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)
37F … clouds and occasional slushy snow … 15 mph winds out of the NE.
In short, yesterday afternoon’s weather did little to encourage me to take my daily bike ride up the shore of Lake Superior! However, being addicted to exercise and grumbling all the way, I walked down the outside stairs to the garage and mounted my bike.
Man alive, boy am I thrilled I took my ride! In an hour’s cycling I saw well over 30 Rough-Legged Hawks, including this individual which was doing what I have named “Headwind Deflection Hunting”. This kind of hunting goes like this:
Migrate down from the Arctic
Find the largest freshwater lake in the world
Migrate with the wind down the shore
Occasionally turn into the wind, and use the headwind pushed up off the 20 foot cliff to hover in place w/o expending any effort
Dive and eat mouse
It is amazing how many hawks I saw hunting in this manner. What a treat to get off my bike (of course I had my camera … need you ask), and watch this bird hunt for five minutes.
A few days earlier up in Two Harbors, Minnesota I observed ring-billed gulls hunting food in a similar manner. By flying into a stiff wind, and stalling out next to a berry covered bush, the gulls were able to eat the fruit. One enterprising individual even managed to crash land on purpose in the shrub. Gull’s webbed feet are not made for tree or shrub perching. I did not even know gulls ate berries off trees.
Both examples show why one should try to be truly observant while birding. During bad weather conditions I learned how birds adapt. In each case I suspect I was watching adult birds. Juveniles would need to be taught how to use a strong wind.
Finally, here is one more early winter photograph. Normally a few snow geese migrate through our area, pushed off their more westerly migration paths over to Lake Superior. This fall, one may easily find a few snow geese interspersed with almost every flock of Canada Geese.
The first measurable snow of the season expected later today. Thus, it was appropriate that I found a small flock of five snow geese in Two Harbors, Minnesota! (white and dark morphs next to the Lighthouse).
If you want to look for these geese … in addition to the spot where I located them, check out the golf course, Burlington Bay, and the RV municipal campground. The geese tend to move around a bit to these spots and a few others.
Photo conditions were a challenge … already a cold drizzle coming in off Lake Superior.