A Travellerspoint blog

Sax-Zim Bog: Day 2

Meadowlands, MN

semi-overcast 38 °F


On our second day in the Bog, Kim, Susie, and I were on the road before 7:30am (sunrise is at 8:00am this time of year!) with hopes of finding a Great Gray Owl early on, Ermine (white weasel) at the visitor center, Sharp-tailed Grouse along Sax Rd, and Spruce Grouse & American Three-toed Woodpecker about an hour north of the bog (and, with any luck, possibly a continuing Northern Hawk-Owl!). So there was a lot of ground to cover!

Just like last year when we cruised Overton Rd in the morning, we were treated to this RUFFED GROUSE which we inadvertently flushed from road to tree:

Unfortunately, no Great Grays were meant to be seen this morning.

So, we continued to the visitor center where I am always surprised to find WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH, a bird I typically associate with more temperate climates (though as mentioned yesterday, this winter is extremely temperate to the point of no snow up here!):

CANADA JAYS abound around the welcome center:

Then, some other photographers pointed out the bright-white Ermine within the brush pile! Boy, does it stand out without any snow!

I have actually seen this species, which is really just a Weasel in winter colors, once before: hiking with my dad in the Idaho Pioneer Mountains in August of 2019. They look a lot different in the summer though, so this animal was spectacular to see!

After leaving the welcome center, we got a notif that the Northern Hawk-Owl returned to its location an hour’s drive north of the Bog so we started the trek up there. ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS abounded along the way, a lifer for Kim and Susie!

Then, as we were admiring this particular hawk, I heard the dry “Pik! Pik! Pik!” that could only come from a BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER and sure enough, pretty soon one bounded over the highway and onto the tree on the opposite side, posing for about thirty seconds! A lifer for Susie and a Minnesota lifer for Kim and me.

Unfortunately, we arrived just five minutes too late to the Northern Hawk-Owl spot as the bird was gone when we got there…more Rough-leggeds kept us company while we waited for the bird:

And at one point, a flock of passerines flew over which I managed to spish down into the bushes beside the road: our F.O.Y. COMMON REDPOLLS! Very cool to see this Arctic bird!

After almost two hours of waiting for the owl, we decided to try for American Three-toed Woodpecker and Spruce Grouse which have been reported at two locations relatively nearby to the owl. At this point, we were two thirds of the way between Duluth and International Falls, so quite close to Canada! After dipping on any targets at the first location, we got nice looks at this NORTHERN SHRIKE along the backroads:

We *possibly* had a pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers at the second location further east; however, they were being extremely secretive affording only a fleeting glimpse so we therefore could not distinguish from Black-backed. AND, to further complicate things, we got a message that the Hawk-Owl was back. So, in record time, we turned the car around and did the mad dash twenty minutes west to the NORTHERN HAWK-OWL which this time was obligingly posing for us right above the state highway:

It was SO close, in good lighting, and delighting us birders and photographers. Here is a photo of Kim photographing the bird to give an idea of proximity:

Flying through the branches! It was INCREDIBLE to see this species — only the third time I have seen it in the wild!!!

It even had a big catch like a vole or something:

At one point, a BALD EAGLE passed by in the background:

I managed to photograph it with the Hawk-Owl. Wonder how many other photos there are of these two species together? Maybe none to like, two tops?!

The Hawk-Owl devoured its meal!

Lifer for Kim and Susie and an absolutely amazing bird all around.

We swung by Mary Lou’s on the way back to the Bog but unfortunately struck out on hoped-for Evening Grosbeaks. Once we got back to Overton Rd to check for Great Grays (as by this time the sun was already setting around 4PM), we had a flock of WILD TURKEY way out in the field:

And to bookend our day with RUFFED GROUSE, here is a rufous-morph individual by the Arkola Rd feeders:

Nice post-sunset sky to end the day:

An exhilerating day of birding the Sax-Zim Bog and environs. Bird-of-the-day goes to the Northern Hawk-Owl which delighted Kim and Susie to no end, and runner-up to the Black-backed Woodpecker, a Bog bird that had remained elusive for me until TO-day! Awesome stuff!

More to come tomorrow for the last full day in the bog.

Happy birding,
World Life List: 1173 Species

Posted by skwclar 14:19 Archived in USA

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