Monday, January 11, 2016

Northern MN Birding: Part 3

After success with finding a Northern Hawk Owl on January 3rd and Gyrfalcon on January 4th we decided to spend the 5th heading north in Lake County looking for Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadees, and Black-backed Woodpeckers then heading to Sax-Zim Bog on the 6th for Great Gray Owls and whatever else we could find.

Day 3: January 5th  

We left early in the morning amidst a stiff breeze and colder weather than the previous two days. We were at the desired location on Lake County 2 at first light as Spruce Grouse seem to be most easily found picking grit along the road early in the day before logging trucks become common. Unfortunately we did not have any luck in the first hour and half and decided to head toward Isabella Lake in search of them. Along Trappers Lake Rd we had a Snowshoe Hare hop over the crest in the road, past the car, and continue south on the road behind us. It happened so fast than none of us got a photo, but was fun to see. 

Boreal Chickadee bum
Shortly after the hare observation Clinton stopped the car and started to pish, hoping to find Boreal Chickadees in a section of Bog. The call of a Boreal Chickadee is similar to Black-capped Chickadees but scratchy and nasal in comparison. These Boreal Chickadees' calls gave away their location as soon as we stopped.

As the sun poked through the clouds it back-lit the three curious yet careful birds. Unfortunately the conditions offered terrible views but it was a lifer for both Jack and Terry none the less!

After heading north for the first four hours of the day we found the road to Isabella Lake closed for the season; our search for Spruce Grouse was unsuccessful and with no access to Isabella Lake we would have to search for Black-backed Woodpeckers in the Sax-Zim Bog tomorrow.

Being a couple hours north of Duluth we decided to head to Hwy 61 and follow the North Shore toward Grand Marais in search of reported Bohemian Waxwings. Along our trek north we found Pine Grosbeaks and Long-tailed Ducks.

Checking out a section of bog for boreal chickadees and scoping Good Harbor looking at long-tailed ducks.

Arriving in Grand Marais we saw a thrush shaped bird near the Harbor, but we were unsuccessful in finding it after it flew. A lone White-winged Scoter was between the docks and break wall. It was diving often and allowed me to approach closer to take photos with the larger camera rather than digiscoping.  It offered close views and was a lifer for Jack.

White-winged Scoter

The strong breeze persisted throughout the day and crashed waves high into the sky along the rock shore. I stood in water taking this video and as soon as I stopped shooting it a large wave sent mist over my head. Luckily a warm car allowed my phone and binoculars to dry. Click on HD in the bottom right of the video to see icy details of the North Shore.

We spent the next couple of hours searching town for Bohemian Waxwings, but as was the case earlier in the day we were unable to locate any in the wind. For the first time in three days we stopped to sit down for lunch and warmed up. The Blue Water Cafe's food was good but the ambiance humbled me; the booth next to us had four cold-blooded surfers and the sign to the restrooms made me think.

Map of the day's drive and sign by the Blue Water Cafe restrooms.

Our continued search for a Black-backed Woodpecker and for a Great Gray Owl would occur the next day in Sax-Zim Bog and is the final blog post from this trip.  

Day 3 Recap of Wish List
Boreal Chickadee (Jack and Terry)
Gray Jay (Seen again but added the first day)
Pine Grosbeak (Seen again but added the first day)
White-winged Scoter (Not on the initial Wish List but added to Jack's life list)

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