Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Kiting Snowy Owl and a Plea - 10 Dec 2017

After tiring the camera out on Snow Buntings I returned to the roosting Snowy Owl atop the power pole in front of a residence at 20 Mile Rd and Centerline Rd. Someone was standing in the driveway photographing the owl while I took a few pics from inside the car. The Snowy wasn't particularly showing well, so I didn't stay. Instead I turned around to head back to the Snow Bunting flock before heading over to Co. 48 and Hantz Rd on the east side I-75.

Hantz Rd. was dead. Not a bird to be seen anywhere.

So, I looped back up to 19 Mile Rd and Centerline to make one last pass before heading on to Sault Ste. Marie. The Snowy Owl was not to be found and the Snow Bunting flock had dispersed. So, I turned left on Co. 48 and headed east toward M-129 and the Soo.

I hadn't driven more than ⅛ mile when I spotted the (presumed) same Snowy Owl that was on the pole back at 20 Mile Rd. Light was disappearing but there was no traffic on Co. 48, so I pulled over to the shoulder one pole short of the Snowy Owl. I didn't want to spook it, so I stayed back. However,  as soon as I pulled over and began to get out of the car the owl suddenly took flight. Toward me!

I managed to get out of the car just as the owl soared above the car next to the ditch and began kiting for about 15 seconds. I was less than 20' from the hovering owl and emptied the camera at 11 fps.

The owl then looked up and tried to decide whether to land on the wire, or go up higher to the top of the pole. It chose the pole, but not without some effort. It was now on the pole next to where I was parked, so I grabbed a few quick photos and got back in the car and took off.

I had never seen a Snowy Owl fly toward me and then kiting so closely, and I began to wonder if it was normal. What popped into my head was the possibility that the owl recognized a possible free meal from me? If that was the case then perhaps it may have been baited recently by a photographer trying to get the kind of pics that they (and me) dream of.

The possibility of the owl being baited for photographs was a bit unsettling. The idea of a living creature being sacrificed for a photograph is reprehensible. I could only hope that it wasn't the case, and the owl had actually seen something in the ditch and was unaware of my presence. In any event I make the plea to all photographers to read the Audubon Ethics for Photographers article that was recently published. Never bait, or approach close enough to stress an owl (a wide-eyed owl is an alarmed owl) that it might flush from a daytime roost. And for God's sake, don't move branches to get a clearer shot. That kids, is for squares. Dig?

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