Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sunday at the Sax-Zim Bog Winter Birding Festival

Valentines Day (Sunday) was our final birding day at the Sax-Zim Bog Winter Birding Festival. We were supposed to be at the Meadowlands Community Center by 6:30, so you can bet that we weren't looking forward to hearing that alarm go off at 4:30! After a short check-out delay while the hotel clerk tried to figure out our bill, we hit the road around 6:00 AM (already 15 minutes behind). But traffic was light, the sunrise was beautiful and while Lynne and I were solving the world's problems we actually missed our turnoff to Meadowlands! When we drove into a town neither of us recognized, Lynne pulled out her Garmin and we "recalculated" our way back -- YIKES, a 16 mile detour! Fortunately, there was plenty of coffee and donuts at the Community Center, so the rest of our birding party seemed more than happy to wait for us.

Our birding caravan was headed deep into the interior of the Sax-Zim Bog where we were hoping to see a Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay, Evening Grosbeak and if we were really lucky maybe a wolf or a moose!

All during the winter, there were a couple locations in the Bog where feeding stations had been set up with birdseed and a deer ribcage attached to a tree in order to attract birds for viewing and photographs. We found out early on Saturday morning that some of the local residents had complained about this and the DNR felt compelled to come and remove the deer rib cages. I'm not sure why they couldn't have waited just a couple more days until the festival was over, but then again, this isn't the first DNR decision that's left me scratching my head in disbelief. Anyhoo, when we got to that first feeding station we found that one of the local nature photographers had taken it upon himself to put out some birdseed and dogfood and also attach another ribcage to the tree, so festival participants who wanted to take pictures could do so. (He also told us that when he left that day, he would be removing the rib cage and taking it with him.)

There were several Gray Jays visiting the dogfood that had been sprinkled on the ground. Unfortunately, this was the best photo of a Gray Jay I managed to get. They're really pretty birds, so you might want to look in your field guide to get an idea of what they really look like!

Lots of different birds were enjoying the deer rib cage, but the clinging birds (like this Downy Woodpecker and Red-Breasted Nuthatch) seem to have a definite advantage when it comes to enjoying this feast!

The seeds on the ground were being gobbled up by Pine Siskins, Purple Finches, and Chickadees. Here are a couple of Pine Siskins enjoying sunflower seeds.

During our tour of the bog, we also visited a couple of residences where the home owners had set up their bird feeding stations so people could stop by and watch the birds. Since I never see many Purple Finches at my feeders here in southern Minnesota, I was more than happy to take pictures of the Purple Finches I saw at these feeders. There seemed to be many more female finches than males, so I was particularly happy to get this photo of a handsome male.

A couple of female purple finches enjoying sunflower seeds.

Shortly after our lunch break, the snow flurries started and our bird sightings and visibility decreased with the increase of snow flakes.

We took advantage of a short break in the weather and had one of our trip leaders take a picture of Lynne and I with WildBird magazine so Lynne could submit it to Amy Hooper for the next issue.
Finally it was time for us to think about turning the car south and heading for home. We said good-bye and thanks to our trip leaders and all of the good people who worked so hard at making the Sax-Zim Bog Winter Birding Festival another rousing success. I would strongly encourage anyone who's interested to plan on attending this festival someday (always the second weekend in February). We had a great time and I know you would too!

Here's the list of birds we saw during this festival.

For more stories and much bettter photos, please check out Lynne's blog also (just click on this link).


dAwN said...

sounds like a wonderful time! But wow that was an early start! Some great birds seen! those Gray Jays are beauties..
Hee hee..is the Wildbird magazine supposed to be upside down?

RuthieJ said...

Hi Dawn,
I wondered whether anyone would notice......Lynne has the upside right photo for submission. :-)

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Ruthie your photo of that beautiful male Purple Finch is wonderful! He sure was a beauty. When I told Art that we had chatted right on past our turn-off for Meadowlands, he just shook his head and said "No shocker there!"
I hope WildBird chooses our picture!

Gaelyn said...

So much fun and such a long list. I wondered about the upside down mag. Hope the pic makes it.

Anonymous said...

Sure enjoyed the last day of the birding, what wonderful pics of the birds. That is a nice pic of you and Lynn, I wondered about that upside magazine, I thought I missed something. I'm glad the weather co-operated and for the most part you had clear blue skies not like at the Olmypics [rain-fog-snow]. I'm glad you and Lynn had such a good time even missing a turn off.


RuthieJ said...

Thanks Lynne. With all the yakking we were did, it's a wonder we didn't miss other turnoffs! Thanks again for driving and making my birding weekend so much fun.

Hi Gaelyn,
It was a great time. Lots of activities crammed into a short few days, but definitely worth it.

Hi Mom,
You can see the right-side up picture over at Lynne's blog. I just put that one in to see how observant my blog readers are and I guess everyone's pretty observant! ;-)

Bonnie said...

What a dream trip!!!! It sounds so wonderful. Looks like you had a fun time. Thanks for sharing it on your blog.

RuthieJ said...

Thanks Bonnie. Glad you enjoyed the posts. Hopefully you can make it to this festival in person some winter.

troutbirder said...

Glad to read you had such a great time. We got up there on Thurs. and had a great time too. I'm was disappointed no to see a single owl. But like fishing they are not always biting. :) I have had a dozen or more purple finches here this winter and only 1 male. Hard to understand. Maybe they have a purple hatter society which is not other gender friendly!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Ray,
Glad you had a good time up north too.
I csn't remember for sure, but I don't think anyone saw Great Gray owls during the festival weekend. The Northern Hawk Owls weren't even that easy to find.
You're lucky to have Purple Finches, I haven't seen any at all in my backyard this winter.

Jayne said...

Just catching up Ruthie... grrr... Bloglines!

Sounds like the two of you had yet another great time birding!