Monday, May 30, 2011

Bluebirds at the McKnight Prairie

Carleton College's McKnight Prairie is a place I'd been hearing about for quite a while, but I'd never been there until we went early this morning. This rare remnant of original prairie is great habitat for grassland species, including a variety of sparrow species plus phoebes, kingbirds, tree swallows and bluebirds, all of which we saw. We saw song sparrows, field sparrows, chipping sparrows and savannah sparrows and heard but did not see clay-colored sparrows. The pair of bluebirds we saw had something in their beaks every time we saw them outside of their house. I'd never had a chance to get good bluebird photos before. The four close-ups below were taken through the spotting scope.

Male Eastern Bluebird

Male Eastern Bluebird

Until yesterday I assumed that the McKnight Prairie was an area within the Cowling Arboretum that I'd never happened to stumble on, but in fact it's a 33-acre preserve several miles northeast of the arboretum in Stanton township. The two hilltops within the fairly narrow strip of land were never disturbed and though the surrounding land was once cultivated, it has been recolonized by native prairie grasses and other plants. It was here that whooping cranes were spotted last summer.

Female Eastern Bluebird

Female Eastern Bluebird

Bluebird pair on fence wire


dAwN said...

That last photo looks like a painting...beautiful.

chautauqua said...

This was originally a trail that I renovated three years ago, removing some very old wooden boxes and replacing them with 6 Gilbertson houses obtained from Carroll Johnson of BBRP. I ran the trail for two years and then scaled back my efforts to just the Carleton Arboretum. I thought that I had taken these six houses down and returned them to Mr. Johnson, but was mistaken on this. Glad to see that you have assumed responsibility for the trail. Thanks!!
Glenn Lee

Penelopedia said...

Glenn -- Nancy Braker asked about a month ago if we'd be interested in taking these on, since we'd adopted some other boxes this year. We are enjoying the chance to get out there. There are just four boxes up currently -- this is the "Trail 2" that I describe in my more recent trail reports, if you've seen those. Thanks for writing. I'd be interested in knowing about your results out there in earlier years. Feel free to email me at Thanks!