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Rescuing Sky, the Snowy Owl!

Thanks to all who helped me with our Snowy Owl rescue out on the Duluth Harbor ice. I delivered the Snowy, now named “Sky” to Wildwoods (as in Sky Harbor Airport). The owl is very thin, but there was no evidence of any car strikes. 
  • Tom: Thanks for going home to get the wood and fish net. Duct tape is an amazing product. With it we were able to construct a 20 yard long rescue device.
  • Judy: Thanks for your initial concern, and sticking it out with me. It is your video of the actual rescue included with this post.
  • Ginny: Thanks for all your photos, and the blanket which I used to warm up with when I got out of the harbor. My feet and legs were frozen.
Some history about our efforts. I first spotted the owl shortly before sunrise sitting out on the ice. A sighting of this kind is not unusual … actually rather common. I took a few photos and left the owl alone. Returning after church I discovered the owl had only moved a few feet in hours. It did not take notice of us, even when we tried to scare and flush it.
Having hand rescued a Snowy Owl back in October, with thanks to Frank Nicoletti who is the head bander at Hawk Ridge, I knew how to hand capture this owl. The ice was very thin. Thus I was not willing to walk out on said ice. With our Snowy Owl capture device, I waded in up to my knees … breaking the ice (some nice cuts on my shins), and pushed the ice out of the way. I then netted the snowy and pulled it back to where I could grab the owl. As soon as possible upon getting on shore we put a blanket over the snowy to try and limit its stress.
 Video of Snowy Owl Rescue

A few more notes … In the morning, the owl appeared to be fine. When I returned after church I heard it had not moved at all. In addition, a person who was near by had taken dogs for a walk. When that person first got out of their car, the dogs ran over to the owl (the dogs did not attack or touch the owl). I knew that in the Arctic where Snowies nest both Arctic foxes and wolves would be perceived as dangerous by an owl. Thus, any owl that would not move or fly away when confronted by canines had to be in need of help.
Video Taken at Sunrise

 I had never expected to hand capture a Snowy Owl back in October. I told everyone it was a once in a lifetime experience. Well … with the irruption of Snowies I have now worked at saving two owls. I hope Sky recovers. It is in good hands.
I will post updates about Sky on my blog.
Oh yes … yesterday I also saw a health Snowy Owl in the Duluth area!

Owl Candy

Yesterday I drove up to Sax-Zim Bog arriving before sunrise. Knowing that the weekend would bring out lots of folks to view the hawk owl (most welcome), but not desiring to be part of the huge crowd I hiked into a different area of the bog where I had heard reports of another Northern Hawk Owl. It was good I was there before sunup because this individual stopped hunting the minute the golden orb popped above the horizon.

However, it was not time for all the other birds to have breakfast, and many were NOT please to the the owl in vicinity. Over the course of 20 minutes, the Northern Hawk Owl attracted quite a bit of attention, or should I say attacks? Thus … owl candy which the other birds could not resist!

Each of these birds took a swipe at the owl, but ultimately grew bored and moved on leaving the owl in peace to enjoy the warmth of the morning sun. The easiest way to bird in the Bog, find an owl and wait for the other birds to attack!  🙂

Gray Jay and Norther Hawk Owl

Female Pine Grosbeak

Northern Shrike

Duluth December Ducks (owls too!)

Today is the 1st of December, and this strange winter continues. In October I went Nordic skiing after two big snow storms. Today I went bicycling up the shore of Lake Superior in 40F cloudy weather … all the snow is gone. Ice is forming in the harbor and I used that fact to track some ducks this morning. The open ice and a lead of open water channeled both the mergansers and goldeneyes towards shore in their mutual search for breakfast.  However both species of ducks spook very easily. In order to get these photographs I had to park the car right next to the shore, and sit motionless using the car as a blind for 90 minutes. Eventually both species of birds forgot about me and moved within easy range of my camera. Thus patience is a HUGE requirement for successful bird photography. Here is the result:


Female Red-Merganser with its catch / fish (look closely!)

Yesterday I also made a trip up to Sax-Zim Bog. It was a gorgeous day with moderate wind and plenty of sunshine. Once again McDavitt Road was the place to be. I watched a Great Gray Owl hunt till the bright light pushed it deep into the Bog. At that point it was time to enjoy the Northern Hawk Owl’s efforts!

Great Gray Owl

Northern Hawk Owl

Boats and Birds

Yesterday I decided I needed to stay closer to Duluth. My search for owls had involved lots of driving, and then hikes. While I enjoyed the birding trips to Sax-Zim Bog immensely, I was interested in minimal driving and a good afternoon bicycle ride in the sun along Lake Superior. Even with the 32F temperature and an effective 18 mph wind in my face on my bike, it was great to take the ride.

In addition to my cycling I crawled (actually drove and hiked) the Duluth waterfront. The end result were these three images … boats and birds … boy toys (i.e the boats).

BBC Shipping Lines Vesuvius and Mississippi unloaded at the Port Terminal

Boat and Birds … BBC Vesuvius scares up a few gulls upon arrival at Canal Park

Glaucous Gull on the Duluth Waterfront … Another Arctic Visitor