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Why is the festival using school buses instead of coach buses for field trips?
Coach buses are considerably more expensive. Hiring coaches would have necessitated a significant increase in the overall fees for the Festival; we believe that keeping costs to a minimum will allow more people to participate.
How much hiking will there be on the field trips — will we be hiking in deep snow?
Most of the hiking will be done along side roads where we will be stopping to look for our birds. At the feeding stations, there will be more standing than hiking. A lot of winter birding is walking, then standing to listen for call notes and other audio clues. The only times participants might be walking in deep snow would be if there is a woodpecker that refuses to come out where it can be seen. Then the group leader might elect to walk into the woods to get a better view. Otherwise, most of the hiking is done on snow-packed roads.
How long will we be outside on these field trips?
It can be as long as an hour or just a half an hour. It really depends on what birds you are trying to find. If you are at a local feeding station, it could be about an hour of outside time looking at the birds. If you are looking for American Three-toed Woodpeckers or Black-backed Woodpeckers, it might just be half an hour. The leaders will have a good estimate on how long you will be at each stop.
Will there be restroom breaks on these field trips?
Of course. We have assigned a heated portable toilets at the Morse feeding station, the Abramson feeding station and there will be a restroom open on the McDavitt Road on the north end of the bog. On the Aitkin County and Duluth field trips, the leaders will stop at gas stations periodically throughout the day.
What kind of clothes should I bring?
First, watch the forecast for the Duluth area or go to web sites such as the Underground Weather and check out the forecasts for the festival weekend. Weather in mid-February can be as cold as -30° with -60° to -70° wind chills, or it can be as warm as 30° to 35° with calm winds. So watch the forecast! We suggest you dress in layers. Fleece is as warm as wool or cotton. Consider also wool socks, long johns, turtlenecks, sweaters, or wool pants. Wind and water proof outer shell jackets are good to wear over a hooded fleece or cotton pullover. You might try a wool cap that fits over the ears as well as a neck warmer. Deerskin or cowhide choppers or mittens with a warm liner are warmer than gloves. There are many kinds of foot gear available, but look for a boot that has layers under the sole. Typical hiking shoes in the southern or western states are not made for northern Minnesota winters. Look for a good quality boot and make sure you have an inch of play in front of your toes to accommodate thick socks. Do not wear several layers of socks because your feet will sweat. Moisture and cold temperatures are not good. Wool pants are desirable because they are quiet when you are moving about listening for birds. Ski pants that are made of synthetic material make a lot of noise in the colder temperatures. They are lighter weight, and just as warm as wool, but it’s the noise they make that we don’t like.
Can I photograph birds on the field trips or will there be time allocated to photographers on the field trips?
Yes, you can photograph birds on the field trips. The leaders will dictate how much time you will spend at each stop. If there is a bird you would like to photograph, talk to the leader and ask if you may spend some time taking photos. When it comes to Great Gray Owls or Boreal Owls, the leaders will make sure that everyone is satisfied with the view they had first, then birders with cameras will be allowed to take photos. Great Gray Owls are more skittish with large groups of people and typically will fly down the road upon approach. The leaders will use the bus as a blind to let photographers get out to take some quick photos of these owls. Boreal Owls, Northern Hawk Owls, and sometimes Snowy Owls are more tolerant of photographers and do not get as nervous when people approach. Trip leaders will determine how close they will allow photographers to approach a roosting owl. At feeding stations, the leaders will make sure photographers are not too close so the birds can feed comfortably while the group looks on.
What is the refund policy for the Sax-Zim Winter Bird Festival?
Cancellations received by February 1st will be given a refund of all but $25.00. Cancellations received after February 1st are non-refundable.