MINNESOTA IN WINTER: Northern Owls, Winter Finches, Bogs and Boreal Forests 

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January 12 – 15, 2018

Minnesota in winter offers unrivaled opportunities for northern owls, forest grouse, winter finches and an introduction to the Boreal Forest Region’s meadows, bogs and forests during its winter splendor.

Northern Hawk Owl by tour participant Josh Galicki ©

For many people the first image that comes to mind when thinking of Minnesota in winter is of cold, snow, ice and frozen lakes. To birders in the know, that image exists only as a glittering backdrop for Great Gray and Northern Hawk Owls hunting from spruce-top perches, Sharp-tailed and Ruffed Grouse stripping the buds from Birches by morning’s glowing light, legions of Snow Buntings wheeling in tight formation, flocks of colorful Pine and Evening Grosbeaks eating their fill at bird feeders, frenzied Common and Hoary Redpolls darting among Alder thickets and Tamarack bogs occupied by industrious Black-backed and American Three-toed Woodpeckers. Add in boreal forest residents like Spruce Grouse, Northern Goshawk, Gray Jay and Boreal Chickadee; nomadic winter visitors such as Glaucous, Iceland and Thayer’s Gulls, Snowy Owl, Northern Shrike, Bohemian Waxwing, Red and White-winged Crossbill, Varied Thrush and Townsend’s Solitaire and you begin to see the attractiveness of a midwinter visit to these northern climes. Still not convinced? Well, recent winter tours have also recorded surprises like Harlequin Duck, Boreal Owl, Gyrfalcon, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Slaty-backed Gull, Mountain Bluebird and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch.

Pine Grosbeak by tour participant Josh Galicki ©

As we travel through many remote areas of northeastern Minnesota, our chances of turning up a few interesting mammals are quite good. Past winter tours have recorded Snowshoe Hare, Beaver, Porcupine, Long-tailed Weasel, Mink, Fisher, Moose, Red & Gray Foxes and Gray Wolf. Spectacular species like Pine Marten and Lynx are possible.

As you begin to look for flights into/out of Duluth, please keep in mind that it’s best if you arrive no later than 2:00 PM on January 12, 2018. This will allow us to do an evening search for Great Gray Owls or to chase any rarity present in the Duluth/Superior area. Likewise, you should plan your departure on January 15, 2018 for anytime after 1:00 PM as we want to be able to use the morning of your last day to search for anything that might still be missing from our birdlist.

HOWEVER…if anyone wishes to arrive a day (or two if you like) early, I can get you into the same room at our hotel (so there would be no need for you to change hotels or rooms during your visit). As on our previous Minnesota in Winter trips, Mike and I are happy to take anyone arriving in advance of the tour’s start birding in the area, charging each person only their share of the extra van rental and gas. Mike Mandracchia is planning on arriving on Thursday before the tour’s start, so anyone electing to arrive early wouldn’t be alone.

PLEASE NOTE: January travel to Northern Minnesota does present winter weather concerns. Arriving a day early allows you to be a bit more relaxed in case you encounter a winter storm, and you can gain a full day of additional birding at very little cost—remember no guiding fees are charged, those participating will simply divide the extra cost of vehicle and gas equally.

Leader: Kim Risen

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