Monday, February 17, 2014

Snowy Owl Quest

Sunrise at Plum Island Beach
On Sunday, February 16 I joined six other enthusiasts plus our leader John Slonina on a Snowy Owl Quest along the Massachusetts and the New Hampshire coast. The previous week on John's trip they saw 11 snowy owls.

Sunday was the day after the big snowstorm, the skies were clear, temperature in the 20s with a stiff wind blowing. We were going to start at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, but the gate was closed. We ended up photographing the sunrise at the beach on Plum Island. The snow was blowing as well as the sand and waves were crashing into the rocks.

We then carpooled, after leaving some of the cars in the parking lot in Newburyport, up to Salisbury State Reservation where there was a group of people viewing and photographing a snowy owl on the ground. For a number of our participants it was the first time that they ever saw or a snowy owl and John help them obtain their photographs. We could not explore further into the reservation because the gate was closed in the road had not been plowed yet.

Snowy Owl in the Snow
Continuing up along Route 1A into New Hampshire, we stopped at Hampton Beach State Park to search for snowy owls, but none was seen. Also the parking lot was not plowed. We continued along Route 1A up to Rye, continuing to look for owls, because there have been at least two present since November. Today however they could not be found.

We then backtrack stopping again at the local "hotspots" where again we were skunked. We ended up again at Salisbury where there was again a snowy owl among the snow and ice drifts. We stopped and photographed the owl and then continued into the reservation since the roads were plowed searching for additional subjects to photograph. At the boat ramp, white wing scoters were in the water and able to be photographed.

Snowy Owl among Ice Flows
We then broke for lunch and had a great meal and great discussions waiting for the sun to get lower in the sky. We traced the way back up into New Hampshire rechecking out the hotspots. At Hampton Beach, searching with a binoculars, it appeared that there was a snowy owl at the base of the dune, so we tramped through the snow hopefully to get a picture, however when we got there what appeared to be a snowy owl moving was a rock covered with snow with grass in front of it that was blowing in the wind that gave the appearance of movement. So back to the cars and on to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, where again we search for snowy owls and again none were found. We did photograph the landscape and the patterns in the snow. I will have those pictures in the next blog.

We did want to capture the sunset and decided to do it back at Salisbury where prior until sunset there was again another snowy owl present on the opposite side of the road. We photograph this beautiful bird again, it then took off, and I was able to capture some flight pictures and then it landed in a tree looking at us with its golden eyes wide open.

Snowy Owl and the Snow during the Golden Hour

Snowy Owl in Flight

Snowy Owl Landing in a Tree
We finished off the day photographing a tree against the sunset. A great time was held by all even though there was not a huge number of snowy owls. Of course, the question is: was this three different snowy owls on the same one in different locations. Really doesn't matter, we found the snowy owl and was able to photograph it.

Sunset at Salisbury with a Tree Silhouette
On Sunday, February 23, 2014 John is holding another Snowy Owl Quest in the same locations and hopefully there will not be another snowstorm the block most of the parking lots and more snowy owls will be found. Of course in nature nothing is guaranteed. If you're interested in signing up you can go to http://www.meetup.com/Nature-Photographers-New-England/events/165753512/?a=me1_grp&rv=me1. The cost is $95 per person. You should have an enjoyable time and learn how to improve your photography.