[mou] To Salt Lake or not to Salt Lake, Little Gull revisited

Williams, Bob BXWilliams at CBBURNET.COM
Sun Apr 27 10:43:24 CDT 2008

It was a memorable trip to western MN.  Larry Galau and I left early
Friday morning in the rain and hit a few spots along the way to Appleton
that we could bird by car.  By the time we hit the Swift County line the
rain was turning to sleet and by the time we hit the Chippewa County
line it was turning to snow.  Even though it was early afternoon and we
had lots of plans for the rest of the day we decided to check into the
motel in Appleton and wait out the storm.  That turned out to be the
right decision as we heard reports of roads closed and cars in the
ditches around the area.  The next morning it had stopped snowing.  We
left at 6:30 and drove around Appleton to see how the roads were.  There
was about 6 inches of wet snow on the ground and the roads were still
terrible.  We made the decision to head back towards the east as we knew
that the area around Salt Lake had received even more snow.  We soon
realized that the storm had created a bit of a fallout in the area.
There were shorebirds huddled in unlikely places.  They were all snipe,
yellowlegs with an occasional Wilson's Phalarope mixed in.  The
roadsides were crawling with flocks of LBB's, blackbirds and Killdeer
looking for food.  At one spot in Chippewa County we stopped the car and
watched Chipping, Field, Savannah, Song, Vesper, Clay-colored, and Lark
Sparrows that came so close that you barely needed binocs to identify
them.  At another spot we saw what looked like an immature Little Blue
Heron in flight, but it was just too far away to make a positive ID.  
At about 9am as we drove SE on Co. Rd. 32 in Chippewa County along the
east side of Lac Qui Parle we came upon a small group of terns and gulls
feeding along the edge of the water.  We were a few hundred yards above
the dam where Co. Rd. 13 crosses into Lac Qui Parle County.  We watched
the birds feed repeatedly in this area and had great views of the birds
from the car with only our binocs.  Larry soon called out Little Gull
and we focused on one of the gulls that clearly was not a Bonaparte's.
It was a little smaller, with a black head and no eye-ring.  The bill
was dark and small.  The body had a beautiful pink wash.  The trailing
edge of the wings was white, the undersides were dark gray and the tail
was white.  We heard only one vocalization which was a short one
syllable sound.  We watched the bird for a good 10 to 15 minutes as the
other birds left the area leaving only the Little Gull to feed.  We are
probably the only 2 serious birders in the state who don't have a camera
with them at all times.  Dave Cahlander could have gotten some
tremendous shots of this bird.  All I know is that when I hear there is
going to be a freak snow storm in western MN at the end of April, I'm
going to make every effort to be there when it happens. 
Bob Williams, Bloomington    
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