Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lows of -15 F, Highs of +13 F

No, I am not talking about Cape May temps. I've taken a bit of time off to head to the Northwoods of Minnesota to look for a few species that remain absent from my personal list. While the temps. seem beyond what many people think a normal persons should willingly enter in to, remember I'm a crazy birder. If there is the possibility of seeing new birds we'll venture into the most adverse conditions. You know what I am talking about. I was ready for these temps anyway, having gone to college not far away from our base camp of Duluth.

So we've met a good friend (another crazy birder of course) and headed out to Sax-Zim Bog to try and find owls, finches and woodpeckers specifically. Keeping tabs on the Minnesota Ornithological Union listserv since late December I figured that we had a good chance to see many of our sought after species. There had been a handful of routine sightings of Great-grey owls and Northern hawk owls, two species we've been wanting to see for some time. I have been lucky enough to see a Great grey owl back in college, but before I was keeping any type of bird list. Additionally, there have been frequent sightings of Black-backed and Three-toed woodpeckers. As a friend from college emailed of this winter, three-toes are practically easier than ever to see.

Our first day in the bog we were met with the lows of -15 ºF with highs that barely crept above zero. While the birding was great, taking photos was difficult. I have a attached a few decent attempts below. I don't think that the digi-scoping concept has really saturated my brain either as I am more used to using a standard lens. But for the most part, I blame the poor quality on the old temps.

Highlights for Monday's birding were a good number of Pine grosbeaks at a feeding station along with a couple Evening grosbeaks.

One thing about coming back to this area after almost ten years, many of these species are like seeing life birds all over again as I have only seen them once, maybe twice before. I also had forgotten just how beautiful this area of the country is and how much I loved my time up here. Kind of makes me wonder why I ever left in the first place.

Back to the birds, we did get a very distant Northern hawk owl, which counts, but I'd definitely love seeing one closer. S you can see this was a distant view, approximately 1/4 mile.

We were not able to get up here for the big owl invasion so were hoping that this trip would pan out as a substitute. Leading up to our trip, as I said, there had been a hand full of sightings. For some reason in the week or so just before we arrived the owls sightings dropped off. As a matter of fact we have completely dipped on Great grey owl much to my dismay. These owls breed in the area, where are they? Well, I guess you can't win them all.

We had a Black-backed woodpecker almost first thing but have yet to catch up with a Three-toed woodpecker. Yet another species we've dipped on. Hopefully tomorrow on our last morning for birding the area. The most numerous of species has been Snow buntings and Common raven. Also at the feeding station with the grosbeaks we had a good group of Common redpolls and one Hoary redpoll. It was very nice to see this species again in particular. My first I had to work hard for as a yard bird in Maine scrutinizing the identification, but this male was a good bit easier to identify showing many classic hoary field marks. A very ghostly looking bird.

We've all been lucky enough to have at least one life bird which is always nice. Two Gray jays popped up to the top of some spruce trees on McDavitt Rd. while looking for woodpeckers and owls. Also, this afternoon we had a couple of Black-billed magpies as another surprise species. I was glad to have actually gotten to see this species since I had jumped the gun yesterday seeing a flash of white in a wing and black tail through the trees yesterday, calling a Pileated woodpecker a magpie.

Also this afternoon we did have a second Ruffed grouse and a Barred owl at dusk. We had searcher for Spruce grouse this morning well to the north of Duluth and struck out completely. So at least we had a grouse for the day. I'd rather it have been a Sharp-tailed grouse but beggars can't be choosers. It's just nice to be birding a different location and seeing different birds.

Well given the late hour and that we are getting up early to bird I should leave you with just a couple more photos. The first is the Ruffed grouse we saw yesterday. The second was an attempt to take an artsy photo of the moon rise tonight over the bog. Given that I did not have my camera on a tripod it didn't come out as bad as I figured it would so I've put it in for you to view. This is truly a magical place and one I hope to visit again in the winter and possibly the early summer. They list Connecticut warbler a virtually common! Want to come a along?

Location: Sax-Zim Bog
Observation date: 1/21/08
Notes: Counts include birding all Sax-Zim Bog area
Number of species: 22

Ruffed Grouse 1
Bald Eagle 2
Rock Pigeon 3
Northern Hawk Owl 1
Downy Woodpecker 4
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Black-backed Woodpecker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Northern Shrike 3
Gray Jay 2
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 6
Common Raven 30
Black-capped Chickadee 35
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 3
Snow Bunting 145
Pine Grosbeak 12
Common Redpoll 35
Hoary Redpoll 1
Evening Grosbeak 3
House Sparrow 15

ocation: Sax-Zim Bog
Observation date: 1/22/08
Number of species: 12

Ruffed Grouse 1
Barred Owl 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Northern Shrike 1
Black-billed Magpie 2
American Crow 1
Common Raven 15
Black-capped Chickadee 8
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2
European Starling 1
Common Redpoll 2

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