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More Owls

Published December 25, 2013
Tags: General Observations, Short-eared Owl, Snowy Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, Snow Bunting, Lapland Longspur, Ring-billed Gull

Merry Christmas to all! Decorations are hung, presents are bought and wrapped, cookies are baked and frosted, and today's food is prepared. Early this morning, I spent a little downtime in front of the tree catching up on my blog while the rest of the family slept.

This Christmas post goes back several days to a couple of outings I squeezed in during all the Christmas madness. One trip was to Orleans County where I stopped to watch the Short-eared Owls hunt in the setting sun. The other was in Niagara County where I was seeking Lapland Longspurs and spotted a Snow Owl.

Four Short-eared Owls were out hunting the late afternoon I stopped in Orleans County after looking for gulls in Niagara Falls. I had such a nice time just sitting in the car and watching their magnificent displays. At times, two would interact with one another, swirling upwards in the sky - and it was difficult to tell whether they were fighting or beginning a romance. With the car windows open, I heard one owl, in particular, making its almost cat-like, squeal call. This owl was perched in a tree and continued to yell, "kee-ow" over and over.  Very cool!

A few days later, I took a spontaneous trip out to Wilson, NY in search of some Lapland Longspurs that were seen. It was the day of a big thaw and rain people were struggling with flooding, downed tree limbs, and power outages everywhere. Amidst all the difficulties, the outside world was magically glistening with a crystalline painting of ice. It was breathtaking.

The driving was better than expected and I cruised along farm fields looking for the longspurs. At one field, I saw a probable white, plastic bag - or maybe another Ring-billed Gull out in the field. No - wait...  What?  It was a Snowy Owl!  My first sighting on my own!  Wow!  He (I THINK a young male) sat unconcerned as I slowly got out of the car and, at a respectful distance, took several photos. Soon, a couple of other cars pulled up and, forgetting to move slowly, I turned and quickly walked towards the visitors; the owl flushed.  Doh!  I should've been more cautious.  Fortunately, he flew just a little further out and I don't think any harm was done.

At the roadside, I met Bill B. for the first time and a woman postal worker. Bill quickly relocated the owl and we chatted while we all looked at the owl and observed at least 200 Snow Buntings flying around the field.  Overhead, I heard a few Lapland Longspurs but I never did get the views of them that I had driven out for.

I just recently read that these young Arctic owls are more tied to habitat structure, not food abundance. So, in some sad cases, an owl might sit in a field that perfectly resembles the tundra from where it came, in wait for rodents or birds. If the field is barren, however, the owl won't seek a more opportune location, rather, it will continue to sit and wait - and starve.  It bodes very well for this particular owl, however. The field is teeming with life and I imagine it will do very well...
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Short-eared Owl
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Snowy Owl in an icy field
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Red-tailed Hawk on an icy perch
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One of at least 60 Ring-billed Gulls in the same field as the Snowy Owl