Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Me on some random Minnesota road in very bright sun. It was surprisingly warm! Posted by Hello

Hawk Owl Posted by Hello

Common Redpolls Posted by Hello

Pine Grosbeak Posted by Hello

Great Gray Owl - Pine County Minnesota Posted by Hello

Minnesota Owl Trip

From Feb. 10 - Feb. 14, I visited the Duluth, Minnesota area to look for wintering owls and other specialties of the north woods. Here is a species list of what I saw. * indicates a lifer (a bird that I have never seen before).

Canada Goose
Harlequin Duck
Common Goldeneye
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
Ruffed Grouse
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Barred Owl
Great Gray Owl *
Northern Hawk Owl *
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Black-backed Woodpecker
Bohemian Waxwing
Black-capped Chickadee
Boreal Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Northern Shrike
Gray Jay
Blue Jay
Black-billed Magpie *
American Crow
Common Raven
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Horned Lark
Dark-Eyed Junco
Pine Grosbeak *
Common Redpoll *
Hoary Redpoll *
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
Evening Grosbeak
House Sparrow
Species seen - 41

Thurs: I landed in St. Paul and I was thrilled to find that the weather was rather mild - 30 degrees or so. I drove the 2.5 hr. drive north towards Duluth. I found 5 Great Grey Owls on my drive up. The first was seen right on the side of the road in Pine County. I slammed my breaks as I gave an audible, "HOLY SH*T!" It was one of my favorite birding experiences ever. I found 4 more nearby on county roads in Pine County.

Fri: After an incident of trying to pump diesel into my unleaded gasoline car (cut me a break, we don't pump gas in NJ!)... I drove the areas north of Duluth through Two Harbors up to some feeders in a small town called Isabella. The feeders were set up across the street from a small "cafe" that caters to hunters and snowmobilers. I found Hoary Redpoll there which was a great find. I also had a great encounter with a Barred Owl on some random road. I parked the car to sort through some chickadees and the owl just perched on top of a spruce right next to me. I was too slow with the camera though before a Raven came and scared him off. How cool though! I finished the day with some awesome pie at Betty's Pies in Two Harbors - highly recommended. Funny story... despite it being around 35 degrees, the "locals" were wearing t-shirts! While getting lunch in Subway, I was bundled up in a parka while everyone around me had either a t-shirt or long-sleeved shirt.

Sat: Gorgeous weather! I met up with some folks from the Nature.net birding forum. Here's a shout-out to Linda, Tim, Colleen, Mike, Dave, Zoe, and Sadie! We had a lot of fun driving around Carlton County and up towards Sax-Zim Bog. Sax-Zim was not as productive as it has been, but it's still a neat place. I'd love to see it in the summer. We saw 7 GG's and 5 Northern Hawk Owls for the day. The Hawk Owls were lifers for me and I just loved them. They have a lot of personality and they are just so cool to look at. We also found Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay, Pine Grosbeaks, and some other stuff. Dave, his 2 daughters, and I went to look for 3-toed and Black-backed woodpeckers. We found 2 female BB's but no 3-toed unfortunately. You gotta love the BB's though. They work so hard chipping off bark and they leave little piles of bark under each tree. They are very tame too.

Sun: I drove south to Aitkin County to look for a Boreal Owl I heard about and to satiate my appetite for Great Grays. No luck finding it, but I did find a flock of about 30 Evening Grosbeaks at a feeder. I also saw many more GG's and NHO's. With some luck, I found a Black-Billed Magpie along CR5 in Aitkin. I struck out on Sharp-Tailed Grouse though after some diligent seaching. Oh well.

Mon: My flight was at 12:30, so I woke up at 4:30 to drive 175 miles or so down to Dakota County south of the airport to find a Gyrfalcon - one of my most wanted birds! It had been seen on Sat. hunting some ducks in a flooded farm field. Unfortunately, it snowed about 8 inches and the fields were all frozen. I looked for the falcon for an hour or so with not much luck. I saw a lot of geese and ducks flying overhead. I assume the falcon had found wherever there was some open water to get his lunch. I headed to the airport and returned to NJ (after a 2 hour delay in Milwaukee!). I can't wait to return to Minn. someday to see the great breeding birds they have there like Le Conte's Sparrow and Yellow Rail.