Saturday, January 2, 2010

Whiteout Day 2

Okay, so it had sort of been my intention to blog about the trip every night, but that just did not happen. I'm sure you figured that out, right? Nevertheless, I thought I would bring you up to speed on how the trip ended. It ended well. Trust me....

So what did we find when we woke up on Tuesday morning? More snow. Go figure. After scraping off the car (easily 4 inches) and snarfing down breakfast, we headed off into the boonies hoping to locate that damned, elusive Boreal Chickadee. Driving. Hiking. Dodging snowmobiles. Getting dizzy with rotten exhaust. How about the feeders at Whitefish Point? No. How about Vermillion Road south of the point? No. Lots of chickadees everywhere. No Boreals. All the while, gray skies, light blowing snow and moderately slick roads. Are we having fun yet?

By mid-afternoon, the whole Boreal Chickadee/Gray Jay plan was dumped. Forget it. We could have looked for days with no promises, so it was time to unload that part of the plan and move along. On to Sault Ste. Marie!

So what is the plan when you bird Sault Ste Marie in the winter? Drive and look for birds. Sound easy? It is. A simple rules might include keeping your eyes peeled. It would certainly be in your interest to pay attention to signs, too. The somewhat slippery roads and the on-again, off-again snow squalls made for an interesting drive. Basically, good driving practices and you should be set.

A nice look at a Rough-legged Hawk at Rudyard was cool (at left). It was the first of at least six or seven we saw on the trip. Another fair bird was a Northern Shrike. It is not a bad bird at all. It is simply that we did not drive over 350 miles to see one! We had other birds we were hoping to see! We never did figure out why those two Hairy Woodpeckers froze like statues on the tree by the feeding station. Usually when they do that, death, in the form of a predator like a Cooper's Hawk or Northern Goshawk, is very near. They freeze so they won't be seen. I was half waiting for a one of them to explode like a firework of feathers as the raptor carried it off, but, nope, nothing happened. We never saw anything.

It was at sunset that we got a chance to appreciate the precarious business of what had to be a combination of "bad decision making" and this thing called "winter driving." We saw this car, right? It was stuck. I don't mean stuck - I mean stuck stuck, as in "How in the hell did they do that?" It was so bad, the farmer, with a monster tractor and the mother of all snowblowers hanging off the back, was blowing the road clean so the car could follow him out. It was a seasonal road! How in the world that guy got his car so far down a snow-covered road in the dead of winter is anybody's guess.

Dinner was Antler's just east of the downtown. What a freak show that place is! Whew! Taxidermic mounts of just about everything are crammed into every available place. It is actually quite the place to test your wildlife i.d. skills. Food? Fair. The Tuesday night trivia host? Get out the 80's, man! Music spans entire decades! Not just the decade of mullets, leg warmers and headbands! Come on!

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