BRRRRdathon: World’s Coldest Birdathon
A birdathon in northern Minnesota in January? You’ve got to be kidding! The BRRRRdathon may be the world’s coldest birdathon but it can also be the most exhilarating with the possibility of many boreal specialties in the North Woods. Imagine tallying the likes of Great Gray Owl, Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, Pine Grosbeak, Bohemian Waxwing, Hoary Redpoll, Gyrfalcon and Northern Hawk Owl in a two-day birding spree! And raising money for Friends of Sax-Zim Bog in the process. Win-win-win!
The “Playing Field” for this event includes ALL of Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin. In 2018 a new points system for the event was created to give multiple points for rarities and uncommon winter species. Information about this new system is included below.
The BRRRDathon consists of three categories of participation: 2-Day BRRRRdathon, 1-Day BRRRRDathon, and Wintergreen (non-motorized) BRRRRDathon
The 2-Day event requires some serious strategizing to maximize your species list. The team to pick up the most points over two days will be crowned the winner! We also have a One-day BRRRRdathon category [1-day participation can be either Friday or Saturday], and for the hardy (or just plain foolhardy), the non-motorized Wintergreen Division, where teams of self-powered birders cover the North Woods tracking down the most points. Will teams utilize dogsleds? snowshoes? bicycles? cross country skis? Stay tuned!
Registration is $10 per person per event.
More Event Information
HISTORY OF THE BRRRRdathon: World’s Coldest Birdathon
2023: 69 composite 52-Empire Shrikes Back (115)
2022: 70 composite 50-Grousing Twitchers (100) 28-Lou & the Brown-eyed Creepers (49) 31-Frosty-faced Finches (49)
2021: 68-composite 43-Team MBW (95) 48-Grousing Twitchers (91) 28-Dueling Raptors (45)
2020: 54-composite 48-Grousing Twitchers (93) 25-Milt Blomberg (42) 14-Minnesota Fat (?)
2019: 61-composite 46-Grousing Twitchers (87) [no participants] 26-Snowy Howl (42)
2018: 55-composite 47-Grousing Twitchers (94) 28-Egretables (45) 26-Frozen GearFalcons (34)
2017: 73-composite 52-Grousing Twitchers 32-Coldfinches 32-Grosbeaks of the Evening
2016: 71-composite 61-Grousing Twitchers 34-Egretables 19-Roughlegs
2015: ??-composite 57-Benny & the Bensons 46-Coldfinches 30-Guys Gone Fat
2014: 61-composite 53-Grousing Twitchers 29-Coldfinches 23-Slush Cyclers
2013: 67-composite 54-Badger Irruption 29-Egretables 25-Cold & Green
2012: 73-composite 53-Grousing Twitchers 30-Egretables 33-Tim & Andrew
2011: 50-composite 46-Grousing Twitchers 27-Bruce & Pete 16-Diana Doyle
2023 BRRRRdathon Results
You could not have asked for better January weather with lows around zero and highs in the 20s with light winds. In fact, it seemed downright balmy compared to last year’s 20-30 BELOW ZERO temps and strong winds.
Teams wandered far and wide in our BRRRRdathon “playing field” of northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. Birds were sought from Grand Marais to Grand Rapids, from Superior, Wisconsin to Crow Wing County, Minnesota, and from the Sawbill Trail to Sax-Zim. Steve & Diane Millard (Team Common Oldenguys) birded their home turf of Otter Tail County, Minnesota.
Among the very good composite total of 69 species (73 in 2017 was our highest) were excellent finds including Team HERG-only’s incredible sighting of a Boreal Chickadee mobbing a N. Saw-whet Owl on Park Point! Unusual ducks included Redheads in Agate Bay, Wood Duck near Pokegama Dam and a Bufflehead in Grand Marais (her third winter in a row at this spot). The Sax-Zim Trumpeter Swan was tallied by many groups. All the expected gulls (including Iceland, Glaucous, Lesser & Greater Black-backeds) and woodpeckers (including an American Three-toed near Cook) were tallied. A continuing Eurasian Tree-Sparrow in Superior added 5 points for multiple teams.
Our compilation dinner at Dovetail Cafe/Duluth Folk School (Thanks Tim!) was a cozy and cramped and crazy affair as 19 of us jammed into one room (Indiana is only 6-months old so she didn’t take up too much space). We tallied our species while enjoying good food and drink, with the bonus of hearing all the fun stories from the weekend. Many door prizes were handed out (34 to be exact!) and the winners in each category received their “I survived the World’s Coldest BRRRRdathon mug.
This is a fundraiser for Friends of Sax-Zim Bog and, once again, John Ellis was the number one pledge-getter and presented us with a check for $800!
We hope you can join the fun (and mayhem) in early January 2024!
Five non-motorized teams participated this year. Hannah, Sean, Steve & Steve literally biked away from the competition by tallying 45 points (27 species) along Park Point and the Duluth Harbor. Hannah’s team biked 22 miles in the pursuit! As the name of third place finishers, Team “T’JAA Walkers” implied, they hoofed it for 13 miles around the Duluth harbor and lakeshore to record 31 points (21 species).
- HERG-Only (45 pts / 27 species) Hannah Tuotonghi, Steve Kolby, Steve Nelson and Sean
- Chick-a-see Brrrrdee (32 pts / 22 species) Matti Erpestad, Ryan
- T’JAA Walkers (31 pts / 21 species) Tim Bates, Jamie Tigges, Alex Tukaianen, Andrew Webster
- Team (15 species) Ken Gilbertson, Pat Kohlin
- Team Halle Lambeau, Nicholas Frye
Lou & The Brown-eyed Creepers (Lori Williams & Dave Steininger & Lou the Dog) won the 1-day event with 43 points and 27 species.
Sparky (Fat-biked King Twitcher) 2-wheeled it around the Grand Marais harbor (and drove up the hillside a bit) but was distracted by an awesome bookstore and a longer-lunch-than-he-should-have-taken and only managed a measly 25 points.
- Lou & The Brown-eyed Creepers (43 pts / 27 species) Lori Williams & Dave Steininger
- Fat-biked King Twitcher (25 pts / 16 species) Sparky Stensaas
After winning 9 of the last 12 BRRRRdathons, Team Grousing Twitchers (despite tallying an impressive 103 points and 50 species) were upset by last year’s second-place team Empire Shrikes Back, who, in the process, set a new record 115 points; Trey Weaver, Brandon Lentz and Edward Hicks found 52 species including a number of high-point species.
Emily & The Crow Wingers (Mark & Linda Seifert) in their meanderings around the counties of Crow Wing, Aitkin, Itasca and Cass tallied 43 points from 27 species including a female Wood Duck.
Team Common Olden Guys (Steve & Diane Millard) participated in Otter Tail County and found some gems among their 36 species such as Gray Partridge and Eurasian Collared-Dove.
- Empire Shrikes Back (115 pts / 52 species) Trey Weaver, Brandon Lentz, Edward Hicks
- Grousing Twitchers ( 103 pts / 50 species) Lars & Dave Benson, John Ellis
- Emily & The Crow Wingers (43 pts / 27 species) Mark & Linda Seifert
- Common Olden Guys (36 species in Otter Tail County) Steve & Diane Millard
2022 BRRRRdathon Results
Friday of the BRRRRdathon lived up to this event being the World’s Coldest Birdathon; Several teams recorded temps in the Minus 30 below zero range! Twelve teams was the most we’ve had in years, and a good sign for the future. Though Covid-19 kept us from meeting in person again, we still enjoyed all the stories and compilation via Zoom.
Most teams hit Duluth and Sax-Zim Bog, and several teams did bird Grand Marais (Sparky and Team “The Empire Shrikes Back”) but Team “ Emily & the Crow Wingers” completed a unique route from Brainerd to Grand Rapids and also hit Aitkin County.
Avian Highlights included the SECOND Ivory Gull recorded on the BRRRRdathon (last one was in 2016), first event records for Wood Duck (Team “Emily & the Crow Wingers” at Pokegama Dam) and Rusty Blackbird (Team “Empire Shrikes Back” in Grand Marais). Teams also found two other blackbirds; a Red-winged Blackbird at Sisu Feeders in Sax-Zim and a couple Common Grackles. Sparrows also put in a good showing with multiple Juncos, American Tree Sparrow, Fox Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow. Team “Empire Shrikes Back” also found Spruce Grouse and American Three-toed Woodpecker near Cook. Other boreal specialties like Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker, Long-tailed Duck, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, White-winged Crossbill were also recorded. A Varied Thrush was also located.
Only ONE owl species was recorded; Snowy Owl (several in multiple locations). 70 composite species was our 3rd best ever.
EIGHT Wintergreen/non-motorized teams competed this year. Team “Frosty-faced Finches” tied Team “Another Day at the Office” in species at 31 but edged them out by 3 points (49 to 46). Both teams used mountain and fat bikes and Team “Another Day” biked over 26 miles! Team CORE Club hiked 11 miles on Park Point, and another team skied 11.3 miles.
- Frosty-faced Finches (31 spp / 49 pts) Andrew Webster & Matti Erpestad
- Another Day at the Office (31 spp / 46 pts) Tim Bates, Steve Gebhardt, Megan Hogfeldt
- CORE Club (23 spp / 43 pts)Hannah Tuotonghi, Halle Lambeau, Steve Kolbe, Noah Grode, Cami Citrowske
- Team Solitary Straggler (25 spp / 36 pts) Steve Nelson
- Team Hot Fries (24 spp / 34 pts) Brian French, Pat Kohlin, Deanna Erickson
- Fat-biked KingTwitcher (17 spp / 26 pts) Sparky Stensaas
- Birds & Brews (Josh Bailly, Jeff Davis?, Eric G?)
- Ken Gilbertson, Melody McNight (5 spp/?? pts)
Team Lou & the Brown-eyed Creepers dominated the 1-Day BRRRRdathon tallying 28 species and 49 points, and had a lot of fun in the process. Team Common Olden Guys did their traditional Otter Tail County route and came up with 34 species.
- Lou & the Brown-eyed Creepers (28 spp / 49 pts) Dave Steininger, Lori Williams, Lou the Dog
- [Common Olden Guys (34 spp in Otter Tail County) Steve & Diane Millard]
Team Grousing Twitchers won the 2-Day BRRRRdathon for the 10th time out of 12 years by tallying 50 species and recording 100 points.
- Grousing Twitchers (50 spp / 100 pts) Lars Benson, John Ellis
- Empire Shrikes Back (35 spp / 75 pts) Trey Weaver, Brandon Lentz
- Emily & The Crow Wingers (43 pts) Mark & Linda Seifert
- [MBW Weekends: Leaders Kim Eckert/Frank Nicoletti (35 spp / 62 pts)]
2021 BRRRRdathon Results
Though balmy winter temps in the low 30s didn’t put much “BRRRR” in the birdathon, 29 humans and 1 dog went birding anyway and found 68 species in the 11th annual event. Teams scoured and scanned fields, forests, feeders and dumps from Crow Wing Counties in the south to Grand Marais in the north. They also birded Sax-Zim, Duluth, Aitkin County, Two Harbors and remote parts of Lake County. Records were set in every category this year!
Team Grousing Twitchers (Lars Benson and John Ellis) won the 1-Day event with the most number of species (48) and points (91) ever recorded in this category. They birded from 4am until sunset and covered Sax-Zim Bog, Duluth, and Two Harbors.
In the 2-Day event, Team Minnesota Birding Weekends racked up 43 species and a new record 95 points. Frank Nicoletti and Dave Benson led a group of birders from Grand Marais to Two Harbors, Duluth and Sax-Zim.
Not to be outdone just because they used non-motorized locomotion, Team Dueling Raptors found an impressive 28 species from their bikes, and that totaled a record-breaking 45 points. Team members Tim Bates, Hannah Toutonghi and Deanna Erickson biked all around the Duluth area and harbor.
Avian highlights included Canada Goose (rare in Minnesota in winter), Ring-necked Duck, Harlequin Duck (Two Harbors), King Eider (Grand Marais), Bufflehead, Iceland Gull, Great Black-backed Gull (Duluth), California Gull (Duluth), Northern Hawk Owl (Sax-Zim), Great Gray Owl (Lake County), Black-backed Woodpecker (Sax-Zim), Black-billed Magpie away from Sax-Zim (Duluth), Boreal Chickadee (Sax-Zim), Bohemian Waxwings (Grand Marais), Hoary Redpoll (Sax-Zim). Team Dueling Raptors had an incredible experience watching a Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk fighting in mid air over a dead starling!
Thanks to all! See you next January!
WINTERGREEN-non-motorized—Team Dueling Raptors (Tim Bates, Hannah Toutonghi, Deanna Erickson) [28 spp/45 pts]; Team Don’t Scaup Believing (Steve Nelson, Allisa) [27 spp/40 pts]; Team Birds & Brews (Josh Bailly, Jeff Davis, Eric G) [20 spp/35 pts]; Team Red-biked KingTwitcher (Sparky Stensaas) [17 spp/27 pts]; Team Phat Boids (Bryan French, Pat Kohlin, Matti Erpestad) [14 spp/25 pts]; Team Fat Chickadees (Mark and Abby) [14 pts]; Team Frost Flicker (Andrew Webster) [11spp].
ONE-DAY BRRRRdathon—Team Grousing Twitchers (Lars Benson, John Ellis) [48 spp/91 pts]; Team Lou & the Brown-eyed Creepers (Lori Williams, Dave Steininger & Lou the Dog) [22 spp/35 pts]; Mark & Linda Seifert [21 spp/32 pts]
TWO-DAY BRRRRdathon—Team Minnesota Birding Weekends (Dave Benson, Frank Nicoletti & participants) [43 spp/95 pts]; Team Saw-what? (Brooke Wetmore, Danielle Tikalsky, Lexi Bruno) [27 spp/37 pts]; and participating outside the official “playing field” in Ottertail County, Team Common Olden guys (Steve & Diane Millard) [32 spp]
2020 BRRRRdathon Results
It wasn’t cold by Minnesota standards, but the World’s Coldest Birdathon went on in the relatively comfortable temps of teens and 20s ABOVE ZERO. Points are awarded for each bird species found, but rarer birds are worth more points! Players can roam all of NE and NC Minnesota and NW Wisconsin. Strategy is key to getting the most points.
Winning in the 2-Day BRRRRdathon for the 10th time in 11 years, the “Grousing Twitchers” spotted 48 species of birds and tallied 93 points (rarer birds garner more points). John Ellis, Alex Ellis and Lars Benson traveled to the Sax-Zim Bog, Duluth, Superior and all the way up the North Shore to Grand Marais and Paradise Beach. They found Boreal Chickadee at the Admiral Road feeders in Sax-Zim, American Tree Sparrow, Surf Scoter, Bufflehead and 4 species of gulls.
Milt Blomberg roamed from Moose Lake to Sax-Zim, with stops in Floodwood and Aitkin County. He tallied 42 points with 25 species including Varied Thrush, Northern Goshawk and Northern Hawk Owl, which was enough to win the 1-Day BRRRRdathon.
The non-motorized WINTERGREEN Division again had the most teams. Team “Chickadee Pedalers” (a Black-capped Chickadee actually landed on one of their bikes!) and Sparky of Team “Minnesota Fat” (fat bike, people…fat bike) TIED in number of species (14) but Sparky won on points with higher-ranked birds including Long-tailed Duck, White-winged Crossbill and Red-breasted Merganser. Sparky fat biked entirely in Grand Marais…sadly he forgot his scope but fortunately the ducks were semi-close. The Chickadee Pedalers biked the Cloquet area including open stretches of the St. Louis River. Nobody had done either Cloquet or Grand Marais in the past.
Steve and Diane Millard of Team “Common Olden Guys” birded for two-days in Otter Tail County and tallied an impressive 34 species including the only Eurasian Collared-Doves, Lapland Longspurs, Snow Buntings, Great Horned Owl, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackle and Belted Kingfisher of the event.
The composite total of species for the actual “playing field” of NE Minnesota and NW Wisconsin was 54 species, which is our second lowest ever. I think this is due to very few rarities and few winter finches around…also lower participation numbers.
Highlights included Northern Hawk Owl (2 locations), Northern Goshawk, Long-tailed Ducks (Grand Marais, Paradise Beach), Surf Scoter, Bufflehead (Silver Bay Marina), Northern Harrier (CR133 in Sax-Zim Bog), Lesser Black-backed, Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee (Admiral Road feeders in Sax-Zim Bog), Varied Thrush (Cromwell), Golden-crowned Kinglet & American Tree Sparrow (both along Warren Woessner Bog Boardwalk in Sax-Zim), 13 Juncos (Grand Marais), Northern Cardinal, Common Redpoll (rare this winter), White-winged Crossbills (several flocks Sweetheart Bluff in Grand Marais).
Groups also found a couple good mammals including a Coyote, Porcupine, and River Otter (Grand Marais harbor).
Thanks to all who participated! Get your team together for BRRRRdathon 2021!
2019 BRRRRdathon Results
How about “Bird-a-THAWn”? (Andrew Webster’s pun!)
The 9th Annual BRRRRdathon was certainly not that cold, but all participants will take home warm memories. Thanks to all who signed up and participated and especially to John Ellis who raised more than $400 in pledges!
Fat biking around Duluth-Superior-Two Harbors in 30 to 41 degree temps is not too bad! Last year’s Minus 16 to Minus-26 made this year downright balmy and very “un-BRRRR-ish.” The big story this year was the SIX non-motorized teams in the “WinterGreen” division.
Pacific Loon (both at French River on Lake Superior & Brighton Beach)
Tufted Duck (near Pier B Resort in Duluth)
Merlin chasing redpolls at Lester River mouth
Northern Goshawk (Sax-Zim Bog)
Snowy Owl (Sax-Zim)
2 Great Gray Owls (Warren Woessner Bog Boardwalk at Warren Nelson Bog, and along Zim Road)
Northern Hawk Owl (McDavitt Road in Sax-Zim)
Black-backed Woodpecker (Sax-Zim Bog)
Boreal Chickadee (Sax-Zim Bog)
Belted Kingfisher along Duluth’s Tischer Creek
Varied Thrush and Bohemian Waxwings in Two Harbors
Snow Buntings on Wisconsin Point (rare this year)
Gulls were hard to come by and so no rare gulls were reported.
The composite number of species was 61 which is above our low of 55 but well below our high or 73 species in 2017.
Team Grousing Twitchers (Dave Benson, Lars Benson, John Ellis) spotted 46 species and tallied 87 points to retain their dominance of winning every BRRRRdathon ever held except one. They birded Sax-Zim Bog, Duluth, Two Harbors and Superior.
Competition was fierce in the WinterGreen non-motorized division as six teams vied for birdathon supremacy. Team “Snowy Howls” (Deeana Erickson, Bryan French, Matti Erpestad) edged out Team “Shrikecycles” (Andrew Webster, Mikayla Haines, Tom Beery) by ONE point.
Two of the “Grousing Twitchers” (Lars Benson, John Ellis) check the Warren Woessner Bog Boardwalk. They hit pay dirt here with Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed Woodpecker and Great Gray Owl!
87 pts 46 species Grousing Twitchers Dave Benson, Lars Benson, John Ellis
40 species: Steve Millard in Ottertail County
We had no official count-area 1-day participants this year. But Steve Millard did his traditional 1-day birdathon outside the “playing field” of NE MN and NW WI with an effort in Otter Tail County, Minnesota. Steve tallied 40 species including TWO Black-crowned Night-Herons, Golden Eagle, Brown Thrasher, and Eurasian Collared-Dove.
WinterGreen non-motorized division
40 pts 26 species Snowy Howls Deanna Erickson, Bryan French, Matti Erpestad fat/mountain bike
39 pts 28 species Shrikecycles Andrew Webster, Tom Beery, Mikayla Haines mountain bike
32 pts 20 species Minnesota Fat Sparky Stensaas fat bike
29 pts 23 species Agate Boys Tim Bates, Steve Nelson fat/mountain bike
27 pts 20 species Chilly Chickapees Steven Gebhardt, Megan Hogfeldt fat/mountain bike
?? Pts 19 species Busted Ken Gilbertson, Pat Kohlin DTA bus
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)
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)
2017 BRRRRdathon Results
Matti Erpestad and Andrew Webster (right) compete in the WinterGreen non-motorized division. Their team name, Grosbeaks of Evening, was the inspiration for Andrew’s beaked helmet and black and yellow garb. They cycled over 20 miles on fat bikes in the city of Duluth.
Minus 30 F air temps…FINALLY! Yes, the 2017 BRRRRdathon finally lived up to its slogan as the World’s Coldest Birdathon with Friday morning air temps ranging from Minus-16 in Duluth to Minus-35 in parts of the interior of northeast Minnesota. But this did not daunt the eight teams competing to get their names forever emblazoned on the “Gary the Granite Great Gray” trophy. Saturday was much nicer!
Scouring the North Woods from Grand Rapids to Otter Tail to Superior, and from Sax-Zim to Grand Marais to Duluth, the teams found a combined 73 species.
Highlights included Great Black-backed Gull in Two Harbors, 4 Snowy Owls in Superior, WI, Spruce Grouse on Lake County 2 at Sand River, Black-backed Woodpecker just up the road from the Spruce Grouse), 3 Peregrine Falcons in Duluth, Varied Thrush among the 100 or so Robins at WLSSD, Song Sparrow in Grand Rapids.
Steve Millard racked up 42 species inn Otter Tail County (NOT a made up name!) over two days and found some stellar species including an Eastern Towhee, Belted Kingfisher, Eurasian Collared-Dove, American Coot, Richardson’s Merlin and an unexpected Northern Saw-whet Owl eating a mouse atop a grain elevator!
Judd Brink had a Great Gray Owl on his birdathon day in Aitkin County, and there were 4 others seen in Sax-Zim (2 on McDavitt, 1 on Nichols Lake Road and 1 on CR7 N of Sax Road).
For the 6th time in 7 years, team Grousing Twitchers (Lars Benson, Dave Benson, John Ellis) won the 2-day BRRRRdathon with a grand total of 52 species including a Horned Grebe, and 60 Red Crossbills on McDavitt Road.
In the 1-day competition, the Coldfinches evened their rivalry with the Egretables 3 to 3 with a 32-species effort. The Egretables found some iconic but hard to find boreal species in Lake County, MN including Boreal Chickadee, Spruce Grouse and Black-backed Woodpecker.
Only non-motorized locomotion is allowed in the WinterGreen division, and longtime teammates Tim Bates and Andrew Webster fielded rival teams and chose different states to participate. Andrew’s Grosbeaks of the Evening team in Duluth found 32 species including 3 Peregrines while on fat bikes. Tim’s Sixteen Below team used mountain bike in the backroads of Superior Wisconsin and counted 23 species including FOUR Snowy Owls.
52 species—Grousing Twitchers (Lars Benson, Dave Benson, John Ellis)
42 species—Otter Tail (Steve Millard)
22 species—The Full Nesters (Cara and Steve Cox)
32 species—Coldfinches (Barb Akre, Cindy Edwardson, Chris Edwardson, David Helff)
26 species—The Egretables (Annmarie Geniusz, David Alexander, Steven Bochold)
14 species—Aitkin County (Judd Brink)
32 species—Grosbeaks of the Evening (Andrew Webster, Matti Erpestad)
23 species—Sixteen Below (Tim Bates, Pat Kohlin)
2016 BRRRRdathon Results
Did the world’s coldest birdathon live up to its name? Well, Friday was downright balmy (20sF) compared to Saturday which bottomed out at 2F and a windchill of minus 20. Respectable! Six teams competed for the title in 3 categories. WE ALSO RAISED OVER $800 towards our mission of Preserving, Promoting and Protecting the Sax-Zim Bog for future generations of birds and birders. Abi Kritzer raised the most pledges, followed by Kim Eckert (via his Minnesota Birding Weekends trip) and Steve Millard.
Teams birded from the Sax-Zim Bog to Duluth to Wisconsin’s Bayfield Peninsula and up the North Shore of Lake Superior to Grand Marais.
2-DAY BRRRRdathon: Team Grousing Twitchers (Dave Benson and Lars Benson) racked up an amazing 61 species to retain their title and SET A NEW ALL-TIME RECORD! (old record 57 species). Team Ivory Gullibles (Clinton Nienhaus, Tod Eggenberger, John Richardson) had a respectable 46 species for second place. Steve Millard did only Ottertail County, Minnesota and came up with 34 species (including a Song Sparrow and Rusty Blackbird.
1-DAY BRRRRdathon: Abi Kritzer, Annmarie Geniusz, Stephen Bockhold and David Alexander (Team The Egretables) regained their crown with 34 species, edging out the 29 species of last year’s champions, the Goldfinches (Barb Akre, Cindy Edwardson, and driver Chris Edwardson).
WINTERGREEN (Non-Motorized Division)
Tim Bate’s team (the Roughlegs consisted of Tim, Bryan French, Andrew Webster and Sparky Stensaas) decided to brave the wilds of the Sax-Zim Bog this year…They biked over 26 miles (19 for Sparky) on Friday and tallied 19 species including Arkola Road Boreal Chickadees (3), Merlin at the Welcome Center, and a Northern Goshawk (farm on Poplar Road just south of Arkola. This was a new record for non-motorized Sax-Zim Bog team, edging out Diana Doyle’s 16 species which she recorded while walking an amazing 14-mile loop! No entrants in the Photothon this year.
BIRD HIGHLIGHTS: 71 species was the Composite Total: Ivory Gull in Duluth was a new one for the contest (and a real celebrity to boot), 100s of Long-tailed Ducks in and near Grand Marais, Surf Scoter off Paradise Beach north of Grand Marais, 2 Gyrfalcons in Superior, Wisconsin, 1 Great Gray Owl (Nichols Lake Road in Sax-Zim Bog), 7 species of gulls (Ivory, Greater Black-backed, Glaucous, Thayer’s, Iceland, Herring, Ring-billed), Townsend’s Solitaire (Good Harbor Bay, Cook County), Golden-crowned Sparrow (Jeff Newman’s house in Duluth), Hoary Redpoll, and Yellow-rumped Warbler (feeder in Duluth).
We enjoyed a relaxing compilation dinner where we shared triumphs and tragedies from the birdathon.
2015 BRRRRdathon Results
Fifth Annual BRRRRdathon—World’s Coldest Birdathon The only thing that seemed to elude birders taking part in the FIFTH ANNUAL
BRRRRdathon were frigid temps! Records were set in the 2-DAY BRRRRdathon
and 1-DAY BRRRRdathon.
Team Benny and the Bensons (Dave Benson, Lars Benson, Ben Yokel) amassed 57
species (including all 10 winter finches!) breaking the former record by 3 species.
Teams explored the wilds of NE MN and NW WI and discovered Common Eider, Golden-crowned Sparrow,
Northern Flicker, Northern Pintail and Iceland, Thayer’s, Glaucous and Greater Black-backed Gulls. The Yokel Boys had a TEN OWL DAY with 7 different Snowy Owls in Superior, WI and 3 N. Hawk Owls in MN.
Both Wintergreen/non-motorized division teams biked their entire route in the Duluth city limits. Not only battling the elements and exhaustion, the pedalers had to navigate Duluth’s icy roads and hills. “Guys Gone Fat” (Andrew Webster, Pat Kohlin, Sean Walsh) edged out the “Broken Chain Gang” (Tim Bates, Bryan French, Shannon Walsh) by ONE SPECIES with a total of 30 species.
2-DAY BRRRRdathon RESULTS
57 species—Benny & The Bensons (Dave & Lars Benson, Ben Yokel)
50 species—Apter Raptors (John Ellis, Alex Ellis)
4? species—OtterTail Only (Steve Millard)
27 species—Team Dudley (David Dudley)
19 species—Brink of Greatness (Judd Brink; Brainerd Lakes area)
1-DAY BRRRRdathon RESULTS
46 species—Coldfinches (Cindy Edwardson, Barb Akre, Kim Eckert, Mary Gabrys)
20+ species—Yokel Boys (Ben Yokel, Uri Yokel)
WinterGreen/Non-Motorized BRRRRdathon RESULTS
30 species—Guys Gone Fat (Andrew Webster, Pat Kohlin, Sean Walsh)
29 species—The Broken Chain Gang (Tim Bates, Bryan French, Shannon Walsh)
2014 BRRRRdathon Results
RESULTS OF THE 4th ANNUAL BRRRRdathon/PHOTOTHON—JAN 10-11, 2014
Frigid temperatures eluded The World’s Coldest Birdathon again
with highs in the 20s and NO below zero temps. Our composite
total was only 61 species, lowest in the event’s history, but
amazingly, the Grousing Twitchers team managed to find 87% of these
species. Avian highlights included multiple Snowy Owls, Great Gray
Owls and Northern Hawk Owls, singing Saw-whet Owl, adult male Harlequin
Duck, Spruce Grouse in Lake County, Thayer’s, Glaucous & Greater
Black-backed Gull, Black-backed Woodpeckers, Bohemian Waxwings and a
Townsend’s Solitaire in Duluth. On the “bummer” side, gulls were rare
(no Iceland), and not a single Sharp-tailed Grouse, N. Goshawk,
White-winged Crossbill, or redpoll of any kind was observed.
Dave Benson, Lars Benson and John Ellis—the Grousing Twitchers—regained
the BRRRRdathon crown with a near-record count.
53 species—Grousing Twitchers (David & Lars Benson & John Ellis)
35 species—Modest Grouse (Chris West, Alex Stark, Luke Dahlberg)
34 species—Luther Seminary (Luke & Friends)
29 species—Naturally Avian (Erik Bruhnke, Ami Sheffield)
27 species—Team Cox (Cara & Steven Cox)
The upstart “Coldfinches” took home the top prize
by tallying 29 species (one short of the record).
29 species—Coldfinches (Cindy Edwardson, Barb Akre, Al & Kim Loken)
27 species—Egretsy (Abigail Kritzer, Anne Marie Geniusz, Stephen
Undefeated in 4 years, Tim Bates and Andrew Webster (Slush Cyclers),
rolled again with 23 species found in 20 miles of bicycling
and hiking in Duluth’s city limits
23 species—Slush Cyclers (Tim Bates, Andrew Webster)
13 species—The Red Lantern (Bryan French)
2013 BRRRRDathon Results
January 15, 2013 Category: BRRRRDathon
2013 Was a record year for the BRRRRDathon…Record dollars raised ($3,800!), High # species found by one team (54)…Record # of participants (25)…and sadly, Record rainfall! Once again the temps were anything but BRRRR! But with a new trophy (Gary the Granite Great Gray) and an gregarious gaggle of bird chasers at the evening dinner/compilation, the event was a great success!
A total of 67 species were seen including Great Gray Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Eastern Bluebird, Mute Swan, Hooded Merganser, Eurasian Collared Dove, Varied Thrush, 7 species of gulls including Greater Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Iceland, Glaucous, and Thayers. Misses included Black-backed Woodpecker, Spruce Grouse, Goshawk, Purple Finch. Some recent birds did not show up for the teams, including Barrow’s Goldeneye and Slaty-backed Gull. Teams ranged from Itasca County to Sax-Zim Bog to Grand Marais to Ashland and Mellon Wisconsin. Thanks to all!
The Winning Team! Eagle Optic’s Badger Irruption (from L to R…Tom Prestby, Max Henschell, Eric Wood, Jessica Gorzo, David LaPuma)
The Madison-Green Bay, Wisconsin team was sponsored by Eagle Optics and they did their homework by scouting for four days prior to the event. Despite the icy roads and windy Saturday conditions, they found 54 species including the only Mute Swan. Despite much searching, they missed Pileated Woodpecker. Their efforts raised a whopping $1800 for Friends of Sax-Zim Bog!
In second place was Team Spread Eagle, Chris West and Alex Stark, who turned up an awesome 49 species. 3rd place was defending champs, the Grousing Twitchers (David Benson, John Ellis, Alex Ellis)who turned up 43 species. 4th place was Lagopus consisting of Erik Bruhnke and Jacky Ramsey (35 species). And Shawn Conrad pulled off a heroic Itasca-County-only birdathon and found 30 species including the event’s only Eurasian Collared Dove and Bohemian Waxwings.
The Egreatables defended their 1-day BRRRRDathon title in 2013 (L to R…Abi Kritzer, AnnMarie Geniusz, Stephen Bockhold). They tallied an impressive FOUR SPECIES OF OWLS in one day!…Including a Great Gray Owl in a new location. Their total for the day was 29 species. Congrats!
A winter birdathon done without a car? Team Cold and Green did just that and repeated as Wintergreen division champs! (Tim Bates, team captain with Gary the Great Gray…Not pictured, Pat Kohlin, Andrew Webster and Tom Beery) This year they did it all on bikes within the city limits of Duluth…A very cold and exhausting day! BUT they managed an impressive 25 species including the competitions only EASTERN BLUEBIRD!
2012 BRRRRDathon Results
The second running of the World’s Coldest Birdathon, theBRRRRDathon DID NOT live up to its name with temps in the 30s. But, all had a great time!
An amazing 73 species were found by 21 folks in 8 teams during the January 6-7th event.
Highlights included: Greater and Lesser scaup in Washburn, WI; Spruce Grouse (Lake County Road 2, 2 mi N of Sand River); 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks; 8 species of gulls (including the Glaucous-winged Gull in Duluth); 4 Great Gray Owls (3 in Sax-Zim and 1 in Koochiching County); American Three-toed Woodpecker (Lake County); Varied Thrush (Duluth); Bohemian
Waxwing (only 2! …in Big Falls, MN); 2 Hoary Redpolls and 2 Yellow-rumped Warblers (one on Northland College campus in Ashland, WI, and on at Boy Scout Landing in Duluth)!
Teams birded from Koochiching County, Minnesota on the Canadian border all the way to Washburn, Ashland and Crex Meadows in Wisconsin. Of course, Duluth, Aitkin County and our beloved Sax-Zim Bog were also heavily birded.
2-Day Event :
Dave Benson, Lars Benson, John Ellis (53 species)
1-Day Event :
Stephen Bockhold, Annmarie Geniusz, Karen Stubenvoll (30 species)
Non-motorized “wintergreen” event:
Tim Bates & Andrew Webster (bicycle!) 33 species in Duluth
1st place—Shawn Zierman of Duluth, MN
2nd place—Erik Bruhnke of Duluth, MN
2011 BRRRRDathon Results
Eighteen intrepid souls birded and basked in balmy January temps (above zero anyway) to compete in the innaugarul BRRRRDathon/Photothon. This fundraiser for Friends of Sax-Zim Bog (old name BirdNation!) raised over $1200 to go towards their mission.
Dave Benson, Lars Benson, John Ellis and Alex Ellis birded from Ely to Sax-Zim to Duluth to rack up 46 species…an impressive mid-winter total. They missed waxwings and Ruffed Grouse but found Northern Goshawk, Long-tailed Duck (Stoney Point), American Robin, Horned Lark and five species of gulls, including the Iceland Gull that hadn’t been seen in ten days. In second place was Myron and Holly Peterson of Minneapolis.
In a closer competition, Duluth’s Bruce Munson and Peter Gravett edged out Duluth’s Laura Erickson and Erik Bruhnke with 27 species. Bruce and Peter found a very unexpected drake Northern Pintail along open water on Miller Creek near the WLSSSD compost yard in Duluth. Four teams competed in this division.
Diana Doyle was the only brave birder in this hard core category. Diana parked in Meadowlands and WALKED between 12 and 14 miles in the Sax-Zim area to compile a very respectable 16 species. She even found an out-of-place American Robin near Meadowlands, a flock of 30 Evening Grosbeaks and Brown Creeper. Diana also raised over $300 in pledges with her ‘buck-a-bird’ pitch.
**A total of 50 species were recorded by all the groups…Not bad for mid winter in the North Woods!
Three photographers entered the unique Photothon. In this event, birder/photographers got out and take as many bird photos as possible in the two days and then choose the 10 best images to submit for judging. Jeff Fisher (http://ecobirder.blogspot.com/), Erik Bruhnke (www.pbase.com/birdfedr) and Laura Erickson (http://lauraerickson.blogspot.com/) were the competitors. See the gallery here. Images were scored on Execution and Creativity by three volunteer judges. It was a close competition with all three coming in within 22 points of each other (out of a 300 point maximum). But Erik Bruhnke edged out the others with his portfolio. One of my favorites is his image of a Rock Pigeon and the moon…Very creative image. Jeff had an amazingly close Black-backed Woodpecker all fluffed out. And check out Laura’s cute Gray Jay…It looks like it’s almost smiling!
We followed the event with a Sunday brunch at Hartley Nature Center in Duluth. Bridget Stensaas made a yummy egg & spinach bake and blueberry crumble muffins…Thanks Bridget! After socializing, compiling the sightings and sharing stories, we awarded the prizes. Each division winner will get their name on a brass plate on a resident trophy. The trophies are unique ceramic bird sculptures by Duluth artist and former Duluth News Tribune Outdoor columnist Ray Naddy. The 2-day trophy sports a Boreal Owl, the 1-day a Snowy Owl and the Photothon trophy is a Black-capped Chickadee (because camera lenses come with “black caps.” Groan!)
Prizes were donated by Frost River of Duluth, Minnesota, Bemidji Woolen Mills of Bemidji Minnesota, Kollath-Stensaas Publishing, Stone Ridge Press, Raven Press of Ely and Laura Erickson donated her latest book. A BIG THANKS TO ALL OUR PRIZE DONORS!