Bemidji Birding Club Trip Reports

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April 12, 2006
Gonvick Rice Paddies, Clearwater County

Our new birding club had it's first official field trip today. We traveled north of Gonvick to an area of commercial rice paddies. The birding was phenomenal! Upwards of 10,000 Tundra Swans filled the flooded impoundments and muddy fields! They were everywhere, in-flight, swimming, feeding, napping, fighting. We drove between two paddies and were surrounded by a blizzard of white bodies in all directions. Despite the constant wind, the sound of all those swans mixed with the Chorus Frogs was thrilling. The area also yielded 17 species of duck plus many Canada Geese and 2 Greater White-fronted Geese.
Total species for the day 54, all in Clearwater county.
Other highlights of the trip included.
1 Western Meadowlark, FOY
3 Dbl-crested Cormorants, FOY
9 Black-billed Magpie
13 Sandhill Cranes, FOY
8 Raptor species
On top of the amazing Swan spectacle the group witnessed, we encountered record numbers of Northern Harrier. Almost all were male and totaled close to 2 dozen individuals! Remarkable beyond their numbers were the behaviors we observed. Yes, there was plenty of hunting (hawking the fields, some kiting, numerous low swoops and a little close up ditch diving action!) Then we encountered what appeared to be a courtship display by a male in the presence of a higher soaring female. The display was performed over a small opening in a cedar swamp. The male would fly to a height above the spot then stoop into it, pulling up 10 or 15 feet above the ground, then climb and repeat. It reminded me of a hummingbird dance! Later we witnessed what appeared to be an intense aerial interaction between a male and female. In another location two males clashed over territory. The loser gave us a fine look as he made a low and hasty retreat in front of our vehicle.