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BRRRRdathon 2018: World’s Coldest Birdathon!

January 17, 2018 Category: Tags: , ,

2018 BRRRRdathon Results

Team “Bicycle Icicles” traversed about 19 miles of Duluth via fat bike during the Wintergreen (non-motorized) division of the BRRRRdathon (L-R: Andrew Webster, Mikayla Haines, Tom Beery).


Minus -26F was the low recorded by participants on both Friday (Sax-Zim Bog) and Saturday (Isabella, MN) of our 8th Annual BRRRRdathon, living up to its reputation as the World’s Coldest Birdathon.

This was the first year of our new points system in which all birds were given  a 1-5 point value depending on their rarity in the “playing field” of NE Minnesota and NW Wisconsin. Some grumbling was heard about Sparky’s assigned values but overall it seems to have added a fun element of strategy to the contest.

17 hardy participants joined the effort, with over half of those competing in the Wintergreen division (or should we call it the “What are you Thinking?” division?…or maybe the “Crazy” division?). These Wintergreeners traversed Duluth and Superior on fat bikes (mountain-style bikes with really fat tires) and endured hours of bone-chilling cold…and they even create their own windchill when they ride.

Unfortunately the birds were more sane that the birders, and many were hunkered down to save energy in the bitter cold. Only 55 species were tallied by all teams. This is our second lowest composite total since the event’s inception in 2011 when only 50 species were found (73 species is the record total set in 2017 and 2012).

HIGHLIGHTS included Boreal Owl in Duluth’s Hartley Park, Red-necked Grebe on Lake Superior, Cooper’s Hawk at UMD chasing pigeons, 4 species of gull at the dump in Superior (including Iceland, Glaucous and Greater Black-backed), and Belted Kingfisher (also at Hartley Park).

And the teams enjoyed seeing our boreal species including Black-backed Woodpecker, Great Gray Owl, N Hawk Owl, Spruce Grouse, Hoary Redpoll, Gray Jay, Pine Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill, and Boreal Chickadee.

A couple surprising MISSES included Red Crossbill and Snowy Owl (though Sparky saw one on the way to buy the lasagna for the compilation dinner in Superior!).

Thanks to Duluth Folk School for hosting our compilation dinner, and to all the frostbitten participants! See you next January! (Tentative dates for next year’s BRRRRdathon are January 11-12, 2019)

2-DAY BRRRRdathon

94 points—47 species—Grousing Twitchers (Dave Benson, John Ellis, Lars Benson)

(57 points—32 species—Clinton Nienhaus tallied while guiding both days)

(36 species—Steve Millard tallied in Ottertail County including Greater Prairie-chicken and Great Blue Heron)


45 points—28 species—The Coldfinches (Barb Akre, Cindy Edwardson, Chris Edwardson)

(23 species—Kim Eckert’s Minnesota Birding Weekend’s field trip)

WINTERGREEN (non-motorized division)

34 points—26 species—Frozen Gearfalcons (Tim Bates, Pat Kohlin, Bryan French)

31 points—23 species—The Bicycle Icicles (Andrew Webster, Mikayla Haines, Tom Beery)

25 points—21 species—Bird NERRds (Emily Wilmoth, Steve Gebhard, Deanna Erickson)


Bryan French, member of the Frozen Gearfalcons team, scans the Lincoln Park gorge during a very cold non-motorized day. (Photo by Pat Kohlin)