I tried to get up early enough to have breakfast, get gas, and get 45 miles north of Two Harbors on Rt. 2 to the vicinity of Rt. 1 to try to see Spruce Grouse close to first light. It didn't work out that way, and I arrived too late. However, as I got close I found apparent grouse tracks at one place I stopped to look at a likely place. As I got further north, the road conditions deteriorated, so it could have been treacherous driving on this road in the dark for someone who has visited this area only once before. No luck on Spruce Grouse. By the time I got far enough north there was a lot of traffic from snow mobile people pulling trailers looking for locations to do their thing. I met Erik Bruhnke and his tour group while they were stopped checking out a tapping woodpecker, only a Downy. They were also looking for Spruce Grouse, but apparently did not succeed given postings seen on the Minnesota MOU-NE. I drove east and west of the intersection of Rt. 2 and Rt. 1 several times. This is where I got my lifer Spruce Grouse on March 26 with photos in 2005 with Dan Sanders.
Later in the morning near noon, I headed south to Two Harbors to try for photos of a Boreal Owl. I picked up hot chocolate at McDonalds in Two Harbors and then drove the north end of scenic !Highway 61 looking for groups of birders. I decided to return to the alley north of 4th Avenue in Two Harbors where I saw a Boreal Owl on Friday. I noticed a white van parked in the alley close to where I saw the Boreal Owl, so I drove there and parked behind Chris West and his Wings Tour. They had a Boreal Owl, which was perched at ground level on a snow covered log. I got my photographs. The owl had a catch covered by snow, and you can see some blood on the snow. We saw it taking a bite while we watched.
I introduced myself to Chris who works for the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University. I joined in 1984 according to a note of thanks I received recently. So last year that makes 28 years. I thought it was 35! Time sure flies when you are having fun! The Wings Tour had seven Boreal Owls today! WOW!! I headed back to Duluth and tried to find Canal Park where some Glaucous and Iceland Gulls were reported. Erik Bruhnke also told me about this site. However, I did not go to the lake side to the east. The west side was frozen. Scott Meyer had told me that he also found the same thing. I decided to head back to Sax Zim for a late day try on Cranberry Road for Sharp-tailed Grouse, but did not find any. Then I drove through best area designated on the Sax Zim map for Black-billed Magpie, which was south on Rt 7 and then east. No luck. I returned one last time to Cranberry Road to wait until close to sunset to see if any grouse come up to feed late. I also drove north on Admiral Road and Rt. 7 looking for Sharp-tailed Grouse and went to look at the Sharp-tailed lek on Sax road. No grouse anywhere, but it was an outside chance anyway. There were no other birds to look for. It was getting late with decreasing light. On my way back to Duluth at the intersection of Sax Road and Rt. 7, I found a Black-billed Magpie. When I lowered my window to get a better look through binoculars, the bird flew north. Scott Meyer told me that Black-billed Magpie is often found near railroad tracks, and this bird was consistent with that. The list is now 123.
I need to get back to my motel, get dinner, watch the Super Bowl if I can stay awake and get ready to head south in the morning. I plan to stop at Prairie Ridge in southern Illinois to try for Greater Prairie Chickens and then near St. Louis for Eurasian Tree Sparrow. Late tonight, Chris Wood posted about 8 Spruce Grouse 1.5 miles north of the Sand River yesterday. I apparently drove by this spot. Oh well, another time.