Monday, September 1, 2014

1 Observer, 5 Years, 11 Acres, 50 Species

How many bird species use the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden for foraging, breeding, as a water source or for other purposes?

Reflecting on this question, I reviewed my records. Since May 2009, I have been keeping track of bird observations in the Sculpture Garden. So far, I have seen 50 different species in or from the Garden. This includes unusual sightings such as the raft of American White Pelicans I saw flying high overhead on May 2, 2014 or the "just passing through" Magnolia Warbler from May 10, 2013.

Next, I narrowed my inquiry to consider how many species of birds might use the Garden for breeding purposes. Based on my observations, I have seen evidence of breeding for 12 species.

Below is complete list (thus far). Species in red exhibit evidence of breeding:
  • Canada Goose
  • Wood Duck
  • Mallard (nest on the tiny island by Spoonbridge and Cherry)
  • American White Pelican
  • Green Heron (seen nesting in 2012, 2013, and 2014)
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Bald Eagle
  • Red Tailed Hawk (nesting on the lighting structures near the neighboring baseball field)
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Mourning Dove (fledglings observed)
  • Chimney Swift
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Yellow-throated Vireo
  • Blue-headed Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • American Crow
  • Barn Swallow (possibly - based on observations of recently fledged young)
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Brown Creeper
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Hermit Thrush
  • American Robin (several nests with young are observed every year)
  • European Starling
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Tennessee Warbler
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • American Redstart
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Palm Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Northern Cardinal (fledglings observed)
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • Brown-headed Cowbird (based on observing a fledgling being fed by a Chipping Sparrow)
  • House Finch
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Sparrow
I wonder what my 51st species will be! Or if we could pull in a 13th breeding bird species, such as Eastern Bluebird, if we were to put up a birdhouse.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Another Green Heron Generation

Greetings from apparently the least vigilant but possibly the most hopeful phenologist ever.
What: A Green Heron chick, pretty far along developmentally and capably (though cautiously) flying from one pine bough to the next.
Where: East border of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
When: 8:30 am, Friday, July 26
Observer: Abbie
Conditions: Comfortably cool and mostly cloudy sky but with patches of cerulean blue. Lovely indeed.

As readers know, last year a pair of Green Herons nested and attempted to raise a brood in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. This year, in mid-May, Christina and I again saw herons and even observed strange behavior which we surmised was a form of courtship. But despite our expeditions and upturned faces, we didn't find their nest this year. Throughout the summer, I've seen a heron in the Garden about once a week. What's worth noting is that every time I saw the bird, it was perched atop a linden tree, not hunting in the pond where I'd expect to see it. I asked myself, "If not exclusively for food, why is it hanging around here?"

Fast forward to today. The adult bird not far away, a fuzzy-headed chick is hopping and making short flights, about 15' up in the pines. It gave me hope to see such a confident and apparently fit fledgling. I imagined its migration, picturing this new bird in a new land for the winter, and then, maybe, returning to the Garden next spring.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Odonata Proliferation, and Lil' Ground Squirrels

As summer comes to its middle, much of the fresh new life in the Sculpture Garden has moved on; the ducklings are gone, as are the tadpoles, presumably turned now to toads and setting out to find their fortunes in the big city. But phenology moves on! That's what phenology means! Kinda!

What: A couple of new sorts of dragonfly - the Odonata of the title. The one with the striped wings in the middle, above, that's been around for quite awhile; I just finally got a decent picture of it. The red and the yellow-striped ones are new, though. Where do they come from? What do they want?
Where: In the reeds on the west side of the pond, mostly, though of course they can fly! Fly through the very air!
When: 1:00 PM, Tuesday, July 23rd
Observer: Matt
Conditions: Sunny with a breeze and just as pleasant as anything ever

What: Little thirteen-lined ground squirrels; probably a couple of weeks old by now but still small and youthful. Two of them were chasing each other around the grass and AWWWWWW.
Where: Southeast corner of the Garden.
When: 1:00 PM, Tuesday, July 23rd
Observer: Matt
Conditions: So nice, you guys

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Odonata Postscript

Thanks to Matt for his humorous and informative post! As for the dragonflies we saw but didn't manage to net (yet): We saw a Green Darner. This I say with fair confidence. And we saw a skimmer, though as to what species of skimmer it was, I am exceedingly uncertain.

Providing me a constant reminder and temptation, the net remains at my desk. Also, I brought that jeweler's loupe that will afford us a magnified view of damselfly abdomens. And I have quite a bit of studying to do, too, so I can become more facile with the identification key.

Another field note: I have searched the pond's perimeter for exuvia (empty exoskeletons from dragonfly and damselfly nymphs) but I don't yet see them. Perhaps I'm overlooking them, especially likely since a segment of the pond's edge is made inaccessible by a temporary fence. But once a generation of Green Darners emerges, I expect it will be more evident since their nymphs are so large.

Another field note: Linden trees have been blooming this past week, in the Garden and around town.

New Pond Life, and Insect Capturing

Today Abbie brought in an insect net for the purpose of catching some dragonflies and damselflies from the Spoonbridge pond area. (At least, I assume that was her original purpose. Maybe she brought it in for some reason I dare not guess and then thought, "Hey, wait a minute!") So that's what she and I set out to do. What we learned: Dragonflies are super hard to catch.

Before we became acquainted with this lesson, however, we saw some delightful new life in the pond!

What: Ducklings! Seven of them, I believe. Presumably from the nest previously under the Spoonbridge, though oddly, the nest had gone vacant during the past week, with no sign of the hatchlings; we'd all assumed it had simply failed. But here they were! Perhaps last week they were being kept in the reeds on a side of the pond currently fenced-off?
Where: North side of the Spoonbridge pond.
When: 5:00 PM, Tuesday, July 2nd
Observers: Abbie and Matt
Conditions: Warm, clear, a bit of a breeze

What: A very large painted turtle, maybe about a foot long. Abbie said she didn't think she'd ever seen a turtle in the pond before. I certainly hadn't, but I'm new at this.
Where: The pond, mostly swimming about the east side.
When: 5:00 PM, Tuesday, July 2nd
Observers: Abbie and Matt
Conditions: Warm, clear, a bit of a breeze still

What: The two sorts of insects we did manage to catch. No dragonflies, I'm afraid, though we could see there were two varieties present (Abbie, I have forgotten what species you believed them to be; perhaps a comment or a new post?). We did catch a damselfly, whose species we narrowed down to one of four of a subcategory of damselflies called bluets. This failure of specificity was in spite of the fact that I was holding the damselfly and we could observe it closely and at length, and the fact that Abbie had a comprehensive field guide to such on hand. Which is to say: There are a lot of species of damselflies that look more or less identical. It seems that what we needed was a magnifying glass. After I let it go, it perched itself comfortably on my fingertip for a time; apparently you can befriend damselflies by catching them in a net and then holding them by their wings for a few minutes. I also inadvertently caught a tiny water scorpion while catching the bluet, and even more inadvertently killed it when Abbie passed it to my clumsy mitts.
Where: Southeast end of the pond.
When: 5:00 PM, Tuesday, July 2nd
Observers: Abbie and Matt
Conditions: Warm, clear, a bit of a breeze; for the bluet, uncomfortable

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Aftermath of Rock

So yesterday was Rock the Garden, just south of the Sculpture Garden, and while this was certainly a good time for the human attendees, to the non-humans who were hanging about the area I'm sure it was mostly a lot of unbelievable noise and thousands of primates stomping about, alas. Such is the life of city-dwelling nature. The Garden was also heavily populated by humanity when I went out this afternoon; it's been one of the first nice, summery weekends of the year. As such, the animals were a bit more reticent than normal. Even the robins chirped away from behind bushes. The pond was where most of the action was that I saw today.

What: I've mentioned the mallard nest on the island of the Spoonbridge before. Today I couldn't see it immediately, though, where it was always very plain before, even yesterday morning. I think perhaps it's been flattened or lowered somehow? As though mother mallard is hunkering down. Didn't care for Bob Mould, maybe. Not everybody likes Bob Mould.
Where: The island where the cup part of the Spoonbridge rests.
When: 2:30 PM, Sunday, June 16th
Observer: Matt
Conditions: Sunny and clear for a change

What: Abbie has mentioned the tadpoles. They were all but blackening the water along about 20 feet of shore; seriously, I don't think conventional mathematics has a number to express this many tadpoles.
Where: They seem to have migrated to the western section of the northern arm of the pond, where before they lived to the east. The eastern section was kind of filthy today, though, and perhaps that's something to do with it.
When: 2:30 PM, Sunday, June 16th
Observer: Matt
Conditions: Delightful

What: Dragonflies and damselflies. The damselflies were green in the thorax and blue in the abdomen; the dragonflies had black wings with two white stripes apiece. Very striking. Sorry about the photo quality; they never came to rest while I was there, and dragonflies in flight are really, really hard to photograph.
Where: All over the pond.
When: 2:30 PM, Sunday, June 16th
Observer: Matt
Conditions: Sunny and bright

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What: Black Locust trees are in bloom and the scent is intoxicating
Where: Along the North Cedar Lake Regional Trail by Linden Yard, there is a stretch of about 50 feet that is dominated by Black Locust trees. One is immersed in the scent and view their flowers provide.
When: 4:30 pm on Monday, June 10
Observer: Abbie
Conditions: Clear and warm, a marked contrast to the cool overcast days that seem to be dominant of late.

What: Cottony seeds from Cottonwood trees
Where: The north edge of Bryn Mawr Meadows
When: 4:35 pm on Monday, June 10
Observer: Abbie
Conditions: A gentle breeze is perceived by trembling leaves and airborne specks