Jill Niland, Sigrid Schmidt, Wes Serafin and I took a road trip up
to the Duluth, Minnesota area to enjoy the northern owl invasion that
was taking place that winter. The weekend we picked, 5 - 6 February
2005, happened to fall in the middle of a "heat wave," with
temperatures reaching 50°F. This made for a quite balmy trip,
in contrast to the usual way-below-freezing temperatures one normally
experiences near Duluth at this time of year. Though we did not see
any Boreal Owls, which was my main target species, we had superb looks
at Northern Hawk Owls, Great Gray Owls, and Barred Owls. Here are
a few images I captured of these birds.
This was the
second of eight Great Gray Owls that we had an opportunity to observe
on 5 February 2005 (we had ten total for the trip). This particular
owl was along County Road 7 in the Sax-Zim Bog.
We left the
Sax-Zim area to go over to Aitkin County to look for more owls. Along
the way (before we left St. Louis County), we found this Great Gray
Owl perched in a tree right next to the road. I was able to get this
shot through my binoculars using a Nikon Coolpix 4500.
This was one
of the 15 Northern Hawk Owls that we found on 5 February 2005. It,
too, was along CR 7 in the Sax-Zim Bog.
This is the
same bird, but on a different perch.
While on our
way from Sax-Zim to Aitkin County, Wes spotted this Barred Owl along
side the road. The bird had killed some kind of rodent and was trying
to eat it. We watched spellbound as the owl tried unsuccessfully to
swallow the rodent whole. The bird finally gave up, and had to eat
its prey piecemeal.
Here the Barred
Owl is leaning forward to pull some flesh from the critter it had
An early morning
foray up CR 2 in Lake County enabled us to see this male Spruce Grouse.
While we were birding at the White Pines Wayside, who pulls up but
Hendrickson and the group that he was leading from Sarasota, Florida
(Jean Dubi, Tina Mossbargar and Jeff Palmer). Mike is a birding guide
based in the Duluth area and an all-around great guy. If you want
to hire a guide for the Duluth area, I highly recommend Mike (click
on his name above for details). My friend Tom Kelly hired him a few
weeks back. Tom saw a Boreal Owl when he visited Duluth. I didn't.
Anyway, Mike told us that if he located any grouse up the road he
would wait for us to catch up. Sure enough, as we headed on northward
(after taking a look at a moose meandering across a field), there
he was, with his group's car, and the car of Warren Regalmann of Minnesota
(who had initially spotted this grouse), blocking traffic and sheltering
the bird so that everyone could get a good look. The dim, early morning
light and the bird's constant movement didn't make for the best photographic
opportunity. Here he's showing us what really isn't his better side.
took the lion's share of the pictures after that. I tried my hand
with this little Red Squirrel at the feeders at Grouse Lake, but opted
to study redpolls through the scope instead of playing photographer
at the remainder of our stops.
Here is a
in pdf-format, showing what birds we saw and how many.
For some notes
on where we saw northern owls, for notes on the southernmost areas
in Wisconsin that we had Common Ravens, and for our travel routes,
see the notes
and routes page.
A few years
ago I vowed I would go up to Duluth every winter until I visited there
during an owl invasion year. This was that year. Having been there
when there were lots of owls, it will be hard not to go back
page was last updated on 11 February 2005.
Contact Geoff Williamson
with any comments, updates or suggestions.