Our winter visitors to the Arctic Riviera (Sax-Zim!) start heading back north to nest. Pine Grosbeaks are the first to leave, usually moving out during the first week. Crossbills follow soon after. Redpolls may linger until mid April. Snow can still be deep in the woods and blizzards and snowstorms are a sure bet (March can be the snowiest month of the winter). The “willow blush” is on! Admire the beautiful reds and yellows of the willow flats as the bark of the different species turn deeper color during March.
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 (see Sax-Zim Birding Map for lek locations). Woodcock are active and displaying on calm evenings at dusk. Skunk Cabbage may be pushing up through late-season snow, its fetid odor attracting early-season flies. Beaked Hazel blooms. In mid-month listen for returning Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Winter Wrens, Song and White-throated Sparrows. Fox Sparrows and White-crowned Sparrows move through on their way to more northerly breeding sites. Check open water at Stone Lake for migrating ducks—Buffleheads, Goldeneye, Hooded Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks and returning residents, the pair of Trumpeter Swans that usually nest in the Stone Lake chain of lakes. Porcupines are quite visible at dusk as they feed on aspen and willow catkins up in the trees.
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. Connecticut Warblers usually on territory by last few days of May (best spots are along Admiral Road near the winter feeders, Owl Avenue south of Welcome Center, McDavitt Road bog sections).
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. Many folks come to Sax-Zim Bog seeking Connecticut Warblers (best spots are along Admiral Road near the winter feeders, Owl Avenue south of Welcome Center, McDavitt Road bog sections). Connecticuts are possible in any large stand of mixed Tamarack-Black Spruce bog. LeConte’s Sparrows like meadows of sedge, grass and shrub (check south side of Stone Lake Road, Watsula Road, south end of Admiral Road).
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.
Quiet! Literally…as birds are done singing. Practice identifying “confusing fall warblers.” BUT bugs are mostly done and wonderful roadside wildflowers, insects, butterflies, spiders. Nichols Lake Road is great for wildflowers and butterflies.
Congregations of swallows on wires, hawks begin migrating, Northern Harriers hunt meadows. Also aspen, birch, and maple leaves begin turning.
Peak of fall color. Tamaracks golden yellow by mid month to third week. Keep an eye on the sky for large migrating raptors including Red-tails, Rough-legged Hawks and Golden Eagles. During irruption years, the first Great Grays, Northern Hawk Owls begin showing up.
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! Stop in at the Welcome Center (10am to 3pm 7-days a week) to get an update on the latest sightings. ALWAYS best to search for Great Grays at dawn and dusk…Don’t arrive at 10am and leave at 3pm and expect to see one. Hawk Owls (if around) hunt all day long. During middle of the day, drive the roads shown on our Sax-Zim Birding Map or our Winter Driving Tour, and stop and check all the bird feeders marked on the map. If you want to see the Evening Grosbeaks at Mary Lou’s feeders, best to check them before noon as they can be harder to find in the afternoon. Snow Buntings are often seen along CR7 north of CR52. Northern Shrikes can be about anywhere…but always teed up on the tip-top of deciduous trees and on telephone/power lines.