Unpack and relax on this fun and NEW! five-night Minnesota winter owl journey. Dine at Duluth’s best eateries for a mix of hearty local fare and cosmopolitan cuisine. Best of all, immerse yourself in a winter wonderland with good chances of seeing Great Gray, Northern Hawk, and Snowy Owls along with classic northern species like Black-backed Woodpecker, Spruce Grouse, and Bohemian Waxwing. We make repeated trips to Sax-Zim Bog, giving us strong chances to find our most desired species.

In Naturalist Journeys’ style of exploration, we also make time to venture north along the Lake Superior shoreline to take in the lake’s winter beauty. Long-tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye, and Red-breasted Merganser favor the deep water bays along the shore and we expect to see them near the picturesque town of Two Harbors.

We also visit the northern boreal forests, which are productive in winter for specialists such as Boreal Chickadee and possibly even Boreal Owl if we’re very lucky. And birds aren’t the only species we might see in this snowy, winter landscape. Snowshoe Hare, Porcupine, and Moose are all active this time of year and with luck we hope to spot them during our travels.

Tour Highlights

  • Search for Great Gray, Northern Hawk, and Snowy Owls in Minnesota’s winter wonderland
  • Visit the famous Sax-Zim Bog, a birder’s paradise in winter
  • Enjoy beautiful views of Lake Superior right from your hotel room
  • Bird northern boreal forests for specialties like Black-backed Woodpecker and Spruce Grouse
  • Keep an eye out for Snowshoe Hare, Porcupine, and even Moose!
  • Warm up with hearty meals at some of Duluth’s best restaurants
  • Explore Tettigouche State Park and its magical winter landscape with frozen waterfalls and ice-clad shoreline

Trip Itinerary

Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.

Sun., Feb. 2         Welcome to Duluth!

The weather is cold, but our potential list of species is well worth bundling up for. Once everyone has arrived, we enjoy a short birding outing nearby if time permits.

Duluth is a scenic small city with a rich maritime history situated on the shore of Lake Superior. During the winter months there is typically ice in the harbor, though Coast Guard icebreakers are able to keep shipping channels open in all but the harshest months. This is a college town with just under 10,000 students enrolled at the University of Minnesota Duluth. We stay in the trendy Canal Park Waterfront area known for its shops and restaurants, as well as the famous Lift Bridge that raises quickly to allow ships to pass through. Enjoy dinner at a favorite local restaurants and get to know your guides and fellow travelers.
Accommodations at the Hampton Inn Canal Park, Duluth (D)

Mon. Feb. 3 & Tues., Feb. 4     Explore Sax-Zim Bog | Duluth Harbor

Our first two days are spent mainly at the Sax-Zim Bog, nearly 150,000 acres of mixed habitat that is a birder’s paradise in winter, well known for wintering Great Gray and Northern Hawk Owls as well as a mix of northern songbirds. The drive is about an hour northwest of Duluth, heading inland from the lake. Once there, we meander our way through different spots in the bog to scan the varied habitat of fields and forests.

This mosaic of habitats is attractive to Great Gray Owl because of the large areas of bog forest for nesting and nearby meadows for hunting prey. We stop by the visitor center to learn more about conservation efforts at the bog. They also have an array of bird feeders that we spend some time watching. Other species we hope to see today are the classic northern species so desirable to see: Canada Jay, Black-backed Woodpecker, Pine Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, Boreal Chickadee, Ruffed Grouse, Bohemian Waxwing, Common Redpoll, Red Crossbill, and White-winged Crossbill. In addition to birds, we keep an eye out for Snowshoe Hare, Porcupine, Moose, and maybe even an elusive Gray Wolf if we’re VERY lucky!

We warm up with a restaurant lunch each day and in the afternoons return to Duluth where we look for Snowy Owl in the Duluth-Superior area where they are known to hunt in fields and frozen areas around the harbor, often resting atop grain storage or other tall structures. Waste grain attracts rodents and pigeons for a veritable raptor feast. We also stop by Canal Park, which fairly close to our hotel. This is a busy shipping port most of the year, but home to many gulls in winter. As many as seven species of gull can be seen here, including Glaucous, Thayer’s and possibly Iceland Gulls. We return to the hotel and have dinner at a choice of local restaurants.  
Accommodations at the Hampton Inn, Duluth (B,L,D)

Wed., Feb. 5    North to Two Harbors | Isabella | Tettigouche State Park

We head north today, making stops along the shores of Lake Superior hoping to see Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, and Common Goldeneye, all species that favor the deeper water bays with open water. Two Harbors is a picturesque village and the Two Harbors Lighthouse is an iconic part of Lake Superior history, built on Agate Bay and operating since 1892.

Turning inland and going farther north, the Isabella area can be productive for boreal forest specialists such as Spruce Grouse. We mainly work the road system where grouse and other species come to feed on the snow-free road margins. We may also find Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, and rarer sightings might include American Three-toed Woodpecker and Boreal Owl. 

We make a loop return route back toward Silver Bay, stopping for a scenic view at Tettigouche State Park, so magical in winter with frozen waterfalls and a rugged ice-clad shoreline.
Accommodations at the Hampton Inn, Duluth (B,L,D)

Thurs., Feb. 6   Guide’s Choice

We can return to the bog today, or to the boreal forest depending on weather and how successful we have been to date with our species. And even if we’ve been successful in finding winter owls, there are always new views and photo ops to try for and hawks such as Rough-legged Hawk or even Northern Goshawk. Northern Shrike, Black-billed Magpie, and Snow Bunting are possible. Residential areas of the city host fruiting mountain ash trees and homes with bird feeders. Birders in the area are good about sharing sightings and may point us to Hoary Redpoll or mixed flocks of crossbills. There may be infrequently seen gulls around such as Great Black-backed. We make the most of our day!

We return to a nice hot shower, a chance to freshen up, and then gather for a celebratory dinner with a chance to do a final tally of our sightings and share highlights of this winter journey.
Accommodations at the Hampton Inn, Duluth (B,L,D)

Fri., Feb. 7   Departures

After breakfast, we depart for the Duluth International Airport (DLH). You may fly out at a time convenient for you as our hotel is not far from the airport. (B)

  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls

    Great Gray Owl

  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls

    Cedar Waxwing

  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls
  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls
  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls

    Boreal Owl by James Peterson

  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls

    Minnesota Moon by Bryan Calk

  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls
  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls
  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls
  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls
  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls
  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls
  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls
  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls
  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls
  • Birding Minnesota, Bird watching Minnesota, The Great Lakes, Naturalist Journeys, Wildlife Tour, Wildlife Photography, Ecotourism, Specialty Birds, Birding Hotspot, Owls

Cost of the Journey

Cost of the journey is $2590 DBL / $3090 SGL, from Duluth, MN.


This cost includes: accommodations for 5 nights, all meals as specified in the itinerary, land transportation during the tour, professional guide services, park and other entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses.


Cost does not include: round-trip airfare to and from Duluth, items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone, drinks from the bar, or gratuities for luggage handling or personal services.

Travel Details

Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.

Arrival and Departure Airport: Duluth International Airport (DLH)


Arrival Details: Please plan to arrive February 2, 2025, no later than 5:00 PM.


Departure Details: Please plan flights to depart February 7, 2025, at your leisure.


Travel Tips: If you arrive early to rest up from your travels or avoid winter weather delays, you can book an early night at our tour hotel, the Hampton Inn Duluth Canal Park. You can book online or call them at (218) 720-3000 and give us your confirmation number, with the goal being you won’t have to switch rooms. There are several restaurants within walking distance of the hotel and it’s located right on the banks of Lake Superior.

Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.

Michigan

Minnesota

Bearskin Lodge & Boundary Waters

Wisconsin

Essential Information +

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have Read more

This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!

Ahead of Your Tour

  • Please talk with your doctor about general health needs. It is a good idea to consult with your doctor about general vaccinations recommended for travel.
  • Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed. After you make travel reservations, please send a copy of your travel itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office at clientservices@naturalistjourneys.com.
  • Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance.
  • Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Remember to pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.

Health Information

We will share a copy of your health and emergency contact information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important in case of a medical emergency. In addition to bringing any prescription medications with you, we recommend that you have a copy of the prescriptions in case of loss.

Pace of the Tour & What to Expect

You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.

Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.

The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.  

We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.

Food & Drink

We carry water and juices/cold drinks in the cooler each day, and sodas if people like them. Please also plan on bringing and filling your water bottle for hiking each day. We try to use as few plastics as possible!

Packing, Clothing & Laundry

Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Please pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.

Dress is informal and is casual even at restaurants. Layering is a great way to stay comfortable. Protective clothing is essential, whether it be from sun, rain, cold, insects, or vegetation. You need closed toe shoes, and wear comfortable walking shoes with good tread. Hiking boots with good support for hiking and on rocky terrain can work well.

Spending Money

Many people ask how much to plan to bring as spending money. Part of that depends on how much you want to shop. Most shops will take VISA and MasterCard or American Express. Typical items people purchase include local souvenirs and T-shirts, caps, and natural history books.  You may want to bring cash for drinks with dinner (if available) or smaller local purchases.

Gratuities

Expect the normal tipping protocol to apply for hotel maids and bar service. If at the end of the tour, you would like to show your appreciation to your guides, tipping is entirely appropriate but at your discretion. We hope that you will be pleased with all professional services. Gratuities for group meals are included. For your birding tour guide, we suggest $10-$15 per day per guest. Note that if there is more than one guide, this amount can be split among them.

Cell Phones & Internet Service

Wi-Fi and cell phone service are available in most US destinations, although there are some exceptions in remote locations. Wi-Fi is generally provided in all hotels, lodges, and restaurants you visit, at least in public areas. Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers unless it appears to be an emergency as this disrupts other guests – please plan cell phone calls on your own time.

Smoking

Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.

Transportation

For this tour, your guides will drive travelers in either full-size or mini-vans or a combination of those two. We ask all attendees to please rotate your seating, so you ride with different drivers and alternate between front and back seats.

Photo Release & Sharing

We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.

By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives permission to record photos and/or video of your participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochures, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.

Questions?

Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at clientservices@naturalistjourneys.com or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.

 

Suggested Reading List +

  There are many titles of interest for Minnesota; the following are a few that we Read more

 

There are many titles of interest for Minnesota; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started.

Top Picks

The Complete Guide to North American Owls

Birds of Minnesota Field Guide

Merlin App. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology, which can be downloaded here. Add the Minnesota pack.

Field Guides

Lives of North American Birds

Sibley Guide to Birds

The Concise Book of Owls: A Guide to Nature’s Most Mysterious Birds

Hawks in Flight

Mammals of the Great Lakes Region

Great Lakes Nature Guide

Natural History

Reading the Earth, Landforms in the Making

Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding: Understanding What You See and Hear

The Birder’s Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds

The Complete Birder: A Guide to Better Birding

History & Culture

The Geological and Natural History Survey of Minnesota

Minnesota's Natural History: An Ecological Perspective

Your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share. As an Amazon Associate, Naturalist Journeys earns from qualifying purchases, and may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page at no added cost to you.

Useful Links +

Learn more about your destination at these external websites, carefully researched for you. Read more

General

Duluth

Duluth Harbor Cam

Duluth Ship Canal

Lake Superior

Two Harbors, MN

Isabella, MN

Nature, Wildlife & Biology

Duluth Audubon Society

Duluth/Superior Birding Map

Wildlife of Duluth – iNaturalist

Birding Lake Superior

Sax-Zim Bog

North American Boreal Forest

Conservation, Parks & Reserves

Tettegouche State Park

Minnesota Land Trust – Protecting, Restoring & Engagement for MN’s Natural Places

Geology & Geography

Geology of Duluth Harbor

Geology of Minnesota

Geography of Duluth

History & Culture

Two Harbors Lighthouse

Duluth History and Area Information

Duluth Arts, History & Music

Indigenous History & Culture

Helpful Travel Websites

Duluth International (DLH)

Homeland Security Real ID Act

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

 ATM Locator

Date & Time – Duluth, MN


Photo credits coming soon.

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