It’s been mostly a mild winter around the Brainerd Lakes area compared to previous winters. This might be the warmest winter on record! I live near the Mississippi River, and it has not froze over as in previous years. The amount of open water has kept a few birds around a bit longer such as trumpeter swans. I coordinate a few of the local Christmas bird counts, and we have record numbers for trumpeter swans and some of the diving ducks. I also noticed more bald eagles than normal with the mild weather and open water. Each year a winter finch report comes out of Canada and is based on the cone crop surveys of pine, spruce, and tamarack found in Canada. This is the primary food source for many of the winter finches and in poor crop years in Canada, birds are forced south (Minnesota) to find food. In other years when the cone crop is good, very few birds are reported south as they have no reason to migrate. Some years I can have over 200 common redpolls in my backyard and none for 2 to 3 years or longer. This just happens to be a good winter finch year, and people are reporting some of these winter finches as south as Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs. I was so excited to see an evening grosbeak at my home this winter, my first here in over 15 years! I know others are also reporting evening and pine grosbeaks in the area for the first time in many years! The best thing to feed these birds is black sunflower seeds either in a large tray or hopper type feeder. Enjoy as we don’t know when the next irruption might be for these birds.
Where to see birds
Sax-Zim Bog: The Sax-Zim Bog is one of the best winter bird locations in the entire country for owls and many hard to find birds. My guiding season for the Sax-Zim Bog runs from December to March each year. Each year is different, so it makes it very exciting and rewarding for me and and for my clients!
Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway: The Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway is a great place to see birds year round. Winter birding along the Byway can be rewarding for those willing to venture out in the cold. It’s a good time to find owls, eagles, woodpeckers, bluejays, and waxwings. Good locations around the Byway include bird feeding stations, fruiting trees, and pine or spruce trees.
Northland Arboretum: The Northland Arboretum encompasses over 500 acres in the heart of Brainerd and Baxter is an easy place to see birds. You can snowshoe, cross country ski, and hike the various trails with different terrains and see a variety of birds.
If you’re interested in learning more about my tours, visit my website at birdmn.com, or you can email me to schedule a tour at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Birding!