I had a couple of errands to do in Duluth today. Actually I was going to do one of them on Monday, my day off, but it was snowing pretty good that morning so I did not want to drive. I rescheduled my appointment at the Subaru dealership for today. Then Calvin's new iPhone went on the fritz yesterday, so I decided to, pardon the expression, kill two birds with one stone. But as long as I was driving that far, it was only about thirty more miles up the road to some of the best winter birding in Minnesota. And I had promised Mr. Attitude a special day.
We had not gone three miles from the house when we saw our first birds of the day: Two adult bald eagles! I had seen these eagles in the same location yesterday, and The Hermit has seen them. I'm wondering if there is a nest somewhere nearby; not that it's nesting season yet, but I have heard eagles are starting to return to their breeding grounds.
The car appointment was good in that I did not have to pay anything today, it was just for a strange noise that started right after I had my car serviced there last time. The noise turned out to be nothing major, although I noticed it is still there. On the other hand, I may be looking at replacing the catalytic converter in the near future. Ouch.
After a visit to the AT&T store, I ended up having to take Calvin's phone to the UPS store so it could be shipped to Apple to be replaced. I am shaking my head. Why can't AT&T and Apple get their act together so I can get a same day replacement? I could have, if there was an Apple store in Duluth, I was told, but the nearest one was in Minneapolis.
I was so ready for some quiet scenery and good birding after that. We stopped at Subway, and noticed a very vocal raven perched on top of a utility pole. Then we headed up Highway 53.
Our first stop was at a house with a feeder along County Road 7, where we saw a large flock of pine grosbeaks along with redpolls and black capped chickadees. The male pine grosbeaks are such an exquisite rosy red color.
Joe had the first raptor sighting of the day: a rough legged hawk! I usually see a few of them around in the winter, but I had not seen more than one or two this year.
We came to a recently bulldozed logging road that I had heard was a likely spot to see a black backed woodpecker. I drove in, and was surprised to see a congregation of vehicles at one spot. Some of them were birders, and some of them were locals cutting up recently felled tamaracks with chain saws. There were signs of black backed woodpecker activity everywhere, as bark was stripped from standing trees, but the birders were there to see this bird:
As we continued up the road, we saw a dark brown creature crossing the road ahead of us. From its size and shape, I think it was an otter, although it could have been a fisher. We were able to locate the tracks; they were spaced fairly far apart.
The Admiral Road feeders were bustling with activity. Pine grosbeaks (all female), redpolls, downy woodpeckers, black capped chickadees, and a couple of red squirrels were working the suet and seeds. Within a couple minutes, I was able to see another bird I was hoping for: a boreal chickadee! Most of the birds were not fazed by our presence. We got out of the car, and I was hoping to get a boreal chickadee picture. I did not get one, but I think this photo is far more precious:
Mr. Attitude was amazed that he could get so close to a pine grosbeak.
It was a big day for him, and an amazing day for me. Mr. Attitude is nine years old now, and of all my kids I think he shows the most affinity for nature. I was so glad I could share this day with him. He wants to go birding again next week! :)