Visit the Sax-Zim Bog
The Sax-Zim Bog is prime habitat for bog specialists such as Great Gray Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Connecticut Warbler. Bobcat, Lynx, Pine Marten, Fisher also use this habitat. Mature bogs are also important wintering habitat for Great Gray Owl, N Hawk Owl, White-winged Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll and Hoary Redpoll.
The best time for the winter specialties is mid December through late February. Migrant warblers move through the bog in the second half of May. Breeding birds are in full song during June and even first week in July.
Located an easy 50-minute drive north west of Duluth, Minnesota, the Bog is easily accessible by many dirt and paved roads (see maps below). Lodging is available in Duluth, Floodwood, Cloquet, Eveleth, Virginia and Hibbing. There are also several local B&Bs.
Sparky Stensaas firstname.lastname@example.org 218.341.3350 (Jan-Feb, mid May-June) www.ThePhotoNaturalist.com
Erik Bruhnke [WINTER ONLY IN 2014-15] email@example.com (http://www.naturallyavian.com/)
Kim Risen firstname.lastname@example.org
Frank Nicoletti email@example.com
Chris West firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Eckert email@example.com (www.mbwbirds.com)
Judd Brink firstname.lastname@example.org (based out of Brainerd Lakes area)
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
1. IS IT COLD IN WINTER?
Yes, it is cold in winter. But temps can range from 40 above (rare) to 50 below (rare). Average December high is +20, low +4; January avg high is +17, low -2, February avg high is +23, low +3.
2. WHAT CLOTHES SHOULD I BRING FOR WINTER BIRDING?
The warmest stuff you can get. Insulated boots are a must. Dress in layers. Long underwear works great. Hats and gloves. Some folks swear by hand warmers and even place in their boots. Remember though, much birding is done from the car.
3. ARE THE ROADS PLOWED?
Yes, but not always right away. If in doubt, stay off unplowed roads.
4. DO I NEED AN S.U.V OR 4X4?
No, but it doesn't hurt either! Many of us bird in all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive vehicles. Snow tires help immensely on 2-wheel drive cars. Remember, this is FLAT country...No hills to contend with.
5. WHAT IS THE BIGGEST DANGER IN WINTER?
The biggest hazard is probably pulling over too far and getting your wheels stuck in the ditch. Many folks have had to be pulled out by 4x4s or tow trucks (which are scarce and expensive). And you may not be found for quite a while. And though cell phone reception is good over most of the bog, it is not complete coverage for all carriers.
6. IS THERE CELL PHONE COVERAGE?
Cell phone reception is good over most of the bog, it is not complete coverage for all carriers. It can even be spotty for AT&T and Verizon customers.
7. HOW DO I FIND THE WINTER BIRDS?
First thing to do is to download our Birding Map. This shows all the best roads to drive and feeder locations. Secondly, check our Facebook page and the Sax-Zim Bog group for the latest sightings. Also check the MN Ornithologist's Union listserv (www.moumn.org). When you arrive, stop by our Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center on Owl Avenue and talk to the host to see what's been seen lately (OPEN DAILY from mid December to mid March, 10am-3pm)
8. ARE THERE RESTROOMS IN THE BOG?
There are several but they are few and far between. Our Welcome Center on Owl Avenue has one that is available 24/7. Otherwise, you'd need to go to Cotton, MN where there are 2 gas stations and a cafe. Plan accordingly!
9. WHERE CAN I EAT?
There is the Wilbert Cafe in Cotton that is open daily. In Meadowlands, there is the Trailside Bar & Grill which opens at 3pm on weekdays but before lunch on weekends. You can also get food at the gas stations in Cotton.
10. WHERE CAN I GET GAS?
The only nearby gas stations are the two in Cotton, MN. Plan accordingly!
11. DO YOU GUYS RUN THE FESTIVAL?
No, Friends of Sax-Zim Bog does not run the festival. The Sax-Zim Winter Bird Festival was started by guide Mike Hendrickson and is run in association with the Toivola-Meadowlands Development Board. We support this fantastic event however we can, but we do not run it.
12. ARE THERE ANY PLACES I SHOULD AVOID?
Yes, please avoid birding the very north end of Stickney Road just south of Sax Rd (CR 28). If at all possible, use CR7 to get from the south part of the Bog (Arkola/CR52) to the north part (Sax Rd/CR28).
13. WHAT ELSE CAN I DO TO BE A GOOD BIRDING NEIGHBOR?
The Sax-Zim Bog is home to many residents, good folks who live there year-round. Please respect them by doing the following: a.) Don't stare into someones front yard or house with binoculars. b.) Watch your rear view mirror! Folks need to get to work or home and can be frustrated by us birders/photographers driving slowly as we look for birds. Move over when you see someone coming up behind you. c.) Respect private property and only leave the road in areas that are public lands and not posted as private.
14. WHERE ARE GOOD PLACES FOR BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY?
The feeding stations are great places to start...Try the Welcome Center feeders, Admiral Road feeders, and others. Occasionally interesting mammals may come to the feeders too...Ermine, Gray Fox, Red Squirrels, Pine Marten.
15. WHERE CAN I GO SNOWHOEING?
You can go snowshoeing/hiking on any county/state lands in the Sax-Zim Bog. If you don't have a plat book, you may want to stick to the obvious locations: Welcome Center has snowshoe trails and the McDavitt/Admiral Road corridors are all public lands in the bog sections.
16. ARE THE MOSQUITOS BAD IN MAY/JUNE?
They can be, but often late May and early June birding is early when cool temps may keep them down. Bring bug dope! The best bug dope is one with a low percentage of DEET.
17. IS IT WORTH VISITING THE BOG OUTSIDE OF WINTER?
Most winter birds head back north in the first two weeks in March...So what is a birder to do?
April—Melting snow banks, lakes thawing, spring blizzards, eagles overhead—Good time to go up on a quiet calm night and listen for singing Saw-whet Owls and frogs (Boreal Chorus, Wood, and Spring Peepers). Highlight may be Sharp-tailed Grouse leks where they may be dancing at dawn...sometimes on top of the snow.
May—Warblers start showing up in mid May, but late May is best for warbler variety. Look for waves of warblers and then park yourself in one spot and see what comes by.
June—Breeding time! Fantastic birding from half hour before dawn until about 10am. Mid-day siesta or check out Stone Lake for waterbirds. Don't forget the bug dope! See our birding map for the best roads to see summer specialties.
July—Not as good as June but first half of the month many breeders are still singing. Late month is amazing for butterflies. Drive dirt roads to find congregations of butterflies.
August—Quiet! Literally...as birds are done singing. Practice identifying "confusing fall warblers." BUT bugs are mostly done and wonderful roadside wildflowers, insects, butterflies, spiders.
September—Congregations of swallows on wires, hawks begin migrating, harriers hunt meadows. Also aspen, birch, and maple leaves begin turning.
October—Peak of fall color. Tamaracks golden yellow by mid month to third week. During irruption years, the first Great Grays, N Hawk Owls begin showing up.
November—Best to stay away from Sax-Zim Bog during first half of the month. Leave the area to the deer hunters. Let's stay out of their way. Late month is usually the first staying snow of the winter. Northern owls, crossbills, redpolls, shrikes begin showing up.
December through first week of March—Buy your plane tickets! THE time to visit the Bog for birding!
Why Care about Bogs and Peatlands?
Great Gray Owls are symbols of the bogs of northern Minnesota. Birders, photographers and videographers travel from all corners of the globe to our boreal forests to find, watch and photograph our bog birds. But most residents of our state are unaware of the quantity of life in the peatlands and the international attention its resident critters draw.
And the best ambassador of bogs has to be the “Phantom of the North”—the Great Gray Owl—which needs bogs for all aspects of its life. But Black Spruce bogs—and peatlands in general— are unknown, ignored, or scary places for most folks. And because of this, most think of bogs as dark, dank, mosquito-ridden swamps. But the reality is that they are places of light, delicate wildflowers, rare orchids, fascinating mammals and of course, home to millions of breeding birds—owls, warblers, flycatchers (and, yes, mosquitos). But even the hated mosquito has its place—it is the foundation of the northern forest food pyramid.
Bogs cover millions of acres across northern Minnesota, Canada and Alaska in North America and they are under increasing pressure due to logging, especially for pulp and paper. This environmental factor does make an educational film even more timely and important. We protect and care for what we know.