Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Snowy Owl Snow Prints

Thanksgiving weekend is often marked by my first Snowy Owl sightings of the season seen during my travels north to Marinette, WI for the holiday. My route has traditionally included birding stops along the shore of Lake Michigan's Green Bay at the Oconto Harbor and the Menominee River Mouth in Marinette. In most years, these stops are highlighted by one to several Snowy Owl sightings. With this year shaping up to be notable irruption year for this species, it's no surprise I was able to find a couple of Snowy Owls in their usual haunts with little effort.

Menominee River Mouth, Marinette, WI
On a perfectly calm and balmy early eve on November 30, 2013, this Snowy Owl was spotted roosting on a pier near the Menominee River Mouth in Marinette.  Keeping a respectable distance, I observed this bird for some time and digiscoped some images .

However in time, the owl fled its roost for the tip of nearby Seagull Bar State Natural Area, possibly flushed by my presence or by the other pedestrian walking his beagle, or perhaps it was simply off to hunt the nearby open waters that offered an extensive selection of ducks for the taking. Either way, the owl leaving its roost, opened the opportunity to walk to the end of the pier for closer scope views of the waterbirds on Green Bay.

However, the coolest discovery was not the ducks on the bay but the series of prints left by the owl in the thin layer of snow. Evidence of several roosting locations were discovered on my return walk to shore.  Each print was unique with its associated wing, body, foot and talon impressions that presented a puzzle of sorts, a whimsical suggestion of the owl's behavior.

Stumbling upon this scaup carnage was evidence that the owl had enjoyed a recent hearty meal.  While the jury is out as to whether this was a Lesser or Greater Scaup, we can be assured this duck is definitely lesser than it once was.

Scaup Carnage

As on most relatively clear nights, the setting sun presented a gorgeous palate of blues, oranges, yellows and pinks compounded by reflections on the placid waters that this calm night afforded. Having grown up in Marinette, I have witnessed many sunrises and sunsets from this particular pier, but never possessed the profound of appreciation for this area until later in life when I moved away. The scene on this particular evening was a testament to the beauty that can overcome this rather industrialized shoreline.

Government Pier, Marinette, WI
The Menominee River Mouth, Marinette, WI

While the quantity of birds and bird species is never great during the winter months, the quality, OWLS gorgeously white owls against the quiet stillness of season, puts birding during this time of year among my favorites.

Government Pier, Marinette, WI

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love the owl tracks! Keep on blogging on...honey