Did you know that Lakeshore State Park is part of the Lake Michigan Flyway? The Lake Michigan Flyway is a subset of the Mississippi-Great Lakes Flyway, which describes common migratory patterns found in bird species. During Winter months, the seeds provided by the park’s prairies provide a reliable source of food and shelter for the birds’ long journeys.
While walking through the Park this winter, keep a keen eye out for differences in the bird population. Often times, migratory birds are only here for a couple weeks as a stopover in their travels. In early December, we have had some sightings of Western Grebe (whose native range is normally along the Pacific Coast), and of the Snowy Owl.
The Snowy Owl migration this year is expected to be twice the population of the last irruption a couple years ago. By November 29th, the DNR reported an estimated 105 Snowy Owls spanning across 44 counties. This is the largest number by this date in the last 8 years, partly due to their early arrival. A map of the sightings can be found on eBird’s website. eBird is provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, with assistance of organizations such as the Wisconsin Society of Ornithology. The map of the Snowy Owl sightings in particular can be found here: https://goo.gl/jVpu9J
It is truly a treat to see these rare, transient birds, but please keep in mind that they have quite a journey ahead of them. Please do not try to make contact with them, and keep your distance as to not stress them out. Allow them to get their rest, eat up, and prepare for the next leg of their journey.