Skip to content

🦜 Bird alert: It's peak migration season in the gorge

Dave Zumeta has been meticulously documenting the birds of the river gorge for more than 35 years.

Longfellow Whatever
5 min read
🦜 Bird alert: It's peak migration season in the gorge

Standing halfway up the slope of the Seven Oaks Oval, the giant-sinkhole-turned-park a block west of the river road, Dave Zumeta cuts himself off mid-sentence to point out a lanky bird flying high overhead.  

“A great blue heron!” he exclaims. “That’s 78!” 

By “78” he means it’s the seventy-eighth bird species he’s identified. Just around the river gorge. Just this week. 

We’re in peak season for spotting some of the millions of birds that make their way up the Mississippi River flyway each spring, and Dave is the foremost chronicler of the birds that travel through the neighborhood’s humble stretch of the river gorge. For more than 35 years he’s meticulously documented the species he sees or hears in the area and those findings have become one of the foundational bodies of evidence about the ecological health and benefits of the gorge. 

And having chased birds and studied forests all over the country, both as a hobby and profession, he's standing on good authority when he says the neighborhood is one of the most bird-blessed urban areas there is. 


Dave caught the birding bug at 8 years old and hasn't kicked it since — from being the token young person in birding clubs in his native Philadelphia, to creating his own bird-focused environmental science major in college, through years of surveys in grad school and early career, into bureaucratic management as the head of forest planning for the Minnesota DNR, and in his career's final chapter as the longstanding executive director of the state's Forest Resources Council.