Who are the Walker’s avian neighbors?
My father and I went “city birding” to see the surprising ways wildlife dovetails with the urban environment. In May and then in October, we wandered the grounds of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, then migrated to Loring Park, and concluded our observations perched atop the Walker’s green slope. Here is a bird’s-eye-view of the territory we covered.
1: Minneapolis Sculpture Garden; 2: Walker’s greenspace; 3: Loring Park; 4: Walker Art Center, Gallery Tower; 5: Walker Art Center, Theater Tower
First, to introduce the birders:
- Novice at bird identification
- Walker Art Center staff
- Fledgling artist
- Enjoys applying the principles of evidence-based medicine to his birding
- Admires thorough, rigorous experimental design
- Empty nester
What we saw may surprise you! Take a look at our list, then go look for yourself. I welcome your comments to this post — I’m curious to see if you see the same species or others!
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
- In the Garden we enjoyed observing a fairly diverse bird population. In both May and October, lots of birds find their way to the Garden grounds.
- In May, the Green Heron was our most unexpected sighting. We saw it flying low overhead at 8:41 am. Later we spotted it in a pine tree along the western edge of the Garden. Maybe it nests in the wetlands located about 1/3 mile west of the Garden?
- As we walked along the park’s eastern and western edges in October, we saw Ruby-crowned Kinglets in the pines, often at very close distances (as close as 4′). They would flit from one pine bow to the next, and would frequently hover (almost like a hummingbird), positioning themselves just under the pine needles’ tips. Could they have been drinking water droplets?
- Another great bird to watch was the Brown Creeper. It lands at the base of a tree trunk then slowly hops and spirals up, foraging for insects. Once it gets as high as the branches, it takes flight and alights at the base of the next tree. We watched it scale 5 tree trunks, very methodically and consistently repeating its search for food.
Walker Art Center’s Greenspace
- In May, virtually all the observed individuals were flying over.
- Contrasting the greenspace observations with those recorded in the Garden or in Loring Park, one can hypothesize that features such as physical structure, diverse flora, and a water source make a quantifiable difference in the abundance and diversity of birds, even on a micro-local level.
- In both May and October, this location had the most diverse populations of our three sites.
- Mourning Doves: We saw them all through the Sculpture Garden, even atop George Segal’s Walking Man, but we didn’t see any in Loring Park!
- 70% increase: In October, we saw 70% more species than we saw in May! This was striking because the species counts at the other sites were consistent for our two survey dates.
We submitted our observations on e-bird, an free online checklist tool. E-bird offers organized record storage and customizable reports to users. Its greater purpose is to serve researchers in the fields of conservation and ecology.
Every two facts in the hand is worth a third in the thicket.
Had my dad and I only surveyed the Garden, our experiences would have been less dimensional. The accumulation of information is not a strictly additive process, but can compound our knowledge multiplicatively. With every observable datum, relationships exist between that singular bit and all the pieces that came before. In this context we cobble together patterns, discriminate and identify categories, speculate as to meaning and postulate as to the future. How many bits and pieces must we put together to present a satisfactorily convincing semblance of a whole?
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a discussion between artist Fritz Haeg and some Walker staff. Reflecting on his works and practice influenced me to conduct this bird census. I appreciate the power of Haeg’s work to remind us that wilderness is always at hand, and closer at hand than we might casually believe. Thank you to Education and Community Programs for making this encounter, this exploration, and this learning possible.