In the Yard

Rhonda Hayes is a garden writer, photographer and blogger. She also volunteers as a Hennepin County Master Gardener. Rhonda chronicles her gardening adventures and advice at her award-winning blog, The Garden Buzz. She is a frequent contributor to Northern Gardener magazine and the Star Tribune Home + Garden section. At Your Voices, she writes about life around the city lakes, occasionally veering off the garden path with essays on the silly and serious issues of the day.

Snowy Owls and a Snowbird

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: January 20, 2014 - 9:01 AM

Fleeing Minnesota I had plans to spot a snowy owl on my way out of town. With all the news reports about the plentiful sightings of these beautiful birds I figured those hundred miles to the Iowa border and maybe further on I had a good chance, acres of snowy farmland with lots of places for perching.

As a veteran of countless cross country trips I' ve seen hundreds of hawks sitting atop telephone poles, evenly spaced along the highways. I’ve seen bald eagles, sometimes in the most surprising situations, in the bare furrows of a farm field instead of soaring high above the road. Surely seeing a snowy owl resting on an irrigation pivot wouldn't be too hard.

Waiting for a window of good weather to start my snowbird journey, I picked a warming day, a possible January thaw. It was one of those picture-worthy winter scenes, frozen fog coating the trees and weak sunlight casting a golden glow across the blue-shadowed landscape. But it was not to be. Just enough icy patches on the road and a veil of moisture hanging in the air made it difficult to spy a bird, albeit a big one, out on the frozen ground.

I never thought I’d number among those folks called snowbirds. Motor homes with Manitoba license plates came to mind when I heard the phrase. Yet after seeing my in-laws enjoying the sunshine, I found I could easily join the ranks. My kids are grown and my husband does a lot of his business travel at this time, he’s no fool. So the dog and I head south for a while after the holidays. (Please note the alarm’s on and someone is watching the house!)

I usually feel a little guilty leaving everyone behind to endure the rest of the winter. But this year I lingered long enough to experience the polar vortex. Feeling like I paid my dues, I’m in Savannah GA again free of survivor syndrome, where it’s not exactly tropical like this time of year, but I can see palm trees and drive to a wind swept beach if the mood strikes me.

Stay tuned though, I usually find some event or topic that relates back to life in Minnesota while I’m here. Meanwhile as I wander the historic streets here, a damp breeze creeping under my scarf, I’m like the snowy owls I saw on TV, the wind ruffling their feathers while they check out new territory.

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