Finally, a little time to post our day at Winterfest. Every year the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge hosts Fall Festival and Winterfest. This was our first year at winterfest. A month ago, it advertised snowshoeing nature hikes, horse-drawn sleigh rides, learning about quinzhee huts, winter survival and more. The National Audobon Society local chapter was to have four birds, three owls and the American Kestrel. I was looking forward to hiking, snowshoeing and the kestrel, along with the barred owl. Things didn’t go as planned that day. However, we made the most of it and it turned out to be a good time.
That day we woke up to hoarfrost. I have been waiting all winter for it. Any snow we had melted about a week before Winterfest. We knew the snowshoeing would be cancelled, but they still would have hiking. However, just getting out the door was a chore that morning. Everything went wrong. Plus, we had to pick up a friend on the way.
I stopped and got a couple pics of the hoarfrost on the way as well. Not as good as I wanted and places I wanted, but had to get to the “show” LOL. I figure if I am taking pictures of nature, I should start explaining a bit more of what it is I am taking. I know a lot of people do not get to see the hoarfrost in the regions they live in. It only really happens once or twice a season when the weather conditions in the air allow. The definition that I Googled of hoarfrost:
The deposit of ice crystals on objects exposed to the free air, such as grass blades, tree branches, or leaves. It is formed by direct condensation of water vapour to ice at temperatures below freezing and occurs when air is brought to its frost point by cooling. Hoarfrost is formed by a process analogous to that by which dew is formed on similar objects, except that, in the case of dew, the saturation point of the air mass is above freezing. The occurrence of temperatures below 0 C (32 F) is not enough to guarantee the formation of hoarfrost. Additionally, the air must be initially damp enough so that when cooled it reaches saturation, and any additional cooling will cause condensation to occur.
In my words, just plain beautiful. However, it only lasts through the morning and as the sun shines down upon us, melts the frost so that by noon it is almost gone. We didn’t get out of the house that morning until around 11:00am. I should’ve gotten up earlier, but I didn’t. And that’s the way it goes, LOL. I had a couple people calling me and leaving me voice mails “did you get the hoarfrost this morning?”
When we arrived at the refuge, we headed for the bird tent right away. The Barred Owl and the Eastern Screech Owl were in attendance at that time. Evidently, they were going to change them out hourly with the Great Horned Owl and American Kestrel. The barred owl is one of my favorites and one of the reasons I wanted to attend Winterfest. I have never seen one in the wild. In fact, this is the first one I’ve seen. I thought it would be bigger to be honest. These creatures are found all over Canada, south to Northern California and the Midwest/Eastern United States. Their habitat is low, wet woods and swampy forests. It is most often seen by those who seek it out in its dark retreat. They are about 20″ tall and with a wingspan can get to over 3 feet wide.. Kinda funny, ask anyone who has heard one and they will say they sound like they are saying “Who cooks for you..Who cooks for you now” LOL. This particular one had had a broken wing and was found by the Audubon Society, fixed up and was not able to be released back into the wild.
The Eastern Screech Owl was another new one for me. So cute. This one had a “mental” problem. Although I don’t know how they know that, LOL. He was so cute. Just a tiny bit of a thing. Eastern Screech Owls are found mostly in the Eastern/Middle United States from Canada to Texas, in open deciduous woods, wooddlots, suburban areas, lakeshores and old orchards. They are almost always nocturnal, so getting a chance to see them during the day is a real treat. They are only about 10″ tall. They will often strike unsuspecting humans on the head as they pass nearby at night. Yikes!
Eastern Screech Owl
We left the birds with a promise to return to see the Great Horned Owl and the American Kestrel in an hour. We then headed to the nature booths. First stop was a bird feeder information booth, what to feed the birds when, what type of birdhouses work best, etc. We learned how to make a thistle feeder out of a plastic soda pop bottle. Future craft item for my sidekick, LOL.
Then it was on to making tracks in the sand. They had a small sand box set up, with stamps of foot prints of mammals and birds that live on the refuge. The girls stamped foot prints of eagles, coyote, and other animals. There was also a booth we stopped at with different types of fur skins. Fox, coyote, otter, etc. The kids could feel the different textures and see the sizes of the animals. My sidekick thoroughly enjoyed herself that day. I’m so fortunate that she is interested in nature and animals. I like to find (free) stuff for us to do that is nature-related. Whether it be hikes, bird tours, etc. The refuge has so much to offer and so close to home.
We headed to the food tent next, they were offering hot chocolate, coffee, hot dogs, soda, and cake. The girls didn’t really want to eat, but spotted a craft table where the kids were making pinecone bird feeders. Score. The girls grabbed a pinecone, spread peanut butter all over it, and rolled it in bird seed. Wala. A pinecone bird feeder.
Since there was no snow on the ground, the horse-drawn sleigh ride had turned into a horse-drawn wagon ride. Same one we went on for Fall Festival. However, these were different horses. A lot of the snow-related activities were cancelled, so that left the wagon ride as the major event. We stood in line for over an hour. But it was well worth it. Kinda funny, these photos I took of another wagon ride while waiting in line. A co-worker of mine ended up being on this ride with his family. I was “stalking” him, LOL. We also saw two bald eagles and a hawk flying overhead while standing in line, but much too far away to take a photo.
Two Percheron horses pulled the wagon. Major and Monty. Beautiful horses. On the ride, a refuge friend told us about the refuge and what it’s all about. He told me I looked familiar, and I told him I had seen him on many refuge excursions. He said “Are you Sheila?” I answered, “Why, yes, yes I am.” He then proceeded to tell me how he and the other volunteers enjoy my photos that I occasionally upload to the Friends of SNWR Facebook page, and to “keep them coming”. That really made me swell with pride.
Once the ride was over, we headed back to the bird tent. I was very disappointed to find out that they had already switched the Great Horned Owl and American Kestrel back to the owls L and it would be another hour before the were to switch them back again. We had to take our friend home so we would not be seeing the other birds. However, a fellow photographer friend of mine, Christopher Franklin, did happen to catch some beautiful photos of these birds and has allowed me to share them with you. To see his Flicker photostream, click here.
On our way to drop our friend off, we stopped at the refuge headquarters to check out who was at the feeders. There were some chickadees sharing the feeders with a couple of woodpeckers. I always get the Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers mixed up. They are so much alike except really the size. So Bob Zeller, if you could help me out here, that would be great. I discovered Bob’s blog, Texas Tweeties, a couple months ago and LOVE it. Check it out if you haven’t already. Some GREAT bird photography on his blog. I was also saw a Red-Bellied Woodpecker following the other one around and was fortunate enough to get a photo of them together. The Red-Bellied name cracks me up because the belly isn’t even red. The head is, LOL. Still a beautiful bird.
Hoarfrost starting to melt
Downy/Hairy Woodpecker and Black-Capped Chickadee
Downy/Hairy Woodpecker and Red-Bellied Woodpecker
All in all, it was a great day at the refuge as usual. I am getting cabin fever and antsy to see my birds migrating back through. Hopefully, it will be soon J We are planning a hike on the Blue Hill Trail again for some time this weekend, weather and time permitting.
Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed my day as much as we did!