Thursday, February 21, 2013

Duluth, AWESOME! February 1

Google maps took me a very round about way to get to Route 29 and took me to a dead end due to construction.  I used my eyeballs and my head to correct google's mistake.  The sub zero temperatures reduced my tire pressure to the warning level. I believe is was -11F in the morning.  I needed several tries on the way to Duluth to find a gas station with a working air hose.  The first place I bought a new tire gauge, something I had neglected to do in Cincinnati, but then their air pump did not work.  I had bought gas before this attempt.  The second place was a truck stop.  The car tire hose was frozen, but the truck one did work.

I arrived in Superior/Duluth at about 12:30 pm.  I went directly to the intersection where the Bohemian Waxwings were first reported, Riley and Eagle Lake Roads west of Jean Duluth Road.  My directions took me to Martin Road.  As I approached Riley from the west, I saw a large raptor on top of a tree near the road.   From a distance, it looked like the Northern Hawk Owl.  I pulled up beside it, stayed in my car and got a few photos.  See blow.

Then I returned to Riley and went to the intersection with Eagle Lake Road.  Didn't find any Bohemian Waxwings, not really unexpected, because they tend to move around a lot.  I drove back to Martin and saw two more vehicles by the Northern Hawk Owl.  So I stopped to talk hoping that they might be local birders with additional information.  I met Scot Meyer from the Minneapolis area and his party.  He showed me a convenient map of the Sax Zim, area, available on the web at Friends of Sax Zim.  His party decided to head for Two Harbors to try for the Boreal Owls.  Chris Wood from Cornell was in the van with another birder.  He was apparently in town to lead a Wings Tour.  I decided to figure out on Google maps how to get to an additional nearby site, 2nd Avenue, south off of Martin where the Bohemian Waxwings had been seen a few days ago by Craig Mandel.   It wasn't far west of the Hawk Owl location.  I drove south on 2nd Avenue and then east to 1rst Avenue and then turned north on 1rst.  After a few blocks, I looked up through my windshield, and there was a flock of about 400 Bohemian Waxwings flying over my car.  I could see the large size and more robust shape relative to Cedar waxwings that I see regularly and the chestnut colored under-tail coverts both distinctive for identification.   I jumped out of my car and watched them disappearing to the southwest behind the nearby treetops.  I drove around tying to find the flock again, but was unsuccessful.  The time was about 2:00 to 2:30 pm, so I drove to Two Harbors to look for Boreal Owl.  I went to the location recommended by Jim Lind the local expert.  In invasion years, the alley north of 4th Avenue in Two Harbors is the most reliable.  I follow the advice of local experts.  After a stop at McDonald's in Two Harbors for some hot chocolate, I arrived at the 45h Avenue location and after bundling up, I walked the alley from the northeast to southwest, checking out the conifers and the trees to the north for Boreal Owl.  Just beyond the southwestern portion of the alley, I stopped by a dead tree right along the alley to check some conifers in the back yards of some of the houses.  I happened to glance up at the dead snag and was eye-ball-to-eye ball with a Boreal Owl looking down hunting.  It was perched on a branch that angled in front of the trunk, so it blended in with the background.  I was so excited that I fumbled with my camera and took my eyes off of the owl.  When I glanced back, it was gone, but I heard woodpeckers giving alarm notes in the trees north of the alley.  I checked the area until about 5:00 to 5:30 pm.  I heard nuthatches and chickadees scolding in the nearby conifers, but could not find the owl.  I headed back to Duluth and stayed in the Super 8.  The total is now 117.

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