Birds of a feather

Flock together, move together and maneuver together according to an article by Deborah Byrd, really that’s her last name!

How do flocking birds move in unison?

How do some species of birds in flocks perform their wonderful, graceful, synchronized movements? Hint: they don’t just follow a leader or their neighbors.

We’ve all seen flocks of birds wheeling and swooping in unison, as if choreographed. How do they do this? Zoologists say they aren’t simply following a leader, or their neighbors. If they were, the reaction time of each bird would need to be very fast – faster than birds actually do react, according to scientists who have studied the reaction times of individual birds in laboratory settings. The classic research on how flocking birds move in unison comes from zoologist Wayne Potts, who published in the journal Nature in 1984. His work showed that bird in flocks don’t just follow a leader, or their neighbors. Instead, they anticipate sudden changes in the flock’s direction of motion.

And he said, once a change in direction begins in the flock, it then “spreads through the flock in a wave.”

View larger. | Red-winged blackbirds over Mattamuskeet Lake in Hyde County, North Carolina, from EarthSky Facebook friend Guy Livesay.

The propagation of this maneuver wave, as he called it, begins relatively slowly but can reach speeds three times faster than would be possible if birds were simply reacting to their immediate neighbors. Potts called this ability among flocking birds the chorus line hypothesis. That is, he said, birds are like dancers who see an approaching leg kick when it’s still down the line, and anticipate what to do. He said:

These propagation speeds appear to be achieved in much the same way as they are in a human chorus line: individuals observe the approaching maneuver wave and time their own execution to coincide with its arrival.

Potts used high-speed film – and a frame-by-frame analysis – of flocks of red-backed sandpipers (Calidris alpina) to conduct his study. He found that the flock typically responded only to birds that banked into the flock, rather than away from it.

That makes sense, since flocking among birds serves the purpose of protecting birds from predators (although there are other purposes as well; for example, when one bird finds food, others in a flock eat, too). Individual birds, those who are separated from the flock, are more likely to be picked off by predators.

Red-winged blackbirds at sunset via Wikipedia.

Bottom line: According to Wayne Potts, a zoologist who published in the journal Nature in 1984, birds in flocks are able to change direction quickly not just because they are following a leader, or their neighbors, but because they see a movement far down the line and anticipate what to do next. Potts called this the chorus-line hypothesis for bird movement.

Want more about flocking birds? Read this article from

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Superior Satellite Images

I think satellite images are super cool, especially when they are showing Lake Superior and snow coverage; pun intended. Snow and ice cover are quite impressive for the last week of April and if you’re looking for green when you’re up at bat, you won’t find it in northern Minnesota. It’s white or brown depending upon whose field you are at.

Monday PM's Satellite pics.


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Did you know this week was National Volunteer week (April 15-21?) If you didn’t volunteer for anything last week it doesn’t matter, there are plenty of weeks in the year and opportunities to volunteer.

Thousands Volunteer with the DNR

Nearly 23,000 citizens donated services valued at $7.4 million during 2017 to assist the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in accomplishing its conservation mission through a variety of projects and programs, according to the new 2017 Annual DNR Volunteer Report recently released. That’s the equivalent of an extra 135 full-time staff.  DNR managers, professionals and technicians work alongside volunteers to help manage the state’s diverse natural resources. Many DNR projects would not be possible without volunteers, especially those in citizen science that help with research.

Check out this website.

Here’s some opportunities from the MN DNR-
Turtle Crossings and Surveys

Why did the turtle cross the road?  Find out!

Turtle crossings usually occur from May through September each year.  The most important period to watch is in June when turtles cross roads to get to nesting areas.

Volunteer to monitor roads and bridges for turtles crossing or for dead turtles on the road near the Cloquet River and tributaries by Rollins, MN and the St. Louis River area around Hwy 53, both in St. Louis County.  The exact location can be determined based on your interest.  If it is safe to do so, you can also assist turtles across the road.

Informal turtle surveys are also needed to determine what types of turtles are using the Kettle River in Carlton and Pine Counties.  Canoe or boat the river or walk along the shore on a warm sunny day from mid-April to mid-June. You can choose a stretch of river that is convenient for you or the DNR can provide the location of priority areas for surveys.

Butterfly Milkweed Planting – May 17

Hike and plant thousands of butterfly milkweed seedlings in the prairie and savanna at Rice Area Sportsmen’s Club Wildlife Management Area , 73rd St and 250th Ave, Royalton, MN on Thursday, May 17 from 11 AM – 5 PM.  Snacks and lunch provided.  Open to all ages, but children must be supervised.

Help re-introduce this important host-plant to the site for Monarch butterflies to use to reproduce and pollinate. They and other pollinators find the beautiful orange blossoms delicious!

Woodpecker Surveys

Woodpeckers hammer holes in trees to reach insects that live beneath bark and within wood. Left alone, many of those insects could damage trees. Some­times people blame woodpeckers for hurting trees, but this insect-eating can actually help keep trees healthy.

Help the DNR develop best management practices for conserving woodpeckers on lands by conducting surveys anywhere in the state where there are large blocks of forested public lands.

As a Volunteer Woodpecker Surveyor, you will:

Walk 2-mile transects in the forest looking and listening for nesting woodpeckers between May 22 and July 6, 2018 (minimum 1 day, maximum of 45 days)
Collect nest site data
Collect forest stand information (identify main tree species, measure some average and large tree diameters)

Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program: June 29-July 9

Volunteers across the state are needed to track Minnesota’s loon population.  Now celebrating its 25th year, the Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program will assign you to a pre-selected lake to count the number of loons you see on one morning between Friday, June 29th and Monday, July 9th, 2018. Detailed instructions, training materials, maps, and a data form will be provided.

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Happy Earth Day!

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How will you celebrate Earth Day?

This year’s focus on Earth Day is to end plastic pollution. From poisoning and injuring marine life to disrupting human hormones, from littering our beaches and landscapes to clogging our waste streams and landfills, the exponential growth of plastics is now threatening the survival of our planet.

In response, Earth Day 2018 is dedicated to providing the information and inspiration needed to fundamentally change human attitude and behavior about plastics. You can sign the petition here:

Ten Green Things You Can Do

Green values can help build a safer, healthier environment.  This list is for those who have the green spirit and want to incorporate it into their lives.  Please make it Earth Day all year long by incorporating these practices into your daily life.

Work to pass mandatory recycling & composting laws
Reuse bags and egg cartons
Use recycled paper products
Avoid using polystyrene foam (use washables and alternatives)
Start a recycling program where you work (ask us for tips)
Be responsible and creative with leftover food
Re-use envelopes, jars, paper bags and scrap paper
Urge local restaurants to stop using foam containers
Mend and repair, rather than discard and replace
Use non-toxic, biodegradable soaps and detergents

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Check out our dark sky

It’s time for the Lyrid meteor shower again and we’ve got a great place for you to watch them. No need to paddle a canoe into the middle of a lake to view them, just pull a lawn chair out onto the ice for the perfect seat. They will be peaking on the morning of April 22 according to

The annual Lyrid meteor shower is starting! It’s active each year from about April 16 to 25. In 2018, the peak of this shower – which tends to come in a burst and usually lasts for less than a day – is expected to fall on the morning of April 22, with little or no interference from the waxing moon.

No matter where you are on Earth, expect the greatest number of meteors to fall during the few hours before dawn.

Find out more here.


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Paddle a Canoe

So you can be awesome too!

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Race to Hudson Bay


Outdoor Channel Announces Casting Call for Daring Wilderness Expedition Series: ‘The Brigade’

“The Brigade” unites 10 strangers who must complete a 2600-mile adventure in 10 weeks – it’s an epic expedition crossing two mountain ranges and five river systems

(Photo courtesy of (Photo courtesy of

By: Outdoor Sportsman Group Digital Staff

The search is on for the cast of The Brigade, Outdoor Channel’s groundbreaking new expedition competition series. Thrill-seeking and adventure-loving men and women from across the United States and Canada are encouraged to apply for their chance to join the ultimate trek.

The Brigade will retrace an epic 2600-mile fur trade route that links waterways from the coast of Oregon, traversing through two states, four Canadian provinces, two mountain ranges and five river systems before ending at the icy shores of Hudson Bay in Manitoba. Originally called “The York Factory Express,” it’s a thrilling and dangerous paddling odyssey unlike any other. The Brigade must work together to navigate fierce whitewater, portage over mountains, and fish and hunt for sustenance all without fuel or GPS. There are no eliminations. Instead the competition relies on the collective strengths of its cast to hang on against all odds. Those who complete the expedition have the chance to share prize money up to $1,000,000.

The Brigade is a once-in-a-lifetime expedition. Adventurers who have expedition experience, strong paddling skills, a multitude of outdoor abilities, and also possess willpower, strength and determination, should apply at Casting kicked off April 9, 2018 and the application period closes on May 15, 2018.

“Media Headquarters is thrilled to be partnering with Outdoor Channel on The Brigade,” Co-Executive Producer Robert Cohen (Smartest Person, Tessa & Scott) said. “This is a challenge so intense it can’t be tackled alone. It will take skill, perseverance and teamwork to succeed. If you’re ready to tackle an action-packed cross-continent outdoor adventure, we want to hear from you.”

The Brigade will personify true adventure and have Outdoor Channel viewers on the edges of their seats watching to see what happens next,” Outdoor Sportsman Group President & CEO, Jim Liberatore said. “The cast will mirror Outdoor Channel viewers – rugged lovers of the outdoors, thrill seekers and adventurers. I can’t wait to see how this show plays out.”

“Get ready for an adventure unlike any other,” Co-Executive Producer Alan Bishop said. “Having produced on shows like The Amazing Race and Survivor – and having competed as an athlete in The Eco-Challenge – I know very well the ups and downs that the cast will face. Viewers will be mesmerized watching the triumphs and adversity faced by the cast of
The Brigade.”

For more information on The Brigade or to apply please visit

Find The Brigade:

Twitter: #thebrigadetv

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Wind and Waves in Grand Marais

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Not quite a snow day for school

School started two hours late today, the first “snow delay” of the school year. Funny it should come half-way through the month of April. I’m not sure what it looks or sounds like where you live but it looks and sounds like winter up here, still.

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Follow @bwcabloglady on twitter.

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