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Clinton Nienhaus—2018 Big Half Year


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Great Gray Owl from Lake Nichols Road by Clinton Nienhaus

My Big Half Year:
Because the rules of the Big Half Year are that your targets must be bird related, my Big Half Year is going to include birds, butterflies, and dragonflies. All of these species are related, whether it is the birds that eat caterpillars, or the dragonflies that eat butterflies, or the need of specific habitats for all of the above. To make this challenge more interesting, I am going to do my Big Half Year on Birds, Odonates, and Butterflies on Lake Nichols Road only!! Lake Nichols Road is one of my favorites in the entire bog. There is access to a diverse set of habitats (black spruce/tamarack/cedar bog, a lake, a stream, and deciduous forest) which makes this road one of the best if you are interested in a little bit of everything when you visit the Sax-Zim Bog! The impetus for this Big Half Year is to add to the “bogdiversity” of the Sax-Zim Bog and find “the one that got away,” a hairstreak (butterfly) that I saw along the road, but could not ID!
About Me:

I am the Head Naturalist for the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog and Education Director for Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. This is my third season working for FOSZB. I am originally from southern Minnesota, but have been in the northland for 5 years now. I have been interested in a myriad of things over my time in the field, starting with fish and reptiles and moving to plants, birds, and odonates. Butterflies are not new to me, but I have spent very little time in the field with them! I am excited to participate in the Big Half-Year this year!

Big Half Year Totals

Birds: 14

Butterflies: 0

Dragonflies: 0


Big Half Year Update 2/28/2018

March is almost here and migration is picking up in regions to our south! I am just dreaming for the flocks of geese and waterfowl that will be landing on Lake Nichols! This last month has been incredibly slow. If you can believe it… I have not seen a Blue Jay OR Downy Woodpecker along Lake Nichols Road yet this year!!! There are a few houses with feeders, but none that are easy to observe from any location. Uffdah! I did pick up one new species during this update period, near the middle of February: Northern Shrike. If you are keeping track of my tally, nearly all of the winter only species that I can find along this road have been accounted for and with raptor migration beginning soon, Rough-legged Hawk is my next big target to see along Lake Nichols Road. I might have to spend some time just sitting and waiting along the road, but with a good wind, who knows what will blow over!


Bird Species added:

  • Northern Shrike


Big Half Year Update 2/01/2018

One month is in the books! What a stagnant end to January I have had. Lake Nichols Road can be a bounty for species, but my winter species list is exceedingly low due to the quick start I got in January. Realistically, the options I have left for the winter species on Lake Nichols Road is small: only 7 species! It is going to take a lot of work to get the last few winter species before migration begins to expand my options. However, I can report that I added a very difficult bird (at least this winter) to my list while looking for woodpeckers in mid January: White-winged Crossbill! These cone dependent wanderers have been vacant from most of the state this winter, with pockets showing up here and there. Two of these boreal finches flew over-head while looking for woodpeckers along the east end of Lake Nichols Road, a very welcome surprise and unexpected addition for the list this year! Hopefully, another surprise or two is in for me this winter season, but I am telling you now, spring migration can’t come soon enough!


Bird species added:

  • White-winged Crossbill


Big Half Year Update 1/11/2018

Of course, no butterflies or dragonflies have been encountered in the brisk winter temperatures of the Sax-Zim Bog, but that does not mean species have not been added to my list! The birds of Lake Nichols Road have treated me well so far!

At this point of the half year, my hope is to check off the hard to find species of bird. Winter visitors, like redpolls and pine grosbeaks will not stick around in the summer, so the only window to see them is the winter. I have had great luck checking out a feeder along Lake Nichols Road, which has given some great birds including Common and Hoary Redpolls and Pine Grosbeak. This feeder was also the location where my Christmas Bird Count Group also had a Pine Siskin, which have been very hard to find this winter! I have not seen it yet, but will be checking regularly!

The other hard to find species in the winter are those birds that might not be active much during the daylight hours or those who move around so much that they are difficult to find. Of the hard to find species, I have checked off 4 tricky ones, including Great Grey Owl, Northern Goshawk, Ruffed Grouse, and Barred Owl. There are lots of birds to find along this road and I cannot wait to see what other surprises lay ahead!

Bird Species added:

  • Northern Goshawk
  • Pine Grosbeak
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • American Crow (bird #1 for the Big Half Year List!)
  • Common Raven
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Common Redpoll
  • Hoary Redpoll
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Barred Owl
  • Great Gray Owl

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