Thursday, December 1, 2011

I've Come To One Conclusion: I Need To See A Snowy Owl.

Wood Duck. Look at her wings! Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA.

I am on the verge of experiencing a sort of crisis. You see, it has been established that we in the Lower 48 are experiencing a flight year of Snowy Owls. Everyone is seeing them. They are very popular birds, and for good reason.

If you are one of the doomed nonbirders who read this blog, a Snowy Owl is Harry Potter's owl. They are giant and white and actually exist, although they seem like they were pulled out the ass of JK Rowling. They are typically a far northern species, and are pretty hard to come by down in these snowless realms.

A Fox Sparrow ravages the leaf litter. Lake Merced, San Francisco, CA.

The problem with this flight year is that I am in California. California is well-known for its inability to attract Snowy Owls, as it is far to the south of their normal range, even when many of them are around. The one time one actually showed up on my home turf (at the time, Humboldt County), I was stuck at the Salton Sea on a Burrowing Owl project. I think there is some irony in there someplace....but the reality was a harsh one.

I have, in fact, found a Snowy Owl in the wild. It was in the center of Buldir Island, in the western Aleutians. However, there was a problem with it. It happened to be dead.

Hooded Merganser locked in an epic crayfish battle. The day I took this shot, all the mergansers present were fishing for crawdaddies...the next time I went back, they were all getting fish. I guess it was just Shellfish Saturday. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA.

Despite my poor location, it is shaping up to be such a good flight year that they may indeed make it to California. And if not....I will be spending much of January in Oregon and Washington, where there are now oodles and oodles of owls. Thus my prospects for seeing one of these behemothic snow prowlers are higher than they have ever been.

Of course, it would be just my luck that the flight year collapses in the next couple weeks and the Pacific Northwest is devoid of these birds come 2012. That is my greatest fear, and it has been haunting me daily. Sigh.

Right. Since I have no Snowy Owl photos, you have to look at these other birds instead. Sorry.

Brown Pelican. Looking hella old. I've never thought of them as being blonde and blue-eyed before.

White-tailed Kites. While striking out on a Slaty-backed Gull recently, I took dozens of pictures of this pair instead. It was not a great consolation, but kites are certainly better-looking and more interesting than a big fat lost gull.

The Elk River Mouth and Humboldt Bay. Some people like living in Eureka, California. I think they are masochists. Whenever I ask them what's so great about Eureka, they just mention The Shanty, which is a bar. I fail to see how one decent bar can turn the tide of public opinion about an entire shitty town. This is pretty much what it looks like 365 days a year. At least some birds are there.

A female American Kestrel on a high-voltage perch. Half Moon Bay, CA.

A female Ruddy Duck with Eared Grebe companions. Interesting flock. Pescadero Marsh, Pescadero, CA.

Sleepy juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron. Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA.


  1. I shall crown myself a doomed non birder who reads this blog. PS The Shanty is cool, but Eureka entirely blows.

  2. I share your sentiments! And as much as I miss my Bay Area home, I'm glad to be up in Seattle this winter where I have a shot at maybe seeing a Snowy or two. I haven't had time to venture out for a look. But I keep hoping one lands on the neighbor's roof, perfectly positioned and juxtaposed against a scrim of background mist. Yep, that would be nice.

  3. Yeah dude, Snowy

    i will let you know if I saw a snowy owl in Japan. This year might be good year for them. Freezing cold winter so far

  4. Man, I posted something on facebook with that map of all the snowy owl sightings. OUCH!!!! And, of course, over the holidays I'm going EAST (and not north enough), then WEST (Hawaii), so not thinking I'll see one. Saw a pair in a native-animals zoo in Washington state, and they are sort of magically beautiful creatures. Complete show stoppers. I didn't even give them a second thought until I walked in that zoo, looked to my left, saw them, and I froze, jaw agape.

    PLEASE PLEASE try and see them and take FABBY FOTOS and share-ski??? urg. Bird lust.

    Great shots, btw. LOVE the blond winter pelicans. SO gorgeous. And hooded mergansers always make me swoon. I could never talk to one at a party. I'd just stutter, blush, and run away.

  5. @Ingrid - Are you referring to the one that showed up right in the middle of town at Thanksgiving? Thats a ridiculous bird to find in the suburbs.

    @BIO - Dude! I would also be happy with one of your Stellar's Sea-Eagles.

    @BB - They found one in Hawaii! And immediately killed it, because it was hanging out at an airport. Fucking dumb people. At any rate, I'm really looking forward to next month...

    I have hundreds of merganser shots now, I need to figure out what to do with them! Definitely life of the party.

  6. @Melissa you have much, much wisdom.

  7. Sea-Eagle is way too easy. They are just there, doing nothing all winter! Come Japane at anytime like I did in Humboldt, and we go birdwatching and bar

  8. I really hope they infiltrate Oregon... and by infiltrate I mean completely take over. I want to have nightmares about their piercing eyes suddenly appearing in dark windows. (when I was a kid I had that dream, but it was Freddy Krueger in the window, not an owl)