I, along with all the land here, am yearning for rain.
Here are a couple shots to inspire the clouds above (from my trip to the East Coast recently where I got to play in some snow).
On a recent trip to the East Coast, I was lucky enough to get to see a very rare visitor to the contiguous United States – snowy owls!! I was able to see at least two different snowy owls that have apparently decided to overwinter in Lancaster County, PA (see this article), along with many others that have settled in for the winter in many mid-Atlantic States. Definitely a first for me! And what a sight.
Evidently there is a large population of the owls right now, and many have made their way further south this year than usual as part of what is termed an “irruption.” Typically found in the Arctic regions, these birds tend to like large open expanses that are similar to what is found there – like farmers’ fields and airports (the latter being not an ideal arrangement for any of the parties involved).
These birds I saw were in some farmers’ fields in the heart of Amish Country. The one pictured above was resting in the field right on the ground, it’s head swiveling from side-to-side every few seconds as it scanned for danger in it’s resting state. Eventually it started to wake up, at which time it played with a stick that was next to it and eventually flew up onto a fence post. I wasn’t as close as I had hoped to be, but it was still magical to see them in this environment – 2 foot tall owls (!!) that are almost completely white. Surreal – especially so with Amish horse and buggies driving by as I stood on the roadside watching.
There was another individual a couple of miles south in similar terrain, this owl was really sleeping deeply, and based on its dark, heavy barring it looked to be a juvenile.
As if all that weren’t enough, literally almost across the street from the first owl that I spotted there was a rough-legged hawk – another rare sighting of a bird that typically makes its home in the Arctic during the summer months but is sometimes spotted this far south in the wintertime. One of my favorite birds to see, their plumage as a species is quite varied but often has beautiful browns, tans, and black feathers highlighted by crisp white patches. They are similar to red-tailed hawks but slightly smaller.
I was really thankful to have gotten to see these owls!
Check out this link to a movie that someone took of two peregrine falcons diving at owls at the beach in Stone Harbor, NJ (one of my favorite places to be) – again, surreal!! Now that’s some Jersey Shore drama that I can watch.
Special thanks to my parents for their support in my multi-day snowy owl search!
Yes, Christmas will always be bald and white for me with regard to one definition of those terms at this point in my life, but this particular Christmas we were treated to other, more fun benefactors of those descriptors – a snowy Christmas eve yielded a white Christmas morning, and we got quite a show by some local nesting bald eagles.
These are presumably the same birds that have been nesting at this site for the past few years not far from my parent’s house in PA (see my post from last year here). It’s great to see them still successfully using this nest as it is more exposed and closer to human activity than most nests. This is actually a GOOD thing, as it indicates that most of the other more ideal nesting spots and territories around the Susquehanna River are already taken by breeding pairs.
The snow also allowed us to see who was using the landscape … snow tracks! It’s far from wilderness here, but this beautiful agricultural area still has quite a bit of wildlife that manages to survive in an area that continues to have more and more human development replace farms and forests. We were still able to find the tracks in the nearly melted snow of white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbit, and two red fox – and ultimately I was able to find what I think is the red fox den! A couple of red-tailed hawks were hunting in the cold air above us, and we spooked a coopers hawk with a meal from its perch in a grove of fir trees.