I’m back in the ‘Burgh with a fond look back at my time in Minnesota at the Sax Zim Bog Birding Festival.
Though I never found a great gray owl I saw seven Life Birds(*) and learned a lot about cold and snow.
Cold… was not a problem. I didn’t have to cope with the worst of this winter in Minnesota but -13F was a typical morning in the bog. Three to four layers of clothes are indispensable. Toe warmer heat packets inside Sorel boots are the key to warm feet. I was never cold.
Snow… is a way of life. If you’re afraid to drive in snow in Minnesota you’re homebound for half the year. So you just do it.
Minnesota snowplows are awesome, huge, coordinated. I arrived during a Winter Weather Advisory (4”-6”) and left during a Winter Storm Warning (5”-7”). No problem. All the roads and parking lots were plowed, not to bare pavement but quite passable. The Duluth airport was plowed down to bare pavement. My flight home was delayed only by de-icing. Check out this video of clearing the runway.
Birds … are intrepid in Minnesota’s winters. The easiest to find are ravens and black-capped chickadees. The rarest are Carolina wrens and robins. The gray jay is the cutest and the most intrepid.
Gray jays (Perisoreus canadensis) look like oversized chickadees but have the typical corvid attitude. They’re bold and curious and willing to eat anything including berries, insects, fungi, other species' nestlings and small mammals.
Jess Botzan saw this one at Sax Zim Bog during the coldest of the cold weather last month and the bird wasn't phased by it. Gray jays are so intrepid that they lay eggs in March while temperatures are still below freezing and snow is on the ground. They don’t even bother to nest again in May and June when the weather is easy.
Like everyone else in Minnesota, the gray jay is intrepid in snow and cold.
(photo by Jessica Botzan)
(*) Life Birds seen: Pine grosbeak, black-billed magpie, boreal chickadee, gray jay, northern hawk owl, black-backed woodpecker, Bohemian waxwing.