Monday, 1 December 2014

Short-eared and Snowy owls (20141129) A slow morning leads to a day that ends with a bang!

It seems like just about everyone took last weekend off for one reason or another, so Jamie was up for a Snowy owl hunt. The morning started as usual, an early morning and a stop for some breakfast and on the road while it was still dark. We had some pretty heavy cloud cover so I thought we could do a west to east then north run for the day, unless we happened to get very busy. By the way did I mention it was about -33C with wind chill? Some early morning Grey Partridge were our first sighting, it was still pretty dark so the images are acceptable for posting. With the cold weather we were reluctant to do any "stop, drop, and roll" but a group of Horned Larks provided an opportunity so we were out of the truck, and on the ground in the cold weather.
These birds wre no where near as accomodating as those from a couple of weeks ago. Next up was this Coyote, it was in our little badger area from acouple of weeks ago.
We were pretty dry on the owl front until 11:00 a.m. then we ran into a hot spot and found 5 inside an hour. This is the most cooperative of the subjects.
As you can see, our heavy cloud burned off to some low cloud an then into clear blue skies, terrific conditions for finding these beacons of white. On a creek bed we almost simultaneously spotted these Grey Partridge soaking in the sun and staying out of wind.
I thought I would throw in a second shot of these colourful birds as our first encounter didn't provide any good results.
As we had planned we headed north and found this bird on a cross in a cementry. I am hoping Jamie might add an image that represented the scene better. I liked this in-flight shot, it gives yet another indication of how close to the ground these birds like to fly.
Thinks were really starting to pick up and we were finding these majestic birds almost everywhere. Even on the TransCanada highway, if you took a little time to look you could spot them.
I think it is interested to watch how these birds are able to adapt to any man made structure and use it for their advantage. Here is a closer shot of the same bird.
Our next owl seemed to screaming, which is quite unusual as these birds are typically silent. Jamie is confident that he could hear it a high pitched screetch.
We were able to spy a couple more Snowy's on tall poles that provided no access. Our day count was adding up very nicely after a slower start.  As we swung back to the west with the sun lowering in the sky we spotted this gorgeous bird. This was the most cooperative Snowy of the day. It let us pull up, shoot, and we left it right where we found it. Not the most cooperative bird on the day though, more to come on that later.
We were very grateful for this bird spending some time with us and letting us be on our way without disturbing it. Our next bird is a little back lit, but I really like the image. You can see the frost/snow still on the barbed wire on this fence as well.

Next up was our most entertaining encounter of the day. I spotted this Short-eared owl in a tree (that in itself is a first for me), As we were watching it decided to do a little hunting. Long story short, it flew in very close to us and allowed us to grab some images. I will be doing a supplemental on this bird soon.
As we left this bird, just a couple of hundred yards up the road Jamie spotted a Badger, our second of the year already. We didn't manage to grab any images though, it popped into a snow covered culvert and we weren't going to disturb it any further. Our last Snowy of the day, making number 15 for our trip and an owl total of 16 was this beautiful bird.
So a new personal record day for both Jamie and I for owl totals, and inspite of the cold weather, a fabulous day. Put some wild in your life soon. A supplemental of the Shorty will be up shortly.

I want to thank Jamie for the shot of my truck from today. We had been "drift surfing" in the morning and even had been stuck in the drifts or a while. If you look close you can see where snow has stuck to the very top of the windshield. The front end is packed up tight with snow from blasting through the drifts.
I love that the truck performed like a warrior today!

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