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Virtually Live Field Trips

Virtually Live Sax-Zim Field Trip Series

Warblers R’ Us! 18 species Sax-Zim Bog: Early June Northern Minnesota: Virtually Live 28 S3 E3

Warblers, warblers and more warblers! 18 species June 1-2 in Sax-Zim Bog. Ten  species videoed (is that a word) and another 8 species heard/seen. We also enjoy a cooperative LeConte’s Sparrow, find a drumming (!) female Black-backed Woodpecker, and watch in awe as a Great Gray Owl hunts voles close to the road. We also meet Greg from California. Greg is a brand new Bog Buddy and had an amazing trip to Sax-Zim where he saw 8 lifers!

Early May in Sax-Zim Bog: 3,200 acres SAVED? YES! Virtually Live 27 S3 E2: May 4, 2022

Early May in Sax-Zim Bog reveals some signs of spring and a few cool mammals. Sparky has a close up encounter with a pair of charismatic Beaver, and also finds a roadside Snowshoe Hare. A Wilson’s Snipe is discovered wandering around a wetland. Over 40 butterflies are found! All are adult hibernating species (Mourning Cloak, Eastern Comma, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, Compton Tortoiseshell). Sparky also shares some exciting news…Friends of Sax-Zim Bog has added 3, 200 acres to its Acres for Owls!

VIRTUALLY LIVE 26: Season 3 Episode 1, April 8 2022 Sax-Zim Bog in April: Spring? or Winter?

Sax-Zim Bog in April: Spring? or Winter? Harriers perform “sky dance,” Kestrels mating, Shrike update AND BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

Is there life after winter in the Sax-Zim Bog? Sparky goes birding on April 8, 2022 in a very white landscape. 

But there is life! American Kestrels mating, Rough-legged Hawks migrating, a Northern Harrier male doing its “sky dance” courtship. Sparky also finds a late-to-depart Northern Shrike that was banded by researcher Abbie Valine…and we get the update on this bird from her.

AND BIG NEWS! Friends of Sax-Zim Bog is putting an addition on its Welcome Center! This will be the Lois King Education Space, and you can see how you can help…AND get your name on a bird tile by artist Nancy Hausle-Johnson of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Virtually Live 25 S2E10: FIVE OWL SPECIES Mink Bobcat Ermine Wolf 

In this episode of Virtually Live from the Sax-Zim Bog, Sparky Stensaas shares his favorite sightings from the last month, including FIVE SPECIES OF OWLS, MINK, BOBCAT, ERMINE & WOLF! All in the Sax-Zim Bog of northern Minnesota from early February through early March.

Encounters with FIVE different owl species in Sax-Zim are highlighted… An adorable Northern Saw-whet Owl hunts below a feeder; A Great Gray plunges into the snow and pulls up a vole; chickadees help him find a Barred Owl soaking up the sun at Fringed Gentian Bog; a Snowy Owl NOT on a power pole!; and a Northern Hawk Owl returns to the Bog and performs and preens for the camera.

Sparky also shares some ETIQUETTE for watching and enjoying Great Grays without disturbing them.

In additIon, we watch a Mink hunt for fish, see an Ermine in hunting mode and enjoy a Bobcat just sitting there.

We also make a stop at the Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center to see what’s happening there: Pine Grosbeaks and Common Redpolls in slow motion.

And lots more!

Virtually Live 24: S2 E9; Brutally Cold! How do birds survive at MINUS-38F? Sax-Zim Bog Minnesota

HOW DO BIRDS SURVIVE AT MINUS-38F? Sax-Zim Bog Minnesota Virtually Live 24.

On this BRUTALLY COLD episode of Virtually Live Sparky will share some tricks our boreal birds use to not only SURVIVE, but THRIVE in these temperatures. 

He films and shares winter natural history for White-winged Crossbills (3,000 seeds per day!), Common Redpolls (a metabolism trick “down their throat”), Pine Grosbeaks, Sharp-tailed Grouse (warmer in the subnivean world!) and Great Gray Owl (super powers of hearing).

Witness the incredible sounds of spruces “popping” at Minus-38 degrees when the first rays of sun hit them and their cells explode.

Sparky also visits our NEW LITTLE FREE LIBRARY at the Bob Russell Bogwalk at Winterberry Bog and finds some interesting titles!

Virtually Live 23 S2 E8, World’s Coldest Birdathon—BRRRRdathon 12: Over 1000 Bohemian waxwings!

Join Friends of Sax-Zim Bog executive director as he fat bikes around Grand Marais Minnesota competing in the 12th annual BRRRRdathon—World’s Coldest Birdathon. This is an annual competition and fun event to raise money for the non-profit.

Sparky finds over 1000 birds in the Grand Marais harbor including 835 Bohemian waxwings!

Virtually Live 22 S2 E7, Sax-Zim Bog Christmas Bird Count 2021 & Sparky meets his BIGGEST FAN!

Join Sparky, Lori and Dave on the 36th Annual Sax-Zim Bog Christmas Bird Count of December 20, 2021.

You’ll also meet Sparky’s biggest female fan and see (hear?) the “interview” with her.

Northern Shrikes, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Common Redpolls and more.

Centered around a beautiful late October day when the Tamaracks were golden yellow this video gives updates on many topics…

  • This winter’s bird research including Hawk Owls, Evening Grosbeaks and Northern Shrikes.
  • We “find” a “new” SEVEN-MILE long hiking trail along the St. Louis River
  • Outhouse updates, pollinator native garden, electric lawn mower, gratitude gathering, and our bi-annual litter clean up
  • And the first winter finches of the season.

Oh, and of course a tour of the World’s only Outhouse Art Gallery!

Bog BioBlitz 20 in Sax-Zim Bog Virtually Live 20 S2E5July 17 2021

Come along and experience the amazing Bog Diversity of northern Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog! It is our NINTH Bog BioBlitz and 9 field trip leaders took folks in the field to discover a wide range of fascinating organisms—fish, aquatic critters, birds, dragonflies, moths, galls, mammals, butterflies, bees, flowers and much more. We tag along on several of the field trips and highlight some of their very cool finds. Please join us for the TENTH Bog BioBlitz in 2022!

Kestrel chick banding in Sax-Zim Bog Virtually Live 19 S2E4 June 29 2021

Have you ever peeked inside a Kestrel nest box? We check in on our American Kestrel box program with head bander Frank Nicoletti. Then we go band some chicks with Frank, Sarah and Hannah. Also get an update on this weekend’s upcoming Bog BioBlitz IX. And Sparky runs into a couple birders with whom he has a connection with. Plus some unique grassland birds including a bit about this summer’s Dickcissel irruption.

“Warblers & Warren” in Sax-Zim Bog Virtually Live 18 S2E3 May 28 2021

Even 25 degree temps in late May couldn’t put a damper on the breeding warblers of Sax-Zim Bog. Sparky sees Canada’s, Magnolias, Ovenbirds, Blackburnians, Nashvilles, Black-and-whites and several other warbler species. 

On May 28 he goes birding with Warren Woessner and Iris Freeman who made our boardwalk at the Warren Nelson Bog possible. They tell you about a warbler that we didn’t see, but heard very well…the premiere warbler of Sax-Zim.

We also eavesdrop on one of Head Naturalist Clinton’s school field trips, learn about an upcoming pollinator garden expansion, do some chores around the Welcome Center and tally the final numbers from our NINE Warbler Wednesday/Saturday field trips, including photos of the most rare species found on those excursions.

Virtually Live 17: May Birding in Sax-Zim: S2E2 May 8 2021

Sparky takes you along on an “early” spring birding trip in northeastern Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog. Only 25 degrees at the start, but the good birds warm things up…stunning male Black-and-white Warbler, lingering Evening Grosbeaks, Yellow Warbler, cooperative Merlin, and a very unexpected Great Gray Owl.

We also check in on the highlights from the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog “Things that Go Buzz, Croak, Hoot & Bump in the Night” field trip (can you say “cooperative Great Gray”!). Also a cacophony of frogs (4 species), displaying Snipe and more.

And we see how we discovered a $500 bill and a blond woman’s wig in the Bog. What?!!

You never know what surprises might accompany an episode of Virtually Live!

Sponsored by Friends of Sax-Zim Bog

NEW SEASON OF VIRTUALLY LIVE FROM SAX-ZIM BOG! Virtually Live 16: Sax-Zim Bog in early Spring: Birding—S2E1 April 2021

Birding in the Sax-Zim Bog in April can often mean birding in snow…and we had snow on both mornings of shooting…April 14 & 19….but the birds are returning! In Virtually Live 16 (Season 2, Episode 1)  we search for Sandhill Cranes in the hopes of capturing video of them performing their courtship dance. Sparky finds a cooperative and cute Porcupine along Nichols Lake Road, Ring-necked Ducks on Nichols Lake, and he shares some very cool sightings from this past winter and early April—Great Gray Owl, Porcupine, River Otter, Mink.

Virtually Live 15 Polar Vortex & The Wolf: Birding Sax-Zim Bog Feb 2021

Put another log on the fire and enjoy this bitterly cool “Polar Vortex” episode of Virtually Live from Sax-Zim Bog!

Filmed over several days including the morning of February 11 with a record cold Minus-46F start to the day. Yikes! How do our boreal birds survive this brutal weather? Sparky shares some physiological tricks our feathered fluffballs employ.

Then we flashback to warmer days and snowshoe with Sparky in Yellow-bellied Bog where he discovers an avian excavation. He then flashesback within the flashback to tell the tale of his wolf encounter in the woods.

We also visit the Welcome Center, Admiral Road feeders, Auggie’s Bogwalk at Fringed Gentian to see what birds and mammals are out and about in the below zero temps. I think you will be pleasantly surprised!

Cameos by Boreal Chickadees, Pine Grosbeaks, Northern Hawk Owl, Evening Grosbeak, redpolls and even an Ermine.

We know that not everybody can make the trip to Sax-Zim Bog. It is a remote place in a vast country. But these “Virtually Live” birding/nature videos allow the viewer to experience the birds and wildlife of this precious area. Join Executive Director and Founder Sparky Stensaas on these adventures in the field! Ready? Let’s go birding in the Sax-Zim Bog!

Virtually Live 14 BRRRRdathon 2021 Moose! Birding & Wildlife Photography Grand Marais Minnesota

The BRRRRdathon—World’s Coldest Birdathon episode of Virtually Live. This week we are birding in Grand Marais, Minnesota on Lake Superior just south of the Canadian Border. Sparky is participating in the Wintergreen non-motorized division. We go along with his fat bike birding. But he takes an early morning detour inland into the Superior National Forest where he finds an amorous bull and cow Moose! During the BRRRRdathon we see Long-tailed Ducks, White-winged Crossbills and more. Find out who won this year’s event.

Virtually Live 13 Christmas Bird Count Sax-Zim Bog: Great Gray Owl, Fisher, Short-eared Owl Dec 2020

Sparky’s 35th year as compiler of the Sax-Zim Christmas Bird Count turns out to be a record-breaker despite teams having to social distance. 13 hardy participants brave -10 below zero F windchills to turn up 39 species!

We also find a species NEVER recorded on the count before (revealed in the video). And Sparky finds several owls and gets some crazy cool images of a Great Gray Owl plummeting and pouncing on suspected vole victims.

We find Boreal Chickadees, accidentally film some Black-billed Magpies at the “Bison Farm,” make a visit to Loretta’s grosbeak-rich feeders and have a yummy lunch at the Wilbert Cafe.

Sparky also shares some exciting recent sightings of a Fisher chasing Snowshoe Hare and a Short-eared Owl on Stone Lake Road.

(The Sax-Zim Christmas Bird Count is not affiliated with Friends of Sax-Zim Bog)

Thanks to all CBC Participants: Bill Tefft, Lori Williams, Frank Nicoletti, Abbie Valine, Dave David Benson, Lars Benson, John Ellis, Sparky Stensaas, Sarah Beaster, Clinton Dexter-Nienhaus, Kristina Dexter-Nienhaus, Tony Anthony Hertzel, Tommy Hertzel

Virtually Live 12 Give to the Max Day episode: November 17, 2020

A frosty cold morning in Sax-Zim Bog turns up a few goodies…including a dawn Ruffed Grouse, a flock of Pine Grosbeaks (away from a feeder!), a Black-billed Magpie on a deer carcass and cooperative Rough-legged Hawk. We hike Auggie’s Bogwalk at Fringed Gentian and find an unexpected critter! Sparky also shares what your donation on today’s Give to the Max Day campaign goes to.

VIRTUALLY LIVE BIRDING FIELD TRIP SAX-ZIM OCTOBER 24, 2020

Snowy day in Sax-Zim Bog; October 24 2020

A rare (for Minnesota) Mountain Bluebird is seen, as well as a very late Palm Warbler. We drop by Mary Lou’s amazing feeders to see if the Evening Grosbeaks are around…and we check out her photo blind. Sparky will also take us to the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog’s newest preserved land…41 acres on the Whiteface River called Wood Thrush Woods. We also take a loop on the newly-completed Bob Russell Bogwalk.

VIRTUALLY LIVE BIRDING FIELD TRIP SAX-ZIM AUGUST 2, 2020

This August 2020 episode explores Northern Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog in late summer. Executive Director and Founder of Friends of Sax-Zim Bog, Sparky Stensaas, takes you birding in the “slow” time of year. But a couple cooperative LeConte’s Sparrows in a flower-filled field steal the show. We also stop by Nichols Lake/Lake Nichols and bird the bog stretch of Admiral Road where we find Boreal Chickadees, Palm Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Canada jays and more.

Sparky also shows us the new platform and bench on Gray Jay Way trail north of the Welcome Center. And we go on a kayak journey on the Whiteface River where a pair of shy River Otters briefly make an appearance. Stunning emerald green and black Ebony Jewelwing damselflies perch along the riverbank.

VIRTUALLY LIVE BIRDING FIELD TRIP SAX-ZIM JULY 17, 2020

Join Sparky in his Bog BioBlitz VIII exploration in the Sax-Zim Bog! Not just birds in this episode. We find some exotic insects, wildflowers and other exciting finds.

VIRTUALLY LIVE BIRDING FIELD TRIP SAX-ZIM JUNE 2, 2020

This is the “triathlon” edition of Virtually Live. Sparky kayaks, fat bikes and even walks a little in the Sax-Zim Bog during this June 2nd episode. We begin the field trip by kayaking from Stone Lake to East Stone Lake and find one of our latest migrants, the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (amongst many other cool finds), then fat bike to the Whiteface River and discover some unique birds and flowers in the floodplain forest on a parcel that we are in the process of purchasing. A cooperative Mourning Warbler rounds out our adventure.

VIRTUALLY LIVE BIRDING FIELD TRIP SAX-ZIM MAY 24, 2020

It’s the Virtually Live edition of Waffles & Warblers! Except Sparky has Grape Nuts for breakfast instead. Twelve species of colorful warblers are found in the Sax-Zim Bog…and all are on breeding territory. Golden-winged Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Mourning Warbler, and more. Plus Bobolink heaven along Arkola Road. And Sparky makes an announcement about a new video series. Will this be the last Virtually Live birding field trip? Stay tuned!

VIRTUALLY LIVE 6: SAX-ZIM BIRDING/AUDIO/VIDEO/PHOTO: May 19, 2020

Join Sparky Stensaas on a virtual birding field trip to the Sax-Zim Bog. Highlights include a hunting Great Gray Owl, a dirt-eating Porcupine, breeding White-winged Crossbills, juvenile Canada jays and 10 species of warblers including Magnolia, Northern Waterthrush, Black and white Warbler, tour of the new MOTUS tower and more. Sponsored by Friends of Sax-Zim Bog

VIRTUALLY LIVE 5: SAX-ZIM BIRDING/AUDIO/VIDEO/PHOTO: May 11, 2020

In this week’s installment of Virtually Live in Sax-Zim Bog, Sparky takes us on a fly-over of the little-explored Blue Dasher Bog where he searches for Trumpeter Swans. We also bird Stone Lake Road and Zim Road. Great looks at a gorgeous drake Blue-winged Teal, singing Yellow-rumped Warbler, flapping Sandhill Crane, nest-building Trumpeter Swans and more. Three FOY (first-of-year) species are found including two iconic Sax-Zim Bog breeding birds…LeConte’s Sparrow and Sedge Wren.

VIRTUALLY LIVE 4: SAX-ZIM BIRDING/AUDIO/VIDEO/PHOTO: May 4, 2020

The day started out promising with sunny skies, calm winds and a very cooperative drake Wood Duck, and then it gets even better with some RARE BIRDS for Sax-Zim: the Meadowlark of the prairies, a sparrow not normally found in northeast Minnesota, a surprising warbler on territory, and a pair of grassland-loving shorebirds (Thanks to FOSZB Head Naturalist Clinton and his eagle-eyed wife Kristina!). A very FAT and cooperative “quill pig” is the “Superstar Mammal of the Day,” but what will be the Superstar Bird? Stick around for the surprise procreative ending to Sparky’s Virtually Live field trip!

VIRTUALLY LIVE 3: SAX-ZIM BIRDING/AUDIO/VIDEO/PHOTO: April 28 2020. 

Join Executive Director Sparky Stensaas on a 5 hour birding, photography, video tour in northeastern Minnesota’s Sax-Zim Bog. We visit Nichols Lake, the Warren Woessner Bog Boardwalk, Admiral Road willow flats and the Welcome Center. Wild Turkeys in full display, slow motion video of Wilson’s Snipe doing their aerial courtship display, Porcupine eating willow catkins.

VIRTUALLY LIVE 2: BIRDING/PHOTOGRAPHY FIELD TRIP: April 21, 2020

Our second Friends of Sax-Zim Bog Virtually Live birding field trip. April 21, 2020. On this outing Sparky Stensaas nearly drives right by a Great Gray Owl, finds cooperative pairs of Sandhill Cranes, photographs late Snow Buntings and Northern Shrikes and more. We wind our way around the Sax-Zim Bog from 6:20 am to 11:15 am with stops at Stone Lake, Sax Road, St. Louis River, Arkola and more. Superstar bird of the day is ????

VIRTUALLY LIVE 1: BIRDING/PHOTO/VIDEO FIELD TRIP: April 14, 2020

Birding the Bog April 14, 2020

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