A Delightful Surprise

Tundra Swans

I photographed these Tundra Swans in 2008. The flock we saw today was MUCH bigger!

One of our favorite bird guys stopped by Audubon to pick up the calendars he had ordered.  It was late afternoon and the meetings were over and I was just finishing a project… So when he suggested we go see if the Snowy Owl was still working the field up the road, I said, “Yes!”

Before we could even hop into the truck, we heard, “Coo coo coo…”  Looking up there was a HUGE flock of Tundra Swans – Don estimated it at 180 birds – flying just overhead.  I’ve heard lots of Tundra Swans this fall – often they are flying above the clouds, though, and I don’t get a chance to see them.

We climbed into Don’s truck and drove off.

Rough-legged Hawk – photo by Gerrit Vin. Click the photo to see source, and an account about this bird at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site.

First stop, the corner of Route 62 and Riverside Road where TWO Rough-legged Hawks were active – one light morph, the other dark.  We watched as one pounced on something in the field, then flew to a tree where the other sat – then took off heading toward the Audubon sanctuary.

Next we drove around the Kiantone-Stillwater area where the Snowy Owl has been seen.  We saw a Red-tailed Hawk in a tree in the swamp along the road that connects Route 60 to Peck-Settlement Road… But alas, no Snowy Owl.

Snowy Owl – Photo by Michaela Sagatova. Click the photo to see an article about Snowy Owls at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

We both had time, so Don suggested we drive up to airport hill where owls have been reported.  Within minutes of arriving a Snowy Owl flew up from the edge of a fence and out to sit in the middle of the field.  I suspect it must have found food.  It sat there for a bit, then up onto the fence post where it posed so prettily it made me wish I had my camera!!

Then I spotted another large bird flying over the field.  Darker than the Snowy…  Have you guessed??

Short-eared Owl – Photo by Janet and Phil. Click the photo go to an article about Short-eared Owls on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

It was a Short-eared Owl!

On the way back, we chatted about other winter birds I’ve never seen and Don gave me hints of where to find them.

It was such a wonderful day of winter birding.  Thanks, Don!

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