At times it looked like a typical Song Sparrow (left), while at others a hint of buff, somewhat thinly streaked underparts, and peaked head shape suggested a Lincoln’s (right). I’m now in the Song Sparrow camp, but admittedly I was first leaning towards Lincoln’s since my views were when it looked more like the right-hand image. It’s never a good idea to base a less-than-straightforward ID on just one look or one photo, either of which can be misleading. Other views and additional photos can often make a bird look quite different. (But now, the more I look at these, the more I have to wonder if there could have been two different birds/species present?!)              

Bird List

I = Tofte I MBW, Wednesday-Thursday-Friday

II = Tofte II MBW, Friday-Saturday-Sunday

L = Lake County

C = Cook County

Snow Goose          I L  /  II L  

Ross’s (?) Goose          I L  /  II L

Cackling Goose          I L  /  II L

Canada Goose          I L,C  /  II L,C

American Wigeon          I L

Mallard          I L,C  /  II L

American Black Duck          I L,C  /  II C

Green-winged Teal          I L,C  /  II L,C

Harlequin Duck          II C

Surf Scoter          I L,C  /  II C

Black Scoter          II C

Long-tailed Duck          I L  /  II L

Bufflehead          I C  /  II C

Common Goldeneye          I C  /  II C

Hooded Merganser          I L,C  /  II C

Common Merganser          I C  /  II C

Red-breasted Merganser          I L,C  /  II L,C

Ruffed Grouse          I L,C  /  II C

Horned Grebe          I L,C  /  II L,C

Red-necked Grebe          I L,C  /  II L,C

Rock Pigeon          I L,C  /  II L,C

Mourning Dove          I L  /  II L

American Coot          I C  /  II C

Ring-billed Gull          I L,C  /  II L,C

Herring Gull          I L,C  /  II L,C

Common Loon          II L,C

Turkey Vulture          I L

Sharp-shinned Hawk          I L

Bald Eagle          I L,C  /  II L,C

Red-tailed Hawk          I L

Rough-legged Hawk          I C  /  II C

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker          I C

Downy Woodpecker          I L,C  /  II L,C

Hairy Woodpecker          I L,C  /  II L,C

Pileated Woodpecker          I L,C  /  II L,C

American Kestrel          I C  /  II C

Merlin          I C  /  II C

Eastern Phoebe          II C

Canada Jay          I C  /  II C

Blue Jay          I L,C  /  II L,C

American Crow          I L,C  /  II L,C

Common Raven          I L,C  /  II L,C

Horned Lark          I L,C  /  II L,C

Black-capped Chickadee          I L,C  /  II L,C

Boreal Chickadee          II C

Red-breasted Nuthatch          I L,C  /  II L,C

White-breasted Nuthatch          I L,C  /  II L,C

Brown Creeper          II L,C

Golden-crowned Kinglet          I C  /  II L,C

American Robin          I C  /  II L,C

European Starling          II L,C

Bohemian Waxwing          I C

Cedar Waxwing          I C  /  II L

American Pipit          II C

Purple Finch          II L

Common Redpoll          I C  /  II L,C

Pine Siskin          I C  /  II L,C

American Goldfinch          II L,C

Lapland Longspur          I L,C  /  II L,C

Snow Bunting          I L,C  /  II L,C

American Tree Sparrow          I L,C  /  II L,C

Dark-eyed Junco          I C  /  II L,C

White-crowned Sparrow          II L,C

Harris’s Sparrow          II L

White-throated Sparrow          II L

Savannah Sparrow          I C

Song Sparrow          I C  /  II C

Swamp Sparrow          I C

Rusty Blackbird          I C  /  II L,C

Northern Cardinal          I C  /  II L,C


Tofte / North Shore MBWs Summary

October 20-21-22 (Tofte I) and October 22-23-24 (Tofte II), 2021

See the November 2020 and 2019 North Shore MBW summaries

following the summary of the 2021 MBWeekends.


Grand Marais / North Shore MBW Summary

November 6 - 7, 2021

Yes, the weather was certainly about as pleasant as one can expect on this MBW, with temperatures approaching 65 degrees on Saturday afternoon, and with the low 50s and virtually no wind on Sunday morning. Surprisingly, though, this wasn’t the mildest November North Shore MBW ever. I had forgotten that it hit a record high of 74 in Duluth during this MBW in 2020, and the highs were 60+ on each day. And the weather in 2009 was about the same as what we had last weekend.

This balmy weather almost made it irrelevant that this has been one of the slowest fall migrations ever, both here and throughout most of MN. Our total of 52 species was clearly lower than we usually have on this MBW, although our composite totals were even lower in 2016 (49 species) and 2013 (50). By the way, our average species count is around 60, and we managed 70+ species in 2008 and 2017. Examples of our modest species total this year were the very low numbers of American Robins and Snow Buntings, the abundance of mountain ash berries with virtually no birds in them (we never did see any Bohemian Waxwings), and the near-absence of late-lingering migrants (like sparrows).

These disappointments, though, pale in comparison with the overwhelming – perhaps unprecedented? – flight of hundreds of both Common Redpolls and White-winged Crossbills we witnessed both days. Actually, the word “thousands” probably describes it better, as I don’t remember ever seeing as large a movement of these species. Other highlights were that sort-of-a-Ross’s and Cackling geese in Two Harbors, the Harlequin Duck still lingering in Grand Portage, White-winged Scoters at 3 locations in all, and the adult male Black Scoter for those still with us Sunday afternoon at Park Point.

Among the notable things we saw among the land birds were the Red-bellied Woodpecker in Knife River and another in Two Harbors (we see 0 on most North Shore MBWs), a couple of Lapland Longspurs landing in trees (something I don’t recall ever seeing before!), all those Rough-legged Hawks along Hwy 61(including that handsome and photogenic dark-morph bird near Taconite Harbor), and a Northern Shrike near the Grand Portage sewage ponds.

Bird List

S = St Louis County

L = Lake County

C = Cook County

Ross’s Goose          L

Cackling Goose          L

Canada Goose          L, C

Mallard          S, C

American Black Duck          S, C

Greater Scaup          C

Lesser Scaup          S, C

Harlequin Duck          C

White-winged Scoter          S, C

Black Scoter          S

Long-tailed Duck          C

Bufflehead          S, L, C

Common Goldeneye          S, L, C

Common Merganser          S, L

Red-breasted Merganser          S, C

Horned Grebe          S, L, C

Red-necked Grebe          C

Rock Pigeon          S, L

American Coot          L, C

Ring-billed Gull          S, L

Herring Gull          S, L, C

Common Loon          L

Bald Eagle          S, L, C

Rough-legged Hawk          S, L, C

Red-bellied Woodpecker          L

Downy Woodpecker          L, C

Hairy Woodpecker          C

Pileated Woodpecker          L, C

Northern Shrike          C

Blue Jay          L, C

American Crow          S, L, C

Common Raven          S, L, C

Horned Lark          C

Black-capped Chickadee          S, L, C

Red-breasted Nuthatch          L, C

White-breasted Nuthatch          L

American Robin          L, C

European Starling          S, L, C

Cedar Waxwing          L, C

House Sparrow          L

Pine Grosbeak          L, C

House Finch          L

Common Redpoll          S, L, C

Hoary Redpoll          C

White-winged Crossbill          S, L, C

Pine Siskin          S

American Goldfinch          S, L, C

Lapland Longspur          L, C

Snow Bunting          L, C

American Tree Sparrow          C

Dark-eyed Junco          S

Northern Cardinal          L


Sawbill Trail sunrise (KRE photo)

Just about everyone would agree that this has been one of the slowest fall migrations ever – and not only in Duluth and up the North Shore, but throughout MN as well. Indeed, our pair of Tofte-based MBWs had little to offer to contradict that impression. It was especially telling that the mountain ash trees were full of berries but practically devoid of any birdlife, and note especially that Tofte I didn’t record a single robin anywhere on Wednesday afternoon or all day Thursday! The winds were generally favorable for migration from the N and NNW from Thursday through Saturday, but not much was moving aside from a decent flight of redpolls Saturday morning.

Overall, though, we still did pretty well as we experienced some cold but mostly favorable weather during both MBWs – at least it never rained or snowed on us while we were out birding. In all, from Wednesday afternoon into early Sunday afternoon, we came up with a modest composite total of 70 species, 57 of these on Tofte I and 62 on Tofte II. While Tofte II had more species, keep in mind that this latter group was helped at times by the scouting provided by Tofte I.

Of the 8 species seen on Tofte I and not on II, the best was probably the small group of Bohemian Waxwings flycatching in a bog along Hwy 61 between Hovland and Grand Portage. Conversely, of the 13 birds found on Tofte II but missed on I were the Harlequin Duck at Grand Portage (though a probable Harlequin flew by the Tofte I group at Taconite Harbor), a lone Black Scoter at Hovland, and an uncooperative leader-only Boreal Chickadee plus a late Eastern Phoebe plus in the Grand Marais campground. Both groups saw that alleged Ross’s Goose (a hybrid?) and Cackling Geese in Two Harbors, a close and entertaining Long-tailed Duck at Agate Bay (seen mostly on II, but spotted by Val of the Tofte I crew and seen by some lucky Tofte I lollygaggers), a Surf Scoter at Grand Portage (and some on Tofte I saw another at Agate Bay), those hungry and crowd-pleasing Canada Jays up the Sawbill Trail, and a male Northern Cardinal in Grand Marais.                   

Of final note were the ID issues that came up during one MBW or the other. One was the sparrow (photo by Kathrynne Baumtrog; a Savannah?) with a massively deformed bill seen by some of the Tofte II group at Stoney Point before we convened...

Another was the white-headed, partial albino blackbird (photo by Kathrynne; a Rusty?) seen distantly and briefly that day at Castle Danger...

But just as interesting was the sparrow found at Lutsen on Tofte I; both photos by Nancy Henke are presumably of the same bird!

Grand Portage sewage ponds (Kathrynne Baumtrog 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)

*          *          *

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

Agate Bay, Two Harbors (Lynn Glesne photo)

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

*          *          *

~  North Shore MBWs Summary  ~

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

Craig Mandel photo

Nancy Henke photo

Sawbill Trail (Lynn Glesne photo)

Chickadee taking a selfie (Lynn Glesne photo)

Ross's Goose (or hybrid?): present in Two Harbors since September

~  Lynn Glesne photo  ~

Dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk:

near Taconite Harbor, one of several migrants along Hwy 61

~  Kathrynne Baumtrog &

Roy Zimmerman photos  ~

Snow Bunting: very low numbers this fall along the North Shore

~  Roy Zimmerman photo  ~

Lapland Longspur: one of two that perched repeatedly in trees (!?) in Two Harbors

~  Kathrynne Baumtrog photo  ~

Common Redpoll: one of 100s (or probably 1000s?) along the North Shore

~  Roy Zimmerman photo  ~

White-winged Crossbills: one of 100s migrating down the North Shore

~  Roy Zimmerman photo  ~

*          *          *