(Click to enlarge photos-they look better and less grainy!)
Northern Shrike-South of the Soo
Sharp-tailed Grouse-South of the Soo
The first day of WPBO's Sault Ste. Marie field trip was today and we had great results. We started off the day at 8:00 in a caravan of 3 cars. The predicted snowfall overnight did come, and we got about 3-5 inches in Sault Ste. Marie. Our first stop was at the Edison Powerplant, where we had Common Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, and Red-breasted Mergansers in the partly frozen St. Mary's River. While traveling along to our next stop, the Sugar Island Ferry, we had a close encounter with a Bald Eagle perched in a tree. We got a few more species at the Sugar Island Ferry and another Bald Eagle flew down the river. From here, we traveled down Nicolet Road and startled an immature Northern Goshawk off an old barn which flew way off into the distance. 1/2 mile later the Goshawk gave another pass flying quickly along the field by our cars. Traveling further down Nicolet, a group of 11 Sharp-tailed Grouse were spotted in a field, making this the first lifer for some on the trip. Great views were had by all, and then they took off across the road. We were able to find these birds again at our next stop, near 9 mile and Nicolet, and, amazingly, we had even better views of the Sharp-taileds perched at the top of some Tamaracks. Common Redpolls, woodpeckers, and a very surprising Common Grackle were also seen at this stop at some feeders. We continued on towards the Dunbar feeders, but not before encountering our first, of several today, Shrike along the way. Some distant Common Redpolls were also seen. At Dunbar, our group sort of split into two groups-one at the feeders, and one at the boat launch. At the boat launch, we had a single female Pine Grosbeak and another Bald Eagle gave a nice pass down the river. We then joined up with the rest of our group, as well as several other birders, and birded the Dunbar feeders. We had Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls, American Tree Sparrows, and Goldfinches. Then, all of a sudden, 5 grosbeaks flew from behind all of us and landed at the top of some trees near the feeders. Three of them were Pine Grosbeaks-2 female and a spectacular male, making this a life bird for some people who missed the one at the boat launch. And what were the other 2 grosbeaks next to it? None other than a male and female Evening Grosbeak! Just picture the top of a tree with both female and male Pine and Evening Grosbeaks in the same binocular view! Absolutely stunning! We reluctantly moved on towards Pickford by going down to 15 mile and heading west towards M-129. Along the way, a distant Shrike was spotted. As we stopped to get out our scopes, a magnificient dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk flew over the road, our first of the day. The Shrike was then viewed through our scopes and was a life bird for a couple of people. (The other Shrike in the day had only been seen briefly by a few people.) We made a brief stop in Pickford for lunch at the Main Street Cafe, before heading along towards Pennington and Gray Roads. Nothing of note was seen, except another Bald Eagle, until we got out at Gray Road. A light-morph Rough-legged Hawk at Gray Road was spotted way out in the distance and then viewed from scopes. From here we went on towards where a Snowy Owl had been seen yesterday-down Hancock Road. Down this road we saw another distant Rough-legged and a Red-tailed Hawk. We didn't see the Snowy Owl in the tree it was the day before, so we got out and searched both sides of the road. We scanned and scanned out in the distance before finding it right before our eyes sitting on the seat of a tractor! Scopes were set up on it and nice views were had by all, and it was another life bird for some people. (If you look at the most distant fenceposts in the picture above, that's where we were scanning.) And here's the part of the trip where you started to remember you were in the U.P. again. Soon after the Snowy Owl sighting, we were met with very strong winds, cold temperatures, and blinding snow. We headed very slowly down Townline Road and then up McCabe Road. Another Shrike and Sharp-tailed Grouse were seen by a few birders. From here we went west along M-48 to some feeders near Hantz Road which sometimes has Snow Buntings. Sure enough, 60+ were there although it was extremely hard to actually identify them through the white-out like conditions. We then went up Hantz Road and stopped at another spot for Snow Buntings, and much better views were attained by all. From here we briefly went around some neighborhoods in Rudyard looking at feeders, but only had a Pine Siskin. Due to the weather conditions, we decided to cut our trip a little short and headed up I-75 to some more feeders along M-129, south of 9 mile road. On I-75 another Bald Eagle and Rough-legged Hawk were seen. Another Shrike was found along the way, and at the feeders south of 9 mile were some more Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks, and 3 Turkeys. Yet another Bald Eagle was seen here too. We started wrapping up our day by going back north and then east along 7 mile road. A Shrike was found here and the best views of the day were had by all. I, personally, had never had a Shrike so close and tame. We finished our day by heading north along Ridge Road and into the Soo again. Just an absolutely amazing day of winter birding around the Soo. We're looking forward to tomorrow!
Does the above trip look and sound exciting? If so, there is still room on our February 19-20, 2011 trip for you. Yes, it was cold, but most of the birding is done by car and it's always a lot of fun. The birds more than make up for the cold weather. There is always the possibility of some more Northern Owls showing up by then too! If you want to sign up, here's the link to do so:
Here's the list of birds seen today-all of the 'winter birds', except the Northern Goshawk, were seen by all WPBO field trip members.
1/15/11 trip day list: 32 species
American Tree Sparrow