The goal of the annual Labor Day MBWeekend in NW Minnesota (this was our 12th) has always been to see 20 species of both shorebirds and warblers.
As for shorebirds, we came up with 15 species which is about average a€“ only twice before have we found 20+ species, including the amazing tally of 25 species in 2008. For many MBWers, though, I suspect that the foremost highlight had nothing to do with warblers or shorebirds and was the show put on by at least 6 (maybe 8 or more?) Short-eared Owls as they hunted at dusk all around us along 440th Ave in Roseau Co. Other highlights for many probably included the Sharp-tailed Grouse spotted at four sites, all those American Bitterns (at least 8 of them) on Saturday in Roseau Co, the hundreds of Franklin's Gulls flying over the Super 8 parking lot on Sunday morning, the Western Kingbirds unexpectedly lingering at Springsteel Island, and the surprising Pine Siskins we turned up at the same place and at Arnesen a€“ a year bird for many of us after their virtual absence for the past 12 months. As is typical on most MBWeekends, the weather could have been a lot better a€“ too warm in the mid-80s on Friday and Saturday (as it had been statewide for several days), followed by a drastic change to cold, rain, and wind on Sunday morning for which we were unprepared.
But no matter what the conditions on a MBW, we usually come up with plenty of noteworthy sightings. Fortunately, though, we were still welcome at the Thief River Falls sewage ponds where we had our best birding of the MBW on Saturday. We also turned up both Sharp-tailed Grouse and Greater Prairie-Chickens, even though these gallinaceous birds are typically hard to find when not at their leks. You've got to admit that being able to include Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Mockingbird, and Nelson's Sparrow on our list of NW Minnesota MBW highlights is pretty impressive!
So, I know the Pacific Loon on Mille Lacs was too far away for photos, but as evidenced by the four images above, it was a pretty eventful five-day weekend! Wednesday's Duluth pre-MBW (preceding North Shore I) did start things out fairly slowly as all we could manage were 30 species in Duluth plus two others seen only in Wisconsin. Friday's pre-MBW (before North Shore II) which circumnavigated Mille Lacs was also on the slow side with 41 species, although the juvenile Pacific Loon we found on Wigwam Bay on the west side of the lake clearly made the day worthwhile a€“ and it was even #300 for Janet M's Minnesota list.
Craig Mandel led the North Shore I MBW on Thursday-Friday and came up with 57 species, with the carefully identified and very late Great Crested FlycatcherA near Silver Bay the obvious highlight of their trip.
And there were even more birds of note waiting for the larger North Shore II MBW group led by Craig and me which found 60 species in allA on Saturday-Sunday. Early Sunday morning most of the group headed up to a side road off the Gunflint Trail in search of Spruce Grouse and an Am. There were times, indeed, when birds were certainly and unexpectedly conspicuous by their relative absence during the four days of these back-to-back MBWs. Still, we managed to come up with a decent variety of species, especially on MBW II with an above-average total of 68 on our list (this MBW usually records around 60 species). Except for that eagle, MBW II's highlights also included those same species, with added excitement provided by that Northern Hawk Owl just N of Grand Marais along the Gunflint Trail on Sunday morning (with thanks to Doug Kieser et al who found it). Additionally on II, there were Red-headed and Red-bellied Woodpeckers in Two Harbors (both rare along the N Shore), a heard-only Black-backed Woodpecker plus equally uncooperative Bohemian Waxwings at Iona's Beach, a surprising Red Crossbill flying by us at the Spruce Creek ponds, and a few of us had enough time to check Canal Park on Sunday afternoon to see Thayer's Gulls (also seen well by many in the MBW II group on Friday afternoon) and a first-winter Lesser Black-backed Gull. There were times, especially in Grand Marais on Saturday afternoon, when there were almost too many rarities a€“ and birders a€“ around! At least we never had any weather difficulties, which can easily be the norm here in November.
Still, the hits just kept on coming, obviously highlighted by that first-state-record Cassin's Kingbird in Grand Marais which was kept company by a Northern Mockingbird, a late-lingering Gray Catbird, and a nearby Red-bellied Woodpecker (a bonus for Cook Co-listers).
My thanks to all of you for being a part of the excitement of this MBW, which will be hard for future North Shore MBWs to match.
The itinerary for this MBWeek is a bit different every year, dictated by the schedules for the Mpls-Halifax flights and the Marine-Atlantic ferries, and this year it turned out that we had two fewer days than in 2014. Overall, then, we found just about all the specialties which make this MBW so amazing, no matter how many days it lasts. Even the weather was mostly favorable, as there were relatively minor encounters with bird-obscuring fog.
June 30 - Return to Antigonish Landing, and drive to Pleasant Bay via Canso Causeway, Hwy 19, and Cape Breton Highlands Natl Park; dinner at Rusty Anchor, Bicknell's search at Money Point on Cape North, and night at Mountain View Motel. As is typical on this MBWeek, logistical or birding difficulties caused by good ol' Marine Atlantic or the weather can be a problem, and this year was no exception. Still, in the end we came up with almost everything we were looking for at sea and along the coast, with the spectacles of countless Northern Gannets, Common Murres, Atlantic Puffins, and Black-legged Kittiwakes at their nesting cliffs as overwhelming as ever.
Of course, there are land birds of note here too, with two of them especially worthy of the efforts required to find them.
July 1 a€“ Cape North (for The Thrush!), Bay St Lawrence, Cabot's Landing Picnic Park, and White Point loop; dinner at Rusty Anchor. July 5 a€“ Signal Hill, Cape Spear, Blackhead iceberg, Bidgood's Park in Goulds, and Witless Bay Seabird Sanctuary via Joe O'Brien's tour boat; dinner at Redrock Grill. When just a normal day in South Florida already feels warm enough with its high humidity and temperatures in the mid-80s, it doesn't take much for conditions to change from uncomfortable to intolerable. Still, while all of us (myself especially!) were slowed down a bit on some days, the weather did not prevent us from finding almost every target species we had a chance for. About the only bird we tried for that eluded us was the uncooperative Bahama Mockingbird skulking somewhere in the Key West Botanical Gardens. In all, we came up with no fewer than 188 species, which compares to the 172 we had on this MBW in April 2011. Although I managed to see no lifers this time (that dumb mockingbird would have been one), everyone else certainly did.
April 23 - Green Cay, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Spanish River Park, and drive to Florida City via Cutler Ridge swallow bridge and wetlands; dinner at Capri and first of 3 nights in Florida City. April 28 - Unsuccessful return to Key West Botanical Gardens, Ohio Key, Big Cypress Oasis Visitors Center and Loop Road; dinner at Iguana Mia and night in Fort Myers.
April 29 - Final morning mostly at Sanibel lighthouse and NWR Bailey Tract; afternoon departures for home from RSW.
Still, while the weather may have slowed us down a bit (as we scrambled to find shade), we still did quite well on those specialties for which Florida is renowned, as we found Snail Kite, Short-tailed Hawk (twice!), Limpkin (lots of them!), White-crowned Pigeon, White-winged Parakeet (at the bank!), Mangrove Cuckoo (2 of them!), Gray Kingbird, Black-whiskered Vireo, Florida Scrub-Jay, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Common Myna, Shiny Cowbird, and Spot-breasted Oriole.
In addition, of course, there were several specialties on our excursion to the Dry Tortugas a€“ especially Masked and Brown boobies, Brown Noddy, Sooty Tern, and Roseate Tern. While it was disappointing to miss a few notable species, it's fair to say we never had a reasonable chance to find them.
Well, where do you start with a summary of the highlights of the MBWeek with the largest-ever species total? It's also curious that we were able to see so many birds given that the weather was not in our favor.
I readily admit that birding success is often a matter of luck, and by my count there were about 35 species on our long list that were represented by a single individual, so that our total could easily have been more modest. Of the 34 shorebirds we found, I suppose that Ruff at Anahuac had to be the best of these, while the Worm-eating, Swainson's, Golden-cheeked, and Rufous-capped were probably the highlights in our list of 35 warblers.
April 23: Sabine Woods, Sea Rim State Park, Beaumont sewage plant, Tyrrell Park, FM 1941 rice field, and final return to High Island.
Given that this was MBW's first attempt to cover both High Island and the Hill Country in a week (even the regular tour companies don't normally do this), I'd still have to say things worked out quite well. But our travel day from Winnie to Kerrville went even better than I had hoped, since it included a highly successful Swainson's Warbler photo-op (!), several nice additions to our list on Yacht Basin and Tuna roads, some impressive parakeet nests, and no real traffic difficulties around Houston or San Antonio.
All this resulted in an impressive bird list of no fewer than 238 species, and I have to think a total of 250 could easily be reached with some adjustments in the itinerary. April 14 - Early afternoon arrival in Houston and birding option to Jesse Jones County Park; night in Houston. April 19 - Morning at Taylor's Bayou (Swainson's Warbler!), High Island, Bolivar Peninsula (incl Rollover Pass, Yacht Basin and Tuna roads), and ferry to Galveston; afternoon drive to Kerrville (for first of 3 nights) via Monk Parakeet nests in Pearland.
April 21 - All day in Hill Country, especially Neal's Lodge (Tropical Parula), Cook's Slough, and Lost Maples State Natural Area. While it's normally difficult to single out the most significant highlight of any MBWeekend, on this trip it was pretty easy. This spectacle enabled our total list of shorebirds to reach 28 species, the most ever for this MBWeek. The runner-up in the highlights department for me would have to be the Westport Seabirds pelagic trip. Finally, we all owe special thanks to Lynn and Phyllis for volunteering to drive minivan #2, to Phil Anderson et al (Chris, Bruce, Bill, and Ryan) for making the pelagic trip possible, and to Rhonda for the breakfast and hospitality at her motel in Westport. Perhaps the Schmucks were those on MBW I (myself included) who couldn't find those highly sought shelducks at Beach Grove?

But Schmuck Awards aside, it's time better spent to consider everything that went well during these MBWeeks. More importantly, the conditions during both pelagic trips were unexpectedly and relatively favorable.
Shorebirds are also especially targeted on this MBW, and, though there were some unexpectedly empty mudflats, we had a respectable composite total of 28 species a€“ with 23 and 25 species respectively on MBW I and MBW II. But there are special highlights other than pelagics and shorebirds involved with these trips.
And I was pleasantly surprised that both MBWs were able to come up with both Black and Vaux's swifts, and, of course, there were Heermann's and Mew gulls, murres and guillemots and Rhinoceros Auklets, plus the likes of Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Bushtits, Pacific Wrens, and many other birds to keep us entertained. Sept 6 - Blackie Spit, 104th St and 72nd St at Boundary Bay, Reifel Refuge, Iona Island, Beach Grove, Tsawwassen ferry terminal, and return to 104th St; dinner at ABC Country.
Sept 8 - Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Ediz Hook, Elwha Dike, Salt Creek Recreation Area, and Dungeness-Three Crabs Rd area; dinner at Sequim's 24th-best restaurant. Sept 10 - Westport Seabirds pelagic trip and Westport Marina area; dinner at Bennett's in Grayland.
Sept 11 - Tokeland, Bottle Beach (twice, uneventfully), Westport Lighthouse, and Hoquiam sewage ponds; dinner at Alec's and night in Ocean Shores. Sept 12 - Ocean Shores (Bill's Spit, Game Range, sewage ponds, Point Brown jetty) and return to Sea-Tac for final night; dinner at Thirteen Coins. Sept 15 - Bay View State Park, Padilla Bay Interpretive Center, Cleator Road, Sehome Hill Arboretum, Birch Bay, and Blaine; dinner at ABC Country and first of 2 nights in White Rock, BC.
Sept 16 - Blackie Spit, 72nd St at Boundary Bay, Beach Grove, Tsawwassen ferry terminal, Beach Grove, Reifel Refuge, 96th-104th St dyke at Boundary Bay; dinner at ABC Country. Sept 18 - Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Ediz Hook, Elwha Dike, and Salt Creek Recreation Area; dinner at El Cazador.
Sept 20 -A Ocean Shores (State Park, Point Brown jetty, sewage ponds, Game Range, Bill's Spit), Hoquiam sewage ponds, Bottle Beach, and Tokeland; dinner at Bennett's in Grayland and first of 2 nights in Westport.
Sept 21 -A Westport Seabirds pelagic trip and Lighthouse Park; dinner at former Los Arcos and evening option to Bottle Beach. Sept 22 - Morning return to Seattle via Watershed Park and Nisqually NWR for afternoon flights home. The weather during the first half of our trip was too nice with sunny skies, mild temperatures, and light winds a€“ weather which had been prevailing for days and hardly conducive to producing migrants. So, it was pretty obvious that this day was the birding highlight of our week, especially since high seas had canceled this trip in 2011. Other top highlights included the two Sooty Grouse sightings on the Hurricane Ridge road, a Ruff or two among 23 shorebird species (despite a disturbing absence of these in BC!), roosting Barn Owls by Boundary Bay, and those vocalizing Sky Larks flying around us near Victoria. Sept 16 a€“ Along the Skagit River between Sedro-Woolley and Hamilton, Eide Rd mudflats in Stanwood, Skagit Wildlife Area, Bellingham waterfront, Birch Bay, Blaine waterfront, and drive to White Rock, BC forA first of 2 nights at the Breakaway Motel; dinner at ABC Country Restaurant. Sept 21 a€“ Ocean City State Park, return to Oyhut, Bill's Spit, Point Brown jetty, Hoquiam sewage ponds, Bottle Beach, Midway Beach, and Tokeland; dinner at One-eyed Crab and first of 2 nights at Silver Sands Motel in Westport. It turns out I don't think we ever managed to accomplish this, but this time around we at least came up with an even 20 warbler species, and this ties our highest total (which we managed twice before).
But our total this year was still pretty respectable considering there were only two shorebird sites of any note this year: the Warroad sewage ponds (11 species on Sunday morning, including Red-necked Phalaropes) and that flooded field just S of Arnesen (12 species on Sunday afternoon, highlighted of course by those 2 Buff-breasted Sandpipers). Curiously, this has proven to be a consistent spot for Short-eareds for several years on this MBW a€“ I don't think we've ever missed it here whenever we looked on previous Labor Day weekends. At least Sunday afternoon and Monday morning turned out a lot more comfortable and even somewhat pleasant much of the time. Not only were 14 of our 16 total species of shorebirds found here, but most of these were watched simultaneously at leisure along one particular stretch of shore a€“ all at close range and in excellent light. On Friday's pre-MBW at St Hilaire we found an unexpected Red-bellied Woodpecker and a curiously out-of-place Dark-eyed Junco, while later in the day both Virginia Rail and Sora emerged into view on both sides of the Red Lake-Polk county line for the entertainment of even the non-county listers in the group.A On Sunday afternoon, an obliging Buff-breasted Sandpiper suddenly flew in and landed next to us at the Warren sewage ponds, a Eurasian Collared-Dove in Alvarado was added to several county lists, Claudia later spotted our only Swainson's Hawk, and why a Philadelphia Vireo would be the lone migrant at Old Mill State Park's picnic grounds is strange. Still, it clearly would have been nicer if these rarities could have been more cooperative. But on the other hand, consider that amazing, entertaining, and easy-to-see bunch of at least 6 Short-eared Owls (could there have been 9 or 10 of them?!) on Sunday evening which everyone who went out was able to enjoy. All this despite too much wind on Saturday, mostly above-average temperatures continuing to prevail (it hit 91 on the way home on Monday), and chronically dry conditions producing too much dust on the gravel roads. There were times, though, with few if any birds to be found at some of our stops, as it seemed that almost all the fall migrants had departed earlier in October, and the winter specialties were just beginning to arrive. Still, there was a decent raptor flight at Hawk Ridge, and our drive over to view the Minnesota side of the Superior Entry breakwaters gave us Iceland and Thayer's gulls (with another Thayer's at Canal Park en route). There were dozens of Common Loons to study as well during the day, and we saw eight species not to be found on any of the other days, including some modest numbers of Tundra Swans and Bonaparte's Gulls. At first we weren't seeing much until we made it to Two Harbors and got the report from other birders who found a Northern Saw-whet Owl roosting in a cedar tree.
And while MBW I's total of 50 species may have been less than was hoped for, keep in mind that there were fewer pairs of experienced eyes then to assist Craig with spotting birds, and that this smaller group could not visit as many places as MBW II (which could split up and cover different areas).
As you can see above, everyone had great looks except for those who went with Craig to look for Spruce Grouse a€“ but they had something just as good when a grouse finally appeared on the Gunflint just S of the Lima Mountain Rd! I have to admit it was often a distraction trying to keep track of all the rarities, talk on the phone and on the radio simultaneously, make sure everyone was seeing everything, receive news about stake-outs and pass on information to othersa€¦. There was essentially no precipitation to speak of, and light winds all weekend made the mid-30s temperatures entirely tolerable. Of course, the cooperative Mountain Bluebird in Two Harbors on Saturday and that most surprising Yellow-breasted Chat waiting for us back in Duluth on Sunday (along with the geese at Bayfront Park) were certainly memorable as well. And I appreciate all your cooperation in setting up the car-pooling, keeping in touch with those radios, and your help with spotting the birds we come up with and helping others to see them. But we still managed to come up with almost the same number of birds (120 species), and, while there may have been some disappointments on this shorter trip, they were not due to its length. Our two pelagic ferry crossings were mostly fog-free and provided views of lots of fulmars, Great and Sooty shearwaters, lesser numbers of both storm-petrels, three separate sightings of Manx Shearwaters, and a few of us were even able to see a skua (probably South Polar) and an unexpected Cory's Shearwater. Rock Ptarmigan await those able to make the grueling hike to the top of Gros Morne and back a€“ and one was still found even though the hike lasted about three hours longer than usual this time. Our annual dead porcupine vs live RCMP contest kept us entertained on the longer drives, though it got complicated when we decided to add dead raccoons and Tim Horton's visits to the competition. After the two-day delay (!) in 2012 and the six-hour delay last year, a revised Port aux Basques ferry schedule a month before this year's MBW forced us to shorten our time at Gros Morne. Memorable as well were more modest numbers of such quintessential specialties as Common Eider, Northern Fulmar, three shearwaters, two storm-petrels, Great Cormorant, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Black-headed Gull, and Arctic Tern (Bernice's 600th lifer).
And this year the typically elusive and notoriously shy Bicknell's Thrush up on Cape North proved almost too easy to see as it cooperatively posed for pictures and offered perhaps the longest views we've ever had!
Memorable mammalian sightings included Humpback Whales viewed at Holyrood Bay and Cape Spear, a close Fin Whale in Witless Bay (not seen on most trips), Caribou along Hwy 430 south of Cow Head, and a Moose family at Cape Breton Highlands. These specialties are listed below in boldface type, and it was especially satisfying to find them once you consider that so many can be elusive and easily missed. Almost every day, it seemed, our vehicles were unofficially recording highs of 90-plus, up to 10 degrees above normal.
Note that all these species are essentially found in no other states, and most can easily be missed on a tour. And there were many other equally memorable highlights: Wood Storks, Swallow-tailed Kites, Purple Gallinules, Monk (and other) Parakeets, Chuck-will's-widow, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Caribbean Cave Swallows, non-countable Hill Mynas, Worm-eating Warbler, Bachman's and Cape Sable Seaside sparrows, and Painted Buntings.
No Black Noddies had been reported by anyone at the Tortugas for two years, virtually all Smooth-billed Anis have now disappeared from Florida (the recent report from the Fort Lauderdale airport seems dubious), and the Antillean Nighthawks apparently hadn't quite arrived yet. Drive to Key West via Everglades Alligator Farm hammock, Card Sound Rd, Hwy 905 on Key Largo (Black-whiskered Vireo), Windley Key (lunch at reef geological park), Ohio Key, and Marathon; dinner at Southern Most Beach, and unsuccessful nighthawk search at Key West airport.
By my count we came up with a grand total of 269, no fewer than 31 species more than on this trip in 2012! I suppose part of this year's improvement was due to a couple of changes in the itinerary: staying in Jasper rather than Houston the first night gave us more time in the Big Thicket, and basing the Hill Country portion in Uvalde rather than Kerrville made for shorter drives to Garner State Park (my favorite!), Neal's Lodge, the bat cave, Cook's Slough, and Chalk Bluff Park. And certainly not everyone in the group saw all 269 of them a€“ there are always individual misses on any birding trip, and I counted a dozen or so that I missed myself.
True, much of our time on the Gore Store Road was not as productive as it used to be, the back-up sites near Jasper were too far away, we never managed to fit Sabine Woods into our itinerary, and I would have liked to spend more time at Anahuac NWR and the Bolivar Peninsula. And while our visits to Lost Maples were limited, the times we spent instead with Paul & Betty Rae Davis' Zone-tailed Hawk and Golden-cheeked Warbler and with Neal's Lodge's Tropical Parula certainly made for favorable trade-offs.

Note that we turned up nearly 200 species on the Houston-High Island-Big Thicket portion of the MBW a€“ besides that special warbler at Taylor's Bayou, some of the highlights included both whistling-ducks, the rookery at Smith Oaks, King Rails (and Least Bitterns) at Anahuac, nearly 30 shorebird species, 9 tern species at once at Rollover Pass, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers on our first morning, and 29 warbler species (with Tropical Parula and Golden-cheeked making a final total of 31). Still, along with the Zone-tailed Hawk and those two warblers mentioned earlier, these two days produced several memorable highlights: Vermilion and other flycatchers, a Bell's Vireo nest, those Black-capped Vireos (especially at Kerr WMA, of course), Olive, Rufous-crowned, and other sparrows, and Bullock's and Scott's orioles.
Even though there was only one semi-rarity (it must be decades since I had last seen a Flesh-footed Shearwater), this was still a better-than-average trip with such good looks at Buller's Shearwater, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, and Cassin's Auklets a€“ all these birds typically give us only brief or distant views.
The two-day Mount Rainier option may not have provided any ptarmigan (we missed some seen by others a couple of hours before we got to the spot), but we were still entertained by Clark's Nutcrackers, Pikas, Mountain Goats, and Elk, and awed by some beautiful scenery. In all, we still came up with 166 species, including 10 only found during the Mt Rainier portion, and the remaining total of 156 was about average for this MBWeek. Or were they those on MBW II (myself included) who got all excited about finding these escaped barnyard ducks?
For one thing, almost all the logistics went smoothly enough, and even the weather cooperated for the most part. The highlight on the first MBW was the juvenile Pacific Golden-Plover (plus a probable adult) at Ocean Shore's Game Range, while the close Sharp-tailed Sandpiper posing at Reifel Refuge certainly highlighted the second MBW.
The Sky Larks near Victoria may have been tough to spot on the ground, but everyone on both MBWs had close looks and listens as these secretive birds flew around us.
Then the fog came in for a couple days and limited our ability to scan the shorelines and waters in the Port Angeles-Sequim area. Black-footed Albatross, N Fulmars, Pink-footed and Sooty shearwaters, and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels all lingered at times close to the boat.
Although the rains on Friday and Sunday did slow us down somewhat, it's worth keeping in mind that such weather served to ground some of the warblers and made it possible for us to find as many as we did. It was also nice to get such good looks at Black-bellied Plovers, Stilt and Baird's sandpipers, and several others.
In addition at the ponds, everyone had great views of an uncharacteristically cooperative Nelson's Sparrow, lots of Bobolinks (40+) posing along the fence line, a nice side-by-side comparison of Horned and Eared grebes, and a pair of pale richardsoni Merlins on the way out. And, as mentioned above, our shorebird total was 16, and this was matched by ourA 16 warbler species, although the best of these on Friday (Golden-winged, N Parula, Canada) were brief views by only a few. While the Red-bellied Woodpecker (among some Red-headeds) in Roseau was a very nice find for Craig's group on Saturday morning, it never reappeared later for the rest of us. But there were certainly some moments of excitement as is usually the case along the North Shore in late fall.
And including the Iceland Gull we had five species not seen on any of the other days, including a late Great Blue Heron and a distant Golden Eagle at Hawk Ridge. An agitated chickadee had led to its discovery, and the owl was still there as 30 MBWers arrived on the scene.
Though we came up empty on these, some nice consolations were groups of Boreal Chickadees and a cooperative Red Crossbill posing atop a tall spruce. But the first group did see the juv Ross's Goose lingering in Two Harbors, both White-winged and Black scoters, Long-tailed Ducks (more than on MBW II, including thatA exceptionally close-to-shore bird at McQuade Rd!), a Boreal Chickadee at Iona's Beach, along with 8 species not found on the latter MBW a€“ including a nice Golden Eagle. Cindy Edwardson then found something almost as exciting with that reclusive N Mockingbird along 1st Street in Grand Marais, and it finally emerged from cover and flew over our heads.
Little wonder I walked off leaving my scope behind (twice, almost!) and once started to walk away from my still-running iPod.
The capelin were unusually late in running, resulting in hardly any whales, no passage of shearwaters or alcids near the headlands, and a belated hatch of seabird chicks. The puffins, murres, and kittiwakes at Witless Bay were as spectacular as ever, a lone Thick-billed Murre and three N Fulmar pairs were seen by all along with several Razorbills at Gull Island, and the number of murres in flight and in the sea around Green Island was particularly overwhelming and unprecedented!
And the weather was less than ideal, with fog the main culprit on the Argentia ferry (pelagic birds mostly invisible), at Cape St Mary's (Thick-billed Murre nesting cliffs obscured), and during the Biscay Bay-Cape Pine-St Shotts morning. It took a lot more time and effort, of course, to come up with the Rock Ptarmigan up on Gros Morne, but Brett, Janice, and Lynn made it up there without Proper Adult Supervision (I had a cold) and found 3 adults followed by a female with 8 chicks!
And there was lots of impressive scenery on the way, including icebergs out from Signal Hill and Cape Spear.
Some of these birds often absent from many Florida trip lists include Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Egyptian Goose, American Flamingo (!), Audubon's Shearwater, Brown Booby, Short-tailed Hawk (!), Purple Swamphen, Black Noddy (!), Roseate Tern, Mangrove Cuckoo (!), Antillean Nighthawk, Nanday and White-winged parakeets (!), Black-whiskered Vireo, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Bachman's Sparrow, Shiny Cowbird, and Spot-breasted Oriole. It apparently reappeared on Monday when we were in the Dry Tortugas, but on Tuesday morning we were among several birders who again came up empty. After all, if Florida birders list those homely black-and-white muscovys waddling across the park, why not count the Red Junglefowl that have roamed the streets of Key West for 200 years?
Indeed, it officially hit a record high of 89 in Okeechobee on the 18th and a record 93 degrees in Naples on the 19th. The total of 238 on that MBWeek had been our previous record; runners-up were the 230 species on the one-week California-Arizona MBW in 2010, and 228 on the 2012 South Texas MBW.
Especially memorable as well was the fallout of birds on Monday at Smith Oaks (especially kingbirds, tanagers, grosbeaks, buntings, and orioles), with birds seeming to appear out of nowhere in the treetops. In addition, much of the scenery along the roads we traveled was impressive, and those who did the Frio Bat Cave option will not soon forget that spectacle. And all of this made it easy to forgive those mudflats which were practically devoid of shorebirds a€“ especially curious were the near-empty flats at Boundary Bay and Ocean Shores. Other shorebirds of note on both MBWs included those oystercatchers, tattlers, turnstones, and Surfbirds on the rocks, that Long-billed Curlew at Blackie Spit, along with MBW II's Red Knots at Boundary Bay. Although Sooty Grouse eluded us on MBW II, two of them appeared on schedule along the road to Hurricane Ridge on MBW I. Finally, though, the conditions emerged solidly in our favor during the Westport Seabirds pelagic trip, as the visibility was mostly unlimited, no precipitation fell, the winds and temperatures were mild,A and a€“ most importantly a€“A the seas were about as calm as they ever get!
Also, as far as I know, everyone in the group was able to see Buller's Shearwater, Sabine's Gull, South Polar Skua, Pomarine and Parasitic jaegers, plus a few alcids. Our best sites were along the shore of Lake Bemidji on Friday morning (14 species; 3 more later in the day gave us 17 for the pre-MBW) and at Springsteel Island (where I believe we saw all 17 of the warblers found during the main Sat-Sun-Mon MBW).
About the same time my group was enjoying unusually easy views of the normally elusive Nelson's Sparrow near Roseau, but it failed to cooperate for Craig's group a short time later.
But even more significant later that day was a female-plumaged King Eider in Good Harbor Bay near Grand Marais. And there was another consolation later that morning as we relocated a Northern Parula along the Croftville Road near Grand Marais, something just as unexpectedly late as Thursday's Great Crested Flycatcher. And in addition to all these were White-winged Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks, a going-away view of a Golden Eagle at Taconite Harbor, a brief look at a fly-by Black-backed Woodpecker near Brighton Beach, handsome flocks of Bohemian Waxwings in Grand Marais, and a late-lingering Com Yellowthroat at that MN DOT pond. There were no early-fall shorebird arrivals, and there was that most uncooperative thrush which I'm still sure was heard one evening and then glimpsed as it dashed across its favorite clearing the next morning. And the perfect weather at Cape St Mary's enhanced the unforgettable views of those many thousands of nesting gannets and an equal number of murres and kittiwakes. The Black-headed Gulls at Stephenville Crossing were an expected highlight, but the two Little Gulls found just before they disappeared into the fog at St Shotts were another first for this MBW. It was also humid, of course, and relentlessly sunny with virtually no rain to ground many migrants.
In addition, though there was only one known flooded rice field around the Winnie area, we listed an impressive total of 34 shorebirds. The earlier MBW also did better with Northern Pygmy-Owl, as birds below Hurricane Ridge and at Mt Walker called at length at close range, with the first one briefly seen as it took off and flew across the road.
And a brief look was the best any of us could manage at that very surprising N Mockingbird at Springsteel Island, with most of the group not seeing it at all. I think, though, that adding another day or two to the tour would not have made much difference. A Rough-legged Hawk and Short-eared Owls were nice consolation prizes for the ptarmigan-less Cape Pine Road, our baby list included Common Eider and Piping Plover, Great Cormorants towered over Double-cresteds as Black Guillemots swam nearby, and there were nice Common and Arctic tern comparisons at Renews. Note as well that it was too hot in the Hill Country (the Thursday to Sunday highs in Uvalde were 97, 93, 88, and 97 degrees), but the birding there was much better than in 2012 as noted above.
Moose, Caribou, and Minkes highlighted the mammal list, and there was plenty of spectacular scenery punctuated by some intriguing road signs a€“ advisories of trucks constantly crashing into walls, a depiction of a moose crunching into a car, and the slice-of-apple-pie crossing (my personal favorite).

Outdoor Brick Pizza Oven Diy
Lime Wood For Carving For Sale
Turned Wood Fountain Pens
Plans For Making Children's Wooden Toys


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