Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Smiling Buddha! - 18 Dec 2012

The Macomb Co. CBC last week yielded a Snowy Owl near Selfridge NAB, thanks to Rosann Kovalcik. Yesterday, there were sightings of the bird atop Lands' End Marina at the foot of South River Road in Harrison Twp, in the same area as seen last year at this time. So I grabbed the gear and headed to the DNR Office with the hopes of refinding the bird.

I arrived just after 9 am and scanned the buildings along South River Road east of Jefferson Rd. No evidence of a Snowy Owl, so I drove to the DNR office to walk the woods to the point. Perhaps the owl might be roosting on the rocks in the channel, as one did last year. I found only a couple of American Tree Sparrows. The lake itself held small rafts of Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead and Mute Swans, but too far out to digiscope.

As I returned toward the car, I noticed an unusually large, white blob in a spruce tree across the channel next to the houses and marinas near a Marathon fueling station. Sure enough, I put the scope on the blob and immediately recognized a Snowy Owl! Now the challenge was going to be how to find the bird on the other side of the channel.

I drove South River Road but could not spot the owl across the channel. I took Bridgeview Rd. north to North River Road and headed back east, hoping to find the Marathon fueling station on the river. I traveled past Selfridge NAB and the golf course, but saw no owl. Amazingly, I glanced up and spotted the something in a spruce tree near the very end of the road that caused me to stop the car. There it was!

I pulled into the driveway of a private residence next door to the house where the owl was roosting and knocked on the door. No answer. The house 2 doors from the owl had a car in the driveway, so I knocked on the door and requested permission to photograph the owl from their driveway. They were mildly curious to see the owl in the tree, but not overly excited. I was a bit shocked, but they'd seen it in the area the past couple of years, so it wasn't a big deal.

I only had a limited view of the Snowy Owl from the driveway, and had to back up to about 150' away in order to find a gap through the trees to see the owl, which was about 2/3 the way up in the spruce. The bird was napping, and only turning its head every once in a while. It did open its eyes when a large truck rumbled by, but otherwise scanned the area every few minutes. I really wanted to move to someone's backyard to digiscope the bird, but everyone was gone, and I wasn't about to tresspass w/o permission. So I decided to see if I refind the bird from across the channel.

I drove back over to South River Road, and found the tree. Luckily, there was a boat dock next to the channel, so I asked a homeowner (Thanks, Christina!) for permission to digiscope the owl at the edge of her property. I managed these pics from better than 200' away. Convinced that the bird wasn't going to move for awhile, I headed over to Lake St. Clair Metropark.

I drove around their parking lot just in time to see a juvenile Cooper's Hawk soaring overhead, so I was able to get some quick pics w/ the D300s and 300/2.8 VRII.

A pair of Red-tailed Hawks at the entrance to the park soared close enough to get some pics from next to the road. Happy w/ my efforts I headed back home. Wonderful birds!


Heather Wood said...

Saw your post on the birders list (umich). I was out this afternoon looking for the Snowy with no luck. I will be out tomorrow morning looking again. I hope to get as lucky as you were!!!
You take amazing pictures!! I am just getting into digiscoping and am looking for a new scope.
Thanks for sharing your pictures and where you saw these beautiful birds!!!

Janet said...

Great story of your search for the Snowy Owl. The pictures are excellent. Thanks for sharing.

Janet said...

Great story of your search for the Snowy Owl. The pictures are excellent. Thanks for sharing.

Michael Dziadosz said...

Very cool shots!!

Michael Dziadosz said...

Very cool shots of the Snowy !!

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