Everyone likes to photograph mature Bald Eagles, but I think the birds under three years old look cool! Till that age Bald Eagles do not acquire their white heads and tails. A few of us locally know these juveniles as the “Frido Bandido Bird”. If I have to explain why, you obviously are not a child of the sixties!
Birding continues excellent here along the North Shore of Lake Superior. The skies are clear; the air is cold, and the owls are everywhere. After 4 to 5 years of not seeing a single Boreal Owl (not just me, everyone), I have found a Boreal every day for the past 3 days. As much as it is fun to watch the Boreals, a few Northern Saw-Whets have reappeared. I personally think they are much more handsome than the Boreals.
A Boreal Owl with somewhat open eyes!
My normal snoozin view!
A Northern Saw-Whet Owl
I also went looking for Pine Grosbeaks today. I found a small flock on a rural road with lots of small crab apples, but as I started to take photographs the local snow plow came by for the first time in weeks … scared all the birds away. Sigh!
Oh yeah … the sunrises continue to be glorious over the Lake Superior Ice Fields!
There is a good reason photographers love the early morning light. Today’s images explain why it is absolutely necessary to be out before dawn.
Even though it was -20F well before sunrise as I was walking along the Arctic Riviera, and I did not find the Snowy Owl for which I am looking, the sunrise made the cold hike worthwhile! After my visit to Lake Superior I drove up to my owling grounds and found four Great Gray Owls including this individual flying across the frozen tundra.
The vole is definitely dead. It is hard to imagine what it must be like for the vole to suddenly have two huge talons punch through the crusted snow. Death! Mother nature is cruel. (Great Gray Owls can actually hear voles running beneath the snow. They hunt by listening for the sound of voles)
I watched this Great Gray Owl hunt late this morning in the Bog. After it successfully consumed a late breakfast, I walked back to the car and changed lenses such that I might photograph the owl impact point on the snow. Although words do not do it justice, there was two inches of fresh snow, an inch of crust, and 3 to 4 inches of snow beneath the crust. The other photographs were taken of the same exact hunt.
Great Gray Owl Snow Impact
Success! (the owl has a vole in its talons)
Plunge Now! (micro-seconds before the owl plunged its head into the snow to transfer the vole from its talons to its beak)
Yes, there are other birds in Sax-Zim Bog. I can always find these wild turkeys on cold days. They hang out 300 yards south of the intersection of Arkola and Overton. The depression keeps them warm in the sun and out of the wind. In a few weeks the males will start to strut their stuff for the females shortly after dawn.
I found this Northern Hawk Owl hunting out in the open in Nichols Lake Road, but given the wind and below zero temps, I did not stay long.
At 7:15 am the air temperature was -19F. In short it was a great day to go birding. The skies were crystal clear and the winds were calm. In my book, that means owls should be out hunting. I was not disappointed, but first I had to take a trip down to Brighton Beach on Lake Superior and enjoy the pre-dawn light over the ice fields!
After some time down at the lake, I went birding. Within a few minutes I found my first Great Gray Owl of the day hunting only two miles from my house! While I am still waiting for a yard owl, this was pretty cool. Over the course of the morning I saw three Great Grays, and one Northern Saw-Whet. Early on in my morning travels I stopped to take a photograph of this horse. Kind of cool how frost forms and freezes on the back of a horse at -19F.
Some time with a Northern Saw-Whet Owl
A Black-Capped Chickadee photo bombs my image
A Great Gray Owl dressed up in snow flocked pines
This afternoon after a Nordic ski I decided a change of pace was in order and went looking for Snowies. I did find two but photo opps did not appear.
In short is was a great Super Bird Sunday! (what’s football?)