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!