Unexpected Towhee

The last couple of weeks have been rough, both in terms of work and school which makes me want to be birding even more. Unfortunately the weather we have been experiencing has been less than sympathetic with the plight of migrating birds making it hard to actually get out and see anything. We just had another bought of snow if you can believe it not two days ago. Apparently the great state of Wisconsin doesn’t believe that it is supposed to be spring and is insisting on being difficult. The temperature since then has slowly crept up but it’s still not warm enough to keep the windows open at night which is my measure for nice spring weather. In any case though I made myself get out of the apartment and go wandering looking for whatever migrating species I could find. Right now I am particularly keen on trying to see migrating waterfowl since my friend has recently invested in a decent spotting scope making it easier to spot birds floating farther out in the water.

On my trip out looking for shorebirds I managed to snag three new species for my lifelist including, much to my amazement, a Spotted Towhee! I didn’t think they came this far east but there he was in his rufous-sided glory. When I first saw a flash of color I thought it was just a robin – I am so glad I decided to stick around to see what it was for sure before heading back to my car for the day. Sharing the picture and the experience with my local birding group has been a lot of fun. Others have wanted to see this bird and actually managed to relocate it which is pretty neat. I love seeing everyone’s photos as species move through on their migration.

Here are some of my favorite shots from the day:

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Yellow-rumped Warbler

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Incoming Canada Geese

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Killdeer

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Spotted Towhee

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Snowy Owls in Wisconsin

The day was absolutely gorgeous with clear blue skies and stunning pastoral landscapes making it a perfect day to drive around on a hunt for the ever elusive Snowy Owl. I was beginning to get nervous that the winter season was slowly coming to an end and that I would miss the irruption of Snowy Owls that have invaded the United States this year, Wisconsin in particular. The number of Snowy Owls this year has been unprecedented with an almost 150 individual owls reported.

Owls have a soft spot in my heart so any time I get to see one it’s a huge deal. Today was apparently the day that my friend and I were to be blessed with our very own Snowy Owl sighting. We were thinking it was the bird’s birthday gift to my friend who is going to be celebrating her birthday this Wednesday. Whatever the reason an absolutely beautiful (what appears to be) female Snowy Owl flew from one farm silo to another which alerted us to her presence. The site of that wingspan was something to behold. She then proceeded to perch upon another silo affording us a wonderful prolonged viewing. Our car was not the only one that found her – very quickly after she flew a convoy of other bird enthusiasts appeared to take in the view.

Needless to say my friend and I freaked out after we confirmed that it was indeed a Snowy Owl and proceeded to geek out in the car over our excitement. We were close enough to be able to get photographic evidence of our new lifelist addition despite the biting wind and not wanting to trespass on private farmland.

I’m so glad I was able to capture this and experience this bird in person before they head back up north to their normal Arctic stomping grounds. Hopefully this individual is finding enough food and will have a long healthy life ahead of it.

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Snowy Owls – Maybe Someday on My Lifelist

There have been multiple sightings now of a few Snowy Owls (relatively) near where I am located. Since this species doesn’t often come this far south I always get excited that maybe THIS will be the year I finally add a Snowy Owl to my lifelist. So far I haven’t gotten lucky but I am going to keep trying.

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Photo courtesy of Alex Lehner of what looks to be a Snowy Owl male. You will be mine someday and I will take awesome pictures of you too!

Read about the predicted irruption of Snowy Owls this season on ebird.org here.