Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Snowy Owls, Pheasant (20131208) Can we find a couple of birds for the post.

Still very pleased with the results of the Saturday trip, Jamie and I were hopeful we could have the same type of success. For those of you not aware, we have had two very successful irruption years of Snowy's and we are expecting this year to be very light. To date, I can tell you that there are far fewer Snowy's around this year versus the past two. But the final vote is still not in. We started out as usual in the dark, the weather was cold and windy with snow drifting around wildly.
Like many trips last year, we were able to find our first owl of the day right around 8:30 in the morning, just as the sun was coming up. And, like last week the owl was vary wary and no decent shots were taken. It was at this time I suggested to Jamie we halt the "train" approach, and see how we would do just using the vehicle as a blind. Our second Owl was on Jamie's side and we were able to get much closer before it flew. I am hoping Jamie has something he can share with us. Our third bird, I found while Jamie was doing a Snowbunting ambush. By the time I found this bird, 9:00a.m.we were starting to see some promise of blue skies. This was a very skittish bird, that is why the long distnce shot. I alwas try to get a shot first then move closer for a better opportunity, so this is merely an evidence shot!
We would put up small flocks of Horned Larks and some pretty good sized Snow Bunting flocks, and Jamie would "pop" out when the opportunities provided themselves. This is a method or strategy that I developed last spring when in the presence of a bunting flock. The second time he rolled out he had a sucessful encounter, as I am not present when this happens only he has shots of these encounters. Jamie spotted this bright white bird. It is amazing how we all think of snow as being "white", these birds re-define that colour.
The bird was a very long distance away, and it too was very skittish.
We were probably 200-250 yards away and it still flushed. As you can see we started to enjoy some bright sun which also highlights these birds even more when they are out in the field.
It is worrisome that these birds are so nervous, as they expend considerable energy at a time when they really need it. Our next bird, number 5 on the day, was also "out standing in its field" :) While the previous bird appeared to be a male due to the amount of white and lack of heavy barring, I belive that this bird was also a male.
We had begun to make our way back home, trying to take advantage our environment. We were cruising along and all of a sudden we found our number 6 bird on a "low percentage" perch, so it surprised us. It surprised us further by sitting for some portraits before vacating. This was by far and away our best opportunity to truly capture this birds beauty.
As this bird was so gracious, I thought I would post a second image. An encounter that boosts our optimism that these birds might "calm down" and allow some better photo opportunities.
This was our final Snowy of the day, which tripled our score from the week previous. Perhaps we will still have a pretty good year for these terrific subjects. While there is a great deal of thought that these irruptions are driven by the Lemming numbers as a food supply, I have a slightly different view. This will be contrary to the popular view, but I believe that if a young bird migrates (perhaps due to unavailable food) for the first two years of its life, it will migrate on the third year out of "habit". I am open to your comments on that as a point of view.  We continued exploring the area we were in as this is not one of my "standard" tracks, looking for more opportunities. We finished up our day with this hen Pheasant.
I think it was a great opportunity to show my brother Len we do get these birds here in Alberta as well, occasionally. This wraps up this journey's commentary, have a great wildlife day!

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