Sunday, February 12, 2012

Snowy Owls near Regina

Snowy Owl (A), young male or female, 
on telephone/power pole
along Highway 11 near Regina 
© SB  
I've seen five snowy owls in two days — not a bad record for two short drives along roads north of Regina.

I decided to go snowy-owl-seeking after 1) a work colleague mentioned her sister had seen one, and 2) a Google search turned up a story by University of Regina journalism student Trelle Burdeniuk, who saw owls on Highway 11, not far out of the city. (The one in her photo looks like mine, at left. Lots of markings. Same bird? Who knows?)

What could be better? Potentially easy to find — and by car! (At minus 25C, the temperature on my drive yesterday, bird watching from a heated vehicle seemed like a very good idea. But yes, I did have to get out to take pictures.)

Snowy owls summer in the Arctic, where the young are born, then fly south to winter in places like sunny Saskatchewan, keeping our overall population numbers steady while the local humans flee the cold for Mexico, Jamaica and Hawaii.

Trelle's story quotes Denver Holt, who is called one of the world's leading experts on these birds, and Saskatchewan wildlife photographer James Page, who says the majority of snowy owls he's seeing are young, and still have many dark markings.

Looks like an angel...  Snowy Owl (A)  lifts into flight. 
Look at those massive feet!!! © SB 
The most intriguing bird I found fit this bill. It hunkered on the top of a pole watching me, waiting until I got close before it lifted into flight, wings stretched wide, huge feathered feet tucked under it. Let's call it Bird A. From its markings, it was either an immature male or a female... From my read of the descriptions on Cornell's All About Birds (which say young males tend to have a white bib, white back of the head, and fewer markings on the tail), I'd say young male — but who knows? There are two pictures on my other blog of Bird A in flight: one shows its back, the other, its belly. Guess for yourself!

I saw Bird B, the most beautifully snowy, along the same stretch of Highway 11 where I found Bird A. It was larger, with few markings and tolerated me walking back and forth along the shoulder of the road, below its perch. He (yes, a bird this white would be male) stayed still long enough for a semi-backlit portrait that shows a ruff of white feathers around one eye. (I've posted this online, too, on LatitudeDrifts.)

Birds C was (again, on the top of a power pole) on the old highway near Lumsden. It was not long after dawn this morning, and its white feathers picked up a slight gold tone from the sun. (Lovely light!)

Snowy owl (C). Awesome wingspan - and feet! © SB 

A,B, C = 3. What about the other two snowy owls? One was on a power in a field along Highway 11, the other was also near Lumsden, on a pole beside Highway 734.

Snowy Owl Telephone (Power?) Pole Club:   

Based on my experience (which is almost negligible, I'll admit!), the easiest way to find snowy owls is to scan the tops of power and telephone poles. In winter, of course. And being in Saskatchewan helps. Snowy owls are large enough to be visible a short distance away.

Snowy Owl B
Snowy Owl C

Snowy Owl B
(See LatitudeDrifts for
a great close-up!) 

Note: These pictures will open larger when left-clicked. You can zoom in or see slightly larger versions of most by right-clicking the opened versions, then clicking "open image in new tab" and going to that tab.  


What are these? Snowy Owls. For more pictures of these birds, see my post today on LatitudeDrifts
Location: near Regina,Saskatchewan: Birds A and B, along Highway 11, in the first set of poles (east side of the road) just north of the turn off to Condie; Bird C, along Highway 734, near St. Michael's, south of Lumsden.
Photo dates: February 11 and 12, 2012


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