There were several other types of birds that I spotted at the Sax Zim Winter birding Festival. On the day that I arrived I spotted a black-billed magpie on Sax road near the intersection with Cranberry. I later found out that there was a dear carcass there that some of the magpie, as well as some other members of the Corvidae family, were scavenging from. The American black-billed magpie is more closely related to the yellow-billed magpie then it is the European black-billed magpie. The black-billed magpie range across the western US, however there is a small population now living in the Sax Zim Bog area which makes it the farthest east extent of their range.
On the Friday which I arrived I also spotted a rough grouse in the middle of Blue Spruce Road. After I took a couple of pics a truck came by and spooked the bird off of the road.
It did not go far. A few seconds after the noisy truck was gone the grouse came back out of the brush and began eating the tiny buds on the bushes lining the road. We did see more grouse on each of the field trips but it was early on both days and still a bit dark.
We did see one of the northern owls that make the Sax Zim Bog well known for its winter birding opportunities. A fairly reliable northern hawk owl has been hanging out on highway 7 near the Zim Sod Farm. The first time we spotted him he was on a short pole in the middle of a field. When a second bus arrived he moved to a higher vantage point in a spruce tree behind a building across from the sod farm. It was cloudy that morning and we were a ways away so the pictures were not really turning out very well.
Sunday after the convention I drove over by the sod farm and located the owl in the same group of spruce. When I pulled of the road to park the owl moved from the top of the tree to a less conspicuous position on a branch about 4' from the top. I set up my camera and was waiting for the clouds to clear and give me some better light. While I waited the owl moved back to the top of the tree and when the clouds finally parted I was able to get a much better shot then I was able to take the day before.
I also spotted a bald eagle on Sunday. When I first saw his large form through the trees as I was driving I thought that he might be one of the larger owns, possibly a great gray, so I pulled over and walked back along the road until I got to an advantage point where I could see around the trees. Fortunately for me he chose that moment to fly across the street and perch on a snag, which was located near the road, on my side of the street, and in perfect light. A lot of birding is a matter of luck.
This is the last of my posts on the Sax Zim Winter Birding Festival, at least for this year. The festival was a great success, thanks in large part to Mike Hendrickson, and I had a great time. I may try to get up to the Sax Zim area again one more time while the winter residents are still around, but I will need to hurry because we are starting to see some of the early signs of spring.
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