Jim Bennett


wls always get my attention when I see or hear them. Their silent flight amazes me since I had one glide down a logging road right over my head. I didn’t hear any sound as it flew passed me. No wonder they are such great predators beautifully dressed in tans, buffs and browns but it’s the head and face that draw the most attention...

Josh, my son sent me a picture of a barred owl he took recently. We weren’t sure of its identity at first until my friend John Richardson, Fall Migration Count Director at Hawk Ridge in Duluth pointed out the obvious. “The owl that often gets confused with a Barred Owl is the Great Grey Owl even though it’s quite a bit larger. The easiest way to tell the difference is by their eyes. Barred owls are the only owl in Minnesota and Wisconsin with black eyes. Great Grey owls have yellow eyes.”

The predators nest first and people are glued to online viewing of eagle nests, watching and waiting for the eggs to hatch to see that first eaglet. That’s the perfect time for the predators to nest.  Soon the spring migrants return north  to nest.  Some of them and their offspring will be food for the predators and their young. It’s an obvious plan laid out long ago that has nothing to do with chance if you catch my meaning.

We spotted our first robin March 2nd and  the first blackbird in the yard on the 5th. Eagle cams are just popping up online. I’m hearing cardinals, chickadees and mourning doves doing their mating calls here at home. Love is in the air as more birds will return to complete the great spring migration!

Richardson explained that migration patterns, both spring and fall are focused around food. In the fall the predators follow their favorite foods south. Butter butts, another name for Yellow Rumped Warbler’s are followed by several hawk species south. 

The migration south is a more leisurly trip but the journey north is a race. It’s all about real-estate, nesting locations, a place to raise a family. It’s the males that arrive first and look for a nest site good enough to attract the woman of their dreams! They want to settle down, have easy access to a lot of bugs and worms and raise a family.

My favorite place to look and listen to the spring migration is any wetland with cattails where red winged blackbirds are present. Their constant calling to attract a mate is simply amazing. They echo out a series of trills, whistles and a sound that more resembles wind chimes in a beautiful crescendo. All the songs sung by the ever attentive males along with prime real estate are designed to attract a mate and to produce enough offspring to keep their species alive and provide food for predators. That’s simply how it all was designed and how it’s supposed to work. 

Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at jamesbennett24@gmail.com


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