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May 2014


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Dennis and Barbara Martin <[log in to unmask]>
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Dennis and Barbara Martin <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 4 May 2014 00:01:17 -0600
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From the previous messages from Peder and Kim you are all aware of our sighting of an adult White Ibis on Wednesday evening May 1, 2014 at about 7:15 PM  This bird was seen over the Norland Impoundment in north central Roseau County.  This is roughly 6 miles south of the Canadian border.

As we were talking with a local farmer about the impoundment Denny noticed without binoculars a large white bird soaring into the impoundment.  It didn’t quite look right to be an egret so he raised his 10 power binoculars and immediately realized he was looking at an adult White Ibis.  Clearly noted immediately at about a half mile distance was the all white body, the classic ibis shape with the long neck and long legs, small black wing tips, orange red trailing legs, and the obvious long down-turned orange red bill.  The bill came all the way up to and seemed to include the eye like the  bill on a Trumpeter Swan meets the eye while the Tundra Swan has a separate eye.  The bill and legs may have had a slight pink side to the color at times because of the early evening sun which was behind us offering great light on the bird.  We were unable to get photos as the camera was in the car.

We were able to switch to looking at the bird in a 50 power Kowa scope and were able to go back and forth using the scope so both of us had outstanding looks at the bird and we were able to discuss marks as we looked at it with the scope and bins.  We probably had the bird in view for nearly 2 minutes.  The bird soared back and forth over the impoundment moving a little further away as it appeared to be looking for a place to land.  We were on the western side of the area and that is the deep side in terms of water depth so it was moving to the east where there is shallower water and areas that are above the water line.  A couple of times it appeared to land behind brush only to soar back up and continue looking.  Eventually it did not come back up after one of these downward soars out of sight behind the considerable brush in the center area of the impoundment about a mile from us.

This sighting is significant for several reasons.  The most important ones include the following.  The first and only previous sighting of this species was in Winona County on May 13, 1995 (nearly 19 years ago.)  The nearest nesting areas according to the new Sibley guide are southern Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, so this bird is way out of normal range and is nearly two states above the rare areas that Sibley shows as having an occasional sighting.  That area ends at very southern Iowa and this impoundment is only 6 miles from Manitoba.

We suspect that we were among the first birders to even visit this new impoundment.  The impoundment is a flood control reservoir designed to help protect the city of Roseau and eventually the Red River from flooding  It is designed to collect and hold water in the spring and when there are massive rains and then to release that water when no damage will be done.  There are some 12 of these structures from Grant County in the south to this one in the north in Minnesota and there are others in North Dakota, I believe.  I also understand that there is more money coming to build more of these things.  There primary purpose is flood control but controlling runoff and helping wildlife are surely secondary purposes.  We have found these places to be great birding areas and they seem to be very open to birders.  This particular one is some 7 plus square miles and there is no driving around it.  The top of the dikes offer flat easy walking and this one seems to have more than 12 miles of exterior dikes, plus some smaller interior roads that may of may not be above the water line.  We were told the area was built a couple of years ago and the vegetation was allowed to grow up to easy runoff.  This is the first year it has been filled to this level and it was not necessary to fill it up more at this time as there has been minimal risk of flooding this year so far.

To get to this impoundment go east from Roseau on Hwy 11 to 440th Ave.  Go north 4 miles to 350th Street and go east for one mile to the gate.  You can also go east on 340th St but 350th is the better road.  After a heavy rain or early in the spring I would not recommend trying to get in here as neither road is that great in places.

After our sighting we spent the next two mornings walking different parts of these dikes trying to refind the bird.  We were unable to do so.  There were also three other people looking Saturday morning.  It may or may not be present as we probably only walked half the dikes and were never able to see specifically into the specific area we thought the bird went down.  There is a lot of tall brush in parts of the impoundment that we presume will now start to die off and be replaced with cattails, etc.  Waterfowl were all over the place with all the normal dabbling ducks well represented.  Also present were several Bald Eagles, at least 5 Rough-legged Hawks (one a dark phase). many many Northern Harriers, a Peregrine, Sora and Virginia Rails, American Bitterns, Short-eared Owls,  at least 50 Rusty Blackbirds, and other species too numerous to mention.

It is a great place to spend time birding.

Dennis and Barbara Martin
Shorewood, MN

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