Monday, February 25, 2013

One of the Classics

First, apologies for the lack of posts recently. I just spent from 2/21-2/24 in Minnesota visiting the University of Minnesota for graduate school "welcome weekend". Before being invited to this event, I had no hopes of seeing a Boreal Owl this year, especially since the major push seems to be over, although a few individuals are still being seen. Even after being invited, I had no idea if I would even have time for the 3 hour one-way drive from Minneapolis to Duluth/Two Harbors.

As luck would have it, no activities were planned for Sunday and my plane didn't leave Minneapolis until 5:30pm. This was my one window of opportunity. Boreal Owls weren't reported from a couple days previous, but then on Saturday a report of a roosting bird along Tischer Creek sparked my hope again. I wasn't going to make the drive unless one was seen on Saturday...this was my sign. I had a rental car lined up but Tom Will, an associate with UMN who I talked to during the "interview" process of my school visit, wanted to go as well. He picked me up at 6am and we headed north.

We got to the Tischer Creek spot where the Boreal Owl was seen a day before but there was no owl to be found. We did, however, see an unexpected J.D. Phillips from Marquette, Michigan where I went to school. Fun to bird with him again! Another girl (Lizzie- sorry I don't know your last name!) was looking for the owl as well and we exchanged numbers should one of us get lucky with an owl. While on the trail, a report came of a Boreal Owl roosting in a yard 30mins from our location. We bolted over, the first on the scene, only to find a striking Northern Saw-whet Owl being harassed by feeder birds at the home.

Northern Saw-whet Owl
Although Saw-whets are awesome birds, and a great addition to this photographic big year, I couldn't help but feel a bit let down. So we headed back to Duluth to drive the lakeshore in search of Boreals, Great Grays and a King Eider that had been reported. We struck out on all. Later I would learn that Great Grays and the King Eider were indeed seen on Sunday. We ended in Two Harbors, checking a few of the open water sites with no sightings to brag about. We were on our way out, on the edge of town, when I got a text of a Boreal Owl in Two Harbors, not a block from where we had birded just moments earlier! We turned around and minutes later I was staring face to face with my #1 "holy-grail" bird of the ABA, Boreal Owl!

Boreal Owl!!!
Boreal Owl!!
But who did the text come from? It was from the girl, Lizzie, I ran into at Tischer Creek. Had we not run into each other, and had we not exchanged numbers, I would have never seen the bird. The Boreal was found by Jim Lind. I'm extremely thankful to Jim, Lizzie and Tom for getting me to Two Harbors and for finding and communicating the location of the Boreal Owl. After spending a little too long enjoying the bird, we had to speed back to the Minneapolis Airport where I just made my plane back to Tallahassee. This was one birding experience I will never forget, one of the classics!

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