Saturday, January 14, 2017

Northern MN Birding: 2016 One-Day Visit

Pine Grosbeak
An  adult male Pine Grosbeak
Between Christmas 2016 and New Years 2017 we had friends from Kansas City visit northern Minnesota in search of birds. Christine and I went over to Duluth from central Minnesota and spent the night with anticipation of searching the area with Kathy and Diane the next day.  Due to treacherous road conditions from an ice storm two days earlier we decided to search for Bohemian Waxwings together around Duluth. We spent the first couple of hours searching Duluth where they had been seen before but we were successful. We tried for an overwintering Golden-crowned Sparrow in Duluth as well, but again were unsuccessful. After trying a handful of locations in Duluth we decided to drive north to Two Harbors and chance the icy roads. Diane is an exceptional driver and we did experience any troubles along the way but did drive a bit slower.

We searched each and every road in Two Harbors. We started along the south edge of town at Agate Bay and drove back and forth, east to west, working our way through the town one street at a time from south to north. After an hour and a half Christine spotted a few Bohemian Waxwings. We saw them at quite a distance and shortly after we saw them they flew away. We continued our search and after another half an hour we found a small flock near the northern edge of town. These birds were more receptive. With overcast gray skies we did not get many pictures, but we sat in the car and watched the Bohemian Waxwings and Pine Grosbeaks feed together on the mountain ash.

Waxwing Grosbeak
A Bohemian Waxwing (left) with an immature/female Pine Grosbeak (right).

We decided to check Agate Bay before stopping to get a bite to eat. The parking lot and trails were glare ice and we were careful not to slip and fall. Kathy spotted a Red-necked Grebe out in the harbor, it was a species that neither of them had seen before. After searching over half the day for the Waxwings we were fortunate they could add a second life bird in 10 minutes. The wind off the water had given us all a chill so we ate a relaxing lunch at Culver's to warm up and determine our next course of action. We took scenic 61 along the lake back to Duluth and saw more Pine Grosbeaks and a Northern Shrike. With the remaining light we followed up on a previous report of a Townsend's Solitaire rather than heading to Canal Park.

On our first pass we did not find the bird, rather we found a flock of 150 to 200 Bohemian Waxwings. I guess we should have started the day out here instead. The Solitaire was found near the dog park and gave us wonderful views. It was the third lifer of the day for Kathy and Diane!

Townsend's Solitaire
Townsend's Solitaires are a member of the thrush family, just like bluebirds!

While we did not find any of the northern specialties like a Boreal Chickadee, Black-Backed Woodpecker, or Spruce Grouse we were successful in the day. Perhaps the biggest success of the day was navigating the treacherous roads, as later that night on our way back to central Minnesota we drove 45 miles per hour on the thick snow/ice, snow pack, black ice, and uneven lanes. It was a wonderful day sharing conversation and searching for birds with friends. I enjoy watching others see birds for the first time and helping them fine them, but am even more thankful that Christine decided to lend her eyes and ears in our search. She is my favorite person to go out in the woods to search for birds, animals, and take pictures. I hope we are able to do it again soon even if our daughters lives have us starting to go in many different directions.

1 comment:

kc_kcarroll said...

Very nice write up. We were glad both you and Christine were able to join us and help us find some good birds. It was lots of fun and I hope we can join both of you again!