Saturday, 14 December 2013

Snowy Owl, Snow Bunting (20131213) Off to the north east with Dan

Dan and I had  dry run for Snowy's in early November to the Southeast so we thought we would give them another shot in the Northeast. With our recent successes we were pretty confident we could find something to grab images of. We were bundled up for the -20C  temperature and 20kph winds, but when we got out, it was brutally cold. We found a small group of Buntings and Dan was prepared to do a dump and run on them. We were unsuccessful, but were all set up for the next opportunity. Dan spied a good sized flock of Buntings on a gas line access way, and we decided to see if we could get close.  We grabbed some shots and when we returned to the truck Dan spied a lone bird on the side of the road.
He thought it was injured so investigated, and was actually able to touch the bird, and it flew off. This shot also provides a great idea of porportion, the bird isn't much longer than Dan's finger.
I believe that this is part of the birds defence system when they are all alone.  It was a terrific encounter that I am glad I was part of, I know that Jamie will be wanting the same experience the next time we are out ;)
Our first Owl of the morning was a pure white unit. It had been sitting on the plough line right along the side of the road and was basically invisible to us until it flew. We watched it go for quite a distance, and it once again just disappeared. Our next owl was a "pole bird" which flew over into the field and settled on the ground.
As you can tell from the photo we were dealing with a little ice fog at this time of the morning. We also found an area full of Magpies, Ravens and Coyotes, we investigated and found where someone had disposed of probably 15-20 pigs and piglets for some reason. On our walk to the spot and back we spotted at least 9 and there may have been as many as 10 Coyotes. Our third bird of the day provided us with evidence of the frost that was present everywhere due to the cold weather.
I am confident that this is a "repeat bird" from out trip to this area on December 1 (bird 2) which is encouraging to me as we may be able to find this same bird in this area again.  Here is a different view.
We picked up one more Snowy on the way home, I didn't get any images worth posting. Our drive home was highly anticipatory for me. Dan had asked if I would be interested in accompanying him to a Northern Pygmy Owl release, I was in like Flint! We stopped off to have a bite to eat and met up with Melanie from the rescue centre at Bebo Grove in Calgary. Everyone was very excited to see this fabulous bird returned to the wild.  Unfortunately the bird was not reacting well, and it was determined it should be monitored for another night. Later in the evening I was informed that the owl had died and that an autosy was in order to determine cause of death. I took may images of the petite bird while we were at the release site, but they just seem disturbing now.  Here is a single image to provide you with a good look at the bird, and a sense of how small they are, these are Melanie's gloved hands.
The news put a real damper on my mood for the rest of the evening, it is a real pity as it was supposted to be such a rewarding event!  I'd like to end the post on a more positive note with another terrific image of our friendly Snow Bunting.
I hope all is well with you and yours, have a great wildlife weekend.

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