Click Photo for eBird Report on Snowy Owl Sightings
My family drove to nearby Anderson for breakfast at the Toast, an area diner. We arrived and ordered our breakfast. While sipping coffee and planning our day I checked my Facebook notifications. A birding friend’s status shared that she was going to Mt. Comfort, Indiana n to confirm a sighting of a snowy owl.
Snowy owl sightings in central Indiana are not unheard of — one visited Diamond Chain in downtown Indianapolis in the last ten years — but they are very rare. (The Diamond Chain sighting has always been a little bittersweet to me. I wasn’t networked with other birders and read about it in the paper the next day. I was teaching at a school directly across White River from the chain factory.)
I went on with breakfast speculating how great it would be to add a snowy owl to my life list. I pondered driving from Anderson with my family, but we all had Christmas preparations and cleaning to do. They would like to see it, but I didn’t want to take them away from their work if it wasn’t a sure thing.
I checked the Indiana Audubon Society webpage to see if others had been reporting the owl. (They had.) My Birdeye Ap on my Iphone did not report any sightings.
I took the family home and ran out to look for natural materials for carved bird mounts. Though warm it was raining and I became less than excited about tramping through the woods looking for the right oak branch. I also didn’t want this to be Diamond Chain all over again. I didn’t want to spend the next few years thinking, “What if…?”
I made a quick run out to Mt. Comfort (about 25 miles) to see if I could spot the snowy. My friend, from facebook, gave a very specific location. “West of the blue building behind the fire house [At Mt. comfort Airport]”.
I found the spot and scanned it with my binoculars. There were several white draincaps posing as owls, but no Snowies in sight.
I drove around several adjacent fields, I was pretty sure a huge white bird would stand out against the muddy fields. A few other cars were winding around slowly. It was clear that many had gotten the word.
After driving around I decided to make one more pass by the fire station. A car crept up behind me and I pulled over to
"V" Marks the Snowy, between Four Yellow Posts. Click Photo to Enlarge
let it pass. It did, almost reluctantly (perhaps they thought I would lead them to the bird) and pulled into the fire station parking lot. In a back corner I spotted a lone car with a spotting scope set up behind it.
The gentleman with the scope pointed to the bird. It was a bit anti-climatic. It was only about 50 feet inside the airport fence, sitting on the ground with its back to us. It was raining fairly hard and miserable for all — the bird and the birders. We all fixed our scopes on it and watched for 10-15 minutes. It did occasionally turn its head and look at us with its not-very-owlike almond shaped eyes.
I took some photos, but did not notice until I returned home that the camera was set wrong. I did shoot one with my phone in which a small white dot is (maybe) visible.
According to ebird snowy owls are being reported south of their range across the continent signalling a periodic irruption year. Look for more snowies this winter. This may be just the beginning!
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