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Birds Posts

Found: The Elusive West Duluth Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl in West Duluth

If you’ve followed Perfect Duluth Day closely for more than a year, you might know that my wife and I are the world’s laziest and lousiest birders. We have cheap binoculars and cameras, and basically just try to keep an eye out while we are engaged in an activity like cross-country skiing. Last year, during an owl irruption in the Duluth area, we saw zero owls. The only snowy owls we had seen in our lives, before today, were in captivity at the Lake Superior Zoo and the World Bird Sanctuary in Missouri.

We had a few failed missions last year, seeking the elusive snowy at Rice’s Point and the Bong Airport. After hearing reports of sightings near Duluth Business University and Wade Stadium this year, we decided to give it another try. We saw a bald eagle at Grassy Point within minutes, and figured that was a good sign. We knew from reading Sparky Stensaas’ blog post about Superior Snowy Owls that it’s generally easier to find them in a stupid place, like on a football scoreboard (in his case) or a piece of industrial equipment (in our case) than in a beautiful wilderness environment, so we were only moderately surprised to find our gal at Erie Pier in West Duluth, perched on a bulldozer.

Wildlife News

Some updates from Wildwoods Rehabilitation:

There are three window-strike bird victims in residence — a northern flicker, a juvenile cedar waxwing, and a flycatcher. The flicker came in with a spinal bruise, and was unable to use his legs for several days. Fortunately, he’s made a full recovery after rest and anti-swelling meds, and is ready for release. In the meantime, he’s been pigging out on the mealworms, and has plumped out, just in time for migration, when he’ll need the energy!

Grounded Eagle on Rice Lake Road

This afternoon I was driving back from the dump when I saw a car with its flashers on on Rice Lake Road. I slowed to … basically to rubberneck, but, you know, to see if everything was OK. They were looking at this bald eagle that was staggering along the narrow green space between the highway and the wetland that it passes through.

Historic barred owl!

Wildwoods was brought a barred owl yesterday (deceased, unfortunately, likely from a window collision). This owl, when already at least 1 year old, was banded at Hawk Ridge by Dave Evans back in 1998. Based on this, he is at least 16-17 years old, and the third oldest barred owl on record.

Local owl lands in national bird magazine

The new issue of Birds & Blooms (cover date: Dec/Jan) features this image of a blue moon boreal owl shot by Duluth’s Ken Greshowak.

Boreal Owl Irruption

Video by Sparky Stensaas

Sax-Zim Bog in New York Times

“Welcome to the Sax-Zim Bog,” said our guide, Steve Weston. “Tonight we’ll be going through the towns of Sax and Zim, population nothing.” Moments later we drove by a snow-dusted, abandoned trailer, the front door hanging off one hinge. This was downtown Sax. Zim, a few miles to the north, wasn’t much more. Both are remnants of failed attempts to farm the bog that date back to the early 20th century. Now they are ghost towns surrounded by 200 square miles of wetlands.

In a Minnesota bog, a festival of birds

In the sky, it’s a what?

Last night we were enjoying dinner outside when we looked up to see a sky filled — hard to do this justice — with a bird that seemed to be some kind of raptor. My guess is that it is a falcony-like bird (kestrel or something?). It seemed to be up there feasting on the bugs that were so prevalent last night, but maybe it was the dragonflies? It was a smaller raptor and had a kind of stripe across the wings.

I wish I could describe to you how many there were. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. They moved in a mass of them more like a school of fish than birds and seemed to be focused on eating and eating. Simply hundreds of them. I was surprised that a raptor would eat insects but that seemed to be what they were doing.