A winter storm hit the Duluth area this morning. Wind driven snow is being blown out of the Northwest at 29 mph. Now most people might think these are lousy conditions for birding, but for me it just increases the challenge. Since in Duluth photographing a polar bear in a blizzard is impossible, I looked for the next best thing … a Snowy Owl. I will admit a bit of luck was involved in capturing this image. The wind and snow abated a touch for a few minutes, and during this respite the owl I was watching telegraphed to me it was about to take off. The strong wind meant of was able to take quite a few photographs as the bird had to flap its wings quite a few times to get moving forward.
Before the storm hit last night I went up the shore a bit and found this Great Gray Owl hunting at sunset. Although the light conditions were very dark due to the heavy clouds and light freezing rain, I was still able to get some neat images. Don’t be afraid to run the ISO up on your camera. These owl photographs were taken with an ISO of 3,200. In both the flight shot for each owls, the wings are a bit blurry. This adds to the impression of motion, but it is important to still have image focused correctly … in this case the eyes.
Hunting along the shores of Traverse Bay, Michigan! Yup, Snowy Owl #25 has been found this past Christmas two years after it spent the winter in the Northland, mainly over in Superior, Wisconsin. The good folks of the Traverse Bay area got smart and when Snowy #25 was first found by Gerry Erickson, these birders did a reverse Google image search (at least I assume that is how they found me). I in turn made certain that this information was passed along to the person who bands Snowy Owls in the Duluth area.
Unlike many birds, Snowy Owls are nomads. These owls breed up near the Arctic Ocean, but their nests may be hundreds of miles apart in subsequent summers. Somehow the Snowies learn where there are lemmings, their primary food up north, and nest in the vicinity. Thus, when it is time to head south for the winter, these same owls can end up in dramatically different locations. Two years ago Snowy #25 was at the Head of the Lakes on Lake Superior. This winter the same owl is wintering 348 air miles away over on Lake Michigan. If you would like to learn more about Snowy Owl research, please visit Project Snow Storm.
Finally, many of you will not remember the TV sitcom, Car 54, Where Are You. It was in reruns even when I was a young boy, and that was a long time ago! To further your TV education, here are two links about Car 54 … Wikipedia and an Episode via YouTube.
Snowy Owl #25 … my thanks for Michael Jorae for having contacted me, and Gerry Erickson who originally found the owl.
My post from two years ago: Spectre and two images (pre banded and banded). I know it is the same bird because of markings and it was using the same exact fence down to the pole for a perch.
eBird Report from the Traverse Bay area on Dec. 24, 2017 (Snowy Owl #25).
Before sunrise I drove over to Superior in search of Snowy Owls. While I did not find any owls, about ten minutes before sunrise I spied an early hunting Rough-Legged Hawk. I was actually surprised to see it hunting before sunup. Thus, I positioned my car as a blind and captured the hawk in the very first rays of morning sun … less than five minutes after the golden orb popped above the horizon.
This afternoon I had planned on just chilling out, but when I got wind of a Northern Hawk Owl up near Stone Lake Road in Sax-Zim Bog I quickly changed those plans. While I never found the owl, I had a blast watching this mink for over ten minutes as it fished the small creek adjacent to Stone Lake Road. Finally right at sun down I watched another Rough-Legged Hawk near the greenhouse on Hwy #7 … the second time I had seen it in that area this afternoon. I did make a few swings along McDavitt Road towards sunset but did not find any Great Gray Owls. Even with the misses, it was a great day out in the woods.
I decided I should visit my friend, Number 32 (banded number), one more time before this Snowy Owl heads back north, which could be any day now. Thus, I drove over to the Superior Middle School and had fun watching friend Snowy hunt at sunset. Actually, the Lord of the Night might be a female, but I choose to think of it as an immature male.