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Wisconsin/Minnesota 20.-24.7.2019

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Old Friday 19th July 2019, 07:10   #1
opisska
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Wisconsin/Minnesota 20.-24.7.2019

Not sure how appropriate this is, but as I was sitting in the Prague airport, waiting out the first delay before the trip even started, I thought n to myself that this journey is gonna be pretty lonely. So to make it a little less so, I should share with fellow birders.

I am heading to Madison, Wisconsin, when on the 25th a scientific conference starts; in the five days before that, I will rent a car and go northwest towards the great green yonder. Having been to the US several times, I was pleasantly surprised that my list of new species which have a chance to occur in the area has 86 items on it, but I obviously don't hold my hopes so high in late July, but at least 28 species would be nice, to achieve a personal world 2000.

The plan is rather vague: I think i should stop in Duluth, considering how big of an ebird hotspot the bay is and then probably get lost in the woods of the Superior National Forest. The nearby Sax-zim Bog seems to be a huge birding draw, but probably mostly in winter, so I dunno, probably will stop there as well.

If I manage to get a SIM cars and there is coverage, I'll keep you posted intermittently.
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Old Friday 19th July 2019, 14:37   #2
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Sounds like fun.

Just bear in mind the distances: From Madison to Sax-Zim is about 600 km. With only 5 days, you'll tie up much of your trip in driving.
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Old Friday 19th July 2019, 20:59   #3
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Sounds like fun.

Just bear in mind the distances: From Madison to Sax-Zim is about 600 km. With only 5 days, you'll tie up much of your trip in driving.
Yeah, but the north seems so much more interesting. I count on two long drives and then a rather small area for the middle three days.
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Old Friday 19th July 2019, 23:35   #4
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Yeah, but the north seems so much more interesting. I count on two long drives and then a rather small area for the middle three days.
As long as you're prepared, go for it. I look forward to your report.
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Old Saturday 20th July 2019, 06:05   #5
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You are certainly getting about - have you won the Euro Lottery!

Whilst at Duluth keep an eye and definately ears open for large Eagles as they roost overnite and can be seen and heard during the day.....

Laurie -
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Old Saturday 20th July 2019, 14:27   #6
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15 years ago I went to Sax-Zim (Connecticut Warbler) and the Gunflint Trail (many boreal species) + Oberg Mountain (Black-thr Blue Warbler) the next two days. Southern MN can also be interesting (though I dipped Henslow's Sparrow).
See: http://www.birdtours.co.uk/triprepor...min-jul-04.htm
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Old Sunday 21st July 2019, 15:55   #7
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I was prepared for a long drive, but nobody told be there would also be the Judgement day ... or, as they apparently call it here "a bit stronger summer storms", so I got delayed even more than I expected. On the other hand, when I made it to Duluth finally at 4 pm, it was sunny but not hot. The super duper "Park Point" hotspot is basically an urban park - and while it is surely great on migration, this mid-July afternoon it was quiet; there was a lot of sources of a prominent song, but I think those were all Song Sparrows, so the only new species was Eastern Kingbird. Tired and jetlagged I headed to Cloquet Valley State Forest - there it finally hit me what a silly thing I have decided to do, when I entered the endless forest, full if mosquitoes and distant bird sounds, but only very few birds that I could actually locate, mostly American Robins, a Gray Jay and some "sparrows" and "thrushes" seen very badly, prime material for the ID forum. I found my camp, but eventually had to abandon it due to some local youth turning it into a shooting and wasteplywood-burning site. Annoyed and a bit desperate, I looked for another place to stay - that's legal in the forest, but quite hard as there is nowhere to pull up safely. A bad situation quickly turned into a great one as I saw a Woodcock in my headlights on the road and it obliged for a couple of photos. In the morning, there was even plenty of song (for such a late date) but nothing much showed up, so I moved to Sax-zim. One of the few birds I looked up on ebrid was Sharp-tailed Grouse and one indeed walked across the road north of Meadowlands, just next to the point I prepared for it. The rest of the area was a bit underwhelming though - the omnipresent "No trespassing" signs basically limit you to exploring the roads and while there were some good birds (Pileated Woodpecker, Belted Kingfisher, Red-eyed Vireo), the only lifer besides the grouse was a Two-barred Crossbill, but that is the same species as I am missing in WP, afaik. Now off to Superior National Forest, I heard they have even more mosquitoes :)
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Old Monday 22nd July 2019, 18:33   #8
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Superior National Forest welcomed me warmly with two sightings of Ruffed Grouse casually walking across the street within an hour. The area is truly stunning - the process of being stunned by it is a gradual one, because it is very hard to see a significant part of it at once, but after driving around for a bit (in the classic american way) you get to appreciate the insane size of the area with almost zero human activity. As you mostly see just one lake at the time, it shouldn't matter that there are thousands of them, but it kinda does - the feeling of sheerness can't really be told by words.

As for birds, having no idea about NA bird songs made it feel exciting for a while, until I traced all the promonent voices to American Robins, Red-eyed Vireos and Chipping Sparrows. It's almost surprising how the birds that I see perfectly hit the list of species I have seen elsewhere (considering the large list of apeciest I am missing) but it keeps happening: the Chickadees are Black-capped, the Thrushes are Hermit, the Warblers are Nashville ... other birds include Blue Jays, Kinglets, Cedar Waxwings, Great Divers, Bald Eagles and Purple Finches. Thus, besides the Grouse, the only new birds for me are Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Sharp-shinned Hawk. I have some sparrows that I can't ID so far (Peterson really sucks for these), so we will see about that.

Mosquitoes are indeed an annoyance here but it's on average really not worse than a forested area in Poland - only that I usually know better than to go to those in July :) There are some places where the insects (also the smallish horseflies) are distracting, but it is very local; interestingly, it's the worst in the evening, while mornings are probably too cold and thus are much better (this is definitely not the case in Poland). Sometimes it's hard yo find a place to chill, but right now, I accidentally summited the highest point of Minnesota and the reward is not only the stupendous view and cell phone reception, but also a mosquito-free breeze.
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Old Monday 22nd July 2019, 18:51   #9
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Good stuff Jan, keep it coming! Any photos?

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Old Monday 22nd July 2019, 18:57   #10
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Sounds fun! I think the 2b Crossbill are generally split, the US ones being White-winged.
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Old Monday 22nd July 2019, 19:12   #11
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Good stuff Jan, keep it coming! Any photos?

Chris

Thanks! Photos are hard to do through the cell phone, I may add some later from my laptop, sorry about that.
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Old Monday 22nd July 2019, 19:42   #12
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Sounds fun! I think the 2b Crossbill are generally split, the US ones being White-winged.
Not split by the N.A. authorities.
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Old Monday 22nd July 2019, 19:55   #13
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Thanks! Photos are hard to do through the cell phone, I may add some later from my laptop, sorry about that.
No need to apologise, I'm just being greedy!

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Old Monday 22nd July 2019, 21:29   #14
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Not split by the N.A. authorities.
Not by IOC either, that's what we list by.
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Old Tuesday 23rd July 2019, 18:23   #15
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I am starting to suspect that mosquitoes gained not only sentience but also internet access and they had created an ebird account. That would be the most straightforward explanation for the propensity of Spruce Grouse observations around the Lima triangle, which happens to be one of the most infested places I have ever seen. It's quite clearly an elaborate scheme to get more blood sources to come there, because there surely weren't any Spruce Grouse during today's early morning. After a night storm, the air was humid and bugs aplenty everywhere though, but I persevered and checked numerous random locations along the Gunflint trail - to mostly no effect, except for a Black-and-white Warbler at Trail's End, the only lifer of the day. The landscape along the trail is definitely worth the journey, as it slowly changes from almost flat to pretty rocky. It is also a but disappointing to see how much developed this area is, after spending time in the completely empty parts of the National Forest; in particular the area around Trail's End wiuld be borderline annoying weren't it for the great Chik-Wauk Nature Center with freely accessible hiling trails and varied habitats.
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Old Friday 26th July 2019, 04:08   #16
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When I noticed that Grand Marais is still more than 200 kms out from Duluth, it was clearly time to start returning. I drove to Tofte Heights, where there were recent reports of Evening Grosbeak, but was not too comfortable loitering in the residential area. The nearby Temperance river is quite pretty, but was absolutely devoid of birds amidst the afternoon crowds, so I skipped to Magney-Snively Natural Area near Duluth. In the 30 degree heat, the whole skiing infrastructure seemed quite out of place, but the views of the river valley were once again magnificent. I guess this kind of nordic landscape just really resonates with me, as someone who really grew as a traveler going to Scandinavia. The deciduous forests had a few confiding Ovenbirds - not much else, but after the mild desperation of the previous locations even a single lifer was quite exciting. The quite nearby Mud Lake on the river didn't produce anything more besides more ID-forum-material sparrows, but the railway setting in a coming storm was again a remarkable experience.

For the night, I chose dispersed camping the Nemadji state forest; having then visited the campsite in the morning, I can reliably claim that I was likely the only person camping in this park at all that night, which I don't quite get, as it is an attractive area close to an urban center ... but maybe everyone in Duluth is an experienced birder and they know that there is not much to see there in July and thus they avoid it? The deadness was almost remarkable.

And then suddenly the whole feeling of the trip got turned upside down as I entered, quite randomly, the Crex Meadows. Within an hour, I added to my list Chestnut-sided Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Baltimore Oriole and, the most comical of all ticks, the Wood Duck - a species that I have seen countless times in Europe, but it still hasn't reached Cat. C anywhere, so I could not count it. There were also Sandhill Cranes and the awesome Common Yellowthroats, Indigo Bunting and Green Herons, but those are all old news to me. I finished the journey with a dip in the river in Wisconsin Dells to make sure I won't get kicked out of the bus after I return the car and after 1400 miles, the big northern adventure was over and I was back in Madison

Overall 13 lifers, with some more possibilities maybe hidden in the photos, ain't that bad - but more importantly, I really enjoyed the area and exploration thereof. If it weren't for the mosquitoes and horseflies, this would be really one of the greatest places to just flutter around. Moreover, I have found that right here in Madison, there are multiple very attractive birding areas and will try to squeeze some time to visit those, so the tally may not even be final after all!
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Old Friday 26th July 2019, 12:58   #17
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Hi, Jan - I enjoyed reading of your experience in Minnesota's warmer months. For a view of an alternative season, I am posting a report in a few minutes from a trip in February to generally the same area.

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Old Friday 26th July 2019, 16:40   #18
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Hi, Jan - I enjoyed reading of your experience in Minnesota's warmer months. For a view of an alternative season, I am posting a report in a few minutes from a trip in February to generally the same area.

Steve
To observe the birds by licking the frozen icicles formed from their bodies? :)
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Old Friday 26th July 2019, 19:24   #19
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It is a wonder that birds the size of Chickadees and Redpolls, or most any bird for that matter, survive what is difficult for us to bear for just a day. One bonus for Minnesota birding in February - no bugs!

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Old Monday 29th July 2019, 10:28   #20
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Have to agree with you on the mosquitos bid for world domination! What was the bite to bird ratio?

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Old Tuesday 30th July 2019, 02:07   #21
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To top up the birdlist a bit, I did two small trips around Madison. On Sunday I walked though the Arboretum for some 12 kms - even though I started at 6 am, I almost died of heat, it was not the greatest day, but it brought a plenty of Grey Catbirds, an Eastern Wood-Pewee (to my surprise that there are two of those) and a scary Empridonax flycatcher, with which I have to bless the ID forum once again.

Today we went to Cherokee Marsh with a colleague who happened to have a car which had to be returned only at 10 am. The weather was much more pleasant after a morning rain, which also the birds seemed to appreciate and the area was quite lively, producing Field Sparrows and a Chimney Swift - to great entertainment of my friend, who had lived in the US for a few years and thus couldn't wrap his head around me not having these "common" birds. We also met an interesting congregation of warblers, but we are still arguing as to whether those were juvenile Yellow (boring) or Mourning (not boring!).

I must admit that without my wife, my consistency in making a trip list really suffers, especially regarding very common birds - I have for example a strong feeling I must have seen a Snowy Egret or a Cormorant or a Swan, but can't recall a specific sighting for those, so I won't be counting them. My incomplete birdlist is thus so far at 83, out of which 19 are lifers. Not the greatest trip ever, but considering the general deadness of many areas, it's actually surprising. I mean, it shouldn't be surprising, because it basically always is, but that kind of discussion is way too meta.

Opisska out.
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Old Tuesday 30th July 2019, 02:58   #22
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You did pretty well considering it's the time of year I call the "catbird doldrums."

As to Snowy Egret, range maps show them as vagrants to Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. Some maps show them as migrants in southern Wisconsin, but some maps don't. DC Cormorant might be a little more likely, especially in western Minn. but I don't think you got there. If you saw one it was probably around Madison.
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Old Thursday 1st August 2019, 19:08   #23
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Interestingly I counted seventeen species that I've seen in Britain - and a few more that have turned up here but not seen by me - seems a long way to go for stuff you could add to your WP list with a few autumn holidays here

Good report, enjoyable read!

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Old Friday 2nd August 2019, 00:08   #24
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Interestingly I counted seventeen species that I've seen in Britain - and a few more that have turned up here but not seen by me - seems a long way to go for stuff you could add to your WP list with a few autumn holidays here

Good report, enjoyable read!

John


'Did you ever hear the tragedy of Opisska and the Grey Catbird in Cornwall? I thought not. It's not a story the birders would tell you. It's a twitcher legend ...
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Old Saturday 3rd August 2019, 17:45   #25
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'Did you ever hear the tragedy of Opisska and the Grey Catbird in Cornwall? I thought not. It's not a story the birders would tell you. It's a twitcher legend ...
Sorry for bringing that back!

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