Most of us prefer crisp, blue, sunny winter days, but here in Northern Minnesota early snows and warmer ground often produces heavy fog. Such is the case today. Rather than bemoaning the fact that it was difficult to see more than 100 yards, I adjusted my plans and drove the 40 miles to Sax-Zim Bog in search of Great Grey Owls. Dark gloomy days are often fantastic owling days, but alas such was not the case for my birding efforts today. No owls!
However, I found birds which are just as rare at the Great Grey Owl. Although the Welcome Center at the Bog is not yet open for the season, the feeders are full … of seeds and birds. Thus, I decided to stop and check things over. I could hear a woodpecker pecking away, and almost ignored the bird. After all, I never see anything but Downeys and Hairies at the Center, but I decided to investigate. After a few minutes of searching I struck paydirt … a Black-Backed Woodpecker! The tree is which it was finding breakfast looked well pecked over; it is quite possible we will have a resident Black Backed in the Center this Winter! Check out the small dead birches in the drainage ditch about ten yards further into the parking lot from the first bird feeders.
The Black-Backed Woodpecker was by no means my only find at the Center. Many other species of birds were around including this Ruffed Grouse which was feeding up high in a tree. Judging by the number of grouse I am seeing this Winter, I believe we must be at or near the top of the grouse yearly cycle.
Upon returning to Duluth I swung by McQuade Harbor. A female Harlequin Duck had been reported hanging out there over Thanksgiving. Well, I’m home at this duck is still around, and most accommodating when it comes to letting its photograph get taken. Now if I could just find these birds of sunny blue sky days! 🙂