This weekend I had the opportunity to introduce my students to the amazing birds
of the north woods. We spent Friday night looking for Snowy Owls in the harbor,
Saturday in The Bog, and Sunday morning along Lake Superior.
The students were completely spoiled from the onset when we pulled up to a Snowy
Owl within 30 minutes of arriving in the harbor area on Friday night. The bird
was perched on a small berm about 40 yards from the road. The bird turned and
posed and eventually flew right past our van into a better hunting location atop
a street light. An additional bird was located out on the ice and we watched as
it flew off and landed on the mast of a ship. It is always nice to see a bird
of true wilderness adapting so readily to the constructs of human development.
Saturday's early rise did not yield the Great Gray Owl we were hoping for and I
once again failed to find any of the mythical Sharp-tailed Grouse of the bog.
However, when we pulled up to the Arkola feeders, they were empty and the
situation was perfect for hand-feeding (we had brought some sunflower along). I
was hoping to give my students and opportunity to feed chickadees and was quite
surprised that the first bird onto my hand was a female Pine Grosbeak! I had
one student who had a similar close encounter with a grosbeak and the other with
several Black-capped Chickadees. Two other students with sniffles just couldn't
convince the chickadees they wouldn't catch their cold. We also had a Boreal
Chickadee and several Gray Jays in this area.
Our other highlights from the bog were mostly along McDavitt, Admiral, and Sax
Roads. McDavitt yielded 3 Northern Shrikes, a female Black-backed Woodpecker
(east side on the bulldozed road), a Hoary Redpoll mixed in a flock of 25 Common
Redpolls, a Northern Hawk Owl begging for mice, and a Great Gray Owl tolerating
a big crowd at dusk. The Admiral Road feeders provided great looks at 4 Boreal
Chickadees and after dark we had a Northern Saw-whet Owl calling from a mature
stand on the north portion of this road (Josh, we did not get Boreal). A large
flock of Black-billed Magpies were along Sax Road and Cranberry, but they were
moving east and views were distant.
Sunday we checked out Park Point at dawn and marveled at the amount of ice
outside the harbor. Try as we might, we failed to find any Snowy Owls that
morning. We watched some flocks of gulls circling over our heads as they headed
inland. Several 1st winter Glaucous Gulls were in the group with both the pale
sandy forms and white forms present. Going north, we found a small group of
mergansers near the mouth of the Lester River but otherwise the lake was an
avian desert. Knife River though yielded a present surprise. A female
Harlequin Duck was diving with a female Bufflehead near the marina. I'm
assuming this is the same bird reported back in December; I just haven't heard
any additional reports of her.
We returned to the Canal Park in Duluth to chum for gulls before heading south
to Mankato again. What a mess! I don't get much of an opportunity to view
different ages of Thayer's and Iceland Gulls in Mankato and I didn't realize how
rusty I had gotten from my days in the Milwaukee harbor. We had a 1st winter
Black-backed Gull cruise in and circle a couple of times (that was easy). We
also had a pale 1st winter Iceland Gull and one 1st winter Thayer's Gull in the
mix. I took as many pictures of the others as I could. I believe I had a 2nd
winter Kumlein's Iceland and a 2nd winter Thayer's, but I will need to go over
my pictures this week and really analyze these oddballs.
Thanks to all the people we talked with in the bog. My students enjoyed the
social aspects of the trip as much as the birds themselves. It was only after
we returned to Mankato that we finally found a Pine Siskin!
Join or Leave mou-net: http://lists.umn.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=mou-net