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DULUTH - An interest in rare owls had people flocking to the northland, an opportunity that only comes once every few years.
“Where else do you get people standing outside in cold weather like this, staring at a bird on a lake,” Beth Collins, Birder from southern Minnesota, said.
However, the 20 degree temperatures didn’t stop birders from coming by the busload.
“We saw all different kinds of owls, great gray owls, snowy owls, and northern hawk owls and a lot of other different birds I would have not gotten the chance to see in New York,” Tony Iovino , birder from New York, said.
This was the 6th Annual Sax-Zim Bog Winter Birding Festival, which attracted newcomers and old-timers alike.
“This is my 6th time being here. I have been to all of these,” Collins said.
“This is the first festival I’ve been to, I’ve gone birding probably about four or five states already, but this is my first time and first time in Minnesota, too,” Iovino said.
But it’s not just the birds that draw people to birding.
“The best by far were the people. Birders, I’ve found so far, they’re just the nicest people, very sharing. The guides were very knowledgeable. So the people were the best, but the Great Gray Owl was close,” Iovino said.
This year the festival hosted 160 people, which is the maximum they can accommodate.
So what is the big deal this time of year in the Northland?
“Birds that come south from Canada that you can’t find most other places in the U.S. The Great Gray Owls are about a five year cycle, so some years you’ll get a bunch and some years you won’t get very many, but every year there’s a few that come down,” Lars Benson, a bird guide for the Sax-Zim Bog Winter Birding Festival, said.
And this year, was a good one.
There were four sightings of the Great Gray Owl, today alone, which is four more Collins can proudly add to her growing list.
“I keep a lifelist, so I do have a list of all the birds I’ve ever seen,” Collins said.