The Snowy Owl Invasion and Great Local Eats


I started the weekend off on a new foot – a Friday night out on the town!

The Girlfriend took me to a neighborhood favorite in her part of Minneapolis, The Grand Café. The menu is small but thoughtful and very well executed. We shared the flatbread and Daily Cheese Plate. The Girlfriend indulged her love of French Onion Soup and I tried the Squash Alfredo in Sage Cream Sauce. All of the dishes were vegetarian, so there was tasting all around.

After a meal like that, I had an excellent night’s sleep which had me ready for a full Saturday. Visits were the first order of the day and I’m happy to report that Grandma was in great spirits and The Mother was recuperating nicely from her shoulder surgery. The last part of my afternoon included a visit to The Fabric Store. Oh yes, I responded to the siren call and yes, I went tremendously over budget… but imagine the advancement of my Liz Day wardrobe if everything goes according to plan! I even found two Half-Priced Books to help me on the journey:


Unfortunately, there was no time to start pre-washing fabric or doing any reckless sewing, but for a great reason – we had a dinner date with The Mom-In-Law. She picked us up and I had my second evening out in a dimly lit, leisurely restaurant. This time we were at a favorite restaurant in our part of Minneapolis, Al Vento. Al Vento’s lighting is even darker than Grand Café’s, so until I remember to carry some glow sticks, you’re going to miss out on the full majesty of the food we’re eating. I gave up after these three photos, but the highlight of my evening munching was the Brussels Sprout Bruschetta.

I was up bright and early Sunday for something I had been looking forward to all week, Snowy Owl Hunting. We weren’t hunting them with guns, of course, but we’ve been hearing about the “irruption” going on right now. According to the internet, the irruption began in the Northeastern U.S. and has gradually spread to the Midwest. As of Friday, there had been 150 snowy owls seen in Minnesota and we wanted to see one.

Snowy owls live on the tundra. I saw a NATURE documentary on PBS that said juveniles often spend their first winters south of the arctic in order to develop their survival skills, but this winter several hundred owls have been appearing on fields, airports and lakeshores in the United States. Some have been seen as far south as North Carolina and one was even seen in Bermuda. As a Minnesotan that has just gone through a polar vortex, I’m guessing that one knew exactly what she was doing.

Whatever, the cause, The Husband and I wanted to see some. First, I needed some breakfast. I think you know what I had in mind:

breakfast sandwich
Breakfast Panini: Salsa, pepperjack cheese, spinach and fried egg on a ciabatta roll with hashbrowns

We packed up some supplies (and Danny) and hit the road. We started in the Minnesota River Valley on Black Dog Road. It wasn’t long before we found a pair of eagles. I like this photo where it looks like the one at the roost is yelling at its partner (off camera):


A few minutes further down the road, we found a pond with Trumpeter Swans, Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneyes and a Great Blue Heron.

We kept driving and headed south towards Vermillion. Back on farm roads, we found a bunch of cars on the side of a road and spent a long time looking before we finally saw our first snowy owl. Do you see him?
snowy owl

There were so many hawks out, we lost count of them, but we spent a long time watching this Red Tail Hawk:

I love the stark beauty of Minnesota farmland in winter:

I was so distracted by its breathtaking beauty, I almost missed this snowy owl:

We started getting pretty good at spotting them:
snowy owl

In total, we saw four. When the day started coming to an end, we ended up where we had seen our first snowy in the field. The paparazzi was out:

Because he was too! He gave us some spectacular shots – we did not get as close as the other spectators but I think we got some great photos.

I zoomed in on a photo at home:
snowy owl

What a day. What a weekend! And there was still time for one more panini….

Soup and Sandwich
Panini: Bread, havarti cheese, spinach & pesto.
Soup: Bow tie pasta, carrot ribbons, celery, tofu, peas

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By Heidi Van Heel
Heidi Van Heel

Heidi Van Heel

Writer, freelancer, and believer in magic living in Minneapolis. In my free time, I love reading, exploring the great outdoors, and experimenting in the kitchen.

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