Posted by: Dan | May 22, 2006

Snowy visitor

In looking back over the last week, the birdwatching find of the week would have to be the snowy owl that’s visited my area, way down in central NY.

First noticed by local residents around May 9th in the town of Genoa, and reported several days later to birders at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, it’s been hanging around a barn and stretch of road rather consistently. Usually, during the day it’s been easily seen on telephone poles and rooftops, and on Wednesday, I decided to take off lunch and go looking for it.

At first, I drove right past it, coming to a gas station about a mile past – so I stopped in for some gas and to ask the attendents to point me in the right direction, which they did. Driving back, it was unmistakeable, and I have no idea how I missed it the first time.

Having my digital camera with me, I snapped a couple pictures off (below the fold)…

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Not completely asleep, it kept scanning in all directions by turning its head 180 degrees in either direction, as owls can do.

Interestingly, some of the Cornell ornithologists collected, dried and dissected a few of its pellets to see what it had been eating: one pellet had the remains of 4 different animals: “2 Microtine
rodents (most likely Meadow Vole – Microtus pensylvanicus), 1 Starling,
and 1 House Sparrow;” while other pellets yielded Norway Rats (most likely from the adjacent barn) and unidentified bird parts.

It’s pretty cool to see the Snowy Owl doing its part to control introduced species, and pests like rats, etc.

Regarding other birds of prey, I also visited the Montezuma Nat’l Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, to find the easily-viewable Bald Eagle nest’s eaglet is almost ready to fledge (pic below, but the eaglet is hunched down and not too visible).
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