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  • Writer's pictureGregg Severson

Busting for a Bonaparte's Gull

On April 15th, I swung by Lake Harriet on my way home - always hoping for more waterfowl or perhaps a Bonaparte's Gull. I got one new species that day - Horned Grebe.

My route to the transit station via Lake Harriet

On the 16th, I headed out in the morning and went by Harriet again. I got two more new species on the lake in the morning - Ruddy Duck and American Coot. It seemed that the night of the 15th was the night that Chipping Sparrows decided to move in, because I heard many singing on my bike ride in to work.

My route to work via Lake Harriet and Diamond Lake

On the way home, I decided that I'd like to pay a visit to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge (MVNWR). Two adjacent areas of that refuge are two of the best birding spots in Hennepin County. They often (although not always) have a bit more diversity for waterfowl than the city lakes, and since I wasn't doing that well at the city lakes, I thought I'd head down to the refuge and see what I could turn up there.

When I got to the MVNWR headquarters, I found a few birds, but more notably I saw Jason Caddy! He was taking a break in the outdoors on a nice day after dropping his daughter off for a class. We chatted for a while about his recent trip to Costa Rica (and the 320 bird species he saw there) and enjoyed the day, but eventually I had to get going because I needed to get down to the Bass Ponds to see what birds were down there.

The river was really, really high! There was a historically large snowpack in late winter across much of southern Minnesota, and all of that meltwater has sent the rivers rising! The Minnesota River was even well down off of its peak, but still there was plenty of water in normally dry areas.

A view looking down into the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge, showing a forested area inundated by floodwaters
A view looking down into the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge, showing a forested area inundated by floodwaters

After I got the Bass Ponds trailhead, I didn't see many waterfowl. Usually, Long Meadow Lake has significant amounts of grasses and other emergent vegetation, alongside the more open water. Now, it was entirely open water, and the only emergent vegetation was trees that had been flooded! There were many areas where you could see masses of sticks that had been washed up and left as the waters receded.

A path with flood waters on either side, and covered with driftwood from when the waters had been even higher

I was lucky to get a couple of good birds here though. The first was a lone Bonaparte's Gull that was flying around over Long Meadow Lake when I got there. Bonaparte's come through in the spring in our area, but can be tricky to track down, especially because they never seem to stay in the same place for very long! I was quite happy to get them here. Second, I had a Peregrine Falcon fly over. Peregrines nest in downtown Minneapolis, so I always knew I was going to get them for this year, but I feel grateful that they are such a great conservation success story that they are a bird that I can count on getting every year!

MY route home from work via the Bass Ponds

Miles biked on these trips: 56.3

Miles biked year to date: 354.4

Species count: 84

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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