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



2014 BRRRRDathon/Photothon Registration open!

2014 BRRRRDathon/Photothon

November 19, 2013—Winter birds have arrived in the North Woods of Minnesota & Wisconsin—Northern Hawk Owl, Snow Bunting, Northern Shrike  and Rough-legged Hawk. Can winter be far behind? Time to prepare for the 2014 Friends of Sax-Zim Bog BRRRRDathon (Fri-Sat. Jan. 10-11, 2014) & Photothon (Dec 28-Jan. 8).

The Brrrrdathon is the coldest birdathon in the world! (at least that’s how we’re marketing it). It will take place in the coldest month of the year, in one of the coldest places in the Lower 48...northern Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin.

This is the 4th Annual event. Details here.  Teams of one to five members will scour the hinterlands (and urban wilds?) of the northern Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin (NOT JUST SAX-ZIM!) to see who can find the most bird species.

The two-day Brrrrdathon is the BIG EVENT...with the greatest prestige for the winning team. A one-day event is for those who can only go out on Saturday (and those with frostbite issues ).

We are also offering a PHOTOTHON…Your Best 10-image Bird Portfolio from the event days (all photos must be taken in the event "playing field") will be judged by a panel.

Winners will get their names memorialized on Gary the Granite Great Gray sculpture...and will be able to get their photo taken with Gary too! We will also have a slough of prizes...Including a pair of Eagle Optics Ranger ED binoculars...a $500 value!

**BRRRRDathon: Friday & Saturday January 10-11th, 2014    

**Photothon: Sat. Dec. 28 through Wed. January 8th, 2014

—Registration is $25 and includes a gift and a one-year membership

—Each participant will have their own web page Click here to register. 

—Now allowing 1-person teams in all events

—We are highly encouraging participants to get pledges per species

—Photothon Now a full 12 days! HOW MUCH?

—ALL EVENTS ARE $25 per person.

HOW to REGISTER?— Click here to register. All you have to do is register online and set up your own personal BRRRRDathon/PHotothon web page. Then set your BRRRRDathon/Photothon Goal (e.g. "I am hoping to see 35 species of birds during the 2-day BRRRRDathon") Now simply email, tweet or alert your facebook friends of your goals and link to your birdathon web page. Painless fundraising! You don't have to collect checks or cash. Your backers will just donate online or send a check to Friends after the event. Donations can be made either on a per-species basis or as a lump sum. Remember, this is a fundraiser for land purchase and ongoing operations of Friends of Sax-Zim Bog.

WHERE?—The “playing field” is all of NW Wisconsin and NE Minnesota...Not just Sax-Zim Bog! Teams will have to strategize to find the most species. They’ll have to coordinate searches for gulls in Duluth or Superior or Ashland...or decide where to look for boreal species...Sax-Zim or Aitkin County or ???...Maybe a jaunt to Lake County to search for Spruce Grouse... or chase reported rarities. Much strategizing needs to be done! See map here


Two-day Event: One to five members (all day Friday and Saturday)

One-day Event: One to five members (all day Friday OR Saturday)

Winter Green Event: One to five members (all day Friday OR Saturday) Non-motorized... Walk, snowshoe, ski, horseback...Must be in one continuous trip...You cannot walk then drive to a new spot and walk. But you can make limited use of a bus in an urban area.

Photothon: Best 10 Bird jpeg Portfolio of images taken Sat. Dec. 28 thru Wed. Jan. 8, 2014 IN CONTEST AREA (Individual only)

COMPILATION & AWARDS: Saturday Jan. 11th 5:30-7pm at Hartley Nature Center in Duluth (3001 Woodland Avenue, Duluth, phone: 218.724.6735). Awards, compilation and stories! BRRRRDathon

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: January 9, 2014 Photothon

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: January 4, 2014 Event details here