MINNESOTA: Canada Lynx and Northern Owls 2019

DATES & PRICES
Tour Dates: Sunday 24th February – Tuesday 5th March 2019 (Thunder Bay (Canada) to Thunder Bay)
Tour Price: £2,250 per person plus flight (includes breakfast only)
Estimated Flight Price: London to Thunder Bay return approx. £500 return

Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: Approx. 2% of tour price per person (£40pp)
Deposit: £450 per person
Minimum Number required for trip to run: 4 people
Maximum Group Size: 7 people
Accommodation: 9 nights bed and breakfast: 1 night Thunder Bay, 7/8 nights Grand Marais with a possible night near Sax Zim Bog if required

Key Birds:
Great Grey Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Snowy Owl, Pine Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ruffed Grouse, Spruce Grouse, Grey Jay and rarities!

Key Mammals:
Canada Lynx, Wolf, Moose, Fisher, American Marten, Northern Flying Squirrel, North American Porcupine, Bobcat and Snowshoe Hare are all possible.

Conservation work that you will directly contribute to by joining this holiday: SEE HERE

TOUR SUMMARY & FULL ITINERARY
This tour is based in the far NE state of Minnesota, close to the Canadian border and on the north shore of the mighty Lake Superior. We will be based near the town of Grand Marais focusing our time on trying to see Canada or Canadian Lynx. This fantastic mammal, like most cats, is very elusive and shy, but with help from our local guide and his previous experience of tracking these animals and using natural attractants, we have a reasonable chance of finding this beautiful animal. Of course, we shall not only be looking for Lynx as there are many other special mammals in this area too including Fisher, American Marten and Wolves!
Scroll down for Lynx Video filmed on one of our trail cameras during the 2017 tour

Dependent on our success with Canadian Lynx, we will make a couple of day trips in search of owls and certainly one day visit the Sax Zim Bog area which has in recent years become known as the owl hotspot. These will be long days, but they should be worth it!
Great Grey Owl is a resident species with Northern Hawk Owl a regular annual visitor and the views of these birds can be incredible. Snowy Owls are expected at this time of year also and if we are lucky enough to coincide with an “irruption year” the numbers of owls can be exceptional for all species. Northern Saw-whet Owl and Boreal Owl are also possible though harder to find. Aside from owls there are plenty of other specialities to be found including Evening Grosbeak and Pine Grosbeak feeding on garden feeders, displaying Sharp-tailed Grouse, Boreal Chickadees and more!

Our first tour in 2016 was successful with a brief sighting of Canadian Lynx along with some fantastic Wolf encounters, Moose, American Marten and Fisher. Bird highlights were many also with Pine Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, Snowy Owl, Ivory Gull, Gyr Falcon to name just a few of the highlights!
Our 2017 was a huge success with incredible views of Canada Lynx as the photo above shows!

PM2-1600DAY 1
After arriving into Thunder Bay airport, we shall collect our vehicle and then travel the very short distance to our hotel for the night. Overnight Thunder Bay

DAY 2

After breakfast we shall take the short journey to the Canadian border and PG-male-1600then travel alongside Lake Superior until we reach the small town of Grand Marais and our base for the week. We shall have a look around the harbour for any seaduck which sometimes holds rarer species such as Bufflehead or Harlequin Duck. Pine Siskin and Common Redpoll flocks should be around the town as well as Blue Jay, Dark-eyed Junco and any rarities. We shall then spend our first afternoon looking for Lynx and slowly patrolling the quieter roads on the Gunflint Trail. Overnight Grand Marais

Moose-1600DAYS 3 – 8
During the next seven days we shall focus on trying to see Canadian Lynx as advised by the most recent information from our local guide and tracker. These will involve long days in the field and may involve numerous hours waiting at sites visible from the vehicle. We shall visit a number of sites where our guide has created screens and left natural attractants and we shall monitor activity at these sites using trail cameras in order to give us the best chance of connecting with this elusive cat. GJ-1600As with most mammal watching, dawn and dusk will be the times when we shall focus most effort. There will also be some late night spotlighting if the weather allows. Other mammal possibilities in this region are many and could include Coyote, Wolf, Snowshoe Hare, Stoat, Red Fox and other species such as Fisher and American Marten.

light-wolf-1600During the day we shall visit various feeders and focus a little more on birding looking for species such as Pine Grosbeak, Common and maybe Arctic Redpoll, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Grey Jay, Pileated Woodpecker, Ruffed Grouse and Spruce Grouse.
Overnight homely self-contained apartments in Grand Marais 8 nights

Dependent on our success with Canada Lynx, we will make a couple of day trips out to try and see some other birds, with a special focus on Owls. In some years, Great Grey Owls can be seen within just 90 minutes of Grand Marais. We will also make an effort to visit Sax Zim Bog (approx. 3hrs from Grand Marais) famous as a regular owling site as well as for seeing other specialities.

The main focus shall be on the owls that are so special to this area of bog, meadow and forest habitat. Although numbers fluctuate from year to year, Great Grey Owl and Northern
SnowyHawk Owl are expected and during an irruption winter, amazing numbers and species are possible. In previous irruption years, daily totals of 10 or more owls are not unusual. In 2005, a record number 200 Great Grey Owls were recorded in just a single county in the region! Boreal Owl, like the Great Grey Owl is a resident species, but a tricky one to find.

Snowy Owls are again expected, though numbers vary from year to year. Birds can usually be found around the Duluth area and the adjacent town of Superior where bird often hang around the buildings and the small airport in search of food. If we are lucky, Gyr Falcon is also a possibility with up to three different birds seen during the 2015/16 winter! To ensure our success with the tricky species, we shall spend at least one full day with a local bird guide whose local knowledge and up to date information will be invaluable in helping us getting to see as many owl species as possible!

Other species that we shall be targeting include Spruce Grouse, Black-backed and American Three-toed Woodpeckers, Boreal Chickadee, Grey Jay, Pine and Evening Grosbeak. Commoner resident species include Red-breated and White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy, Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers, Blue Jay and Black-backed Chickadee. Rarities in this region during past winters have included varied Thrush, Townsend’s Solitaire, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Ivory Gull and Slaty-backed Gull.

DAY 9
We shall spend our last morning birding around the Grand Marais area or looking for Lynx before heading back across into Canada and to Thunder Bay airport where the tour concludes.

 

The video below shows a female Canadian Lynx with young and was captured on camera  at one of our feeding areas in Feb 2017.

IMPORTANT HOLIDAY DETAILS
Leader: Chris Townend
Local Guides: David Johnson when at Grand Marais and Sax Zim Bog bird guide
Included in cost: Accomm. in twin en-suite rooms, breakfast, ground transport and services of leaders
NOT Included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, lunch and dinner, drinks other than water, any airport/visa fees and items of a personal nature
Accommodation: Good quality bed and breakfasts
Single Supplement: £150
Max. Group Size: 7
Transport: People Carrier or similar
Difficulty: Generally easy short walks on snow!
Climate: Very cold with snow! Average temperatures at this time of year are between -8 and -18 degrees centigrade
Meeting Point: Thunder Bay airport, Canada
Tour End: Thunder Bay airport, Canada on day 10
Suggested Airlines: Canadian Airline via Toronto
Note: This is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted in relation to arrival and departure times, weather conditions and other related factors.