Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Quiet Day at the Bog

    I took my annual trip to Sax-Zim Bog northwest of Duluth, Minnesota with my two friends Bill and Russ last weekend. It just happened to be the same weekend as the Bog Bird Festival but rather than participate in the hoopla we thought we'd just see what we could find on our own.
   One of the dependable spots at the bog for birds is a feeder station set up on Admiral Road. We spend a lot of time sitting and watching the feeders for specialties like Pine Grosbeak, Boreal Chickadee and Gray Jay. Our best looks were at this male Hairy Woodpecker who was hogging some globs of peanut butter on a tree branch all to himself. He couldn't have cared less that we were only about 10 feet away.
  Of course, the Hairy Woodpecker wasn't a bog specialty but this little bird is - a Boreal Chickadee. This feeder is the only place I have ever been able to count on seeing this species. Once in a while you can find them at other feeders but this one is almost a sure thing if you have the patience to wait. They don't spend long when they show up and it could be 20-30 minutes between appearances.
   The big goal of any winter trip to the bog is for northern owls. Great Grays nest here but the owls we saw this day were 2 that only visit. This Northern Hawk Owl was cooperatively sitting at the top of a tree right along the west side of Owl Avenue (yes, that really is the name if the road). And if seeing this owl wasn't enough, as I walked down the road to get a closer look I stumble on my good friends Nick and Kristen. They were on a day trip just by chance. Talk about a welcome coincidence.
   This was one of 2 Northern Hawk Owls we saw that day. They seem to be here (Minnesota) in decent numbers this winter.
    The owl of the year, as far as numbers, is the Snowy Owl. Got a good look at this one sitting way up in a tree in the middle of a field. I can't remember seeing a Snowy in a tree before. Telephone poles and snow mounds yes but not a tree. This has been a crazy year for Snowy Owls all over the eastern U.S.. Even down where I live, south of Minneapolis/St. Paul, I have seen a bunch. I took my oldest son out on Jan. 4th and saw 5 just in a small part of my county. I believe the count for Snowy Owls in Minnesota this winter is well over 200. That's crazy.
   Even though we had some nice sightings on our trip, it was a quieter than normal day. We worked real hard and only came up with 15 species for our efforts. The weather is incredibly cold and long lasting. I remember winters being like this when I was in college but we haven't had an "old fashioned" winter in a while. Spring will get here eventually. Horned Larks are starting to move north and this cold can't last forever. Not sure how long it will take to melt all this snow though...

No comments: