Nature Talk: Snowy owl spotted in county

I’ve spent many of my free hours, for more than a week now, searching for snowy owls.

A snowy owl stop atop a cell phone tower near Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard in Ramsey. Photo by Ron Taube

A snowy owl stop atop a cell phone tower near Highway 10 and Armstrong Boulevard in Ramsey. Photo by Ron Taube

I admit to seeing one a little over a month ago in Aitkin County, but it was a long way off and on a very dark day so the photos weren’t very good.

There have been more than one hundred reports of snowy owls in Minnesota on the Minnesota Ornithological Unions webpage in the last few weeks.

There are areas where five or more owls are spotted near each other.

My wife and I spent a whole day in Benton County where several snowy’s were seen but with zero results for us and I’ve been on many a hunt to other areas within 50 miles of home with no results.

My friend Larry, who is also a very experienced birder, said recently that you are lucky to see snowy’s 1 percent of the time in a certain area even if you have good reason to believe that there is one around.

My wife and I  spent three hours looking for a reported owl earlier this month in Maple Grove around the gravel pits and I have been to an area in Plymouth at least half a dozen times where the snowy was seen as recently as Jan. 3 but with no results.

I was beginning to think that I was going blind or that there was a curse from the bird gods on me.

This last Sunday morning (Jan. 5) proved to be the change in my snowy owl luck however.

A snowy owl was seen in northern Anoka County around 10:30 a.m. just off of Armstrong Boulevard and Highway 10 in Ramsey.

I got there around noon as the temperature outside was around -9 degrees and the windchill was reported to be -27.

I drove up and down the roads slowly for half an hour without seeing anything then I remembered that a snowy was reported the previous day a couple of blocks south of today’s report and I drove over there.

I saw a woman in a car with a big lens sticking out of her window. I stopped and asked her if she was looking at the snowy and sure enough she was. It was on top of a cell phone tower with the wind blowing it’s feathers.

I braved the cold and was grateful for a new pair of boots that my friend Larry calls “laugh at the cold boots” and with my binoculars and camera in tow, walked a ways out into the fairly strong wind and through two feet of snow and managed to get an angle on the bird that allowed me to see his face.

Soon there were other birders in the area who had seen the same report and who saw our cars.

A few of these birders I knew and as we talked we all marveled at this beautiful bird.

After 40 minutes or so the owl flew from the tower heading north westerly and landed on a metal fence where he was soon being dive bombed by crows.

We all drove a couple of blocks north and though we could see the bird it was right into the sun so our photos suffered from that.

The cold weather finally caught up with me and I had to head home, but I was elated the rest of the day at having gotten my snowy owl for the year and in Anoka County to boot.

There are more photos at this link.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/ronsthoughts.

Editor’s note: Ron Taube is a member of the Coon Rapids Senior Center Creative Writers Group.

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