Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Duluth--Canal Park 1/15--Common Goldeneye, THAYER'S GULL, Glaucous Gull

Our plane landed in Duluth at just about 3 PM, with no problems along the way. We called Kim and Mike and they said they'd pick us up in about 10 minutes. I expected they'd just ferry us back to the motel since it was pretty late in the day. Instead, the van was almost full with the rest of the group and after some very brief greetings to those we knew and introductions to those we didn't, we were whisked off to the Duluth waterfront, where a canal comes in from Lake Superior, called, appropriately, Canal Park.

I don't recall if the first bird I saw in Duluth was a Mallard or a Herring Gull, but there were plenty of them close in along the canal's wall. The next bird I found was a single drake Common Goldeneye, much farther out but still well-seen. The big duck news in Duluth, however, is a hen Common Eider mingling with the Mallards. The last time an eider was in Duluth was either during the Eisenhower or the Johnson Administration; there was some disagreement as to who was president when but I wasn't there to teach a history lesson. Whenever it was it had been a while. There were also 4 Northern Pintail (2 drakes, 2 hens), always nice to see, and, it turned out, yet another rarity for Duluth.

Kim was sorting through the gulls and picked out a few Glaucous Gulls for us and soon, not even in Duluth for 45 minutes, we got our first lifer of the trip, a gull with pink feet and an amber eye--THAYER'S GULL. Shari shot a video of the bird on her phone.

So,I was pretty impressed. I was also a little underdressed, since I hadn't even had the chance to change shoes from my sneakers and I was only wearing a couple of layers. Still, the temperatures were just above freezing so it seemed very much like winter in NJ.

Common Eider (hen)
After this stop, we still weren't done. There aren't a lot of hours of daylight in Duluth in winter so you after to use all them all. We all piled back into the van and drove over the border to Superior, Wisconsin and drove the perimeter of the Richard I. Bong Airport (not making up the name) to look for Snowy Owls. They weren't hard to find. It seem like every light pole, utility pole, tall pipe or tree had an owl atop it. We counted 6 in a brief run around the area, only stopping a couple of times. And unlike New Jersey, where I've been feeling pretty skeevy about looking for Snowies because they're down on the ground and easily disturbed, these were pretty much out of                                                                                                    range of being bothered.
Common Goldeneye (drake)
Finally, with the sun down we headed back to Minnesota, with 8 birds to kick off the trip, including 1 lifer, + two others as year birds.

Mallard  50
Northern Pintail  4     
Common Eider  1     
Common Goldeneye  2
Herring Gull  70

Glaucous Gull  1 
Snowy Owl   6
Glaucous Gull

Northern Pintail (drake)

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