Friday, January 13, 2017

Northern MN Birding: Part 4 of last year

Over this last week of 2016 and first week of 2017 I was fortunate to spend time with friends from Kansas City looking for northern and boreal bird specialties in northern Minnesota. Before I described these birding trips, the routes taken, and the birds seen together I should probably finish the story from last year.

As you may recall I visited northern Minnesota with Jack and Terry during the 2015-2016 holiday season. We spent a day driving to the Canadian border, stuck around Duluth for Gulls and a Gyrfalcon, searched Lake County, and on the last day went to Sax-Zim Bog to search for a Great Great Owl and Black-backed Woodpecker.

We were fortunate to have Clinton join us on this day. Unfortunately neither the people nor the birds would be the story of the day. Rather my mistake took up half of the day and in the process gave us this story while freezing everyone's toes.

2016 Day 4We drove around in the morning searching for an Owl and a late morning hike to search for the Woodpecker; both searches were unsuccessful. I tried to be the first back to the car in order to unlock it and open it up for everyone else.  Two keys for the rental car we're so large I was unable to put them in my jeans pocket and instead and put them in my outer clothing pockets. I hit the two buttons for the trunk and unlock and shed some clothes to remain comfortable in the car.  I was only abstractly aware that I transferred the keys from my pants to jacket, but it became obvious to me what I had done when the trunk closed with my jacket inside. Immediately I checked the doors to hit the trunk release, but alas the door unlock had not worked even though the trunk button had.  We were locked out of the car.

We all started calling around for options and fortunately had a Lock/Unlock Service that was able to come by and open the car. Once inside our troubles did not end though, as the trunk release button was electronic and did not unlock the trunk after the alarm went off unlocking the door. Over the next 15 minutes we tried a few other ideas but ended up taking the backseat apart piece by piece to get into the trunk. I beg that no one ever locks their keys in the trunk and has to go through our ordeal. After a couple of hours and borrowing a single small-sized crescent wrench from the Lock/Unlock Service we had the backseat sufficiently a part that Terry, the smallest guy out of the four, could squeeze between the two pieces and start pulling pieces out. After nearly 4 hours we had the keys. The kindness of the Lock/Unlock Service was the only thing that saved us that day from calling a tow company and getting a ride back to Duluth and waiting for a mechanic to get the keys out. Last winter when we returned I sent them a thank-you card, as they went well beyond Midwestern Nice.

Great Gray Owl
While I was quite warm from the frantic activity of taking apart a car, everyone else was a bit cold or frozen. The Welcome Center was nearly complete and able to warm everyone up. With limited time remaining in the day we ventured back into the cold fog in search of a Great Gray. As the end of the day approached I feared we were going to miss seeing the largest Owl in North America.

We turned down McDavitt Road and saw a car parked. My spirits were lifted as I saw people looking through a scope and taking pictures. We parked behind them and exited to see a large owl sitting along the side of a field a ways back. The views we're not amazing and pictures or not possible but it was one of two target birds for the day and a lifer for Terry.

It has been a year since the incident occurred and I remain ashamed that it happened. After returning to my parents late that night I was able to put the backseat together in less than 10 minutes using the appropriate tools. Learning how to take a back seat apart can be quite challenging with only a crescent wrench, in a couple feet of snow, and and 15 degree weather. Fortunately last year's follies did not repeat again this year. Look for a next blog post to chronicle the northern birding adventures from this holiday season.

Hyundai Backseat

Day 4 Recap of Wish List
Great Gray Owl (Lifer for Terry)
Stuck in the Bog (On no one's wish list)

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