February 19, 2009

Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival: Day 3

The field trip on day four of the Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival took us through the bog for which the festival was named. At 6:30am my dad and I met the group in Meadowlands and boarded the bus that was full of birders anxious to see the many special birds of the area. On the way to Meadowlands I got a lifer mammal, a Snowshoe Hare that ran across the road. My hopes were to find Boreal Chickadee and Black-backed Woodpecker for my life list during the trip.
When we first started we didn't see much but as the day progressed more and more birds began to come out and show themselves. One of the first birds that we found was a Northern Hawk Owl perched on top of a tree looking for breakfast.
A couple Black-billed Magpies were viewed from a distance during the early morning hours. Also seen was another Northern Hawk Owl, one of the three that we would see that day. Several feeding stations were visited during the day. The first one we stopped at was the Admiral Road Station. Many of the feeders were baited with deer carcasses. This is an excellent food source for birds because gives them lots of energy to do everyday things. A number of Gray Jays came down to the meat feeder while we were there.
A classic Hoary Redpoll was perched in a bush nearby allowing me to take a quick picture of it. They are easy to distinguish from the Common Redpolls as long as you know what field marks to look for.The Hoary Redpoll eventually came down to the feeders for some seed, allowing me to get a nicer photo of it.
I left the Admiral Feeders with no life birds, but I did get some great looks at some birds that I don't get to see back at home. We moved on to another feeding station with the hopes of finding Evening Grosbeaks. The grosbeaks did show up and we gt some nice looks at them. Unfortunately though I couldn't get a decent picture of them because they were so far away. Here is the best one I could get of them while we were there.
Another bird of note at the feeders was a female Red Crossbill feeding on some pine cones in a tree nearby.
No lifers showed up at any of the feeders so far, but there was still hope of finding some new birds before the day was over. We drove around for a while and I saw a Ruffed Grouse, this time in the open. After lunch we hit a couple more feeders and found a few nice birds. One species that was very conspicuous were the Pine Grosbeaks. I got a picture of one of the stunning male grosbeaks.
The feeders we were visiting had deer carcasses at them which is a favorite food of the tiny Boreal Chickadee. Our Pine Grosbeak watching was interrupted by a call that sounded like a Black-capped Chickadee with a wheeze. If you haven't guessed it by now, we were hearing a Boreal Chickadee! The bird was back in some thick conifers, hidden from sight, that is until he came to the feeders. I went back to watching the grosbeaks and in the corner of my eye I saw a tiny brown and white bird fly in to the feeders. I looked over and saw that it was a Boreal Chickadee! The bird fearlessly flew out into the open and began feeding on the deer carcass. He sat there as we took photograph after photograph of it. He eventually was done with his lunch and flitted back into the woods.
The Boreal Chickadee was life bird 302 and was the first one of the day. It's cousin, the Black-capped Chickadee was also present.
The next place we were going to visit was a Black-backed Woodpecker location. This would be yet another lifer for me. We got back onto the bus and as the driver went to start it we heard that something was wrong. The bus wasn't starting! I began to wonder if we were going to be able to make it to the woodpecker spot before it was too late. Within fifteen minutes a truck came out and jump-started the bus. All turned out okay and the bus was up and running in no time.
When we got to the woodpecker spot I didn't know what to expect. For the past few days not one Black-backed was seen, even though the area was searched extensively. I began to doubt that we would see one but it turned out that we did find one, and easily at that.
As we walked into the woods on a hardened foot path signs of Black-backed Woodpecker foraging was everywhere. Bark was littered on the ground, a sure sign that they were there. I was the first one to find one of these unusually tame woodpeckers.They allowed close approach and sometimes came to us. One woodpecker was so bold that it landed on a tree that someone was leaning on. The photographer who was under the tree had to back away to get a picture of it! It's not often that wildlife photographers have the problem of the animals coming to close to get a picture. The woodpecker wad another new bird, number 303, and the last one of the weekend. We drove back past the Admiral Feeders and on the way there I saw a mammal lifer, the Porcupine, which was in bad lighting.At the feeder we found a few birds including another Boreal Chickadee. I also got an excellent picture of a Downy Woodpecker that was perched outside of our bus.
The trip was over so we headed back to Meadowlands. Another Northern Hawk Owl was seen from the bus on the way back and a group of four Ruffed Grouse were feeding in a bush along the road.
This marked the end of the festival but not the complete end of the weekend of birding. Tommorrow I will tell about our search for the illusive Spruce Grouse on the back roads of lake county.


Lynne said...

Lucky you to see the Black-backed. We did the Bog trip on Saturday and they were not seen.
Nice pix of the Boreal. That was a lifer for me.

Tucker L said...

I didn't think we'd find the Black-backed. I heard from a number of people that they hadn't been seen there for days.