Also see the 2018 and 2017 MBWs summaries

following the summary of the 2019 MBWeekends



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)


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

Pine Grosbeak  ~  Lon Baumgardt photo (Sax-Zim Bog / January 5)


Well, even Sandy (the photographer) would admit it’s not the best photo of the Tufted Duck behind Pier B Hotel, but no one else in the first MBW group (hereafter, MBW I) apparently was able to get a better image. So, we’ll take it – not only as just the 2nd-ever Minnesota record ever (pending MOURC acceptance), but also as #364 on the all-time MBWeekends composite list! Unfortunately, though, it failed to appear for the second MBW group (MBW II), just as it has eluded others on some days since its discovery on December 11. But at least both groups were able to see the King Eider at Brighton Beach, and this time Sandy was able to get a much better photo.

Besides these two rare ducks, there really weren’t that many other  unexpected birds to highlight here. True, both groups saw all three of the northern owls during a half day’s birding in the Sax-Zim Bog – and isn’t it odd that finding Great Gray, Northern Hawk, and Snowy owls doesn’t really qualify as anything all that unusual!

And the same could be said for all the other northern Minnesota specialties we came up with on at least one of the MBWs: Sharp-tailed Grouse (but why are they displaying in winter, and not until an hour or two after sunrise?!), Iceland and Glaucous gulls (plus a relatively rare Great Black-backed on MBW II), Black-backed Woodpecker, Northern Shrike, Canada Jay, Black-billed Magpie, Boreal Chickadee, Bohemian Waxwing, both grosbeaks, and both crossbills (somewhat unexpectedly). Yawn...

Even the weather mercifully failed to be newsworthy, as both MBWs experienced tolerable conditions for the most part. (Although we would have had a rough day on January 7 if I had not decided to cancel that post-MBW day.) Accordingly, MBW II was a day longer, resulting in more time to come up with more species (41) than MBW I (37) –  with a composite total of 48 for both MBWs combined. However, those on MBW I also listed a River Otter at Brighton Beach, a Porcupine on Admiral Rd, and a few of us even got a brief view of a Pine Marten on Admiral. And a few in the group can even boast they saw a House Sparrow by the Welcome Center in the Bog – a new addition to the Center’s yard list!               

Bird List

I = seen only on the first MBW, January 5-6

II = see only on the second MBW, January 11-12-13

(species not annotated with I or II were seen on both MBWs)



American Black Duck

Tufted Duck          I

Lesser Scaup          II

King Eider

Common Goldeneye

Red-breasted Merganser          II

Common Merganser         I

(Ring-necked Pheasant / escape)

Ruffed Grouse          II

Sharp-tailed Grouse

Wild Turkey

Rock Pigeon

Mourning Dove          II

Herring Gull

Iceland (Thayer’s) Gull          II

Glaucous Gull         I

Great Black-backed Gull          II

Bald Eagle

Snowy Owl

Northern Hawk Owl

Great Gray Owl

Black-backed Woodpecker (seen on II; heard-only on I)

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Northern Shrike

Canada Jay

Blue Jay

Black-billed Magpie          II

American Crow

Common Raven

Black-capped Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch          II

American Robin          II

European Starling

Bohemian Waxwing          II

House Sparrow

Evening Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

Common Redpoll

Red Crossbill         I

White-winged Crossbill

Pine Siskin          II

American Goldfinch         I

White-throated Sparrow         I

Red-winged Blackbird         I

*          *          *


January 6 - 7 - 8, 2018


January 5-6, 2019 and January 11-12-13, 2019

Tufted Duck  ~  Sandy Aubol photo (Pier B Hotel / January 6)

King Eider  ~  Sandy Aubol photo (Brighton Beach / January 5)

Glaucous Gull  ~  Lon Baumgardt photo (Canal Park / January 6)

Northern Hawk Owl  ~  Robert Decandido photo (Sax-Zim Bog / January 11)

Boreal Chickadee  ~  Lon Baumgardt photo (Sax-Zim Bog / January 6)