Least Sandpiper is quite the ambitious adventurer. They breed in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska and winter in the southern edges of the United States, Mexico, and further south. These transcontinental travelers rely on areas like Kelly’s Slough NWR on their treks. Without these “rest stops,” their migration would likely be cut short as they literally run out of fuel.

Even with a large wingspan of about 6 feet, great blue herons are relatively slow at a top speed of about 35 mph.
Contributed / Seth Owens

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) - Grand Forks County, N.D. - Wild

Where the avocet lost their rusty hues, the heron may have found it, and the herons are probably hogging the wingspan as well! An adult blue heron has a wingspan of about 6 feet, meaning that it would take more than six least sandpipers to match the wing width of one adult blue heron. Those large wings, however, are pretty slow and can only reach top speeds of around 35 mph.

The common loon has been recorded swimming at 20 mph and diving to depths of around 200 feet.
Contributed / Seth Owens

Common loon (Gavia immer) - Becker County, Minn. - Wild

Common loons are living missiles, both in the air and underwater. In the air, this approximately 12-pound bird can reach speeds of around 70 mph. We’re talking interstate speeds from a bird designed to swim! In the water, the common loon has been recorded swimming at 20 mph and diving to depths of around 200 feet. It could seem that loons have conquered the air, the water, and the land, but they can hardly move around on solid ground. If they could run like a roadrunner, humans probably wouldn’t be on the top of the food chain!

As August wraps up and Labor Day approaches, take advantage of the cool mornings and evenings and go visit your local wetland, prairie, or woodland. If you can’t, just spend some time outside. There is a wealth of wildlife beginning to return and pick up activity because fall is just around the corner. For September, migration will continue to ramp up as the waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds begin to travel from their summer homes to their winter vacations.


Go get lost!

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Seth Owens is a regional birdwatcher and photographer and a frequent contributor to Northland Outdoors.

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