Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Wild Owl chase

And we got a 'goose egg'.

While I rested Sunday, John got a good flyover of a Northern Goshawk, and great pictures of a life bird, the White-Winged Crossbill. The festival was over but we stayed at Alesches' lodgings one more night.

Monday morning we headed for Duluth and stopped at feeders on Superior Street. John got a picture of the one Hoary Redpoll amongst all the Commons that happened to be there.

Then we went up to Gooseberry Falls SP to find the Northern Hawk Owl. We trolled up and down and up and down and up and down ....... highway 61. No luck.

I was driving when we got up to Grand Marais. The first right turn had a sign for a campground so I turned there. Down a little hill and we were surrounded by trees filled with Bohemian Waxwings! Another life bird. Sometimes, I have a good nose for birds. By the time we had taken pictures and talked with a local, all the birds had flown off! So we turned around and headed back down toward  Duluth. Of course we trolled for the Hawk Owl again several times.

The feeder on Superior was deserted! Birding is so serendipitous.

Then we headed for Superior, Wisconsin. We wandered all over the railroad yards, industrial areas, lumber yards and the airport looking at each clump of snow. No Snowy Owls. John will have to spend some time in Alaska trying to get those owls.

By the time we got to Minneapolis that night, there was at least an inch of new snow on the ground. As soon as you got off the beaten track, traction was minimal. By morning, for our flight, the snow had stopped, so we got off on time. We spend most of the time in the air with our noses stuck to the window watching the geology spool by.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sax-Zim Bog Winter Bird Festival

Meadowlands, Minnesota is quite the place! Tiny but mighty. The festival was well-run, good guides, interesting evening presentations and, best of all, wonderful birds. On our Saturday field trip around the bog, we had great views of a Great Gray Owl, Boreal Chickadees, lots of Rough-Legged Hawks, a Black-Backed Woodpecker, a Northern Shrike, Sharp-Tailed Grouse, and Ruffed Grouse. Pine Grosbeaks come to the feeder outside our lodgings. I declared a day of rest on Sunday, John went on another field trip. Monday, we will try for the Hawk Owl at Gooseberry Falls and look for birds that have been reported in Duluth before heading back down to Minneapolis for our flight home Tuesday.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Minnesota magic

I got to my sister's place out on the prairie, on Monday the 13th, and promptly saw a Hoary Redpoll among all the Common Redpolls. My sister maintains a seed feeder and a suet feeder, plus a few deer carcasses hanging in trees. With my new snow boots, I tromped out into their woods a ways along snowmobile trails. Very few birds there. They would rather hang out at the feeders. The next day I hiked an hour in. Such a wonderful sound, boots on snow. There were tons of tracks, rabbit, grouse, deer, and maybe some mice and a fisher. Since it was Valentine's Day, I stopped and drew hearts frequently in fresh snow.

I saw four woodpecker species, Red-Bellied, Downy, Hairy, and Pileated, around their house. Wednesday it even snowed! Really magical. But John was flying in that night, renting a car and driving up from Minneapolis. He had no problem except finding the driveway. Just drove by it once. It is dark at 10 PM on the prairie.

Today, Thursday the 16th, John and I walked out into the woods together. I showed him some of the hearts I drew and we flushed a Ruffed Grouse. He didn't get a very good look. Phooey. But I made a couple of snow angels.

Tomorrow we drive over to Meadowlands for the start of the Sax-Zim Bog birding festival. Hope we get some of the cool birds that are possible.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Flights of fancy

Tomorrow, Saturday the 11th, I fly to Minneapolis and connect with my sister north of the city. Then we will drive up north to her farmstead near Ponsford, Minnesota. Ever hear of it?

John, meanwhile, is wandering around Northern California and will return here Monday. Tuesday will be a day to rest and pack, then he flies to Minneapolis Wednesday. He will rent a car and drive up to rendezvous with me. We will then head for the Sax-Zim birding festival in Meadowlands. There is minimal snow cover so the typical birds might be tough. I will report later.

I did talk to John today and he found the Hermit Warbler and the Townsend's Warbler in the hills east of Pacific Grove. Since he may not be in California much during migration it was good to get them now. He will go online and see if any of the rarities being reported up there are worth going for.

I've got my boarding pass printed out and the taxi set up, so once I finish packing, :-P, I can sip some bourbon, set the alarm and crawl into bed.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Here and gone again

John is up to almost 200 species. Those rarities just aren't showing themselves. Saturday, February 4th, he got to Tubak bridge over the Santa Cruz river in Arizona about 10 AM and the Streak-Backed Oriole had last been seen around 8:30. Then John went on to Patagonia State Park and looked for the Black-Capped Gnatcatcher. And didn't see it. At least he got to spend some fun time at Patton's looking at their hummingbirds.

Camping in our car sounded like a good idea to John. There were bright lights and a full moon at Patagonia State Park so he hung various things in various windows. There were little pockets here and there in the car to stow important little things like chapstick and a flashlight. But if you neglect to store important little things in those little pockets each time you put them down, they are very hard to find. He did finally find the flashlight and had three other back up tubes of chapstick, but they were all in the same place and he couldn't find that place in the dark. You know what it is like in the desert, you don't need chapstick until you realize your lips are dry and then you REALLY need some chapstick. It didn't help that the air mattress deflated in the night.

So Sunday morning, the 5th, John looked again for the gnatcatcher in the park and looked again for the oriole at Tubak bridge, then went on to Bog Springs Campground in Madeira Canyon. After choosing a campsite, John drove over to Florida Canyon to look again for the Rufous-Capped Warbler. We had been there in early January. Again, there was bird activity right at the dam but the rare bird didn't pop out and pose. John went out to Green Valley for supper and was surprised to see an empty parking lot at MacDonald's. He forgot about Super Bowl. At least his campsite had some shade from the moon and his air mattress didn't deflate.

Monday morning, the 6th, he tried yet again for the oriole at Tubak bridge. No luck. The last sighting was the one on Saturday at 8:30 AM. Sigh! The RCWA will probably nest in Florida Canyon so he has a chance of getting it later in the season. The BCGN might be around later too. The oriole may be heading back to Mexico. Doesn't count that we saw it in Costa Rica, wrong year, wrong country for his big year.

John got home Monday night and stayed Tuesday to nap and get the car serviced and Wednesday to repack. He left Thursday morning, the 9th, for a swing around Northern California. I hope he has better results than Arizona. He is still having fun, though I don't think he plans to camp in the car except as a last resort.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Arizona, boon or bust?

John slept at a Motel 6 in Casa Grande last night but will sleep in the car on the air mattress tonight, he says. He has milk and cereal for breakfast and granola bars and nuts for snacks. I forgot to buy Cokes but he can pick them up wherever he buys gas. He will get along fine without me. :-( I will paint some doors, lead some school nature tours, and pack for my flight to Minneapolis next Saturday.

John will be trying for the Streak-Backed Oriole and the Black-Capped Gnatcatcher today. Gnatcatchers would be a lot easier if they would only display their tails more.

In the 70's, we were at the Patagonia picnic table and found out that the BCGN family that had nested there had been collected to determine if the adults were both BCGN or were cross-breeding. Science must be served. But no wonder they are still hard to find in AZ.

At some point, he will be hiking back into Florida Canyon to try to find the Rufous-Capped Warbler. Hope he has better luck than we did in early January.

Once he is successful, or gives up, on all three, he might go by the Salton Sea on his way home. 

Then he plans to go to Northern California until his flight to Minneapolis February 15th for the Sax-Zim bog festival. We both bought snow boots. Wishful thinking. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Will he or won't he?

Ah, that is the question. Now that John has worked out some problems with software in a product, he is free to fly the coop again. Will he head to Northern California or Arizona first? I am allowing him to take 'my' Rav4 and I blew up a twin sized air mattress for him to sleep on in the back. Bare bones, his favorite way to travel.

A Laysan Albatross was in Long Beach!!! Those are the kind of events that it would be nice to hear about. A really successful big year depends on luck and contacts. NARBA is great. But some of the birds that are hard to get are not really rare, just difficult, so they don't qualify for NARBA. John will need help on those too. There is a backyard out there with a Bicknell's Thrush or a Swainson's Warbler or a Sawwhet Owl.

As the year unfolds, each bird will be a problem to solve. John is going to have so much fun planning his attacks for optimum results. He may not get a great total at the end but he is going to have fun trying.