Today is the 1st of December, and this strange winter continues. In October I went Nordic skiing after two big snow storms. Today I went bicycling up the shore of Lake Superior in 40F cloudy weather … all the snow is gone. Ice is forming in the harbor and I used that fact to track some ducks this morning. The open ice and a lead of open water channeled both the mergansers and goldeneyes towards shore in their mutual search for breakfast. However both species of ducks spook very easily. In order to get these photographs I had to park the car right next to the shore, and sit motionless using the car as a blind for 90 minutes. Eventually both species of birds forgot about me and moved within easy range of my camera. Thus patience is a HUGE requirement for successful bird photography. Here is the result:
Female Red-Merganser with its catch / fish (look closely!)
Yesterday I also made a trip up to Sax-Zim Bog. It was a gorgeous day with moderate wind and plenty of sunshine. Once again McDavitt Road was the place to be. I watched a Great Gray Owl hunt till the bright light pushed it deep into the Bog. At that point it was time to enjoy the Northern Hawk Owl’s efforts!
Great Gray Owl
Northern Hawk Owl
Yesterday I decided I needed to stay closer to Duluth. My search for owls had involved lots of driving, and then hikes. While I enjoyed the birding trips to Sax-Zim Bog immensely, I was interested in minimal driving and a good afternoon bicycle ride in the sun along Lake Superior. Even with the 32F temperature and an effective 18 mph wind in my face on my bike, it was great to take the ride.
In addition to my cycling I crawled (actually drove and hiked) the Duluth waterfront. The end result were these three images … boats and birds … boy toys (i.e the boats).
BBC Shipping Lines Vesuvius and Mississippi unloaded at the Port Terminal
Boat and Birds … BBC Vesuvius scares up a few gulls upon arrival at Canal Park
Glaucous Gull on the Duluth Waterfront … Another Arctic Visitor
I had decided to name the Snowy Owl I found yesterday “Houdini”, but when my wife Molly heard about my birding escapades, she came up with a better name, Hootdini! You may ask if this is a strange name for an owl. Normally I would answer yes, but not for this owl. While watching it hunt yesterday morning, 15 minutes into my time with the owl, it got mobbed by crows. Within 20 seconds the Snowy had had enough, and dove for cover from its high perch.
I was watching the dive from a distance of 100 yards. Said Snowy disappeared behind a mound like a magician, and even though the habitat was fairly open … never reappeared to my eyes. The crows also seemed to lose track of the owl’s location, landing in a distant pine tree. For another 15 minutes I tried to relocate the bird to no avail. I scanned every nearby tree with my binoculars. Perhaps this Snowy Owl has learned how to burrow! (very doubtful).
Regardless, I hope this owl has a happier ending than Silver. Agonizingly, this bird represents the second Snowy Owl I have seen and it was only November 16th. I am really beginning to believe this will be a very good winter for Snowies.
Here is one more owl pic. It is just one of eight of my photographs which will soon be on display as part of an “Owls of the Northland Exhibit” which I have created for Perk Place Coffeehouse. This great java hangout works with Destination Duluth photographers to decorate their walls.
The Stare: Great Gray Owl (voles beware!)
Last night I sat on the shores of Lake Superior between 3:30 and 4:30 in the morning waiting for the Northern Lights to dance, but Lady Aurora never performed. However, it was a beautiful rare warm night and I enjoyed sitting under the stars. Twas truly peaceful.
At 7:00 am I went birding with my friend Greg. We decided to focus on finding some Arctic shorebirds which are now starting to migrate through the area. While we did not find numbers, we enjoyed “quality”.
Buff-Breasted Sandpiper and Semipalmated Sandpiper
After doing some yard work after my birding expedition it was time for a bicycle ride up the North Shore of Lake Superior. Two miles shy of the Sucker River “I heard that whistle blowing” and I then redoubled my efforts and biked hard to the railroad trestle arriving a few minutes before the North Shore Scenic Railroad steam engine. The time was now high noon … yes, it was a good nine hours in the Northland. It is good to be home with my camera.