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3/22/05 – Stunningly beautiful late winter/early spring weather has been with us for nearly a week. They days are in the low 30s with a warm sun in a crystal clear blue sky. The snow is sparkling white and perfect for skiing. The nights are in the single digits with a waxing moon high in the star filled sky. Perfection.

Sawbill crew members Dave Freeman and Adam Hansen are poised to begin their adventure in the wilds of Peru. “Project Peru” is the latest adventure from Wilderness Classroom. In cooperation with Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and their famous Amazon Rising exhibit, Dave and Adam will paddle dugout canoes through Peru’s most remote section of flooded forest in April and May of 2005. During the six week learning adventure, they will update their Wilderness Classroom website with videos, photos, scientific data, journals, and much more. They will begin posting to their website on March 28th.

Over the weekend we had a nice visit from former Sawbill crew member Ellen (Lock) Bagnato, her husband Greg, and their son, Taj. The Bagnatos are soaking up as much winter fun as they can before they move to the middle eastern country of Oman in August. Greg will be teaching and Ellen counseling at an American school there for a minimum of two years.

Ellen, Taj, and Greg Bagnato, fresh from the ski trails.

The barred owl that we saw at our feeder a couple of weeks ago has become a regular visitor. It sits for hours in the trees above the feeders and appears to be dozing. Every so often though, it perks up, and dives on a passing rodent. We haven’t actually seen it catch anything, but we did see it attack a careless red squirrel. After a quick flurry of feather, claw, fur, and snow, the squirrel popped out of the fray and beat a hasty retreat. We routinely have about a dozen species of birds that come to our feeders, but this is our first regular owl.

I spotted a Northern Shrike yesterday. The northern shrike is known also as the butcher bird due to its unusual practice of impaling prey on thorns or barbed wire, much in the way butchers hang up meat in their shops. Mice, other birds, and large insects form the bulk of the shrike’s diet. Its plumage is a soft, silver-grey, with dark brown, almost black, wings and tail. The northern shrike is found in Europe, Asia, and northern Africa, and ranges across Canada from coast to coast. It winters in the more southerly parts of this country. It has a well-developed song of its own and is capable of imitating the songs of several birds. I usually see a couple of them every spring and fall. – Bill