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Thread subject: Year of the Snowy OWL.?
Name Date Message
Marie 12/31/05 02:01 am During some years the big, beautiful, Arctic white Owl called the Snowy Owl, heads south from its northern range. One assumes that this is due to the crash of one of its main prey items, the LEMMING!. Could 2005 be one of those years?. Indicators would suggest that this is one of those years. I just published an article on this phenomena and will share some thoughts on the subject.
Last February I headed into Alberta to see OWLS! There had been several news articles written about the number of Great Gray Owls and Northern Hawk Owls that had been seen in that Provence through the months of December 2004 and January 2005. I was indeed lucky on my visit in February to see so many great grays and hawk owls when I visited, but was disappointed because I only saw ONE Snowy Owl. How greedy could I get! .As if Five Great Grays and 6 Hawk Owls wasn't enough during six hours of birding! But luck would have it, and I was to get my wish in the last month of the year 2005.

Yesterday, I was to be rewarded with sightings of 13 Snowy Owls in four hours of Birding! One of Vancouver's Dykes was to be my destination for the day. There had been several reports of these white owls in the Vancouver area over the past month. We even have two here in Victoria. I saw these white owls this morning way out on an island in the bay. Too far to photograph and yet visible enough to frustrate. Why they would be there is interesting when these owls usually inhabit the Arctic Landscape. They do prefer Lemmings but will eat small birds, other rodents and fish if things get tough. Perhaps they have a 'hook-and line"
system of fishing way out there. ;- )

My adventure yesterday to Vancouver started at 5 am.I headed out to the Ferry terminal by coach and was on the 7am sailing. The smooth crossing was a delight and as the sun came up over the horizon in a blaze of gold and orange the lose clouds above reflected the colours. The gulls that always like to follow the ship were right there on the stern, keeping me company as I inhaled the fresh morning air.The soft pale orange light reflected on their undersides providing them with an ethereal quality. Gulls are really masters of the wind and are quite beautiful in design and flight. I watched enthusiastically their morning dance. The rising sun lifted my spirits. Today was going to be a great day! But the saying goes... Red sky in the morning....sailors take WARNING!
Once off the Ferry, my guide, a friend called Ellen, headed me off to Boundary Bay to find SNOWYS. . Here we were to be satiated with not just One owl but THIRTEEN of these magnificent creatures. Finding them required a long walk, but we found them way out on the drift wood scattered across the mud flats. The tide was out at this hour. It was now 9.15 in the morning. The Dyke has easy access from several streets. High in a leafless tree sat a huge, eagle as we ascended the Dyke from 64th street. It stayed a while so that we could indulge in some photography. We were to see many more on our walk yesterday. I believe these eagles have migrated in from Alaska or Northern BC for they were larger than I have seen locally on the Island . They also appeared much more timid than resident eagles. Several thousand arrive annually at this time of year and gather at Brackendale, just outside Vancouver. A photographers dream!
Meanwhile , back at the Dyke the Snowy owls had collected at the 72nd street access. THIRTEEN of the white 'BLOBS' could be seen scattered on and between driftwood. Several other white ''DISCARDS'' were also littering the beach scene, so it got confusing at times, for what looked like an owl turned out to be just an old bucket or some styroform. Still, we could tell after a while what was owl and what was not! We soon noticed that a few intrepid photographers had made their way carefully onto the soggy, marshy mudflats. This was highly unethical in terms of creating bird stress, as well as being dangerous. These people had a mission and that was to take pictures of Snowy owls. It involved traversing the tightly packed driftwood that hugged the foreshore of the dyke. The logs were covered with a slimy, slippery moss and other life forms that would send anyone crashing down onto their back after one poorly placed footing. Likewise, one could easily wrench or break an ankle if caught between the rotting logs. I wasn't going to risk an injury, but I did so want to get close to these owls. Generally when the tide is up then the owls are closer to the Dyke. Approximately 40-50 metres away one owl tantalized us, so Ellen got a few great pics of Snowy and eagles. I took slides so have no idea what I got. Northern Harriers were everywhere. They didn't oblige us with close encounters either. However it seemed that every which way we turned Bald Eagles were either standing in trees at close proximity, flying above us, chasing after ducks or standing on drift wood. All the raptors and owls were very tolerant of each other which surprised me. A Peregrine Falcon buzzed swirling shorebirds at the foreshore in an attempt to secure a meal. A Gyr Falcon was also on the lose but I never saw it. Above us, the cloud cover was begining to thicken, but the rain stayed away, which we were thankful for.
After a while we headed back to the car as we realised that the owls weren't going to come any closer. We headed to 88th street access and found 12 eagles along here on various perches, including 6 in one large fir tree. It was eagle heaven. ;-) They were CALLING to one another. By now the clouds had really moved in and created poor light conditions.
We headed out to find Snow Geese, but were so disappointed as they must have moved off to Washington earlier that day or before. They had sensed the storm that was to pound the west coast later that evening. From where we stood, I could see the planes leaving and landing at the International airport. If a plane misses the runways, then it is into the 'DRINK'' as they say.We found a good looking GB Heron and a few ducks at this location.
Before I headed back to the Ferry terminal, Ellen and I indulged in some' all-you-can-eat Sushi.'' We had missed lunch and needed something good to eat.This experience of Sushi presented in every delicacy was a delight. Little bits of this and that, topped off with green-tea and green-tea ice-cream. A great finale to an almost perfect day.
Ellen and I said our goodbyes at the Ferry terminal, where I was to catch the 7pm ferry back to Victoria. The wind was picking up and the rain was begining to fall at 6.30pm. My ferry that should have taken me back limped into dock, taking 20 mins to finally get secured, It was a sick ship and was later announced to be mechanically unfit to continue sailing that night. Meanwhile the next ferry in wouldn't leave till The winds were begining to blow furiously. The crossing was rough, once underway. There seemed to be more passengers than I ever recall on a ferry before and the ship's PR suddenly announced, to my horror, while the ship rocked and rolled, that they had squeezed on 35 more cars than normal. My thoughts as we crossed the Georgia Strait was would we sink with all this added weight. Silly 'ol me. These ships take a lot more than one can imagine, but when you consider the four big coaches and the huge trucks that are down on the bottom level plus two other levels of cars, one can't help being concerned on a night like it was yesterday.
By midnight I finally arrived home. It was a long day, but a pleasant one communing with those rare visitors from the NORTH, the Snowy owls.
Marie 12/31/05 02:39 am

Here are a few PICS to go with the story above. My digital is just a point and shoot so Bird PICS aren't good. I took mostly slides of the Snowy and Eagles so can't show those yet. However if you would like to see Ellen's pics of our outing I will post when I get her permission.
One can see the white getsom and flotsom on the beach close to the owls so it is difficult on some occasions to know what is what.
Madeline 12/31/05 03:50 am Sounds like you had a very busy and long day Marie. The pictures are just beautiful. I assume the beautiful sunny ones are in the am, since it was dark for the boat ride home. Duuuhhhh. I see you were able to get some shots of the Snowy Owl and Eagle, also a couple of great shots of the seagull flying above you.

Thanks for the detailed story, I could visualize int in my mind as I read it.
Zara 12/31/05 05:25 am What a brilliant day you had and the photo's are fantastic! All those Owls and Eagles too, lucky you.
I ama so glad I popped in here today!
Celeste 12/31/05 05:38 am Once again reading and seeing the photos was like watching a documentary! Thank you!
Pam 12/31/05 07:33 am Thanks Marie - a day to remember. I hope the vandals will leave the eagles to fly free this year after last year's horror stories. However, with so many around and so accessible - I have to doubt it. We will look forward to your slideshow. Glad you got home in one piece !
FOB Webmaster 12/31/05 07:33 am Last week some folks at Blackwater spotted a snowy owl east of the refuge. Our ranger said he thought it might be the first one seen in the county -- and I'm talking about southern Maryland, so you know how far south that is compared to the Arctic. Poor bird was far from home.

Thanks for the photos!
Pam 12/31/05 07:36 am Snap Lisa !!!!! Bet we couldn't do that again !!!!
Marie 12/31/05 09:36 am 9


Now here are some beautiful PICS of the snowy owls from Boundery Bay, Ladner, Vancouver. This photographer has circulated his/her work on the net already. Obviously this is the kind of closeness and sunshine LIGHTING I would love next time I return to that area to photograph the snowys.
Glad you liked my really was one!
Marie 12/31/05 09:41 am

Try this again.
FOB Webmaster 12/31/05 10:52 am Pam, we were too synchronized. I was trying to post and it said I couldn't, but then it went. :-)

Great snowy owl shots! Wow, such beautiful birds. The photos look like paintings.
cathleen 12/31/05 11:09 am Nice outing and nice shots as usual. The lighting on the gulls reminded me of Jonathan Livingston Seagull! The posted shots of the Snowy Owl were unreal - very beautiful feather detail and intense eyes.

Copyright © 2006 DPOF

Tom Throwe
Last modified: Sat Feb 18, 2006