This morning I was at Touch the Sky NWR in Rock County and heard a "hiccup"
that turned out to be a Henslow's Sparrow.  The bird was singing right on
the edge of the road directly across from the south parking lot of the To
the Sky trail kiosk (on 171st, about 2.5 miles west of 75); photos at
http://www.moumn.org/cgi-bin/doc.pl?rec_id=2810  Shortly after, I heard
another Henslow's in the tract just to the west, then found 2 more of them
singing at the north To the Sky trail kiosk along 181st.  There are very
few records for this species in far SW Minnesota.  I also heard an Upland
Sandpiper at the south To the Sky kiosk.

Surveying Breeding Bird Atlas blocks in Rock County has been interesting.
Species like Red-headed Woodpecker have been almost common (>dozen), I've
seen at least 8 Upland Sandpipers including a group of 3, Dickcissels are
all over, Orchard Orioles are frequent, and I've seen a few Swainson's
Hawks including an adult feeding chicks on a nest (photo on the MNBBA.org
gallery) along CR 10 in NE Rock.

I saw 2 male Blue Grosbeaks at locations along 231st between Hwy 23 & 50th
Avenue.

A few migrant warblers are still around, including Tennessee Warblers all
over the place, Northern Waterthrush, Magnolia, Blackpoll, & (late) Palm at
Blue Mounds SP.  I've seen several Swainson's Thrushes in the last couple
of days as well.  At the south end of Blue Mounds, I found a Northern
Cardinal nest with chicks that was constructed with a shopping bag.  A
photo will be on the MNBBA.org gallery this week.

Field puddles are drying up fast, but I have stumbled on American Pipits,
Pectoral, Least, & Semipalmated Sandpipers, and Short-billed Dowitchers in
fields.  The Hardwick sewage ponds had numerous peeps of the above species
and a few Wilson's Phalaropes and Hills sewage ponds had 39 Wilson's
Phalaropes and a Gadwall (among other waterfowl) today.

Finally, I visited the gravel pit ponds NE of Luverne tonight.  There were
~100 peeps in various-sized flocks including Pectoral, Baird's,
Semipalmated, and White-rumped.  There was also a lone Sanderling present
on the S pond.  A small flock of Black Terns was present, Franklin's Gulls
were there yesterday, and I had great looks at Barn, Bank, Cliff, and
Northern Rough-winged Swallows on the sand piles.

*Note about accessing the gravel pit ponds and the "Road Closed" gate.  To
obtain access to the WMA east of the pit, I talked to someone at the gravel
pit.  I was told that when the gate is open (and gate hours are posted),
it's OK to drive past the pit ponds to get to the WMA.  It's probably not a
good idea to scan the gravel pit ponds if trucks are hauling.  When the
gate is closed, it is OK to walk through the gate to the WMA.  (Don't block
the gate when you park!)  It's also OK to scan the ponds FROM THE ROAD.
All of the employees I encountered were really easy-going as long as I
birded from the road.  I was told that people leaving the road to get
closer to the pits will not be tolerated at all.  This should not be a
problem, since there are plenty of sandy flats on the NW pond that can be
seen from the road.

Shawn Conrad

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