Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Boreal Weekend

This past weekend I ventured into northern Minnesota, leaving very early on Saturday morning. I first stopped at the Sax-Zim bog. Battling snow squall after snow squall, I finally made it just after sunrise. Given the conditions, it was still overly dark. Almost immediately after getting into the bog, a Snow Bunting jumped up from in front of the car, landing back on the road. I got out and did what I could to photograph this bird in dismal conditions.

Snow Bunting
I continued down the road and it wasn't long before I ran into another of my targets; 2 Ruffed Grouse were feeding along the road. A quick look in my rear-view mirror revealed another car coming up behind me. I pulled over as quickly as I could scrambling to get a few shots off before the other car flushed the birds. Not cool...

Ruffed Grouse
These two were easy... easier than I anticipated. Feeling productive, I drove the roads again looking for Great Gray Owls. One had been reported in the area 9 days ago, but I couldn't find it.

After finishing the Sax-Zim Bog, I took a drive to Hawk Ridge. I made a quick stop at Page Pond, west of Hawk Ridge, to look for the Winter Wren that was reported from there on eBird. It only took me a matter of minutes before this Winter Wren came in to investigate some pishing.

Winter Wren
At Hawk Ridge, I saw one Northern Goshawk but failed to photograph it. I'll be going back soon for another try. I didn't stay long as I wanted to get further north. My destination was the Pagami Creek Burn near Isabella Lake.

On my way to the burn I had a Spruce Grouse fly right in front of me. I pulled over and started investigating the trees where it looked like it landed. I couldn't see it, but it started making some growling sounds at me and then flew off further into the boreal. Yet another bird I'll have to track down later.

Shortly after the Grouse incident, while driving on Tomahawk Road leading to the burn, I found this Northern Hawk Owl. It was content hunting from alongside the road and didn't mind me at all. Unfortunately, the light was tough and I couldn't get a great picture. This was the highlight of the trip, and it wasn't even a new photo bird for the year!

Northern Hawk Owl
I was able to poke around the burn for about an hour before dark. I found 3 Black-backed Woodpeckers but no American Three-toed Woodpeckers. I found a nice place to camp and called it a night.

On Sunday (10/20), I woke at sunrise and spent 3 hours in the burn. Again, I failed to find any American Three-toed Woodpeckers but came up with at least 7 Black-backed Woodpeckers and tons of sparrows.

It was getting time for me to make the long drive back to St. Paul, but I wanted to make one more stop at Wisconsin Point/ Superior Entry to look for the Thayer's Gulls that were being reported. Luckily I arrived just as another group of birders started throwing moldy bread to the gulls. It wasn't long before an adult Thayer's joined the crowd.

Thayer's Gull
Thayer's Gull
Shortly after the Thayer's excitement, a juvenile Sabine's Gull showed up. What a great way to end the weekend! When I see this bird on one of the Great Lakes, it is usually very distant and through a scope. This one almost came too close!

Sabine's Gull
This was an excellent weekend! I added 5 new photo birds for the year, missed a few that I will have to track down later, had some unexpected sightings and got to explore some new areas in the state.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hang in There

I haven't been birding much lately, and that is a direct result of grad school. But hang in there, I'll be searching for Winter Wren around the cities sometime in the next few days. On Friday or early Saturday morning I'll be heading north to the boreal forest. I've tried to make this trip happen two times already, but each weekend has been rained out. Lets hope this weekend is clear!

Targets up north include Ruffed Grouse, Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadee, Great Gray Owl, American Three-toed Woodpecker and Northern Goshawk (and perhaps a couple others I am forgetting). With so many options, I hope to run into at least a few.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Oh, There They Are

Today was a lot better for finding migrants than yesterday. I spent a couple hours this morning at Old Cedar Ave Bridge area near the Minneapolis Airport. Things started off with a bang. Right as I exited my car, a group of at least 30 Franklin's Gulls were moving along the river.

Once I got into the woods, things were a lot slower and it was hard to pick up any migrants other than Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers. I kept going and finally heard the unmistakable calls of Rusty Blackbirds somewhere near me. I tracked them down and had a total of 5 birds chasing each other. My first new photo bird in a long time!

Rusty Blackbird

I then ran into a big group of White-throated Sparrows and was sure I would get a Harris's in the bunch. I worked them over and over again, but alas, no Harris's. I turned around and took a different path back, one I had never been on before. That is when I spied a flock of sparrows flitting about the road. I was disheartened to see they were mostly Song Sparrows; but then a White-crowned. Then it finally happened. A youngster Harris's Sparrow came in to investigate some pishing.

Harris's Sparrow
Two new photo birds in one morning right here in Minneapolis! Can't complain about that.

On the way back I found another flock of sparrows that held yet another Harris's! I'll likely see them everywhere now. Also had a getting-lateish Blackpoll Warbler that eBird flagged. Here it is.

Blackpoll Warbler
Now I just need to track down a Winter Wren. Still a lot of reports of them flowing through eBird so I imagine I'll see one sooner rather than later... I hope.

Friday, October 4, 2013

New Photo Birds are Everywhere!

... everywhere except where I am looking that is. The past few days have seen a huge rise in the amount of Harris's Sparrow, Winter Wren and Rusty Blackbird reports on eBird. I finally had some time to go look for them. Of course, they chose to hide today.

I did re-find a Le Conte's Sparrow at the General Mills Research Natural Area near Minneapolis. Apparently there were 50 White-throated Sparrows and 6 Harris's Sparrows yesterday, but I couldn't find either.

Le Conte's Sparrow
Le Conte's Sparrow was not a new photo bird, but was only the second one I have seen this year. The other was in Florida in the winter, so it was a welcomed sight. It is hard to ever tire of these gorgeous sparrows.

I'll be out birding around the cities tomorrow if the weather cooperates. It looks like it is going to rain for the majority of the day, but hopefully I can get some birding in between storms. I also hope to be birding on Sunday and Monday. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pledge Update

It has been a while since I have updated folks with how the fundraising has been going. Huge thanks to the eBird team for supporting this endeavor by advertising it on their website. With the generosity of many birders and wildlife enthusiasts, we have raised $7.15/bird species photographed, along with another $110 in flat-rate pledges. With the birds I currently have photographed, this comes out to almost $4000 for Hawaiian bird conservation! Hopefully we can get a few more pledges throughout the rest of the year. Lets get to the $5000 mark!

Thank you to everyone who has been supporting this big year! I'm having a blast and the money will go to a very important cause. There is still plenty of time to contribute, and all pledges are 100% tax deductible! See here for more information.

Thanks again! I'll be birding for the majority of the coming weekend, so look for more updates soon.