Boreal Owl Invasion Fails to Meet Expectations in Minnesota

Boreal owls are extremely rare resident birds in Minnesota. The first nesting pair was not recorded until 1978.  But every once in awhile, due to the boom and crash cycles of sub-arctic rodents, Boreal Owls invade northern Minnesota. Last fall citizen scientist, Susan Plankis, reported that Minnesota birders believed that the winter of 2012-13 was going to be one of those years. Birder, Jim Lind did see one January 23rd in Two Harbors, and one was spotted earlier this winter in Sax-Zim Bog by Chad Heins and just yesterday a Boreal owl was spotted at Goosberry Falls State Park, but occasional sightings are not unusual even in a typical year. There have been reports of an uptick in Boreal Owls being banded in Quebec and eastern Ontario which is evidence of an invasion but not yet as far west as the Quetico Superior.

Boreal Owls are often remarked as one … Continue reading

BWCA Permits Available in One week

Varnish those paddle blades, oil the Duluth Pack straps, grease those tent zippers and scrutinize the maps. Paddlers who want to realize their summertime paddling dreams need to start planning now. In addition to tuning up the gear and planning a route, campers need to reserve their desired entry point for their desired departure date. Access procedures for the BWCAW have changed in the last couple years. Lottery applications for Fall Lake entry points D (Fall Lake & Beyond) and 24 (Fall Lake) and Moose Lake entry points F (Moose-Newfound-Sucker), G (Moose-Prairie-Basswood) and 25 (Moose Lake) are open now. Lottery applications close on January 21. All other entry point reservation are made on a first-come, first-served basis beginning 9 a.m. January 30th. Campers can secure a permit online or by calling … Continue reading

cold day in minnesota

It is cold today. Not super cold, the Twin Cities used to average 30 days a winter below zero, but last year we had more days over 100 than below zero. So it is a situation of shifting norms or maybe hyped up weathermen that are recent transplants from SoCal. Tomorrow is predicted to be the first daytimehigh in four years that stays in the in below zero range, and that is a cold day. I actually like cold days and prefer a crisp sub-zero snap to those damp overcast days of November. I hope it sticks around for a week.  A good arctic snap will stem the flu epidemic and maybe knock down some of next season’s ticks and beetles.

Cold but depressingly snowless around here. I skied at Elm Creek (manufactured snow). A long drive and usually crowded with spandex sheathed nordic racers but today I had it almost to myself. … Continue reading

Happy I do not live in Siberia

There has been some disagreement and protest about the wolf hunt in Minnesota this year. The grass is certainly not greener on the other side of the pond. On January 15, the Russian Siberian Republic of Yakutia began a war on wolves. Of the estimated 3,500 wolves in the area, the Republic plans to kill 3,000 of the animals. Monetary rewards will be paid to the top hunters and trappers. This effort is in dramatic contrast to Minnesota DNR wolf management program. In a controversial, but tightly controlled fee-based public hunt, which has just concluded, approximately 400 of the state’s estimated population of 3,500 wolves were killed. Although I have not seen many wolves in Minnesota, I have had frequent encounters with arctic wolves in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. I have been within a few feet of wolves several times and they have never acted aggressively. I have mixed feelings on … Continue reading

The Pow Wow Trail

When most people think of summer recreation in the Boundary Waters Wilderness, images of canoes, blue lakes and fishing come to mind. To a cadre of backpacking enthusiasts the BWCAW is also home to the wildest backpacking trails in the midwest. These trails enable citizens to safely penetrate a wilderness, detached from canoe routes, and to experience ecosystems in a more terrestrial manner.

Hikers accustomed to trails in the mountainous and arid west can find these lightly traveled BWCAW trails difficult to follow. Even experienced hikers, sometimes in a cold sweat, will turn on their gps units just to make sure they have not wandered from the hiking trail on to a game trail or a long abandoned logging road. The 45-year old, 29-mile, Pow Wow trail is located in the south central BWCAW beginning at the west end of Lake Isabella. It was made infamous by Cary J Griffith’s … Continue reading

The Rio Grande and Rain

Off to the Rio Grande on February 2nd. I will be paddling the lower canyons by canoe and I am wildly excited about it. I have a great crew and I just cannot wait to lose myself in the spiritual grandeur of those desert canyons.

With water levels as low as they are in west Texas, we likely will not see many, if any, people on the river, but hopefully we will be paddling not walking the 85-mile route. After an autumn when I was concerned about water levels for paddling in the BWCA, to a winter when I keep looking skyward hoping for snow to keep me xc skiing (rain is predicted today), and now wondering about water levels and whether springs will be flowing along the Rio Grande, precipitation and temperature have been a persistent theme in my thinking and honestly, a worry.

Last year was the warmest … Continue reading