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  • Writer's pictureGregg Severson

Amble for an American Tree Sparrow

Updated: Apr 21, 2019

One big difference for my birding year this year is that I am not at all focused on county lines. For the previous few years, I have been thinking mostly about my Hennepin County bird list. For me, as someone who mostly birds by bike and bus, focusing on the county list of the county where I live is a way that I can level the playing field against car birders. In the relatively small confines of one county, it is much easier for me to keep up in number of species seen with other birders who mostly use cars to get around. I used a car to get around some, and I use buses fairly extensively. However, in this year, I am totally focused on my bike birding list alone - but I don't care at all about what county I see these birds in.

I work in Eagan (which is in Dakota County) and I bike there fairly regularly. In past years, I would mostly do any listing on the Hennepin County portion of my route, and then once I crossed that county line, I would take the shortest route and just get to work as quickly as I could. Now, however, I am interested in listing no matter what county I am in, and I am finding I am a bit lacking in knowledge about birding spots near work.

On March 26, I decided to bike all the way in to work - a distance of about 15 miles by the shortest route. I did this just to get some biking in - I wasn't really thinking about birding (which is a rare thing ;) Once I was at work though, I thought that I should maybe check out nearby sightings to see if there was anything noteworthy nearby. And I discovered that someone had been reporting a Northern Shrike over the winter at someplace that wasn't too far away from my bike route to and from work and the most recent sighting was just a day or two prior. So, I decided to hit that spot on the way home.

I biked out there, and once I got to the spot, I noticed that it was decent habitat for a shrike. I wasn't seeing any shrikes, but I did see a person with a big lens on their camera. I instantly wondered if perhaps this as the person who had eBirded the shrike. I walked over and struck up a conversation. He was indeed the person who had been reporting the shrike and he was able to give me some good info about where he had seen it. He also said that this spot consistently held a shrike in the winter, so it is definitely a good place for me to know about! As we talked more, and I mentioned my biking big year, he asked if I had seen the Varied Thrush in Minneapolis. I said that I had, and it turns out that he is the homeowner who was hosting the thrush! It was very cool to meet him and to know about his little patch that will be a part of my birding in the future.

I spent some more time at this location, but didn't find any sign of a shrike. I did see my first-of-the-year American Tree Sparrows - they are a cute little sparrow that winters near us, but then breeds in the far north (where, ironically, there aren't many trees). As I biked home, I also had a flyover Great Blue Heron.

This is my ride to work by the most direct route. I probably won't post this map on future posts, since it is mostly just to get me to work and not go birding and it will likely show up over and over. Strava told me this ride was 15.33 miles.

My way to work by the most direct route

And here is my route on the way home - note the few extra squiggles north of highway 55. That is where I was checking out Ames Crossing Road - a spot of habitat in amongst the corporate office buildings and the new Vikings complex.

My route home from work, including going by Ames Crossing Road

The next day, I took a ride from home up to Theodore Wirth Park. I was hoping that a shrike might show up there, plus that spot is a good underbirded area for rarities to appear. I didn't have much luck with new species though, except for a migrating Turkey Vulture. I did get to see a nice dark morph Red-tailed Hawk, which was cool.

My route to Wirth Park and back

Miles biked on these trips: 47.0 (15.3 to get to work, 20.4 to get home, and 11.3 for the ride up to Wirth park).

Miles biked year to date: 216.4

Species count: 51

My bike birding eBird profile: (Please note that you need a free eBird account to see profiles in eBird)

Fundraising links for the two organizations I am supporting with this green big half year. Please donate!

Friends of Sax-Zim Bog:

National MS Society:

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Gregg Severson
Gregg Severson

Looking for an Eastern Screech Owl on the way to dinner at Namaste Cafe!



What was the squiggle up to 25th Street on the Wirth day?

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