Steve and I have a number one target bird for this winter: Townsend’s Solitaire. Neither of us has seen one, and this species is a regular, albeit sporadic, visitor in the state during the winter months. Plenty of them seem to be showing up all over the place. Ideally we do not want to have to go far to see this bird. A couple of them have shown up within an hour’s drive lately, so yesterday I packed the kids in the car to take them on a little adventure and give Melissa some peace and quiet to do some grading. Of course, the promise of a Solitaire was not enough to get the kids to go with – on-board movies, the family dog, and the promise of a pop may have influenced their decision.
As the kids watched their movie while we sped by Willmar on MN 23, I watched pole tops. We are experiencing an echo irruption of Snowy Owls, so my eyes are constantly scanning pole tops, shed roofs, irrigators, and other available perches whenever I drive.
For once, that obsessive habit paid off when I spotted a Snowy Owl! And right by Willmar no less! For as many Snowies as I have seen, reported, or helped others see, each one of those has been someone else’s discovery that I have refound, reused, or recycled. This was the first one I’ve found on my own – a pristine, undiscovered Snowy. And boy was he a nice looking all-white male too! Not bad for my first one, eh?
Finding a Snowy Owl on my own has been a goal of mine since last year’s historic irruption. To find one right in our own community made it extra special. It also felt pretty good to lock up a 2015 county Snowy on just the second day of the year. Of all the Snowy Owl eBird markers I have dropped in Meeker and Kandiyohi Counties the past two years, this Willmar marker will forever be the one I am most proud of.
After reporting the owl through all necessary channels, the kids and I continued to Redwood County to hunt for the Solitaire. Going through all that flat country I half expected to find more Snowies. But we didn’t, and we struck out on the Solitaire too. No big deal, it was already a great day.
Having a Snowy close-at-hand means you can check up on it when you run errands, like I did later that same afternoon. This Snowy picks some far-out perches; I’m okay with that so it can’t get mobbed by birders and photographers. I enjoy this photo because you can read the Willmar water tower in the background. The SNOW would make a much better school mascot than the Cardinal.
Hopefully this Snowy has set up a winter territory here. The terrain sure looks right – very flat, wide-open land with many quiet perches. Randy refound it this morning, so I went out hoping for more photo ops but the bird was way too far away. Here’s an authentic scenario that will give you somewhat of a feel for a SNOW search – can you find it below?
Were you right?
This may not be the last you see of this Snowy Owl as it is just a few miles away. Are you sick of Snowy Owl postings yet? Well, too darn bad! This year is getting to be as historic as last year, and I aim to soak it up and celebrate it as much as possible. Farmers’ Almanacs don’t predict SNOW storms after all – we just don’t know when SNOW levels will fall back to normal.