Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bulletin #104 – Duluth MN winter wildlife #2

David McDonald Photography

Friendswood Texas
March 7, 2010

Bulletin #104 – Duluth MN winter wildlife #2

Hello friends,

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.

I was fortunate to be able to obtain the services of 2 expert guides.

Kim Eckert...web site
Sparky Stensaas...web site

The local grouse are another reason I went to Duluth, as I did not have photos of any of these species. There are 3 in the area and like the owls, I got 2 of the 3. The first is the Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis canadensis). As the name implies, it is found in the boreal spruce forests. We drove down some logging roads and if you are lucky, you may find them on the edge of the road, picking up grit for their crop. Well, we were fortunate to find a group of at least 5 birds. These birds are rather tame and can be approached closely to take a photo. The male is gray and white with black throat and breast feathers. He also has bright red eyebrows!

The other grouse we found was the Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus). These brown and white birds have a shaggy crest and tend to be very skittish and fly away immediately. However, we found one on the shoulder of the road, also picking up grit. We got out of the car, and he calmly walked up over the snow bank towards the woods. Instead of flying away, he climbed up into some branches about 8 feet over our head and fed on their usual diet of buds.

Here are 3 photos. Look at the intricate pattern on the breast, spots on the back, and striped tail. Also, you can see the very heavily feathered legs to protect them from the cold.

Both the northern nuthatches were present. The Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) is the more common species and we saw many of them, especially at feeders. The male has a black and white striped head and rusty red breast. The female in the second photo is more dark gray and white on the face and the breast is paler. This was my first occasion to see enough of these birds to differentiate the sexes.

The White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) is gray and white with solid white face. This is the eastern form of this species and is another potential split.

I was hoping to also see some mammals. As we all know, squirrels are the most commonly encountered mammals on our travels as they are diurnal. I did get some photos of the Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). This cute little guy along with the Eastern Gray Squirrel, were the squirrels of my youth in Ontario.

Also, we saw 2 Red Foxes (Vulpes fulva). This small fox comes in the usual red phase and also a black phase called the silver fox. Intermediate forms also occur. We saw a red phase animal, but he ran off before I got a photo. However, as we drove down one of the logging roads, one of the intermediate phase animals was in the road and ran ahead of the car for a long distance before going off into the woods. Notice he has a black back and face, but reddish flanks. The third photo shows him running in front of the car. The white tip on the tail is diagnostic for a Red Fox.

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:

ScoBar Inc.
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,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2010 David McDonald

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