February 18, 2009

Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival: Day 2

On Saturday morning my dad and I woke up bright and early and headed out to a Perkins where we met trip leaders Lars Benson and Judd Brink and the rest of the group to bird the Duluth area. We took off first in search of Snowy Owls at the international airport, but were unsuccessful in finding any. No Snowy Owls were seen during the day despite our continued efforts to spot one at various locations. A light snow began to pick up as we drove around looking for birds but it didn't stop us.

A bird feeder a few miles outside of town had redpolls and other various birds visiting so we headed there to try our luck on finding any interesting species. The first lifer of the day turned out to be a Hoary Redpoll. My life list was nearing 300, with only three to go. A couple female Pine Grosbeaks also popped in making my life list grow yet again, with 298 species. It has been a while since I've had so many life birds within such a short period of time. The Hoary Redpoll escaped getting photographed but I did get some photos of the Common Redpolls. They were all over the place there and were easy to photograph.This photo shows only a small portion of the hundreds of repolls that were there!
After we had our fill of looks at the redpolls we decided to move on. A Pileated Woodpecker gave us fleeting looks as it flew into the forest as we made our way back to the car. Lester Park was next on the itinerary. On the way over a Ruffed Grouse that was seen briefly in a woody draw along the road was my 299th life bird. That meant that I was only one away from 300! I kept wondering what my 300th bird would be. Would it be an Iceland Gull, Northern Hawk Owl, or even an unexpected bird? To find out what species it was keep reading.

A couple White-winged Crossbills were at Lester Park. The photo below clearly shows the white wings on a female bird. They weren't easy to photograph or even see for that matter as they foraged about in the treetops.A check for gulls down by the lake added an adult Glaucous Gull to the day list. We searched again for Snowy Owls but all that we found was a Coyote. A check of a local landfill revealed some interesting gulls such as Glaucous and Great Black-backed. An Iceland Gull was also seen flying above our heads. I frantically searched for it in the large group of gulls floating around the place. This would be a nice bird for three-hundred. But God had plans of His own. Before I had an opportunity to find the gull a call came in that a Boreal Owl was seen along a road about twenty minutes from the landfill. I decided that I better save the Iceland Gull for another day so I could have Boreal Owl as my 300th. The Boreal Owl is one of the top 10 most sought after birds in all of the ABA area. We wasted no time going over there to see the bird. I tried to avoid looking for any birds on the way over in case one of them would happen to be a new bird. I wanted Boreal Owl as my three-hundreth bird in the worst way. We pulled up to the location and searched along the roadside for it as we drove by. The birder who found it was there and said that we drove right past it! I looked right where it was and couldn't see it. No wonder they are so hard to find. I finally did see the bird and officially added him as my 300th bird on my life list. Boreal Owl-my 300th lifer, what a neat bird!

I called my birding friends that were back home in Iowa and told them about seeing my 300th lifer. After much congratulations and picture taking we headed off to find a few more birds before the day was over. We found a few more Pine Grosbeaks while we were looking for a solitaire. There was no solitaire to be found but the grosbeaks posed for a picture.

The successful birding trip for the day came to an end but we were not entirely done birding. A Great Gray Owl search was done at the Sax-Zim Bog to try to find this species which was rather scarce this year. Not one was found during that search, in fact none were seen during the weekend. Lifer 301 showed up however in the form of an owl. A Northern Hawk Owl was perched atop a tree in the fading daylight allowing close approach.

To wrap up a great day of birding we went to the Meadowlands Community Center to listen to Al Batt, a great comedian that made us all laugh. We went back to the hotel exhausted and ready for bed.

Tomorrow I will highlight all of the birds I saw while birding in the Sax-Zim Bog.


The Early Birder said...

Congratulations on passing the 300 mark. Looking forward to hearing about the rest of your trip - A few more lifers perhaps?

Neil Gilbert said...

Wow, sounds like an awesome trip. Congratulations on reaching 300! Boreal Owl is an amazing bird for that milestone.

Lynne said...

I've told lots of friends about your 300th lifer. Everyone at the festival was so happy for you!

Derek Bakken said...


I am stuck at 291 and want to make 300 before the year is out - Boreal Owl would make a nice 300 (so would Great Grey).

Tucker L said...

Thanks everyone for the congratulations. The trip was a Christmas gift-vacation with my dad. Boreal Owl as 300-what a great gift for Christmas, I couldn't ask for more!

Bird Girl said...

Congrats, Tucker! 300 and you are still so young!!! I wish I would have paid attention when I was your age - good for you!

Linda in Erie said...

Congratulations on your 300th lifer! It sure looks like you all had fun.

Kelly said...

What an exciting story. Congratulations on reaching your 300th bird!! Wish I could say the same for myself. Beautiful photo of the Boreal Owl as well!

NCmountainwoman said...

CONGRATULATIONS! Not only do you get number 300, you get exactly the bird you wanted. Fantastic!

Owlman said...

Wow what an incredible life bird for 300 - CONGRATS! Interesting field report, it sounds like you had a blast.

Mary C said...

I'm visiting via Hasty Brook's blog and I wanted to congratulate you on your 300th lifer. It's so refreshing to read about young birders and their birding experiences.

Anonymous said...

BOREAL OWL is your 300th bird!! Man my 300th was a Dickcissel in SE Minnesota. Well I had a choice to have a Bell's Vireo or a Dickcissel for my 300th bird and they were both seen in the same field I was birding at. So I decided to add the more colorful bird to be my 300th bird.

You are on your way to be a very popular birder in Iowa. Remember one thing Tucker; its not the high price binoculars or scopes that make a birder but spending a lot of time in the field and taking notes is what makes a birder.

By the way I linked your blog to my blog.

Mike Hendrickson
Duluth, MN

Leedra said...

Congratulations on the 304 birds. Such an added treat for the 300th to be an owl. I came from Lynne's blog.

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nina at Nature Remains. said...

I love owls!
Your Boreal is a nice photograph, too.