Thursday, March 28, 2019
I drove into the industrial park hoping to get a season’s ending glance of the Snowy Owl. While I was hopeful, I was also realistic that it was mid-March and these owls would be soon heading back to their Arctic homelands. I glanced over to the fenced communication buildings and towers where I’d seen her the last few times. No Snowy.
So I started my regular route through the park. I turned the first corner and lit up with surprise. There she was sitting on top of one of the last large piles of snow dumped by the plows. She was near a driveway, so I slowly pulled in to watch and click. She seemed totally unperturbed by my presence.
And just when I thought this was going to be a photoshoot where I only saw the owl twist its head from one side to the other looking for prey, it opened its mouth wide. I waited for a sound to come from its mouth and then I realized the Snowy was yawning. Was it bored? Sleepy?
I saw the whites of the Snowy Owl’s eyes come up. At first, I thought it was the translucent eye shade the owl uses to block out the sunlight on bright days. But it was one of the greyest days I’d seen, so I didn’t think that was it. No, it appeared to me that this owl was closing its eyes.
And then, the Snowy’s head drooped. Oh my. She was falling asleep.
Sleeping like a baby, she looked so sweet and innocent with soft nose feathers covering her dangerous beak.
Her head drooped more and more. She was out cold!
Limp as a sleeping baby, her head lolled to the other side.
After a TEN MINUTE snooze, the Snowy woke up and looked at me with a funny grin on her face. “I know,” she was thinking. “You caught me napping.” But maybe the smile meant something else.
And then the Snowy turned around and lifted her tail feathers. What was going on? Was she preparing to take off after her rejuvenating nap? Then I looked closer. Oh, no! Could it be?
It was true! She wass doing what most critters, including humans, do after a nap. She was relieving herself!!
Finished, she turned back to me. Yes, I saw the whole thing! Notice the yellowed snow. And she was keeping her tail feathers up a bit too. Air drying, perhaps??
And then, without warning, she was off and into the air. Unfortunately, I didn’t get more than this image of her in flight.
She didn’t go far, though, instead perching on a nearby lamp post, just far enough away to be less up close and personal. Since my first sighting of Snowy Owls in early January, I’ve shot thousands of images of these stunning birds. Now that it’s nearing the end of March, I’m being realistic that it may be the last photoshoot of the Snowies until next winter. Besides being a little sad at their leaving, I’m also grateful for all I’ve seen and learned about Snowies this season.
Thursday, March 21, 2019
As I've been out taking pictures during the warmer weather we've had, I've noticed so many birds joyously singing about the arrival of spring.
Flocks of Pine Grosbeaks had descended on this ornamental tree still full of red berries.
I wondered how the berries, which had the whole winter to ferment, would affect the voracious birds.
I was not surprised to see this American Robin since so many of them have adapted to winter and stick around for the season.
Blue Jays are also gorgeous, although their demanding birdcall is irritating to some.
The sound I hear most when I'm outside is the distinctive "conk-la-reee" song from the Red-winged Blackbirds that are arriving home from winter migration.
Now that rooftops are clear of snow, Mourning Doves have returned to their favorite perch, singing their low, mournful "coo-ah, coo, coo, coo."
And at my backyard feeder, a Hairy Woodpecker is enjoying the food from this seed cylinder.
As for Snowy Owls? At least one is still around, although she was inside the fence around the communication buildings and towers at the industrial park. I will probably be seeing less of these beauties as they begin their migrations back to the Arctic. Can't complain though, as I've had many wonderful opportunities photographing them this winter.
Thursday, March 14, 2019
My photoshoot of two Saturdays ago, when I photographed three eagles feasting on deer carcasses and later a hawk in a tree, was already spectacular. But as I was nearing home that day, I got an Audubon text that a Snowy Owl had been sighted in a neighborhood golf course. I wasn’t far from there, so I decided to check it out.
I spotted her almost immediately on a rooftop as I entered the neighborhood. She spotted me too, and we continued to stare at each other. I could tell right away from her eye markings that this was a different owl than I’d see before.
And she was waaay more animated than prior owls I’d photographed. From the side view, with those yellow eyes trained on me, she looked sinister. Was she giving me a warning?
I wasn’t sure why she was all hunched over with her wings gathered in but she continued to focus on me.
Suddenly, she threw her huge wing up over her body, partially covering her face. Such a dramatic owl I'd not seen before! I wish I knew whether there was a meaning to her actions.
The Snowy next straightened up and showed me her other side. I felt uneasy that she was so focused on me versus hunting for herself. Other owls I'd photographed concentrated on the fields where they were searching for food with an occasional glance at me, but this Snowy was fixated on me.
She dipped her head down, looking both coy and menacing. She showed me her beautiful white eye lashes in the process.
She turned back towards me and titled those yellow eyes down in my direction once again. I decided to be on my way so she could focus on finding food for herself vs. concentrating on me. Regardless, she provided me with one of the most interesting Snowy Owl subjects I’d ever seen.
Thursday, March 7, 2019
Last week, after photographing the feasting eagles, I drove through the surrounding area since it has always been abundant in wildlife and birds.
I went down a side road where I've often seen a hawk, but never have had the chance to photograph since it always flew off as soon as I approached. I saw it in its familiar tree, drove on a bit, and then turned my car around to get the hawk on my driver's side.
Miraculously, it didn't fly off this time. I knew my time seeing the hawk was probably limited, so I made my movements small and careful.
As I got closer, I wondered what type of hawk this beauty was. This time of year identification can be challenging with all the winter coats, juveniles, and migrating birds in the area. The faint shades of orange on the wings made me wonder if it was a Red-Shouldered Hawk.
Predictably, the hawk didn't stay long, launching into the air a few minutes after it arrived. I felt lucky though because I'd seen this hawk several times on the same tree and hadn't gotten a shot off.
As I watched it pump its large wings through the air, I got better looks at its underside and tail feathers. Maybe it was a Broad-winged Hawk arriving home from an early migration. I'd perused my bird apps and books extensively in hopes of nailing down the identification of this hawk but to no avail.
The hawk soon reached the safety of another tree and became out of my camera range. I was grateful that I'd had the chance to finally get some images of this beautiful bird...and on the same day I'd photographed the feasting eagles.