You Answered the Call (of the BLGR), Minnesota

Since my last post in which I explored the possible range expansion of the Blue Grosbeak and how it might be occurring via waterways, there have been a couple of exciting developments. Two new county records for Blue Grosbeak have been found! Those two red markers in the upper left of the photo are new since my last post.


On August 13th, a new county record Blue Grosbeak was found in Big Stone County by Milt Blomberg, John Hockema, and Lance Vrieze.  Not only is this significant for being a county first, but these guys found a family of this species the furthest north they’ve been found in Minnesota, vagrants excluded. Moreover, their find fits the pattern of the bird being found all along the Minnesota River Valley.  These guys stopped at a gravel pit, thought the habitat looked right for BLGR, and played a recording. Instantly they had Blue Grosbeaks come in without ever having seen or heard any before playing the recording.

I don’t know whether or not my article influenced their decision to try for Blue Grosbeaks in Big Stone County, but Dan Orr had told me that my last blog post got him curious about Swift County as the very southwestern corner of that county is along the Minnesota River.  Swift previously had no BLGR record.  I was excited about Dan’s search and started to scout satellite imagery in southwestern Swift for appropriate habitat.  I shared with him a gravel pit area just north of Appleton. However, Dan told me he had already birded that spot in early summer. Since Blue Grosbeaks seem to be actively singing in August, I encouraged him to try again and told him how Milt Blomberg et al. “cold-called” their Blue Grosbeaks. So Dan tried it on August 15th. He went to that area, played a tape, and bam–a pair of Swift County record Blue Grosbeaks showed up!


As exciting as the Big Stone and Swift Blue Grosbeak finds are, I am concerned. Now that two county records have fallen, birders have been going to these stake-outs to get their tics.  And once they have their tic for a county, many birders are less likely to explore new areas to look for more Blue Grosbeaks in those counties.  With the Swift and Big Stone records, now very few counties along the Minnesota River still do not have a record.  In fact, I believe Sibley, Carver, and Hennepin are all that remain. Hopefully the county-listing bug will help turn up new records in these counties. But I continue to think that there are many, many more Blue Grosbeaks to be found in Minnesota where county records already exist, namely along the Minnesota River Valley and anywhere in southern Minnesota. So call up a birding friend, go exploring, and find some Blue Grosbeak habitat. There is probably a two-week window left to find these birds before they head south again. And if you find appropriate habitat and don’t hear or see one, play the recording and see what happens. You might be surprised.

6 thoughts on “You Answered the Call (of the BLGR), Minnesota

  1. Josh, you should make up your own survey next year and get people all over these areas to look for these Blue Grosbeaks. Great on your part to get these people out exploring. I found the Swift story to be most exciting of the two!

    • It is an exciting thing when people get out exploring and they start to realize the joy of discovery. I would love to get more people looking for BLGR…especially in Kandiyohi County.

  2. Hi Josh,

    I read your recent Blue Grosbeak post on MOU-net and it got me thinking of other sites worth checking out. The first thing that popped into my head was Big Stone NWR, with that huge granite mining operation just across the river. It also has lots of good scrub land.

    I’ll be heading up there Sunday morning, and will let you know if I find any.

    There is a gravel pit by the intersection of LqP County Roads 7 and 24 outside of Nassau, coordinates 45.066281, -96.422047.

    …And another at the intersection of 7 and 28 near Bellingham, coordinates 45.095664, -96.411590.

    They were at Salt Lake 2 week ago, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve gone further north this year.

    Jason Frank
    Lac qui Parle

    • Hey Jason,

      I bet you will turn up a Blue Grosbeak at each of those locations. I think there are more Blue Grosbeaks around than the local birding community realizes–the west is so underbirded. Glad to hear you’ve picked up the BLGR baton by investigating suitable habitats. Do you eBird? It would be great to add any of your sightings to the growing range. I’m looking forward to hearing what you find out.


      • I recently started submitting data to Ebird for rare/unusual species out here, but mainly I just post my observations to MOU-net. If I find any more Blue Grosbeaks, I’ll post them on Ebird as well as MOU.

        Have you checked Blue Devil Valley in Granite Falls? I was there in late May, and thought that might be a worthwhile site to search.

        If you’re ever out this way, let me know. I bird Lac qui Parle and Yellow Medicine Counties on a daily basis.

        • Great! Thanks!

          I have not checked Blue Devil Valley SNA, though I’m sure that would be a good spot too. There was a Blue Grosbeak found the past couple years at Gneiss Outcrops SNA which is not very far from there. There is also a large gravel pit at the very northwest part of Granite Falls. Undoubtedly there are some BLGR there too. I seem to recall that Kim Eckert’s book mentions Blue Grosbeaks being found at a Granite Falls gravel pit decades ago.

          We will definitely have to bird together out west sometime. Sounds fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *