I went birding in the Bog today. Nothing! The strong NW wind kept birds deep in the cover, but when I got home I was treated to a nice sized flock of Fox Sparrows using my yard as a layover on their way up to northern Canada. My home is right across the street from a stream, and heavily wooded, which is appreciated by the birds. In addition, although the Fox Sparrows and Slate Colored Juncos (relating and flocking together) do not use my feeders, I believe they are attracted by all the “feeder birds”. One of the feeder birds did attract my attention. I have also included one photograph of a particular Common Redpoll which has been around for a few days. I am trying to decide if it is slightly leucistic (around the eyes). Finally … one very wierd looking mallard I found yesterday at the Forest Hill Pond in Duluth.
Common Redpoll (leucistic around the eyes and head?)
Off Color Mallard in a Snow Squall
It is vitally important for all birds to take care of their feathers. Most birds have a preen or oil glad. They rub their bills over the gland; pick up some oil and then rub the oil over their feathers.
This morning I had the privilege of watching a belted kingfisher preen itself. Given how skittish these birds are, I was happy to just have a seat near by, but then the kingfisher put on a show for me!
Announcing Belted Kingfisher Preening Time!
Over the past few days I have been exploring back roads in northern Minnesota somewhat near to Duluth. My goal is to be ready for the fall migration and winter birding. During these travels the sun disappeared shortly after dawn two days ago, and it has not made a reappearance. The red fox photo in this post was taken five minutes before the clouds rolled in.
Today, I decided I need to find color to fight against the gloomy skies. Success! Some of my normal haunts yielded up photo ops of birds which stood still enough to let me deal with the long exposure times required. Now … if the sun would just reappear, I can’t wait to revisit the green-winged teal and my favorite wild flower location. Patience!
Finally, one of my explorations yielded a great new route to drive over to Sax-Zim Bog from Duluth. Just before the 36 mile marker on Mn #4 (Rice Lake Road) is the dirt road, Comstock Lake Road. The road is 21 miles long and ends right at Cotton, Minnesota on US #53 directly opposite Arkola Road … a favorite entry into Sax-Zim Bog. Comstock is excellent. From the 7.5 mile point, there is a power line which stretches all the way to Cotton (13.5 miles more of driving). The power line should be great for owling, and the countryside included bogs, heavy forest, and an occasional farm or meadow. This route required an extra 30 minutes to reach Cotton, but I was in beautiful surroundings in “bird friendly environment” my entire drive to Sax-Zim Bog (as opposed to a four lane highway, US #53). I’ve included a map and a photo of a typical scene of Comstock Road.
My own route to get to Comstock was Lester River Road (then a few local roads), Jean Duluth Road, Normanna Road, Rice Lake Road (Mn #4) and finally Comstock Road. This takes one right past the location on Jean Duluth Road I discovered Kelly J last December. Kelly J is a northern hawk owl that hung around till early March.
Last sun … Red Fox at Dawn
Comstock Road Map & Typical Scene Along Powerline
When birding in the Duluth area, most folks will visit the normal spots:
However, one would be remiss if a trip to the “duck pond” was not included. Locals know this site and visit early in the morning, or a bit before sundown. The pond (actually two) is at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Duluth. It has a resident population of domestic geese, and a constant wild population of mallards and Canada geese. In the old adage, birds attract birds, other birds will often stop at the pond for a day or two … sometimes longer.
This morning I had the pleasure of watching a hooded merganser and a spotted sandpiper. The road right next to the pond allows one to “sneak up” of the birds while using the car as a photographer’s blind. Thus, here are my breakfast birds!