Tuesday 18 December 2012

Snowy Owl in Washington State.

During our blast through Washington State, mostly in the teeth of a gale and horizontal rain, we had time to stop wader watching when we had seen the birds we had been after. (Details on Wader Quest blog.)

At the end of the day we were birding an island in the Ocean Shores region along the coast and we came across a total of 8 Snowy Owls. These birds are high on any birder's most wanted bird list, but we were treated to not just high numbers of them, we also got close looks at them as these photos will show.

These birds are arctic breeders right across north America, northern Europe and Siberian Russia. In the winter they move south and can be found across much of the USA, Scandinavia and Russia at that time. Occasionally they will appear in the UK Some years ago they even bred on Shetland and I was lucky enough to go and see them there although they had long since ceased to breed when I saw them.

They are very dependent on rodent population and their number vary depending on this vital food source's availability, in some years huge numbers of them move south if there is not enough food further north for them, other years very few appear.

This is a composite picture taken by Elis. The light level was so low that she had to photograph with the lens wide open, thus the depth of field was minimal. She wanted to record our friend Knut with the owl, so she took two shots and 'stuck' them together. If you look closely you can see the join.

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