Minnesota Winter Boreal Birding


Dave Weaver and I were the leaders on a Mass Audubon / Joppa Flats Education Center trip to northern Minnesota in mid-February, 2015. Dave and I attended part of the Sax-Zim Bog Winter Birding Festival and smoothly segued into the tour. The Festival was fun, great guides, nice people, great birds and great help for the tour along with info from several of our friends in the area. Here is the operating area for this trip:

We stayed in Duluth, visited areas in Duluth/Superior, the Sax-Zim Bog (of course), and Superior National Forest.

During the Festival and the tour, we had at least 3, maybe 4, Great Gray Owls - the main target for a lot of people.

This bird was along Admiral Rd. in the Bog on the Friday pre-festival trip in a light snow flurry. Sweet.

It may have been the same bird as this one, seen nearby on Saturday evening.

I don't have a photo of our Tuesday morning bird along CR 133, too brief a look in the predawn, but we got another individual

hunting along Stickney Rd. early Wednesday morning. What magnificent birds they are!

But they were not our only owls. We had at least 3 Northern Hawk Owls (one along MN 53 and two along Jean Duluth Rd.)

and a few Snowy Owls in Superior Wisconsin, including these owls hanging around a middle school.

But afterall, it is not just about owls (try to convince them of that!)

The feeders were alive with birds in the Bog, from redpolls

(Common Redpolls with a female Hoary at the bottom right - at the Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center) to

Pine Siskins (with redpolls), to

Evening Grosbeaks, to

Pine Grosbeaks, to

Downy Ribpeckers on a deer carcass, to

Purple Finches, to

Boreal Chickadees (they really dig peanut butter), to

both Black-capped and Boreal chickadees, to

Red-breasted Nuthatches, to

Gray Jays.

Even in the land of "Minnesota Nice," sometimes the neighbors aren't too crazy about feeders and birders.

Driveway sign right across the road from the biggest feeder setup around.

But the nasties were few and far between. And the sights were stunning.

morning sundogs over the Sax-Zim Bog

Hmmmm. Looks like a short walk across Lake Superior...

It was pretty nice out there, not too cold, but at -7F, it seemed a bit odd that these

Sharp-tailed Grouse were on the lek displaying.

Speaking of grouse,

Ruffed Grouse were out and about.

We passed a group of Common Ravens several times in one spot along CR 7, presumably feeding on a roadkill in the ditch.

One time they flushed off to some trees along with a Bald Eagle.

Another time, they flushed off and there was another face at the feast.

Gray Wolf - very cool.

Speaking of cool, in Two Harbors, MN, we were looking for ducks amidst the ice when we spotted this distant kitty:

what a Bobcat was doing wandering around on the ice next to the ore docks in Agate Bay shall remain a mystery.

Alas, the lake was pretty frozen, duckless, but pretty

Earlier in the trip, there was open water at Canal Park in Duluth and this vagrant was hiding amidst the Mallards -

v-nigra Common Eider hen.

We searched in vain for the Gyrfalcon in Superior, but did see a pair of

Peregrine Falcons.

Despite the staring snow people,

the lunatics in the roads

(oops, that's us), and the

strange local appetizer customs, I think we'll be back.

Photographs by Mary Hansen:

Roadside birding

Welcome Center sign

Information kiosk at the Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center

From left to right: Dave Larson, Sparky Stensaas (Executive Director of the Friends of the Sax-Zim Bog), and Dave Weaver, outside of the Welcome Center

Here's one by Dave Weaver showing me applying the Boreal Chickadee attractant.

Download the Trip Report and Trip List in pdf format.


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