West Side Story

West Side Story by Goyo P
West Side Story, a photo by Goyo P on Flickr.

I stopped calling the Snowy Owl the “Lenawee Snowy” a few weeks ago. It was so close to the county border I knew it would cross the line at some point. Last night it did. Here it is sitting on a pole in Monroe County. I hope the Sharks don’t catch him.

The photo was taken on Saturday, February 25th near dusk along County Line Road about three miles north of M-50.

Double!

Double! by Goyo P
Double!, a photo by Goyo P on Flickr.

Oh what a day! Lenawee Birders spotted two female Purple Finches in the morning and then located the second Snowy Owl in the afternoon. It was a great day for birding.

After viewing the “barred” Snowy Owl off Rixom Road, Johanna Lentz and her brother Lucas spotted the all white Snowy Owl off County Line Road.

Another Snowy in Britton

Another Snowy Night by Goyo P
Another Snowy Night, a photo by Goyo P on Flickr.

On my drive home Monday night I noticed a lot of the snow had melted off the fields. So, when I got home I grabbed my gear and headed to Britton. The all-white Snowy Owl has not been seen since last Friday. It’s probably there- just too hard to see in a snow covered field.

When I saw a tiny white object sitting on a dirt mound off Rixom Road I assumed it was the all-white Snowy Owl. But, to my surprise it was a different owl. This owl as you can see in the photo is more barred.

I spoke with birder, Johanna Lentz the other day and asked if this might be the same owl she saw several weeks ago near her family farm. She believes it is.

From observing both Snowy Owls I noticed that the all-white owl tends to sleep all day in open fields and then begins to hunt at dusk. This darker owl was hunting when I spotted it Monday night (around 4:30 pm). It’s just a guess but perhaps this owl moves around a lot during the day, thus making it harder to find? Whatever the case, we have two different Snowy Owls hanging around Britton, MI. Both are magnificent birds!

Britton Snowy still here

I took this photo on Monday. It was last seen yesterday (Feb. 9th) off Rixom Road. I hope to get out there again this weekend to see if I can get another look.

Also, don’t forget to stop by the Brookside Cemetery in Tecumseh.  The White-winged Crossbills are still there- feeding mostly on Hemlocks.  To find them takes a bit of patience.  I drive to the middle of the conifers and park in the circle.  It’s important to turn off the vehicle so you can hear them.  They do move around a lot from Hemlock to Hemlock so I usually wait in the circle and look for movement….from tree to tree and also from tree to ground.  Sometime they are hard to see in the tree if it’s windy.  Waiting for movement has helped me locate them.  IF it’s quiet you can almost always hear them…not just by their call but also by the sound of cones being pried open.  It kinda sounds like rice crispies when you pour milk over them….snap, crackle, pop!  Good luck and good birding!

Sunday Snowy Sunday

  Will a time come when it gets old to read or hear about Snowy Owls in Lenawee?  I don’t know.  Finding the Snowy Owl today was just as exciting as seeing it for the first time last Tuesday.  It’s not that active.  It mostly sits there, ruffles its feathers every now and then, preens, looks around at the passing Larks, and occasionally yawns.  But strangely I couldn’t keep my eyes off it.  It’s too far for a good photo.  Looking through a scope is nice.  You can see it’s face better.  But binoculars work just fine.  I enjoyed meeting so many birders from all over southeast Michigan and Ohio.  Shortly after I arrived on the scene at 9:30 am a dozen cars showed up, loaded with men, women, kids, teens, young and old.  I talked to a local farmer.  He was so proud of his resident owl.  He even had pictures of another Snowy Owl that landed in his tree a few years ago.    Some photographers looked frustrated…contemplated jumping the irrigation ditch.  But nobody wants to be the one who flushes the owl and prevents others from seeing it.  Most folks were content to simply be in its presence.  My favorite part of the day was watching two young kids look through my scope.  I lowered it down to their level.  The look of pure happiness filled their faces.  I met several birders who subscribe to the University of Michigan Birders list serve.  It was nice to put names to faces.

The Snowy Owl was located in a field south of M-50, east of Downing Road, north of Pocklington.  Pocklington Road seemed to be the best vantage point.

Good birding!

Snowy Saturday

I wasn’t planning on going to Britton again today.  The last time the Snowy Owl was seen was last Tuesday night.  But when I received an email this morning that said it was relocated I grabbed my scope and headed out the door.

It was first seen on a telephone pole on Downing Road just south of M-50.  But when I arrived it had already flown off.  I drove slowly down the quiet dirt roads and noticed about a dozen other vehicles doing the same thing.  When I was about ready to give up I was flagged down by a Saline birder who yelled out his window, “the owl is over here!”.

The Snowy Owl was equidistant between Hoagland and Downing.  I pulled over and set up my scope.  It appeared to be the same all-white Snowy Owl from Tuesday night.  I stayed and watched it through my scope for 2 hours and talked to birders from Farmington Hills, Ann Arbor, Saline and Toledo.  All these people were coming to Lenawee County to catch a glimpse of a rare Snowy Owl.  While I was standing there a local man pulled up next to me.  He asked what we were looking at?  I pointed the owl out to him.  He replied, “oh that owl has been around a lot lately”.  Charles Owens and I believe that this owl may be hanging around because of all the waterfowl near the Britton sewage lagoons.  It’s a great place for him to swoop in and pick up a Mallard or two.

It’s hard to tell how long the Snowy Owl will stick around?  It may be enjoying a bit of solitude in the barren soybean fields right now, but in a few months the John Deere tractors will awaken from their winter slumber.  In the mean time I hope this Snowy finds what it needs here and it’s nice to see so many out-of-towners coming to Lenawee to go birding.  One birder from Farmington Hills asked me if I see many Northern Harriers in Lenawee?  I told her Northern Harriers are all over…wherever there is a grassy field there’s a Northern Harrier….and you only have to drive a mile to see a grassy field.  She replied, “all we have in Farmington Hills are houses”.   I think she’ll be back.

Lenawee County Snowy Owl

Lenawee County Snowy Owl by Goyo P
Lenawee County Snowy Owl, a photo by Goyo P on Flickr.

Britton, MI seems to be the epicenter for Snowy Owl sightings in Lenawee County.

This Snowy Owl was spotted on Monday night by Russell Columbus of Tecumseh.  It was sitting on a power pole along M-50 near County Line Road.  On Tuesday morning Blissfield resident, Charles Owens, relocated the owl in a field off Downing Road.

I took a drive to Britton Tuesday evening and found the beautiful Snowy Owl in the same field earlier reported by Owens.  Janet Kauffman of Hudson and friends were there when I arrived.  She stated, ” The owl was resting, roosting, sometimes preening,” for the 2 1/2 hours she was there.  “Far enough away that a scope helps, but close enough to see clearly with binoculars”.

Although this Snowy Owl is receiving a lot of attention from local birders it is not the first Snowy Owl to appear in Lenawee County recently.   On January 18th Alyson and John Wielfaert spotted a Snowy Owl further north on Downing Road.   Johanna Wielfaert-Lentz saw both Snowy Owls and stated the second owl was whiter with less streaking in the plumage.

As fascinating as Snowy Owls are, it is important to maintain a respectable distance.  These owls have travelled long distances and are under tremendous stress.  It’s best to just let them be and enjoy them from a distance.  For more information about Snowy Owls see the article from Sunday’s Detroit Free Press.