Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Owl Mission Part 4-Snowy Owls

Snowy Owls: They are birds of the Arctic Tundra. They are commonly found in Canada, Alaska, and northward. Some Snowy's venture southbound when their food source is scarce (voles and lemmings are their staples, but they do eat rabbits, pheasants and other small animals). The Chicago lakefront gets a few visitors almost every winter, which are mainly juveniles who lose their way. My first snowy was discovered 50 miles south of where I live. I found out about it through the birding hotline on Christmas Eve of last year. I didn't even think I would ever see one ever, so my plan was to go to the site on Christmas morning, before I went to meet my family for the holiday. The information I had was semi-specific, so I had road crossings and landmarks to check. None of that information has a guarantee of a sighting, but I didn't want to miss him if he was just resting on his wayward journey. I got up before dawn and headed for my destination along with my friend Pam. Our research led us to believe that the best time to find him would be at dawn when the snowy would be looking for breakfast, before finding a place to rest for the day. We followed our directions and were nearing our destination with our anticipation building with every mile. With our fingers crossed, we started slowing down and scanning the fields for anything white. We found alot of Walmart bags, and milk jugs cleverly disguised, and pushed on. We are in deep farm country, so crossroads were county roads marked with numbers that increased with each mile. We are getting to the crossroad we are looking for, so now we need to find a certain pole (a photo was taken with this pole) that has a hole in it about 2 inches down from the top. We pass the suspected pole and push on. We now need to find a rusty corrugated steel barn with 2 windows. Well, when you are in farm country, every barn is practically the same. We push on. We see a barn in the distance all by itself in the field. From where we were, it looked like something white was at the peak. Could it be? As we approach, we get our cameras ready. Yes! It is our first sighting of a freakin Snowy! We can't believe our luck. It was amazing to see him, because we are not supposed to. He doesn't belong here, and yet, here he is! We slowly came to a stop at a distant angle and snap a few shots. Our fear of his flying off was lessened with each passing minute. We inched forward, snapped a few, and inched more, gaining ground until we were parrallel to him. We grabbed our tripods, set them up outside our respective windows, threw on our remote shutter cables and snapped away. He never left. We were so entirely thrilled that he wasn't disturbed by us, that we thanked him and left. We came back a few more times after that, and found him in the cornfields, which was a difficult task. We also took some shots of him on a utility pole just as the sun was setting. What a magnificent creature to witness for a wildlife photographer who is used to common types found virtually everywhere if you have the patience and luck to look. He was such a prize!

Part 5-Great Horned Owls

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