A few months ago Micky and Jennifer committed to a trip north sometime during the first two weeks of January. I knew they saw Snow Buntings and Northern Goshawk during their October trip to Duluth, but otherwise the simple goal was to see as many northern specialties as possible on this trip. I tend to leave birding decisions to the last minute, but not in this instance. I used Google Maps to add markers for specific target birds. While some of these locations have been good areas to check for many years, other markers were added based on recent sightings. I used an additional feature of Google Map this winter for the first time, as you can load a map onto your phone using the "Your Places" option and then navigate to any of these markers directly.
You can see the visual representation of my planning in the screenshot of the Google Map to the right. In my planning I had hoped we would spend one day in Sax-Zim bog (the Blue markers), another day traveling north to Lake County from Duluth (the Red markers), and possibly spend the third chasing anything we missed. The simplicity of having Google navigate was nice, but if you have never been north to Lake County it is helpful to know that you may not have reception for most of it. While I won't name companies here, the supposed 1% difference on cell service is routinely obvious in a car full of birders.
After discussing options for weekends (Jennifer took Thursday and Friday off) and coordination of everyone involved, I ended up driving back to Kansas City on Sunday the 1st in order to hop in the Van with them on Wednesday night after work and head back north. I seriously doubted my sanity as we started the trip and left Kansas City at 8:30 p.m. with light snow falling. Out intentions were to be in northern Minnesota at dawn to look for birds, and it was a 9 hour drive!!
The next blog post will contain details, photos, and a report for each day. With a bit of foreshadowing that is obvious for anyone that kept up with the Facebook posts, it was a great trip and it would have been tough to improve the overall success. We were able to find almost everything on our target list. Stay tuned for more.