Outdoors blog: Birders heading for Sax-Zim Birding Festival
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
Sax-Zim Birding Festival this weekend
Duluth bird bander David Evans holds a great gray owl he was nursing back to health in 1997. (News Tribune file)
When the great owl invasion of 2004-2005 occurred, residents in the Sax-Zim Bog area near Meadowlands were overwhelmed. And a little irritated. They didn't like hundreds of birders peering into their yards looking for great gray owls, northern hawk owls and other species. And they got a little tired of birders parked all over their roads.
But Meadowlands resident Helen Abrahamson, seeing what it could mean to have hundreds -- even thousands -- of birders around, asked Duluth birder Mike Hendrickson what people in the area could do to attract birders in future years.
The result is the annual Sax-Zim Birding Festival. This year's event, the third annual, runs from Friday through Sunday with headquarters in Meadowlands. It's modest by festival standards, said Hendrickson, who organizes it. About 120 people have registered for this year's festival. They'll go on birding field trips, browse vendors' wares and hear speakers Friday and Saturday night, Hendrickson said.
Because of the bog habitat, birders can come with reasonable expections of seeing great gray owls, hawk owls and winter finches such as boreal chickadees, Hendrickson said. Local residents have put out deer-carcass feeders or sunflower feeders to help attract the birds. Birders come mostly from the Midwest, but also from the East and West Coasts, Hendrickson said. They stay in Meadowlands, Floodwood, Cloquet and Duluth.
"It gives people the opportunity to see these birds and spend more time up there," Hendrickson said. "They see birds they'd normally have to go to Alaska to see."
Registration is now closed, but birders are welcome to come up and go birding all weekend. There hasn't been an invasion year since 2005, when hungry owls from Canada moved south by the thousands to find food.
The Sax-Zim bog is bounded by St. Louis County Highway 5 on the west, 27 on the north, 7 on the east and Minnesota Highway 133 on the south.
For more information, go to http://moumn.org/sax-zim/