Thursday, February 19, 2009

More From the Sax-Zim Bog

Sunday was an early rise for us as we needed to be on the bus at 530AM. I think the alarm rang at 425AM as we had a 40 minute drive from Duluth to Meadowlands. Ugh. Our trip that day would take us through Aitkin County and our first stop was just north of a little town called Tamarack at a field where there was a Sharp-tailed Grouse lek. We needed to be there early if we wanted to see them dance. There were approximately two dozen grouse in the field. Most of us stayed in the bus and watched out the windows. The extra elevation in the bus gave us a little better view and helped at bit with the cold. The birds were still a pretty good distance away but with binoculars we soon could see the dance. A male would tip his tail strait up into the air, cup his wings with the tips pointed to the ground, inflate the air sacs on his neck and start stomping his feet. Another and then another would join the dance and soon a whole group would be doing the boogie! It was one of the neatest birding moments I've ever seen. I took just over 100 pictures, trying to capture spectacle. This picture is the closest I came and I'm still disappointed. However, one of the trip leaders mentioned that in March the Aitkin County Department of Natural Resources sets out blinds in this field that can be reserved for watching the Sharp-tailed Grouse lek. Art and I are going to do it. He said we'll have to get to the blind EARLY in the morning before the grouse start to gather at the field. I can't wait to get a closer view of these birds and their dance. LIFER!!!

Most of the rest of my pictures are from the Sax-Zim on Saturday. Our bus went to several wonderful feeding stations that local residents maintain to bring birds in for viewing and to feed them during our harsh Minnesota winters. We got good looks at both of the wintering grosbeaks. The males are a deep dark pinkish- very pretty. But like female Cardinals, I like the more subdued colors of the female Pine Grosbeak.


We only saw a few Evening Grosbeaks. Isn't this male handsome? I wouldn't want a pinch from that beak.

We also saw several Ruffed Grouse throughout our weekend. These birds are quite shy and secretive. They blend in with the twigs and branches and can be tough to find. We see quite a few Ruffed Grouse at Hasty Brook especially in areas where there are lots of young aspen trees. Deb told me that is prime Ruffed Grouse habitat.

White-winged Crossbills have been seen in large numbers throughout Minnesota this winter. They feed on the seeds in spruce cones and since the cone crop in Canada is poor this winter they've moved south to find food. We saw plenty of them during the festival weekend. They are fun to watch as they are able to dangle like acrobats on the tips of spruce branches, using their special crossed bills to pry open the cones and get at the seeds.



25 comments:

Patrick Belardo said...

Great stuff Lynne. I wish I knew about that lek when I was in MN in Feb 2005.

Shellmo said...

That evening grosbeak was so handsome and definitely has the beak for breaking things! I've never seen a pine grosbeak so excited to see yours. What a great trip you had!

Red said...

Great post Lynne. I hope you and Art get to that blind nice and early for a close up view of the dance :)

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Sounds like a great adventure.The birds you showed are lovely and so colorful.
Blessings,Ruth

The Early Birder said...

I loved the subtle colouring of the female Pine Grosbeak. Great to see your FAB photos of so many different species.

Carolyn H said...

Lynne,

I really love the grosbeak photo. The colors are so subtle.

Carolyn H.

NCmountainwoman said...

Lovely, every one of them. And every one except the grouse would be a lifer for me. Wow!

Kathiesbirds said...

Lynne, we are going to have to dub you the Bird Festival Queen! You sure do get around! What a wonderful experience! I don't think I have ever seen a female pine grosbeak! She is pretty, isn't she! I got to see sage grouse dancing on their lek in Utah. Absolutley amazing and a life experience for sure!

Linda in Erie said...

I haven't seen any of those birds in person. The photos are great. They are handsome birds, for sure. The Sharp-tailed Grouse must have been a blast to see. You sure have to be a morning bird to see those things!

Bird Girl said...

So, so exciting!!! I don't think we have sharp-tailed grouse in PA but how cool to see them do the dance! Loved it!
Gorgeous shot of the female pine grosbeak. And wow - I have seen an Evening grosbeak since the early 1980s!
Beautiful ruffed grouse - I can't believe you got so close!
Really neat time you had, Lynne!

KGMom said...

Love your description of the grouse dance! Doing the boogie!

Great photos too.

ivars krafts said...

Thank you for your excellent coverage of the Festival. I can see why you were excited to go!

Jayne said...

Oh, my... that Evening Grosbeak is stunning Lynne! When I enlarged your photo of the Sharp-tailed Grouse dance, I could see it pretty well! How fun!!

Eve said...

Wonderful birding Lynnee!! Love that Hoary Redpoll below!

Richard said...

Great pictures. All five I've never seen.

dguzman said...

Like NCMtnWoman, all of these would be lifers for me except for the grouse! Sax-Zim rocks! And your photos are wonderful. Nice work, Lynne!

Deb said...

Beautiful photos, Lynne. I like the ruffed grouse peeking out! "Are they gone yet?" :)

Owlman said...

I agree that female Pine Grosbeak is stunning!

Tina said...

Oh lynn what a great post..what a hoot to have seen those birds strutting their stuff! Can't wait to see what photos you get when you visit the blind.
Your photos of the grosbeak and the grouse are really nice..
what a trip you guys had!!

Kyle said...

Great shots, Lynne! I especially like those neon-yellow ski shades being sported by the Evening Grosbeak. I want some like that! (Of course, they might clash with my cowboy hat, but...)

RuthieJ said...

Wow Lynne, what a great birding day you had. Those grouse are really neat. Did they make sounds too? Could you hear them from where you were?
I believe the ruffed grouse cycle is on the upward swing now, so you should be seeing more of them up at Hasty this year.
Thanks for sharing these pictures and stories from the festival.

Ruth said...

Great pictures. Glad you found some Crossbills. The Evening Grosbeak is gorgeous!!

Mary said...

On the bus at 5:30 a.m.? Uh, that's a little early, don't you think?

You just showed me five lifers.

May :o/

Q said...

Dear Lynne,
I am so happy for you! All of these birds would be lifers for me!
I think I would stay up all night to see the dance...I have read about it...
I can see the tail tipping in your photograph...very cool.
Sherry

Leedra said...

All great photos, but really like the Evening Grosbeak. Don't see these here either.

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