I got to Lynne's place in New Hope around 10:15 on Friday morning. After meeting her pets and her husband Art, we loaded her gear and we were off on our journey north. We made great time in good weather, so after stopping off at Subway for the new Chicken Florentine sandwich (you gotta try this one folks--it's as good as the TV commercial says), we took a little detour to Hasty Brook. Wow, what a great place....after seeing it for myself, I know why Lynne enjoys being there so much. (sorry, I never even thought to take a picture....you'll just have to visit Lynne's blog for that).
After the side trip to Hasty Brook, we resumed our journey to Duluth, checked in at the motel, and headed out to Meadowlands for the registration and welcome to the Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival. Lynne and I both got a big hug from Mike on our arrival.....what a stress-filled week he had getting all the last minute details ironed out to make this festival happen. Here's Mike giving his "welcome to the festival" speech.
We also heard Dave Benson speak about owls. Dave is so knowledgable about owls and also a humorous speaker. If you ever have an opportunity to hear him speak, be sure to attend.....I guarantee you won't be disappointed.
After the opening ceremonies, we headed back to Duluth and our motel since our tour buses the next morning were scheduled to depart at 6 AM! (and it was about a 45 minute drive from Duluth to Meadowlands)
Our bus was a little delayed pulling out of Meadowlands, but we finally departed around 6:30 AM and not too long afterward, we were treated to a lovely sunrise over Sax-Zim Bog.
The bus drove slowly down the back roads as we scanned the trees for a Great Gray Owl and/or Northern Hawk Owl. As we were driving, we came across another bus group that had stopped and were watching for a Black-Backed Woodpecker. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of that woodpecker as it flew across the road into the woods -- 1st Lifer for the day!
Next we were off to visit a bird feeding station at the home of a local family.
The little white arrow (above the man in the red coat & hat) is pointing at the bird feeding station
My words cannot describe how wonderful this place was! We were enthralled with the non-stop bird activity here: mostly Common and Hoary Red Polls, but also a large number of Evening and Pine Grosbeaks, as well as the more common birds: Black-Capped Chickadees, White-Breasted Nuthatch and even 1 Bluejay.
After reluctantly leaving the bird feeding station, we headed over to the other side of Sax-Zim Bog in search of a Boreal Chickadee. We heard it, but never caught of glimpse of the little guy. In this area, somebody had fastened suet and part of a deer carcass to a pine tree. The Black-Capped Chickadees were taking advantage of this bounty. We had also hoped to see Gray Jays at this suet station, but apparently they had the dates of the festival weekend mixed up and had gone elsewhere for Saturday.
Further down this road, we stopped and hiked in a ways to another area where the Black-Backed and Three-Toed Woodpeckers had been seen. Eureka! A very cooperative Three-Toed Woodpecker was working a pine tree right next to the road and we all got great looks at this handsome fellow.
After hiking back to the bus, we continued on to our next sighting: the Northern Hawl Owl. We were delayed only a short while to make a quick stop so everyone could add the North American Porcupine to their life mammal list. (Sorry, no pictures--this guy was in someone's yard behind some other trees and I just couldn't get a clear shot out the bus window and through the trees, but Lynne saw it too and she will verify that I'm not making this up!)
We headed out to the main road and soon spotted the Northern Hawk Owl near a farmyard. We were treated to several views of this owl soaring out across the fields and finally returning with a small animal in its talons. That was pretty cool. It was quite a ways off the road, but many people on our bus had big spotting scopes along and each of us got the chance to look through the scope at this handsome little owl.
Finally we headed over to Duluth for a little lunch and then on to view some seagulls at the garbage landfill in Superior, Wisconsin. These gulls looked quite beautiful soaring through the sky and we got some pretty good looks at them as they dipped lower toward the landfill. They were mostly Herring and Ring-Billed Gulls, but we also spotted the Glaucous Gull and someone saw a Thayer's Gull. There were also a few Ravens hanging around there too....I really like hearing their croaky-sounding calls.
I was fortunate to get this photo of the Glaucous Gull.
It was getting late in the day and with the Duluth Harbor frozen over and limiting other bird sightings, our trip leaders decided we should head back to Meadowlands to check in and get ready for the evening banquet.
Here's a picture of Lynne and me with Mike before the Saturday night banquet....don't you think he looks a lot more relaxed than the night before? He's already making plans for next year's festival which sounds like it will be even bigger and better than this year.
Lynne and I both both have that wind-burned, "hat-hair" look, but the really great thing about being at a bird festival is that everyone looks like this at the end of the day, so a girl doesn't even have to worry about how bad she thinks she looks! (besides we were too tired to care anyway)
It was fun to sit and review the day with all the new people we had become acquainted with on our bus trip. Our bus had people from all over: Wyoming, Illinois, California, Indiana, and of course Minnesota. We had good tour leaders who made sure that everyone got a chance to see the birds at each stop.
After our banquet (a wonderful feast of meatballs, ham, mashed potatoes with gravy, green bean casserole, coleslaw, rolls, and cake for dessert), we were treated to a very entertaining talk about birds by Laura Erickson. Laura even brought her little screech owl, Archimedes, to this event. Here's a couple pictures of Laura and Archimedes for your viewing pleasure.
Lynne and I left Duluth early this morning to head back to southern Minnesota where we had heard some bad wintry weather was moving in. We did have time though to make a stop over at Sand Creek to visit Deb, her kids and her dogs, and absorb the beauty of her country estate. Wow, what a place! She also gave us the tour of her new home that they're hoping to have ready to move into this summer. It was so nice to meet Deb....no longer just a link on my blog roll, but a real live person! Our visit was short, but fun. Hey Deb, be sure and let us know when the housewarming party is next summer, so we can come back, OK?
Another photo op -- Deb, Starflower and Lynne