follow us on facebook!
Friends of Sax-Zim Bog | GiveMN

Sax-Zim Bog News Delivered to your InBox! e-Newsletter sign up

* indicates required



Sax-Zim Bog Birder & Photographer Welcome Center: Help us build it!
Follow us on Facebook!

Bog BioBlitz III is Big Success! 400 species!



Saturday, June 27, 2015

Nearly sixty participants and leaders tallied over 400 species of birds, butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, fish, insects, spiders, sedges, wildflowers, trees, shrubs, moths, mammals and orchids to add to our Master List of Sax-Zim Bog species. THE BOG IS NOT JUST BIRDS! HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDED over 1300 Showy Ladyslippers, 38 species of sedges, a rare spider (Uloborus gloom's), 16 species of warblers, First County Record of Elfin Skimmer (North America's tiniest dragonfly), Yellow-throated Vireo, Black Bear, a couple unusual moths, 7 new species of fish for the Bog, and much more! This was our third annual event and next year we'll be back at it in Bog BioBlitz IV.




Head-nets off to our intrepid Leaders! From Left to Right: Larry Weber (spiders), Cassie Novak (insects & spiders), Jason Husveth (sedges), Bill Tefft (Bog Walk & tiger beetles), Josh Horky (flora/wildflowers), Clinton Nienhaus (fishes), Sparky Stensaas (moths), Jerry McCormick (butterflies), Jim Lind (dragonflies/damselflies), Dave Grosshuesch (dragonflies/damselflies). Not pictured: Kim Eckert (birds), Dave Benson (birds)

We could not have had better weather! Sun, warmth and light winds.


Marsh Speedwell (Veronica scutellata) was a new species for our master list. It was found by Jason Husveth as he scavenged for sedges in a floating mat along Cranberry Road

 Larry Weber shares some spider knowledge to his group (photo by Cassie Novak)

Jerry McCormick's butterfly crew found this plump Monarch caterpillar on its favorite host plant Milkweed.

Norma Malinowski (left) and Sarah Beaster (right) learn about sedges from Jason Husveth.

A little past prime, but nonetheless a great find was Norma Malinowski's discovery of this orchid—Listera cordata (now Neottia cordata) or Heart-leaved Twayblade. It was found in a cedar swamp along Admiral Road.

Large Yellow Ladyslipper along Nichols Lake Road. (photo by Rubin Stenseng)

Josh Horkey leads the Wildflower crew along the cut-across gravel pit road. Lonicera hirsuta (Hairy Honeysuckle). Photo by Rubin Stenseng

Lonicera hirsuta (Hairy Honeysuckle). Photo by Rubin Stenseng

Clinton Nienhaus and crew (Peter Yokel center) search for minnows and other fishes along Stickney Road. Clinton took time out to photograph a species of Bladderwort (Utricularia)

Three species of small fish found by Clinton and the fish crew. L-R: Johnny Darter, Pearl Dace, Brassy Minnow. We had NO small fish data from the Bog previously, so these were welcome additions. (photo by Rubin Stenseng)

Cinnamon Fern was in its full glory (Bill Tefft photo)

Female Goldenrod Crab Spiders (Misumena vatia) can change color to blend in to their substrate and it aids in camouflage when trying to capture prey. (photo by Cassie Novak)

The male Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) is much smaller than the female pictured above.(photo by Cassie Novak)

Knee deep in bog water and loving it! Dragonfly/Damselfly crew. Very few mosquitoes this year...But plenty of deer flies and horse flies to keep us company! (photo by Jim Lind)

Buckbean (Menyanthes trifolium) was found on a floating bog mat by the dragonfly crew (photo by Dave Grosshuesch)

Pink-shaded Fern Moth is a stunner! Callopistria mollissima (Attracted to lights at Welcome Center)

Sedges crew scours the shore of Stone Lake for new finds.

Sparky left the "porch light" on at the Welcome Center and this stunning tiger moth showed up. It is a St. Lawrence Tiger Moth (Platarcita parthenos)

Tufted Loosestrife (Lysimachia thyrsiflora) was just starting to bloom (photo by Bill Tefft)

Leaders L-R: Bill Tefft, Dave Grosshuesch, Jim Lind

Long Dash (skipper) in fresh plumage and cooperatively on a Wild Iris (Blue Flag) Iris versicolor

Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) (photo by Rubin Stenseng)

A tiny and darn cute plant... Eleocharis acicularis or Needle Spikerush, was found at the Stone Lake Public Landing.

Dave Grosshuesch showing off a dragonfly catch along the St. Louis River (photo by Jim Lind)

Dave Grosshuesch showing off a dragonfly catch along the St. Louis River. One of the wonderful surprises of the day was the discovery of dozens of Elfin Skimmers at a floating bog mat. FIRST ST. LOUIS COUNTY RECORD!!. Nannothemis bella is North America's smallest dragonfly at a bit over 3/4 of an inch. Top photo is of mating pair (photo by Dave Grosshuesch); bottom photo of the striped-abdomened female (photo by Jim Lind). Note their tiny size!

Crocus Geometer moth Larry Weber shares arachnid wisdom with the spider crew. (photo by Cassie Novak)

Sharing stories and finds inside the Welcome Center. (photo by Rubin Stenseng)

Bill Tefft found this Cow Path Tiger Beetle (Cicindela purpurea) near the gravel pits along Admiral Road.

Searching for Pitcher-Plants just north of the Welcome Center. (photo by Rubin Stenseng)

A rare Uloborus spider was found and photographed by Cassie Novak. Larry Weber in background.



SEDGES with Jason Husveth

BUTTERFLIES with Jerry McCormick

DRAGONFLIES with Jim Lind and Dave Grosshuesch

INSECTS with Cassie Novak

BIRDS with Dave Benson & Kim Eckert

SPIDERS with Larry Weber

FISHES & MINNOWS with Clinton Nienhaus

MOTHS with Sparky Stensaas

BOG WALK with Bill Tefft

SHOWY LADYSLIPPER TOUR (Heather-Marie Bloom & Ben Yokel)



Back in Black! Volunteer Work Days at Welcome Center

Thanks to all who helped out on our September work days at the Welcome Center! We finished staining the outside of the Welcome Center and also cleaned up much garbage, and even cut two new snowshoe trail loops. Also thanks to Paula and Julie Gran for bringing goodies!

Black oil-based stain is a contemporary look and will nicely protect the rough-sawn aspen siding.

The Wednesday crew....from L-R: Scott Belknap (Grand Rapids) Rubin Stensing (Duluth), Tom & Lori Williams (board member) (Duluth). Not pictured: Josh Yokel (Melrude), Julie Grahn (Cook), Paula (Hibbing), John & Carrie Kelsey (Duluth), Sparky Stensaas (Wrenshall).

Rubin Stensing doing the "high work"

Scott Belknap brings out the "big gun" for trail clearing. Scott is a former smoke jumper (You know, those guys that jump out of planes and into fires!) for the US Forest Service so knows his way around a chain saw. Two new loops for our snowshoe trail were completed.

Carrie Kelsey and Sparky Stensaas. Note our hats..."Life is Crap" (when out of chocolate!) and "Life is Good"

Rubin Stenseng

Tom Williams working the roller

Rubin Stenseng and Lori Williams

 We open on December 13...See you then!


BioBlitz II showcases Sax-Zim's Amazing Biodiversity

Forty-some participants and leaders turned up nearly 300 SPECIES (!) on our second annual BioBlitz on August 2nd, 2014. A beautiful day greeted folks as they met at our new Welcome Center. We divided into groups and hit the bog! Experts in the fields of birds, spiders, fungi, wildflowers, butterflies and dragonflies scoured far flung parts of the Bog. All met back at noon to share their findings and discoveries. Amazingly, we turned up several new species for the Bog and even ONE NEW MINNESOTA RECORD!— a spider species found by Chad Heins.

Thanks to our volunteer experts/leaders: Kelly O'Brien Beaster (flora), Larry Weber (fungi, spiders), Chad Heins (spiders, birds), Ben Yokel (birds), Kim Eckert (birds), Jeff Fisher (dragonflies & damselflies), Sparky Stensaas (butterflies, birds, insects), Sarah Beaster (flora). Thanks also to Heather Marie Bloom, our Welcome Center host.

Bog BioBlitz III will be in June 2015...Mark your calendar!

See the complete list of species found here

Time to head out to the field. Participants group up with their leaders.

Cassie Novak, naturalist and participant meets Larry Weber, fungi and spider expert.

Ben Yokel (driving) and Kim Eckert (not pictured) led two bird outings. The groups tallied over 70 species! An admirable feat in the summer "bird doldroms" of August. Photo by Rubin Stenseng The Banded Longhorn (Typocerus velutinus) was found along Lake Nichols Road by the butterfly group. (photo Sparky Stensaas) A first record for Sax-Zim! This gorgeous Small Purple Fringed Orchid (Platanthera psycodes) was discovered by the Botany trip leaders Kelly O'Brien Beaster and Sarah Beaster. Photo by Rubin Stenseng.Discovered by the butterfly group, this Eastern Gray Treefrog was relaxing on a Milkweed leaf. A resident of northern bogs, the Dorcas Copper was quite common this year along Arkola Road just a mile east of Owl Avenue. Photo by Sparky Stensaas. A colorful Nordmann's Orbweaver (Araneus nordmanni) was one of three large orbweavers found by the spider group. Photo by Cassie Novak.

The groups return to the Owl Avenue Welcome Center to share their findings.

Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) was in full bloom in early August. The butterfly group searched in vain for the Baltimore Checkerspot nearby as the butterfly relies on this plant as caterpillar food. It is named for the shape of its flowers and grows in wet ditches and marshy areas. A unique fungus is the Tiger's Eye (Coltricia perennis), also known as the Funnel Polypore. It is a type of bracket fungus that grows from the ground on a vertical central stem, unlike its tree-clinging cousins. Photo by Cassie Novak. The wildflower group ponders their finds. Leader Kelly O'Brien Beaster is second from the left. Development Director Sarah Beaster (R). Photo by Rubin Stenseng. A first state record! Chad Heins, our spider leader, discovered this Tapinopa bilineata female near the Welcome Center. Chad examined it under a stereoscope and declared it a new species for Minnesota! Photo by Chad Heins. You'd think this boldly patterned and colorful ichneuman wasp would be easy to identify, but you'd be wrong. There are so many similar species in North America that it is impossible to ID most without examining parts under a stereoscope. A beauty nonetheless! Photo by Sparky Stensaas. Two Atlantis Fritillaries compete with a bumble bee for nectar from a thistle. Photo by Rubin Stenseng. A large and distinctive weevil, Lepyrus aquaticus, was found in a wet area along Lake Nichols Road. The delicate flower of Spreading Dogbane. Photo by Cassie Novak. Dragonfly leader Jeff Fisher netted this gorgeous Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa) along Stone Lake Road. PHoto by Sparky Stensaas. Indian Pipe, a wildflower that lives like a fungus. It has no chlorophyll and gets its food from fungus in the soil. Photo by Rubin Stenseng. Swamp Candles (Lysimachia terrestris) brightens the day. Photo by Rubin Stenseng.


Things that Go Buzz, Croak, Hoot & Bump in the Night

May 3rd 6-10pm Sax-Zim Bog

Ten folks explored the dusk/nocturnal world of Sax-Zim Bog tonight. We started off with dinner and conversation at the Wilbert Cafe in Cotton, then broke up into a four-car caravan. Our first stop was the Arkola/Poplar Rd Sharp-tailed Grouse lek. No grouse, but an unexpected Osprey did a very good Harrier imitation.

Our next stop was at the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center on Owl Avenue. While admiring the view of the flooded sedge marsh through the Center's picture windows, Bruce Munson spotted an American Bittern only about 50 yards away. We all enjoyed scope views of this rarely seen bird from inside the Welcome Center! Way to go Bruce!

The group watching the Bittern from inside the Welcome Center.


Dave Steininger spotted this Porcupine feeding on willow catkins/flowers along Arkola. Betsy Dugan quipped that it might make a good children's book with the juxtaposition of the prickly porkie and the fuzzy catkins.


All was quiet along McDavitt Road until Sparky played a Northern Saw-whet Owl call on his iPhone. After a minute, John Kelsey spotted a dark shadow fly in then quickly drop down. We assumed a Great Gray, but could not rule out a Barred Owl. Sparky squeeked on his hand, and within seconds this Great Gray flew in and perched only thirty yards from us. He stayed with us for a couple minutes until a low-flying helicopter scared him off.

Our last stop was the gravel pits along Admiral Road, Sparky's favorite Woodcock "peenting" grounds. It wasn't long before we could hear a couple males doing their twittering aerial display. Al Loken amazingly got this handsome male in his flashlight within seconds. Nice job Al! We crept closer and got a front row show. Sparky also heard the only singing Saw-whet Owl of the evening at this spot.

Other highlights included 2 Horned Grebes on Stone Lake, Raven nest with at least 2 fairly large young, 2 late Rough-legged Hawks, many Wilson's Snipe displaying, 4 Lesser Yellowlegs along south end of Admiral Road, Broad-winged Hawk, Ruffed Grouse, Trumpeter Swans (Dave Steininger, Lori Williams), Sandhill Crane (Bruce Munson, Dave & Lori).

American Bittern at Welcome Center (photo by John Kelsey)


Grand Day for a Grand Opening!

Saturday March 8th could not have been a better day....The weather was glorious and the turnout for the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center Grand Opening was impressive, with over 200 folks attending. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves with much mingling, socializing, drinking (cider!), eating, birding, oohing and aaahing (at the cool building and beautiful bird tiles and amazing photos).

L-R: Heather-Marie Bloom (Welcome Center host), Kate Nicoletti (Board Member), Sarah Beaster (Development Director), Sparky Stensaas (Executive Director), Dave Steininger (Board Member), Lori Williams (Board Member), Kim Eckert (founding Board Member), Frank Nicoletti (Welcome Center host), Ben Yokel (Board Member). Not pictured: Dave Benson (Board Chair).

Sparky cuts the "ribbon" (scarves) with his loppers (the loppers he used to cut down about a thousand aspen saplings from the building site!)

Inside of the new Welcome Center. Note the Tamarack tongue-and-groove interior wood. This will be a seasonal winter building open from mid December to mid March (when all the birders/photographers visit).

Erin Shae from Silicon Energy warming up. We are buying our solar panels from them. Made in Minnesota! The entire building will be off-the-grid.

White Pine timbers from the ecologically responsible Raajala Lumber in Deer River, MN.

Troy, area forester for St. Louis County, visits with Friends of Sax-Zim Bog Board Members.

Bird tiles made by Alaska artist Nancy Hausle-Johnson for supporters who donated $400 or more during the building campaign. All species are specialties of the Sax-Zim Bog. Donors who gave $100-399 will be listed on a plaque on the main bird tile mural.

Even with all the people around, several Pine Grosbeaks, two Gray Jays and a lone White-winged Crossbill made an appearance at the Welcome Center.

A photo exhibit of Sax-Zim Bog flora and fauna from 21 different photographers was printed on a ten-foot long banner for all to enjoy. The images highlight the amazing biodiversity of the Bog. Bog Wild! will be on display in the Welcome Center next winter for all to enjoy.

Weather was perfect with temps in the 20s, calm and sunny.

Diane Millard shows her very cool Cardinal mitts.

Snowshoe hikes into the Bog were enjoyed by many. Deep snow (very deep snow!) kept us all to the trails. Gray Jays escorted us.

Hot cider, coffee and many delicious snacks kept everyone warm and happy.

This is only the beginning! This summer we will be completing the deluxe outhouse/shed combo, and putting the solar panels in place. We also hope to establish more hiking/snowshoeing trails and eventually a bog boardwalk. School groups are coming out this fall to learn about the bog's natural history. We are also buying more land. Stay tuned!