Tis the season for raptors to migrate south and one that I've been on the search for for 3-4 yrs now is the "Snowy Owl". I've followed ebird.com and kept hoping one would eventually come to my area, but none ever have. On a few occasions I've driven to locations where they were spotted and had no luck. Well, today luck was finally on my side as I drove almost 2 hours away to look for a Snowy Owl that has been being seen by others. When I first arrived at the beach someone in the parking lot told me it was indeed around and that I had to walk at least a mile down the beach to go see it. So, I got my cold weather gear on and grabbed my equipment and headed down the sandy path.
On my way out, I passed several people. The first person was relatively close to the parking lot and informed me I was in for a very long walk. Then I saw the second person roughly half way out and he said I still had a long way to go, close to 20 more minutes of walking (which was an exaggeration, lol). Then the third person was shortly before I arrived to the small crowd of photographers. She was heading out because she was freezing and it showed.
I approached the group of 5 photographers and I got this feeling of being unwanted there. I said hello and introduced myself, but most of them pretty much ignored me. Only one of the guys engaged in small talk. Whatever, not a big deal as I wasn't there to see any of them anyway. LOL. A couple of other people came and went and at the end of my time I did come across two nice people to chat with.
Anyhow, the Snowy Owl was sitting on the ground, in front of a wooden post with chains and a buoy. The ground was filled with shells that had washed ashore and the bird was in a spot that protected him from the wind. Although, he did periodically get splashed by the water that was hitting against the rocks.
The light was really harsh as it was behind the owl and not behind us and the background wasn't the prettiest, but luckily he did move away from the post for a little while for photos. He was a gorgeous bird, although a bit dirty as he had mud on his feet and underbelly. He didn't do much during my time there. He pooped two or three times, coughed up a pellet, yawned and slept a ton. In fact, he snoozed during most of the 2 hours I was there watching. A couple of times he perked up and looked around which gave us hope he would do something, but he never did. He just sat and posed. In fact, he was still sitting there when we all left.
It was truly an amazing experience and I'm so glad I took some time off of work and drove down to see the beautiful owl. It took me so many years to finally see one in the wild and it was clearly worth the wait as this species of bird is simply magnificent.
Snowy Owl facts:
The Snowy Owl is a large owl (the largest owl in North America) that resides in the Arctic Tundra. It's white coloring provides as camouflage during winter and often times the Snowy Owl will migrate south during the cold winter months in search of food (sometimes below the Canadian boarder). They have a bulky body and round heads with no ear tufts. They often will sit on or near the ground in wide-open areas and they perch on sand dunes, fence posts, hay bales and telephone poles. When in flight, they are often close to the ground and in hunting mode. They generally eat small mammals such as voles, mice, squirrels and rabbits. And when they are in coastal areas, they may feast on birds such as ducks, geese and grebes. Due to these beautiful birds not being from the United States, when one is spotted all kinds of people flock out to see the rare bird. It surely is a beauty to see!
Do remember, if you head out to find one of these beauties it is important to respect them and give them proper space. Also, make sure to use proper birding etiquette by observing quietly and not doing anything to disturb the bird. Having these beautiful specimens is such a treat so please make sure to show proper respect if you come across one!