Posted by: soniahs | July 18, 2011

Birding at the Minnesota River NWR

On our Great Lakes trip, we did some birding at the Minnesota River National Wildlife Refuge near Bloomington. This spring’s flooding put a bit of a damper on it, in that several trails at the refuge were flooded out. But we saw some cool things anyway. Warblers, flycatchers, and woodpeckers at the visitor center, and more warblers, geese, and swallows elsewhere. There were also a fair number of mammals- including white-tailed deer and muskrats.

The muskrats were just concentrating on eating, and pretty much tolerated our presence.

After visiting the visitor center, we took a trail near the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge, unsurprisingly called that because it has been replaced by the new Cedar Avenue Bridge.

bridge

The Old Cedar Avenue Bridge, with the new bridge in tha background (Y. Fernandez)

There’s a boardwalk on this path with a viewing platform in the river. The high water level made this a really interesting experience. I’m assuming that the water level is usually lower, and the area seems more marshy. There was no way to escape the feeling that we were actually walking through the river.

Cliff swallow resting on the boardwalk (Y. Fernandez)

There were quite a few swallows flying around, as well as the ubiquitous red-winged blackbirds.

Blackbird staking out his claim on some pretty soggy territory (Y. Fernendez)

At the end of the boardwalk, the river had covered the path, making the observation deck seem very much like an island in all the water.

Floating in the river.

We were surrounded by slowly-moving water, with swallows and damselflies swooping around us constantly. The experience really reminded me of the sequence in Ponyo in which the sea floods a coastal village and everyone gets around by boating along over the roadways. However, we didn’t see any Devonian fish or trilobites coming up underneath us, like in the movie. Which admittedly was a good thing!

The platform had obviously been used as a goose resting area recently...

On the way out, Yan stopped to take some photos of damselflies, while I was trying to identify a duck seen really far off. I’m not sure what species they are:

Female damselfly? (Y. Fernandez)

I do think they’re a male and female of the same species, though. Any suggestions?

Male damselfly? (Y. Fernandez)

Unfortunately, we had to cut our time there short because we had dinner plans (which turned out to be excellent, so we really didn’t complain). I will say that I had one of my weirder birding bathroom experiences on this excursion. Because the NWR visitor’s center closed while we were there, we stopped at a Nordstrom’s in the Mall of America to use their facilities. The juxtaposition of the muddy river and the biggest mall in the U.S. was a bit of a strange experience, but certainly more pleasant than the alternative.

I never managed to identify that duck, though... (Y. Fernandez)

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