The Boreal Travel Plaza : A Cold Day at Sax Zim Bog

Ahoy Readers!

Yesterday Kassie and I made it to Sax Zim Bog (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/sax_zim_bog_iba.html) to go look for some of the boreal bird species that move in for the winter. In the region there are northern hawk owls, great grey owls, boreal chicadees and black-backed woodpeckers – of course there are many, many more!. Our goal was to beat the cold snap we are having in Minnesota right now – in fact due to the cold Governor Dayton called off school for Monday on Friday! That hasn’t been done since 1997. Although with windchill values exceeding 60 below for Sunday and Monday night I think it’s warranted. Amazing that I can experience the same intense cold in Alaska and Minnesota.

Cold temps in Perham this week!!
Cold temps in Perham this week!!

Sax Zim bog is located just south of Buhl, Minnesota on the ‘Iron Range’ (http://goo.gl/7mBiuM). I actually spent quite a bit of time up there as a kid, my dad is from the Hibbing region, and attended high school at Buhl.Here is the description of the area from the DNR website : ” Level to gently rolling topography are characteristic of this region. The largest landform is a lake plain. Soils include extensive areas of peat over both fine-textured and sandy lacustrine deposits. This site includes sledge meadows, lowland brush and hayfields. There are stemless lady’s slippers and other species of bog vegetation including sundew, pitcher plant, leatherleaf and bog birch.This well known wintering area for Great gray owls, Northern hawk owls, and Rough-legged hawks is an ideal habitat for more than 240 species of migrant and breeding birds.”. The opportunities are indeed great there! For more information on the area and the opportunities there visit : http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/sax_zim_bog_iba.html http://sax-zimbog.com/ http://sax-zimbog.com/birding-festival/ http://www.saxzim.org/

Birding at Sax Zim Bog. Image credit goes to : http://www.askthebirds.org/2012/07/sandhill-cranes-at-sax-zim-bog.html
Birding at Sax Zim Bog. Image credit goes to : http://www.askthebirds.org/2012/07/sandhill-cranes-at-sax-zim-bog.html

One of the northern migrants in Sax Zim are the northern shrikes. These birds are classified as song birds, but are carnivores. The eat insects and small rodents. They are known as ‘butcher birds’ because to cache food they impale their prey on sticks, thorns, or even barbed wire! The northern shrike below was stooping over the field hunting an unknown prey. I was able to capture the bird as he stooped into the blustery winds as and perching on a nearby branch.

Northern Shrike stooping in the blustery winds at Sax Zim Bog
Northern Shrike stooping in the blustery winds at Sax Zim Bog
Northern Shrike at Sax Zim Bog
Northern Shrike at Sax Zim Bog

Even with the condition of blustery wind we had some great opportunities to see some cool birds. Boreal chickadess are a migrant here we found a couple at the feeders there. Gray jays and a red-breasted nuthatch were also found at the feeders.

Boreal Chickadee at the feeders in Sax Zim Bog
Boreal Chickadee at the feeders in Sax Zim Bog
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Gray Jay at Sax Zim Bog
Red-breasted nuthatch at Sax Zim Bog
Red-breasted nuthatch at Sax Zim Bog

As we were driving along the roads looking for owls Kass spotted a ruffed grouse sitting in the trees. She thought it was an owl right away, and so did I!!

Ruffed grouse at Sax Zim Bog
Ruffed grouse at Sax Zim Bog

At the end of the day we never did see any owls. The windy and cold conditions kept the owls hunkered down. However, I didn’t want to leave you without some pictures of them! Part of the reason we went up there was Erik Bruhnke, who runs Naturally Avian. Naturally Avian is his bird tour, education, and photography business and I absolutely encourage you to check out his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NaturallyAvian). If you enjoy birds and just feeling happy subscribe to his page, his posts and photography are both incredible. By visiting the page you’ll be able to see a lot of the birds that we ‘dipped’ (did not see) on. His pictures of boreal, great grey, and northern hawk owls are honestly second to none and are award winning. By visiting the Sax Zim bog website you can see great photography of the owl species and the boreal migrants.

9 thoughts on “The Boreal Travel Plaza : A Cold Day at Sax Zim Bog”

  1. As I read this, an interesting juxtaposition. The Jiohnson feeders are hyper-busy today, with avian survival ion display in our Pondroom window and on my computer screen. Tough creatures they are!

  2. Again, great pictures and another adventure.

    You should come to southern Maine, We only got to 12 below (not counting the wind)

    Phil & Peggy

  3. Ian, I liked the photos of the owls. I have a picture of a Bared Owl I took next to my shed that I’ll send you. It was amazing to watch it land about 20 feet from me and then fly, float away to a slanted down tree, then to anohter tree and finally get chased away by some crows. Stay warm

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