Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Monroe Co. Snowy Owl! - 22 Dec 2013

I was going to wait until the rain subsided before heading to Monroe to refind the Snowy Owl that was photographed by Nick Assenmacher yesterday during the Monroe, MI Christmas Bird Count. It was Sunday morning, dark, overcast, foggy and rainy at 9:30 am when I got a call from Jack and Janet Volker - the Snowy Owl was sitting on a telephone pole next to the road and just begging for it photo to be taken.  Robin was cooking a turkey for lunch so I had 2 hours before we would eat.  I grabbed the gear and headed south on I-75 toward Monroe.

Driving the last remnants of the big winter storm was a bit weird.  It would be dark and foggy, then bright and foggy, then dark again.  It was like passing through twilight to late afternoon to twilight again.  I hoped that the lighting would improve by the time I got there.

When I arrived at the location I spotted the owl from a quarter mile away.  It was a small white blob in the middle of the pole next to the road.  I drove past it and turned around so I could get a couple photos from the road without disturbing it.

Seeing that the owl was paying me no attention I grabbed the scope and headed behind the pole immediately to the west of the bird and proceeded to discretely digiscope it from about 100' away.  Lighting was poor and most images were tossers, but I got a few keepers with the Nikon V1 (thank God for self-timers), and made sure to take several videos.  The juvenile male Snowy Owl had its back to me most of the time so I got quite a few images of the back of its head.

I then drove to next pole east of its location and repeated the same routine.  This time it was facing me and allowed a view of its front.  A few more pics and videos and I headed out, extremely happy w/ myself for not disturbing the bird and not drawing attention from passing vehicles.

Robin and I would return later in the afternoon and find the bird in a farmer's field about 100 yds away.  It was in the only remaining snow patch remaining in the field and was next to a white post. Unless you knew it was there the bird was completely inconspicuous. In fact, at one point the owner of the house next to the field came out to his truck and grabbed his binoculars to look at what we (and another car parked on the road) were looking at in the field.  Worried that he might not appreciate the owl in his field I pulled into his driveway to let him know how 'lucky' he was to have such a rare and majestic visitor from the Arctic.  He didn't know the owl was out there, but said that the owl was welcome to all the mice it could catch!

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