Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival

Well, it's all over now (sigh), but years from now Lynne and I will still have fond memories of the weekend we spent at Mike Hendrickson's very first Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival! I'm going to borrow a phrase from the old days: "A good time was had by all."

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'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 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


Anonymous said...

Gotta check one more time before I go to bed,cuz Dad said you had a blog. I told him Deb had a blog with pics, so he looked, and then went over to yours. I sure liked all of the pics and the commentary with each pic. Now I know what Mike and Laura look like in action. It sounded like an action packed weekend. The wind burn looks like me after a couple hours of snowblowing and/or shoveling around here.

Trixie said...

You two look so very happy. I am so glad you got to do this. You can come to my house and see my two or three boreal chickadees anytime.

Beth said...

What a great weekend! Thanks for sharing it and for showing all those beautiful pictures of the birds you saw.

nina said...

It sounds and looks like you had a wonderful time and saw some perfect birds!
( a little jealous because I've not seen something unusual in a VERY long time)

And saw some perfect people, too.
What a treat!

Jayne said...

Oh, I am just grinning ear to ear reading about your adventure together! Sounds like a really magical time. So glad you got to see Hasty Brook and meet Deb too! I am sure this weekend will be etched in your minds for a lifetime.

Mary said...

Gee, it so good to see you and Lynne (windburn and hat hair, too). If I had been with you, I probably would have added 100 birds to my pathetic little life list :o)

It's so nice you met Lynne's family and saw Hasty Brook. And also to meet Deb.

Wow. Sounds like a wonderful time, Ruthie. Good memories.

Anonymous said...

Chikakee on finger is cuteee.
I share following with all birders:
Check out for info on ivory-bill updates, others are searching too!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Oh Ruthie, to see all of those northern species of birds in one trip is outstanding. Three-toed woodpecker was my nemisis bird for many years before I got to see it. I would love to see it again.

Thanks for sharing all of your fun. It is good to see pictures of other bloggers too.

Lynne said...

Just after you dropped me off some girlfriends came by to invite me out for a little get-together. (I was dozing on their couch at 5 PM!) I was sleeping by 9PM and today I'm taking the kids to the MOA for Molly's birthday (UGH!) so I'm going to have to wait to post. Thanks for all the wonderful memories of the weekend, made all the better by having finally "met" you, a wonderful friend!
I got your message about the thermos.

Ruth said...

What a wonderful weekend, good weather and all. I could only dream of seeing a feeding station like the one you visited!

Deb said...

Nice photo of the three toed woodpecker! Glad you got to see it, and so many other birds. It sounds like Mike put on a good festival.

Thanks so much for stopping by! It was nice to meet you and to see Lynne again! Although it was hard to talk sometimes with all the dogs barking. :)

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mom,
I stayed up way too late getting this post finished, but I just wanted to share the stories and pictures while everything was still fresh in my mind. I'm glad you and Dad got to see it right away!

Hi Trixie,
Well, that sounds like an offer we shouldn't refuse! Plus we could feed redpolls by hand at your feeding station too!

Hi Beth,
We did have a great time and were so thankful the weather cooperated. It's much nicer birding in the sun at 20 above than -20 degrees.

Hi Nina,
It was fun to see new birds. I'm a people watcher too, so there was no shortage of interesting sightings on the human side either! It was refreshing to spend time with all those other birders--because we all share a common interest you don't have to explain why it is you would want to spend time outdoors in the middle of February in northern Minnesota (I could almost see the pity in the rental car agent's eyes when he asked me where I was going!)

Oh Jayne, it really was fun. Lynne is such a lovely person and after we were on our way, we just started yakking like we had known each other for years! That was nice.

Hi Mare,
There were some pretty "hardcore" birders there--a couple of women added new birds to a life list that contained over 600 species! I'm pretty sure I'll never be that way. It was fun to see some new and different birds, but I really enjoyed the social aspect (and FOOD!) of this festival.
When everyone was watching for the Boreal Chickadee, there were at least 7 Black Caps flitting about and eating the fat from that deer carcass--I was more enchanted seeing that many of those little cuties in one place than trying to see a bird that was keeping itself hidden (see....that's why I'll never be hardcore)

Hi Lisa,
I thought of you several times this weekend as there was a cute young couple with us on the bus that had driven over 11 hours non-stop from Indianapolis the day before to get here. Sara had never seen a black-backed woodpecker either and they got to see the one fly over. It was so cute when Kirk gave her a big kiss & hug for seeing this bird for the first time.

Hi Lynne,
I was pretty beat too last night, but forced myself to stay up and get that post done. I can't wait to see your pictures too.
Thanks for going along--I had such a fun time sharing the festival with you.
Eloise Butler in May, right?

RuthieJ said...

Hi Ruth,
It was a fun festival. We saw a couple license plates from Ontario too.
The feeding station was wonderful, but a long ways from the house--if it was me, I'd want to see those birds right outside my window!

Hi Deb,
I think Mike was really happy to see his plans become a reality in such a positive way. It was a lot of work by a lot of people, but everything went really smoothly--even the birds cooperated!
P.S. If you ever came to my house, my dog Sophie would be just like Sally was, so I'm used to crazy dog antics! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the nice compliments and it was a blast talking to you and Lynne. Next year should be great too.

Love the photo of myself speaking -- need to lose weight! LOL


Marsha said...

Wow Ruthie, it looks like you got to have a really fun weekend...seeing all those beautiful birds, meeting 2 fellow bloggers and enjoying the speakers.

The feeder photos are amazing with all those different birds!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mike,
It was a great festival! And I was amazed to find out that the idea had been hatched less than a year ago and you had such a huge response. Congratulations!
P.S. No worries about the weight--it's my camera--adds about 30 lbs ;-)

Hi Marsha,
It was a nice break in the middle of winter--a good reason to get out of the house and participate in something I've never done before, in addition to the benefit of fun, friends, and food!)

mon@rch said...

Such a wonderful weekend with wonderful people! I love all your photos with great birds! Thanks for sharing this with us!

Mary C said...

So glad you're back, Ruthie. I'm so glad to hear how much fun everyone had - especially you and Lynne. You will certainly both have plenty of memories to cherish. And it's great you are sharing them with those of us who did not get to go physically, but wanted to be there in spirit.

Mary said...

Well, I'm staying away from you and that camera :o)

KGMom said...

Sounds all around delightful. Good times, good friends, good birding.
Love the sunrise shot.

Robin (Bumblebee) said...

Hi Ruthie,

I have to admit that I've never been on one of these big birding expeditions. I would love to go. Unfortunately, I don't know anyone here that's as fun as you who could hold my hand for the first time. Must...make...friends.

I love the photo of you with windburned face and hat hair as well as the fact that you're cool with sharing a real moment. It's all a part of the real nature event, eh?

Wish you were closer...

Robin at Bumblebee

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mon@rch,
You're welcome. I was happy to be able to get good clear pictures of so many of the birds. I'm guessing it will probably be many years before I see most of them again.

Hi Mary,
I'm glad I was able to share the story on my blog too. You got to experience the festival without getting cold!

Hi Mare,
It's much easier to blame the camera than my lack of self-control....

Hi Donna,
We were pretty happy to see that sunrise too--it meant we were going to have a nice, sunny day and we did!

Cathy said...

Oh! Oh! Oh! I'm so excited for all of you. How completely wonderful that you're sharing friendship and your love of Nature. And a beautiful Starflower for good measure :0)

Robin (Bumblebee) said...

Hi Ruthie,

I know I've already said it by email, but I have to say again that I love the wind-burned, hat head look. Very authentic birder!

I wish I could have been there to join the fun.

Robin at Bumblebee

Meggie said...

Hi Ruthie: I'm just now getting around to reading about your birding weekend. I've been peeling wallpaper in my kitchen and dining area. The three toed woodpecker was so cool! So great that you got to meet some bloggers, too. Glad you had a good time. I'm headed over to Lynne's blog to see her pics too.

Larry said...

I've been looking for the Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpeckers in Northern new Hampshire the last two years but had no luck.-Maybe I need to go to a different state to find them.-I'm very impressed with the trip that you had.-I've never experienced any kind of birding festival that produced such great birds!