It looks like another year of abundant Snowy Owls here in Western New York, but it really takes looking around for these very disguised birds. They don’t call them snowys for nothing, so count yourself lucky to find one. They are very hard to locate. See if you can find one in the image below. That photo is zoomed in at 400mm too.
They blend into the snow-covered fields here where they are found hunting and resting. They are not nocturnal like many other owls and can hunt in daylight or at night. We had a light snowfall in the morning so they did not have much snow in which to take cover, but they do rest on snow making them more difficult to see. The snowys in the field are mere blobs of white, very distant to our location. I had to severely crop the images for you to even see the birds in this post.
They must have had a successful breeding year again and so did the lemmings apparently. More lemmings means more owls. This particular day we saw four young male Snowy Owls. Young owls are an indicator of high breeding success.
My mission this year is to find as many as possible since last year was the first year I saw them in any numbers. Snowy Owls are generally sedentary during the day, but get a lot more animated when hunting at dusk.
I hope to get them on the hunt at some point, but they are leery of people. In the Great Lake regions where we are between, the owls feed on ducks. If we get snow this winter, I will check the beaches.
Snowy Owls spend summers in the Arctic, nesting out on the tundra where few people visit. Photos of them in Alaska showed the owls on open snow-free grasslands. When they head our direction in the winter they find similar habitat at our airports.
Because native grasslands have been disappearing due to human development, airports are some of the only remaining open habitats. Other grassland species are also found at airports, including Eastern Meadowlarks, and American Kestrels. We saw the Kestrel (a very small raptor) at the airport along with three of the four owls.
So if you want to see Snowys, scan farmer fields, but don’t forget to look up! We almost missed this one right outside the car window.
Check out Garden Walk Garden Talk for where I am going to see eagles! I so hope the weather gods grant me fine photography weather, but that is not what is predicted. Big, big storm in a couple of days!