The morning dawned dark and dreary, in short a great day to go owling. While we humans love bright sunny blue sky days, you will almost never find owls out during daylight hours given those weather conditions. Thus, around 6 am I drove up to Sax Zim Bog in the hope I might find some Great Gray Owls hunting into the daylight hours. Fifteen minutes into my search I hit paydirt and found a mature great gray owl.
Normally, finding one owl would be considered a great day of birding, but the day would soon get phenomenally better. After five minutes of watching the adult Great Gray Owl it flew deeper into the forest. I thought I could still see the owl, thus I got out of the car with my binoculars which is when I heard the first “screech”. My heart pumped with excitement, and after a short hike along the road, I found not one, but two Great Gray Owl chicks which were begging for breakfast. These two juveniles proceeding to screech and call for Mom (or Dad) for almost one hour … flitting from one tree to another.
Finally I decided the hundreds of mosquito bights I had endured to watch and take photographs were enough, and I got back in my car and drove out the remote direct road back towards civilization. A few miles down the road I discovered a couple who were out birding. I stopped and asked if they would like a real treat, as seeing Great Gray Owl chicks in the forest might be a once in a lifetime event. Their answer was a quick yes, and I led them back down the road where we refound the young owls. This couple was from northern Germany, which made sharing the experience with them even more special. It was fun to show these beautiful birds to some folks who had flown from 1/2 way around the world to bird Sax-Zim Bog.
I hope you enjoy my photographs and video.
The Great Gray Owl Twins
Screaming at Mom (or Dad): Feed Me!!!
Mom (or Dad) was Perfectly Willing to Ignore the Summons!
Thanks to a birding report from Jan & Larry K. I learned that a few Dickcissels had been seen on Racek Road in the Bog. Although the last two mornings have been blustery, dark and at times wet, I could not resist the opportunity to see this bird which is rarely seen in northern Minnesota.
Both of the last two days I have seen multiple Dickcissels singing while perched in the bushes just sound of Racek Road (about 400 yards in from Cty 29/229). While visiting the bog, make certain to swing just a little further north and enjoy the Sandhill Cranes which are raising a family in the wildflowers fields just below South Overton Road.
Sandhill Crane … I’ll give you a daisy, a day! Did I mention the wildflowers are blooming in northern Minnesota?!
Molly and I were supposed to leave today on a winter road trip. Mother Nature and a fierce winter storm in southern Minnesota had other ideas. We are hanging around the Northland for one more day while the weather improves. Our plan is to drive to the American Southwest, and do a series of day rides on our bicycles.
The end result is I visited the “owling grounds” before sunrise one last time this morning. Obviously I had not planned on even being in the area. Thankfully, owls once they establish winter hunting territories can be somewhat easy to find. I was pleased to have calm winds, and decent light … while I searched for a Great Gray Owl to photograph 20 minutes before the sun popped over the horizon. This owl was extremely cooperative … allowing me to hike into position and get down on the ground such that I could capture’s dawn’s orange glow.
Yesterday I visited Yoki! It was fun to hang out with my Northern Hawk Owl. It had been a few weeks since my last visit. Yoki was kind enough to hunt for me while I shivered in the below zero temperatures. By the time we get home, all these owls should have moved off their winter territories in preparation for summer mating. As I noted … winter birding … “Owl drink to that!”
Rumors of a Northern Hawk Owl pulled me away from the Lake Superior owling grounds and up to Sax-Zim Bog. The morning was foggy and damp due to all the recent snow melt, and the sun was nowhere to be seen. I first drove to where the Northern Hawk Owl had been seen two days prior and had immediate success. However, given the owl was rather deep into the forest in combination with the dark conditions, I decided to make my first visit to Mary Lou’s feeders and check out the new photographer’s blind.
Wow, and I repeat wow! The blind is fantastic and by arriving by 8:30 am the birds were still actively feeding. I saw huge numbers of:
Black Capped Chickadees
In addition, two trumpeters swans flew over … a rare event for mid February, and both Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers were present. After my trip to Mary Lou’s, I made two more stops to see the Hawk Owl. While I never had good light, it was fun to watch this rare bird hunt.