Minnesota provides a wonderfully-rewarding experience to birders who venture into frigid, snow-covered landscapes during the winter.
This February, Tom Reed guided Wildside Nature Tours’ 4-day tour into the north country of the state, highlighted quality over quantity, as species are sparse this time of year.
Owls are a big attraction especially during irruptive years, and we were thrilled to see more than 20 individuals, including 17 Great Gray, 2 Boreal, 2 Snowy, and a Northern Hawk Owl.
It was an exceptional year for the Great Grays, and we were amazed to see so many of them, including 3 in sight at one time, perched on low conifers surveying the snow-covered ground below, for any sign of a vole.
The usually-secretive Boreal Owl, by no means guaranteed on such a trip, showed impressively well. Two were seen hunting in broad daylight, one low in roadside shrubs, and one from a telephone wire!
The Northern Hawk Owl was actively flying between lookout perches, showcasing its unique, raptor-like flight.
Though a major snowfall curtailed our visit to the boreal forest, we traversed remote rural roads, and visited the famed Sax-Zim Bog to look for additional northern specialities, finding – Rough-legged Hawk, American Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers, Gray Jay, Hoary Redpolls amongst Commons, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, Sharp-tailed Grouse on a lek, and numerous Northern Shrike.
A Porcupine gnawing on branches in a birch and a thick-coated Red Fox walking steadily through the snow were among the mammals rounding out our trip.
all photos © adrian binns