Sunday, December 11, 2011

Golden Eagles!

A Young Golden Eagle © Heidi Hughes

Snowy Owls aren’t the only rare birds to visit the Red River Valley in the winter.  The other “big birds” have arrived.  They’re raptors … but they’re not owls.

They’re Golden Eagles, one of the largest birds in North America.

We've had three reports of two different Golden Eagles near the Audubon Center in the past two weeks,

How do we know they were two different birds? 

Their plumage.

One was an adult.  All dark with a golden head and light colored beak.  The other was a young bird with white wing patches and a white bar at the base of its tail.

Both were spotted just south of Warren, Minnesota.  The young bird was chasing a hare in the fields along County Roads 68 and just south of Warren.  The adult was east on 190th Street NW over by 230th flying low to a perch on a pile of rocks in the middle of a CRP field.

Golden Eagles can be found from the arctic to the deserts in the western states.  While they’re rare in the Red River Valley – winter is the best time to spot them.

If you see one, send  an email to or call 218-745-5663 with the day, date, time and location.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Snowy Owl Sightings - Update

The following is a summary of the Snowy Owls spotted in the Red River Valley starting Thanksgiving week, 2011:

Sunday December 4

At 9am, Van Hapka reported a female Snowy Owl on 190th Street NW in rural Warren  - 2.5 miles west of the Audubon Center.  Heidi Hughes photographed that bird... and on the way to see it she spotted 3 Rough-legged Hawks, 2 Bald Eagles, 4 Ravens, a flock of redpolls and 4 Black-billed Magpies.

Rex Crapeau reported another Snowy Owl at 9:30am at Evans Scrap & Steel on Hwy 32 in Thief River Falls.

Craig Mickelson spotted a Snowy Owl this afternoon - a half mile south of Plumber on Hwy 59 in a tree.

Saturday, December 3

Shelley Steva spotted a Snowy Owl Saturday on Polk County 20 in Sherack.
Rhoda Gust of Roseau reported a Snowy Owl 2 miles northwest of Badger, MN.
Donna Wensloff reported another on a power pole 8 miles south of Roseau. 

Thursday, November 30

Heidi Hughes spotted a Snowy Owl on Hwy 11 north of Salol (between Roseau
and Warroad) and a Goshawk flying over Hwy 11 just north of Badger, MN.

Wednesday, November 29
Duane Potucek reported a Snowy owl 3 miles north and 1 mile west of Radium, MN on Wednesday.

Jan Pietruskewski reported a Snowy Owl southwest of Karlstad near Kick'n Up Kountry - Wagon Wheel Ridge - 1160 410th Ave and Hwy 11.

Bette Allison reported a dead Snowy Owl on Monday at Roseau County Rd 2 and Hwy 89 near Badger. 

Tuesday, November 28

Vern Genovich reported 1 Snowy Owl near Vahallla.

Monday, November 27

Laura Skornicka spotted a Snowy on US 75 between Climax and Crookston, MN.

Sunday, November 26

Suzy Fiesel reported a snowy near Crary, ND.

Saturday, November 25

Jeff Pulkrabek spotted a Snowy Owl in East Grand Forks.
Another was reported east of American Crystal Sugar.
Cheryl Pesh spotted one 2 miles north of East Grand Forks. 

Thanksgiving Week

Angie Owens reported 2 Snowy Owls in Euclid.
Tom Valega spotted a Snowy Owl in Thief River Falls and one at the Warren sewage lagoons.
Faith Rud reported 1 Snowy owl south of 190th Street NW in rural Warren

Call the Snowy Owl Hotline!

Thief River Falls - Snowy Owl (female) © Heidi Hughes

Reports of Snowy Owl sightings started started trickling in to Agassiz Audubon Society around Thanksgiving.

Now we're getting several calls a day - from all over the Red River Valley.

Van Hapka called Sunday morning at 9am to report a Snowy Owl on 190th Street and 300th Ave just south of Warren.  I drove over, and sure enough, there was big female owl sitting on a field drainage pipe.

Last Tuesday, I got a call from Wayne Moses reporting another owl near the Audubon Center, a small male, 5 poles east of the Radium turn-off on State Hwy 1 and Marshall County 36. 

There have been so many sightings in the Upper Midwest ornithologists say this could be a record - a big "irruption" -  winter.  There could be as many as hundreds of snowy owls in Minnesota and Wisconsin at this time.

Winter Snowy Owls in the Red River Valley are not unusual.  But why so many this year - and before the snowy weather?

Snowy Owls live way up north in the tundra.  Their populations are controlled by the availability of food.  When there's lots of of their favorite rodents (lemmings) up on the tundra, there's lots of food for Snowy Owls to feed their young.  More baby owls survive.  This summer was a great year for arctic rodents and for their predators - owls and hawks.

Scientists at Cornell University reported an interesting "twist" on eBird:

"...lemmings this year were at historical population highs allowing for a very successful breeding season for Arctic raptors, including Snowy Owls. The resulting population boom causes overcrowding and competition at typical wintering grounds pushing inexperienced birds farther south into the Lower 48."

Agassiz Audubon is keeping track of these birds this winter - if you see one, call the "Red River Valley Snowy Owl Hotline:"  281.745.5663 - or send us an email ( - with the following information:

1.  day of the week:
2.  time of day:
3.  location (from the nearest intersection - or GPS coordinates):
4.  what the bird was perched on:
5.  description of the amount of black barring:
6.  relative size of the bird:  (much bigger than a crow or about crow-size):

Photo submissions are welcome - but please don't chase the birds to get a good picture.   They're already stressed - looking for the 7-8 or more rodents they need to catch every day just to survive.  And sadly, many of them are starving.

"We received an email with a photo of a dead owl from Bette Allison of Roseau recently," said Hughes.   She was on her way to Badger when she spotted a Snowy Owl by a ditch on Hwy 89.  On her way back home, she spotted the bird again - tipped over on its side - dead.  She reported it to the DNR who later picked it up.  They told her it had not been hit by a car, it had starved to death.

Dead or alive, owls are protecting in Minnesota, so if you find an injured (or dead) bird in northwestern Minnesota, be sure to call the DNR (218) 755-2976.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Backyard Bird-feeding Made Simple

Check out Agassiz Audubon Society's facebook page for updates on public programs

Friday, November 25, 2011

Owls, Owls, Fantastical Fowls!

Throughout history and in every culture, owls have been part of local literature, folklore and superstitions.
They’ve been considered wise –and foolish.
They’ve been feared by some, and venerated by others.
They’ve been both admired and despised.
But there’s one thing about owls on which we can all agree: they are fascinating!

Join us for a FREE program on the Owls of Minnesota

 for adults (and older children accompanied by an adult)