Sunday, February 9, 2014


Snowy Owl at Agassiz Valley

It's no secret that the winter of 2013-2014 has been a very big one for Snowy Owls.  Most of our sightings started in January  (we were otherwise occupied over the holidays - moving to a new office in Warren).

On New Year's Eve Day, we spotted the first of more than a dozen Snowy Owls on the Minnesota side of the Red River Valley.   Yesterday Lynne King spotted one about 3 miles east of the Audubon Center, and today I spotted one at the Agassiz Valley impoundment.  Mostly young females... but it was a treat to see a couple of little white males.

old male Snowy

Young female Snowy

We see Snowies every winter in the Red River Valley, but this year has been special.  Get out and look - now!

Last winter the "big" owl irruption was of the smaller kind - the Boreal Owl.  This little guy showed up at our birdfeeders at dusk.

Boreal Owl

A week or so later, this bird was hunting mice at the woodpile.

Boreal Owl

Seeing Boreals is a mixed blessing.  Many of them didn't make it through the winter.  A total of 6 Boreal Owls were found dead in the Warren area last year.

Minnesota's smallest owl species - the Northern Saw-whet Owl was spotted in an evergreen up the road in Radium - near the Snake River.  I suspect there are more - especially during migration.

Northern Saw-Whet
Other owls spotted at the Agassiz Audubon Center the past couple of years -

Short-eared Owls

While these birds are known for being nomadic, they've declined to the point where I didn't see one last year.   Neighbors have complained about people shooting them - despite the fact that they are protected species.  Many succumb to collisions with vehicles speeding down minimum maintenance roads.  Two years ago, I was fortunate to see their wing-clapping display at 3pm on a cloudy spring day - just down the road.

There are records of Long-eared Owls nesting at the Agassiz Audubon Center.  Vanessa Lane spotted one last winter...  We need to call them at dusk...

Long-eared Owl

We have a resident nesting pair of Great Horned Owls too (a mixed blessing as they will eat anything their size and smaller - including other owls).  The little male hangs out on the 40-acre property owned by National Audubon/Audubon Minnesota every fall.

If you do come out to see the owls... please call first - we don't allow visitors to play recordings without permission.