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Illinois Outdoors

This Snowy Owl picture was taken by Steve Huggins on Feb. 5, 2007 at the LaSalle Lake Fish and Wildlife Area near Marseilles, Illinois.

Snowy owl spotted near Roscoe

December 13, 2007 at 06:57 PM
Scientists know just a few places where snowy owls breed regularly; Barrow, Alaska, is the only one in the United States. Birds in the polar north through winter manage to find food despite three months of total darkness. These stoic owls rarely seek shelter, even from roaring winds. Their plumage protects them so effectively that adults can endure temperatures as low as 40 degrees below zero. Summer range: Breeds in high Arctic from coastal Alaska across Canada to Labrador. Also in northern Greenland, Scandinavia and Russia. Winter range: Winters from breeding grounds southward to northern United States. Habitat: Breeds on open tundra. Winters in fields and on beaches. Favorite food: Lemmings, when available. Also rabbits, rodents, even foxes, waterfowl, other birds and fish. Foraging: Waits on a perch until it locates prey, then pursues and seizes prey in its talons. Can also locate prey visually or by sound, even in dense grass or under thick layers of snow.

ROSCOE — Tim Slocum was driving along Gleasman Road several days ago when he saw it, a massive white bird with black markings.

Slocum, a wildlife enthusiast, was fairly sure he had seen a snowy owl, an unusual avian visitor to these parts.

And it’s created quite a stir.

Cars crowded a curve on Gleasman Road about a mile east of Roscoe Road Saturday and Sunday. Since then, others have driven by with some frequency to get a glimpse of the bird that calls the Arctic tundra home.

“I’ve seen it, like, seven times,” said Slocum, a former Rockton village trustee. “It’s usually perched on a certain (utility) pole, especially early in the morning. The first time I saw it, it was flying in front of me. I thought it was a hawk until I got closer and saw it was a white owl.”

Slocum brought his wife out late Sunday afternoon. Slocum took pictures and video of the creature through the car’s sunroof while his wife drove.

Richard Benning, an avid birder and youth education director at Severson Dells, said the snowy owl is an unusual sight in northern Illinois but not necessarily rare. A rare bird sighting in Illinois would be a peregrine falcon, he said.

Still, he said, the snowy owl’s presence is significant.

That’s what other local birders said this week as they marveled at the bird’s presence. Many are eager for this weekend’s annual Aububon Christmas Bird Count, hoping for more than one specimen of the majestic birds.

Benning said he recalls a snowy owl sighting in northern Ogle County about 10 years ago.

Scarcity of food back home can send the birds farther south, experts agreed.

Birder Jack Armstrong called the sighting “quite unusual” in Winnebago County, adding that over time there’s been a “few documented sightings, probably less than 10.”

For Slocum, seeing owls and other wildlife is a welcome occurrence along Roscoe’s and Rockton’s remaining rural roads, which often are lined with cornfields, scattered clumps of trees and occasional patches of tall grass.

“We saw seven deer the other day, and we see hawks regularly,” Slocum said. “We enjoy that. That may not be quite as big a deal. When you see something with a 5-foot wing span, it gets your attention.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was published Dec. 12, 2007 in the Rockford Register Star.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

my grandma seen the snowy owl a cupl days ago. she was sitting in her front room, on robey ave in north rockford. i now think it is very well possible that there may be more than one in this area. i live about two miles south of gleaseman rd, where the bird was first sighted, and about two miles north of my grandmas house. i have not yet seen the magnificent bird, but im keeping my eyes open.  mitch messina rockford il i will stay posted

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/16 at 12:08 AM

I haven’t seen a snowy owl, but I’ve seen a few Peregrine Falcons in Northeast Cook County - including one that swooped down and killed a pigeon in a grocery store parking lot.  Very impressive.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/16 at 08:55 AM

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