Thursday, February 20, 2014

On the Hunt

We finally got some relatively warm weather here in Michigan, with temperatures rising above freezing for the first time in more than two months. I relished the opportunity to get out and enjoy the sun and warmth in the late afternoon for an hour or two. The area that I've seen snowy owls a lot this winter has become relatively absent as no sightings have been reported and a failed attempt over the weekend. Just across U.S. 127 there is another expanse of agricultural land less than two miles from my apartment which one owl was reported from, so I decided to go check it out. I noticed a white blob about 150 yards from the road and decided to pull off and take a look through my bins. Sure enough, it was a snowy. After a few minutes, the owl suddenly took off and started to fly in my direction. The initial, "Shit shit shit!" reaction caused me to fumble to get my camera lens cap off, luckily I managed to do so. I stooped low and got my lens on the bird. The owl only occasionally beat its powerful wings, gliding less than two feet off of the fresh blanket of snow. As the bird got closer, I was able to figure some nice shots, though not as spectacular as I was hoping for. The bird passed to my right overhead and then swooped low to grab something about fifty yards in the field behind me.

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), Isabella County, MI
The owl had obviously seen some small rodent from more than two hundred yards away, which is proof of their incredible eyesight. I love the above photo because you can see that the owl is zeroed in on its target, completely ignoring me and my lens. The bird ended up landing about a hundreds yards from the road in the field behind me and scarfed down its meal. It was pretty awesome to see one of these birds in action, as most of the ones I've seen this winter have been stationary. I decided to drive around a few others fields in the area and noticed another snowy on a utility pole right before sunset.

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), Isabella County, MI
Unfortunately a passing truck spooked the owl, but I was able to capture nice shot of the owl during takeoff. As we move towards the end of February, these owls will likely be making their departure from Michigan in the next few weeks as spring finally approaches. My dad and I are going to try and make a snowy trip this weekend so he can get some decent shots of them before they depart for good. Stay tuned...

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