Saturday, January 28, 2012

Snowy Owl Obsession, Part 2

Anatone Flats Snowy Owl
I have an obsession. 
A Snowy owl obsession.
Just when I thought I was cured by sighting one last month I took a drive back to the area where they were first located. I have been to this area numerous times lately and have always been skunked.....but not today. Today, the Creator of all things feathered smiled upon me and granted me not one more sighting, but two!
As I ventured out this morning I still held some vague hope that this would be the day to see another one, but had made up my mind to accept whatever came across my path and be satisfied. I drove to the same area and scanned the fields for this illusive bird and saw....horned larks, northern harriers, ravens, all moving rapidly by as the wind was howling across the flats. I spent some time watching a rough legged hawk hang motionless, head into the wind, a marvel of aerodynamics, but no snowy owls were visible. 
I finally reached the designated cross roads where the owl had been seen and as I turned up the road my mind and eyes drifted off to the distant, snow covered  Blue Mountains. Suddenly something large and white zoomed in front of my truck from right to left. Caught daydreaming, it took me a few seconds to register what it was. SNOWY OWL!!!
Photo by Catherine Temple
 I slammed on the brakes and grabbed my camera and fired off a few shots as it drifted quickly across the field. I held my breath as I watched to see if it would land and when it did I wheeled my truck around and tried to maneuver for more photos. The owl and I played a game of tag for several minutes with me taking photos whenever I could.  It led me in a wide circle and finally coming back to the start of our encounter, sailed over the field and out of sight. That's when I saw it....SNOWY OWL #2.
Photo by Catherine Temple
Sitting just up the road in the snow filled ditch was a second owl. It was tucked between some weeds and a rock and in the snow so it was nearly invisible. I crept the truck slowly forward and got out to take some photos again. It didn't stay long and rose into the wind and quickly zipped past me flying to a wood pile some two hundred yards into the middle of a field. Figuring my photo shoot was done I pulled the truck over to watch it for a few moments with my binos, but the show wasn't over yet. Like a feathered stealth fighter jet, owl #1 rocketed low across the field and attacked owl #2. I had seconds to see it coming and barely enough time to get the camera pointed on the action.
Snowy Showdown - photo by Catherine Temple

The showdown lasted only briefly and the reason for the attack is unknown, but it was spectacular to witness. I have posted more photos of the tussle on my Flickr site,
After it was all over I decided it was time to leave these two white warriors to their hunting. The encounter was more than I had hoped for and for one more day has fed my obsession. But.....there's always tomorrow!