Monday, April 4, 2016

Snowy Owl @ Pt. Mouillee SGA - 23 Dec 2015

I grabbed the bike and headed down to Pt. Mouillee SGA in Monroe Co., MI to do a bit of scouting for this Saturday's Rockwood Christmas Bird Count. I was hoping to find something that may count toward the Count Week totals (3 days before and after the official date).

I rode around the south end of Cell 3 and found a Snowy Owl sitting next to a pier along the east shoreline next to Lake Erie. I walked back out to the Lake Erie Shoreline and slowly approached the bird as it roosted next to a large pipe. Not wanting to disturb it I maintained a healthy 100' distance and digiscoped it as it quietly scanned its surroundings. At one point it walked to the end of the pier and sat quietly watching the world around it.

After a few hundred digiscoped pics (and a few w/ the 300/2.8 VRII and Nikon D7100) the skies opened up and I was soon enveloped in a downpour.  I decided it was a good time to back away and allow the bird to return to its bit of shelter next to the pipe.  I would ride back to the car through a downpour and muddy trails thoroughly drenched, but happy.

While reviewing images of the bird I tried to determine if it was a male or female. Most recent literature suggests that sexing owls in the field is now risky since its possible to see all-white females when all-white birds were considered males. Still, I checked the Cornell Website for some ID tips and decided to use extent of bib and broken barring on the tail to call my bird a male. Some brown feathering along the edges of the flight feathers suggest that it may be a sub-adult bird, but am only speculating.

Other references include Josephson (1980) and McMorris (2011), which are worth a good read!

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