Today’s bird of the day is a very early harbinger of Spring (not even 1/2 of the way through February). In theory Horned Larks do not over winter up here in the Northland. I found a pair in the Duluth area this morning feeding on the side of the road. Given Horned Larks nest as far north as the shores of the Arctic Ocean, along with Snow Buntings they tend to be some of the earliest birds to start the northward migration through our area.
Over the past three days I’ve gotten close and personal to three different species of owls: a Northern Hawk Owl, a Snowy Owl, and a Great Gray Owl. I was actually quite happy with seeing the very rare Northern Hawk Owl over the weekend, but when I discovered a Great Gray Owl hunting along the North Shore of Lake Superior a few minutes after sunrise this morning, it ended the perfect owling adventure. I believe I now know each owl’s winter hunting habits, which means it should be possible to revisit each bird during February.
Today was one of those days when I am thrilled to live on the Arctic Riviera! Instead of extremely cold sub zero weather, when I went owling before sunset the wind was calm, the skies were blue, and the temperature was just a few degrees below freezing. Better yet, my birding hit the jackpot 30 minutes before sunset. I found a Snowy Owl which was beginning its evening hunt. Not only did this owl not mind my presence, at one point while I was watching this bird from a distance of 40 yards, it actually flew over and landed on the pole in the picture directly above my head.
Uff Dah! I actually had to walk away from the Snowy Owl unless I wanted to take images straight up. Now from a distance of 20 yards I waited with my finger on the shutter for the Snowy to fly. Twice there were false alarms as this bird thought it had a vole in its sights, but the third time was a charm! The owl flew and I pressed down and did a burst of photographs. Here are my favorite two images. Now that I know where this bird hunts, I plan on making more late afternoon excursions.
20 minutes before sunrise, I found my first Snowy Owl of the winter! A few minutes after sunrise, the local crow population also discovered Snowy. However, the male owl defended himself well, and refused to be forced off his perch. Thus, I had a fantastic time early this morning and spent 1 & 1/2 hours with this cool bird. I hope you enjoy a few of my photos, plus the video. In total I took 416 images this morning. Hopefully this Snowy will establish a winter territory where I found it … which would mean over two months of Snowy Owl watching / enjoyment.
The short video of the crows attacking the Snowy Owl is at the bottom of the post.