Outdoor Adventures: Tracking Animals in Winter

Siggy walk .jpgA large majority of my free time is spent wandering through the woods and fields with my dog in tow (alright, normally I’m the one in tow as he impatiently waits for me to keep up). Although I am occasionally rewarded with a neat critter sighting, most of the time, my pup does a pretty good job scaring off any wildlife within the vicinity. Instead, I’m left to look for signs that animals have been there: tracks, scat (the very scientific word for poo), feathers, bones, nests or other homes, rubs, scrapes, chewing marks, etc. Of course, this is assuming my dog hasn’t destroyed and/or eaten any of the artifacts before I can find them. During the summer, when our landscapes are bursting with vegetation, birds, insects, and more, these signs can be hard to notice! Unless you’re traversing a mud pit, tracks largely disappear in the carpet of last year’s leaves, grasses, and under story plants. But in winter, if it’s snowy,  it’s like a veil has been lifted and animals are no longer capable of sneaking about undetected. Suddenly our yards, forests, and fields come alive with activity, all documented by footprints left behind. Following animal tracks in the snow is one of my all time favorite winter activities (… okay, I love everything about winter).

Deer and Turkey TracksSo how do you begin to know what kind of tracks you’re looking at? We’re going to break it down for you. Chances are, if the track is in the snow, it belongs to a bird or a mammal. Our reptiles and amphibians are hibernating for winter and our fish obviously don’t leave tracks in the snow. Bird tracks, as a group, are pretty easy to identify and we’re not going to delve into identifying bird tracks by species. I’m not sure that anybody delves into that! So the first thing you need, is a field guide to mammals in you area (see resources at the bottom). Once you identify a few characteristics, the list of potential mammalian suspects narrows pretty quickly. First, there are two major things a beginner tracker needs to observe.

  1. Clear, Individual Print –  Yes, it must be clear! Not all snow is going to provide you with a crisp print. Super dry, light, fluffy snow isn’t the best for tracks. Neither is super deep snow, as the actual track is so far down you can’t see it. If you don’t have a clear print with distinct details, skip ahead to number 2. If you do find a high quality print, there are 4 aspects you want to observe: toes, shape, claws, and size.  

A. Number of toes – groups of mammals can be identified by how many toes are in the print. Some mammals may have different numbers of front and back toes, so be careful!

B. Overall shape – Is the track mostly round? Oval? Does it look human-like, but tiny? Is it heart-shaped? Are the toes very long and skinny? Noticing the overall shape can help identify the correct group of mammals. Many animals have differently shaped front and hind tracks – do you see two different shapes?

C. Claws – are there claw marks present? These can be very difficult to see at times, but they can also be really helpful, especially when identifying between dog and cat groups (cats have retractable claws, so they typically don’t show in their prints).

D. Size – It can be very useful to bring a small measuring tool with you on your walks to determine the front and hind track size.  Make sure if you see two different prints, as in a front and hind track, to measure both if you can. If you don’t have a measuring tool with you, try to get a picture with something in it for scale so you have an idea later how big or small the print was.

Mammal Track Summary Chart

This is a helpful summary chart & quick reference for individual mammal tracks.

2. The Track Pattern – Even if you have deep snow or unclear prints, you can usually still study the track pattern, or the gait of the animal. There are four basic track patterns: walking, galloping, bounding, or waddling.

A. Diagonal Walking – Created when an animal moves its right hand and left foot at the same time, then its left hand and right foot at the same time. Tracks are fairly equally spaced and appear as “double” prints. Diagonal walkers include: cats, dogs, hoofed animals, opossums, and badgers. You’ll also want to note the stride, or the distance between two hind tracks. Strides of diagonal walkers are typically about the shoulder to hip distance of an animal, so this can help you quickly identify the relative size of the animal that left the print.

Diagonal Walker

Direct Register: When the hind track lands directly on top of the front track. Includes cats and fox.

Indirect Register: When the hind track overlaps a little behind the front track. Includes all other diagonal walkers.

B. Galloping –  Created when the larger hind feet land in front of the smaller hind feet. Gallopers include: rabbits/hares, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, & shrews.

gallop walkers

C. Bounding – Created when the front feed land together at the same time, and then the back feet land where the front feet were. Bounders include: weasels, otter, mink, marten, & fishers.

Bounder

D. Waddling (aka Pace Walking) – Created when the weight of an animal shifts from side to side – both the right hand and foot move forward, then both the left hand and foot move forward. Waddlers tend to be heavy-set mammals, including: bears, porcupine, muskrat, raccoons, beavers, & skunks.

Gait patterns

Keep in mind, these are general rules for walking animals and there are always exceptions to rules! In addition, the speed of the animal and the terrain can affect the track pattern created. These general rules should be used for walking animals on relatively flat ground. Once you’ve mastered this, you can dig deeper into tracks made at various speeds and so on.

Here are some of the tracks I’ve come across in my wanderings.

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So head out there and enjoy! Take a small ruler or measuring device, a notebook, and a small camera on your wanderings. Then you can always ID them later, hopefully by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate!

Resources That May Help! 

Books:

Mammals of Minnesota Field Guide – Stan Tekiela

Mammals of the North Woods (Naturalist Series) – Roger Powell

The Tracker’s Field Guide: A Comprehensive Manual for Animal Tracking – James Lowery ** Would highly recommend if you’re ready to move beyond the basics!

Tracking and the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Signs – Paul Rezendes

 

Websites:

Outdoor Action – Princeton University

The Wilderness Arena

And, surprisingly, The United States Search and Rescue Task Force 

If you’re having trouble with an ID, have a good picture, and are in Minnesota – try posting it on this KAXE Season Watch Facebook group – there are a lot of eager & knowledgeable people who will help you out!

Cold Weather Comfort Foods

As a lifelong resident of the Midwest, I’ve come to the realization that there is no escaping winter. It will have it’s way with you. Some people have chosen to embrace it, like our beloved Nora, who can be seen, even on the most cold and daylight deprived days, out frolicking in the ice and snow.

Other, more rational, people have made the choice to fight against the oppressive, bitter winds and the unrelenting below-zero temperatures by turning to the kitchen. There, they’ve fortified themselves through the magical art called “Comfort Food.”

I’ve asked the staff here at HDT if they have a food or recipe they use that combats the onslaught of red noses and frosty feet, and I got a bunch of goods ones. If you have any you’d like to share, please comment below!

Gluhwein

gluhweinAllison R. talks about her favorite comfort food and reminisces a bit about when she first experienced it. She says she first tried Gluhwein (“Glow Wine”) while walking a Christmas market in Germany while visiting her husband, while he was on leave. She loves the hot, citrusy, and spicy flavor. She claims it makes you warm from the inside-out.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 medium orange
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup turbinado or granulated sugar
  • 20 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle dry red wine
  • Rum or amaretto, for serving (optional)
Directions:
  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the orange in wide strips, taking care to avoid the white pith; set aside. Juice the orange and set the juice aside.
  2. Combine the water and sugar in a large, nonreactive saucepan and boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Reduce the heat and add cloves, cinnamon, star anise, orange zest, and orange juice. Simmer until a fragrant syrup forms. Takes about 1 minute.
  3. Reduce the heat further and add the wine. Let it barely simmer for at least 20 minutes but up to a few hours. Keep an eye out so it doesn’t reach a full simmer.
  4. Strain and serve in small mugs, adding a shot of rum or amaretto and garnishing with the orange peel and star anise if desired.

Shepherds Pie

shepherdspieIn my book, for a recipe to be considered “comfort food” it has to fulfill two requirements: 1) Is it warm? 2) Is it filling?

This shepherds pie hits both of these criteria in stride. After you’ve had a long day of either slogging through the ice fields on Greenland or the green fields of Iceland, you’re going to be happy to dig into this bad boy.

Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs freshly ground burger
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 carrots coarsley chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1-2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 oz frozen peas
  • 2-1/2 lbs russet potatoes peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter
Directions:
  1. Preheat over to 425F. Heat a large skillet over high heat. In two batches, cook burger until no longer pink, about five minutes each. Transfer burger to a colander set in a bowl; let fat drain off and discard.
  2. Add 1/4 cup water to the skillet, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium; add onion and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened (about 5 minutes). Stir in tomato paste. Add flour, cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  3. Add Worchestershire sauce, 2 cups water, and burger. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in peas; cook 1 minute. Divide among eight 8-oz ramekins; or two 9-inch glass pie dishes.
  4. Potato Topping: In a medium saucepan, cover potatoes with salted water by 1 inch; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer until fork tender (about 15-20 minutes). Drain.
  5. In pan, bring milk and butter to a simmer, remove from heat. Return potatoes; mash. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Spread potato topping over pies; use a fork to make peaks. Bake on a baking sheet until tops are browned, 25-30 minutes. Cool slightly, serve.

 

Cornish Pastie

I asked around the staff and our resident chef, Chris G. came up with this neat little recipe. He said it reminded him of gatherings, church basements, and the way that a good meal can bring people together, which he claims is the true meaning of comfort food.

Ingredients:
  • pasty1-1/2 lbs pie crust
  • 1 lb chuck steak cubed
  • 6 oz potato cubed
  • 6 oz rutabaga cubed
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp savory
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • pinch salt & pepper
  • 1 egg (beaten)
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Divide dough into 6, roll out into round shapes
  2. Mix steak, veggies, herbs & season. Then spoon equal amounts onto crusts
  3. Brush edges with water then pinch together firmly, (it must seal!)
  4. Transfer pasties to a lined baking sheet. Brush each pasty with egg, then place in oven.
  5. Cook for 15 minutes at 425F, then reduce heat to 325F and then cook for an hour.

Outdoor Adventures on Snowshoes & Skis

As a Minnesotan, I find you get the most out living in this state if you come to embrace all four of our very distinct and wonderful seasons. Most people have the hardest time embracing winter – the cold temps, the snow, the often difficult travels, and the extended periods inside with your children on polar vortex and snow days take a toll on a person! Personally, I love winter. I probably spend more time outside in winter than I do in any other season. The secret is to find outdoor activities that let you marvel in nature, while also keeping you warm!

Both cross-country skiing and snowshoeing have a wealth of health benefits, plus these types of “workouts” will keep you warm in even the most frigid of temps! These outdoor recreation options are good cardio exercise, allowing you to build strength, endurance, and balance while providing a full-body workout! Not to mention, the time outdoors in nature helps reduce stress and anxiety, and who doesn’t need that!? Whether your flying solo or with friends and family, this time in nature can be rejuvenating. Plus, did I mention they’re fun? Both snowshoes and cross-country skis come in a variety of sizes, meaning this can be fun for the whole family!

 

 

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Outdoor Adventures Await, Even in Winter

We’ve gotten through the “most wonderful time of the year” and now the cold realities of living in Minnesota are starting to set in, again. Instead of curling up in your favorite blanket and hugging your cup of warm cider (which is something you can do after!), we recommend some of the more adventurous OUTDOOR activities that are available in Minnesota.

Following the old Scandinavian saying, “There’s is no such thing as cold weather, only inadequate clothing,” we can surmise that there are some people who might take this saying to the extreme, even in the coldest of weather. However, for those that are just looking to get their feet wet (figuratively, of course, because wet feet in the cold winter is just crazy), here are a few ideas to get you started:

For a Date Night

Look, nothing can beat dinner and a movie for the traditional way to treat your significant other, but we live in Minnesota. We can do that anywhere. If you’re looking for something to do with your sweetie for Valentine’s Day, here are a couple ideas:

1) Snowshoe by Candlelight – February 22 – Nothing is more romantic than huffing around in your snowshoes. Taking the front 9holes of The Legacy golf course, Cragun’s is lighting up a mile long loop from 5-8pm. With a halfway pit stop offering hot chocolate & cider, and a bonfire at the end of the trail with cookies, this looks to be a really fun way to spend time with your sweetie. Plus, the event goes to support Habitat for Humanity.

2) Snowshoe Class at the Northland Arboretum – If you’re looking for more of an outdoor date, that the entire family can enjoy, the Northland Arb is holding snowshoe classes on Saturday, February 23 at 9:30am.

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Preparing your Home for Winter

*This post was initially published way back in 2012.*

How Will You Prepare for Winter?

I drive to work everyday. It’s a drive from Brainerd to Pine River, about 35 miles. It takes me about 45 minutes to get from driveway to parking lot. There are stoplights, stop signs, merging traffic, and other nuisances on the way. But, mostly I get to zing up (and down) Hwy. 371 at about 60 mph. Now, along this drive, I see not one, but four different businesses that are advertising their boat winterization services. Some will offer free storage while others will offer free shrink wrapping. It’s a good time of year to need boat winterization, apparently. Now, other than serving as a reminder that central Minnesota is still (and forever shall be!) the boating and fishing capital of the world, these winterization billboards are serving another important feature.

They’re telling us that Winter is Coming!

Let us take solace in the famous utterance of Eddard Stark that, yes, winter is truly

winterprepare

You tell ’em “Ned”

coming. But, instead of huddling in our homes and turning the furnace temperature to the heat setting we should use this warning as an opportunity to ready, prepare, and indeed, brace ourselves for the oncoming cold. I’ve done a little research and found some things that are easy to do around the house that will make this coming winter that much easier to endure.

First, I contacted Roger G, an engineer and an all-around nice guy. He works for RREAL, a great non-profit organization that outfits low income families with solar panels to help combat heating prices. But, before they just attach the panels, they have to make sure that the house itself is best suited to the benefits of solar energy. In other words, they require that the home be weatherized before the begin installation. This weatherization includes proper weather stripping, sufficient insulation (throughout the home), and storm windows. These are just a small number of things you can do to save money and energy. Roger recommended I look to the local utility companies to see how best to winterize my home.

I looked to several utility co-ops and found some good tips. But, where should you begin? Here are a couple ideas.

Step #1 Schedule an energy audit.

Check out this video put together by the Dept. of Energy. These audits are often subsidized by your utility company. Contact your provider to see if they have programs in place to help you get your audit at least partially paid for.

Step #2 Fill those cracks.

Using the knowledge from your energy audit, you’ll see where you need to apply insulation. However, these are the most likely culprits for allowing heat to escape. Some of the best ways to stifle heat loss in your home are by caulking joints, covering your windows in plastic, and using foam gaskets on your outlets

Step #3: Install a Programmable Thermostat.

Doing this very simple (and inexpensive) option will help you save up to 20% on your utility bill. So, with the one time purchase of $40, you’ll get a return on investment in no time. Check out this video on how to install one. Not too difficult. Again, look to your utility company to see if they offer benefits for installing a programmable thermostat. Some even offer rebates to lower the cost even further.

 

If you want more information on preparing for the cold of winter, I suggest looking at what the Clean Energy Resource Team has put together. Also, Excel Energy has a more detailed pamphlet on making your home tip top for the oncoming winter.

Back to Basics 2018 – A Primer

**Registration for the 12th annual sustainable living event, Back to Basics: Navigating Changing Currents, is open! With 45 workshops to choose from, almost 50 vendors to shop at, informative and entertaining keynote speakers, door prizes, a delicious lunch, and school aged (K-4) children’s programming available, there’s fun for the whole family! Workshops ARE FILLING UP! So, don’t miss out.**

Every winter in Northern Minnesota brings with it four things.

  1. Bitter cold
  2. Time to perfect your hot tottie recipe.
  3. A reinvigorated perspective on what is more uncomfortable: being “too hot” or “too cold”*
  4. Something wonderful.

For the last 12 years, that wonderful something has been the annual sustainable living event, Back to Basics! It’s here. It’s finally here!

We wanted to focus on the importance of water, so we made this year’s theme: Navigating Changing Currents. We wanted to make more aware the troubling times in our nation, politically anyways, so we brought in two amazing keynote speakers who are well-versed in the the importance of recognizing climate change, the worldwide ecosystem, and our place within it.

“We’ll share ‘Why we need to be concerned and what you can do about it’” stated Phil

b2bkeynote2018

Mike Duvall and Phil Hunsicker will keynote the event with “slides and songs.”

Hunsicker when commenting on the keynote he and friend, Mike Duval will deliver on environmental challenges facing Minnesotans. The duo will educate and entertain with a mix of slides and songs on topics like climate change and aquatic invasive species (AIS). Both Phil and Mike work for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources where Phil is an AIS Prevention Planner in the Division of Ecological and Water Resources and Mike is a District Manager of the Division of the Ecological and Water Resources.

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Back to Basics 2017: A Review

Around early September, we start getting anxious around her. The care-free days of summer begin to shorten. The happy giggles of Eco-Campers are in the rear-view mirror. The CSA shares offer up their tremendous bounty. It’s not because of these occurrences that start to get anxious. No, they’re simply a reminder for us that the seasons are beginning to change to winter, and for us, winter is focused on one thing: making Back to Basics the best event it can be.

groupshot

B2B 2017 

First things first, the crew needs to pick a theme. What makes a theme so robust as to make it the central idea on which the event revolves? There are countless avenues to go down. Should we highlight healthy eating? Homesteading? Sustainability basics? The “best” event must have a theme to bring the crowd in.

Or perhaps it’s HUGE vendor area that needs to be focused on first? Do we have the largest sustainability fair in northern Minnesota as the draw to encourage attendees?

Or is it to secure a dynamite keynote speaker? Is that what makes B2B an annual draw? Certainly having well-known, well-spoken leaders in the sustainability field is the key, right? We’ve had educators, restaurateurs, city-planners, and even environmental activists in our keynote position.

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Presenters Highlight The Power of Change at Back To Basics

Spaces are continuing to fill up for the 11th annual Back to Basics. The theme this year is “The Power of Change” and highlighting this theme are a few of the presenters.

One Back to Basics 2017 presenter, Dawn Molaison of Swatara has taken a different route that emphasizes change. After owning and operating a farm in rural MN for years, it’s only recently that she and her husband have embraced online sales as a way to supplement their local operation. It was only a few years ago that Molaison’s niece introduced the idea of expanding their operation into the online world. Boondock Farm morphed into Boondock Enterprises.

Molaison said, “She began taking us through the baby steps of internet sales and we have been riding the wild waves since, but, I try to keep the foundations sure and solid, while introducing flashes of trendy, unusual, and new. There has to be a balance and it is a continuous juggling act.”

Boondock Enterprises offers over 80 different jams, jellies, syrups, teas, and herb mixes.

boondockenterprises2017

Boondock Enterprises has a large catalogue of homemade wares.

Reaching out through online avenues allowed Molaison to realize how difficult it can be to get tread the line between tradition and the new & trendy.

Molaison said, “Traditions are the old recipes and hearing my grandmother’s voice as she teaches me the art of jelly making or listening to my grandfather as he tells me where to find the best berries.”

Molaison will be giving two presentations on February 11. One will be the basics on making your own homemade jellies and jams while the other will be focusing on the ins and outs of creating a successful online business out of your home. Selling online has only highlighted the importance of adaptation to Molaison.  

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A New Year in Nature

new-year-1940308_960_720-001

Happy New Year! Did you make your New Year’s resolution yet? We often use this holiday as an opportunity to recommit to living a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, overzealous plans for dieting and gym memberships quickly turn into abandoned resolutions. Want a resolution you can commit to? Plan to spend more time in nature! There is an ever-increasing amount of research that provides evidence of the myriad of mental, physical, and emotional health benefits of spending time in nature.

Time spent outdoors increases/enhances:

20150620_161014

Read a book by the lake!

  • Energy levels
  • Your mood & self-esteem
  • Creativity
  • Vitamin D levels
  • Physical activity/calories burned
  • Productivity
  • Mobility in aging populations
  • Overall feelings of positivity
  • Impulse control
  • Academic performance
  • Feelings of happiness
  • Immune system function
  • Memory function & ability to focus

    13495394_10107813553927230_8482107447001772568_o

    Watch a sunset!

  • Natural circadian rhythms (responsible for regulating sleep)
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Workout intensity (exercising outdoors is more physically demanding on the body)
  • Social skills/relationships
  • Motor skill development
  • Enthusiasm/engagement for learning

Time spent outdoors decreases:

  • Stress, anxiety, & depression
  • Seasonal allergies

    13584814_10154149106110943_3070203415838619742_o

    Relax in a hammock with a loved one!

  • Inflammation (the bad kind that contributes to autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, & cancer)
  • Risk of eye conditions such as myopia, computer vision syndrome, & dry eye syndrome
  • Risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, hip fractures, & pregnancy complications
  • Aching bones in aging populations
  • ADD/ADHD symptoms
  • Disruptive behaviors
  • Blood pressure & heart rate
  • Fatigue & sleep disturbances/insomnia

The best benefit? Getting outdoors and into nature is often free or very low in cost. We are very fortunate to call Minnesota our home. Our state has a high percentage of publicly owned land, providing a multitude of outlets into nature! The Minnesota DNR manages over 5.5 million acres in 67 state parks, 9 recreation areas, and numerous state forests, wildlife management areas, scenic and natural areas, and more. As Minnesotans, we have access to over 1,234 miles of state trails! Federal lands in Minnesota provide more public land resources for us to explore, including Voyageur’s National Park, Superior National Forest (including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area), the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA), the national North Country Trail, national monuments and more.  In addition, Minneapolis, followed by Saint Paul, has consistently been ranked the number one city in America for ease of access to outdoor/green space!

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Boundary Waters Canoe Area at Sunset

Committing to the outdoors is something that will look different for everyone. You can start whenever you want (though considering spring is months away, winter would be preferable), however you want, at whatever level is the best fit for you! If the outdoors is new to you – perhaps simply taking a 15-minute hike in nature is the place to start. Once that feels comfortable, build up from there – a 30-minute walk, a 30-minute walk twice a week, etc. If nature is a familiar setting for you, challenge yourself to something new! Have you tried fat-tire biking? What about going on a snowshoe snow-fari? The opportunities for exploration are endless!

Here are some resources that may be helpful!

I know the cold temperatures and short days of winter can be a daunting factor to overcome. Don’t let these small obstacles thwart your New Year’s resolution! As the saying goes, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing”. So bundle up and get outside! In the winter, I leave for work before the first light and head home from the office at sunset. As a result, I’ve learned to love walking on cold winter nights with my furry companion.

sigmund

A walk at night is a fun challenge for your furry friends to utilize their naturally keen sense of smell and impeccable hearing.

A walk in the neighborhood woods in winter can be just as thrilling as other excursions. The cold, fresh air rejuvenates your lungs and awakens your senses; your eyes adjust to the darkness and you find you can see quite well with the moon’s reflection off the snow; your ears strain to hear far-off sounds drowned out in busier months – the hooting of an owl, the distant bark of a dog, or the cracking of trees as they freeze. Our current snow conditions add the thrilling adventure of tracking to your night hike! Click on the photos below to find out what made the tracks. 🙂

So don’t miss the opportunity to begin the year the right way… outside! Bundle up and go! We’ll see you out there!

Nature Notes: Caching Chickadees

As winter approaches, we are seeing many changes in our bird populations. Some birds, like robins, have formed large flocks and are slowly moving south. Others, like our juncos, have just recently arrived but are only passing through on their journey from northern Canada to southern Minnesota and beyond. Others who will remain here all winter are busily visiting our feeders.

Birds essentially have two options when it comes to winter: they can migrate or they can stay. If they stay, they need a way to stay warm and a way to gSparkyStensaasSnowyOwl.jpget enough food to make it through the harsh winter. Again, they essentially have two options: they can wander widely to find food or they can cache food during times of high food abundance. Owls are a good example of a bird species that stay but wander widely to find food. They have large territories they move around in to search for food. Sometimes, when no food is available, owls will leave their territories and widen their search area. In the last two years, we have witnessed an irruption (a sudden increase) of snowy owls in northern Minnesota as a result of food scarcity in their more northern habitat. Continue reading