Friday, February 3, 2017

Musings from up north

It has been a busy week, all in all, last Friday, I got to be on live on the Weather Channel, although I wanted to plug Hawaii, I didn't get the chance.  I had a Weather Channel interview cancelled due to bad weather months ago when they wanted me live from Barrow, but at least they came back around.  I didn't make a fool of myself.  I used to be a DJ on the Radio so I'm quick enough thinking to not pause when live, but it was only 2 minutes and I'm surprised so many people actually saw it.

Last Sunday, I was the guest speaker at the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog gala in Minneapolis.  It was well received and I shall continue in my mission to inform everyone about Hawaii.  I think I had 300 people there.  It was fun. I'm glad they raised some good money to buy more bog land.

After a week of accounting, and getting my life back in order, I got bored, I always get bored, so I went birding.......
I did the western spur of the "Willie the Walleye Route" today.  My self-guided tour that can give me all of the lower 48 non-mountain winter birds.  I had a reason to have lunch with some clients in Roseau, MN so I said, 'what the heck' and took off today at 0330.  The weather was decent, however, it was -18F when I drove into the bog I know.  This is not the Sax-Zim Bog, btw, just a bog I know well which is more manageable and typically better, especially for hawk-owls.

It all starts here:

A semi-secret location that is known only to a select few

The trip was fun, there is a dearth of winter finches up this way so except for a few purple finches, there was nothing else of note but I was not disappointed in the owl department.  Below is my first Minnesota bird of the year...Northern shrike.

I saw the Cadillac of owls, the great gray owl, and had him, or her, on a very small branch, before it spooked and flew away.

I go up here almost every year around Groundhog's Day.  It has been since 2013, I think, since I got a great gray here although I may have gotten one in 2014, I forget, it is becoming a blur.  I don't disclose my exact spot for owls up here (unless we've traded info in the past) since some of the other local owl birders refuse to disclose their sorry.

If the GGOW is the Cadillac of owls, the Northern Hawk-Owl is the Fiat 500 of owls, small sporty, sassy and cute although, how practical?....I'm not sure.

I got to count this next bird twice today.  That doesn't happen too often:

Seen here about 100 feet from Manitoba, it is clearly a Yank bird, but it later flew north and became my Canada lifer Northern Hawk-owl, FWIW.  It wasn't long afterwards when out of nowhere a white SUV with a green stripe skidded to a stop next to me....."Oh.  You are a birder...."  He drove off.

So there was a good bunch of hawk-owls about, all in their usual location, I've still never been shut out up here.  I scarfed a great horned but no snowy owl to complete a grand slam.

I was planning and heading to my second favorite country until...I realized my passport was not with.  So I decided to switch to grousing.   I jumped gray partridge in four locations, and sharp-tails twice.  I had previously flushed a pheasant so was on a roll, but alas, struck out on the spruce and ruffed grouse, and despite about an hour checking fields, all I found was a coyote and no prairie chickens so was only 3/6 on the grouse grand slam.

It would have been fun to trace the whole route but I only had a day and then rest of the tour takes two more, but it was a good day, long, 800 miles but good. It is always fun to see owls.

Well next week is another week, with stuff to do.  I do go to lecture at Ripon College in the Biology department which I've done before.  Maybe I'll even chase an oriole in Pennsylvania although I'm scratching my head on that one.  I giving a lesson on bird-listing and explaining the checklist to students and then for a 2nd lecture doing my Big Year and embarrassing my sons.

Then, I should be done, unless I get shocked and someone wants to hear from me, otherwise my 2016 exploits should be relegated to dust bowl of history right where it belongs.  Hunting for owls with my camera is fun though.

So that is the update from the life of Olaf.

Keep on Birding



  1. Miss your regular posts Olaf.
    All the Best.

    1. well, I'm not birding everyday a good thing, but Thanks

  2. We got lucky and saw one Snowy, but owls seem to be scarce so far this year. Great photos!

  3. If I we're that border cop I would of arrested you just on suspicion of a possible swede border jumpers.

    1. Yea, we are a dangerous lot, and I'm sure I met the profile of suspicion

    2. So the bumper sticker I put on the back of your car that said "Border Jumper" worked I see. Or was it the "Invade America, Make Canada Bigger" sticker? I forget. FYI practical is in the eye of the beholder. A 22 year old male finds Corvettes very practical for his purposes :)

    3. hx for the help!
      I need all the help I can get

  4. A few of us WI birders will be attending your talk this Friday at your alma mater. Looking forward to it

  5. Greetings Olaf: Glad you are still posting your adventures. Your mention of Roseau brought back a lot of great memories. I deer hunted there for 25 years starting in 1985. We hunted north of town about three miles from the border, probably not far from your spots. I saw one or more great gray owls almost every year. Hawk owls varied more, some years none, some years several. You never knew what you would see for finches in any given year. I had many great experiences with the natural world sitting in my stand for all those hours. Good Birding, Whit Manter

    1. If I was just looking for a place to live would have moved there. I like everyone up there. On finches, my lifer wwcr were in a tree on 310 about mile marker 9, a mile south of border. They patient waited to be noticed while I was photographing a hawk owl

  6. sure, email me after new years lol. It is a hectic haul if I do the whole thing


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