Friday, 22 December 2017

Tuesday Rambles with David - Quest for Snowy Owl (Harfang des neiges)

19 December 2017

     We decided that what we would all most like for Christmas was a Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) so we set off to scour the areas where these denizens of the north frequently spend the winter, especially in years when there is insufficient food on their tundra habitat. 
     Mary was not with us, having just returned from a visit to Florida with her daughter, but the other seven of our usual group of eight set off. Franc as always had his camera at the ready. Sometimes I think it is welded to his hand!
     It was not long before we found our first bird (in total we had seven sightings of at least five birds) - a beautiful female.


     Ironically, we have had a mild spell of late and most of the snow has melted, but the brown substrate gives a little better chance of seeing a bird.

     
      You can see from the images above how the birds seek out remaining patches of snow to roost during the day.
      Under any conditions they are magnificent; in flight ghostly and surreal.


      
     A male is noticeably smaller than a female, and almost pure white. This is the Snowy Owl that most people conjure up in their minds. 


     When there is a lot of snow on the ground a male can be very difficult to spot. In flight they are sublime.



       Snowy Owls are not the only visitors from the north. We saw as large a flock of Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis) as we have ever seen, certainly in the range of 1,500 to 2,000 birds, although it is very difficult to get a good indication of a swirling flock of these avian gems.


     Here is a little closer detail.


     Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) - known as Northern Shrike here in North America (why we are different from the rest of the world I don't know) - is an uncommon visitor to our parts during the winter, but is not easy to find. Sometimes I go a whole winter without a single sighting, so we were ecstatic to have this close view - and it was a lifer for Franc, Carol, Jim and Francine.



     Just before leaving "Snowy Owl" territory, we spotted another large female on a discarded piece of farm equipment, probably a different bird from the one we had seen earlier - but who can be sure?



     Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) are notoriously hard to photograph, for often in the past it was a gun that a human wielded, not a camera, and Franc is to be congratulated for these fine images.



     What a great afternoon of birding! I am sure we will do it again.

28 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    My word, these are incredible shots! Am envious of your sightings. I've got gulls, gulls, magpies, crows... wishing you the very best for the festive season and may 2018 bring endless viewings of these fabulous critters! YAM xx

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  2. Hello, Beautiful Snowy Owls and sightings. I love the flock of Snow Buntings. The Shrike was a great find too. Wonderful outing and photos. Have a happy day and weekend. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

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  3. The Snowy Owls are also lifers for Franc and I. And as you say they are truly "magnificent". It was a fabulous day of birding with friends. We will certainly go in search of them again

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  4. Hi David.

    Great this Snowy Owl.

    Groettie from Patricia.

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  5. Amazing set of photos once again. I am so jealous of the snowy owl, the only one I have ever set eyes on was in captivity :-((
    Thanks for the kind comment on my blog but I think the camera lies, I do not have as few wrinkles as that picture seems to show and it was untouched!
    Take care and hope you have a great weekend and Christmas. Diane

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  6. I guess Snowy Owl comes just behind Great Grey Owl on my wish list, David. As you probably know, they do show up in UK from time to time - but not usually in readily accessible places!

    I hope you are both all prepared for Christmas. Have a wonderful time! With love to you both - - - Richard

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    1. Well, Richard, in some years we have Great Grey Owls too, so you will have to sneak a visit by yourself when that happens.

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  7. Hi Both,
    Superb images of the Snowy Owl, I am spoilt with the Barn Owls but would love the chance to get some images of this beautiful bird, Tel Franc I am full of envy, they would not be an easy bird to get a decent image from with all the white, the male wold be a nightmare.
    Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year.
    John

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    1. Hi John: He deserves special credit for these images since it was a very grey day. The light was quite poor for photographic purposes.

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  8. Espectacular reportaje del Búho nival, me han encantado todas las fotos. Las del Lanius excubitor y el busardo también son espectaculares. Mis mejores deseos para el Año Nuevo, que venga cargado de Naturaleza y buenas fotos. FELIZ NAVIDAD!!!

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  9. Wonderful pictures of this fantastic Owl.. Have a happy holidays. Merry christmassss

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  10. Beautiful images of your winter visitors! We frequently have Snowy Owls during irruption years, and Red-Tailed Hawks in various seasons. But I don't recall seeing Snow Buntings. They are certainly beautiful little birds, too. Thanks for sharing these pictures from your outings. Happy Holidays!

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  11. Hi David, a Snowy Owl and Great Grey Shrike, beautiful birds, bravo.

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  12. The owls are just amazing. What a fantastic Christmas gift. Also love the shrike and hawk. Unusual that your friend went to visit her daughter in Florida! Mostly it is the other way round .... older generation who is here! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to both of you and thank you for sharing as always!

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    1. Maybe I didn't word it well, Sallie. Mary's daughter was attending a business convention down there and Mary decided to go with her. They both live right here in Ontario. All the very best for Christmas and the New Year. I will look forward to the continued enjoyment of your excellent posts.

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  13. Amazing shots of the owl and I do love the red-tailed hawk. I got several shots of 3 different hawks today, but none are in a beautiful setting. Happy Holidays!

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  14. Wow, your shots of the owl in flight are simply stunning.

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  15. Hello David,
    What a great shots of that owl. Really amazing to see this.
    And wonderful that big Red tailed Hawk.

    I wish you a nice Christmas.

    Greetings, Marco

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  16. Such beautiful birds and awesome captures of them! I've never seen Snowy Owl. Merry Christmas to You and Your family!

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  17. hello David, that is one bird that I would love to see one day. Once there was a siting in the North of Holland a few year ago. So the change is there. I also like that Shrike very much indeed.
    Whishing you and Miriam all the best and warmth for this season with all your loved ones.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  18. Wow!
    Beautiful birds and wonderful images.
    That Snowy Owl is simply awesome.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    All the best Jan

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  19. The snowy owls are beautiful, both the male and female. And the same goes for the other birds as well! A very fruitful outing for you and your group. A blessed Christmas and joyous new year to you and love ones!

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  20. I'm lucky to see 1 or 2 Snow Buntings every year or 2 here in Hokkaido. Great Grey Shrikes are even rarer (I've never seen one in Japan). And Snowy Owls would give heart attacks to the local birders..........

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  21. Amazing photos! I spotted a shrike once, on my tree, whilst sitting in my easy chair. It's tough birding, some days!

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  22. What a majestic bird is the snowy owl, I really like that species, it would be a dream to see and photograph it; reminds me The Gig Year movie where it was the most difficult figurine. Interesting to see also the other species
    Regards

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  23. What amazing photos of this gorgeous owl! Every year, I set a goal to see an owl on one of our hikes. We hear barred owls and great horned owls but I have yet to see one. I hope I'm not to nervous to photograph one when I DO see one...which I know I will! Enjoy your weekend!

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