Chasing the elusive but beautiful Snowy Owls

fromadistancebybrucestambaugh

The Snowy Owl as viewed from the lane north of Mt. Hope, OH.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Birding is one of my many hobbies. I’m not the best birder by any stretch of the imagination. But I consider it a compliment to be called a birder.

I’m not alone. Believe it or not, birding is one of the most popular sports in the world. Birding is an international activity that can be enjoyed by anyone, any age at anytime. All you need are birds and an awareness to see and hear what is flitting right around you.

Birders have long been interconnected. That’s because it’s equally fun witnessing the enthusiasm and excitement of others experiencing the same bird you got to see. Ask my wife. I’ve called her to the kitchen window many a time to view the beauty and antics of our backyard birds.

Today birders connect in many ways. Bird alerts via phone, texts, email and Internet posts keep avid and amateur birders alike apprized of any rarity that arrives. Organizations and clubs also promote birds and birding.

spottedtowheebybrucestambaugh

A Spotted Towhee recently spent several weeks at a feeder at an Amish home west of Holmesville , OH.

Over the years, we’ve had our fair share of rare birds appear in Ohio’s Amish Country. They get noticed here more than other places perhaps because we have so many good birders who live here. Many of them are young Amish folks.

We’ve had Wood Storks, Rufous Hummingbirds, Northern Wheatears, Spotted Towhees and Swallow-tailed Kites. The latest rarity influx has been Snowy Owls.

When my friend, Robert, called just before Christmas and asked if I wanted to see a Snowy Owl that was reported near Mt. Hope, I was elated. I stopped what I was doing, gathered my binoculars and cameras, and picked him up.

Snowy Owls normally winter in southern Canada. Once in a great while, the impressive white birds will wander farther south into Ohio and other states.

sunpillarbybrucestambaugh

The Thanksgiving Day sunrise produced a marvelous sun pillar.

Robert had also called about a Snowy Owl the day before Thanksgiving. It had been seen between Berlin and Walnut Creek. When we arrived at the location given for the bird, it was gone. We drove around scouting for it without success.

As soon as we arrived back home, Robert received another call that the Snowy Owl had returned to its original spot. It was close to dusk, and we both decided not to retrace our tracks, thinking we could see it the next day.

We were wrong. We were up early Thanksgiving morning. It was frigid, but a beautiful sunrise brightened the horizon with a spectacular sun pillar thrown in for good measure. But no Snowy Owl.

I wasn’t about to miss this latest opportunity. When we arrived at the reported location north of Mt. Hope, the Snowy Owl was right where it was supposed to be. The large white bird with gray speckles sat unconcerned in the middle of a corn stubble field. I took several pictures of the astonishing bird while Robert used my cell phone to call others to confirm the bird’s sighting.

snowyowlbybrucestambaugh

The Snowy Owl seen Dec. 23, 2013 near Mt. Hope, OH.

After soaking in the beautiful bird and quietly celebrating our success, we returned to our respective homes. I alerted other birders about the Snowy Owl. Half the fun in birding is sharing what is found.

Since November, several other Snowy Owls have appeared in more than half of Ohio’s 88 counties. Such an invasion of rare birds is called an irruption. People were reporting and photographing Snowy Owls all around Ohio, and even in other states, including Florida.

I’m glad Robert and I got a second chance at the Snowy Owl. I hope you get to see one, too.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

12 Comments

Filed under Amish, birding, column, news, Ohio, photography, Uncategorized, weather, writing

12 responses to “Chasing the elusive but beautiful Snowy Owls

  1. This is such an amazing portrayal of these beautiful birds. I have a literary blog, but I’m fascinated and inspired by the beauty of nature through photography. Great post.

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  2. How very special. I’m impressed, and love your snow pillar picture. Wow!

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  3. Pingback: Weekend Blogroll: Amish Snowplows; Snowy Owls, Baked Oatmeal, and Somalia-Amish Commonalities? | Amish Recipes Oasis Newsfeatures

  4. Birding is something I do all the time! Your story brings this ‘hobby’ to life and your images are beautiful. Thank you.

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  5. Hi!! I just read your Post on the Snow Owl!! I love owls an the snow owl is the best by far!! Thanks for sharing with us all!! Barb Prisinzano

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  6. Bruce,
    A friend of mine who is a serious birder often sees van loads of Ohio Amish in Cape May, NJ during the fall migration. He is amazed at the expensive binoculars hanging around their necks. His take is that Amish are wonderful birder because they are PATIENT. My ADD makes birding and fishing off limits for me. Have a great day!

    Tom The Backroads Traveller

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    • Thanks, Tom. Many of the Amish are indeed excellent birders. The family where the Spotted Towhee was is Amish. Robert, my friend, is an expert birder, and operates a business that sells the scopes and binoculars. Birding is big among the Amish because it is so much an important part of nature. It reinforces their connection to the land, even though most Amish no longer farm. I think you’d enjoy it, too, no matter what your situation is. Bruce

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