Monday, January 11, 2016

Midwestern Megararity

On the evening of January 1st I was in the Algonquin Park Visitor Centre prior to the annual Christmas Bird Count. I noticed on Facebook that an Ivory Gull had been seen in Duluth, Minnesota that day, and mentioned it to Lev Frid. A plan quickly developed, and early in the morning on January 8th our intrepid band of birders (Lev Frid, Amanda Guercio, Justin Peter and I) pulled out the GTA and headed west.

Our first day was mostly driving, but we stopped in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to look for Sharp-tailed Grouse. No luck, but this Rough-legged Hawk was nice. I also noticed an Eastern Fox Squirrel on the side of the road as we drove through the Lower Peninsula, and a massive raft of Redhead in the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Huron.

After spending the night in Duluth, we made the short drive to Canal Park, set out an offering of Walmart salmon, and were rewarded almost right away.

Ivory Gull is a declining high-arctic breeder that very rarely moves south. I've dreamed of seeing this legendary bird for a long time!

After enjoying the Ivory Gull and the other gulls present, including Thayer's, Glaucous and a locally rare Great Black-backed, we made the short drive over to Superior, Wisconsin where two Gyrfalcons are hunting pigeons at the grain elevators. We were treated to quite a show by this immature brown morph (including a nearly-successful pursuit of a pigeon), and also saw the adult gray morph that is present. Another legendary species, and one that I'd also never seen before.

After this fantastic morning, we headed up to the famous Sax-Zim Bog, home of a nice variety of northern and western species. My goals here included Great Gray Owl, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Black-billed Magpie and Pine Grosbeak. There are also Moose, Gray Wolf, Marten and Fisher here.

Despite trying very hard for both, we couldn't find a Great Gray Owl or Sharp-tailed Grouse, but still saw lots including my lifer Black-billed Magpies. Many Pine Grosbeaks were at the visitor centre feeders.

Another feeder held many Evening Grosbeaks. The two magpies were here as well but they flew away immediately when we pulled up, so we couldn't get photos.

We tried unsuccesfully for Great Gray Owls until dark, and then drove south through Wisconsin to put us near a few interesting birds in the morning. We actually stayed in Minnesota on the other side of the Mississippi River, amid surprisingly spectacular scenery.

A vagrant Lewis's Woodpecker has been visiting a feeder near Galesville, Wisconsin, and we quickly saw it when we got there.

A nice male Oregon Junco was visiting the same feeder.

Our last stop of the trip was a region noted for it's wintering eagles, and we soon found this nice Golden as well as a number of Bald Eagles.

And with that we started the long drive around the south end of Lake Michigan, and eventually pulled into Mississauga around 2 am. An amazing trip, if a bit too short for my liking!

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