Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Photos: Shari Zirlin

 Situated between the two ghost towns of Sax & Zim, the Sax-Zim bog is approximately 100 square miles of forest and fields cut through by county roads. Farming here was pretty much a failure because of the acidity of the peat that makes up much of the area's soil. Though I did find the trivia that at one time the celery for Chun-King products was grown there. When was the last time you thought about Chun-King?

The bog is the big draw, the main reason to bird Northern Minnesota, the place to get the boreal birds you aren't ever going to get in NJ.

So, after picking up another van and the last two people in our party at the airport we drove up to the bog in the afternoon. We were always birding along the roads and on the way we picked up some nice species like multiple Northern Shrike and 6 or 7 Ruffed Grouse

I think our first bird once we were with in the boundaries of the bog was a beautiful light morph Rough-legged Hawk, only the 2nd one Shari & I had seen. (We were to get a couple of others on the trip.)  Kim was always on the lookout for owls, but frankly, I was more interested in what might be at the feeders. There was one on Admiral Road that we stopped at. Kim smeared some peanut butter on on the stick holding the feeders and within a few minutes the bird I really wanted to see more than any other on this trip finally showed up--two of them in fact, the very striking GRAY JAY.
I was thrilled to finally get this bird--we missed it last year in New Mexico and trips to the Adirondacks just have not meshed with our schedule.

Black-capped Chickadees were all about the feeders, but Kim said to wait for about 15 or 20 minutes for the other chickadee in Minnesota to show. The jays kept swooping in for food, so I was amiably distracted when I suddenly saw on the stick a chickadee with brown flanks and very little cheek patch showed up--BOREAL CHICKADEE, another lifer at the same feeder. Interestingly, Sibley says that these chickadees, unlike their more social cousins, rarely visit feeders. I'm glad this one made an exception.

Those two life birds sort of made up for the one I had missed earlier in the day at a feeder along Highway 7. However, I got my 2nd chance as the group drove along the road and when Kim announced on the walkie-talkie PINE GROSBEAK, I bolted from the car and with Shari's help finally found it at the very tip of a tall spruce. Not a great look in the gloaming, but one I could use. (Happily, we saw more as the trip progressed.)

So, just in Sax-Zim we had 3 more lifers. The list for just the bog itself:
Rough-legged Hawk  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Shrike  2
GRAY JAY 2     
Black-billed Magpie  2
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  5
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
Common Redpoll  30

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