Featured Sanctuary Bird: Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl by Lester Doyle

UPDATE: 12.13.13: Goose Pond Sanctuary Managers, Mark and Sue Foote-Martin, report: "We looked a number of times in the late afternoon but the snowy owl has not been seen for many days after having been seen along Highway K for about one week. However, there have been up to four short-eared owls hunting at Goose Pond Sanctuary." Learn more about the Short-eared Owls at Goose Pond.

A snowy owl was first found by Jim Otto on Wednesday, November 27 at Madison Audubon Society's Goose Pond Sanctuary near Arlington.  The owl was still present Monday, December 2. 

Snowy Owl Movement:

According to information provided by Ryan Brady with DNR, "snowy owls are now staging a movement into the eastern U.S.: http://bit.ly/1erBy0m  Best report I've seen so far is someone in Newfoundland reporting 42 Snowy Owls along a 20-km stretch of road. Wisconsin seems to be on the edge of the flight as far so we'll see how it plays out locally. I think this is only our 4th report, which is fairly pedestrian for this date. The last predominately eastern irruption like this was 2008-2009: http://bit.ly/1c9c9sF ".

Snowy owls prefer open habitat with abundant prey.  Many snowy owls set up winter territories at harbors on the Great Lakes where they prey on waterfowl.  There appears to be good numbers of small mammals at Goose Pond this winter.  Snowy owls also prey on ring-necked pheasants at Goose Pond. Usually when snowy owls set up winter territories on the Arlington (Empire) Prairie they can be found throughout the winter.  Later in the afternoon, about on hour before sunset, is a good time to see them.  

How to find the Goose Pond Snowy Owl:

People interested in finding the snowy owl can be kept informed on snowy owl sightings by email. We've also created a map to show where the owl has been sighted, or you can paste the approximate coordinates into Google Maps (43.306521, -89.367054).  Birders can send an email to Mark and Sue at goosep@madisonaudubon.org titled "Snowy Owl Observer".  When the owl's territory is pinned down at Goose Pond Sanctuary emails will be sent to those on the list of people interested in seeing the owl. If you would like to be notified of additional snowy owl sightings at Goose Pond Sanctuary email us at goosep@madisonaudubon.org and we will send out updates.  If you see the owl you could also email us and we will keep others posted.

Other Winter Birds at Goose Pond:

Rough-legged hawks are also common winter visitors from the tundra at Goose Pond Sanctuary.While searching for the snowy owl the Martins also saw the following raptors hunting at Goose Pond – red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, northern harrier, and rough-legged hawk.  An adult bald eagle was also building a nest in a large spruce tree in the yard of the neighbor about 100 yards north of Goose Pond on Goose Pond Road.  The eagle nest is in the southern most spruce. The large number of small mammals found in the Goose Pond prairie helps attract a wide diversity of raptors and shows the benefit to birds of large prairie restorations.

-Mark and Sue Foote-Martin
Goose Pond Sanctuary Managers
Arlington, Columbia County