During the Sax-Zim Bog Winter Bird Festival in February, we cleaned up on our target birds the first two days so well that we decided to leave the festival a day early and work a gravel road west of Ely, MN. Mike Hendrickson had told us it might have Spruce Grouse gathering grit early in the morning and that a Lynx that had been seen along the road throughout the winter. We got an early morning start start and were rewarded by wolf tracks in the fresh snow and White-winged Crossbills. Near the end of the road as we crested a small hill the road presented us with a straight view for at least a 1/2 mile. At the end of this straight section was a long legged cat/dog sized animal that was walking very slowly on the side of the road. At this moment all we needed to do was raise our binoculars and we most likely would have seen a Lynx. But we panicked. Bill told Davis to “Gun it” and Davis accelerated the SUV and drove straight towards our target. Presto it was gone. None of us viewed it well enough for a life cat. Later Davis declared “Well that was our 1st Lynx.” I‘m sure he hoped we’d see another that day which we didn’t. But Davis foreshadowed our day yesterday.
We took the earliest bus into the park yesterday. We knew that Lynx were being seen a couple of miles past the Savage River, hunting Snowshoe Hares along the roadside. This time were were ready for it. Tom spotted it five feet off the right side of the road. Everyone on the bus got a good but brief look. The picture you see here isn’t great, but clearly shows what it is at least.
Yesterday we had great views of Mt. McKinley. Denali National Park is a visual feast. Six million acres of wilderness basically untouched by humans.
Another highlight was the sow Grizzly with her two 2-year old cubs. The Grizzlies were laying down in the tundra just east of Eielson Visitor Center
. The focus on the return trip from Eielson Center was to be dropped off at the upper end of Igloo Creek working down slope for two miles to the campground birding along the way for Arctic Warbler. Jon Dunn had suggested Igloo Creek as the best place in the park for this late migrant. They are common here. Unfortunately, it’s apparently a late spring and they’re just not in yet. We heard Wilson’s and Orange-crowned Warblers, the songs of both of resemble Arctic, but not a single Arctic Warbler. This is a big miss. It now can be rectified only by an early Sept trip to Gambell. Hey……….that may not be such a bad decision.