On February 2 as I woke up, it was -2 below zero. We had been below zero in the deep freeze for a few days and that day’s forecast was 10 above. WOOP WOOP! My sidekick and I had plans to head out to the refuge for the annual Winterfest festivities. There were going to be birds from the Audubon Center of the Northwoods, and I wanted photos of them. But when I woke up to -2 below, I started having doubts. Last year when we attended, there was no snow and it was above 20 degrees. It’s one thing for me to walk around like a lunatic in -18 below zero taking photos, it’s another for my sidekick to follow suit.
She had had a sleepover the night before and as I was sitting chatting with the girls at breakfast, I said that I thought we should just go on a brisk walk locally instead. She informed me we were going to bundle up, and we were going to go to Winterfest. Ooooh-kayyy. So we bundled up, which means in layers. We had long underwear on and three layers on top. 3 pairs of socks, heavy boots and 2 pairs of gloves. I looked like I belonged in an 80′s hair band and felt like the Michelin Man.
We dropped the “extra” girl off on the way and headed up the 18 miles to my peaceful place. We hadn’t been there since November.When we arrived, it had warmed up to about 5 degrees. The American Kestrel and Great Horned Owl were on display in the bird tent. The Audubon Center takes in injured birds and rehabilitates them if at all possible. If not, they keep them for educational purposes. I wasn’t in the tent to hear the Kestrel’s story, but the Great Horned Owl had been hit by a car and could not hunt on his own. But they both were too dang cute for words.
They were changing the birds out in a 1/2 hour, so we moved on. We hit up the hot chocolate booth and got some birthday cake, the refuge was celebrating it’s 110th birthday. Bought a sweatshirt and headed toward the horse-drawn wagon rides. The crowd was a lot thinner than last year, I’m sure because it was under 10 degrees. We had stood in line for over an hour last year, this year it was more like 10 minutes. The horses are beautiful Percheron horses and it really was a beautiful, sunshiney day. The guide told us about the trails and wildlife drive the refuge has to offer, that we are very familiar with. I think at that point my toes were getting numb.
We walked back to the bird tent to check out the Barred Owl and the Eastern Screech Owl. The Eastern Screech Owl’s story was that she had brain damage. She just wasn’t “all there”. I don’t re She was just tiny and adorable, if an owl can be adorable, LOL. I don’t remember the Barred Owl’s story, but the educational director was explaining to everyone how “owls can turn their heads around” is a myth. They can turn it ALMOST all the way around, but have to turn it back because they have a vertebrae.
My sidekick wanted to head to the craft tent before we left. There she made a pinecone bird feeder. They had peanut butter to slap on some pinecones, and cover it with bird seed. They had snowshoeing, but she didn’t want to do that. Lots of bird education and DNR booths, a silent auction and a bonfire to warm your toes. Since we were pretty cold, we didn’t stay too long. 90 minutes tops.
I always like to check the refuge headquarters bird feeders while I’m up there. The DNR had been reporting Grosbeaks and Redpolls in the area, which was unusual this far south. Also a Barred Owl had been spotted several times by the DNR near the headquarters building. So we stopped to have a look see. My sidekick stayed in the car and played on her phone staying warm, kids these days. I snuck up behind the building to check the feeders out. There were dozens of Black Capped Chickadees, White-Breasted Nuthatches and lots of different woodpeckers, but no Redpolls, Grosbeaks or Owls to be found. I took several shots and my toes started to get numb again so I went back to the car.
We are very much looking forward to spring when the refuge wildlife drive once again opens for us to trek. I think when the weather warms up a tad bit, we will check out the Blue Hill Trail again like we did last year. It was a great hike for the winter.
Hope you enjoyed our day in photos!