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Sept BEN Bulletin

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BEN Bulletin (Bird Education Network)

Kids: The Binocular Trap
by Paul J. Baicich

Why is it that when you share binoculars with an adult, perhaps a beginning bird watcher, you make sure that you share a solid, quality, even impressive, pair of binoculars, but when you go afield with a child, say, between 8 and 12 years of age, almost any piece of optics will do?

Worse yet, why is it that inexpensive and light "compact binoculars" are almost always ascribed to kid use?

It's a big mistake.

Too often, the very people whom many bird educators value the most, youngsters, are left with the worst in introductory binoculars. Nothing will discourage continued bird-watching activity and learning in the field more than an initial experience with binoculars that are, essentially, junk. It's just no fun.

Of course, there are important optics features that do need attention when dealing with youngsters. These may include the ability for the young folks to get their hands around the binoculars, access the focusing knob, and adjust the interpupillary distance (to match the closeness of the eyes among the youngest kids in the group). What's more, finding the bird in the tree or bush is difficult enough for beginning birders - of any age - without having to deal with a narrow field of view or a high magnification that may have the image almost bouncing around.

Try a lower power - between 6X and8X - and definitely stick to a wide field of view.

Of course, some training and help - from a parent or other adult - is essential. Learning to bring the binoculars to your face, while constantly watching the bird, needs practice. (Focusing on a far-off sign - and reading simple text - is a fine way to learn locating the object and focusing properly.) While practice makes perfect, that practice can be squandered if the binoculars are unserviceable.

We have probably all seen a box of binoculars distributed among kids in a group, binoculars that are small, light, flimsy, very low power, narrow field of view, and really unacceptable

The options for binoculars appropriate for youngsters are many today. It's not like the limitations of a decade or two ago. In fact, we live in an era when relatively good quality binoculars can be secured for around $100 or even less. Some of these are porro-prism binoculars that can be outstanding. There are so many options, that recommending a particular brand would be inappropriate or misleading here. Still, you might look around the website for Eagle Optics to review the many, many brands and sorts of models that are available. A final point to be aware of is warranty. Some manufacturers will offer a unconditional warranty, a relief when binoculars get dropped, slammed against a tree, or run over with a lawn mower.

Don't sell the kids short. They usually arrive in the field eager to learn something new. Don't make it more difficult for them at the very outset. Make it fun.

[Ben Lizdas, Tom Rusert, and Dave Watkins provided advice for this article]

Book Review: Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard
by Dave Magpiong

Many birders have thoroughly stocked shelves of books. Field guides, bird-finding guides, life histories of birds, and birding memoirs are some of the common variations. Through the decades, there have been several volumes addressing "how to be a birder" from the likes of Peterson, Kaufman, Sibley, Dunne, and others. Perhaps it's time to add Annette Leblanc Cate to that esteemed list.

Her Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard captures many of the basics of becoming a birder and delivers the message in a kid-friendly package. Her cartoonish illustrations and humorous style will draw in and entertain younger readers. Yet, she provides many insights that will provide youth with the foundation to get started down the path to birding. Her light-hearted approach to birding is balanced out with the help of "technical assistance" long-time Massachusetts birder Jim Barton.

This is not a book that will teach young birders how to identify Empidomax flycatchers or distinguish between fall warblers. Rather, it will whet the appetite of kids who never considered bird watching to be an option for them. Cate gives her a readers a glimpse of the beautiful diversity of North American birds. She outlines general skills for learning birds - using shape, bill, feet, sound, habitat, and range. A nice resource is the "Bird-Watching Do's . . . and Don't's!" which touches on the ethics of birding. Quite importantly, she debunks the notion of "there aren't any birds where I live" by pointing out that birds can be found anywhere, including the suburbs and cities.

While some experienced birders may be bothered by the anthropomorphic birds and cartoonish feel, Look Up! achieves its goal of making birding both more appealing and more accessible to the bird conservationists of tomorrow. The book's humorous moments and laid-back presentation may also pull in the parents of its young readers - and they can impact conservation in many ways today.

California Fall Birding Challenge is Here!

The San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory is dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats through science and outreach. Founded in 1981, the Bird Observatory has produced over 30 years of scientific information on local bird populations, working with both government agencies and partner organizations.

The18th Annual California Fall Challenge (CFC) is SFBBO's biggest fundraising campaign of the year, a month of trips, contests, and events to raise money for their science and outreach programs. Join them for guided trips, bird-a-thons, band-a-thons as well as photo and youth art contests through October 18.

Choosing an IMBD habitat theme for 2015

The artist, Amelia Hansen, will be working on the 2015 International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)theme, "Habitat Restoration". In the process, bird educators have been asked for their input.

You can give your opinion and rank you choices on habitats, slogans, and accompanying materials. Make your opinions known in this IMBD Survey from Environment for the Americas.

BEN: Connecting Bird Educators TM
CEE logo CC good resolutionFor more information visit:

Friends of Sax-Zim Box Results & Photos of BioBlitz II

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Amazing Biodiversity in the Bog Revealed
Forty-some participants and leaders turned up nearly 300 SPECIES (!) on our second annual BioBlitz on August 2nd, 2014. A beautiful day greeted folks as they met at our new Welcome Center. We divided into groups and hit the bog! Experts in the fields of birds, spiders, fungi, wildflowers, butterflies and dragonflies scoured far flung parts of the Bog. All met back at noon to share their findings and discoveries. Amazingly, we turned up several new species for the Bog and even ONE NEW MINNESOTA RECORD!-- a spider species found by Chad Heins.

See the COMPLETE LIST OF SPECIES we recorded here

10th Anniversary of Birds of North America Online

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Ithaca, N.Y.--Ten years have gone by since the Birds of North America went online, transforming an 18-volume, 18,000-page library reference into a dynamic, constantly updated, multimedia-enriched resource accessible to everyone. Researchers, wildlife professionals, conservationists, teachers and bird watchers use BNA Online for definitive life history information and the latest science on more than 700 bird species that breed in the United States (including Hawaii) and Canada.

"One of the key advantages of BNA Online is that it grows and changes as needed," said editor Alan Poole. "Dozens of species accounts are updated each year. You just can't stay that up-to-date in print."

BNA Online was launched by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in September 2004 and has been growing ever since. During the past year, more than 230,000 unique visitors came to the site from 190 countries. There are currently more than 375 libraries, government agencies, and conservation related organizations subscribed.

Accounts are typically written by recognized experts on the species. Aside from information on identification, habitat, distribution, breeding, and behavior, each account includes sound, images, maps, video, and a bibliography for additional reference.

New features coming to BNA Online include:

Year-round range map for Northern Mockingbird.
Expanded range maps with migratory routes and population distributions

Links to real-time bird data using the eBird online checklist program showing species ranges throughout the year

Improved display of photos and videos
Subscribers can sign up for a year or more of access or pay as little as $5.00 to gain access for a month--great for researching school papers or for learning about a new species you've just seen. A year's subscription to BNA Online is $42.00. Cornell Lab members receive a discount.

To learn more about BNA Online and to subscribe either as an institution or as an individual, visit

Media Contact:
Pat Leonard, Cornell Lab, (607) 243-2137,

Sept. SEEK Bulletin

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The September issue of the SEEK Bulletin can be found here

Sept-Dec Maplewood Parks & Rec Brochure

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Wellness, Arts, & Fun for Everyone!

Check out the Fall edition of the brochure listing upcoming events here.

Aug. Mississippi Messages

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FMR Updates


The DNR is now revising their draft rules that will govern the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA) for generations to come. If you have not yet taken the time to comment and share your connection to the river and how you want to see it protected, preserved, and enhanced, it's not too late!

Read more »


Invitations for FMR's 13th annual "Evening Celebrating the Mississippi River" will be mailed the week of August 18. Now is the time to let us know if you would like to be on the invitation list! The evening will feature talented storyteller Kevin Kling, well-known guitarist Phil Heywood, a river-centric live auction, beer from Fulton Brewing, hearty appetizers from Common Roots Catering, and more! Contact John at or 651-222-2193 x19 to get your name on the invite list.

Read more »


As Mississippi Messages readers know, aquifer levels in the northeast metro area have declined dramatically in recent years, taking White Bear Lake waters levels down with them. A study by the Metropolitan Council looks at several solutions for providing long-term water supply to the northeast metro area. In an article about the study, Metropolitan Council Water Supply Manager Ali Elhassan notes, "The notion that the region's abundant and relatively cheap water supply is limitless, and therefore disposable, will cost us dearly if we don't change our philosophy and behaviors."

Read more »


The Star Tribune recently highlighted the results of a recent statewide survey of water quality knowledge and perceptions in Minnesota.

The survey reaffirmed Minnesota's commitment to clean water. Ninety-eight percent of respondents said lakes and rivers are an important aspect of life in Minnesota, through less than half consider themselves knowledgeable about water quality issues.

The study also showed a positive trend: many Minnesotans correctly identify agriculture as a leading source of pollution to Minnesota's surface waters.

Read more »


For the first time, invasive bighead and silver carp have been caught above Lock and Dam 2 at Hastings. In July, commercial fisherman conducting a survey for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources netted a 40-pound bighead carp and a 20-pound silver carp. Both fish were pregnant females and were caught near Cottage Grove in what is known as Pool 2. The findings added urgency to the effort to deter the invaders. In a related development, fisheries biologists last month installed underwater speakers in a lock chamber further downstream as part of an experimental effort to use sound to prevent the fish from passing through the lock.

Read more »


FMR events in South Washington County are amping up. This fall, we have two September events with the city of Cottage Grove, Washington County and 3M. There are several more area events in the works for October. Registration is now open for the September 18 Wetland Ecology Tour in Cottage Grove Regional Park and the September 27 Bluff Prairie Restoration in River Oaks Park. Sign up for one, or both! They're free with all supplies provided, but capacity is limited to ensure a positive experience. (If you're interested in upcoming Cottage Grove events, but can't make these dates, contact sue at to receive notices of upcoming local events.)

Read more »


River historian and founding FMR Board member John Anfinson has been selected as the next superintendent for Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA), headquartered in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Formerly, he served as the Chief of Resource Management for the park and succeeds Paul Labovitz who relocated to be the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore superintendent in May.

Read more »

Mississippi River News

Excessive sediment pollution has caused sand bars to form on the Mississippi River between Winona to Red Wing. These sand bars have halted barge traffic, stranding nearly 200 barges and more than a dozen towboats, which are unable to pass.

This excessive sediment comes mostly from the Minnesota River basin, where unsustainable agricultural drainage, tillage practices, and cropping systems drive excessive runoff and downstream erosion. Heavy spring rains exacerbated this problem, leading to a larger-than-usual pollution load to the Mississippi River.

More information about sediment pollution to the Mississippi River is available in our State of the River Report.


According to researchers at the University of Minnesota and the Natural Capital Project, agricultural practices across Southeastern Minnesota are responsible for increasing levels of contamination in private drinking water wells.

A recent study, led by Bonnie Keeler and Stephen Polasky at the University of Minnesota, found that the conversion of grassland to agriculture from 2007 to 2012 in Southeastern Minnesota is expected to increase the number of private drinking water wells exceeding the state's safe drinking water standard (10 part-per-million of nitrate-nitrogen) by 45 percent.

Despite the health risks from such contamination and the high costs to homeowners and downstream communities for remediation, pollution to surface water and groundwater from agricultural fertilizer remains exempt from accountability under the Clean Water Act.


Pollution from agricultural fertilizers was predominantly responsible for the massive toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie that caused the city of Toledo to shut off municipal water for half a million residents earlier this month. Despite years of warnings from federal regulators and environmental organizations, the state of Ohio, like the state of Minnesota continues to address agricultural pollution only through voluntary means.

Read more in this New York Times article and this coverage from Scientific American.


News of the Vikings' decision to turn their new stadium into a death-trap for birds traveled quickly through local and national media. The team and stadium authority are refusing to consider bird-friendly options for the stadium's massive glass walls, otherwise sure to kill thousands of birds traveling the nearby Mississippi River Flyway. Read more from the Star Tribune's Rochelle Olson and be sure to sign and share Audubon's petition to show support for the Flyway.

Read more »

Calendar of Events

Thursday, September 18, 6-7:30 p.m.
Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park, Cottage Grove

Join Friends of the Mississippi River ecologist Karen Schik and Washington Conservation District's Angie Hong as we explore Ravine Lake and the wetlands surrounding it. You'll learn about the plant life in and around the wetlands -- aquatic, amphibious, and terrestrial -- and the important role these plants play as they provide habitat and filter pollutants from our waters. Then we'll use dip nets to get a closer look at macroinvertebrates living in the marsh, and discuss what these tiny creatures reveal about the impacts of water pollution!

Capacity is limited and preregistration required. Children are welcome with a parent or guardian. Learn more on the event page, or sign up now with Janna at or 651-222-2193 x31.

Read more »

Thursday, September 25, 6-7:30 p.m.
Lakeville Area Arts Center, Lakeville

Every time there's a heavy rain, rainwater has washed over your roof, your yard and pavement -- carrying bits of roof shingles, pet waste, fertilizer, pesticides, motor oil and dirt into the nearest storm drain. All of this pollution goes right into our local creeks, lakes and the Vermillion and Mississippi Rivers -- unfiltered, untreated! Rain barrels help reduce this runoff pollution, and offer many other benefits as well. Learn more, sign up and purchase your barrel and supplies ($30) via the event page.

Read more »

Saturday, October 4 -- 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Near 36th & West River Pkwy., Mississippi River Gorge, Minneapolis

Volunteers will work closely with FMR staff to remove buckthorn and other invading trees and shrubs or to haul brush to its pick-up spot. Tools and gloves will be provided. However, be prepared to work on steep slopes and uneven terrain. Due to the tools and terrain, this event is not suitable for small children.

Capacity is limited and preregistration required. Learn more on the event page, or sign up now with Janna at or 651-222-2193 x31.

Read more »

Saturday, October 11 -- 9 a.m.-noon
Sand Coulee Scientific and Natural Area, Hastings

After a brief training, volunteers will help collect much-needed native prairie seed while enjoying this rare example of a sand-gravel prairie in full fall bloom. Volunteers will work with FMR Senior Ecologist Karen Schik and Assistant Stewardship Coordinator Kate Clayton in the natural area most recently added to the Sand Coulee Scientific and Natural Area. Seed will be used for further habitat restoration. Large quantities -- of volunteers and seed alike -- are needed!

Capacity is limited and preregistration required. Learn more about this Vermillion Stewards event on the event page, or sign up now with Janna at or 651-222-2193 x31.

Read more »

Saturday, September 27 -- 9-11 a.m.
River Oaks Park, Cottage Grove

Just southeast of River Oaks Golf Course in Cottage Grove lies a riverfront bluff with stunning views and a special remnant bedrock bluff prairie. Roughly 30 years ago this remnant prairie was renown as a very high quality area with excellent biodiversity. Over the years, however, it has steadily declined, and is now at risk of slowly being taken over by non-native species.

Recently, FMR began working with the City of Cottage Grove to preserve and restore this important site. Now volunteers are needed to join FMR Ecologist Joe Walton at our first restoration event at River Oaks Park. Volunteers will primarily haul pre-cut buckthorn, helping to open the canopy and making way for more beneficial native prairie and savanna plants to return.

Capacity is limited and preregistration required. Learn more on the event page, or sign up now with Janna at or 651-222-2193 x31.

Read more »

Saturday, October 18 -- 9 a.m.-noon
Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park, Cottage Grove

Centered around one of the most impressive landscape features in southern Washington County, Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park totals nearly 600 acres. The ravine for which it is named is approximately a half-mile wide with 80- to 100-foot slopes, and bisects the park north to south before ending in a small lake. Known as a "tunnel valley," the ravine was carved by a subglacial drainageway that carried large volumes of water, eroding the valley.

Volunteers will work with FMR Senior Ecologist Karen Schik to continue and expand the restoration of this beautiful park by hauling cut brush, primarily buckthorn. (There may also be some brush-cutting for volunteers comfortable working with handsaws or loppers.) This will help open the canopy, making way for native plants beneficial to local wildlife and waters to return.

Capacity is limited and preregistration required. Learn more on the event page, or sign up now with Janna at or 651-222-2193 x31.

Read more »

Through mid-October
City of Saint Paul

If you're looking for a great service outing that is educational, active, outdoors and provides a significant community benefit, consider storm drain stenciling. It's just one and a half to three hours in length, and can be set at a time and St. Paul location convenient for your group. Reservations are now being taken for outings through October 2014. Learn more on the stenciling event page or go straight to our stenciling, cleanup and presentation request form!

Read more »

Resource of the Month


On August 1, a new law went into effect that prohibits disposal of any mercury-containing product (including fluorescent bulbs, thermometers, thermostats, and switches) in the garbage or down the drain.

Mercury is a potent environmental toxin, and can damage the nervous system, kidneys, and liver. It is particularly hazardous for fetuses and children, and is primary reason for Minnesota's Statewide Safe Eating Guidelines for fish.

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, residents wishing to dispose of products that contain mercury should take unwanted items to a household hazardous waste facility, where most mercury-containing products will be accepted at no charge.

It is important for Minnesotans to know how to safely dispose of unwanted household hazardous waste; always handle with care.

Read more »



On July 22, 2014, a massive mayfly swarm occurred along the Mississippi River near Redwing. While much of the media attention focused on the negative impacts of the swarm, such as it's contribution to a three-car crash on the Highway 63 bridge to Wisconsin, the swarm is actually a good sign for water quality and ecology.

Read more »

Supporting FMR


The Pohlad Foundation has offered FMR a $10,000 challenge grant to match new gifts before October 27. Thanks to an awesome show of support, we are almost to the goal! To help us earn the final $2,000 and add your voice to the community voice for the river, please consider a tax-deductible gift to Friends of the Mississippi River today. You can call Heather at 651-222-2193 x20 to make a gift by phone, mail in a check, or make your gift right now at

All new members get an attractive FMR magnet with our thanks!

Read more »

Quote of the Month

"The time has come to identify and preserve free-flowing stretches of our great rivers before growth and development make the beauty of the unspoiled waterway a memory."

- Lyndon B. Johnson

August My Minnesota Woods

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You can view the latest issue of My Minnesota Woods here.

Summer From Shore to Shore Newsletter

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From Shore to Shore Newsletter

Greetings Shoreland and Water Quality Steward!

The Summer issue of the "From Shore to Shore" newsletter is now posted on the website for you to view and/or download. To access it, please go to:

This issue includes the following articles:
Minimal Impact Design Standards (MIDS) and Low Impact Development (LID)
Why Does a Lake Become Green and Stinky?
What's It? Slimy Blob!
Snapshots: Water Resources Team Programming & Research - Recent Past & Upcoming Opportunities
Please feel free to share the newsletter with others; reproduce articles for other newsletters (please credit "From Shore to Shore" as the source); and submit shoreland and water quality articles, pictures of projects, upcoming local events, and suggestions for topics for upcoming issues. Your input and feedback are always welcome!

If you have difficulty accessing the website, please let me know. Also, please notify Heidi Olson-Manska,, if your email address changes. If you wish to unsubscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to with "Unsubscribe to From Shore to Shore" in the subject line.

Karen Terry, Extension Educator-Water Resource Team
University of Minnesota Extension
Regional Office, Morris
WC Research/Outreach Ctr.
46352 State Highway 329
Morris, MN 56267

Voice: 320-589-1711
Fax: 320-589-4870

How's the Water?

Minnesota's water has come a long way from the days when raw sewage flowed untreated into rivers as a matter of course. However, there is still a lot of work to be done if we are going to restore the impaired lakes, rivers, and streams in the state.

Read more at:

Should Minnesotans Water Their Yards Less?

Residential water use varies widely in the Twin Cities. Andover, an Anoka County suburb of 30,000, is the biggest per capita user, according to an MPR News analysis of data the DNR collects from cities.

Read more at:

Beneath The Surface - Minnesota's Pending Groundwater Challenge

Even in the land of 10,000 lakes, water is no longer unlimited. Lakes shrink, groundwater drops, wells go dry or get contaminated. Some cities have to look harder for good municipal water or pay more to treat it.

Learn more at:

USDA Giving Up To $50M for Red River Conservation

The federal Agriculture Department is providing up to $50 million over the next five years for conservation funding in the Red River Basin in the Upper Midwest.

Learn more at:

Stepping into the Future: Technology Makes a Differenc for the Faribault SWCD

Inspecting drainage systems? There's an app for that.

Read more at:

Homes, Mills Feel Rising Waters in Northern Minnesota

Torrential weekend rains over the Rainy River basin are causing record setting floods along Minnesota's border with Canada.

Read more at:

Roadsides for Wildlife

Although these ribbons of green make up only a small fraction of our land area, researchers have found them to be highly productive nesting sites.

Read more at:

Midwest Rural Migration Network & Resources

Notes and proceedings from the 2014 Symposium on Small Towns.

Read more at:

11 Ways to Use Less Water on Your Lawn

Many Twin Cities homeowners see their water bills spike each summer as they start watering their lawns. Here are some tips - from modest changes to the extreme - that could help you use less water this summer.

Read more at:

Draft/public noticed TMDLs

Draft TMDLs go through an extensive technical review and public notice process before the MPCA submits them to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for final approval. Public comments on draft TMDL reports are typically accepted for 30 days (see schedules for specific reports below). If there are substantial changes made to the draft as a result of public comment, it will be re-public noticed. Otherwise, the TMDL is submitted to EPA for final approval a minimum of 30 days following the conclusion of the public notice period. Some TMDLs receive significant public comments which may require several weeks for response preparation. In addition, the EPA typically completes its review of the final draft within 30-days of receiving it from the MPCA, but some studies may require additional time.
Crow Wing Watershed TMDLs: Multiple Impairments (Metro)
Public Notice open for comment July 14, 2014 - August 12, 2014


Events Calendar

NEMO St. Croix Workshop-on-the-Water Program
Date: July 29
Location: Hudson, WI
Contact: John Bilotta,
Phone: 651-480-7708

Stormwater U: Stormwater Practices Maintenance & Certification
Date: July 30-31
Location: Blaine, MN
Contact: Shane Missaghi,, 651-480-7759

2014 Clean Water Summit - Green
Infrastructure for Clean Water: Costs &
Benefits to Our Communities
Date: September 11
Location: Chaska, MN

NEMO West Metro - Lessons Across the
Landscape Workshop
Date: September 25
Location: TBD
Contact: John Bilotta, 651-480-7708,

Water Resources Conference
Date: October 14-15
Location: St. Paul, MN
Contact: U of MN Water Resources
Center, 612-624-9282,

For the most current calendar items and more details, visit

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