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!!
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:
Thanks for conserving paper and birds.
Owl the Best,
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.