For the Birds Radio Program: A Wood Stork in Minnesota!?

Original Air Date: July 13, 2004

A young man—a very young man—discovered a Wood Stork in Grand Marais.

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Wood Stork in Minnesota

Every now and then, an individual bird from far away wanders from its natural range. Many of these birds go undetected, but if someone happens to be in the right place at the right time to notice it, and if that person understands the significance of the sighting and reports it, we get an exciting new bird for the record books. This happened a few years ago in La Crosse, Wisconsin, when a Green Violet-ear, a tropical hummingbird, turned up in a backyard feeder, though the bird was there for several weeks before the people watching it realized it wasn’t just a regular Ruby-throat. Fork-tailed Flycatchers from South America, Anna’s Hummingbirds from the west, Rock Ptarmigans from the far north, a dovekie from the east, a Brambling and Fieldfare from Eurasia—all these birds and more have wended their way into Minnesota at one time or another, and someone was lucky enough to notice it while it was still there and get the word out.

This year Minnesota added a new bird to the list yet again, when a Wood Stork, an endangered wading bird that belongs in Florida or thereabouts, turned up in a back yard in Grand Marais. Lynden Blomberg, the birder who first spotted it, wasn’t very experienced at all, but he knew what to do when he saw it—he toddled over to his daddy and said, “Papa! There’s a big bird out there!” Lynden Blomberg happens to be 3 years old. When his dad, Bump, came to the window, sure enough—there was a Wood Stork perched in a birch. He ran and got the video camera, and taped 6 minutes of footage during the 45 minutes the bird remained in the yard, as the child told him, “He’s in trouble, Papa. He’s in danger.” But it’s hard to help a 3 ½-foot long bird that is quite capable of flying off. The family used field guides to figure out what the bird was, and then called Grand Marais’s premiere birders, Molly and Ken Hoffman, who viewed the video to confirm the identification. Now the videotape is headed for the Bell Museum of Natural History, where it will be reviewed by the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union’s Records Committee, who will confirm the identification, the wildness of the bird, and that it was indeed in Grand Marais, and will add it to the official state records. Their records cite the people who first discovered each bird, and in this case the Hoffmans and the Blombergs all want to be sure little Lynden gets credited as the discoverer.

What happened to the stork? It flew off, but no one knows where. Some people may have noticed it here and there on its way to Grand Marais, or after it left, but so far no one has informed the birding community. A lot of people don’t know how to identify birds, and may have rubbed their eyes in disbelief at the huge bird but not known what it was. Someone may have recognized it but not known who to tell. One of the beautiful things about birding is the element of mystery. Even if someone spotted a Wood Stork in Duluth, or in Bismark, or in Port Wing in the next few weeks, we couldn’t be certain it was this same one. We usually don’t know anything at all for certain about the individual birds we see, including these extraordinary birds in the middle of uncharted travels. But unless that Wood Stork has died, it is somewhere out there—maybe in Canada or North Dakota by now, or maybe it’s headed south again and is floating on a thermal above a parking lot at Disney World. No one will ever know for sure. Perhaps other toddlers have looked out their windows to see it. Wherever it is, we wish it well, and congratulate the young boy who added one to the record books.