Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone. In this stressful holiday season we all need to take deep breathes, relax and remember what is special about this time of year. With that thought in mind Molly and I drove 200 miles yesterday to NW Minnesota. Our goal was to see the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, now in its 19th year. For many years I had been wanting to see this holiday spectacle, and we decided what better spot to view the train than in a small town out on the Minnesota prairie?!
The town and citizens (all 292 of them) of Plummer were fantastic in rolling out the hospitality. In addition to the great train, this small town was all decked out for Christmas. The town hall hosted a dinner with carolers; the museum was open with hot cider, and school buses were near the concert site for warming up in case the Minnesota winter was too extreme!
At 6 pm the train rolled into town, and at 6:15 Kelly Preston and others hosted a free 30 minutes concert … right from a box car decked out as a stage (make sure to watch the concert video). Canadian Pacific actually has two holiday trains. One travels the northern United States, while the other crosses southern Canada. Well done Canadian Pacific, we will visit your train again next year, perhaps up in Nipigon on the shores of Lake Superior.
I’ll admit it, I am a boat snob. Yes, when it comes to taking boating trips with my camera, as opposed to birding expeditions, only certain boats come up on my radar. For me the boat needs to be a classic ore boat, and then I like it the ship to be in the Duluth area around sunrise or sunset. Thankfully there are two resources which allow me to be efficient in terms of getting a hit for my boat addiction:
Here is a sunrise arrival photo I took a few days ago of the Philip R. Clarke. I used both the linked services to inform me a jaunt down to Canal Park would be worthwhile. After the boat photo, I have included a screenshot from my app. One may press on any ship icon and pull up additional information about that boat, in this case the Michipicoten.
A friend wanted to go up to Sax-Zim Bog. He had heard about all the Northern Hawk Owls which normally is a rare bird. Looking at the advanced weather forecast I said Thursday! Although I knew today would be cold, it also was forecasted to have decent light and low winds. While sunny skies mean Great Gray Owls retreat into the heavy forest shortly after sunrise, Northern Hawk Owls do not care about light.
Thus, our plan was to arrive 20 minutes before sunup and look for owls, and ignore any hawk owls we saw. This plan worked perfectly and within a few minutes we have found two great grays, one of which was very cooperative in terms of hunting for us … catching two voles in the waning moments of the night. As expected, 20 minutes after sunrise the Great Gray said good-bye to us and retreated into the deep Bog.
We then shifted our efforts over to the hawk owls (we saw three unique individuals) and enjoyed their hunting efforts. However, one thing cool about Hawk Owls is they often perch on the highest tree in the vicinity. Without exception this always means the owl will get attacked by some local birds. Just set up shot and wait. Here are some of my efforts from today.
A Pileated Woodpecker … taking a break between attacking the owl
A very important part of wildlife photography … given the wilderness roads I travel, is a reliable car. I dare not get stuck or have breakdowns. I am often off the grid with the inability to phone for support. In the winter when on roads like the Tomahawk Trail (pictured on a different day), another car may not come by for hours, if not all day. My all wheel drive Subaru Outback has been my friend for the last 200K!
I found this Great Gray Owl about 2 miles before I hit 200K!