Sunday, January 24, 2010

Great Gray Owl (still not)

Yesterday began early again. We were out and driving at 6:15 AM in order to be at our first birding location by dawn at 7:30. We decided to go to the northeast of Duluth in the same area that I visited last Wednesday in search of the spruce grouse. This is another place in which the great grays have been seen lately. We scoured the back roads but to no avail. We did run across a guy and his dog out early hoping to see a lynx. As we were starting to head back towards Duluth, we ran into 3 birders up from Wisconsin that we had seen several times over the previous 2 days. They also had been in pursuit of the great gray and like us had been skunked.

We drove back into Duluth to look for the elusive bohemian waxwings that had been seen along West Tischer Rd. This is a fairly long road with alot of the mountain ash which has berries that the birds like to eat. We had stopped the day before and asked an older woman if she had seen any of these birds in her tree. She had feeders hanging at her home, but she told us she had not--did not know what the bird even looked like. Well yesterday morning about 10:30 a group of 10-20 were feeding at her tree (so much for "local intel"). The photo above captured at some distance a few of the bohemian waxwings as they sat in an adjacent tree (click on it to enlarge). If you look closely you will be able to pick up the rusty color of the birds undertail coverts.

Flush with the success of the waxwings, we drove back up to Sax-Zim bog for one more try for the great gray as well as common redpolls and a blackbacked woodpecker. The weather unfortunately was turning a bit nasty--mixed rain and snow--so the roads were not great. We saw more northern hawk owls, a boreal chickadee along with lots of black-capped chickadees and pine siskins, but by 2 PM when we needed to begin our journey down to Minneapolis we still had no great gray, redpoll or blackbacked. This is part of birding--you don't always get your bird no matter how hard you try.

We survived the drive back to the twin cities area. We passed 5 cars that had slid off the road, 2 of which were lying upside down. We actually drove past Minneapolis to the town of Northfield to pick up my daughter who attends St. Olaf College. It was warm enough there that it was raining--a very uncommon occurrence this time of year in Northfield. We went back into Minneapolis to have dinner at a place called Azia--a fusion restaurant. It was the best meal we had in the northland, but it was mixed in quality. The appetizers and dessert were quite good, but the entrees left a lot to be desired.

So yesterday's birding added 3 birds for the week and 1 new species YTD. My friend from Missouri is already on a plane for home, and I am not birding today. I leave early tomorrow for Tucson, AZ. This will produce a new range of birds. Stay tuned!

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