“Anyone got a napkin?” (Linda Sparling photo)

Our decision to go directly to Canal Park on Saturday morning was certainly the right one as the World-Famous Ivory Gull was there right on cue, representing species #363 on our all-time MBWeekends list, as well as #701 on the overall composite MBW list! This here-one-day-gone-the-next bird was not seen again on Sunday, and it unfortunately failed to show up for Craig’s MBW II group – although their Black-legged Kittiwake was a nice consolation. (At the time of this writing, January 29, the last Ivory Gull sightings were January 24 when it appeared to be sick or injured and may not have survived.)

Most everything was anti-climactic after that, although later that morning we chanced upon a nice Hoary Redpoll and a cooperative flock of Bohemian Waxwings in the upper Woodland Ave neighborhood. The Evening Grosbeaks at Frank and Kate’s feeders followed, along with their hospitality-in-absencia as they left the back door unlocked so we could warm up (it was still below zero), use the bathroom, and finish the coffee left for us – a few even got to pet Chester the dog. After lunch we headed up to Sax-Zim, but the birding there was mostly on the quiet side (as it has been most of January), and no Great Grays appeared for us as we cruised the most likely roads until dark.

The consensus on Sunday was to make the early 6:00 departure for Lake County Road 2, despite temperatures there close to -25, but of course no Spruce Grouse chose to appear along the roadsides that morning, and we settled for some nice views of some cooperative Boreal Chickadees, and a few of us were able to briefly see a Black-backed Woodpecker before it flew out of sight. After a Two Harbors lunch, part of the group elected to return home, but others returned to Canal Park to round out our seagull list (7 species) and saw the Gyrfalcon at the Peavey elevator in Superior (while Brett & Janice spotted a Barred Owl at 40th Ave West as they left town).   

As arranged with Sparky, we unofficially participated in the Friends of Sax-Zim Brrrdathon by donating 30¢ per person (since this has been our 30th MBW season) for each species. This amounted to a total of $171 (30¢ x 15 persons x 38 species) that I sent in from our MBWeekend, and on behalf of Sax-Zim I thank those of you who contributed to this.

Winter Duluth II MBW  ~  January 16-17, 2016 (Summary by Craig Mandel)

A total of 33 species was observed on the Duluth II MBW, with many highlights and a few species not found on the Duluth I MBW. Saturday was one of those special days, starting with the continuing Golden-crowned Sparrow at Jeff Newman’s feeder just prior to sunrise. A female Hoary Redpoll at Frank & Kate Nicoletti's provided a textbook look, showing all of her field marks with the sun at our backs. Our first try for gulls at Canal Park gave us good looks at Iceland, Glaucous, and a few Thayer's gulls, and then it was off to Superior where we relocated the Gyrfalcon. We then started to head over to search for a Snowy Owl and were interrupted with texts, calls, and e-mails about Black-legged Kittiwakes at Canal Park. So back we went to Canal Park, and we were about four blocks away when we observed a swirl of gulls in the air and an adult Bald Eagle nearby. Upon arrival, we learned that the Black-legged Kittiwakes were gone. But after lots of scanning, one of the kittiwakes was observed in flight over Lake Superior, and after about a half hour most of the group had good looks at the bird as it flew back and forth. Sunday proved to be one of those tough birding days with lots of birds that did not cooperate. We did add a few species to the group list, but missed on Great Gray Owl, Boreal Chickadee, and Sharp-tailed Grouse, and only the lead vehicle got to see Black-billed Magpie as the temperature made it down to -26 degrees.



Bird List: composite total = 42 species (9 on MBW I only; 4 on MBW II only)

• I = found on MBW I, January 9-10

• II = found on MBW II, January 16-17

American Black Duck          II only

Mallard          I and II

Common Goldeneye          I and II

Common Merganser          II only

Ruffed Grouse          I and II

Bald Eagle          I and II

Black-legged Kittiwake          II only

Ivory Gull          I only 

Ring-billed Gull          I and II

Herring Gull          I and II

Thayer's Gull          I and II

Iceland Gull          I and II

Glaucous Gull          I and II

Great Black-backed Gull          I and II

Rock Pigeon          I and II

Barred Owl          I only

Downy Woodpecker          I and II

Hairy Woodpecker          I and II

Black-backed Woodpecker          I only

Pileated Woodpecker          I only

Gyrfalcon          I and II

Peregrine Falcon          I only

Northern Shrike          I and II

Gray Jay          I and II

Blue Jay          I and II

Black-billed Magpie          I and II

American Crow          I and II

Common Raven          I and II

Black-capped Chickadee          I and II

Boreal Chickadee          I only

Red-breasted Nuthatch          I and II

White-breasted Nuthatch          I and II

European Starling          I and II

Bohemian Waxwing          I only

Golden-crowned Sparrow          II only

Dark-eyed Junco          I and II

Pine Grosbeak          I and II

Common Redpoll          I and II

Hoary Redpoll          I and II

American Goldfinch          I only

Evening Grosbeak          I and II

House Sparrow          I only

Also see the 2017 and 2016 MBWs summaries

following the summary of the 2018 MBWeekend



January 7-8, 2017 and January 14-15, 2017

I thought this had to be a typo on Neil Wingert’s registration form when I saw he signed up for both MBWs. But, no, there was no mistake as Neil figured there would always be something to see the second time around that was missed the first time. And he was right. For one thing, he saw much better weather on MBW II as the highs were officially in the 20s, the lows remained above zero, and the unofficial readings near the lake reached into the 30s. On MBW I, however, Duluth’s official “high" on Saturday had only managed +3 degrees, and on Sunday up on Lake CR 2 all four vehicles registered at least -20 outside – with one of the cars even showing a -24 reading.

Little wonder, then, that those of us on MBW I had a more challenging time trying to stand outside to look and listen for anything. (Indeed, on both days my iPhone and iPod shut themselves off as I tried to call something in – and it wasn’t just a simple battery issue: it was the devices themselves that refused to work in the cold.) A relatively modest species list resulted on MBW I, and this was especially evident on Sunday morning when practically the only bird we saw was a Barred Owl – though we did spot a mama Moose with two calves foraging along CR 2. Although these were missed by the MBW II group, they found more signs of life in Lake County with both Boreal Chickadees and Black-backed Woodpeckers gracing their list. 

But thanks to Jim Lind, the first group listed a N Saw-whet Owl on Sunday in Two Harbors, and about the only species we had in Sax-Zim which MBW II missed was Black-billed Magpie. But they came up with Sharp-tailed Grouse at that feeder which had refused to appear for the first group (all that came in for us was that pheasant of dubious provenance). MBW II also listed that Golden-crowned Sparrow (back for the third winter at Jeff Newman’s feeder!), which MBW I lacked the time to look for.

As the list below shows, MBW II had more species (40), with 10 of their finds missing on MBW I, while MBW I managed 33 species, with 3 of these not found on MBW II. Fortunately, both groups came up with Great Gray Owl on Nichols Lake Rd (2 of them on MBW II), a Long-tailed Duck at Canal Park (and MBW I saw that odd-looking goldeneye-merganser hybrid back for its 4th winter here), lots of Ruffed Grouse in the Bog (MBW I had 19 of them), Bohemian Waxwing in Two Harbors (only 1 on MBW II), White-winged Crossbill, both Pine and Evening grosbeaks, and more.

As always, I thank Craig for his leadership on MBW II – and for vindicating Neil’s faith that things would change a week later. (At the same time, though, it would be tempting to fire Craig for showing up his boss, although his presence allowed me to run off for Arizona to see such rarities as Ruddy Ground-Dove, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Mountain Plover, Elegant Trogon, Nutting’s Flycatcher, Rose-throated Becard, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Bell’s Sparrow….)           

Bird List

• I = seen on MBW I, January 7-8 (33 species + 1 hybrid + 1 exotic)

• II = seen on MBW II, January 14-15 (40 species)

• species not annotated I or II were found on both MBWs

American Black Duck


Long-tailed Duck

Common Goldeneye

(Hooded Merganser x Common Goldeneye hybrid / I only)

Red-breasted Merganser (II only)

Ruffed Grouse

Sharp-tailed Grouse (II only)

(Ring-necked Pheasant escape / I only)

Rock Pigeon

Mourning Dove (II only)

Bald Eagle

Ring-billed Gull (II only)

Herring Gull

Barred Owl (I only)

Great Gray Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl (I only)

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Black-backed Woodpecker (II only)

Pileated Woodpecker

Northern Shrike

Gray Jay

Blue Jay

Black-billed Magpie (I only)

American Crow

Common Raven

Black-capped Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee  (II only)

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch (II only)

American Robin

European Starling

Bohemian Waxwing

House Sparrow

Pine Grosbeak

House Finch (II only)

Purple Finch

White-winged Crossbill

Common Redpoll

Pine Siskin

American Goldfinch

Evening Grosbeak

Golden-crowned Sparrow (II only)

Dark-eyed Junco (II only)

Also seen: Moose (I only)


*          *          *

Winter Duluth I MBW  ~  January 9-10, 2016


January 6 - 7 - 8, 2018

With temperatures dropping down to around 25 below at dawn in The Bog on Saturday, this MBW started off slowly enough – we apparently missed 2 Great Grays by minutes on Nichols Lake Rd, the redpolls at the Welcome Center (with an elusive Hoary or two among them) were not all that welcoming, and just before lunch we couldn't spot either of the hawk owls which had been frequenting McDavitt Rd. But at least those curious Sharp-tailed Grouse appeared on their lek right on schedule (in winter?), the Evening Grosbeaks at Mary Lou's feeders were still reliable, and after lunch one of the Northern Hawk Owls on McDavitt finally emerged for close views right next to the road. But we had to tear ourselves away from it as word came that a Boreal Owl had been relocated at Hartley Nature Center back in Duluth. To our relief, it was still there and actively hunting by day (!) when we arrived to provide several photo ops. And there was still enough time to run up to Homestead Rd for our first Great Gray as it got dark.

Mercifully, for a change, it was well above zero at dawn on Sunday as we stood vigil at Pat Thomas' feeder to see if her Carolina Wren might still be around (the last confirmed sighting had been 3 weeks before). It was a no-show, although we added a half dozen species there we had not seen on Saturday. Then it was on to Frank Nicoletti's feeders where an obvious and cooperative Hoary Redpoll was present for all to see. En route to Two Harbors, we came across 2 obliging Great Gray Owls hunting in broad daylight for much better views than the evening before. Two female-plumaged Harlequin Ducks in the main harbor at Two Harbors followed, along with distant views and a brief flying-away look at a quite unexpected White-winged Scoter (!), and the first of 2 Townsend's Solitaires. After lunch, a second unexpected solitaire happened by the Vanilla Bean restaurant, and a small group of Bohemian Waxwings was seen briefly by some before they flew off to parts unknown. We then tracked down a Black-backed Woodpecker at Stoney Point, another Great Gray was out hunting as we were en route to see our second Boreal Owl: this one near McQuade Rd also hunting by day (from a utility wire!), and our day ended in the Port Terminal area with 2 Snowy Owls.

We didn't manage to do as well on the Monday post-MBW. The temperatures were mild enough but strong gusty winds didn't help as we searched for Spruce Grouse at dawn up Lake CR 2. There was a total of 4 grouse sightings, but 2 of them were Ruffeds, and the other 2 got away before we could make an ID (though the one on that side road off CR 2 was most likely a Spruce Grouse). But as some consolation, we at least managed 2 Boreal Chickadee sightings, although relatively little else was stirring. Back in Two Harbors we could find nothing new save for a colorful flock of male Red-breasted Mergansers, and we finished the MBW with another Snowy Owl on the roof of Superior's hospital and a Red-tailed Hawk on the Duluth side of the harbor – which brought our final three-day species count to an above-average 41.

Bird List

• Sat = seen on Saturday, Jan 6 (23 species = MBW's Sax-Zim Brrrdathon total) 

• Sun = seen on Sunday, Jan 7

• Mon = seen on post-MBW, Jan 8

• (total number of individuals for some specialties during the MBW)

Mallard        Sun,Mon

American Black Duck        Sun

Harlequin Duck        Sun (2)

White-winged Scoter        Sun (1)

Bufflehead        Sun

Common Goldeneye        Sun,Mon

Red-breasted Merganser        Mon

Ruffed Grouse        Sat,Sun,Mon (5 + 2 grouse, sp.)

Sharp-tailed Grouse        Sat (11)

Rock Pigeon        Sat,Sun,Mon

Herring Gull        Sun,Mon

Bald Eagle        Sat,Sun,Mon

Red-tailed Hawk        Mon

Snowy Owl        Sun,Mon (3)

Northern Hawk Owl        Sat (1)

Barred Owl        Sat (1: species not seen by any other Brrrdathon team)

Great Gray Owl         Sat,Sun (4)

Boreal Owl      Sat,Sun (2)

Downy Woodpecker        Sat,Sun,Mon

Hairy Woodpecker         Sat,Sun

Black-backed Woodpecker        Sun (1)

Pileated Woodpecker        Sun

Northern Shrike        Sat

Blue Jay        Sat,Sun,Mon

Black-billed Magpie        Sat (4: species not seen by any other Brrrdathon team)

American Crow        Sat,Sun,Mon

Common Raven        Sat,Sun,Mon

Black-capped Chickadee        Sat,Sun,Mon

Boreal Chickadee        Mon (4)

Red-breasted Nuthatch        Sat,Sun,Mon

White-breasted Nuthatch        Sun

Townsend’s Solitaire        Sun (2)

European Starling        Sat,Sun,Mon

Bohemian Waxwing        Sun

House Sparrow        Sat

Evening Grosbeak        Sat

Pine Grosbeak        Sat,Sun,Mon

Common Redpoll        Sat,Sun,Mon

Hoary Redpoll        Sat,Sun (2)

Dark-eyed Junco        Sun

Northern Cardinal        Sun

*          *          *

Bill McGouirk photo

                         Suzanne Borstad photo                                                    Nancy Henke photo