Monday, March 6, 2017

Sax-Zim Bog, Minnessota

I went with Mass Audubon Joppa Flats to Sax-Zim Bog in Northern Minnesota for some boreal birding. My main goal for this trip was to play some catch up on boreal species that I did not have time to track down this winter and also see this beautiful expansive stretch of Boreal Forest. Well,  I can say both the habitat and the birds did not disappoint. The target species for me were Hawk Owl and Evening Grosbeak and Pine Grosbeak, I am also a sucker for Siskins and Redpolls. We managed to get all of these species, some in great numbers. 

Species of note : Ruffed Grouse, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Northern Goshawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Thayer's Gull, Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Great Gray Owl, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Shrike, Gray Jay, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Bohemian Waxwing, Pine Grosbeak, Purple Finch, White-winged Crossbill, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin, Evening Grosbeak, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and Townsend's Solitaire.

On the trip we predominantly focused on; The Sax-Zim Bog, Superior National Forest, Superior Wisconsin, and Two Harbor's Minnesota.
                         Superior National Forest, a small view of this 3,000,000 + acre National Forest.
             Bald Eagles and Ravens patrolled for carrion pretty much everywhere we went

     The Greater Sax-zim Bog is (roughly) 300 miles of Boreal Bog / Forest. This biome consisting of predominantly coniferous trees hosts amazing wildlife year round, but is a premiere location to find Boreal Birds in the winter. We were told that the species list for Sax-zim Bog is at around 1,000 species, and not near complete. This shows how important and productive this environment is for both migrant and breeding species. 

                                                Pine Siskin , one of  thousands that we saw. At times their chatter filled the tree's, video below.

                                                         Male Evening Grosbeak 
                                          Male Evening Grosbeaks in a minor dispute

                                                      Female Evening Grosbeak

                                                          Female Pine Grosbeak
                               Gray Jay, these charismatic boreal Jays were really fun to see

                                                               Common Redpoll
While I have seen Sharp-tailed Grouse in Montana, I had never had such great looks, or seen males displaying, it was awesome !

            We also had numerous Ruffed Grouse around the bog, often eating buds at dusk .

            Some of the roads that bisect the Sax-Zim seemingly went on for infinity
 In the owl department we got both species that  I came to see, Northern Hawk Owl and also Great Gray Owl. Boreal Owl was a hope, but I did not at all expect to see one. Seemingly the migrant Great Gray Owls left the week prior with the "heat wave" of 40 degree temperatures. But with some perseverance we were able to see 2 resident Great Gray Owls at dark engaged in courtship behavior.
                 The group leaving the forest after watching the male Great Gray Owl carrying prey off to the female.

The Northern Hawk Owl we got to see put on quite a show, grabbing a Pygmy Shrew literally  next to Michael's boots.

Some birds required professional effort, here Dave "peanut-butter " Larson tries to entice Boreal Chickadee. 

            Bohemian Waxwings , large flock that we chased down along Lake Superior

                                                          Lots of Red Squirrels in the bog, favorite food of Pine Martin. We didn't get to see any Pine Martins but we saw their tracks.

                                                               Townsend's Solitaire

                 The harsh aspects of winter provide food for many of the other animals.

                                       The worlds worst photo of a Snowy Owl
                                                            River Otter eating a Crayfish

                                          Bald Eagle already in a nest along Lake Superior

          If the sign is current, a great sign....if the sign is prior to Trump..ehhhh a little racist. I suppose funny for people on either side of things though.

Amazing trip to the bog. Thanks to Dave, Dave and Susan and everyone else who attended. I will most definitely be going back at some point.  

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