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Subject:FW: [wisb] Sax Zim long trip report w/photos
From:Debbie Waters <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Debbie Waters <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 12 Feb 2010 14:34:55 -0600

Forwarded with permission...

Debbie Waters
Education Director
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory
P.O. Box 3006
Duluth, MN 55803-3006

Donate to support our Raptors in the Classroom program. We need your help!

"I'm an early bird and I'm a night owl, so I'm wise and I have worms."
                                                               - Michael
Scott, The Office 

-----Original Message-----
From: []
On Behalf Of Brian Hansen
Sent: Thursday, February 11, 2010 6:21 PM
Subject: [wisb] Sax Zim long trip report w/photos

Hi All,
Dave Freriks and I took a few days off and headed to Sax Zim Bog in
northeaster Minnesota.  This is a trip I have wanted to make for a while and
it didn't disappoint.  Our main target birds to photograph were Great Gray
Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay, Spruce Grouse,
We left Milwaukee Saturday 2/6 about 7 PM and arrived in Duluth about 12:30
AM.  After storing our gear and a couple hours sleep we were at Sax Zim for
sunrise.  Our guide that we had scheduled for the day no showed after
booking a month ago and confirming a few days before, so we pretty much had
to wing it.  We bought a gazetteer and started driving around.  One huge tip
if you're going, the Minnesota Gazetteer shows mostly state road names.  The
roads at Sax Zim are for the most part locally named so it can be
confusing.  I would suggest something more specific to birding.  We found
one feeder by accident and then ran into a birder from Illinois who gave us
the locations of three other feeding stations.  The one we found was on
Swenson about 4 miles northeast of Meadowlands.  We had 6 Evening Grosbeaks
in a tree plus Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins and Am Goldfinches.   BC
Chickadees were everywhere by the dozens.  Dave (hawkeye as he has come to
be known) spotted a Northern Shrike about a mile from the road across a huge
clearing.  That was a mile or so south of Sax on Stickley.  He then found 8
White-winged Crossbills feeding on Tamarack seeds at the far west end of Zim
Road.  We drove around and found MacDivit road which I recognized from an
email that Dan Jackson sent me.  A farmer who was cutting wood walked out to
the middle of the road and stood there to stop us.  Hmmm.  We stopped and he
went into a rant about people putting deer carcasses out.  He said they
attract predators especially wolves.  Not exactly the head of welcoming
committee to this weekend"s festivities.  We made our way over to the
feeding station on Admiral rd which is located about 2 1/2 miles north of
Sax.  We had much of the same birds as the first but added Purple Finches, 1
RB Nuthatch plus a Downy and a Hairy WP.  We headed back down to Sax and
found our first Northern Hawk Owl basically on the corner of Cranberry Ln
and Sax.  It flew towards us and put on a pretty good show as it was
visually hunting and preening.  We got a few shots and headed back exhausted
from lack of sleep.  In between all this we had lunch at the Rocket Cafe in
Meadowlands.  It was really good - actually one of the best burgers I have
had in a long time.

Day 2 Monday - We headed back to Sax Zim at sunrise.  Our first stop was the
feeding station on Arkola Road.  It is north of the town of Meadowlands
about a mile east of Owl Avenue.  There were 20 or so Pine Grosbeaks at and
around the platform feeder.  They were bickering and jockeying for position
on the feeder.  Then a few Gray Jays moved in and took over on the suet and
platform feeder.  As usual there were BC Chickadees flying in and out.   We
went over to Stone Lake Road and found a Northern Hawk Owl about half mile
east of Hwy 7.  We had lunch at the Rocket Cafe again and headed over to
admiral rd.  We finally found our first Boreal Chickadees.  There was a pair
that was coming to the suet/deer carcass every 15 minutes or so.  It was
nice to hear them calling amongst the BCs so you could hear the difference.
There were also some WW Crossbills coming down to the road.  Other
highlights of the that day were a flock of Snow Buntings on Hwy 7 near
Arkola Rd, a Roughed Grouse on Arkola about a mile west of the feeding
station in the trees off the road and a Timber Wolf that crossed the road a
long ways in front of us.  I got a quick look through the binocs and it was
definitely a wolf.  Very dark but huge.  We found the tracks and they made
my old Golden Retriever paw prints look small.

Day 3 Tuesday - We decided to continue our quest for a Great Gray Owl by
heading up north along the lake to Silver Bay and taking Hwy 1 northwest
toward Ely.  It was just after sunrise and very cloudy morning when my
navigator/spotter Dave spotted a Great Gray 40 yards off Hwy 1.  This was
about 4 miles east of Isabella.  We had great looks but the light was too
crappy for any decent photos.  I don't know if I would have gotten a decent
shot anyway as I was pretty excited.  It is a bird I have wanted to see for
years.  It sat perched for about 20 seconds and flew off into the woods.
That was about it for birds that morning.  We drove to Hwy 2 and took it
south to the far south end of Stoney River Forest Road.  It is not plowed
and had about 15 inches of snow on it.  Nothing the old 4Runner can't handle
so we drove the whole thing back up to Hwy 1 and the only sighting other
than BC Chickadees were two Boreal Chickadees that we called out of some
Spruce trees.  Beautiful country but pretty birdless that day.  We had heard
Spruce Grouse were pretty reliable along that road but not for us.  From
there we had some lunch and headed back to Sax Zim.  We arrived around 2pm
and drove up to the northwest side of bog and explored.  Not a lot happening
except for Chickadees and some Common Redpolls.  We went over to the feeding
station on Admiral and had many of the same birds we had seen already
including Boreal Chickadees.  We found a few more Northern Hawk Owls.  They
seem to be mainly around Hwy 7 near Nichols Rd and Stone Lake Road plus a
few sightings near Sax and Cranberry.

Day 4 Wednesday - We planned to head back to Milwaukee early but it was such
an incredible sunny morning we headed back to the Sax Zim to try for a Great
Gray again.  Struck out on the Great Gray but got some decent well lit shots
of most of the same birds we had been seeing.

We did walk back into the feeding station on MacDivit Rd on Tuesday.  It is
about 2 miles north of Sax.  It is back in the woods about 60 yards or so on
the east side of the road.  There are markers with red flags and you will
see the path.  There are supposedly Black-backed WPs there but we whiffed on
those.  There is also a rumor of a Northern Saw Whet Owl coming to that
feeder for suet.  All we saw were hundreds of BC Chickadees, 2 Gray Jays,
Downy and Hairy WPs.

Here are some photos.

Northern Hawk Owl

Boreal Chickadee

Gray Jay

Pine Grosbeaks

Purple Finch

Roughed Grouse

Great Gray - Documentary shot - Wish it would have been a little later.  The
sun came out about a 1/2 hour later

The rest of the gallery is here
Dave Freriks Gallery is here

Good luck to anyone is heading up there this weekend or later.  Feel free to
ask any me questions you might have.  May want to do it soon while it is
still fresh in my brain.

Brian Hansen
Milwaukee - east side

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