Tour Dates: Thursday 5th – Saturday 14th December 2024 – (Duluth to Duluth)
Tour Price: £3,350pp plus flight
Estimated Flight Price: London to Duluth approx. £750 return
Deposit: £500 per person
Conservation Donation from Wise Birding: £250 – £300
Minimum Number: 6 people
Maximum Group Size: 7 people
Mammals: Canada Lynx, Wolf, Moose, American Marten, Northern Flying Squirrel, North American Porcupine, Bobcat and Snowshoe Hare have all been recorded on previous tours.
Birds: Great Grey Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Snowy Owl, Pine Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ruffed Grouse, and Spruce Grouse
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 Lynx (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, we have an excellent chance of finding this beautiful cat. The key to success is long hours in the field, often spent waiting in cold temperatures and driving quiet roads. However, the result should be worth the effort! Of course, we shall not only be looking for Lynx as there are many other special mammals in this area too including American Marten, Wolf and if we are very lucky, Fisher too!
At the beginning of the tour we will 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 very much harder to find dependent on the year. 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!
We have been successful in seeing Lynx on all seven tours between 2016 – 2022 often with incredible views as the photo above shows! Check out our Lynx Video filmed on one of our trail cameras during previous tours.
ACCOMMODATION: 9 nights in Minnesota
A good quality hotel for the first 2 nights and then very warm comfortable lodges
2 nights hotel Duluth and 7 nights lodge Grand Marais
Inclusive Meals: Breakfasts only
DAY 1: Duluth
After arriving into Duluth airport, we will collect our vehicle and then dependent on flight times, either look for Snowy Owls and/or travel the very short distance to our hotel for the night. Overnight Duluth
DAY 2: Sax Zim Bog
Today we will spend the whole day exploring Sax Zim Bog and Duluth. The main focus will 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 Hawk Owl are expected and during an irruption winter, amazing numbers 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! 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 birds often hang around the industrial buildings and the small airport in search of food. To ensure our success with the owls, we will spend 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 will be targeting include Spruce Grouse, Black-backed and possibly American Three-toed Woodpeckers, Boreal Chickadee, Grey Jay, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks. Commoner resident species include Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy, Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers, Blue Jay and Black-backed Chickadee. Rarities in this region during past winters have included Gyr Falcon, Varied Thrush, Townsend’s Solitaire, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Ivory Gull and Slaty-backed Gull.
Mammals are also present around Sax Zim with good chances for North American Porcupine, American Marten as well as outside chances of Fisher, Wolf and Bobcat. Overnight Duluth
DAY 3: Duluth – Grand Marais
After breakfast we will check out of our hotel and spend the morning targeting any species that we may still be missing before making our way along the north shore of Lake Superior until we reach the small town of Grand Marais and our base for the next 7 nights. We will have a look around the harbour for any seaduck which sometimes holds rarer species such as Bufflehead or Harlequin Duck. The afternoon will be spent slowly driving roads around the nearby forests for our first chance of Lynx! Overnight Grand Marais
DAYS 4 – 9: Forest Areas
During the next seven days we will focus the majority of our time on trying to see Canada Lynx around the huge forest areas in this region, 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 various sites in very cold temperatures. We will monitor Lynx activity at these sites using trail cameras in order to give us the best chance of connecting with the elusive cat. As with most mammal watching, early morning and late afternoon will be the times when we will focus most of our effort. Other mammal possibilities in this region are many and could include Wolf, Snowshoe Hare, Stoat, Red Fox and other species such as American Marten and an outside chance of Fisher.
During the day we will 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 near Grand Marais 7 nights
DAY 10: Grand Marais – Duluth
A last morning birding around the Grand Marais area at various feeders should reveal Pine Siskin and Common Redpoll flocks as well as Dark-eyed Junco and any rarities that may be present. Of course, if we need to, we can try one last time for Lynx before slowly heading south along the shore of Lake Superior, stopping en route to check for seaduck, before returning to Duluth airport where the tour concludes.
Please note this is a flexible itinerary which may need to be adjusted slightly dependent on arrival / departure times, weather conditions and the most recent information from our local guides
Leaders: Sax Zim Bog Naturalist and Lynx tracker in Grand Marais
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms with breakfast only, ground transport and services of leaders
Not included in cost: International airfare, travel insurance, food other than breakfast, drinks other than water and any airport/visa fees
Accommodation: Comfortable hotels/cabins with breakfast
Single Supplement: £299
Transport: SUVs (2 vehicles)
Difficulty: Easy, though be prepared for snow and ice
Very short walks on snow!
Climate: Very cold with snow! Average temperatures at this time of year are between -15 and -20 degrees centigrade
Meeting Point: Duluth airport, USA
Tour End: Duluth airport, USA
Suggested Airlines: British Airways or United Airlines