Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snowy Owl Redux

On my way home from town Thursday afternoon, I spied a Snowy Owl atop a stone chimney.  While I often carry my photography gear with me, on this particular afternoon, I only had my iPhone. 

There's a saying among photographers that the best camera is the one you have with you.  I clicked away but knew I wouldn't be satisfied with just iPhone images, as evidenced by the above photograph.  Hoping that the owl would stay put, I raced home for my good camera and long lens and raced back.

And luck was with me!  The Snowy had remained perched atop the chimney!  I could see this owl, like the one I'd photographed last week, was a female because of its prominent bands of black.  I didn't think it was the same as last week's bird, however, because the bands on its forehead were longer, giving it the appearance of having bangs.

As I photographed this beautiful bird, I did a double take when I noticed this Snowy Owl appeared to have white eyes instead of the typical yellow eyes I've seen on other Snowies.  Is that what I was seeing?  Or could this owl be blind?

I zoomed in closer and confirmed that this owl's eye really did appear to be white.  Was it asleep?  But I didn't think it was blind or asleep because it regularly swiveled its head from side to side as it does when looking for prey.  There had to be a better explanation, and that sent me to the web for answers.

I learned that besides having upper and lower eyelids, Snowy Owls have a third transparent eyelid which keeps their eyes moist.  Additionally, these eyelids act as a shade from sunlight.  That's important because Snowy Owls are one of the few owl species that hunt in the daytime.  These owls may close their eyes half-way to block out the extra light, giving the appearance that they are sleepy or half asleep, when they are wide awake and alert.

A few times, the Snowy ruffled its feathers.  In this image, the bird fluffed its upper wing feathers.  I thought it might take flight, but it stayed put.

In the end, the Snowy fully opened its piercing yellow eyes and stared down at me.  I always feel lucky when I get to see a Snowy Owl during the winter months.  My luck extends when I'm able to get off some good shots of the bird.  But how lucky can I get to have photographed a beautiful Snowy Owl twice in the space of eight days!


  1. She's a beauty, Karen! Love the setting and her sweet expressions. It is very interesting to learn about that third translucent eyelid. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for your visit, Jan. She was a joy to see and photograph.

  3. I love to see her snowy, speckled softness contrasted with the colorful ruggedness of the chimney stones. Interesting info about her eyelids. Sometimes I think I could use an extra lid to protect from the extreme brightness of the sun and snow!

  4. Thanks, Jackie. Her beauty does contrast with the rugged chimney stones.