Monday, February 24, 2014

Snowy Owl Quest Part Two

Sunrise at Plum Island Beach
On Sunday, I again join John Slonina on a Snowy Owl Quest along the Massachusetts and New Hampshire coast. Partly, I was there to help John and and obtain additional pictures for myself. We had five other participants and we started out the day with sunrise on the beach at Plum Island. I will include a sample of the pictures from the day.

The day was warmer then the last time we were up here and there was not the strong wind blowing. The people set themselves up and started taking pictures of the sunrise the water and the rocks.

The Group Photographing the Sunrise at Plum Island Beach

John instructing one of the participants in the workshop
After setting up our car pooling we slowly drove down the refuge drive at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge looking for owls and what ever else we could find. The road was closed beyond Hellcat. At Hellcat we walked out to the dike and search the area for owls but we could not find any. There was still a lot of snow on the ground.

Just after we left Hellcat, we came across four wild turkeys, two toms and two hens which allowed us close encounter and gave us a good opportunity for photographing these beautiful birds.
Wild Turkey Tom Reaching for a Berry on a Branch
Leaving the turkeys, we went and parked our cars at parking lot two and then walked out to the beach where the participants were instructed on how to think out of the box by varying their position that they were using in taking a picture and observing the different scenery around them.

Our next stop, was Salisbury Beach State Reservation where just outside the entrance to the drive sitting on one of the electric wire poles was a snowy owl. We pulled over and took photographs of this owl. It then took off and flew onto the snow on the marsh at the beginning of the drive into the reservation. We were able to get a very decent number of pictures of this beautiful owl.

Snowy Owl Surrounded by Electrical Connections
Snowy Owl Sitting on the Snow
Because the tide was down we drove around to an area across from the campground way you could walk down to the beach where we could photograph the harbor seals laying out on the rocks.

Harbor Seals Resting on the Rocks
Harbor Seal Resting on the Rocks

After checking around other areas at the reservation looking for owls and not finding any other owls. We drove up to Hampton Beach State Park, where we got skunked with no owls present. Since it was getting close to noon time, we stopped and had lunch at a great restaurant, the Castaways in Seabrook.

After lunch, we continued up into Rye where driving around the harbor we noticed a good number of common loons swimming. We all decided that we will continue up to Rye Beach State Park to look for the usually cooperative snowy owl that has been hanging around there for a few months. Everybody split up and searched all a rocks and side areas in the park and there was not any sign of the snowy owl. We checked out all the houses in the marsh on the other side of the road from the park and still no owl.

We then continued back to Rye Harbor, where the common loons were showing a change change into breeding plumage along with feeding on crabs that they were catching by diving near the dock. They came so close it was very easy to get full frame pictures of the loons. A drake common eider also put on a show by diving and catching crabs. The water was clear enough that we could follow the eiders dive down into deeper water. Both the loons and the eider did bathe and preen, then gave us some great wing flaps. We also had Horned Grebes, Buffleheads and Red-breasted Mergansers. Part of the time I stopped taking pictures and watch the activities of always birds in order to help me learn better their behavior. One interesting event was a great black-backed gull trying to catch a red-breasted merganser. As the gull would come down onto the merganser the merganser dove and came up some distance away and then the gull took off and didn't the event again and continued until the merganser was able to shake the gull away.

Common Loon Flapping

Common Loon
Common Eider Drake eating a Crab
A gentleman arrived at the dock and told us the day before the snowy owl at Rye State Park was sitting on a log for around five hours. However, today he was also unable to find the owl. Oh well, that is nature nothing is guaranteed.

We then did go back and rechecked the Rye State Park again to no avail. We then traveled back to Salisbury, with a snowy owl was sitting on a post in the marsh. After a while it flew across this street to the marsh on the other side. Part of the group went over to see where it was. Two of us stayed on the reservation drive because it was getting close to sunset and we wanted to capture the the tree against the sunset like I did the Sunday before. The sky had thicker clouds but a small area near the horizon there was clear and we did get color in that location. The pictures were much different than the week before.
Sunset at Salisbury Beach
Everybody did arrive before sunset and take the pictures of the tree with the sunset. We all at the end talked at all were very happy with the day's events.

John is having one more Snowy Owl Quest on Sunday, March 9, 2014 starting at 6 AM, if you are interested you can sign up on John's website at