For the Birds Radio Program: Book Review: Bob Janssen's *Birds in Minnesota*
Laura reviews Bob Janssen’s indispensable new book.
Bob Janssen’s Book
(Recording of a Spruce Grouse)
That spruce grouse was recorded in Alberta, Canada, one May, but if you want to see a Spruce Grouse in Minnesota, the easiest time to spot them is in wintertime–especially along County Road 2 near the junction of State Highway 1 in Lake County, Minnesota. Spruce Grouse are not particularly rare– they qualify as game birds in Minnesota, and about 14,000 were harvested in 1982 alone, but they aren’t easy for a birder to add to a life list unless he happens to be at the right place at the right time.
And if you want to be at the right place at the right time to add birds to your Minnesota list, there’s no better resource available than a brand new book called Birds In Minnesota, by Robert Janssen. Bob’s been the editor of the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union’s journal since 1959, he’s one of the most active birders in the state, he chairs the Minnesota Ornithological Records Committee, and he is clearly the man with the right stuff to write this authoritative book.
Actually Birds in Minnesota is a sequel–to Minnesota Birds: Where, When, and How Many, which Bob co-authored back in 1975. That book detailed the known ranges of 374 species of Minnesota birds. Since it’s publication, the state list has swelled to 400. Five birds listed in the old book are not in the new one–the Black Brant and Gray-headed Junco were lumped with more common species by the American Ornithologists’ Union, the single sightings of the Common Black-Hawk and the European Goldfinch were determined to be escaped cage birds, and the chukar, an introduced game bird, died out by 1977. But in the past 12 years, the ranges of many birds have changed, and our knowledge of many more has increased, so the list has 31 additions, thanks to the diligence of hardcore birders who added such rarities as the Yellow-billed Loon, which belongs in the arctic northwest but was seen on Lake Winnibigoshish and then on Lake Superior in November, 1980; the Anhingas, southeastern water birds with snake-like necks which showed up and were well documented in three different locations in three different years, and Rufous Hummingbirds, which have showed up at several feeders since 1974.
Bob’s book is indispensable for every serious Minnesota birder–and it’s even a good bet for indolent armchair birders. Just a random sampling of entries can conjure up vivid pictures of lost birds, like the Lewis’s Woodpecker “found in a small woods just west of Santiago, Sherburne County, on December 28, 1974. This same individual remained in the area all winter and into the spring. It was last recorded on May 1, 1975.” You can also read about the 2,069 Black-capped Chickadees that were counted in 3 1/2 hours in Duluth on Sept. 12, 1985. All in all, Birds in Minnesota is a treasure house of information available nowhere else. It’s available at university and commercial bookstores in the Twin Cities area already, and will soon be available in such rural outposts as Duluth. Birds in Minnesota–Don’t leave home without it.
(Recording of a Spruce Grouse) This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”