We decided to go up to Cook county today, something I've never done on any
of my February MN trips. It was very interesting for me to see what was
(and wasn't) around. Alas, no ptarmigan, Fieldfare or any other of mega.
Our biggest highlight in terms of rarity was a 1st-winter male BARROW'S
GOLDENEYE off Paradise Beach with over 60 Common Goldeneye and a single
female-type Bufflehead. The goldeneye appeared female-like, but showed a
very distinctive dark spur on the sides of breast and quite a few dark
feathers coming in on the back (much more extensive black upperparts than
on Common). It was just starting to get a bit of white on the face, which
by itself did not distinguish it from the range of variation in 1st-year
Commons. Steep forehead and well-developed "mane" of feathers on back of
head -- in addition to extensive dark upperparts and black spur, this was
the most noticeable feature as the bird was sleeping. Also smaller-billed
than Common (direct comparison).
We had great luck with Bohemian Waxwings with a flock of 450 in the Grand
Marais campground, two flyover flocks totaling over 100 birds on
Crowftville Rd, and another flock of 65 in trees along Hwy 61 between Tofte
and Lutsen (which then flew SW). We did NOT see any Townsend's Solitaires
and the mountain ash berries on Croftville Rd. are largely gone.
Perhaps my personal highlight was the large numbers of redpolls moving sw.,
with over 500 seen heading SW at various locations during the day. Also
over 100 Pine Siskins and another 250 redpoll/siskins moving SW that we saw
while we were driving along Hwy 61 and didn't ID.
We did not look for the Northern Hawk Owl today, but had incredible views
of it yesterday. If you go to Gooseberry and do NOT see it along Hwy 61, I
suggest parking in the parking lot and walking the trails past the visitor
center that heading up toward Hwy 61. The Hawk Owl spent a lot of time in
this area yesterday afternoon, where it would NOT have been visible from
the highway. Best of all, when it this area the bird is often at
eye-level. We also saw a HOARY REDPOLL at the feeders.
eBird & Neotropical Birds Project Leader
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York
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