A trip to northern Minnesota in the dead of winter may beggar belief for the average person, but for birders, this is the best time of year to see the highly-sought after northern owls (Great Gray, Snowy, Northern Hawk, and sometimes Boreal and Northern Saw-whet). The list of winter finches adds additional highlights with Common & Hoary Redpolls, Pine & Evening Grosbeaks, and Red Crossbill all likely. Winter provides a much better chance of seeing things like Spruce Grouse in addition to the expected gamut of Canada Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, Northern Shrike, Bohemian Waxwing and more. We will also be on the lookout for any mammals, with moose and gray wolf both being possible.
Our 5-day trip will explore the snowy boreal forests, tamarack bogs, and Superior shoreline of the far north from our base in Duluth. The famous Sax-Zim Bog is home to many of our target species and we will likely spend the better part of two days driving many of the backroads of this fantastic area. Make no mistake about it – the temperatures will be frigid (sub-zero temperatures are likely at some point during the tour) and wintry conditions (which vary year to year) can make things difficult, but by dressing and preparing properly you will find the northern winter manageable, if not enjoyable. Due to the variable nature of the weather and sporadic abundance of some of our targets, our itinerary will remain flexible to give us the best chance of finding them as well as any rarities that might be around.
Some of the Birds We Hope to See
Common & Red-breasted Mergansers, Harlequin Duck, Common Goldeneye; Great Gray, Boreal, Snowy, and Northern Hawk Owls; Bald Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk; Ruffed, Spruce and Sharp-tailed Grouse; Gyrfalcon, Ring-necked Pheasant, Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpeckers; Black-billed Magpie; Canada Jay; Northern Shrike; Bohemian Waxwing; American Tree Sparrow; Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Siskin, Common and Hoary Redpolls, Red & White-winged Crossbills; Snow Bunting , and a selection of gulls (Iceland, Glaucous, Herring, and maybe more) and a few other goodies that might be in the area!