Monday, February 18, 2008

Sax-Zim Festival of Birds

We started our festival weekend Friday morning. Ruth picked me up and we headed north. We stopped for lunch and to top off the gas tank in Moose Lake. I told Ruth that Hasty Brook was not far out of the way so we took a slight detour and stopped at "the lovliest place in my world". There was so much snow there wasn't even room to pull off the road so we looked around from there. It was so nice to have Ruth see my place. But the afternoon was flying so we hit the road again and motored on into Duluth, made a quick stop to check in to our hotel and drove on to the pretty little town of Meadowlands. There we were greeted by these colorful banners depicting various winter birds of the area. Before I go any further I'd like to thank the people of Meadowlands and the surrounding area for welcoming the festival birders so kindly. We were welcomed warmly and fed like royalty!
When I walked in to the community center to register for the festival I was greeted with a big hug from Mike Hendrickson the man who put this festival together.

Here's a shot of Mike addressing the crowd before the evening program. Only about one third of the people are visible. I believe there were 153 birders in attendance, representing 19 states! That's an amazing turn-out for a first year festival. The evening speaker was Dave Benson, author of a new book- Owls of the North, a Naturalists's handbook. He shared great information and is a terrific story teller. After his presentaion everyone headed back to their hotels as we needed to be back in Meadowlands and on our busses ready to hit the birding trails by 0600 the following morning.

We were driving down the roads of the bog before morning light scanning tree tops for Great Gray Owls- no luck. But our first stop was a local family's increadable feeding station. We could see the busy activity from across the road and as we neared we could see the special birds feeding there. There were Common Redpolls everywhere! And then the guides pointed out, in among the Common Redpolls was a Hoary Redpoll! I love these frosty little birds. Both Redpolls were life birds for me!! Yahoo!!! Can you see the Pine Grosbeak sitting on top? That's another lifer!!

There were quite a few Evening Grosbeaks flying in and out. What beautiful birds, both perching and in flight. It was hard to leave this place, there were so many gorgeous birds here but our schedule had us moving along to look for more.

Another road in the bog had an area with suet cages and a part of a deer carcass set out to attract Boreal Chickadees, Black-capped Chickadees, Gray Jays, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. Within a few minutes of our arrival at the deer carcass a flock of Chickadees arrived. Among the flock we could hear a Boreal Chickadee but it just wouldn't show itself to us. The gray Jays must have been in a different part of the woods too.

Time to move on and looks for woodpeckers. We did have a fly-over of a Black-backed woodpecker that another bus had watched and id'd. Pictured above you can see fresh flaking of black spruce bark. The flaked bark is below the tree on the snow and the exposed wood of the tree is a rusty brown color. This is a good indicator that Black-backed or American Three-toed Woodpeckers have beed foraging on this tree.

We lucked out and got a great, long look at this male American Three-toed Woodpecker. All too soon the morning was over and it was time to head over toward Duluth and lunch. On our way we went to a spot where a Northern Hawk Owl had been sighted. Sure enough one of our guides spotted it hunting over an open field. We got to watch it for a bit- what a fast little owl. This bird was really a big thrill for quite a few of the birders on our bus. I didn't take any pictures of this owl as I have some from last year.

However, I was really excited to get a picture of this rare sighting across the road!

Back on the bus, a quick stop for fast food lunch, and we were headed for the Superior landfill looking for rare gulls. I think I've mentioned before that I really don't have a passion for gulls. I think a good part of my attitude is that they really are complicated to ID. With LOTS fo help from one of our trip leaders I was finally able to pick out two white gulls with dark bill tips that were different from the rest- Glaucous Gulls- my fourh lifer!! If you click on the picture above, and scroll around on the gulls, maybe you'll see the Glaucous Gull too.

Ruthie, Mike and me (would Photoshop work on my windburn and double chin?)

The day was getting late so the bus driver pointed the bus back toward Meadowlands. We were greeted with smiles and congratulations on life birds and piles and piles of hot food! I would decribe the meal as a classic Minnesota church supper- ham, mashed potatoes, meatballs and gravy, green bean hotdish, cole slaw, pickles and olives, and perfect dinner rolls.

It was heavenly!

Our evening speaker was Laura Erickson. She gave a wonderful talk about birds of the bog. She's a terrific, funny speaker and I learned alot. She brought her eduation screech owl Archimedes along. It was a real treat to see a screech owl up close and it was so apparent that she loves that little owl. I brought along two of Laura's books and she signed them graciously. Now let me tell you what a dork I am. I bought one of the books at a used book store. When Laura opened the cover to inscribe it, she asked me "So, who's Melissa?". Puzzled at the question, I'm thinking that the previous owner must have been Melissa and she must have put her name in the book. So I answered that I didn't know who Melissa was but that I'd bought the book used. Laura smiled and signed the book. I tucked both books in my bag and Ruth and I left. When we got back to the hotel I glanced at the inside cover to read her inscription and saw Laura Erickson's name not once, but twice. She had originally inscribed the book to Melissa when she bought it too! When she signed it for me she wrote:

"To Lynne,

Thanks for conserving paper and birds.

Owl the Best,

Laura Erickson"

I've read that book cover to cover and have picked it up and re-read sections several times since and I cannot believe I never noticed that it had been signed before. Sigh...

The next morning brought a forecast of blizzard conditions in southern Minnesota so Ruth and left a bit earlier than we had planned. But we had made arrangements to stop and visit Deb at Sand Creek Almanac, another wonderful Minnesota blogger. I can call Deb an old friend (we've met three times now!) but she and Ruth had never met. We had such a blast seeing where Deb lives and meeting her children and many pets. I loved seeing the place that inspires Deb's beautiful writing. It gave me a connection to her that I never had before. We got a tour of the FABULOUS house that they're building. The design is amazing and I'm starting my campaign of hinting for an invite to the open house when they move in this summer! We spent quite a while watching Deb's feeders. The chickadees, redpolls and pine grosbeaks put of a show for us giving us a chance for just a few more pictures.

Deb's lovely young daughter Starflower took a photo of the three Minnesota blogging gals just before we left. Sally the yellow lab jumped up right at the last minute to plant a quick lick and get in on the act.

I got to meet another Minnesota bird blogger at the festival. Jeff at Ecobirder is an amazing photographer and a very nice fellow. He'll be posting his photos from the festival and I can't wait to see them. Be sure to follow the link and check them out.


Thank you Ruthie for the wonderful birding weekend, and for the warm wool socks and the lovely prayer shawl that you knit for me.

Thank you Deb for opening your home to us to visit and for letting us see your Sand Creek.

Thank you Mike for working so hard to put this terrific festival together for birders to experience the Sax-Zim Bog.

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Ruth said...

How lucky you were to personally meet bloggers who share similar interests. I hope to do so someday too. Great pictures of a wonderful winter birding outing. (I had trouble finding your comments link)

MojoMan said...

What a great weekend! It sounds like you got some of the rest and relaxation you needed. (Well, maybe not much rest!) It was fun reading about it and made me wish I had a similar trip coming up. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

RuthieJ said...

Good job Lynne, I felt as though I was right there with you.....oh wait, I WAS!
It was a great weekend with so many wonderful memories. I'm glad we were able to share it.
Love, Ruthie

Lynne said...

Ruth- Thank you. The birding was great but meeting blogging friends was fabulous. I'm not sure what's up with that giant space before the comments line. When I tried to edit this post to remove the space, not only was the space not there, but 75% of the post wasn't there in the edit format!! Ideas anyone?

Mojoman- It was so renewing for me. I was able to relax and put family issues aside for a while. It was a chance to recharge my batteries for the personal stuff and immerse myself in an activity that was totally for me. Meeting Ruthie and the other bloggers reinforced my belief that there are amazing people out there in blogland.

Ruthie- It was so special to spend the festival weekend with you. You are a delight!
I'm taking your blanket to Phyllis this morning!

Deb said...

I must have gone to bed too early to see this last night! After reading you and Ruthie's posts, I feel like I was there at the festival with you. Maybe next year!

You and Ruthie will be on my guest list for the big housewarming party, whenever that is. And maybe I'll turn the cabin into a birding bed & breakfast. :-)

Anonymous said...

Looks like a great trip! Yay!

Lynne said...

Deb- I'd really like to go again next year. It sounds like Mike has geat plans to expand the festival and you know I won't want to miss out! I forgot to mention that after we left your house, headed back to the freeway Ruthie and I saw 2 flocks (100+) of snow buntings!Their flight reminds me of silver minnows.

Liza- I had just the best time!

Linda in Erie said...

Wow, you guys have so many great birds up there even in the winter. It sounds like such a good time. That's pretty funny about the book signing.

Lynne said...

Linda- The birding at the Bog is awesome! It was a blast. I felt like such a knucklehead about the book!

Marsha said...

Thank you for sharing your fun weekend. You and Ruthie have the gift of making us feel like we were there with you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lynne for all your pics and commentary, enjoyed both yours and Ruthie posts. It was like being there for me. Neither you or Ruthie got a pic of that porcupine.
Nature Knitter's Mom [Betty K]

Anonymous said...

Good Job and thanks for the comments. I am heading up to the bog this evening for a wrap of the festival. I am still walking on air! I really had a great time meeting with you and Ruth at the festival. I been getting tons of compliments and a lot of ideas for next year.

I also was approach by this woman who is in the management level of Minnesota Steel and they sound as soon as they get into the contruction of the new mind in Hibbing, MN they want to be a big time sponsor -- Minnesota Steel can you believe that?!!

Again this festival is a dream come true!

Mike Hendrickson
Duluth Minn.

Mary said...

Linne, I'm glad you had time to get away and have fun. I have really enjoyed hearing about your adventure.

Hey, did that blonde dog jump high enough to kiss you?


Larry said...

Wow! I can't see how it could have gone much better than that.-I envy some of those birds you saw-especially a Three-toed Woodpecker-I've tried for the last two summers to find a Black-backed Woodpecker while vacationing in northern New Hampshire but no luck.-I'm glad yall could enjoy each others company.

mon@rch said...

Such a wonderful trip and I love your feeder birds! Many of which would be lifers for me! Thanks for sharing!

LauraHinNJ said...

Sounds great Lynne. One of these days I'll get brave enough to make the trip to the frozen north!

Susan Gets Native said...


When will it be MY turn to meet you? Huh? Huh?

Jayne said...

Sounds like a very, special weekend indeed! So glad you and Ruthie got to meet and hang out together and that you got to see so many lifers!

Cathy said...

Lynne - It's so good to see that smile on your pretty face given all you've been through this year.

The joys of Nature are only surpassed by the glow of Friendship and Family. You've got it all.

Lynne said...

Marsha- Next year let's add you to the car-pool!

Betty- I sure did enjoy meeting your daughter. Ruthie's is one of the nicest people I've met.

Mike- That's great news about MN Steel. They would be a big $ sponsor! Congrats again, it was so much fun.

May- Meeting Ruthie was the best and yes, Sally the yellow lab did sneak in lots of licks.

Lynne said...

Larry- Come on up to Minnesota next winter! It's definitely off season fot travel rates! :)

Mon@rch- Come on up!

Laura and Susan- BE BRAVE!! Come on up! I'll be your transportation from the airport!

Jayne- The lifers were cool but Ruthie was my best lifer!!

Cathy- It was such a nice break from the personal stuff for me. The weekend outdoors and with friends really recharged my batteries.

nina said...

I'll bet Laura E. was happy that her book had found such a loving home! :-)

Susan Gets Native said...

Bloggers are the BEST lifers you could get.

I hope to someday get my Life Lynne.

Laurie said...

Oh Lynn, what a lovely time you must have had. I can't imagine anyone enjoying it more than you.


Mary C said...

It's so cool to read your post, Lynne about last weekend. I'm so happy for you and Ruthie. Both, your post and Ruthie's made me feel like I was there with both of you. It's great to hear how well this festival turned out - definitely not an easy task for the organizer. And it's great to hear about so many great experiences you had - many fond memories in the making. God bless you both, and thanks for sharing it with us.

Lynne said...

Nina- Kind of embarassing about the book!

Susan- I'd be proud to be on your life list! :)

Laurie- It was everything I needed in a birding get-away weekend.

Mary C- Thank you, it was a weekend full of new mwmories!

Mel said...

How great that you meet other bloggers from all USA, too bad I'm a 'little' too far to join you anytime soon and meet such wonderful people!
Thanks for sharing all this great posts with the world!
Hugs and kisses from Peru!

Susan said...

Lynne, It's been a couple of weeks since I checked in & I was thrilled to see a bunch of new posts! Sounds like the festival was great!

Lynne said...

Mel- Thanks for visiting here! It's so wonderful to meet bloggers face to face.

Susan- the festival was great for birding, meeting friends and relaxation.