Tag Archives: Riley Road Fields

Below Zero Birding

The last few days have been cold in the Northland, with temperatures plunging to around -25F or worse. Does this mean one stops birding? No! I just make certain I have extra warm clothes and blankets in the car in case I get stuck somewhere. In addition to the cold weather, the past week has seen about one foot of new snow which came in multiple bursts. This extra snow seems to be making it a bit easier to find birds as they are concentrating on known food sources, as opposed to being deep in the forest and even foraging through the snow on the forest floor. Here are some images I took over the past three days …

Superior Rough-Legged Hawk on Connors Point (Duluth Harbor) … snowies also being seen at dusk on Connors Point, the Superior Middle School and the Richard Bong Airport

Riley Road Pine Grosbeaks … if you bird Riley Road, get out of the car. I found a large flock of pine grosbeaks, but they were 10 to 50 yards off the road.

Sax-Zim Bog Pine Grosbeak “Gritting Up”

Townsend Solitaire and Other Stuff!

I went looking for Bohemian Waxwings today. A few flocks of these northern birds had been reported in the local fruit trees. Instead, I found something much more unusual for northern Minnesota, a Townsend Solitaire. This grey bird was enjoying an afternoon feed in some fruit trees with temperatures that were 50 degrees warmer than Sunday morning (from -21F to +35F). Welcome to winter in the Arrowhead. I never did find the Bohemians, but they tend to be my nemesis bird!

Townsend Solitaire Eating Frozen Berries!

After some fun with the local rarity it was out to Old Vermilion Trail where I needed to refill my public bird feeders. While the northern finches have not appeared in the feeders, I do not have a hen pheasant enjoying sloppy seconds from all the local chickadees. Pheasant are rather usual in the northern Boreal Forest. Just the normal visitors out on Old Vermilion Trail!

Finally, here is a video I forgot to post of the pine grosbeaks from a few days ago!

Frozen Hotspot Birding Map: Duluth Area

The overnight low in Duluth was -21F (-29.5C). Although the official start of winter is a few days away, here in northern Minnesota I have always considered Thanksgiving as the approximate start to winter. Birding in these extreme conditions can be a challenge, but it is fun to find Canadian sub-Arctic birds which spend the cold weather months on Lake Superior’s Arctic Riviera (Duluth!).

Key winter birding facts are:

  • Find the fruit … find the birds (mountain ash and crab apple trees)
  • Pine forests loaded with cones
  • Forests protected from the Northwind

Over the past few days, some of my top winter birding spots yielded Pine Grosbeaks, and even a Townsend Solitaire (rare for our area)!  In addition to my winter birding map I’ve included for the Duluth area at the bottom of this post, remember these other great cold season birding opportunities in our area:

Pine Grosbeaks Feeding Near Korkki Nordic

A Townsend Solitaire in the Riley Road berry trees

Trumpeter Swans on a -19F Mississippi River morning (Taken this morning in Monticello which although not northeastern Minnesota, certainly qualifies as a frozen hotspot)

Duluth Area Winter Birding Map (right click to download)

Crab Apple Rock Candy at -15F!

What could be better to eat than Crab Apple Rock Candy at -15F? If you are a Pine Grosbeak, or a Bohemian Waxwing, the answer to the question is “nothing”! However, since I could not find the waxwings this morning, and the pine grosbeaks made themselves available in the early morning light, they became the subject of today’s photoshoot. The images were taken early this morning while the rest of the American Birding World was down at Canal Park chasing the Ivory Gull. Location is the Riley Road Crap Apple trees in rural Duluth.

I do NOT want my picture taken! Backside!
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See … your caught me with my mouth full!
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Breakfast for Pine Grosbeaks
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Where’s Waldo? (try to count the Pine Grosbeaks in the photo!)
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