*          *          *

North Shore MBWs Summary

November 1 - 2 (II) and November 3 - 4 (III), 2018

So, if ever there was a time that my reputation as Your Spineless, Wishy-washy Tour Leader was appropriate, this is it. Those on North Shore III who were there by the Coast Guard station first thing Sunday morning will remember my initial excitement as I hollored Harlequin Duck (!), followed by my skepticism about my eyesight when we went over for another look. It couldn't have been more than a minute to get there, but no Harlequin was to be seen – just a coot and a White-winged Scoter. I began to think I had somehow made a collosal ID error, assuming it couldn't have vanished so quickly, and I felt obligated to retract my sighting after our search in that area came up empty.

Well, I now conclude there was a Harlequin there after all! Somehow it had apparently managed to fly off behind the Coast Guard station without anyone seeing it do so, since it was later relocated there by Doug Kieser and Howard Towle. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. And I'm releived to conclude that I wasn't hallucinating – and that my Spineless, Wishy-washy reputation is intact.

In other news, we managed 3 out of 4 days with decent weather, which is pretty fortunate considering this is November. So we can't be too disappointed when we headed for home earlier than planned on the 4th day as a mix of rain, snow, and high winds blew in. We then finished with a composite 4-day total of 67 species (about average for this MBW), with 57 on Thursday-Friday and 59 on Saturday-Sunday. It was obvious that many migrants had departed the North Shore since the previous weekend, when more than 90 species were noted here, and there weren't as many rarities as we find in some years. (Consider that King Eider, Inca Dove, Black Guillemot, Cassin's Kingbird, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, and many other strays have turned up on this MBW in past years.)            


If that Slaty-backed Gull in Grand Portage (found on October 28; last seen on the 31st) had stayed around another couple days, it would have been a nice addition to the list above, but we did see several highlights of note. Both MBWs came up with White-winged and Black scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, and nice Bohemian Waxwing flocks in Grand Marais. In addition, North Shore II had an unexpected Bonaparte's Gull in Knife River, plus late-lingering Blue-headed Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Orange-crowned Warbler. And on North Shore III there were a Glaucous Gull (possibly 2) at Iona's Beach, a Golden Eagle flying over Grand Marais, a pair of Peregrines at the Two Harbors ore docks, and Boreal Chickadees up the Gunflint Trail.  -KRE

Bird List

• II = seen on Nov 1-2 MBW

• III = seen on Nov 3-4 MBW

• S = St Louis Co

• L = Lake Co

• C = Cook Co

Snow Goose          III C

Cackling Goose          III C

Canada Goose          II LC     III C

Northern Shoveler          II C

Mallard          II LC     III C

American Black Duck          II C     III L

Green-winged Teal          II LC     III L

Lesser Scaup          II C

Harlequin Duck          III C (well, I'm counting it – see summary above)

White-winged Scoter          II C     III C

Black Scoter          II C     III C

Long-tailed Duck          II C     III LC

Bufflehead          II LC     III LC

Common Goldeneye          II C

Common Merganser          II C     III

Red-breasted Merganser          II SLC     III LC

Ruffed Grouse          II C     III LC

Horned Grebe          II C     III L

Red-necked Grebe          II LC     III LC

Rock Pigeon          II SL     III SLC

Mourning Dove          II S     III L

American Coot          II C     III C

Bonaparte’s Gull          II L

Ring-billed Gull          II SLC     III SLC

Herring Gull          II SLC     III SLC

Glaucous Gull          III L

Common Loon          II SLC     III L

Golden Eagle          III C

Bald Eagle          II LC     III SLC

Northern Goshawk          III C

Red-tailed Hawk          II LC     III LC

Rough-legged Hawk          II LC     III LC

Downy Woodpecker          II SLC     III SLC

Hairy Woodpecker          II LC     III SLC

Pileated Woodpecker          II SL     III SLC

American Kestrel          III L

Peregrine Falcon          III L

Blue-headed Vireo          II C

Canada Jay          II C     III C

Blue Jay          II SLC     III SLC

American Crow          II SLC     III SLC

Common Raven          II SLC     III SLC

Horned Lark          II SC     III C

Black-capped Chickadee          II SLC     III SLC

Boreal Chickadee          III C

Red-breasted Nuthatch          II SLC     III SLC

White-breasted Nuthatch          II LC     III LC

Ruby-crowned Kinglet          II L

Hermit Thrush          II C

American Robin          II SLC     III SLC

European Starling          II SL     III SLC

Bohemian Waxwing          II C     III LC

Cedar Waxwing          II C     III C

House Sparrow          II L     III SL

Pine Grosbeak          II C     III C

Purple Finch          III SLC

Common Redpoll          II LC     III SLC

Pine Siskin          II S     III SL

American Goldfinch          II SLC     III SLC

Lapland Longspur          II C     III LC

Snow Bunting          II SLC     III SLC

American Tree Sparrow          II SC     III L

Song Sparrow          II C     III C

White-throated Sparrow          II L     III C

White-crowned Sparrow          II LC     III LC

Dark-eyed Junco          II LC     III C

Orange-crowned Warbler          II S

*          *          *

North Shore I & II MBWs Summary

October 31-November 1 & November 2-3, 2019

Nancy Henke photo

Veteran MBWers are well aware of Craig Mandel’s tendancy to be fired from his co-leading duties on MBWs – often for no good reason, they claim. But in this case I have good reason(s) to do so. Not only did he co-lead our group as we managed to come up with “only” 58 species on MBW I (11 fewer than on MBW II), but then he went on with Dave Benson’s help to make me look bad with 69 species on MBW II. (I’d consider firing Dave too, except that he’s the one who found that owl!) In all, the two MBWs combined for a grand and surprising composite total of 79 species. These included all three scoters, Long-tailed Duck, Thayer’s-type Iceland Gull (see photo), Black-backed Woodpecker (see photo), Red Crossbill, and Western (probably) Meadowlark found on both MBWs.

All kidding aside, of course, MBW I was successful and included several highlights on its species list in addition to the highlights mentioned above. (And our list actually may have had an even 60 species – a second grouse seen on the Gunflint Trail option was probably a Ruffed, and a distant waxwing flock in Grand Marais was most likely all Bohemians.) Among those species not seen on MBW II were that lone male Spruce Grouse along with Boreal Chickadees on early Friday morning’s option, an unexpected Greater Scaup in Grand Marais, a late Wilson’s Snipe in the cemetery pond in Two Harbors (MBW II countered with an equally late Spotted Sandpiper), and an out-of-season Chipping Sparrow along the highway near Tofte (MBW II found a late Lincoln’s Sparrow instead).

MBW II’s success was at least partly due to the scouting we did during MBW I (now I don’t feel so bad!), and to an increased movement of migrants (although the weather on Saturday-Sunday didn’t seem all that more conducive to migration). Note that all three falcons were detected moving down the shore along with some blackbirds/grackles, Bohemian Waxwings finally turned up (although apparently seen by only half the group – see photo), and a very late Yellow Warbler lingered in the Grand Marais Campground. But certainly the leading highlight during our four late fall days along the North Shore was the roosting Long-eared Owl which posed for photos along 1st Street in Two Harbors. During the MBW’s 34-year history I know we’ve had this species a few times before, but offhand I can’t remember when. And now some parting comments from Craig (as he desperately pleads for his job back)...

Our second MBW along the North Shore started off with a bang when we found a House Sparrow at the Perkins parking lot! As is the case with double trips, there are always species of birds observed on one trip and not the other. Overall the weather remained cool and overcast for most of the second MBW and the colder weather may have brought in a few more migrants. The key highlight on the second MBW, was the Long-eared Owl – Dave just walked right up to it and pointed it out! Additional species of note were Snow Goose, Ring-necked Duck, and Bohemian Waxwings at or near the McQuade Harbor. John observed a Spotted Sandpiper in the Grand Marais campground, and the group also observed large flocks of Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, some Lapland Longspurs, a very late Yellow Warbler, and an Orange-crowned Warbler there. Additional birds on this MBW were Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Merlin, and American Kestrel –all observed in a few minutes passing by Stoney Point. Dave heard a Winter Wren, and while we waited for the wren in vain, a flock of waxwings and Red Crossbills did fly by, and a Rusty Blackbird landed in a nearby tree. (Hard to say what the impact was of Dave inadvertently blaring "Room to Move" by John Mayall through his bluetooth speaker!) Always fun to see how different each day along the North Shore of Lake Superior can be in the late fall season.  

–Craig Mandel (with edits by Dave Benson)

Bird List

• I = N Shore I (Oct 31-Nov 1)

• II = N Shore II (November 2-3)

• S = St Louis County

• L = Lake County

• C = Cook County

Snow Goose          II S

Canada Goose          I LC   II SLC

Mallard          I SLC   II SC

Ring-necked Duck          II S

Greater Scaup          I C

Surf Scoter          I C   II C

White-winged Scoter          I C   II C

Black Scoter          I C   II C

Long-tailed Duck          I C   II L

Bufflehead          I SLC

Common Goldeneye          I LC   II C

Hooded Merganser          I SL

Common Merganser          I SC   II S

Red-breasted Merganser          I L

Ruffed Grouse          II S

Spruce Grouse          I C

Horned Grebe          I C   II LC

Red-necked Grebe          I SL

Rock Pigeon          I LC   II SLC

Mourning Dove          I C   II C

Wilson’s Snipe          I L

Spotted Sandpiper          II C

Ring-billed Gull          I SLC   II SLC

Herring Gull          I SLC   II SLC

Iceland Gull          I S   II S

Common Loon          I SL   II S

Sharp-shinned Hawk          I L   II S

Cooper’s Hawk          II S

Bald Eagle          I SLC   II SLC

Red-tailed Hawk          I SLC   II SLC

Rough-legged Hawk          I LC   II SLC

Long-eared Owl          II L

Black-backed Woodpecker          I S   II L

Downy Woodpecker          I SLC   II SLC

Hairy Woodpecker          I SLC   II LC

Pileated Woodpecker          I LC   II S

American Kestrel          II S

Merlin          II S

Peregrine Falcon          II L

Northern Shrike          I SL   II LC

Canada Jay          I C   II C

Blue Jay          I SLC   II LC

American Crow          I SLC   II SLC

Common Raven          I SLC   II SLC

Horned Lark          I LC   II LC

Black-capped Chickadee          I SLC   II SLC

Boreal Chickadee          I C

Red-breasted Nuthatch          I SLC   II SLC

White-breasted Nuthatch          I L   II L

Brown Creeper          II C

Winter Wren          II S

Golden-crowned Kinglet          I SLC

Ruby-crowned Kinglet          I LC   II L

Eastern Bluebird          I L   II SL

American Robin          I SL   II SLC

European Starling          I LC   II SLC

Bohemian Waxwing          II S

Cedar Waxwing          I SL   II SLC

House Sparrow          II S

American Pipit          I C   II C

Common Redpoll          II C

Red Crossbill          I L   II S

Pine Siskin          I L   II C

American Goldfinch          I LC   II SC

Lapland Longspur          I C   II C

Snow Bunting          I LC   II SLC

Chipping Sparrow          I C

American Tree Sparrow          I LC   II LC

Dark-eyed Junco          I LC   II LC

White-crowned Sparrow          I L   II L

Song Sparrow          II C

Lincoln’s Sparrow          II L

Western Meadowlark          I LC   II C

Red-winged Blackbird          II S

Rusty Blackbird          II S

Common Grackle          II S

Orange-crowned Warbler          II C

Yellow Warbler          II C

Yellow-rumped Warbler          I SL   II C

Nancy Henke photo

Nancy Henke photo

Thayer's-type Icland Gull (second gull from left)  •  Val Landwehr photo

Craig Mandel photo

Craig Mandel photo

It was certainly more like early October than November, as each day was mostly sunny with high temperatures ranging from around 60 into the low 70s. On Friday the 6th, it even hit 74 in Duluth, a new record high by 4 degrees! As I told both groups, the only thing I could figure was that on the first Sunday of November, when we were supposed to just set our clocks back one hour, something malfunctioned and both time and the temperatures were set one month earlier instead. The only day with more November-like weather was on Saturday when it was mostly overcast, the wind shifted to the east off the lake, and temperatures fell back into the 40s by the afternoon.

The only problem with such “Indian summer” weather is that the movement of migrants typically comes to halt, and the birding can then become quite slow at times. Such was certainly the case during much of each day, but no one seemed to mind given the unusually pleasant weather.

Probably the best bird enjoyed by both MBWs was the female-plumaged Harlequin Duck at Stoney Point. Both groups were also able to see all 3 scoters, Long-tailed Duck, late Wilson’s Snipe at a few locations, Bohemian Waxwings, both Evening and Pine grosbeaks, White-winged Crossbills, a few meadowlarks (probable Westerns), and that frustrating, distant loon at Stoney Pt. – this was IDed by others as a Pacific, though it looked like it had some Common-like features and I decided to leave it as unidentified.

MBW I had a higher species count (63 vs. 55), and 16 of them were not seen by MBW II; these included Cackling Goose, a possible N. Goshawk, the crabapple-eating Red-headed Woodpecker in Grand Marais, and several late-lingering migrants – e.g., American Pipit, Fox and Savannah sparrows, Rusty Blackbird, and Orange-crowned Warbler. MBW II came up with 8 species which MBW I missed, and these included a Red-necked Grebe and late Eastern Phoebe at Stoney Pt., a brief Northern Shrike in Knife River, both kinglet species, and mostly-heard Red Crossbills flying by in Two Harbors.  


Thanks to all for coming, despite the risks involved with traveling during the ongoing pandemic. Though some had understandably canceled, there were enough of you interested to get me out on my first MBWeekend since last January, as I co-led with Craig on Thursday and Saturday (while Dave Benson was with Craig on Friday and Sunday).  –KRE

Bird List (71 species total)

• I = seen on MBW I, November 5-6 (63 species)

• II = seen on MBW II, November 7-8 (55 species)

Cackling Goose        I  (Two Harbors)  

Canada Goose        I   II

Mallard        I

Greater Scaup        I   II

Lesser Scaup        I

Harlequin Duck        I   II  (Stoney Point !)

Surf Scoter        I   II

White-winged Scoter        I   II

Black Scoter        I   II  

Long-tailed Duck        I   II  (with all 3 scoters at Taconite Harbor on I)

Bufflehead        I   II

Common Goldeneye        I   II

Common Merganser        II

Red-breasted Merganser        I   II

Ruffed Grouse        I   II

Horned Grebe        I

Red-necked Grebe        II  (Stoney Pt.)

Rock Pigeon        I   II

Mourning Dove        I

Wilson’s Snipe         I   II  (several locations)

Ring-billed Gull        I   II

Herring Gull        I   II

loon, sp.        I   II  (Stoney Pt.)

accipiter, sp.        I  (possibly N. Goshawk)

Bald Eagle        I   II

Rough-legged Hawk        I   II

Red-headed Woodpecker        I  (Grand Marais; rare in Cook Co.)

Downy Woodpecker        I   II

Hairy Woodpecker        I   II

Northern Flicker        I

Pileated Woodpecker        I   II

Merlin        I

Eastern Phoebe        II  (late at Stoney Pt.)

Northern Shrike        II  (briefly in Knife River)

Blue Jay        I   II

American Crow        I   II

Common Raven        I   II

Horned Lark        I   II

Black-capped Chickadee        I   II

Red-breasted Nuthatch        I   II

White-breasted Nuthatch        I   II

Golden-crowned Kinglet        II

Ruby-crowned Kinglet        II  (late)

American Robin        I   II

European Starling        I   II

Bohemian Waxwing        I   II  (best at Bayside Park and in Grand Marais)

House Sparrow        I   II

American Pipit        I

Evening Grosbeak        I   II  (Grand Marais)

Pine Grosbeak        I   II

Purple Finch        I

Common Redpoll        I   II

Red Crossbill        II  (fly-bys in Two Harbors)

White-winged Crossbill        I   II  (mostly fly-bys)

Pine Siskin        I   II

American Goldfinch        I   II

Snow Bunting        I   II

Fox Sparrow        I  (late at Black Beach)

American Tree Sparrow        I   II

Dark-eyed Junco        I   II

White-crowned Sparrow        I   II

White-throated Sparrow        I   II

Savannah Sparrow        I  (late)

Song Sparrow        II

Lincoln’s Sparrow        I   II  (also late)

Swamp Sparrow        I   I I (ditto)

meadowlark, sp.        I   II  (probably Westerns)

Rusty Blackbird        I  (near Black Beach)

Orange-crowned Warbler        I  (late in Knife River)

Yellow-rumped Warbler        I

Northern Cardinal        I   II

PHOTO GALLERY (photos by Craig Mandel)

Note that the rwo Tofte-based MBWs in October 2021 will cover

most of the same locations with the same potential species as these

early November MBWs, plus some additional late fall migrants.

The itinerary of the two 2021 MBWs in early November will be

the same as these recent MBWs summarized below.

Also see the 2019 and 2018 North Shore MBW summaries

following the summary of the 2020 MBWeekends


~  North Shore MBWs Summary  ~

November 5-6, 2020 (MBW I) and November 7-8, 2020 (MBW II)