Monday, December 1, 2008

It's Snowy Time!

Although I do not have an honorable representation, I do have photographic evidence of how I will spend my winter...chasing Snowy Owls! As the irruption year of the snowy has definately begun, the northern parts of Illinois are starting to spot quite a few owls in the past few weeks. Lucky for me, there happens to be one making it's temporary home in the farm fields about 30 minutes from my home. Interestingly enough, he chose a place near a giant wind farm! I can't believe the turbines doesn't intimidate him:



This is the second Snowy I have ever seen, so it's distance is frustrating. My first was a few years ago, back on Christmas Day 2006. That morning was as magical as Santa Clause...

Here's how that morning went:





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 2006. 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 scanning the fields for anything white. We found alot of Walmart bags, and milk jugs cleverly disguised, and pushed on. We are getting close to the crossroad we are looking for. We now need to find a rusty corrugated steel barn with 2 windows. (When you are in farm country, every barn is practically the same.) 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! 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 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 thrilled that he wasn't disturbed by us, that we thanked him and left after plenty of shots. We came back a few more times after that day, and found him in the cornfields, and once, luckily enough, on a utility pole just as the sun was setting. He was a beautiful bird and a prize for any wildlife enthusiast!

Now, if only I could talk this years bird into a closer shot...

12 comments:

Shellmo said...

Great, exciting photos of the snowy owl! One of the most beautiful owls for sure!! Oh how I would love to see one....I will need to live vicariously thru you.

Craig Glenn said...

Totally AWESOME!!!

What a great find and adventure! The photo's are great and I loved the story. I also enjoy the education you provide, so my knowledge in birding grows.
Great post hannibal,
Craig

Tina said...

Remarkable photos! Loved the story to go with them..I would love to see a Snowy or actually any owl for that matter!! I will be anxiously following your blog.. for your next siting! Thanks.

Richard said...

Great pictures. That one would be a first for me.

Michele Wassell said...

WOW! What a beautiful owl... Lovely pics.. Enjoyed your blog.. :)

jalynn01 said...

How exciting!! Interesting facts about the Snowy Owl. I love your photographs!My friend and I traveled a couple hours away a while ago to see one and spent the day searching but found nothing. Disappointed we were to say the least. I have never seen one but look forward to that day!! Lucky You!! Can't wait to see more shots.

Gardener's Garden said...

These are beautiful shots of the Snowey Owl and I wish you the best on your winter quest. I have never even seen one of these birds but still get excited when I hear them.

Bird Girl said...

Hannibal!!! You lucky duck!!! I am so jealous!!! haha!
Yep...jalynno1 and I just made a 5-6 hour round trip to see a snowy that had been hanging around on top of a small red barn for a couple of weeks and we JUST missed him by a day or two - darn!
My husband is a falconer and a hunter. Many years ago he was hunting spring turkeys when he saw that same 'white' you were looking for in the field. When he approached he found a snowy owl (in MAY!!!) The poor thing was injured and could not fly. And he brought it home...into the house...and upstairs to the bedroom where I was sound asleep - needless to say - I about died!

I LOVE your shot in the morning on the barn - it is almost mystical and oh so beautiful!!!

Also neat to see the perspective of the huge windmills and the very small owl!

I can't WAIT to see more! I'm rootin' for ya even though I'm turning greener by the second ;-)

Melissa Weisbard said...

I love the photos of the snowy owls. They are really beautiful!

Don and Sher said...

Great shots as usual, I hear there are two of them not far from my house and I will be checking them out tomorrow.

Todd Dixon said...

Wow! I have never seen a Snowy Owl! If I were to chase a bird, Snowy Owl would be one of the few that would send me on my way. Maybe this year I will get my chance as they head further south than normal.

Oh...thanks for all the comments! And sorry that my Google map didn't play nice with Safari. I had no idea, but I can tinker with it on my Mac to see if I might be able to fix it :-)

Marsha said...

I have never seen one of these and am in awe of these photos. How lucky are we, your readers, to be able to see the remarkable things you show us!