Thursday, January 1, 2015

Snowy Owl Found


Spot it?
Freezing my arse off, leaning on a barbed wire fence = best New Year's Eve ever

The best view of a Snowy Owl you're likely to get, unless you bring a pillowcase full of mice...
Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus
Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus
Dan's crude iPhone + binoculars digiscope attempt
OSO#1 - I think it was also a Snowy...
  I've been waiting to use that obvious and satisfying title for far too long.  Dan and I have tried to find this ghostly gargoyle for years, with zero success.  Yesterday we cruised around St.Hubert Airport for a couple of hours, scanning the surrounding fields intently.  We held one huge advantage this time when compared to past attempts - most of the snow around Montreal has melted over the past week, rendering the Snowy Owl's perfect camouflage much less effective.
  As usual, we pulled over to examine quite a few OSOs (Owl Shaped Objects), only to have them reveal themselves to be stumps, signs, or plastic bags.  As we came around the end of the runway, we spotted a good-looking OSO in a promising spot - on a mound of earthen debris at the edge of the runway.  We squinted at it for a good 20 minutes from every available angle, but it didn't move.  "It's an air vent," then, several seconds later "It moved!  It moved!  Wait, no..."  
  We gave up and headed down the road a bit, vowing to return to OSO#1, when we spotted another OSO on the other side of the road.  Same shtick: "I see eyes!  Shit, no, I don't see eyes,"  This was definitely one of my rare 'My-kingdom-for-a-scope' moments, as we were battling with significant distance, and the vicious winds that made it feel like -20 C.  We stared at this static blob for a bit then checked out some other fields.
  When we returned 30 minutes later, OSO#1 still had not moved, and we owlucinated on owl-s-d for several more minutes before moving on to OSO#2.  "It...moved?  It moved!  SNOWY *#@%ing OWL!"  We were slightly excited.  We watched it from the fence line, as it hopped up to the top of the mound for sentry duty, until all 40 digits were frozen solid.  Spectacular bird.  Massive.  Stately.  There are no suitable adjectives.  Snowy *#@%ing Owl.  
  A perfect way to end the year.  Interestingly, my birding buds in Korea, JP and Subs, also ended out their years with owlifers.  Situational symmetry.  I just realized that for the last few years, I've been birding hard on December 31st.  In 2013 I was in Seoul searching unsuccessfully for Hazel Grouse, and the last day of 2012 saw Dr. Moores and I freezing in the name of a Long-tailed Shrike at Igidae.  Here's hoping that 2015 will bring us all more awesome birds, and hopefully less bad news about bird habitat, as well as every other damn thing.

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