Mid-Winter Photography Excursion
The sun had returned, if only for a day. At sunrise, I packed my camera gear, bundled up and headed for the Allegan State Game Area. 14 degrees. I passed by the corn fields twinkling with hoarfrost and spotted dozens of geese decoys positioned by hopeful hunters.
I parked off the main road near a corn field with a few Horned Larks foraging in the low lying vegetation. In previous years, I had seen Lapland Longspurs flocking with the Larks in this location. It wouldn’t be long before the Longspurs began their migration back to their nesting grounds in the arctic tundra, so I hoped I would be lucky enough to photograph them today.
I opened the car window to acclimate my camera lens to the cold. The windchill made me shiver.
Despite the frigid air and numb fingers, it felt good to be out with my camera watching and waiting for birds. Not much happening, but I had high hopes and propped the camera and lens on the car door window. After 15 minutes or so, I moved the car to a new spot nearer to protective brush, repositioned the camera, and let my mind wander while I waited. No luck.
Later that morning, a bearded DNR officer accompanied by his brown labrador pulled his heavy duty pickup next to the passenger side window of my car. Allegan County DNR employees have always been helpful, friendly and willing to share their insights about the comings and goings of the migrating and local wildlife. After the usual introductory preliminaries, he gave me the directions to a close-by dirt track road where he had just seen a Snowy Owl roosting in the corn fields. I couldn’t believe my luck. A Snowy Owl nearby, and I was prepared. I was trembling as I drove to the back woods location.
Despite the fact that my vehicle is not adept on slippery, rough and tumble back roads, I followed his instructions and scanned the landscape for the Snowy. Nothing. Just clumps of snow with grass peaking through. Then one of the clumps moved.
Photographing Sleeping Snowy Owls
This stoic individual wanted nothing more than to close his eyes and sleep beneath his heavily insulated plumage. Despite the bumping and grinding racket my car was making, he did not flinch. Only a few times did he open his yellow eyes to look at me. Since owl eyes do not move within their sockets, they have to swivel their heads (up to 270 degrees) to look around.
Rest in Peace
Snowy Owls are highly nomadic raptors that nest in the arctic tundra and travel very long distances in search of food. It was clear this individual needed to rest and reserve his strength. After taking 50+ photographs showing very little activity, I turned my car around and left him in peace.
For more information about my last encounter with Lapland Longspurs, please press this link.