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  • Writer's pictureGregg Severson

Caravan for Carver Park and Claret Park birds

On June 14, Kellie and I decided to take a big bike ride. We wanted to get in some training for the Bike MS Ride Across Minnesota that was coming up in June, and combining a long bike ride with some good birding seemed like a great way to do it! So we decided that we would head out to Carver Park Reserve. They have some nice patches of prairie out there, so there should be some of the prairie species I was still lacking. Carver Park is a great bike destination for us since there is bike paths that lead from right near our house all the way to the park. Unfortunately, at the moment some of those paths are closed for the construction of the Southwest Light Rail line, so our trip involved more road riding than it otherwise would, but it was still mostly off-road paths.

We got out to the park, and we headed right for the spot where we've seen Bobolinks in the past. And there, they were Bobolinks on the same patch of prairie hillside. It is amazing to think of this species migrating all the way to southern South America, and then returning the next spring and finding their way back to this very same patch of prairie. We also heard and saw Sedge Wrens in this same area. We hadn't been there very long and we had already seen two new species! We then went to the nature center to check in with staff so see if they had any info about particular bird species I hadn't seen. We got a good tip in that they told us a particular lake that pelicans had been seen on recently. We took a bike trip around the park, making sure to go by that lake and sure enough, we saw a big group of American White Pelicans down on the lake! It was a very nice long bike ride with some productive birding at the park.

map of route to Carver Park Reserve, around the park, and then back home
58 miles out to Carver Park Reserve and back

In birding, it often seems that once a place gets "hot" and has lots of good birds, especially rarities, that it tends to keep producing more rarities. This is at least partially due to a phenomenon in birding known as the "Patagonia Picnic Table Effect", where the influx of birders to see a rarity results in a lot more eyes in the area and thus more rarities are found. The effect is named after a picnic table at the Patagonia rest area in southeast Arizona that is now a well-known birding hotspot because of all the rarities that have been found there. This June, it seemed that 140th Street Marsh was the place that people just kept turning up rarities. I had just been there recently to see the Common Gallinule, but then I was called to return to try to see if I could catch up with some other reported rarities. As I did before, I went there on a workday, which split up the biking some, and make the long trek more doable. The first rarity that I saw was the Common Gallinule, which of course I had already seen, but this also offered me a chance to get it on a fully biked trip, so I wouldn't have to worry about any asterisks about that species because I had a flat tire the last time I saw it and wasn't able to bike all the way to home. Then I looked across the street in the other direction to a scrubby area with lots of cedar trees. And I was lucky that the female Blue Grosbeak was visible - I even saw her carrying some nesting material!

After I saw the Blue Grosbeak, I headed to the other side of the marsh where Bell's Vireos had been reported singing. I stayed there for a while, and didn't hear a peep of anything that sounded like a Bell's Vireo. It seems strange that a species that is often so vocal and had been reported by many others was so quiet. But one benefit to sitting still and listening so intently is that I clearly heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo! I had heard some intermittent reports of cuckoos in the area, but they were so sporadic that I wasn't holding out much hope for that species! In the end, I gave up on the Bell's Vireo, knowing that there are other spots to see this species in the metro.

Red-winged Blackbird
I didn't get any pictures of the Blue Grosbeak or Yellow-billed Cuckoo, but here is a cool Red-winged Blackbird that I did get a photo of!

On the way back, I decided that I would take the long way back and go to check out Claret Park in Rosemount. Purple Martins are a species that I tend to need to go out of my way to find every year even though they are quite common. They nest colonially, and in the eastern U.S. they always use man-made nest sites. However, the closest sites that I know about to my house are still at least 10 miles away. This year, I tried to look at eBird data to see if there are any martin colonies close to work. I wasn't successful at finding any between my work and home, but I did notice that Matthew Thompson had eBirded Purple Martins at Claret Park in Rosemount many times. So I decided that it wasn't too far out of my way to go by Claret Park on my way back from 140th St Marsh. It ended up being farther out of my way than I thought, but it was worth it to finally tick Purple Martins! The colony is on private land near a lake, but Claret Park is close enough that martins are frequently flying overhead and it didn't take me long before I saw them.

Map of route from work to 140th Street Marsh and then to Claret Park and than back to work

Miles biked on these trips: 126.4

Miles biked year to date: 1377.2

Species count: 209

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. These causes are really important and they could really use your dollars to do a lot of good!

Friends of Sax-Zim Bog:

National MS Society:

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