Friday, January 21, 2011

Sax-Zimm Bog Day III

I promised a quick post so without further ado.  I am really happy with these photos.  They came out great and it was a fantastic trip.  Cold yes and snowing most of the time, but as you will see it didn't stop us from getting some great birding done. 

Great Gray Owl (totally awesome) 

Boreal Chickadee (love this bird)

Pine Grosbeak (male)

Red-breasted nuthatch
(this was my photo nemesis bird.  I couldn't get a good photo. 
I'd say that's behind me with this photo.)

Ruffed Grouse (chicken of the snow)

Black backed Woodpecker (male) 
I trekked through snow up to my backside (uphill both ways) to get this picture.   

Black backed woodpecker (female)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sax-Zimm Bog, Duluth, Minnesota

Wow what a trip!  I went with Mike Mandracchia of Mandrake Birding and Kim Risen, a professional guide from Naturescape Tours of Tamarack, Minnesota (near Duluth) and Cathy Risen, his wife, on a four day birding trip to the frozen North Country of Minnesota.  I can't begin to tell you what negative 15 feels like.  Did I say frozen!!? 

The birding was amazing.  A guide is so worth it if you are not familiar with the area and/or you are challenged by the local birds.  Kim was awesome not only for his knowledge of the local area, but his general knowledge about everything BIRD.  Great trip!  They even found me a Guinness on Day 3. 

Day 1
 I left Boston in the wee hours for Minneapolis and then to Duluth.  It was snowing pretty hard when we arrived, but a birding we will go.  The cold was staggering, but I dressed for the occasion.  God bless Northface!

We drove an hour north of Duluth to Sax-Zimm Bog.  Hmm Sax-Zimm sounds fancy. I figured it was some Viking burial ground or named after two French Explorers who were lost in the bog never to be seen again, but instead, to my chagrin its just located between Sax and Zimm roads.   I digress, its birding I'm here to talk about.

We were on the hunt for a Great Gray Owl. Unfortunately, I'm constantly reminded how little I know about birding when I meet people like Kim, but the birding community is unbelievable friendly I rarely feel uncomfortable.  One thing I'm exceptional at is spotting birds.  As soon as we got into the area we encountered Pine Grosbeaks.  But owls were what we were really looking for and we found a Northern Hawk Owl right away.

Northern Hawk Owl, Sax-Zimm Bog, Meadowlands, MN

The snow was really coming down on top of at least 24 to 28 inches.  It was dry and really powdery.  I'm not used to that kind of snow.  Its rare I can't make snow balls to ping unsuspecting soles at home, but Kim and Mike survived the trip without getting blasted. 

It took us awhile, but Kim put out an alert to other birders in the area for our benefit and to call him if a Great Gray shows up.  We got reports all over the bog, but couldn't seem to find one ourselves until we got the call around 430.  A friend had found one.  Wow!!!  Unfortunately it was really to late to take pictures, but I didn't care.  His friend was a bird bander so he offered to call the GGO in with a mouse for us to see.  As soon as he put the mouse down, the owl was on the move.  He came within 30 feet of us, but did a last minute 90 on a dime and off to hunt for another victim.  Apparently small vermin are plentiful this year so getting close to humans wasn't worth for Mr. Great Gray.  Doesn't matter though cause I saw my first Great Gray Owl on day 1.

Day 2
Unfortunately day 2 was so cold not alot was moving and the pictures I took were outdone on Day 3.  We went searching for Sage Grouse.  We made it all the way to the Boundary Waters and while standing outside the car, nostril hairs freezing, we heard the clear howling of a rather large wolf pack.  Sooooo COOL!  We saw gray jay, white winged crossbills, pine grosbeaks, ruffed grouse, but not the Sage Grouse.  Due to the cold and lack of any movement, we decided to search Lake Superior for gulls and any bird movement. 

Instead of birds we found amazing scenery and some insane surfers.  

Split Rock Light Station                
Little House on the Edge of the World

Surfin Fool! 

Common Golden-eye
 I'll report day 3 and 4 later in the week.  We ended up with 39 species and 13 lifers for me.  And a great photo of the GGO.  Ya'll come back now, ya hea!!  You won't be disappointed.  I promise. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sachuest NWR and Rhode Island Coast

I'm again way behind on my post.  The week between Christmas and New Years was pretty productive.  I was able to get out a few times with decent luck.  There had been alot of chatter about a Green tailed towhee, a western rarity, but seen on a fairly regular basis at Sachuest NWR in Middletown, Rhode Island.  I got lucky.  Several people had struck out on the morning I visited, but fortunately he popped right out for me.  He had taken up in the pine trees at a camp ground.  Silly bird, the camp ground was closed for the winter. 

Green tailed Towhee, Sachuest NWR
The Towhee was hanging out with a rather large group of sparrows.  There Song, Savannah, and American Tree. 

American Tree Sparrow

I drove up to Sachuest, but decided against walking the loop.  Likely should have because the reports later in the day was very positive.  Instead I moved over to 3rd Beach looking for the Red Polls that had been reported.  No such luck for me.  Surprisingly Red Polls would have been a lifer.  I saw them many years ago before I started keeping track or photographing so I don't count them.  Fortunately I ran into a few good birds in the dunes and on the water.  

American Pipit

Surf Scoter
For some reason, I can never get a clear quality picture of a surf scoter.  Drives me nuts. 

I drove over to Beaver Tail and I really struck out there. There were a few Harlequins and many Eider, but the rocks were snow covered and the waves were huge so I didn't attempt it.  I was meeting my sister for lunch so I moved on to Point Judith.  I had heard about a Lark Sparrow taking up residence, but I wasn't able to find the spot.  I stopped in to Galilee Harbor and found a few birds and several seals.  I'm terrible identifying gulls.  Sparrows are hard enough, but at least there is only season of immature individuals.  Seems to me that gulls have minimum three seasons of immaturity and sometime four.  Ugh!

Greater Black backed Gull

Herring Gull

My sister of the Backyard Explorer called for lunch so I drove down to meet her at Matunuck for lunch.  On my way to lunch I ran into a nice gent doing some sport falconry.  He was using a Harris Hawk.  Wow what a beautiful bird.  He was also really willing to talk to me about the species.  Apparently the Harris Hawk hunts in a pack with multiple birds tracking their prey.  His bird wasn't all that happy that day because of the wind.  Funny he said it was so smart he could drive with it sitting on its perch on the front without much problem.  However, if the owner were to leave it for any time, the bird would open the glove compartment and find the food.  Smart Bird!!!


I met my sister at a pub overlooking the ocean and they thankfully had Guinness.   What a great spot.  The back deck hung over that water and I was able to get a few good shots.  Now mind you I had a few Guinness.  :) 

Bonaparte's Gull

Red Throated Loon

After lunch I shot over to Moonstone Beach (if that sand could talk) for a walk down to the back side of Trustum Pond.  Unfortunately, the pond was frozen with the exception of a very small strip.  I didn't trek the 1/2 mile with my scope, but could clearly see about 8 species of duck, 45 Mute Swans, and several species of gulls but they were too far away.  

I moved down to the front side of Trustum Pond and did the 1 1/2 loop.  It was getting dark and temps were dropping quickly so I moved quickly.  I was hoping for some Barred Owls, but no such luck.  I saw one winter wren and a few sparrows.
White Throated Sparrow

All in all a great day.  Couldn't have asked for better birding, better company for lunch and being out for a day with nature.  Yahoo!!  I am sooooo glad to be a BIRD NERD!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Plum Island, Gloucester and Rockport and one request for Help too

OK I've been out birding for the last two weeks and never posted.  So I guess I'll be posting alot the week.  Today I am posting a few pics from my trip up to the north shore of Massachusetts.  I rarely make it up there, but I took a day just prior to the Christmas holiday in hopes of scoring big or at least having a great birding day.  I've been to Plum Island several times, but never to Gloucester and the Cape Ann loop.  The birding was so so, but the scenery did not disappoint.

I arrived at Plum Island at 0730 and it was mighty chilly.  I love walking the beach in the cold as long as there is no wind.  I'm in my element around the sound of waves.  Can't imagine joining the L-Street Brownies for their annual New Year's swim.  That's crazy talk.   

It was a calm day at Plum Island with some pretty decent sized waves.  The birds weren't real active and neither were the people.  I saw 5 people max.  I was hoping for a snow bunting, but it just wasn't meant to be.  No lifers either, but a few good pics anyway.  While I was leaving Plum Island I stopped in a Joppa Flats Audubon and they were real helpful and suggested several different great birding locations.    

Common Eider (seem to be have a huge spike of Eider this year.)


Cooper's Hawk

Gloucester Harbor (scene of the movie The Perfect Storm)

I had never visited Rockport before and it was a really nice old fishing village.  I was pleasantly surprised.  My understanding is that they got hit pretty hard during the recent Northeaster that hit the Massachusetts coast.  Hopefully the Christmas decorations on this building made it through. 
Rockport Harbor (this is a perfect Christmas Card)

Wondering if anyone has a suggestion on this bird.  I initially thought it was a Purple Sandpiper, but the color of the bill almost looks bright orange versus the typical muted yellow. 
Thanks in advance. 

So later on this week, I'll post a few from Southeastern Massachusetts and a few from Rhode Island.  I was one of the lucky ones to get a fairly decent photo of the Green tailed Towhee.  A lifer, but that is for another day.
Have a great week and hope you visit again soon.