May 23rd was the day that my workplace (Thomson Reuters - Eagan campus) decided to celebrate Bike to Work Day. So, naturally I biked to work! I helped volunteer with the tables where we gave free food, coffee and juice to bikers. We also had a couple of bike shops on hand (Freewheel and OneTen Cycles) that were showing off their wares and offering to look at people's bike if they were encountering a problem. It was a good event and we had good participation given the cold and windy weather.
The day before, a pair of birders in south Minneapolis reported having a White-winged Dove at their feeders. The morning of the 23rd, a number of birders were in the area trying to find the dove. A White-winged Dove is a major rarity - it is classified as "Casual" by the Minnesota Ornithologist's Union. Casual species are defined as species that are seen in the state in 3 to 8 out of the past 10 years. Anything that rare, especially in the middle of the metro area, will attract a lot of birding attention. By midday, I'd heard that some of those birders had seen the dove, but I also heard that some of them had spent three hours looking for it! The location of this bird was just a few blocks off of my shortest route home, so I knew I was going to try for it, but I wasn't very sure about my chances of success.
I texted with other birders who were going. Doug Kieser was going after work too, so we thought we might be there at the same time. It turns out that he got there before me, and texted that he had seen the dove. He was about to leave but offered to stay and point it out if I was close. I was only a few minutes away at that point, so I said "I'm sprinting - there in 5 minutes". I knew the dove could hide itself pretty well, so having someone point it out would make things much easier! He stayed and pointed out the tree the bird was in. I couldn't see it yet, but we could see that one of the homeowners was on her back porch looking up into the tree. She saw me and said "Are you a birder?" and waved me up onto the deck. She told me to stand behind her and watch where she was pointing the binoculars. There was a small "window" through the leaves and branches where we could see a White-winged Dove hanging out in the tree!
After I saw the bird, Pam and I introduced ourselves (when visiting a rare bird it is also best to see the bird first and then exchange pleasantries with your fellow birders!). Pam Stevenson and Jim Hovey were the homeowners who reported the bird and invited everyone over to their neighborhood to see it! As with the Summer Tanager, it was awesome to have a homeowner report a rare bird coming to their feeders and then welcome those who wish to come see it. It was fun to talk with Pam and Jim as they have been following my biking big year via eBird! So it was an extra special treat to meet some people who were interested in my quest this year and get a really rare bird in their yard.
After a while, the dove left its perch and flew across the alley. I walked back there to see if I could get a better view and photo of it. I saw it on the ground under a neighbor's feeders, but couldn't grab a better picture. After a bit it flew up into a tree in the neighbor's yard and I left. To celebrate such a rare bird, I made a visit to a nearby joint - Sludge Sisters Coffee Cafe and Wine Bar. I was pretty sure that I'd find Scott Meyer behind the bar there. He is a fellow birder and I also knew he curated a good tap list of fine beers at Sludge Sisters. Scott was there, and I had a couple of beers to celebrate the find of the day while Scott and I talked birds, much to the amusement of other customers.
It was a grand day - seeing a nice rarity and also connecting with many other birders! And interesting post-script is that the White-winged Dove disappeared that evening. Several birders who showed up after I did were unsuccessful in seeing it, and Pam and Jim reported that they never saw it again after that Thursday. As of now, I am the person who was the last one to report the dove to eBird. It just goes to show that you have to chase those rarities right away, otherwise you might get there just a bit too late! I was very lucky this time that I was able to get the bird, sometimes I am not that lucky (see Yellow-throated Warbler).
Miles biked on this trip: 31.9
Miles biked year to date: 893.4
Species count: 185
My bike birding eBird profile:
https://ebird.org/profile/MTIxNDg5NQ (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! I've raised almost $600 so far between the two organizations, but I would really like to get a lot more. Please donate if you can! If you prefer to help with a nature-related cause, donate to the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog, as they are doing a wonderful job of protecting the Bog as well as helping people interact with the species that live there. If you'd like to help with a cause more focused on human health, please donate to the National MS Society so that we can find a cure!
Friends of Sax-Zim Bog:
National MS Society: