Saturday, May 25, 2013

Photo Study: Birds of Northern Minnesota

By Cory DeStein

In late February I joined a birding tour group lead by Ethan Kistler and Frank Nicoletti through the bogs of northern Minnesota. The main destination of the trip was Sax-Zim Bog, a well known wintering location for Great Gray and Northern Hawk Owl as well as over 240 breeding and migrant birds in the spring! The trip was highlighted by 5 species of owl; Great Gray, Northern Hawk, Snowy, Northern Saw-whet, and BOREAL Owl!!!
Freaking Boreal Owl!!!!!!
While owls were certaintly a highlight of the trip, the boreal species of the northern woods were unbeatable. The feeding stations at the Bog were filled with Pine Grosbeaks, Gray Jays, Common and Hoary Redpolls, as well as Evening Grosbeaks. A Short-tailed Weasel even made his home at one of these stations!

Female Pine Grosbeak
Short-tailed Weasel
Heading up to the Superior National Forest we got very lucky with 9 Spruce Grouse in the middle of the road, many of them displaying. The birds were exceptionally tame, allowing everyone in the group to get fantastic looks, and some great pictures as well. Grays Jays and Pine Grosbeaks were through out the forest, and we were also treated to a pair of Red Crossbills feeding along the road.
Male Spruce Grouse

Male Red Crossbill
Back at the feeding stations in the bog, peanut butter did the trick to attract a Boreal Chickadee at eye level for the whole group. Hoary Redpolls were numerous throughout, and offered great practice for the group in identification. Frank had a recent sighting of a Northern Hawk Owl nearby and lead the group for great closeups of the gorgeous owl. On the way out Frank was able to spot a Northern Goshawk perched in the distance.
Boreal Chickadees

Female Hoary Redpoll

Northern Hawk Owl
In all it was a great trip for me, resulting in 5 lifers. Visitors to Northern Minnesota can hope for all the birds mentioned above as well as other birds in the area; Sharp-tailed Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Northern Shrike, Rough-legged Hawk, and Bohemian Waxwings. I highly suggest a winter (or spring!) trip in your future!
Bohemian Waxwings
Black-backed Woodpecker 
Gray Jay
Great Gray Owl 
Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, and American Goldfinch.

Male Pine Grosbeaks

Common Redpoll

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Snowy Owl

Male Spruce Grouse

Northern Saw-whet Owl


  1. Damn, you just showed/mentioned like 6 life birds in one blog post..good thing I'm already in the process of sorrow-drowning. Great stuff!