If you wait till the sun is already up to go birding you will miss out on lots of activity. During the 30 minutes prior to sunup this morning I saw many Great Gray Owls, and lots of Ruffed Grouse. When the golden orb finally appeared with an increase in wind, the owls went to bed. Thus, I drove down to Lake Superior and found this Bald Eagle enjoying the morning sun. Over the next ten minutes I slowly inched closer to the eagle such that I would not spook it. By 60 minutes after sunrise my birding was complete!
No trips to the owling grounds this weekend. Instead it was Woodpecker Weekend! I knew the winds would be light allowing me to use my ears to locate some birds. At 8 am with the temperature at -17F (not windchill) I arrived at the Warren Nelson Bog. However, my Steger Mukluks were up to the chilly weather and I began my search. After almost two hours and only one black backed and hairy woodpecker, I decided to warm up in my car. Those two hours saw the air warm to almost zero degrees.
My next move was to drive over to McDavitt Road. The air continued calm and very soon I found a very cooperative Black Backed Woodpecker in the Boreal Bog. It was interesting to see how many folks who were slowly cruising McDavitt for owls I could entice out of their cars to hoof it into the woods to see a woodpecker. I think I had about a 50% success ratio. Major, major kudos to the guy who said “Absolutely!” and then got out of his vehicle and followed me into the woods using a cane (leg mishapen due to an accident a few years back I learned). His personal fortitude was amazing! I say well birded, sir!
After this fun morning in the Bog, I needed to drive down to the Twin Cities for some social engagements. I exited the Boreal Bog and birded an Oak Savannah this morning. It was amazing the number of red headed woodpeckers which were wintering in Minnesota. A side bonus was the air temperature at 8 am was already +1F … a heat wave for this northern Minnesota kid. Check out the Fish Lake Nature Trails! (not the Hennepin County Regional Park)
Oh yeah, even though I was not looking for owls in the Bog yesterday, I guess they were looking for me. I found this Northern Hawk Owl 800 yards in off McDavitt via the South Logging Road. Moral of the story, dress warmly and get out of your cars, folks!
Everyone likes to photograph mature Bald Eagles, but I think the birds under three years old look cool! Till that age Bald Eagles do not acquire their white heads and tails. A few of us locally know these juveniles as the “Frido Bandido Bird”. If I have to explain why, you obviously are not a child of the sixties!
Birding continues excellent here along the North Shore of Lake Superior. The skies are clear; the air is cold, and the owls are everywhere. After 4 to 5 years of not seeing a single Boreal Owl (not just me, everyone), I have found a Boreal every day for the past 3 days. As much as it is fun to watch the Boreals, a few Northern Saw-Whets have reappeared. I personally think they are much more handsome than the Boreals.
I also went looking for Pine Grosbeaks today. I found a small flock on a rural road with lots of small crab apples, but as I started to take photographs the local snow plow came by for the first time in weeks … scared all the birds away. Sigh!
There is a good reason photographers love the early morning light. Today’s images explain why it is absolutely necessary to be out before dawn.
Even though it was -20F well before sunrise as I was walking along the Arctic Riviera, and I did not find the Snowy Owl for which I am looking, the sunrise made the cold hike worthwhile! After my visit to Lake Superior I drove up to my owling grounds and found four Great Gray Owls including this individual flying across the frozen tundra.