You’re going to Northern Minnesota?! Now?! The end of February?!
That was the reaction from nearly everyone when I told them I was going to Minnesota last month.
“Haven’t you had enough of snow and cold in northern Indiana this winter? Why do you, why would anyone want to go to northern Minnesota in the winter?”
I was going, I went, to look for birds, or course. Northern birds, birds that only venture south of Canada and Alaska in the winter, and then seldom much farther south than states along the border with Canada. I especially wanted to see owls that nest in the north, either northern forests or the tundra, owls that nest even north of the Arctic Circle; snowy owl, long-eared owl, short-eared owl, a species of bird I had never seen, a lifer in the parlance of a bird watcher.
So, why did I decide to go to northern Minnesota to look for owls this winter? I had the time and the staff of Bird Watcher’s Digest organized a tour to look for owls and other northern birds at a place named the Sax-Zim Bog.
I’d be with other devoted, dedicated, fool-hardy birders, people who share my obsession with looking for and seeing birds. We would have guides who knew the area. We could talk about birds with each other, the guides and members of the Bird Watcher’s Digest staff who would be there, and we would see some birds we had seldom or never seen.
Further, with so many snowy owls being seen south of Canada this winter, shouldn’t there be more northern owls, including great grays, south of Canada, at least as far south as northern Minnesota?
The Sax-Zim Bog is a few miles south of Hibbing, Minn. That’s all I knew about it, except the descriptions of northern bogs from books: Pine/Spruce/Tamarack woodlands, wet underfoot. I imagined it as a few square miles, perhaps only one of such habitat. It turns out the Sax-Zim Bog is 300 square miles. Much of it is privately owned. Roads run through it and across it. There are a few homes scattered in it. There are ditches from unsuccessful attempts to drain it.