Yesterday I joined the La Crosse Audubon Society in search of Boreal species in the Northwoods. I absolutely loved observing the various species, the time spent with other birders, and the peace of mind that comes when you force yourself to do nothing other than enjoy the moment.
The group left La Crosse early in the morning and headed toward Clam Lake, searching roads along the way for Grosbeaks, Gray Jays, Bohemian Waxwings, Northern Shrikes, Crossbills, and Hoary Redpolls. With many of the targeted species seen along the way, the group decided to chase the reports of Boreal Owls north of Duluth.
Along the way we stopped in Poplar Wisconsin and saw a Northern Hawk Owl that has regularly been seen this winter. This was the first time I've seen this species anywhere, and even though the bird was a looooooong ways away I still took pictures :) To the left is four pictures stitched together as the bird dropped off its perch.
Just north of Duluth we ran into birders observing a Boreal Owl. The group piled out of the vehicles and got nice views of the rare visitor from the north. As a group birders are wonderful! Birders share their observations and insight openly and are genuinely concerned and respect nature. On this day a birder was willing to take our group to a location where he had previously seen another Boreal owl. What a wonderfully kind gentleman that lived nearby.
One the way I spotted another Boreal owl. It was a different bird that had not yet been spotted by anyone that we knew of, and half the group saw before it flew off. Luckily the last bird was in the same spot and gave everyone close views of it hunting. The group turned into owl paparazzi and relished in the awesomeness of enjoying the species together.
We quickly visited the Superior Wisconsin airport and saw a snowy owl near last light. The snowy owl was the third owl species for the day, and these species were lifers (first observance of the species) for many in the group.(Note the picture is from a different owl last year.)
I would describe myself as a birder of convenience and location, as I often will look for birds where ever we happen to be but without much emphasis put on the species themselves. While I definitely love the outdoors, nature, and especially birds I realize that I face trade-offs with every decision. Are the additional miles worth possibly seeing a new species, is my time birding away from family more important than time with the girls and Christine, and perhaps most troubling is whether my love for nature worth the extra cost associated with my actions while pursuing it. Occasionally I've convinced Christine to take a small detour along our way for a birding location, but in the past six years of birding these excursions have been small in numbers. At the end of the day I wonder what one person can do, if there is a socially accepted answer, and if these internal questions are asked due to personal ethics and the ability to sleep at night. While I doubt I will end of chasing birds on a regular basis this coming year, I did enjoy it at least for one day.