It didn't take long for Mike to find my first lifer of the day- a black-backed woodpecker!! Our first boreal species. The picture is pretty fuzzy, but if you click on it to enlarge it you can see the yellow cap telling us that this is a male. The rusty area on the trunk shows where the bird had scaled the bark looking for insects below it. We saw this bird from the road.
Not long after we got there Mike did a little pishing and out flew a pair of boreal chickadees! Life bird number 4!!! They were mixed in with a flock of black capped chickadees so I got to hear both songs. What a cool chance to compare the similar songs of the two chickadee species. While we were listening to the chickadees this beauty flew in- Life bird number 5!!! A female white-winged crossbill! She perched at the tip of this spruce and sang her heart out. Beautiful songster! Driving out of the Sax-Zim we stopped at a residence with a feeder and saw a lone evening grosbeak- life bird number 6!!
We headed back toward Duluth, stopping at an area with known sightings of a northern hawk owl. It didn't take Mike long to find it hunting a field behind a coffee shop on a busy highway! It seemed strange to find this rare sighting in such a location but it was actively and successfully hunting that field.
As we watched, it flew down and nabbed a vole. Everyone gasped as it was such a treat to see this magnificent owl catch and eat it's prey. The picture above is right before it launched itself after the vole. Mmm...nice tastey vole!
With a head-
and without a head!
Within seconds the whole vole was eaten.
After the thrill of the northern hawk owl we drove back into Duluth to Canal Park to check out the water birds. There were lots of herring gulls (yawn) but no unsusal gull species hanging with them.
We did see quite a few common goldeneyes though- life bird number 7!! Floating in among them was a pair of harlequin ducks- life bird number 8!! I never would have been able to pick them out of the bunch without the use of a spotting scope.
Can you see it? On top of the bundles of re-bar, stacked like Lincoln logs. Down in an industrial area of the harbor, with freeways on two sides. My life bird number 9!!
Seeing this bird is my most thrilling experience birding. Ever. Period.
I'm not sure if the others in the group new what to do with me. We watched this owl for quite some time. I was told it was a young male. He flew from spot to spot. At one point he flew after a red tailed hawk, dive-bombing to chase it off the territory he wanted to hunt. It was a beautiful thing to watch this owl fly at dusk. The big Sibley book gives it a 52 inch wing span, the same as a great gray owl. Beautiful flight.
What a way to end a perfect day of birding.
So many life birds!!
And a snowy owl made 9.
Please look at Laura Erickson's Laura's Birding Blog and scroll down to her report of this field trip and check out her fild trip gallery too. Her digiscoped photos are terrific. And you can even play "Where's Waldo" and see if you can find me among her pictures!
hint: I look a bit like a weeble wearing a parka :)