The Audubon email hotline had been running rampant with a great variety of bird sightings. A Northern Mockingbird at Chums Corner. Hundreds of Waxwings on Deadstream Road. Tundra Swans at Logan’s Landing. Two Snowy Owls near the ballpark.
Word of the Snowy Owl sightings got me moving since I hadn’t seen one yet this winter. I almost immediately spotted the first owl on the corner of an outbuilding for one of the industrial park businesses. It was pretty distant to get a good close-up shot.
When I saw the owl on the roof of the warehouse, I wondered, why there? What was attraction? Then I drove on and saw the big field outside the fencing that would be perfect for hunting mice and voles, staples of the Snowy Owl diet.
I decided to drive to the other side of the building to get a closer look. I hoped the bird wouldn’t fly off in the time it took to get there. As I drew near, I could see the Snowy was a female, identified as such by the black bar markings. She was a beauty, I thought, as she squinted at me in the bright sunshine.
I drove on, hoping to see the second Snowy that had been sighted in the area that day. Fortunately, I saw it almost immediately, its distinctive white shape perched atop a light pole. It stood out against the brilliant blue sky. I can’t tell you how many Snowies I’ve photographed against dull, winter gray skies so the blue sky was a real treat.
I drew closer and could see this Snowy was smaller than the first one. It was beautiful! Mostly pure white with just a few dark markings, the sign that this bird was a male. This was the first time I’d photographed a male Snowy.
I noticed in the bright sunshine, the Snowy had its third, transparent eyelid down to protect its eyes from the bright sunlight. No piercing yellow eyes today!
I took another look at the female. I was able to get closer and it was keen on keeping an eye on me. It didn’t, however, give me a flash of its yellow eye, nor did it take to flight. There’ll be another time though. As always, Snowy Owls are magnificent creatures to see. And to photograph both a female and a male in one outing…well, it doesn't get much better than that.