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January 3-4 and January 10-11, 2015

Although there may have been some elusive birds and weather difficulties, these twin MBWs certainly amounted to an eventful finish to the 2014-15 MBWeekends season. After all, both MBWs managed to relocate the wintering Common Eider in Canal Park and Golden-crowned Sparrow at the Newman's yard, along with both Thayer's and Glaucous Gulls in Canal Park, N Hawk Owls (2 on Jean Duluth Rd on I; 1 on Jean Duluth plus 1 on Hwy 53 on II), Boreal Chickadee at the Admiral Rd suet/peanut butter feeders, both redpolls (the Hoary on W Knife River Rd), and Evening Grosbeaks at two feeding stations. 

In addition, as if all that weren't enough, the earlier MBW met in temperatures in the balmy mid-20s and came up with a Peregrine flying by the Port Terminal, followed by that odd-looking Hooded Merg x goldeneye hybrid with the eider, pintails, and gulls at Canal Park. Two hawk owls and an Evening Grosbeak later, we then were off to Sax-Zim and were met by a short-lived snow squall that cleared away as the temperatures began to drop and the winds increased. Admittedly, our afternoon in the bog was then on the slow side, although we at least came up with a shrike, more Evening Grosbeaks, a few Rough-leggeds, and a Boreal Chickadee at "the usual spot". But no owls were out hunting that afternoon in the wind and we returned to an even windier Duluth – though still a few degrees above zero, the peak wind-chill was around 30 below.

With all but two of the group having seen Great Grays before (and the two had extra time to search the following afternoon and morning), it was still too windy and cold on Sunday to make a return trip to the bog seem worthwhile. So we elected to stay closer to town where it seemed less windy, and this proved to be the right decision: the Golden-crowned Sparrow appeared at dawn, we came up with 2 Snowy Owls in Superior (none were found by others the previous afternoon in the wind), and our only Ruffed Grouse crossed our paths on W Knife River Rd just before we had nice looks at the Hoary Redpoll (it was harder to find on MBW II).

MBW II did not encounter the winds of the previous weekend, but it was still cold enough both days with highs around +10 or so and lows closer to -10. And the birding started out slowly Saturday morning as the Golden-crowned Sparrow failed to appear, and at first neither of the hawk owls on Jean Duluth Rd did either. But the Nicoletti feeders again had some Evening Grosbeaks, and on our way back to town one of the hawk owls was nicely teed up close to the road. And before lunch the eider was still being accompanied by the pintails at Canal Park, although there were no gulls of interest around. The weather that Saturday afternoon was better than the week before, but the birding was still a bit slow. Still, there were a brief view by some of a hawk owl along Hwy 53 en route to Sax-Zim, a walk past Loretta's unique set of bird feeders, a N Shrike and Pine Grosbeaks (but only seen by some), Ruffed Grouse picking at some alder catkins, and the chickadee was waiting for us on Admiral Rd. But we still failed to spot any Great Grays along the three roads where they reported that morning.

Fortunately, we elected to return to Sax-Zim early on Sunday, and, though our pre-dawn cruise along one road came up empty, our second try on CR 7 finally yielded a Great Gray as it hunted out in the open for us for several minutes. This was followed by a Black-backed Woodpecker (there had been only a few sightings this season) that we finally tracked down on McDavitt Rd, and for reasons unknown some Sharp-tailed Grouse were out displaying on their lek around 10:30 am! Our most successful morning was then followed by a most productive afternoon. Not only did the Hoary Redpoll reappear on W Knife River Rd, but some almost-non-existent Bohemian Waxwings were spotted in the same area, and a goshawk flew in front of us on the way back to Duluth. Here the MBW ended as the Golden-crowned Sparrow emerged into view and the gull flock at Canal Park included both Thayer's and Glaucous.

As you'll note below, each MBW came up with an even 40 species, with 8 species on each MBW not listed by the other, and a composite total of 48 species for both MBWs combined. But, with apologies to those on the first MBW, I'd have to say the second MBW came out ahead. True, those on MBW II may have missed the Peregrine and Snowy Owls (plus starlings and House Sparrows!), but they'll probably manage to get over it after having found birds such as displaying Sharp-tailed Grouse, a Great Gray Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, and Bohemian Waxwings instead. (And a few of those on MBW II who were in town on Friday also got to see a Great Black-backed among the gulls at Canal Park and a N Saw-whet present for one day only at a feeder in Duluth.)  

Thanks to all of you MBWers who managed to not only survive the cold but also helped bring a successful close to this season – especially the two folks from CA and the four from PA. Special thanks as well to Frank & Kate Nicoletti and Jeff Newman for access to their respective feeders on both I and II, and to Jim Lind's parents for permission to access their waxwing-infested buckthorns on II.   

Note the few photos below provided by Pete and Jena from MBW I. Does anyone else have any other images to share – especially of the Sharp-taileds, Great Gray, or Black-backed from the Bog on MBW II?



I = seen on January 3-4 MBW

• II = seen on January 10-11 MBW 

American Black Duck      I, II

Mallard      I, II

Northern Pintail      I, II

Common Eider      I, II

Bufflehead      I

Common Goldeneye      I, II (plus a Hooded Merganser x Com Goldeneye hybrid on

     MBW I)

Common Merganser      I

Ruffed Grouse      I, II

Sharp-tailed Grouse      II

Bald Eagle      I, II

Northern Goshawk      II

Red-tailed Hawk      I

Rough-legged Hawk      I, II

Herring Gull      I, II

Thayer's Gull      I, II

Glaucous Gull      I, II

Rock Pigeon      I, II

Snowy Owl      I

Northern Hawk Owl      I, II

Great Gray Owl      II

Downy Woodpecker      I, II

Hairy Woodpecker      I, II

Black-backed Woodpecker      II

Pileated Woodpecker      I, II

Peregrine Falcon      I

Northern Shrike      I, II

Gray Jay      II

Blue Jay      I, II

Black-billed Magpie      II

American Crow      I, II

Common Raven      I, II

Black-capped Chickadee      I, II

Boreal Chickadee      I, II

Red-breasted Nuthatch      I, II

European Starling      I

Bohemian Waxwing      II

White-throated Sparrow      I, II

Golden-crowned Sparrow      I, II

Dark-eyed Junco      I, II

Northern Cardinal      I

Pine Grosbeak      II

Purple Finch      I, II

Common Redpoll      I, II

Hoary Redpoll      I, II

Pine Siskin      I, II

American Goldfinch      I, II

Evening Grosbeak      I, II

House Sparrow      I


“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 2016 and 2015 MBWs summaries

following the summary of the 2017 MBWeekends


Northern Hawk Owl / Jena Highkin photo

Common Eider with Northern Pintail / Jena Highkin photo

Snowy Owl (the black-capped, green-winged subspecies) / Jena Highkin photo

Hoary Redpoll (note the stubby bill and the almost unstreaked underparts)

/ Pete Makousky photo


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)


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Winter Duluth I MBW  ~  January 9-10, 2016