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Catmendo

First sign of Snowy things for the year.

53 posts in this topic

I was only a mile from the house this morning on my way into the office when this Snowy began to appear up ahead in my headlights. There she was, just sitting in the middle of the gravel road near our residence. I immediately slowed down to a mere crawl, got my camera out of the bag, attached the 100 X 400mm lens onto to it and then slowly proceeded toward the owl. It's quite obvious the bird was blinded by the bright headlights of my burb. In turn it was reluctant to fly off out of harms way. When I got within ten yards of her, I began shooting. I actually proceeded to inch ahead ever so slowly to see just how close I could get before the bird flew off. I was within five yards when I captured this one.

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After taking a series of shots, I softly began speaking to this beautiful creature which soon encouraged her to fly off into the adjacent field. Finally, she was off the road and out of harms way!

For the record, it is extremely common for Snowy's to winter in my region. Plenty of wide open spaces (due to agriculture activities) and plenty of field mice to sustain themselves throughout the winter. Many years ago, I witnessed a snowy target and kill a muskrat out in Netley Marsh. It was March which is a time when the muskrat will commonly travel out in the open after spending the winter cooped up under the ice and snow. In this particular rats case, it should have stayed beneath ground! frown

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Cool story and a great picture, Stu. Not too many snowies winter in this part of the country, though I saw them often over in N.D. They are neat birds.

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What a great encounter with a beautiful bird! I have seen just a few in my life and always felt very privilaged.

Great shot!

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Since Stu saw that one, I've seen 3 others; all within 15 miles of each other. 2 females and one male. It's about 3 weeks early, "YIKES!"

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Man, that might bode well for us down in the lower 48 this winter! Gotta keep my ears open for sightings around here. What a great reason to borrow the new 800mm from Canon! gringrin

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Very nice shot. Anyone know where gatorhunter is from? I'd love to have the opportunity to photograph one of these. Actually, I did get a picture a few years ago, near here. However, my camera was a Sony Mavica with a maximum resolution of 640 X 480. frown

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Since Stu saw that one, I've seen 3 others; all within 15 miles of each other. 2 females and one male. It's about 3 weeks early, "YIKES!"

How can you tell the difference between male and female?

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Gatorhunter lives in Stu country, if memory serves.

Adult male snowies tend to have much more white and less black than females. There's a lot of variation among individual birds, and juveniles of both sexes can have a lot of black on them, so this is a tendency rather than a certain field mark separating sexes. But if you see a snowy that is very white with very little black, it's pretty much for sure an adult male.

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Snowy owls continue to be reported in growing numbers in many parts of Minnesota.

We see snowies every winter in some sort of numbers, but this is pretty early and the numbers so far may indicate we're in for a good winter for snowy owl viewing.

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Sax bog!......Oh I'm ready! grin....I heard from other birders the very same thing in that they expect another "owl invasion" this winter.....Guess we'll see grin

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Haven't heard of too many great grays down yet, Jonny, but I'd take an invasion of snowy owls any time!

And they tend to be quite a bit harder to approach than the GGOs, so that digiscope will be VERY handy. gringrin

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I never really thought about it but about 2-3 weeks ago I saw a flash of movement in the trees along the shores of Carey Lake near Hibbing on a walk one afternoon.....thinking it was an eagle at first but quickly determined it a great gray!....so...maybe there will be owls this year in our area! grin

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Now you've got my blood pumping. grin

Even without the owls, it was a memorable time last December.

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I have heard that a great way to get a shot is to put out a live mouse on top of the snow. Has anybody ever done this and do you need to be in a blind ? I think I am going to have to take my camera to the deer stand because the last time they came down I missed one of the greatest sights I have ever seen and that was a huge grey that landed about 35 feet away in a tree at the same height I was at and stared at me and then checked things out and then flew within 5 feet of me when it took off.

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Jim, some avian photographers do it and some don't.

There's a pretty big debate within the fraternity on whether it's ethical, with the debate being spread to Minnesota a few years back after the huge invasion year of great gray and northern hawk owls.

There are a variety of concerns, from the cruelty to the mouse to the possibility of pet-store mice introducing disease to the owl population to the safety of owls in traffic and the possibility that too much baiting will change owls' feeding patterns. Also whether feeding owls lots of mice isn't keeping many alive that would have died because of nature's stresses (the hand of man changing nature, and all that). Some seem more valid than others, but those are the rough issues.

It's an individual choice. If you do it, it's best to avoid areas with lots of vehicle traffic. Partly because if you're in a common birding area like Sax-Zim Bog and birders see you, you're likely to get a big fat lecture. Most birders are adamantly opposed to photographers' baiting owls. But more importantly, stressed owls will come right in next to you to pluck a mouse off the ground without much consideration of traffic, and they can be struck and killed.

Snowy owls, which generally do not come down into the lower 48 in winter because of a food supply crash (and so usually are not stressed), may or may not come in close if you lay out a mouse. GGOs and NHOs a few years back came in readily.

Baiting like this is pretty much how you ensure getting in-flight shots with owls low to the ground and coming toward the camera.

Realistically, a blind would be tough to work, because you generally cruise in a vehicle looking for owls, which wander a lot, so you'd have to hop out once you see one, set up the blind and your equipment, put out the mouse and then jump back into the blind. The bird already knows you're there. Probably better to use two people and no blind. The photographer sets up with the sun in the right direction if there is sun, and the helper moves 30 or 40 yards toward the owl and puts out the mouse, then walking away from the owl. Once the helper is far enough away to suit the owl, it'll come in and the photog can get the shot. Stressed owls probably will come right in. Healthy birds probably will wait longer.

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Thanks for all the good info Steve and that was exactly what I wanted to know. Now I will have to convince Lisa that she has to carry the live mouse so I can get the shot grin If there is a GTG at the bog you can count me in.

P.S. STU that is a very cool shot. I wish that I could see a Snowy

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Jim, if we do a bog GTG, I'd not recommend the mouse thing. Too many cooks keep the carrots from jumping into the pot. gringringrin

I think another one this year would be great. Last year's was a lot of fun. smilesmile

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Steve I have some areas at the cabin and around home that I could try this. I realize at the bog that there are bird watchers that who might just frown on that kinda stuff wink

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Last year I hung some deer ribs on Admiral road to photograph Boreal chickadees. S. Admiral is one of the more popular birding roads in the bog. At that time I had no idea how much attention those dang rib cages would attract. One birder even referred to the spot as the "Boreal chickadee shrine." Some of the birders were very against the practice of putting food out and others appreciated it. Where it gets interesting is even the ones who were complaining about the feeders stuck around, took pictures, and added a bird or birds to their life list. When they went home they complained on their blogs about people feeding the birds in the bog, and posted their pictures of the birds eating the food set out for them....lol They didn't have to stop right there and wait for a Boreal chickadee to show up and in the meantime have their trip ruined because someone put deer ribs out. Oh well, you can't make them all happy. This year I will probably find a more secluded spot to set up shop. I would be scared to get caught with a live mouse down there with a flock of birders around. It is a big swamp to disappear into and like birds, you usually find the birders in groups....lol

There was a pair of great grays that were believed to have nest down there this spring. The pair was observed hunting together off or Arkola and Stickney Rd for a few weeks. I spotted this one this summer.

owl2.jpg

I have been down to the bog a few times in the last couple weeks, I have recently seen a barred owl. Not a popular species for the bog, but an owl none the less. I also saw a Boreal Owl the was struck by a car on the shoulder of the road. There are also ton of snow buntings already if thats a sign of an invasion from the north.

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Great shot, Jay, and thanks for the added info.

Good numbers of snow buntings are common here this time of year. Sure are pretty birds.

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Nice great gray image Jay!...I know "exactly" who you are referring to in regards to the bird food/seed complaint last winter!.....I sent a "firm" e-mail to that "individual" in regard to the 2 sidedness and bashing of the feed station....people from all over the area including wisconsin were on the south admiral taking pics of the boreal chickadees and using spotting scopes at the station....I visited it frequently (as you know) and also saw that individuals negative comments blog and the mention of the "shrine"....funny how people can twist and contort a situation(new word grin) to make themselves look good...anyways I will be in the "bog" again this winter but I won't be throwing any seed out in that area...I kinda like "Owl Avenue" grin...might put a few pounds out but nothing like last winter....and place it much more selectively and more secluded....

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Jonny would you like hang a rib cage or 2 out in a secluded spot ? I would be more then happy to bring a couple up and help you hang them.

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