September 22, 2015

SUBJECT: Clark's Nutcracker in Winona County, MN


Clark's Nutcracker
The Clark's Nutcracker acting a little squirrelly.

For whatever reason, autumn occasionally brings western species of birds to Minnesota and Wisconsin. Such is the case of the rare sighting of a Clark's Nutcracker in Winona County, MN.

No one that I know of has been able to explain why these things happen. One theory is that hurricanes this time of year can throw birds off course. I'm quite certain this does occur some times. A few years back, a Magnificent Frigate Bird was seen in central Illinois. I believe there was a hurricane in the Gulf that made landfall along the Texas Coast. Seems quite logical.

However, I have monitored the bird forums and many times western species of birds show up around the Autumnal Equinox without any tropical storms playing a role.

What could be the cause for these misguided wanderers? My personal belief is that it involves the earth's magnetic field. For those that follow space weather events, the equinoxes are usually the best time for auroras to be seen.Clark's Nutcracker eating spider

Geomagnetic disturbances are about twice as likely during the equinoxes as in winter and summer. Could geomagnetic storms be causing navigational issues with birds? We do know that certain species of birds and mammals do navigate by using the earth's magnetic fields, so a disruption caused by a geomagnetic storm seems plausible and it just so happens there was a geomagnetic storm about a week prior to the sighting of the Clark's Nutcracker in Winona County, MN.

No one seems to know for sure how the Clark's Nutcracker ended up in Winona County, but it was a pleasure to see this western species of bird today.

Clark's Nutcracker eating bee

It put on quite a show for the two hours that I observed the bird. It frequently perched on the power lines, satellite dish antennas and decks of people's backyards hunting diligently for bugs in nearby yards.

Amazingly the bird was not at all concerned about humans. The bird was very approachable and at one point the bird almost landed on my camera lens!

What a great experience to see this bird here in the Upper Midwest.

Below is a short video clip of the Clark's Nutcracker hunting for bugs:




—Alan Stankevitz


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