I visited Sax Zim Bog (northern Minnesota) this weekend, looking for the winter birds that can be found especially here. Sax Zim is most famous for owls—both the great gray owl and the northern hawk owl are frequently sighted. While most (but not all) of my trips to Sax Zim have included owl sightings, that was not in the cards for this weekend.
A small disappointment, but still. Lots of other birds out there.
I added more than a dozen birds to my year list. Northern Minnesota specialties included the pine grosbeak (several flocks in different locations), red-breasted nuthatch (at least 20), common raven (lots), northern shrike (at least four—most often seen at the very tippy top of trees), boreal chickadee (which was heard but not seen), common redpoll, gray jay (also called a whiskey jack), and black-billed magpie.
I also saw my first bald eagles of the year—four, I think. They are pretty common in Minnesota, but I never fail to find them beautiful and majestic. Also new to the 2017 list: pine siskin, purple finch, herring gull, common goldeneye (a duck), and broad-winged hawk.
Over the course of the day, we noticed a lot more diversity among birders than we usually see. Mostly the birders we encounter (in these areas that are specifically noted for birds) are white and middle- to rather old-aged. But on this Sax Zim visit, while we didn’t encounter very many people at all, two of them were East Indian (they told us about the marten that had been seen—not a bird, but still, how fun to see a marten, which I have never seen). They also told us of the great gray owl which they had seen at 7 that morning (when we were just leaving Minneapolis). One of the other rare birder sightings was an African American. Yay!
And especially encouraging to me was a group of young people—early 20s maybe—seriously birding the bog. There were six of them, traveling in two cars. On one stretch of road we hopscotched a bit, and kept tabs on each other. They pointed out the magpies. We pointed out the gray jays. We all appreciated the ravens.
These young people in the bog, so clearly enjoying themselves and loving this setting, not just on a lark, but clearly into the birds.
It fills me with hope.