December 17, 2014 NW Minnesota #684
Okay, I lied. Olaf Lied, he did…and yes I did bird one more time this year. It was not really planned as a bird chase as I had to drop of gift boxes of cookies and what turned out was moldy banana bread to clients. Nothing spreads Christmas cheer better than moldy banana bread I might note, but as they say, it is the thought that counts.
Well we didn’t know it was moldy and well we like to support the little guy but the little guy has occasional quality control issues. We are giving something else next year. We all drew lots and mine was the NW Minnesota run which coincidentally is where my favorite owl spots are located. Many think Sax-Zim Bog is the best Minnesota Owl habitat…I beg to differ, the best is my somewhat secret spot on the Manitoba border on a little finger of spruce and tamarack forest that extends down past the 48th parallel. It is the place in my book that I saw dozens of great grays but also ended up in the ravine.
It was 0F on the thermometer, warm for up here and they have no snow on the ground, and after a breakfast in Grand Forks North Dakota I drove north to Drayton and then east. Sunrise in Badger, just west of Fox was gorgeous
They say a red sky in the morning is for sailors to take warning but this morning it was for birders to get their bums out in the woods…it was a banner day.
I arrived at my owl spot at 8:22 this morning and immediately I spotted Northern Hawk Owls, three in all, here are two of them with better photos of them.
I find Hawk Owls cool, they like to sit on top of the tamaracks and spruce trees and flick their tails and talk to you.
There have only been two locations of these on ebird in Minnesota and either it is because like my condor nobody is approving them or no one has been here and looking for them and buy looking at the tire tracks, they haven’t.
After tiring of owls, did I say that? I drove over to the scene of the crime…where owl man lurked and forced me in the ditch in 2013 but luckily no owl man was here this time and unfortunately no great gray owls yet to see, but I spotted all kinds of stuff, redpolls, black-billed magpies, seven spruce grouse, but then watched a golden eagle take one, so do I count it or not? I was cruising slowly up on the grouse in the middle of the road and just when I was close enough for photos, the only other vehicle for 60 square miles, came around the bend, a fire truck. The grouse spooked. We chatted.
He asked if I needed rescuing? Where was he last year, when I desperately needed rescuing? He was checking to see if any of the cabins had burnt. I wanted to ask does he just x off them if they do? One less to worry about? I smiled silently and he said, “too many damn spruce grouse,” and drove on.
I came back for a second look at the owls and then I spotted something in a tree, 4 crossbills, I looked, white wing bars! White-winged crossbills, lifer #684
I could not get a photo of the wings and then a logging truck bound to Canada, just 500 yards a way from me, but the truck stormed past me full tilt and they flushed. I lifer is a lifer…Oh well….I decided after watching a northern shrike chase some redpolls to avoid the eventual inquiry from the border guards watching me and decided to drive south. I had moldy food to deliver!
I drove past 4 rough-legged hawks
and a red-tailed and then eventually got near Agassiz NWR, and then literally in the middle of nowhere in a poplar grove I spotted a flock of stuff moving in the tree near the road, they were flying down to the ditch, taking seeds from the ice and then back up…..Bohemian WAXWINGS!!!!!
40 of them with their brown rusty undertails….another year bird and a really big find for where I spotted them right at the eastern boundary of the park. My first photo of these birds..ever. I stopped at the HQ of the NWR, I was the first visitor this month. Lonely job being at the Visitor center in the winter. I reported the waxwings but they were elk and deer people but told me where the snowy owl was yesterday, sixty miles west. I was walking on sunshine and then the sun came out.
I drove over to Grand Forks to look for this owl but only found like the last possible Rusty Blackbird in North Dakota
. Another state record for me, for North Dakota, been a good year for this bird, even had some at my feeder a couple weeks earlier. I kept looked for Snowy Owls but only found a Northern Shrike.
You cant get them all, although I nearly did. so year total amended to 510, and better yet a lifer, and unexpected lifer #684, sixteen to glory. I really am not birding again this year, now, you can believe me….
Merry Owly Christmas and a happy Nude Year