One Awesome V-Day Gift

For all those Globull Warmers errr Climate Change .. or how about Season Deniers out there, figured I’d go with a little SNOW in September (and celebrate 17 years and 11 months of NO Globull Warming – not to mention NOAA having to restate that 2012 was NOT the hottest year ever instead it was something like 1937).  I’ve actually been meaning to get to this post for some time now and finally found a few cycles to do some badly needed work in the digital darkroom.  This happened to be one of those rare times when I get so excited during a shoot that I overlooked some essential techniques.  The result is a slightly soft set but that is a small price to pay for the huge smile that it generated then and every time I get the chance to look back on the products.  To cut through the suspense, I give you a cherished new checkmark in the Ol’ Bird List!
Snowy Owl

In case you for some reason you don not recognize this particular bird of prey, it is the Snowy Owl.  Let me add some emphasis on that … my #2 on my most wanted list Snowy Owl!!!  Well, technically it became my #1 on the list having checked off the previous #1 on a trip in 2013 (someday I’ll get to that post as well).  Two of my highly coveted birds checked off in less than a year Woot!

Snowy Owl

As you might have figured out from the title, I owe a big thanks to Linda for this prized bird.  On Valentine’s Day, Linda hands me a notecard with some writing on it.  Thinking that was kinda of an odd gift I started to read it and about had a heart attack.  She had found a sighting online of this majestic bird relatively close to us and was willing to help hunt it down.  How cool is that – what can I say, somebody loves me.  We had talked a number of times about going up to Chicago where some people were posting pictures of one they found up there.  That is a fairly long drive for us especially if we were to fail to locate one.  We were actually waiting for my brother to make a quick walk down there and snap a photo for us since he already lived in the City … save us the hassle of driving all the way up there… hmmm we are actually still waiting for those pictures .. some lame excuse about it being too cold or something (he is an avid reader of this blog so feel free to use the comments to chastise him for that elitist Chicago attitude.)

Snowy Owl

Hit the jump to read more about this uber cool bird of prey!

That day (Friday) after work we headed up to the rural areas of Galesburg and started our hunt based on information from the posting she found.  To nobody’s surprise, we couldn’t locate the bird at the designated intersection.  Just an old barn with a weather vane and lots and lots of blowing snow.  From there Linda started driving down the various county roads while I scanned all the trees, barns and telephone poles we came across looking for the prize catch.  Nothing on the first pass, nothing on the second pass.  It wasn’t looking good and we were losing light quick.  A little frustrated we decided to simply stop on the side of the road near the intersection where the search began.  Eventually we decided to call it a day and Linda went to put the car in gear when all of a sudden I noticed a larger than usual figure fly across the road and land a couple hundred feet away near a telephone pole.  I might have squealed a bit – a closer inspection revealed that we had indeed located our Snowy Owl.

Snowy Owl

To say that I got caught up in the moment would probably be an understatement.  That based on the fact my shots from that sighting were pretty much  crap.  You could tell it was a bird and likely a white bird but other than that .. pretty iffy.  All that white was driving my sensors crazy and forgot to compensate the exposure for the lack of real grey.  Just being there and witnessing the Snowy Owl was a Valentine’s Day present I’ll never forget.  Of course as usual Linda has to go and top herself.  She noticed I was bummed about my execution and offered to take me the next day to go find it again! – SWEET!!!    So the following day we headed out again but this time we were unable to locate it at the previous site – and yes, I double checked for a weather vane.  No luck there, we started circling the area expanding out by the next road over each time.  It took us some time navigating through the blowing snow (four wheel drive required).  Eventually I spotted a shape on a telephone pole and had Linda pull to the side.  We were still pretty far away, but at least I was able to improve on the previous day’s shots.  With that in the tin it was time to go for better shots.  For the next couple of hours we would creep up to a safe distance in the car, I would get out with the Beast and tripod and Red Light, Green Light it (only moving when it looked away) closer and closer in the knee deep drifts and take some shots.  Eventually it would spot the big glass and decide to move to another distant pole.  Linda would pick me up and repeat the process.

Snowy Owl

I didn’t want to harass it too much and definitely didn’t want it rethinking its place to Winter.  After there were plenty of shots in the tin we said our goodbyes and had an enjoyable drive home.

So truth be told I always like to recognize when my wife puts an awesome shot in the tin.  It is only competitive around our house during UB judging – other than that tense period of the year we’re apt to acknowledge a good job.  Here is a nice shot Linda came home with.

Snowy Owl

Oh, and this one has very nice composition – as a birder I tend maximize my reach when it comes to shooting our feathered friends, but partial to this one for two reasons – a) it has that rural/country barn feel to it and b) it reminds me how I mistook the initial sighting as a weather vane.

Snowy Owl

For the record I think this is actually a female Snowy Owl based on the barring. Adult males have light barring, and juveniles have deep barring.  This particular specimen is somewhere in the middle (in my opinion) so going with a female.

Once again, a big thanks to Linda for an awesome V-Day gift – another prized check in the Birding List


7 comments on “One Awesome V-Day Gift

  1. Ron

    Congratulations! And yes, I too like the last shot the best, but it’s a close call with the third and the fifth from the last. Having the actual wires and insulators in the pictures makes me think the bird is suddenly going to explode, as a squirrel once did on a transformer in our back yard in Rockford while I was standing in that yard. Kapow!!

    I would like to point out that I do not live in the City and second of all it’s 35 miles as the crow flies to the Loop and so I also had the problem that there was no predicting if the Snowy Owl would be downtown at any particular time and it was so cold I think it would have flown somewhere into that mythical land called “downstate” and perhaps it was this owl. Not to mention how many people slip off the icy shores and piers into Lake Michigan all winter long and die because the ice is too slick to climb out and everyone who comes to help slips in too and dies. And their dogs.

    At any rate, I now have a longer zoom lens that lends itself to resting on a car window, thus allowing me to blast the heaters and snap pictures of any snowy owls while screaming along Lake Shore Drive to get out of the City as fast as I can.

    Seriously, though, if you come up here some weekend day we can go to Chicago and look for those birds, although you now have one “captured” so the magic is gone.

    Congratulations again. Not only did you see it and document it photographically, you and Linda took great shots of it. I thought you had this bird at the very top of your list–so now that the other top bird is also checked off, what’s the new top bird on your list?


  2. admin

    Thank You! I figured you would gravitate to Linda’s shot just from history alone hehehe. Are you telling me a squirrel just exploded in front of your eyes… holy crap, squirrel guts everywhere – actually carcinogenic squirrel parts eesh.

    Do you hear something chirping over there… somewhere in the second paragraph … kinda sounded like a denier of irrefutable City Dwellership … carry on.

    If you are going to take shots from your window while driving you will probably have to figure out that whole ISO thingy.

    It is like a 1,000 mile drive up to The City but we’ll definitely have to go chase another one down especially since you don’t have one yet.

    Still resetting the list order but the Painted Bunting is definitely in the top 5

  3. Ron

    Well, I was in the yard and a terrific explosion occurred and I looked up and saw smoke and fur flying from the transformer on the telephone pole and a dead squirrel on top of it, unmoving (which, in reading this over, is probably a good thing since I said it was dead). I don’t think body parts were thrown off, and I don’t believe the squirrel was blackened (until later–mmm, good eatin!).

    You’ll have to go south to get a Painted Bunting. I thought you would bring up the unfortunate story of the near-Puffin.


  4. admin

    I went South – didn’t find it and was eventually driven out of the woods by big-ass mosquitoes – just occurred to me I have two other owl shoots to get posted sometime! The Puffins are a touchy subject .. let’s not go there … yet

  5. Ron

    Real men photograph mosquito species rather than bird species.


  6. His Lovely Wife

    Can we pleeeeeassse let the puffins go?? I swear you sound like a Cub fan, lamenting the almost shots. Besides you tried to kill me that trip so I think it was a fair trade off. I will go back there anytime you want (prefer the fall!) so I can take more of my award winning waterfall shots.

  7. admin

    Whaaaa? I can’t recall ever trying to kill you on that trip. Unless you are once again harping on a quick little hike to go see some uber rare birds that like only one or two people in the entire world have ever seen – unfortunately they closed the last path because they were nesting .. sooo close. I’d go back there to but there was one issue THERE ISN’T ANY WILDLIFE THERE!

    .. and for the record that is the first time I’ve ever been referred to as a Cub fan – ironic having had the privilege to once again watch the Cardinals make it to the post season hehehehe

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