Monday 30 December 2013

Snowy Owls on the East Coast

Yesterday afternoon I went down to the Hartlen Point area of Dartmouth, N.S. with Laura and her parents to look for Snowy Owls. None of us had seen a Snowy Owl in Nova Scotia before, and with several being reported on the golf course at the end of Hartlen Point, we were hoping to get lucky and have some decent looks at one.

Right away, Laura spotted a Rough-legged Hawk hovering in the moderate winds, looking for unsuspecting rodents. By the time we pulled off the road and scrambled out of the car it was further away, but we all still had great looks.

Arriving at Hartlen Point, I immediately noticed a Snowy Owl hunkered down in a grassy area between two fairways on the golf course. It was fairly distant, but still close enough to enjoy with binoculars. While we were watching the mostly pure white Snowy Owl, a heavily barred bird flew in from the west, heading straight for the first Snowy Owl. They took off together, eventually disappearing over a ridge in the distance. Awesome!

We drove around and it did not take long to relocate the young Snowy hunkered down along the ridge. I approached and was able to obtain some photos I was happy with before backing away.

Snowy Owls have moved south in huge numbers this autumn, as most birders are well aware of by now! Hundreds have been reported in Ontario, and Nova Scotia is certainly getting its fair share despite many fewer birders to report them.

This young bird did not seem disturbed with our presence in the least. Nonetheless we kept our distance and backed away after watching it for a few minutes. Here is a photo of Laura with her first Nova Scotia Snowy (the white blob to her right)...

It was a pretty cool experience to be able to share with Laura and her parents. There are a few additional birds that are currently in the province that I would like to look for, including a Bullock's Oriole which is attending a feeder only 45 minutes away. Hopefully at some point in the upcoming days I will have a blog post about a successful oriole chase.

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