For the Birds Radio Program: Contest update
Laura’s in-laws in Port Wing are seeing a lot of birds this winter, and are the people to beat in Laura’s contest. (3:45)
(Recording of a Northern Cardinal)
This year’s winter bird contest is going strong. So far the people to beat are my in-laws, who’ve had 11 species so far this month in their Port Wing yard. They get Ruffed Grouse coming regularly to a large platform feeder filled with cracked corn, and an occasional Pileated Woodpecker. Like everyone else, they are finding finches hard to come by. They’ve had only a single Pine Siskin and Evening Grosbeak all month. There’s a big flock of White-winged Crossbills chowing down on spruce seeds in Port Wing, and at least a few flocks in Duluth, but so far no listeners have reported seeing them in their yards. And nobody has yet reported Bohemian Waxwings on their yard lists, though there are several good-sized groups around.
My in-laws may be getting more species than anyone else I’ve heard from so far, but they’re certainly not getting the best species. Several people have been getting cardinals, in Iron River, Cornucopia, Port Wing, Duluth, and south of Superior. Bob Power, who lives on the beach in Port Wing, had the most unusual feeder bird so far—a Bald Eagle coming down for hard boiled eggs. He also had Oldsquaw swimming in the open water behind his house. The most exotic bird so far has been a Great Gray Owl who sat on a pole in the Park Point dunes in Ruth Sola’s yard. There’s a lady in East Grand Forks who’s been getting a Brambling of all things. This is only the second Minnesota record ever of this vagrant finch from Europe. I haven’t heard of any House Finches in the northland yet, but they have been breeding in Madison, Wisconsin, and so it won’t be long before their range includes our area. These close relatives of Purple Finches are quite adapted to the urban habitat, and can successfully compete with House Sparrows for nesting sites and food.
This year’s winter contest can only be a success if lots of people report their yard birds. List every species that comes into your yard or can be seen from your property between January first and the last day of February. You can count birds flying overhead or swimming in a nearby lake as long as you actually see them while you’re in your yard. We’ll have prizes for the Wisconsin and Minnesota listeners with the most species, and a prize for the child 12 or under who sees the most species. We’ll also have a prize for a Minnesota and Wisconsin entry chosen at random, so even if the only birds you see are House Sparrows and starlings, you still have a chance of winning.
Not too many people have been complaining about squirrels this year, but these voracious rodents do make a lot of people unhappy. My philosophy about squirrels is if you can’t beat ‘em, count ‘em—so we’ll also have a prize for the listener who reports the most squirrels. We can’t give prizes for everything, but we’d like to report unusual mammals on the air. All I’ve been getting all winter are six gray squirrels and a shrew, but my in-laws have been getting flying squirrels and a fisher. And a kind listener who called me about her cardinal south of Superior is getting a raccoon. Unfortunately, her name has been scribbled over by the most delightful mammal on my property, my three year old son Tommy. If you want to make sure your entry doesn’t turn into an art project, send it to “For the Birds,” KUMD radio, University of Minnesota, Duluth, 55812. You still have plenty of time to add new species, so start your list today.
(Recording of a Northern Cardinal)
This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”