Overcast, cloudy, cold, 16F. Today I thought I'd try to find the Snowy Owl that was spotted a few weeks ago at Pt. Mouillee. It wasn't as nice as yesterday, when we had sunny skies and crisp, cold temps, so I knew that photography was going to be a challenge.
I drove down Reaume Rd. next to the Gibralter Landfill and found a Peregrine Falcon perched atop a powerline. It was dark, and I was a good 70 yds. away, but managed a couple of digiscoped images of the falcon as preened after (apparently) a meal. Note the blood on the belly feathers. I attempted to get closer, but my camera battery died, then my scope attachment loosened. By the time I was able to correct my foibles the bird decided to fly off.
I parked at Roberts Rd. at walked the dike toward the Banana Unit. I veered to the right to take the Lake Erie shoreline in case any owls may be roosting along the rocks. A stiff wind was coming off the lake, so winchill was near 0F. There was little to be seen, and nothing to be heard. The lake was frozen, and it was eerily quiet.
As I approached the SE corner of Cell 3 I began to see flyover Common Mergansers, and a few Common Goldeneye off in the distance. American Tree Sparrows and Northern Cardinals began to appear along the rocks to my right and in the phragmites on my left. As I put my binoculars to my eyes to scan Cell 3 I spotted a small lump near the north end. I wasn't certain, but it appeared to be a Snowy Owl.
I put the scope on it and immediately was able to confirm the presence of an immature owl. The lack of bib suggested a female bird. Too far to digiscope, I continued on toward the middle of Cell 3 where the bird was sitting on the ice. From the dike the bird was still too far off to digiscope, but I took a few photos for record. The only way to get decent images would be to climb down the banks and approach the bird. I wasn't keen on spooking the owl, so I continued walking around the north end.
I walked around the dike and started heading back along the west dike and found that the bird was a bit closer from this side of the cell. I took the chance and headed down the bank and approached to within about 100 yds. of the owl. I took my time, making sure that owl wasn't on alert. Its eyes were closed, and it turned its head every few minutes, indicating that my presence was not a threat.
I approached to within about 50 yds when I felt that it was aware of my presence. I quietly took some digiscoped images as it watched me, then carefully backed up and left the area. I was happy to return to the dike and continue on toward the car w/o having flushed the bird. I probably could've gotten closer, but better photos would not have been worth the potential expenditure of unnecessary energy on the owl's part. As I reached to the south end of Cell 3 I looked back and found the Snowy still sitting in its location. Unless disturbed It'll probably stay there until its ready to resume hunting.
After hiking through the snow for a good 3 hours I returned to the car thoroughly exhausted.