This weekend I traveled to Watonwan County in Minnesota for a wedding. Based on the ebird statistics, Watonwan doesn’t appear to be birded very frequently with the exception of a few individuals. Due to wedding festivities my birding efforts were mostly incidental, but I was still able to get over 20 species in the short time I had.
We stayed on a farm surrounded on all sides by corn fields. Driving down the long gravel driveway the first birds I noticed were the many Killdeer scurrying along the sides of the roads as we passed. Also on the roads were the occasional Horned Lark. Driving past the cornfields there wasn’t much in terms of avian life with the exception of the occasional Red-Winged Blackbird popping up from the low corn stalks or Barn Swallow flying overhead. The farm house was in a grove of trees creating a small forest island otherwise completely surrounded by fields. This small oasis was where the majority of the birds could be found. Black-Capped Chickadees, American Goldfinches, Downy Woodpeckers, Common Grackles, ad White-Breasted Nuthatches were routine feeder visitors and Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles were present but made fewer appearances.
The noisiest birds on the property were the House Wrens. They chattered from all sides of the house and occasionally perched out in the open, never for very long though. Some other loud species in the surrounding woods were the Great-Crested Flycatchers and Eastern Wood-Pewees. I could hear at least two of each species.
We drove a few miles down the county roads through the corn fields in order to get to some tennis courts in the small town of St. James. On the way, we stopped by a field where long grasses were growing and a small creek intersected the gravel road. This section of the road seemed to be the epicenter of bird activity as many Red-Winged Blackbirds were flying around the field and landing on the corn stalks that lined the edge of the field. A Belted Kingfisher suddenly perched up on a wire near the creek and an Eastern Kingbird landed in the middle of the road and caught an insect. At least two Dickcissel could be heard calling in the field. One of them ended up perching in a nearby deciduous plant.
We continued to the St. James tennis courts after watching the field for about ten minutes. Even when playing tennis I’m always keeping an eye on the birds. There were House Sparrows, Mourning Doves, and American Robins in the trees and other structures around the courts. Overhead there were six Chimney Swifts clicking and chattering.
In my limited time birding I came up with 26 species. None of them would be considered rare, but it was still a nice experience finding birds in the open fields of southern Minnesota.