Duluth to McGregor

After a 6am breakfast, we left Duluth for the Sax-Zim area. We spent the morning and early afternoon there. We did pretty well, getting great looks at Mourning Warbler, adult and young Gray Jays (the youngsters are dark, with longer tails), a surprising Cape May Warbler, and a number of other species.

The Sax-Zim area includes the Sax-Zim bog itself, and a variety of different habitats. The grassy areas yielded Bobolinks, including a mating pair, Clay-colored and Savannah Sparrows, and Brewer's Blackbirds.

In the forested areas, we found Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Boreal Chickadee and Golden-crowned Kinglet (both heard only), a group of Red-breasted Nuthatches, our first American Goldfinches of the trip, and Northern Parula. We twice searched unsuccessfully for a reported Northern Hawk-Owl, but had to settle for a Bald Eagle being harassed by a Harrier and Raven, as well as some Cliff Swallows.

Lunch at Wilbert's Cafe
Lunch at Wilbert's Cafe

The late afternoon was spent on the Hedbom Logging Trail. A female Great Gray Owl was heard, but not seen. We did add Olive-sided Flycatcher to the list. At one point, a Southern Bog Lemming scurried across the road.

View from the Hedbom Logging Trail
View from the Hedbom Logging Trail

We reached McGregor shortly before 8pm. After dinner, we headed out to McGregor Marsh. We tried one side of the road, then returned to try the other. At that point we head a Yellow Rail calling in the distance. We walked out into the marsh and spread out into a line in an attempt to encirle the rail. The rail's call carries well over the marsh, and we quickly found it was farther away than we thought.

My end of the line managed to get fairly close to the rail, perhaps 30 feet (determined by triangulation). At that point the group was arranged in a ragged arc. As we started to close in, the rail became quiet. A minute or two later it started calling again near Joe, on the other side of the arc.

We were finally past the rail. Brian had us close in, and we did a good job of making a circle around the rail. We started contracting the circle when the rail decided it had had enough! It took to the air. I managed to keep the spotlight on the Yellow Rail for some distance. We were delighted, and gave a round of applause.

On the way back, some of us heard a Nelson's Sparrow or two calling. Back at the vans, we also noticed that Milky Way was streached out near the horizon. Then we headed back the motel. After all, we have to get up early.

Our current totals are 112 bird species and 12 mammal species.

Country Meadows Inn, McGregor, MN