Friday, January 21, 2005

A Two Owl Day

We set out for Sax-Zim before sunrise and started seeing Great Gray Owls as soon as we turned off into the bog. By the time we left we had seen forty (!!). We also after a slow start, found three Northern Hawk Owls. We didn’t really get to linger on any of them, since the first was near some houses, and some residents had reported being disturbed by birders, the second flew when I opened the hatch of the campershell, and the third was a ways off. We had lunch at the Wilbert Café, and started back making one brief stop to look for a Black-backed Woodpecker. They specialize on areas of dead trees, like those found after fires. After post-holing through thigh-deep snow, playing tapes, and studying the tracks of insect larvae in the areas of trunk where the birds have scaled off the bark, we admitted that there were no birds coming.

The day still had several hours of daylight, so I talked Sparky into returning to Duluth to search for Bohemian Waxwings. We traveled around areas of the city that had ornamental fruit trees, which the birds feed on in flocks. A lot of the trees were already stripped, but enough fruit remained to keep us looking for over an hour. Finally I needed to get hooked up to the net to get some posts on for this blog. Laura Erickson, whose site For The Birds is highly recommended, as well as her program on some NPR stations, gave me directions to an Internet café. I got about three hundred emails, and got the posts up. We were leaving, thinking about going to the airport to see another Snowy Owl. My phone rang, but I didn’t get to it quick enough, and then Sparky’s went off.

It was a call from Jim Lind, with directions to a Boreal Owl. He had found it in his sister’s back yard in Two Harbors. It was covered with snow from her snow blower. The bird was 20+ miles away, and it was 4:30, getting dark real soon, but we didn’t hesitate to give it a try. Fortunately the road was clear and four-lane, so we got there with time to spare. Four women from Georgia were already there and had the owl in sight. We got two scopes set up and were able to study it for about fifteen minutes before it flew. It had definitely seemed to be waking up as we watched, the eyes getting more open, the head starting to move around, it began to sit up straighter, so when it flew it wasn’t a surprise.

Two lifer owls today. There’s only one species commonly found in the USA that remains unfound. Need to make a trip to Arizona someday


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