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Just because the leaves have fallen from the trees and there is a chill in
the air is no reason to put away your binoculars. Winter offers unique viewing
opportunities. Many of our summer resident birds migrate to warmer summer
climates. Still, there are several species of birds that migrate from Canada and
find Michigan the perfect winter temperature. Winter is the only time several of
these species can be found in Michigan.
Two of the largest migrants are the snowy owl and the great gray owl. Snowy
owls can be found moving into Michigan during winter when the food supply on the
arctic tundra is in short supply. Snowy owls have been recorded as far south as
Lansing, Michigan. Because they rarely see humans on their northern homes, they
are not timid and can be easily viewed for long periods of time. The great gray
owl, while not as much a traveler, is more consistent in its visits to the
eastern Upper Peninsula. They can be found in the northern woodlands hunting
Some additional winter visitors to Michigan include the northern shrike, a
relative to the loggerhead shrike, which is an endangered species in Michigan,
pine grosbeak, and common redpoll.
Other species like the gray jay, red-breasted nuthatch, and pine siskin can
be found during the summer in the Upper Peninsula, but extend their range
southward in Michigan, making it easier for southern residents to find them.
Of course winter viewing requires some additional preparation, including
clothing and knowing the best places to find our winter residents. Local birding
groups are an excellent source of finding out where the most unusual visitors
may be seen. One tip for using binoculars in the winter is to keep them warm. A
cold pair of binoculars will quickly fog up when the eye pieces are placed
against your warm face.