In the interest of completeness I decided to check the St-Clet lanes today before the 1cm (yeah, right) of snow fell. My previous run a couple of days ago, finding just one owl, had suggested that the winter, and with it the Snowy owl residency, had run its course. Today I went only one better (two birds!) and it does indeed look like spring is lurking a few hundred kilometers to the south, ready to charge north soon with its escort of Red-winged Blackbirds.
Below is a photo of today’s bird. It was on a very quiet back road and I was able to watch it a while as it called, almost a barking sound. I was going to record it but, in accordance with the law of sod, along came two cars from opposite directions at the same time – both letting me know that I should not have the temerity to stop on a Quebec road, let alone stop to look at a bird. Naturally, with all unnecessary the excitement, the owl flew off.
For a Snowy owl addict, this winter has just been better than life. Those of you out there who don’t know Red Dwarf, the game ‘Better than Life’ creates a perfect virtual reality for the player. In birding terms, seeing a ton of Snowy Owls does it for me every time.
One feature of the owl irruption has been greater opportunities to see the owls actually do something! In the normal course of a winter the owls generally sit, often at distance or they might occasionally shuffle around a bit but not often. Finding hunting birds is not always easy but this year the much higher number of birds meant many more opportunities to see such action.
For fun, I thought I’d look at my stats this winter so far, in relation to trips out and owls recorded. My first Snowy Owl was seen on 2nd December 2013, counts of over ten birds seen during a visit started on 18th December. In 41 trips out looking for owls I had 310 owl contacts, for an average of around 7.5 Snowy Owls per trip. My best one day count was 29 birds.
Even after the plethora of owls photographed this winter and my digital storage now fit to bursting, I still didn’t get the photo opportunity I’ve been after for the past 11 years. A sitting owl, on a fence post, side on to me, looking at me and with the light behind me. It’s always good to have ambition.