Saturday, April 7, 2012

On the fence...

Yesterday I had a great time watching and photographing this snowy owl. It may have been the same one that was attacked by the osprey on Sunday. I found him at dawn on an observation tower. There were already two photographers there. By mid morning there were close to ten photographers. We kept our distance (about 50 yards)and made numerous photos as the owl surveyed the area for a potential meal. During that time we spotted a glossy ibis, a swan, a great egret with breeding plumage starting to show around the eyes, numerous blackbirds, a pair of buffle heads, and the infamous osprey. The osprey was fishing, but at one point it came very close to the owl. It seemed to consider attacking the owl, but decided to keep on fishing. It may have helped that the owl was much further away from the osprey's nest.

As the morning wore on, the owl perked up and flew off the tower. It landed a few hundred yards away on an old fence, covered with vines and thorns. With the blue sky behind the owl, it made for a beautiful setting.

The owl remained alert, looking for a meal. Soon, it flew from its perch to chase a flock of Canadian geese. It didn't attack them, it just scared them from a grassy spot into a pond.

After a few minutes it made an attack. It looked like it attacked a goose or duck, but it was hidden behind some tall grasses and very far away (at least 150 yards).

I moved for a better perspective and at the same time the owl jumped into the water. It seemed like it may have been drowning its prey. It would occasionally put its beak into the water and tear at whatever it held.

After a few minutes the owl flew off without its quarry. The scene left me baffled as to what the owl had attacked. It would have taken the owl much longer to eat a duck or goose and I couldn't imagine it would leave it in the water without eating it. The strangest part of the encounter was that the geese stayed very close to the owl while it was in the water (less than 5 feet).

Later, I spoke to an expert on snowy owls. His best guess was that the owl had caught a vole in the grass and was drowning it. Another photographer suggested that the geese didn't leave, because they felt confident in large numbers. I also think that geese tend to have a bit of an attitude and they were definitely bigger than the owl. This may have caused them to be overconfident when they were near the owl. Of course, if the owl was busy eating a vole, maybe the geese knew they were safe.


  1. Very lucky capture as they are almost all gone. I only got a few shots of them this year and I hope in a future year to have another chance like this year... :-)

  2. This was an exceptional year. They tend to come in cycles. Next year is not likely to have as many owls as this year, but there its always possible to have even more. There are still afew around. Many of owls went very far south this winter and they are still making their way home. I will have an exhibit of my snowy owl photos shown at the Mass Audubon North River Sanctuary next fall. I hope you can come to see them!


Nature Blog Network