Kestrel chicks to be banded Thursday

Five kestrels have hatched in a nesting box at the Agassiz Valley Water Resources Management Project near Warren, Minn. PKM Electric Cooperative installed 10 of the nesting boxes this spring.

Aaron Wall, a sixth-grade teacher at Warren-Alvarado-Oslo school, photographed these newly hatched kestrel chicks Monday. The chicks are scheduled to be banded Thursday.

Heidi Hughes, manager of the adjacent Audubon Center of the Red River Valley, said this morning in an email that the kestrel chicks will be banded at 11 a.m. Thursday. Tim Driscoll, director of the Urban Raptor Research Project, will be banding the chicks. Driscoll recently banded the three peregrine falcon chicks that hatched on the UND water tower and also has banded numerous Cooper’s hawks in Grand Forks.

Hughes said students from the Warren-Alvarado-Oslo school also will be on hand to witness Thursday’s banding. It should be a great opportunity for the students to get a first-hand look at the process and the newly hatched chicks.

And if you’ve never been to the Audubon Center near Warren, put it on your list. For more information, contact Hughes at (218) 745-5663 or click here:

Agassiz Audubon Society receives $1,100 grant for Community Nest Watch project

Chimney swifts and other insect-eating birds in northwest Minnesota will be getting a boost from an $1,100 grant the Agassiz Audubon Society in Warren, Minn., is receiving from the Minnesota Ornithologists Union.

Chimney swift populations have declined drastically during the past 40 years. (Photo courtesy of the Agassiz Audubon Society)

The Minneapolis-based organization announced the grant last week, and the money will support the Audubon Society’s new “Community Nest Watch” project.

“The grant will help us purchase of construction materials for two chimney swift towers,” Van Hapka, president of Agassiz Audubon, said in a news release. “We’re planning to build one in downtown Warren near City Hall and the other at the Audubon Center of the Red River Valley on 190th Street.

“Our goal is inspire local communities throughout the Red River Valley — to learn more about birds, create habitat for them and have fun doing it,” Hapka added. The Audubon Society said the Community Nest Watch Project is focusing on insect-eating birds whose populations are declining — chimney swifts, eastern bluebirds, American kestrels and purple martins.

In related news, the Agassiz Audubon Society is recruiting volunteers to help build and install nest boxes in their communities and then monitor the boxes throughout the summer. For more information, contact the Audubon Center at (218) 745-5663.

Snowy owl sightings continue to roll in across Red River Valley

Snowy owls continue to attract attention in the Red River Valley and parts of northwest Minnesota.

Heidi Hughes, manager of the Audubon Center of the Red River Valley near Warren, Minn., photographed this young male snowy owl recently near Radium, Minn., along state Highway 1.

Heidi Hughes, manager of the Audubon Center of the Red River Valley near Warren, Minn., said she continues to receive reports about snowy owl sightings. No surprise, that; according to Hughes, ornithologists say this could be a record year for snowy owl sightings in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Hughes said the influx likely results from record production in the birds’ traditional tundra habitat. Typically, snowy owls move south when lemmings — their primary forage — crash in abundance. This year appears to be just the opposite: high lemming populations resulted in so many snowy owls being produced that younger birds have been pushed south, Hughes said.

Whatever the reason, the influx is a treat for birdwatchers.

In an effort to track snowy owl sightings, Hughes has set up a Red River Valley Snowy Owl Hotline at (218) 745-5663. Hughes asks that anyone who spots a snowy owl call with the following information:

1. Day of the week.

2. Time of day.

3. Location (from the nearest intersection — or GPS coordinate).

4. What the bird was perched on.

5. Description of the amount of black barring.

6. Relative size of the bird: (much bigger than a crow or about crow-size).

Avoid stressing the owls, Hughes said, adding she already has received one report of a snowy owl succumbing to starvation along state Highway 89 near Roseau, Minn.

Snowy owl reports also can be reported to Hughes at AgassizAudubon@gmail.com.