David McDonald Photography
March 1, 2010
Bulletin #103 – Duluth MN winter birds #1
Duluth Minnesota in winter is a magnet for birders, as many specialized northern species (owls, grouse, finches, gulls etc) winter in the area. I spent 3 days last week there. For many birders, most of the birds found are lifers, and it was no different for me.
The boreal spruce woods in Superior National Forest south of the Canadian border were magnificent. We drove along logging roads for miles with no other vehicles present. The stillness and quiet with the landscape completely covered in snow was awe inspiring. There were only a few chickadees and finches with occasional ravens breaking the serenity. Yes it was very cold (-15 degrees F), but there was no wind and the sun shone brightly in a blue sky. I was only cold when I had my hands out of the gloves to take pictures.
I was fortunate to be able to obtain the services of 2 expert guides.
Kim Eckert...email... firstname.lastname@example.org
Sparky Stensaas...web site
I found 2 of the 3 owl species I was hoping for. The first is the magnificent Snowy Owl (Nyctea scandica). This large (23”) owl is white with some streaking. They occur regularly in Duluth in winter, and all of the birds are immatures, which have more streaking. They have been studied for more than 20 years by a local biologist. He catches them, tags them, and then releases them and follows them over the winter until they leave to summer in the arctic. You can see the numbered tag on the wing and he also puts some black dye on the right side of the head. The birds roost out on the ice of the harbor during the day, and the black on the head allows them to be found on the vast expanse of ice. They come on shore at dusk to hunt overnight. This was a lifer for me.
The other owl was also a lifer. It is the Northern Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula). It is a medium (16”) sized owl. We saw 5 of these beautiful birds. They resemble falcons as they are thin and have long tails. They hunt during the day as well as night. Thus they can be easily seen as they perch on the top of trees. They are IDed by the white face outlined with black stripes.. Seen from the side or back, the head has black and white vertical stripes as seen in the second photo.
Another life bird was the Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor). It is slightly larger (10”) than the local Loggerhead Shrike. The black facial stripe is narrower in the Northern Shrike and does not extend above the eye.
The smallest birds were 2 chickadees. These cute little birds were sometimes the only birds we found in certain areas. The Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is the chickadee of my early life in Canada. He is similar to the Carolina Chickadee with a black cap and bib, but it has some white edging on the wing feathers.
The other was the Boreal Chickadee (Poecile hudsonicus). It is the chickadee of the northern boreal forests. It has a brown cap, black bib and gray cheeks.
Here is the Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis). It has white underparts and head with dark gray back of head, back and wings. These birds are very tame and will come readily to feeders and hand-outs from hikers and campers.
I will be leading a 9 day bird photography tour to Costa Rica in conjunction with Lillian Scott-Baer of Baer Travel in March 2011. We have worked out an itinerary to visit La Selva Preserve, Savegre Mountain Hotel in the central mountains for Resplendant Quetzal and other montane species and Wilson Botanical Gardens (Las Cruces). We have also retained the services of local guide Rudy Zamora to accompany us and locate and ID the birds for us to photograph. We will also have beautiful flowers and hopefully some mammals - tamanduas, monkeys etc as well.
The price will be $1960 double to $2380 single. This includes hotels, all meals, guide, transportation in Costa Rica etc. The only other cost will be airfare and personal purchases (alcohol, souvenirs etc) . Space is limited to 10 persons to maximize our opportunity to see and photograph the birds. I have birded in Costa Rica previously. It is a wonderful country to visit and the bird life is exceptional. I hope that you can join us.
Here is the schedule of payments for the trip.
$ 25 reservation fee (not refundable)
$ 575 due April 30, 2010
$ 600 due July 30, 2010
$ 740 due January 15, 2011
Please send deposits to:
34 Galway Place
The Woodlands, TX 77382
Note - we will try to pair up singles and triple would be $1890 per person.
All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.
Happy birding and photography,
photos copyright 2010 David McDonald
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