[mou] Lake Superior Trip: Deadliest Birding

Michael Hendrickson mlhendrickson at yahoo.com
Sat Oct 6 22:12:05 EDT 2007

Friday night I waited for a phone call from Captain Dan Rau of the LL Smith Research Vessel and t assume the trip is on.  So I checked the current weather, strong winds from the NNE at 15 mph gusting to around 30mph with rain -- not good!  So I checked the forecase hour to hour in the Duluth Harbor and the forecast was for the winds to die down around 15mph from the NNE with no gusts and possible rain showers.  That forecast seeem promising and figure birders could deal with rain here and there but not the gusts on Lake Superior.
  Saturday I woke up at 6:30am and feel the wind from the east coming through the window. Not good!  Drove over the lift bidge and saw huge rollers and a light mist hitting the windows. I figure the trip is cancelled but I might as well meet the crowd and tell them we can go to Park Point and scan for jaegers and other birds on land. I decided to go over and meet with the crew and the captain. The crew doesn't seem to care what we do and Dan is open to take people out in the bay where its protected from the strong winds plus the waters are calmer.  We also decided we can go out in the Superior Entry off Wisconsin Point and turn around and head back along the bay back to the dock.  Well now I have two options to tell the crowd. 1. stay on land or 2. go on the boat for the short trip.  Met the crowd and they wanted to be on the boat.  Ok boat it is.
  Everything was calm and wonderful but very little birds were being seen.  AWW were coming up to Wisconsin Point the place where we always see some thing wonderful for the trip!  So we head towards Lake Superior and the bow is going up and down and the spray is covering people so most of the folks head to the stern with me. When the LL Smith goes down in trough IT WENT DOWN! and when it went up it REALLY went up!  OK this is scary! So I tell Dan "lets head back to the bay" Dan replies " ok" and we do a ueee near the lighthouse and all I see are huge rollers coming at us!  Then all of a sudden as we turned north and south I was looking UP and I mean UP at a huge roller ready to crash on us! The roller crashed sending us to grab the railings and water smacked us with water up to our knees and then I looked for to the railing and saw part of railing EVEN with the water surface! Finally we turn around with the rollers pushing us back to the bay!  Yes I am wet and everyone in
 the stern is soaked from knees down! Our popcorn is spewed all over deck and in the water.  I was very scared of what happen and then I check on the folks and they are fine and are back to scanning for gulls. We laughed about it when we got off the LL Smith.  Discovery Channel should do a reality show on us birders on Lake Superior!
  -White-winged Scoters
  After the trip (some of participants) saw the following:
  -Barrow Goldeneye (Kim Eckert found it)
  -Sabine's Gull ( Peder Svingen found it/reported it to me)
  -Gyr/Prairie Falcon 
  -Surf Scoters 
  -Black Scoter
  -Red-throated Loon ( I located this bird )
  Thanks goes out to everyone who braved the boat trip and especially to Jim Lind & Kim Eckert who were my guests on the boat trip and to Peder Svingen for reporting bird from Park Point!

Mike Hendrickson
  Duluth, Minnesota
  Website: http://webpages.charter.net/mmhendrickson/
  Local Bird Guide
  Lake Superior Birding Boat Trips

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