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  • Writer's pictureGregg Severson

Swoop to see a Screech Owl

Updated: Mar 20, 2019

On Friday, Kellie had a number of things to do through the day, and she encouraged me to go birding and then we could meet each other for lunch in the middle of her appointments. Sounds like a great day to me and I am very thankful to have a wonderful partner who encourages me to get out and go birding! :)

I knew I needed to meet Kellie in Northeast for lunch. My first stop was just north of our home where someone had been reporting that a vocalizing screech owl for several nights. This wasn't the ideal time to hear the bird, but I thought maybe there was a chance, and since it was close by and on the way, I stopped by. No luck for me this time, but hopefully I'll get back and get to know that owl that lives so nearby.

Then, I continued downtown to a spot where you can usually find White-throated Sparrows in the winter. White-throated Sparrows are very common in migration, but a few always overwinter in our area. This is a bird I wouldn't put much effort into finding this time of year, since I know I'll see them later. One reason to see them so early is to stop the eBird alert emails from coming in constantly! I have my alerts set up so that eBird (an online bird sightings database) will email me whenever anyone reports a bird I haven't seen yet this year in Hennepin County. These alerts are invaluable for helping me locate species I need, but it can be annoying when I get constant emails about a common bird that I just haven't caught up with yet.

I love White-throated Sparrows - they are one of my favorite sparrows, and it is always fun to see them. Near Gateway Park in downtown Minneapolis, there is an area with many low, dense shrubs. This creates good cover for the birds, but also keeps the snow off of the ground (where they like to feed) so it is an ideal overwintering spot. I found three White-throats jumping around in these bushes, and one was even singing a little bit!

White-throated Sparrow overwintering spot
White-throated Sparrow overwintering spot. Even in a snowy winter, the bushes keep the ground clear for sparrows as well as providing good cover against the elements and predators.

After visiting that spot, I headed to the river to find a few waterfowl. I still needed Canada Goose for the year, and I thought there might be a few diving ducks around too.

I got a couple of Canada Geese right away. There weren't any Common Mergansers, but I did run into a couple of Hooded Mergansers and a Common Goldeneye. As I was watching the Hooded Mergansers, a piece of ice that was almost the width of the river at this spot came floating down the river! The mergansers swam away for a bit, but then decided to fly over the ice to keep from getting swept downstream indefinitely! I had my camera at the ready since I thought that the ice might make the mergansers take flight!

After leaving the river, I went to eat with Kellie - we got some sandwiches from the Herbivorous Butcher, and some doughnuts from Glam Doll Donuts and ate in style!

Kellie then went on her way, and I decided to head along the river to try for the Eastern Screech-Owls that nest here that I've seen the last couple of years. I've tried a couple of times this year, but hadn't managed to catch them when they've been out and visible. Luckily, this time the very cute red morph bird was out and sunning itself on this bright and sunny day!

Red morph Eastern Screech-Owl sitting in the sun
Red morph Eastern Screech-Owl sitting in the sun

Then it was time for a nice ride home along the Midtown Greenway!

Map of the biking route

Miles biked on this trip: 16.6

Miles biked year to date: 154.7

Species count: 42

My bike birding eBird profile:

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:

45 views2 comments


Mar 20, 2019

Nice photo of the owl, and the merganser in flight!


Mar 19, 2019

Glad the weather has improved for biking! That's a cute screech owl.

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