Category Archives: Year 4

Migrating North on the South Wind

The shorebirds invasion continues! Earlier this week we had ugly weather. Winds out of the south pushed migrants up to Lake Superior, where they flew into strong NE winds coming down the lake. The shorebirds took the logical approach and stopped on Park Point. Only a foolish bird would continue north into a fierce north wind.
I enjoyed more time with Dunlins, Sanderlings, and Ruddy Turnstones. In addition some gulls which were working their way up to Northern Manitoba stopped by … Caspian Terns and Bonaparte’s Gulls. What I find amazing is most of these birds only spend about a month on their breeding grounds in the Arctic, and then they start their migration south.

A Flock of Dunlins

Caspian Terns and Bonaparte Gulls

Unexpected Pleasures: Auroras and Shorebirds

Two days ago I blogged about Gas Station Cuisine, and failed excursions. The forecast for Northern Lights was a G2 Storm Watch, and I also included a birding trip to a nest I had been monitoring. Everything was a failure. Lady Aurora did not dance, and my nest was empty.

Last night when I went to bed, the weather forecast was for clouds plus light rain … and obviously no Aurora Borealis. Waking up at 1:15 am I was surprised to see stars (i.e. clear skies) and numbers from NOAA indicating the Northern Lights might shine. By 1:30 am I was out the door, and by 2:00 am I was standing in the Knife River (water temperature 40F) with the “green glow” beginning to build. At 3:00 am I capture this image … “Dipping into the Green Glow”!

Returning home the expected clouds. wind and cold weather (39F) came by sunrise. Thus, birding looked bleak. By early afternoon the winds were blowing off the lake at 28 mph with light rain and sleet … in sort perfect birding weather!!! I drove down to the end of Park Point, and walked the sand dunes over to the Lake Superior shore. Waves were crashing ashore, but I also found hundreds of shorebirds migrating up to the Arctic. One wonders why these birds don’t just hang in northern Minnesota. It’s plenty cold enough! For 45 minutes I walked the beaches dancing away from the waves till the sleet became unbearable. Here are a few photographs from my horrible day of birding. I was particularly pleased with the flight shot … it was dark … horrible camera conditions.

The moral of the story … expect the unexpected. Two days ago I was set up for what I expected would be a great 24 hours in the Northwoods. It wasn’t. Starting with last night, I expected nothing and had some great experiences!

Ruddy Turnstones


Gas Station Cuisine!

Not all birding excursions are successful. Yesterday’s outing was a perfect example of this fact … including gas station cuisine. Let me frame the scenario. Early in the morning I drove from Duluth to Northstar Lake where my family owns a small cabin. My goals for the day were to turn on the water system, monitor the bird nest I have been watching this spring, and finally catch a forecasted Northern Lights.

Wading into the cold spring fed lake, I soon had the water system working for another summer. Now it was time to check out the nest. Unfortunately my feathered friends were a no show. However, I saw lots of other birds and luxuriated in the fact of driving almost 50 miles on paved wilderness roads without seeing another car.

My birding kept me away from the cabin over the extended dinner hour. Thus, early on during the drive home I stopped at a gas station to get some food. In northern Minnesota where I was birding, the gas station was my only dinner option. Thus, I enjoyed two steam warmed cheeseburgers with questionable meat, and a banana … a true gourmet meal.

Later that night my Aurora Borealis display fizzled while the temperature outside dropped overnight to 27F (unheated cabin). In short, it was a great time up in the remote parts of my region. Here are two photographs I did take … a flock of Trumpeter Swans landing near sundown and the night sky outside my cabin at 1:00 am. Life is good!

The greenish glow across the lake in the Milky Way photograph is another cabin’s security light reflecting off the new spring green leaves.