Posts Tagged ‘Scenic Byway’

Posts Tagged ‘Scenic Byway’


January 7th, 2015

By Jon Wogen, TBC Board member, “used with permission by the Renville County Register”.
Last week we introduced you to our Minnesota owls. Many are year-around residents; some are here only as they pass through in migration, others come only in search of food during difficult winters.

The last two winters were hard on people and the snow owls in Canada. Many came here looking for mice and voles to sustain them. The lemmings on the Arctic Tundra were in short supply for food.

Owls are very special. They have forward-looking eyes. This gives them what we call “binocular vision”. Both eyes see in a slightly different dimension which aids in depth perception. That is important in prey location and catching. Many predatory species have binocular vision, even the northern pike, a predatory fish.

Humans have used their binocular vision to develop and use tools and this has helped them to become the dominant creature on the earth. The large brain which can reason and logically solve problems, and our opposable thumb helped to achieve this status.

The ears on owls are also special. They are very sensitive to small sounds. The ears are also a bit asymmetrical, which allows the owls to interpret the sounds they hear and to focus on their location. So, a mouse under some leaves may present very little sound, but the owl can locate it like radar. The ears are hidden under the feathers.

The sound of the mouse under the leaves is also amplified and focused by the shape of the face and its feathers. It is sort of like you cupping hour hands behind your ears to hear distant sounds. The cupped hand enlarges the sound-gathering area of the ears so you can hear better.

The “ears” we see sticking up above the heads of several species of owls are really not the ears at all. They are just there for decoration, or possibly to help break up the shape of the head so it is more camouflaged (?).

Owls are not very good at building nests. They use abandoned nests of other birds such as eagles, ospreys, crows and such. A few species of owls are hole-nesters. They will seek out a broken and rotted branch of a tree or a hollow tree with a proper sized hole for them. The large Barred Owl and the small Screech Owls are cavity nesters.

With Barred Owls and Screech Owls seeking a hollow tree cavity for their nests, they present a chance for us to improve their numbers and secure them as residents in our area. We can build nesting boxes for them. The Barred Owls love swampy, cedar filled wooded areas like the valley of the Minnesota River and perhaps the valleys of some of the creeks running south toward the Minnesota River. The Screech Owls love the forested river valley too, but some even nest in towns in hollow branches of trees or the trunk of the tree if it is old. Many Screech Owls nest in farm groves, especially old groves with broken and rotted-out trees.

Many old farm sites have been bulldozed out and are now producing corn and beans. They were once wildlife sanctuaries but now produce crops. Owls have decreased in numbers as farm windbreaks and groves have disappeared.

The small Burrowing Owls which may nest only rarely in Western Minnesota use the burrows of prairie dogs, ground squirrels, badgers, and rabbits. We would guess that Burrowing Owls are few and far between in our State.

With winter settled in for the duration, we now are presented with a chance to spend some quality time in our wood shop or basement. We can build bird nesting boxes which will make our winter pass faster too.

Building a nice nesting box for our cute, but menacing-looking Screech Owl would be a nice contribution to owl conservation. They will live near people so it would be possible that we can entice them into our backyards with a proper nest box. The Screech Owl nest box will attract Kestrels (Sparrow Hawks) also, as the opening is the same for both of them. In fact, I have a friend who has a Wood Duck nesting box in his grove and it gets Screech Owls in it.

Plans for the Screech Owl/Kestrel nest box can be found in the DNR book, “Woodworking for Wildlife”, which you can find at your local library. The book can also be purchased at State Park offices, or at DNR headquarters in some areas.

You can also go on-line to locate nest box plans, most of which are copies of the one in the DNR book. Your library can order a copy from their book depository also, if they don’t have it.

You may find that starlings will try to take over your nest box. It you have it in your backyard, you can put the ladder up once in a while to eliminate the starling’s nest and after a while they will leave it, in disgust.

If I can fit a plan for the Screech Owl nest box into the column next week, I will. In case I can’t fit it in, go to your library and check the book “Woodworking for Wildlife”, or go on-line.


Sven quotes George Washington today: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and fearful master”.


December 31st, 2014

By Jon Wogen, TBC Board member, “used by permission of the Renville County Register”.

Owls have always intrigued me. When I was a kid on the farm, owls were a constant part of my life. We had seven wildlife areas on our farm, a railroad right of way and a large grove for wind protection. One had a lot of interesting experiences with wild things when you grow up in such a place.

We had lots of owls that lived in this wildlife-rich area of our farm. At night Screech Owls would give us their high pitched hoots and really became fun to imitate. The owls actually came closer and hooted back to us. They are a small, cute, but menacing looking miniature owl that resembles the Great Horned Owl in the face. They look so serious all the time. No smiling there.

We often saw these small owls at sunset. When we finished milking the cows and feeding the other critters, the sun had usually set and the western sky was beautiful gold, red, orange, or other wonderful color, depending upon the clouds present at that time.

As we walked into the house for supper, we could stop and look back at the barn. Quite often at that time, a small Screech Owl would fly to the peak of the barn roof. He just sat there pondering the sunset. The owl never hooted or moved much. It just sat there and enjoyed the colorful sunset. It eventually flew away as it got dark and began hunting for mice.

Since living on the farm owls have always intrigued me. That mysterious and serious look on their faces really got your attention. They never seemed to like us, but just tolerated us. The Great Horned Owls with their big “ears” and huge yellow eyes always were scary to see. We imagined that they would swoop down on us and grab us by the hair as they ripped off our caps, but it never happened. Kids do have an imagination. I remember reading where a hunter was calling for a fox to come in so he could shoot it. He was using a call that imitated a wounded and scared rabbit. A Great Horned Owl swooped down and grabbed his cap off his head, ripping open a large gash in his scalp. I never trusted owls after I read that story in one of the outdoor magazines.

Some wildlife lovers call the Great Horned Owl the “winged tiger” as it had a reputation for being able to kill quite large critters, such as rabbits, house cats, and even skunks. It preferred mice as they could be swallowed whole and their beaks weren’t really designed for tearing up their pray very well.

Another owl here in Minnesota that I love is the tiny Saw Whet Owl. This guy is even smaller than the Screech Owl. It lives in more forested areas and has a most unusual call. It sounds like someone sharpening a saw with a file, hence the name. It is pretty scary hearing such a sound when out in the woods at night. Their eyes are fantastic for night vision and they can home in on prey like small voles, mice and large insects with no effort at all.

Minnesota has a number of owls that are present. The barn owl probably is no longer found in Minnesota, but there could be a few in the southeast part of the state. The Barred Owl, Screech Owl, Saw –Whet Owl, Great Horned Owl, Long-Eared Owl, and Short-Eared Owl are somewhat numerous at least part of the year. The Boreal Owl, Burrowing Owl, Great Grey Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, and the Snowy Owl are less common and are found only at certain times of the year, mostly in winter. The Burrowing Owl is probably not found in Minnesota but if they are still here, they would be found on the Western Minnesota Prairie remnants still present on hilly ground. The Great Grey Owl nests in the extreme northern Minnesota forest, but become more numerous in Minnesota during severe winters in Canada. The Snow Owl comes down in winter when the mice and lemmings are in low supply.

Owls have a valuable place in nature. They are very helpful in controlling the supply of mice, rats, voles, lemmings, and such. In the case of the Great Horned Owl, they can also be destructive to other wildlife, including rabbits, pheasants, and other “desirable wildlife”. But, as they say, “Everything has a place in the scheme of things of nature”.

Next week we will discuss owls a bit more. We will present plans for a Screech Owl House as those little guys need some help. There are now fewer and fewer standing dead trees for them to nest in and they love hole-nesting. Building a nest box for them and placing it fairly high in trees will be worth your time.


I hadn’t attended a Bike Trail Meeting for some time so wanted to learn what is up with that effort. They held a meeting at Master’s in Olivia on Wed., November 19.

They are awaiting a decision about their grant that they had applied for a while back. The DNR grant people won’t make a decision until January at the earliest. But, plans go on as if it will be awarded to the Bird Island-Olivia Trail Committee.

If it is awarded, the project will go on. There will be a trail head located on the north side of the new Renville County Hospital where the trail will be located. The trail head in Bird Island will be near the Baseball Diamond. The trail head in Bird Island has been drawn up for study by members of the Bird Island City Council and future users of the trail. It consists of a nice shelter or gathering place. Cost estimates are being studied for this structure. The plans are interesting and appear to be rather nice.

Keep tuned in and watch for future announcements about the possible receipt of the grant for the trail. Once a grant is in place, things can proceed. The committee discussed how to involve the landowners in fixing perceived problems with the trail going past their properties. For instance, special landscaping can be done to remedy some “problems”. Those runners, hikers and bikers who long for this project are getting anxious as the grant procedure comes to its end.


Today, Sven quotes Rose Kennedy: “Life is not easy for any of us. But it is a continual challenge, and it is up to us to be cheerful and strong, so that those who depend on us may draw strength from our example.”

Bird Watching in Southwestern Minnesota

August 29th, 2012

The climate and terrain in Southwestern Minnesota makes this home to a number of  birding sites.  While the ideal time is during migration, birding in Redwood & Renville Counties are fruitful in all seasons.

Take in Cedar Mountain SNA **(Scientific and Natural Area)  a good place for wildlife and bird watching.  Spectacular for its scenery, rock outcrops and plant life, especially in August when the prairie is in bloom.  The SNA lies on bedrock and ridges that go back 3.4 billion years and it is here in Renville County along the Minnesota River, just 11 miles from the town of Redwood Falls.

Cedar Mountain WMA** (Wildlife Management Area) neighbors the Scientific Natural Area, and complements the SNA by providing additional prairie habitat.

**These are excellent birding areas. However, birder access can be difficult due to necessity of crossing the creek from the south or walking through the prairie restoration in the WMA on the east.  It is situated between Minnesota River and Wabasha Creek, so in the Spring it may be inaccessible due to high water.

Thirty acres of mesic woodland (Mesic soil is a medium type of soil a woodland that has both conifers and broadleaf trees ) lies immediately south of the SNA, and west of the SNA is a 133-acre complex of former cropland, 30 acres of which remains planted in a grain plot that provides winter food for resident wildlife. Sixty-seven acres have been seeded to a diverse mixture of prairie grasses and forbs, and the remainder of the property contains naturally-regenerating lowland hardwood forest, including silver maple and cottonwood.

Due to habitat diversity, 117 bird species have been recorded at this SNA. Although the WMA does not maintain a checklist, similar species would be found.

You are likely to spot:

  • Upland Sandpipers
  • Sedge Wrens
  • Blue Grosbeaks
  • Red-winged black birds
  • Canada Geese
  • Wood ducks
  • Blue-winged teal ducks
  • Woodpeckers
  • Doves
  • Red-tailed hawks
  • Northern cardinals
  • Eastern bluebirds
  • American goldfinches

Bald eagles have nested within about a mile of Cedar Mountain SNA/WMA, so keep on the lookout for flying and foraging eagles.

The Tatanka Bluffs Corridor also offers opportunities to experience Minnesota wildlife in its natural habitat. Observing wildlife is among the most affordable recreational activities, and the abundant wildlife in Redwood and Renville counties affords visitors ample opportunities to explore the natural world.  Click here to learn more!

Another great resource for birding information in MN is the Explore Minnesota Birding ReportClick here to learn more!

The Minnesota River Valley Birding Trail spans the Minnesota River watershed from its headwaters near the South Dakota border to its confluence with the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities. It promotes the beauty, wildlife, natural habitats, and recreational opportunities of this unique region. Click her to learn more!

How to find Cedar Mountain SNA/WMA:

Click Here for the MN DNR Map and Directions!

Franklin MN is located in Renville County, about 11 east of Redwood Falls on the other side of the Minnesota River.  To get to the SNA from Franklin, go 1.35 miles South on Co Rd 5 (becomes Co Rd 11 in Redwood County). Take minimum maintenance road W 0.5 miles, to parking area for Cedar Mountain WMA. Walk about a half-mile west from parking area along field road to SNA.  OR call Minnesota DNR Wildlife Manager in Redwood Falls at 507.637.4076.

The site is accessed from a parking area on the north side of Renville Co. Rd. 48. Wabasha Creek must be crossed on foot, which can be problematic during times of high water. There are no developed trails and the terrain is a bit rugged in places.

Enjoy and we look forward to seeing you on the birding trail!

MN River Valley Scenic Byway Mobile Tour

June 14th, 2012

Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway Mobile Tour | Available in May 2012.

Call 888-601-3010 and listen to stories and reflections about historic sites along the Minnesota River Valley. Learn about the people who lived there and the lasting impact of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Call from any location–from the byway, from home, from anywhere. Press the * key on your phone at any time to return to the menu and select another stop. More stops will be added in 2013 (Download the Travel Guide ).

Stop #1 Introduction
Hear about the Dakota origins, the settlers who moved to Minnesota, reflections about the war from Dakota today and a poem by Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan.

Stop #2 Traverse des Sioux
Listen to perspectives on the treaty signings of 1851 and 1858 and their lasting impact.

Stop #3 New Ulm, Minnesota
Hear descriptions of European immigrant life on the prairie and the legacy 1862 left with the people of New Ulm.

Stop #4 Lower Sioux Agency
Gain insights into the notion of land and home along the Minnesota River Valley and how the war changed this.

Stop #5 Birch Coulee Battlefield
Hear reflections on the spiritual connection Dakota people have with the land and their fight for survival.

Stop #6 Upper Sioux Agency
Hear reflections on the values and enduring strength of the Dakota.

Stop #7 Camp Release
Hear the story of Mazasa and learn about the mounting tensions among the Dakota leading up to the war.

The tour is funded by a grant from the National Scenic Byways Discretionary Grants Program administered by the Federal Highway Administration.

Tatanka Bluffs Corridor is located in the heart of the The Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway.

Located along the meandering Minnesota River, the Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway is a destination in itself.

  • Breathe as you paddle through the quiet Minnesota River
  • Touch 3.8 billion year old granite outcrops
  • Walk through lush prairie grasses
  • Picnic at state and local parks along the valley
  • Hear vivid stories of prairie life
  • Close your eyes and imagine becoming an explorer for a day. Relax in the tranquility of Big Bluestem prairie grasses. Watch for Dakota skipper butterflies among purple cornflowers. Scan the expansive blue sky for bald eagles or wait quietly at the river’s edge to catch a glimpse of a deer at sunset.

Take home one of our stories- we’ve got plenty to share!  If you just can’t keep it to yourself, feel free to share your adventure in the Tatanka Bluffs Corridor area of the Scenic ByWay by clicking here to share your story !

To find all of the wonderful Scenic Byways of Minnesota click here!