Well, today, June 30th is the last day for our FUNDRAISER FOR FRIENDS OF SAX-ZIM BOG. It is an event we called THE BIG HALF YEAR FOR THE BOG. A “Big Year” to birders, is a challenge to see as many species of birds in a calendar year. Maybe some of you saw the highly entertaining (at least to birders) movie by the same name—The Big Year—starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. Our take was a bit different…For starters it was only a half year…and birders could set their own parameters. Each birder created their own web page to promote their effort. People can pledge lump sums or per species. All dollars donated go to the non-profit I founded, Friends of Sax-Zim Bog, whose mission is to PRESERVE, PROMOTE AND PROTECT THE SAX-ZIM BOG IMPORTANT BIRD AREA. We have already raised over $5,000 and we’ll be accepting pledges through the month of July.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO MY BIG HALF YEAR PAGE FOR PLEDGES & DONATIONS

I chose to see how many birds I could photograph in Minnesota in six months (I did annex part of western Wisconsin but don’t tell!). When planning my Big Half Year, I imagined that between family and work I could realistically digitally capture about 100 species of birds. And I wanted to really work on getting very good and creative photos, not just snapshots. Well, I nearly doubled my goal, and as of tonight June 29th, I’m at 198 species! Ninety-five percent of the images were taken within a 50 mile radius of home with the other five percent taken on a trip to Minnesota’s western prairies in May. The best part is that I feel my photos of 104 species are better or equal to any images I’ve taken of those species ever before…And I’ve added 24 new species to my collection. You can see many more of my Big Half Year photos here. Here are a few of my favorites.

Spruce Grouse male Hwy 1 milepost 302.9 Ely MN IMG_3902SPRUCE GROUSE male near Ely, Minnesota in mid winter. They live on spruce and jack pine needles in the winter but need sharp quartz rocks in their crop to help grind the needles up, so you can often find them picking grit on the roads at dawn.

Common Redpoll Admiral Road Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_0076238 (1)I laid flat on my stomach on a snow-covered road to get this unique portrait of a COMMON REDPOLL in Sax-Zim Bog.

Wild Turkey Skogstjarna Carlton Co MN IMG_6733Believe it or not, this WILD TURKEY was displaying just outside our living room window! Photo taken through double paned glass.

Yellow-rumped Warbler Skogstjarna Carlton Co MN IMG_7224This image of a YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER typifies the “spring” we had. Taken in LATE APRIL during a spring snowstorm, this insect-eater resorted to feeding at our suet feeder.

Turkey Vulture snow Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_7606Another late-spring image of a bird we rarely see in the snow…a TURKEY VULTURE.

Killdeer CR201 Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_8053 copyBehavior shots are always interesting. These KILLDEER are not training for their circus act, but getting ready to mate up in Sax-Zim.

Horned Grebe Park Pt Duluth MN IMG_9081I love these birds! And have rarely gotten close to them. But the ice-clogged bay side of Duluth’s Park Point kept the HORNED GREBES close to shore.

American White Pelican St. Louis River Fond du Lac Duluth MN IMG_9999A AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN flock occasionally shows up in late May on the St. Louis River at Fond du Lac, Duluth. They spend a few weeks here loafing, fishing, preening, sleeping, before moving on.

American Bittern Ditchbanks Fond du Lac S.F. Carlton Co MN IMG_5663“He can’t see me…No way…I am blending in with the cattails…Oh, wait, I’m out on the road!” is probably what this frog-hunting AMERICAN BITTERN is thinking. Fond du Lac State Forest, Carlton County, Minnesota.

Bohemian Waxwing crabapple Duluth Zoo Duluth MN IMG_8418This image of a BOHEMIAN WAXWING had to be taken in the wilds of the great white north, right? Wrong! It was taken at the Duluth Zoo as dozens of kids (noisy kids! …including my own) walked within mere feet of this crabapple tree as the flock gorged.

Sandhill Cranes corn field Carlton Co MN IMG_7534 (1)A grab-and-go image that I didn’t think much about until I got home and started to play around with it on the computer. I like the stark pattern and the curving line of corn stubble. SANDHILL CRANES in Carlton County Minnesota, late April.

Black-capped Chickadee landing on feeder Skogstjarna Carlton Co MN MG_0074299BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE coming to my feeder at dawn on a cold winter day, backlit by the rising sun and intentionally underexposed.

Trumpeter Swans 3 landing backlit Monticello MN IMG_0073476Monticello, Minnesota. 3 TRUMPETER SWANS

Sharp-tailed Grouse lek blind Kettle River Twp Carlton Co MN IMG_7840:I was the first person to the SHARP-TAILED GROUSE blind in Kettle River Twp, Carlton County this year…and it was late April!…and I had to trudge through a foot of snow…But I got the shot I’d always wanted…A Sharptail dancing on top of the snow in beautiful morning light.

Great Gray Owl Nichols Lake Rd closer to CR7 Sax-Zim Bog MN IMG_3891Silhouetted GREAT GRAY OWL. …the wildness of the bog lands.

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