Tag Archives: Sax-Zim Bog

Dinner with Two of America’s Top Naturalists! (and a Boreal Owl)

Over the past two days I have been privileged to bird with Paul Bannick, who amongst other items is a senior staff member for Conservation Northwest. Knowing that he and Sparky Stensaas were good friends, after yesterday’s birding excursion Molly and I hosted everyone for dinner. (Sparky is the executive director of Friends of Sax-Zim Bog)

While we were having a glass of wine, Sparky was glancing at Paul’s new book, A Year in the Lives of North American Owls. Wow!  and I repeat Wow! Sparky immediately recognized the location of a particular photograph based upon some willows in the background of an image. This started an interesting test which truly amazed me. Paul would open the book to a given page, and then test Sparky’s knowledge. Could the location of the photograph be determined based upon the various plant life in the photograph, or the minor plumage variations of a given owl. I was dumbfounded how easily these two individuals could recognize the location of a given bird based upon plant life, etc.

Obviously the past two days were a treat for me. While I provided some local habitat knowledge, Paul was extremely generous is helping further my education about birds, and often specifically owls. Here are some of images I took over the past two days.

Day 1 was ugly, and not a good day for owling. The wind was screaming out of the Northwest in excess of 20 mph, and the snow came down almost non-stop. Somehow we found four owls. At one point we even stood in the middle of a pasture braving the -30F chill factors to photograph a Northern Hawk Owl.

Boreal Owl in the Duluth area

Northern Hawk Owl at -30F Windchill (Oh man it was cold while photographing this bird. Paul got a minor case of frostbite)

Great Gray Hiding from the Wind & Snow (We went back four hours later; the owl had not moved one inch. This spot captured what little solar warmth was available, and was out of the wind. The final image was taken during the second visit … sleepy owl)

Day 2 was fantastic … calm winds and +4F temperatures

Pileated Woodpecker … expressing its opinion about all these owl photographs

Northern Hawk Owl on the Hunt

Great Gray Owl on the Hunt

 And a Talon Shot

Owl Poopers & Bloopers (3 Species!)

If you’ve noticed, like most wildlife photographers, I only publish “great images”. Well, guess what … in the real world I take lots of horrible photographs, some even comical. Thus, I bring you my first in a series of “Owl Poopers and Bloopers” … with lots of butt shots!

Great Gray Owl Pooping
Thought this bird was going to fly when I pressed the shutter … Not!

Snowy Owl Butt
Raptors always taken off into a stiff wind … Not!

Northern Hawk Owl Butt
I repeat …. Raptors always taken off into a stiff wind … Not!

Great Gray Owl Butts
By the light of the silvery moon … and da Bog!

Deep Freeze Birding

Since Christmas a warm morning has been -5F, with many days ranging down to -20F. In short, these mornings have demanded I get outside! I will admit my hikes away from the car are short, rarely exceeding 20 minutes, and I pay strict attention to the wind velocity and direction.

Yesterday morning was relatively warm, -8F plus wind for a chill factor of -22F. In short, it was perfect weather to stand on a wind swept Lake Superior beach for 20 minutes in search of the “perfect photo” . My goal was to catch the local USCG Cutter Alder as it entered the harbor through the Sea Smoke at the Superior Entry!

Later in the day I drove over to Two Harbors, Minnesota and took a hike out Lighthouse Point. Upon returning this scene presented itself to me … “ice fishing”!

Two mornings ago I had a blast taking a mom and her eleven year old son over to Sax-Zim Bog. The young man loves birding, owls, and my blog. Great kid, huh?!

When I picked them up at 6:30 I asked the young lad what he wanted to see. Owls is the response! I think … no guarantee, but I am reasonably confident … then the boy continues … a Boreal Owl! Uff dah! No way, politely says I! We succeeded by most accounts … five Great Gray Owls and a Northern Hawk Owl, but no Boreal! Here are two images from that outing. (I had driven over the afternoon before to scout and insure the birding expedition would be a success)

Christmas Birds! (owls and more)

Sometimes … you just have to go birding!

When things went surprisingly well at Target yesterday and I finished up stocking stuffer purchases by 7:45 am, I said to myself: “Self … you are only 35 miles from the Bog. Given the 3+ inches of new snow flocked on the trees and the weather radar shows clearing skies … get thee to a Boggery!”

And I did … Sax-Zim Bog bound was I! It was a fantastic morning. I only spent two hours birding, but what a great two hours it was.

Merry Christmas!

Pine Grosbeak (male)

Great Gray Owl on the Hunt … Voles watch out!
… The 4th image in this series was taken upon returning to a favorite hunting perch!

Back at home … not a Partridge in a Pear Tree, but a …
… Mourning Dove in a Pine Tree!