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Tag Archives: Snowy Owl

Yesterday a friend and I ventured out to the dryland wheat country south of here, across the Columbia and River and up on the plateau in search of Snowy Owls. It was a lovely sunny day. We saw quite a few interesting birds including numerous Rough-legged Hawks, a Prairie Falcon, Snow Buntings, American Kestrels and others. The landscape in that area is criss-crossed with a grid of roads every mile. The north/south roads have letter names – A, B, C, etc. And the east/west roads nave number names. That seems easy enough but often roads don’t go through or are not maintained so navigation can be a challenge. And don’t even think about using a phone app to navigate. No doubt, you will be sent down a road that has not been maintained in many years.

We were sticking to the rougher roads, thinking the owls would be off the beaten path but we were not finding them. We turned down a good paved county road and shortly my friend was slapping the door and saying STOP! There it was, maybe 20 meters off the road perched on the side of big rock outcropping. What a view! We were delighted. For my friend it was a lifer – the first time she had ever seen this species.

We watched it for a while and it seemed pretty unconcerned with our presence and when we left, it was still taking in the warm sun. Snowy Owls nest in the far north on the tundra. They eat lemmings and when there is a shortage of food they migrate farther south in the winter. This year there have been a few of them reported around Washington. It’s always such a treat to see these magnificent wild animals.

Following that we returned down to the big river and watched a variety of water birds and then we went to a park where she had seen  Northern Saw-whet Owls recently. We located the white wash on the ground and looking straight up we could see the tiny owl looking down at us.

It was a good day.


This is a male American Kestrel approaching a female on a delicate branch.

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As a birder, there are certain birds that really spark my imagination. Snowy Owl is one of those birds. This winter, like last year, there seems to be an ‘irruption’ of these charismatic birds. This means that a higher than usual amount of sightings are being reported around the Pacific NW as well as in other parts of the country. Snowy Owls nest in the far north tundra of Canada and Alaska. In a good year, when many young survive, there may not be enough food (voles, mice, lemmings, etc) for all of them to survive in the southern areas of Canada so they push farther south into the US. This year, the reports of these birds arriving in an emaciated state in locations that are sometimes not suitable habit, such as urban Seattle; indicates that many of the young birds may be starving. Wildlife rehabilitators all over Washington have been ‘rescuing’ Snowy Owls in hopes of building up there strength so they can be released again to more appropriate habitats. The good news is that some have already been returned to health and then released.

On Tuesday, driving down from the Rendezvous on a foggy, dark day, I was lucky enough to see a Snowy Owl with my friend Jennifer! It was a first for her and I was delighted to know it was out there. However, when I slowed the car it flew and disappeared into the the snowy sage-covered hills; very wary of anyone wanting to view it. To my eye, that’s a good sign that it is a healthy bird. The emaciated ones have allowed people to get very close to them because they could barely fly.

Yesterday more friends saw the owl and made some wonderful photos! Of course, I could not ignore this and had to try myself to get some images. Despite a head cold that knocked me for a loop yesterday, I ventured out, strengthened with cold meds. The bird was in the same general area and allowed me to park and get out of my car with my camera on a monopod! When it would turn its head away from me (often as much as 180 degrees), I’d advance a step or two. This continued for fifteen minutes or so til it (and then I) heard voices up the hill. There were some people on a walk, oblivious to the scene below. The bird became quite wary and flew off to another perch and then still another one. I decided it was time to leave the bird alone so it could enjoy the sunshine or hunt in peace and went on my way.
























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