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2021 Tofte / North Shore MBWs Summary

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

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 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)

Agate Bay, Two Harbors (Lynn Glesne photo)

Sawbill Trail (Lynn Glesne photo)

Chickadee taking a selfie (Lynn Glesne photo)

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


Darcy Pinotti photo

So...just where was this duck hiding on Thursday when the Tofte II group was looking all over the Grand Marais harbor for it?! After all, it had been right there by the Coast Guard station posing for pictures for the Tofte I group – after Joanne saw it fly in while the rest of the group had been scouring the rocks at Artists Point. And, of course, it reappeared on Friday while the Tofte II bunch was elsewhere, birding its way from Tofte back to Two Harbors. Argh!

At least it was some consolation when the Tofte II MBWers claimed a total of 58 species on Thursday-Friday, 3 more than the Monday-Tuesday group. This improvement was partly due to some scouting of sites on Tofte I, to twice as many pairs of eyes to find things on Tofte II (14 participants vs 7), and to the dark skies and rainy weather on Monday morning for the start of Tofte I. Birds of note on Tofte II that were missed on Tofte I were those 2 Bohemian Waxwings at our first stop at Tofte Park; a Northern Shrike, Boreal Chickadee (seen by Mary G), and Western Meadowlark at Taconite Harbor; and a juvenile Ross’s Goose plus Bonaparte’s Gulls in Two Harbors.

Aside from that Harlequin, Tofte I had some other noteworthy finds that the latter group missed: a Canvasback at Castle Danger (pretty rare NE of Duluth), late Wilson’s Snipes and Rusty Blackbirds at Lutsen’s sewage ponds, and a surprising Red-bellied Woodpecker way up by Colvill. Both MBW groups managed to see Cackling Geese, White-winged Scoters at Taconite Harbor (also in Grand Marais on II), Long-tailed Ducks (but very few of them), Red-necked Grebes, Merlins, and both kinglets. Conversely and oddly, though, the following were scarce to nonexistent on both MBWs: Surf and Black scoters, Common Goldeneye, raptors other than Bald Eagle (so where were the Rough-leggeds?), waxwings, winter finches, Snow Buntings, and late-lingering sparrows and warblers.               

Thanks to all for coming – especially Joanne and Jocelyn who were on their first-ever MBWs, and to Craig who helped guide the Tofte II group. (Though, of course, it was all his fault for not turning up that Harlequin. On the other hand, though, it was all my fault for not scheduling Tofte II to include Oct 29 – see photo below!)

Bird List (composite total = 76 species)

• Tofte I = 55 species (including 18 not seen on Tofte II)

   - Oct 24: from Tofte to Hovland (all in Cook County)

   - Oct 25: Fr. Baraga’s Cross & Taconite Harbor (Cook Co), and from Tettegouche to

     Two Harbors (Lake Co)  

• Tofte II = 58 species (including 21 not seen on Tofte I)

   - Oct 27: from Tofte to Grand Portage (all in Cook County)

   - Oct 28: Taconite Harbor (Cook Co), and from Tettegouche to Two Harbors (Lake Co)

Snow Goose

Ross’s Goose     (II only)

Cackling Goose

Canada Goose

Blue-winged Teal     (I only)

American Wigeon     (I only)  


American Black Duck     (II only)

Green-winged Teal

Canvasback     (I only)     


Ring-necked Duck     (I only)     

Greater Scaup     (I only)

Lesser Scaup     (I only)  

Harlequin Duck      (I only)

White-winged Scoter

Long-tailed Duck


Common Goldeneye     (II only)

Common Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser

Ruffed Grouse     (I only)

Horned Grebe     (I only)

Red-necked Grebe

Rock Pigeon     

Mourning Dove

American Coot     (II only)     

Wilson’s Snipe     (I only)

Bonaparte’s Gull     (II only)  

Ring-billed Gull

Herring Gull

Common Loon     (II only)       

Northern Harrier     (II only)       

Sharp-shinned Hawk     (II only)

Bald Eagle

Red-tailed Hawk     (II only)

Red-bellied Woodpecker     (I only)

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker  

Pileated Woodpecker     (II only)  


Northern Shrike     (II only)

Blue Jay

American Crow

Common Raven

Black-capped Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee     (II only)

Horned Lark     

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Bohemian Waxwing     (II only)

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Brown Creeper     (I only)  

European Starling     (II only)  

Eastern Bluebird     (I only)     

American Robin

American Pipit

American Goldfinch     (II only)

Lapland Longspur     

Snow Bunting

Chipping Sparrow     (I only)

Fox Sparrow     (I only)

American Tree Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

White-crowned Sparrow     (II only)

White-throated Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow     (I only)

Song Sparrow     (II only)       

Swamp Sparrow     (II only)       

Western Meadowlark     (II only)

Red-winged Blackbird     (II only)

Orange-crowned Warbler     (II only)

Rusty Blackbird     (I only)

Palm Warbler     (I only)

Yellow-rumped Warbler

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2022 Tofte I and Tofte II MBWs Summary

October 24-25 and October 27-28

See the summaries of the 2022 & 2021 Tofte MBWs

following the 2023 summary


TOFTE I and TOFTE II MBWeekends Summary

November 2-3 and November 4-5, 2023

Although we’ve literally been doing this late fall MBWeekend up the North Shore for decades, it’s only in the last few years that we’ve based ourselves in Tofte. Previously, we always started in Duluth on the first morning, stayed that night in Grand Marais, and returned the next afternoon to Duluth to retrieve cars and head home. But I think it works better to have Tofte as our base both nights. For one thing, it’s easier not to check in and out of places each night; for another, starting in Tofte gives us time to bird Grand Portage and other places beyond Grand Marais. So, that begs the question: Why didn’t we think of doing it this way about 38 years ago?

We did make it up to Grand Portage on Tofte I, but not so on Tofte II – we were running late then, east winds blew in some snow showers and poor visibility, and, besides, there wasn’t a whole lot there on Tofte I. So, Grand Portage didn’t really account for the difference in our two MBWs, during which Tofte I recorded 67 species, 9 more than Tofte II’s 58, as our two MBWs combined came up with a respectable total of 75 species. (Almost of these were in Cook County, with just a few marked below as only found in Lake Co.)

The big difference between Tofte I and II during our times along the North Shore was the weather, always the most important variable when birding during migration. West winds which are conducive to stirring up migrants here predominated during Tofte I, while east winds and mostly overcast conditions prevailed on Tofte II. Accordingly, the White-winged Scoter, Common Loons, those two Townsend’s Solitaires (Lutsen Sea Villas & Resort), Lapland Longspurs, that meadowlark, and three warbler species (including a male Wilson’s!), we turned up on I could not be relocated on II.

But Tofte II did have Ross’s Geese in Two Harbors, Trumpeter Swans in Grand Marias (a rarity in Cook Co.), Wilson’s Snipe, and Rough-legged Hawk – which were all missed on Tofte I. And Tofte II recorded (as did Tofte I): Cackling Geese, Long-tailed Ducks, 2 very late Dunlins (only 1 on Tofte I), Merlins, nice looks at Bohemian Waxwings (there were more on II), a late Gray Catbird, perched redpolls and fly-over Red Crossbills, lots of Snow Buntings (more on I, when Craig counted nearly 700 of them), late Fox Sparrows, and Rusty Blackbirds.

And then there was our incredible luck up on The Grade north of Tofte on Friday morning, when we had 3 Spruce Grouse standing in the road, two Am. Three-toed Woodpeckers in the same place as the grouse (one seen plus another heard), and a mostly cooperative Boreal Chickadee not that much farther up the road! But, alas, none of these would reappear two mornings later for the Tofte II group, though at least they had a Black-backed Woodpecker (not seen there on I, though some on I saw one in Grand Marais), and both groups found panhandling Canada Jays along with good views of Red Crossbills.

Thanks to all of you for coming on this pair of interesting and successful MBWs – it was especially good to see Lonnie from New Mexico again (after 15 years she says, or was it more like 38?). Thanks as well to all the photographers for sharing their images, and, of course, thanks to Craig – the future CEO of MBW, Inc., once he decides to increase his measly offer of $2.8 million to buy the company.  –KRE  


Bird List

• I = Tofte I, November 2-3

• II = Tofte II, November 4-5

• (L) = seen only in Lake Co.

Ross’s Goose          II (L)          

Cackling Goose          I, II

Canada Goose          I, II          

Trumpeter Swan          II

Mallard          I, II

American Black Duck          I     

Redhead          I

Lesser Scaup          I, II

White-winged Scoter          I

Long-tailed Duck          I, II

Bufflehead          I, II

Common Goldeneye          I, II

Hooded Merganser          II

Common Merganser          I, II

Red-breasted Merganser          I, II

Ruffed Grouse          I (L), II

Spruce Grouse          I

Horned Grebe          I, II

Red-necked Grebe          I, II

Rock Pigeon          I, II

Mourning Dove          I, II

American Coot          I, II

Dunlin          I, II

Wilson’s Snipe          II

Ring-billed Gull          I, II

Herring Gull          I, II

Common Loon          I

Bald Eagle          I, II

Red-tailed Hawk          I (L)

Rough-legged Hawk          II

Belted Kingfisher          I

American Three-toed Woodpecker          I

Black-backed Woodpecker          I, II

Downy Woodpecker          I, II

Hairy Woodpecker          I, II

Pileated Woodpecker          I, II

American Kestrel          II (L)

Merlin          I, II

Northern Shrike          I

Canada Jay          I, II

Blue Jay          I, II

American Crow          I, II

Common Raven          I, II

Black-capped Chickadee          I, II

Boreal Chickadee          I

Horned Lark          I, II

Bohemian Waxwing          I, II

Cedar Waxwing          I, II

Red-breasted Nuthatch          I, II

Brown Creeper          II

Gray Catbird          I, II

European Starling          I, II

Townsend’s Solitaire          I

American Robin          I, II

House Sparrow          I, II

Common Redpoll          I, II

Red Crossbill          I, II

White-winged Crossbill          I

Pine Siskin          I, II

American Goldfinch          I, II

Lapland Longspur          I

Snow Bunting          I, II

Fox Sparrow          I (L), II

American Tree Sparrow          I, II

Dark-eyed Junco          I, II

White-crowned Sparrow          I, II

White-throated Sparrow          I, II

meadowlark, sp. (probably Western)          I

Red-winged Blackbird          I, II

Rusty Blackbird          I, II

Common Grackle          I, II

Orange-crowned Warbler          I

Yellow-rumped Warbler          I

Wilson’s Warbler          I

Northern Cardinal          II


Matt Schaut photo  ~  Tofte II

Matt Schaut photo  ~  Tofte II

Matt Schaut photo  ~  Tofte II

Mariann Cyr photo  ~  Tofte I

Mariann Cyr photo  ~  Tofte I

Matt Schaut photo  ~  Tofte II

Mariann Cyr photo  ~  Tofte I

Rose Shea photo  ~  Tofte I

Rose Shea photo  ~  Tofte I

Found by Michael Sack

& Molly Misfeldt on the

North Shore – one day after

Tofte II ended!  (KRE photo)

Mariann Cyr photo  ~  Tofte I