Date: 1/7/18 2:44 pm
From: Paul Griffin <pgriffin1...>
Subject: Snowy Owls
Hi Folks,

Speaking of Snowy Owls. So far this winter I have been fortunate enough to see and record 3 different Snowy Owls, all appeared to be in adult plumage, (see SIBLY). Ah. How do I know they are different Snowy Owls, you ask. Well, I do my best to record them with pictures and video. Not an easy task sometimes, but I try. Last week I was able to observe the Snowy Owl West of Hesston, Ks. It was deep in a stubble field, out about 300 yards. I couldn’t get a clear look, but clear enough to see it was a Snowy Owl. I documented it with pictures and video. With clear views of it’s head and most of it’s upper body. That sighting was about 20 wiles South of McPherson, Ks, where there was another Snowy Owl NW of town, which I had seen a few days before. The bird I was looking at, was similarly marked as the McPherson Snowy. Seeing the similar markings, I had to know if there were 2 Snowy's. So I left the West of Hesston Snowy and headed North to see if the McPherson Snowy was still there. 22 miles and about 30 minutes later, there it was out in the same field it was when I saw it before. So, I assumed even though it had like markings, it was a different Snowy Owl. Of course, I was ‘assuming' it hadn’t raced me North from 22 miles South and arrived just in time for me to see it out in the field. I wonder, was that sound enough logic to use? Eventually, I did go back 22 miles to the other Snowy, West of Hesston and it was still where I had left it before. I sat with it, looking out my rolled down window in my car, in a ditch along the well traveled blacktop road, taking distant video and pictures, hoping it fly closer, but no, until after dark and it hadn’t left that spot. (2 Snowy’s seen).

Last Friday, I was able to see the Lake Cheney Snowy. It was sitting out on the totally frozen lake, on a slightly raised ice out cropping, a couple of hundred yards away. I had looked for hours for the reported Snowy, but I and other experienced bird watchers, hadn’t seen it. Then, apparently, it was flushed from it’s out of sight resting area, a rock jetty, and flew out into the bright and sunny cold day, landing out on the frozen lake, where it probably felt at home. I got good pictures and video. This Snowy was similarly marked as the other 2 Snowy’s (probable adult) I have seen. But, there was a obvious difference. It had a large dark mark across the back of it’s head. Although, the other 2 Snowy’s had a dark mark in the same spot, this bird’s mark was vastly bigger, almost totally across it’s head. Which I again assumed, made it a different individual bird from the other 2. Each of the these 3 Snowy’s I observed for hours, constantly taking video and pictures. Watching this Snowy on the ice looked like it was in a normal setting for a Snowy Owl, I had not seen that before chasing the Snowy Owls. (3 Snowy seen).

This morning Bob Gress posted on the this sight, wondering how many Snowy Owl are really out there. Are there just a few moving around, and we are just counting the same ones, in a different spot. Or, because of the few bird watchers about, aware of what they are looking for, there are many more Snowy Owls than we think, that go unrecorded, slipping between the cracks, so to speak. If you stop and think of how easily we loose track of a Snowy Owl, which is a big white bird, easy to find, in a open field. Then over night, or just a few hours later, it disappears and can’t be found when many experienced bird watchers are looking for it, spending hours going back and forth, around the area of which it was last seen, and it can’t be seen. Just like the Cheney Snowy, suddenly there it was. In plain, and beautiful sight, easily seen. I was just about to leave, but then I stayed for hours, taking my video and pictures.

Since 2012 when I started to follow the Snowy Owl sighting, at least the ones in central Kansas, although, I did go out to Scott City once, to see the one that was being reported, which I missed, even after looking for hours. Oh, it was found and reported the next day, I guess I didn’t look in the right place. I have followed about 40 Snowy Owl sightings, and I have found the Snowy Owl reported in 20 of them, which covers 10 Kansas counties. Obviously, about 50 percent successful. Not bad, I guess. The fields of Kansas are vast, billions/trillions of hiding spots even for a large mostly white bird. And remember this is an owl. They are mostly active at night, sit still and rest in the morning, and generally only move around in the late afternoon, getting interested in the long nights hunting. Mostly flying higher, up into the top of the nearby utility poles. I feel we are not seeing most of the Snowy Owls that move into Kansas in the winter, how often do we see normal owls. The main reasons we see any Snowy Owls, is they are mostly white, sitting way out in a field on the ground, standing out like the a sore thumb. They don’t hide up in trees, maybe because the tundra, where they grow up don’t have any. There used to grassland, like here. Since, Snowy Owls didn’t grow up with trees, and utility poles are much easier to use, just a tall fence post, that is where they go, to get a better hunting view, of the area. Hopefully, I will see more Snowy Owl this winter, probably on top of a utility pole.

A word of advise. Stay in your car, if you see one close. Don’t get out to approach the bird, just to get a picture. It probably will fly away anyhow. If you have to, move your car around a bit, to view it through the open window. Be careful of traffic.

Happy Birding,

Paul Griffin, Wichita


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