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Friday, January 20, 2012

Birding, In Wisconsin, In the Winter

You know,  I LOVE birds. I love to hear them sing. I enjoy waking up to their pre-dawn chorus. But THIS morning I was serenaded from 4-4:30 AM by a Great Grey Owl - the biggest, loudest owl to grace our state.  This is what I heard: Song #1

He was just outside by bedroom window - having a loud conversation with a neighbor owl.   As I dozed and listened in my toasty warm bed, I thought "OMG - Its BELOW ZERO out there!  Are they nuts???" 

Thanks to this early wake up call, at the end of the day I am utterly exhausted.   So guess what I'm going to do tomorrow?  My Sweetie and I are going to go looking for Snowy Owls!  
Over 100 of them have been spotted around Wisconsin - with many sightings along Lake Michigan.   They're often seen on the ground, on hay mounds, fence posts and sign posts.  One was even spotted on a busy street in Cudahay, a Milwaukee suburb where my mother grew up.  Cudahay is also home to General Mitchell Field International Airport - so its not the quietest place.

The Snowy Owl's usual range is the Arctic tundra.  Think Canada, Alaska, Eurasia.  Only during an irruption are they seen outside this range.  They will travel as far as Russia and the Gulf States of the US in the search for food.  If arctic breeding conditions are good, come winter the younger birds are unable to compete with the bigger, stronger birds for food.  So the young ones range far and wide.  THIS is one of those winters.  So keep your eyes peeled.  They are active by day, are 24" tall and have a wingspan of 52".  Females are larger than males, and more heavily barred.  Only males are pure white.

So tomorrow, out we'll go - into the cold.  I can hear what you're thinking, "OMG -   Are they nuts???"   I'd say that's a definite maybe! :)

For more info on Snowy Owls in Wisconsin, the US and Canada see:

For the Madison, WI area:

For Milwaukee, WI area:

For the US and Canada:

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