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SNOWY OWLS 2016
April 25, 2016 Eight Snowy Owls
Since the weather was wet cold and windy...we thought...why not go home through Rudyard...just one more time. Guess what we found...a very wet snowy owl! Looked like she's working for the circus sitting on a row of hay bales wrapped in striped plastic. Poor thing...she was facing the gusting east wind that was driving cold rain right at her. I guess she didn't mind it.
There were several sandhill cranes and northern harriers out enjoying the windy wet cold weather...and still another snowy owl. A male was at the old barn ruin. I believe it was the one hanging out closer to "Our Girl" last week. It appeared "Our Girl" has finally departed the U.P. after almost three months here. Also her neighbor "Sad Eyes" ...and her beau are gone. "Rubble Girl" and "Trash Man" appear to have departed, too. Hopefully the couples will get to the Arctic tundra in time to nest and raise young...and hopefully return next winter.
We also found our trailer girl across the road on a pile of rubble. I have to say I finally have found a good reason to keep trash piles around the house. Although I don't think Michael will let that happen. She sat the whole time we were driving around this afternoon...in the rain...actually make that sleet.
A male snowy owl was just sitting in the middle of the field in the rain and sleet. The 'creek pole' couple from Tuesday were still hanging out in the same general area.
Then I found my 'Farming' snowy owl couple just down from the barn. I think they might be looking into Forestry now. He was sitting on huge log and she was on some processed lumber. Life is great in da U.P.
I am almost certain this will be our last trip through to check on our snowy owls...till next season...but who knows.
April 19, 2016
So on our thirteenth visit to our snowy owls this season...we were blest will finding thirteen of the little beauties...despite the sun and 60 degree temperatures. Since I was still celebrating my birthday which was the thirteenth of this month...I guess you could say it's my lucky number. We only spent a couple of hours with them...heading back home below the Bridge...tired but oh so happy with our amazing four day weekend in the U.P.
We first spotted the handsome male snowy owl on "Sad Eyes" barn rubble...but when we got closer we found "Sad Eyes" was there with hm. Romance is budding in the U.P. We found two other 'couples' today, too.
Our snowy owl we call "Rubble Girl was doing what she does best…hiding in the rubble. We could just see her head poking out from behind a pile of rubble.
"Our Girl" was right where we first saw her back in January...on an old bit of rubble. Today she was trying to hide under the rubble. It was 60 degrees and sunny. I can't think that they will stay with us much longer. It was so wonderful to have this time with them...especially her. We wished her safe travels for the last time. We promise...this is the last time we will be there this season....and I can't think of a better way to end a super awesome season!!!!
Our snowy owl was at the rental...sitting right where she was on Saturday right next to the trailer by the window. Just FYI there is a marshy area all around this place...lots of food sources here...ducks especially.
A handsome male snowy owl was sitting on a piece of farm machinery in front of a barn close to the main road. He had his reasons for being there...a female snowy owl was on another piece of machinery on the side of the barn.
What an amazing day with our snowy owls…lucky trip #13 and 13 beautiful snowy owls. If this is the last time I see them this season…it has been truly awesome!
April 16, 2016 Twenty-two Snowy Owls
After spending the morning at Seney National Wildlife Refuge...I went back to the trailer to get Michael...and we headed to...you guessed it...Rudyard...for our 12th trip to see our snowy owls. We were not disappointed...we found our snowy owls...along with Northern harriers...rough-legged hawks...sandhill crane. Amazing! Our first snowy owl was a handsome male sitting along Hantz Rd. on the little bit of snow that he could find.
While I was photographing the tundra swans...all of a sudden out from behind the rubble came "Rubble Girl". She loves to hang out in a couple of the rubble piles in the fields along 48. She sat and posed for me. I wished her well...and on we went to look for more of our friends....and tundra swans.
We were surprised to find a handsome male hanging out at "Our Girl's" corner lot. He was gorgeous...and co-operative. While I was photographing him Michael found "Our Girl" further down on a fence post...close to the road.
Well, as we got down to where "Our Girl" was sitting on the fence post close to the road...she of course...wouldn't co-operate and pose for me...at close range.
When we went back down Hantz Rd. the male was still sitting on his snow patch…but it was getting smaller and smaller.
As the sun was getting low in the sky...we found yet another handsome male. This one was very co-operative and sat in this big spruce tree right in someone's yard. I would love to have one as my tree topper at home.
Looks like "Rubble Girl" has a new boyfriend...."Trash Man"? He was on her rubble pile while she was hunting from one of her favorite utility poles on 48. Did I say what an amazing day we had in the U.P.?
So "Our Girl's" boyfriend was on a utility pole instead of the rubble pile. He let us get close enough...then bam. And I got him...wings and all...in the setting sun. Luckily he flew down to sit in “Our Girl’s” favorite spruce tree. I was able to get some lovely shots of him in the last glows of sunlight.
April 4, 2016 Sixteen Snowy Owls
After all the snow that fell yesterday...we were so happy to have sunshine on our tenth trip to visit the snowy owls in the U.P. But with all that snow and the bright sun...it made spotting the snowies a little bit harder. We eventually found "Our Girl" hiding in a different pile of rubble then last week. She is such a stinker. I don't think she was too happy that we spotted her. She was actually the very first snowy owl we saw on our first trip at the end of January. There was a new guy checking out Mad Eye's Boat today. I guess Mad Eye headed home and 'rented' out her 'digs' to this guy. He seemed quite content. Another handsome male snowy owl allowed me to photograph him from the truck. The sun was starting to set...casting that sweet light on these beautiful raptors. What an amazing day we had in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. God's Country...and my very 'happy place'.
Later in the day..."Our Girl" had flown out of the rubble into her favorite tree. Bless her little heart...although her 'horns' were showing and she was giving me the stink eyes. But she did seem to tolerate me as the sun was casting a beautiful glow on her. If this was the last photo I took of her this year...it was a perfect gift from her to me. Lucky me I was on the running board of the truck shooting a female snowy owl from a distance as she leapt from her utility pole...away from the sun...but also away from the wires. She flew past the perfect backdrop...and old barn. She ended up in a field with three pesky ravens trying to get her to move....but she sat tight and won the fight.
Another beautiful female snowy owl didn't let us get too close to her...even though we were in the truck. Of course, she took off with the wire across her body. I still loved the sun shining on her beautiful face. Then she flew into the field to her hiding spot...into the bright light of the setting sun. I will truly miss these amazing raptors when they have all finally moved on to their summer homes. We can only hope they will once again return to spend their winters with us. It is truly been yet another amazing winter of the snowy owls.
Then I met one of the most handsome male snowy owl I have ever seen. He opened his big yellow eyes...and stole my heart. (FYI I was in the truck quite a ways away from him). The golden light of the setting sun shone in his eye...as he continued to give me 'the eye'. I wished him safe journey and we continued on our way.
March 28, 2016 twenty-five snowy owls
We had an amazing day in the Upper Peninsula today. We arrived at our destination shortly after noon. The clouds that we had been driving through started to part and the sun shone through....just in time to find some of 'our' snowy owls. A handsome male was hiding along a ditch bank. We were able to slowly approach him in the truck to get some lovely shots of him. Then we found a second handsome male snowy owl...just down the road from the first one. We were still driving slowly down the road in the truck using it as our blind. Most of the snow from this last week is almost gone...but the snowies still manage to find a little patch to sit on.
We were so blest to finally have a gorgeous sunset last night in the U.P. with our snowy owls. We sat and observed them...waiting for the moment we knew would come....when they would finally lift off their hiding places on the ground...and fly to a post or utility pole to hunt. I had not one but three snowy owls fly by me to reach their hunting heights for the evening.
One of the males took flight first...to head start into the sunset...allowing me to capture the light in his eyes. We sat back and waited for the Golden Hour when the snowies would finally start move...preparing for their evening hunt. Then one of the big gals was hiding in a field in the middle of some old farm equipment. There is nothing more beautiful than a snowy owl in a U.P. sunset. What an amazing winter it has been here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
March 20, 2016 Twenty-five snowy owls
First snowy owl of the day was hiding in a pile of rubble. We almost missed her because the sun was shining in our faces. It was nice to have sun...but the heat waves were awful. We didn't have to worry about for too long. The clouds eventually moved in around 2:00pm and the gloom slowly descended. Oh well, we did see 25 snowy owls…most of them out too far for decent shots. I can't blame them. It sounds like they were bombarded with paparazzi this past week.
"Our Girl" was still hanging out in her 'territory'. She was hiding in this pile of rubble staying out of the biting wind. Thank goodness for all the rubble and ruins in the area...the snowies love to play hide and seek in them. I have some nicer shots of her...in the gloomy early evening hours of course...when the 'popping snowy' hour arrives.
They were out along the fence rows sitting on the ground.... staying away from the paparazzi. But by dusk the 'show' began. Snowy owls pop up on the closet high spot...then one by one they start to fly...hunting for their next meal. It's quite a sight to see...even if it is getting dark. Not sure we will make it back up before they all head back to the tundra. But it has definitely been an amazing experience...learned a lot more about their habits. Hope to see them again next winter.
We had some evening action from "Our Girl". We spotted her out farther on a fence post. We no sooner stopped when she started flying right toward us. I was able to get a sequence of shots as she headed toward the old ruins.
March 13, 2016 Forty-one Snowy Owls
What an AWESOME day in the U.P.!!!!! FORTY-ONE SNOWY OWLS!!!! That's right 41...different snowy owls. We saw 18 between 12-1pm at Rudyard...then four in Pickford...back to Rudyard we verified our original 18 and expanded our area and found 19 more!!!! We were truly blest today. I think migration is on. We saw multiple snowies in the same area...some actually appeared to be 'pairing' up.
Sad Eyes was our first snowy owl we found sitting in the middle of a field on a small patch of snowy. When we came back in the afternoon she was still sitting there but her snow patch had disappeared.
So...here's one of the stories. We spotted several snowy owls along the fence lines. As we drove toward them we spooked up one of two that had been sitting together. The handsome male went down and landed on a post. She stayed back...and actually 'walked' toward us. We spent quite bit of time with her before she decided to go back and sit with him...as he had went down on the ground out of the wind. What an amazing experience. While I was photographing them Michael found four more sitting along another fence row further out in a field across from these two. WOW!
So while I was photographing the female of the snowy owl couple...Michael was scanning the area...and found several other snowy owls doing what they do best during the day...siting on the ground down the fence rows. We found seven snowies in a small section of land...all within viewing of each other.
Then we found Our Girl...she was actually sitting right along the side of the road near a fence post...but on the other side of it...so we didn't see her and she, of course, flew…down the fence row. By 6:00pm they all started popping up on the fence posts and utility poles
March 6, 2016 Fifteen Snowy Owls
We got to the Rudyard area around 12:30...and looked and looked and drove and drove. We did find several bald eagles sitting out in the fields on Centerline. It looked like our snowy owls may be migrating, too. We thought they may have jumped on the south wind to carry them north. We headed over to Pickford...and found nothing. So back to Rudyard we went. It was already four o'clock and we had not found a single snowy owl. Could our luck have run out on us??? It was just five o'clock when Michael spotted something further down Centerline...where we had already driven several times. Sure enough...it was a beautiful male snowy owl. Then Michael spotted another one further behind it on the ground. Hallelujah!! We turned around to get a couple of shots of them...way out in a field.
Well it looked like we finally broke the ice. After spotting the two snowies...a female snowy owl came flying out of a field and landed on the is pole with her catch.
Her 'catch' turned out to be a wad of grass with nothing in it. I don't think she was too happy about the whole thing. But she let me photograph her nonetheless. I actually think this is "Rose" who our friend Rose King found for us almost two weeks ago.
We had thought that our 'regulars' had probably left for their summer homes...since we hadn't seen them all day. But what to our wondering eyes did appear...but "Our Girl". We saw her flying....and you know where she landed. Yep...her precious spruce tree…and the sun even came out to shine on her. Thank you Lord for this gift!! I had wanted to shoot her in the sunshine on Thursday. Good things do come to those who wait.
Yeah!!!! Ms. Mad Eye is still around...sitting on a pole in her "front" yard...where the abandoned trailers and boat are located. Then while I was taking photos of "Our Girl"...Michael is out looking for more snowy owls. He yells at me..."there's one on the barn...there's one landing on a pole". I turned around from "Our Girl" and shot them both in one fell swoop.
More snowy owls were to the north of 19 Mile Road, too far away for any good photo ops. But at this point we were just tickled pink to be seeing so many of them. Patience....persistence...and obstinacy....key characteristics of a wildlife photographer.
We found a handsome male when we were looking for "Our Girl" again. She was at the end of 20 Mile Rd which is dead end because of the expressway. The male was on a spruce tree that runs along the expressway on the South Bound side. So if you pass through that way...always take a gander...you never know what you will find...as long as someone keeps their eyes on the road though.
We found another snowy owl just as darkness was descending...and we were ready to get on the expressway for home. We couldn't believe what an amazing evening we had. After finding absolutely nothing all day...to find fifteen snowy owls and get some lovely shots was a gift.
March 3, 2016 Fifteeen Snowy owls
FIFTEEN SNOWY OWLS today!! So it looks like they are starting their migration back to the Arctic. Several of the 'regulars' are still in the area...Our Girl...Sad Eyes...Hantz...Winky and Mad Eye are all still here. Hopefully there will still be time to get back up there and see them again before they go. Well, I got a lot of action shots...butt action that is…although I at least got the talons. A couple of our snowy owls have had just about enough of the paparazzi in the Rudyard area. They will let you get just so close...and they're gone.
"Sad Eyes"...who I think was the one in the snow shot...the first one we saw today...finally showed itself on top of this barn later in the afternoon. I would have loved to have had just a little more light in that sky today. But I will be glad for the time with these beautiful raptors...soon to return to their homes in the Arctic tundra.
"Our Girl" was being coy...not letting me too close to her....in the truck. She landed in the field...and was not happy with us driving near her...again. She gave me this look of disgust...trying to figure out how to get back to her spruce tree without getting too close to me. Of course I took my eyes off of her for just a second...and "bam" she flew...circling me...and flying back to her precious tree. FYI I am on the running board of the truck with the door open as Michael is slowly driving down the road. I was hoping for just a little setting sun on her...but of course the clouds came in to eat up the precious glimpse that I may have gotten. Oh well, there is hopefully another chance or two before they leave to head back to the Arctic tundra.
February 22, 2016 Ten snowy owls
The first one we found...that I spied with my little eye…. was sitting on the ground behind the truck & trailer repair shop. It was as happy as a bug in a rug...and far away from the road and the paparazzi
Well, no more snowy owls around Rudyard...that we could see at the moment...so off to Pickford we went. Are you kidding me???? No snowy owls to be SEEN. Ok...I'm getting depressed. It's 3:00pm. We were given a gift finding this pair of bald eagles enjoying a couple of rays of sunlight. We also discovered why they were there...I think they are building a new nest!!!
Then we headed back to Rudyard for our late afternoon run around. We immediately found two of them on fence posts back along a seasonal road. Things were starting to look up
The other snowy owl that was sitting on a fence post got spooked by a car driving down the unplowed two tracks.
Mad Eye....our one eyed snowy owl... was sitting on the edge of her boat checking it out. She knows spring is just around the corner...time to get ready to head out on the big waters
We met a handsome male snowy owl when the sun peeked through the clouds this afternoon. Yeah...patience pays off!!!
It was great to finally meet our friend, Rose Ann King, the rural mail carrier for Rudyard. I was photographing Our Girl on the barn when she was delivering mail on Centerline Rd. Thanks for the tip, Rose...we found a new female snowy owl…the best shots of the day...so I called her "Rose".
I caught a shot of “Rose” as she gazed into the only rays of sunlight this afternoon. Priceless. And my mantra of the day....patience pays off...patience pays off. And it finally did. TEN SNOWY OWLS!!!!
The excitement wasn't over....we found "Sad Eyes" along Centerline Rd.
We found a 'new' guy further down Centerline Rd. It looks like he is winking...but he seemed to have a weak eye...not injured that I could see.
While I was photographing "Winky"...Michael spotted another guy landing on a pole at the ball park in Rudyard....across the section.
We found "Our Girl" flying...she landed in her spruce tree. But as I was taking a couple of photos...she flew...then she flew again. If you want to see active snowy owls...wait till it's almost dark....dang it. Oh well, it's just awesome to see them...even when you can barely see them.
The last snowy owl of the evening was hanging out along the expressway as we were heading home. So what started as a disappointing day...ended up being an awesome day….and so goes the world of wildlife photographer.
February 14, 2016
You want to find snowy owls???? Well....you need to look...everywhere!!!! Fence posts...old ruins...Collision shop poles...trees in the middle of a field...water towers...barn roofs...hay rakes...on the ground and remember the abandoned mobile homes. Yep...they're there...just keep your eyes peeled.
My favorite moment from our amazing day today in the U.P. was finding a gorgeous snowy owl just sitting out of the wind...chilling out…on a knoll. This was the first snowy we found...and lucky for me the sun was still shining. It didn't seem to mind me. It actually walked around a bit...ignoring me.
The Hantz Rd. snowy owl was out and about when we came back from the Pickford area. Love the barring on this one. It is definitely in charge of its own territory. It barely gave me the time of day.
It was great to see Mad Eye. We actually witnessed her chasing the "Collision" snowy owl off. Their territories are marked...and woe to the one that crosses it.
What a blessing to at least get to spend a day once in a while with these amazing raptors. Last year on this day I had photographed at least one snowy...twenty days straight. But I'll take what I can get.
No better way to end our amazing day in the U.P. photographing snowy owls. ..then to photograph a beauty enjoying the last of moments of sunlight on an old barn...perfect.
February 7, 2016 Six snowy owls
We started our Super Bowl Sunday of Snowy Owls...in the snow. We were happy to have 'Mad Eye' be the first snowy we found today. She had just been hunting...successfully...and flew up on this pole to show us she was fine.
Our next was a beautiful snowy owl…enjoying a spot out of the gusting southeast winds and blowing snow. The temperatures may have said 34 but it was definitely somewhere in the teens with the wind chill factored in...but so worth it.
Well between the heavy falling snow and the gusting winds...we decided to take a lunch break and head up to the Soo. Wow...we hit a winter wonderland. You couldn't even see the water. Well, we decided to head down to Pickford. Lots of cars in the ditch...driving too fast for conditions...keep the State Police and tow trucks busy.
We had to make a second run around the Pickford area before we found a handsome snowy owl. At least the snow had quit falling by this time.
Then back in the Rudyard area...we found a happy guy sitting along a dead end road. He had actually just quit preening...making him appear like he was laughing. Love to see that beautiful big black beak.
On M 48 we found a large female snowy owl. She had just popped back up on a utility pole after eating something. So she was content to just to sit. We found her closer to the expressway before we headed home.
Then just as we were getting ready to head back to the expressway we found another snowy owl being harassed by a big raven. It had flown as we were driving by...then it headed back to this utility pole...in someone's yard. The raven went and tried to intimidate it. The raven then went and landed on these people's roof and was carrying on...pecking at some ice...like it was food. The snowy was very unsettled. We decided to leave it alone...but just as we were pulling away...it flew again...and landed back on the pole. So as we were ready to pull away for the second time...it flew again...swooping around the field. Then it finally flew way back in the field to land on a utility pole for the night.
It was a great way to end Super Bowl Sunday of Snowy Owls with six snowy owls. We did see other snowies back on poles but we were pretty sure it was the two from Centerline...'Mad Eye' and the 'Barn Owl'.
January 24, 2016 Seven snowy owls
We had decided last night to head to the U.P. to look for some snowy owls that had been sighted around Rudyard. But...this morning we had three eagles sitting in the tree across the road. So...I decided to go out for a little while...just in case....no luck.
So we headed to the U.P. We had almost immediately started spotting them...way out in the field...on top of very high utility poles...of course. We also found a coyote...then we found a beautiful female on a downed building...close enough for photos...then just down the road we found a smaller barred owl on an old outbuilding. We were so excited to find four different snowies within a two mile radius. We then headed down toward Pickford where we found yet another snowy owl out in a field on a tall pine tree off Hantz/48. We found nothing around Pickford...so back to Rudyard where we found another snowy on a pole barn and another one on a utility pole making seven snowy owls…a happy day indeed.
SNOWY OWLS 2014/2015
The winter of 2014/15 has been an awesome year for sighting snowy owls in Northern Michigan near the McGill's home.
Teresa has been fortunate to see one particular snowy owl on and off all winter. She has seen and photographed at least six differnet snowy owls this winter...so far.
Snowy owls were seen last winter in many unusual areas including Florida...but this year has been an added bonus.
Experts feel last year's irruption was due to the last of food which usually occurs every eight to ten years. But this year they feel the irruption is due to the abundance of food during the nesting season of the snowy owl in their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra.
With an abundance of food the hatchlings have a higher survival rate...therefore more snowy owls to compete for a food source when the severe winter weather hits. That then causes many younger owls to migrate out of their homeland in search of food.
The McGill's always keep the safety and heatlh of any wildlife top priority...especially in the case of the snowy owls. Photographing from a distance or from their vehicle. They recommend not approaching to closely. This causes stress to the already stressed snowy owl...causing them to not get enough food to survive the winter. They need as much strength and stamina to be prepared for their return in the spring to their home.
Teresa always felt a thrill just to observe these beautiful raptors. To capture them in a photo was just icing on the cake. She was especially happy when she finally was able to photograph one sittin in a tree...instead of a utility pole.
The three photos above and below are this winter's snowy owls.
This male Snowy Owl paid a visit to the McGill'sneighborhood in the middle of May. He seemed quite out of place yet quite content. He hunted in the area for almost two weeks before he finally disappeared. The McGills thought that perhaps the lemming population which is the Snowy Owl's main diet, was diminished. Or he was just in the need of a little vacation.
Snowy Owls usually spend most of their time, especially during breeding season, in the Alaskan Tundra. In fact, Barrow, Alaska is home to the largest population of Snowy Owls. Unlike most owls the Snowy Owl does not strive to camouflage itself from it's enemies, which are few or it's prey. They are very powerful flyers with long legs and mighty talons. They even chase away humans, dogs and caribou if they get to close to the Snowy Owl's nest or young.
The female Snowy Owl is, of course, the largest weighing in at about five pounds with a wingspan of up to five feet. The male Snowy Owl reaches maturity (breeding age) when he loses the barring effect on his feathers and turns almost completely white, like this male, at the age of three or four years old.
These beautiful creatures rarely seek shelter from adverse weather. In fact they can easily withstand temperatures of forty below zero. They can also,apparently, withstand alot of heat also. We were having a very warm May with temperatures in the 70's.
Their prey is not only lemmings but any small mammals and large birds like gulls and eiders. This one seemed to be enjoying his buffet of small creatures in Charlevoix County. Whenever the McGills were photographing and filming him, he usually entertained them with his hunting ability.
Three Photos above and Three Photos below
The photos above are of a Barred Owl, so called for it's horizontal barring on the chest and vertical barring on the belly. The plummage of the male and female are identical. The only difference is in their size, the female being the largest. The Barred Owl is 15-25 inches in length and a wingspan of 35-50 inches.
It is sometimes referred to as a Hoot Owl due to it's call "who cooks for you". The Barred Owl is generally nocturnal but this particular owl on the right and center was shot around 8:30 a.m. in the dense woods on a two track by Teresa. The photo on the left was shot on a snow covered backroad around 5:30 a.m. The McGills had driven past something that look odd in the road. When Michael backed up he realized it was a Barred Owl eating it's breakfast. Michael shone the truck lights on it so Teresa could get a shot of this deceivingly sweet looking raptor.
The Barred Owl can live up to ten years in the wild and twenty years plus in captivity. It's only natural enemy is the Great Horned Owl. Their territory can be 200-900 acres and generally in a moist dense forest or a wooded swamp.
Michael & Teresa McGill-McGills Nature in Motion 3142 Knipe Rd., Central Lake, Michigan 49622 (231)544-6534 (231)499-0707 firstname.lastname@example.org
All Photographs Copyrighted by Michael & Teresa McGill/McGills Nature in Motion-Unauthorized use prohibited