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  • Writer's pictureGregg Severson

Prowling for a Northern Parula

Updated: May 20, 2019

On May 7, Kellie and I woke up early to be able to do some birding together at T.S. Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Minneapolis before I had to get to work. We like to go birding together, but sometimes it can be tough to find time that works for both of us with our different work schedules. So Kellie agreed to wake up early so we could go together during the early warbler migration. In particular, the day before she had mentioned that she wanted to see a Northern Waterthrush, and since I knew there were quite a few around, I suggested we make that trip happen sooner rather than later. We went down to Roberts, and there were a ton of Yellow-rumped Warblers around. I made sure we quickly made our way to the good spots for waterthrushes, and before long we had one for Kellie! We saw a few other early warblers, like Orange-crowned and Palm. We saw an Eastern Bluebird carrying nesting material! There was a young Red-tailed Hawk perched on the fence that was causing many birds to sound off in alarm. Wood Ducks were high up in the trees. After a while, Kellie said "Isn't that an oriole?" and it sure was! The first Baltimore Oriole of the year.

When I was at work, I heard a report of a Whippoorwill that was heard singing at Roberts mid-morning. Whippoorwills normally sing at night, so this was unusual, but I decided to head back to Roberts at dusk to see if I could catch that Whippoorwill singing at the more usual time! Unfortunately, I did not hear any sign of the Whip that night.

A couple of days later and I was back at Roberts in the morning doing some pre-work birding again! In the meantime a few more birds had migrated in and I was able to get Gray-cheeked Thrush and Ovenbird (the cutest warbler),

After work, I birded a bit at Longfellow Gardens near Minnehaha Falls. I was able to get my first-of-year Common Yellowthroat. But then I got a message from Sue Keator that she had just seen a Prothonotary Warbler at Roberts Bird Sanctuary. Prothonotaries are a southern species that just reach the northern edge of their range around the Twin Cities. I immediately hopped on my bike and headed right for Roberts. Unfortunately, after an hour of searching along with other hopeful birders did not turn up any sign of the Prothonotary.

On the 10th, I lead a bird walk on Nicollet Island for the park board. Nicollet Island is right in downtown Minneapolis in the middle of the Mississippi River and is a great birding location right in the city. Small patches of habitat right along the river and surrounded by the concrete of the city create a great migrant trap. As I was walking along with the group, someone asked where the best spot around to see a Rose-breasted Grosbeak is. I hemmed and hawed a little bit, trying to think of the best spot to give to a non-expert birder to give them the best chance of seeing a grosbeak. Then I looked up the tree and started laughing - there was a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak! I wanted to say "How about right here for the best spot to see a grosbeak!?".

As I was biking home, I was on Bryant Avenue in the Wedge neighborhood. I noticed a bird flush up from the road with a green triangle on its back. An olive-green triangle in the middle of an otherwise gray back is a great field mark for Northern Parula. What a nice treat that it was waiting in the road for me to pass by!

Northern Parula showing off its green back
Here is a photo I took of a Northern Parula in Ohio in 2018 that nicely shows off the green back!

route to work via Roberts Bird Sanctuary

route from home down to Nicollet Island and back

Miles biked on these trips: 38.3

Miles biked year to date: 686.8

Species count: 153

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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