The Great Snowy Owl Invasion of 2011 appears to be the real deal. Reports out of Canada have indicated that it was a very good hatch year for Snowy Owls, and many birds seem to be migrating farther south of their normal wintering grounds.
I arrived at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit this morning shortly after 6 am. Dad was going to have some serious heart surgery to repair a pair of large aortic aneurisms. After visiting w/ him, mom, and siblings, they wheeled him off to surgery prep. This gave us about 2 hours before surgery to cool our heels, so I decided to run over to Harrison Twp. to look for the recently-reported Snowy Owls along S. River Rd.
I drove to the foot of S. River Rd. shortly after 8 am and met a photographer near the DNR office. He had not seen any of the owls, but believed there to be 3 birds, including an all-white adult male (it was seen on the jetty last evening, but not this morning). After he left I ran into Andy Dettling, who had ridden his bike ~125 miles to see these birds. The KING of BIGBY had seen one juvie on the roof just up the road, but was looking for other birds.
I walked to the end of the small woodlot at the tip of point, and scanned the jetty, but saw no birds. Returning toward the parking lot I spotted a juvie Snowy Owl soaring over the water and being harassed by a Ring-billed Gull. I watched the bird circle several times in the bright morning sunlight, then soar in my direction. It drifted over the boat launch and landed atop a light pole in the parking lot. Another photographer was approaching me, and I quickly directed him to the bird.
I ran over and yelled at him to stop harassing the bird, and to move back. I lectured him on the stresses these birds face when flying this far south, and his responsibility to avoid adding additional stress.
We continued to photograph the bird from behind another light pole for another 20 minutes or so, freezing our fingers until they were numb.
Post-op: Dad's surgery went w/o complications, but next 48 hrs. will be critical for him. We're keeping him in our prayers. "Dad, this bird's for you!"