Tag Archives: female Snowy Owl

SNOWY OWL HEDWIG TAKES A BATH!

Filming and photographing Cape Ann wildlife I have experienced extraordinary beauty and fascinating behaviors at nearly every encounter but filming a Snowy Owl take a bath has to be one of my favorite captures. I think there are a number of reasons why we are so captivated by these beautiful creatures. Most owls are nocturnal, which doesn’t allow much viewing of their day to day life. On the other hand, the diurnal Snowy Owl gives us a wonderful window into their world. Culturally, owls symbolize wisdom and intelligence and the characters they are assigned in literature strengthen our associations. Mostly though we are drawn to these creatures because they do not appear to be afraid of us, unlike most wild animals. Snowies will become irritated and depart an area when startled, or are being pestered, but I don’t sense fear in these Arctic visitors. I wonder if most have ever even seen a human being prior to migrating south.Hedwig was a contented mess, her feet and talons blood stained reddish pink from a fresh kill. It was the morning after a rain storm, and the crevices atop Bass Rocks held pools of icy fresh water.

She at first gingerly hopped over to the largest pool, paused, and then jumped in. Repeatedly Hedwig dipped her face into the water to drink. After quenching her thirst, she plunged her entire face into the pool of water. She cleaned her face feathers by rubbing them against her breast feathers. Immersing, rubbing, immersing, rubbing, her face was clean in no time.

Then Hedwig went all in, dipping and soaking all her feathers, but not all at once did she completely submerge herself. I think that would have left her vulnerable to predators if she were unable to fly. She dipped and soaked, then fluffed her feathers, then repeated all several times more. The total length of time was about 40 minutes; she was still fluffing when I had to leave. Watching a Snowy Owl take a winter bath was beautiful and fascinating, unexpected and funny and am overjoyed to have captured with photos and film.

Happiness is a long winter bath.

A flock of Herring Gulls had the same idea. 

STAR POWER – NANCY MARCIANO IN THE HOOD!

My friend Nancy loves Snowies and especially Hedwig’s story. She drove over from Beverly this morning to see if she could see Hedwig and yes, there she was once again, perched on one of her favorite lookouts, the railing of the Ocean House Hotel at Bass Rocks.

Star to star–Nancy meets Hedwig and she is positively beaming 🙂


SNOWY OWL HEDWIG GOING POOP

I have along the way taken many photos of animals going pooh, quite incidentally, as it just happens. For some (childish) reason it always strikes me as mildly funny. One of the funniest is the Great Blue Heron–the bigger the bird, the greater the amount, and Great Blues are pretty big birds.

That Hedwig goes pooh seemingly so frequently means she is getting plenty to eat. This morning she arrived on the rocks a bloody mess (more signs of good eating) and took a luxuriously long bath in a puddle (posting those photos tomorrow when I have time too sort through). After bathing, she pooped several times before flying to higher ground.

Digestion in Owls

By Deanne Lewis

Like other birds, Owls cannot chew their food – small prey items are swallowed whole, while larger prey are torn into smaller pieces before being swallowed. Some Owl species will partially pluck bird and larger mammal prey.

Unlike other birds, Owls have no Crop. A crop is a loose sac in the throat that serves as storage for food for later consumption. Since an Owl lacks this, food is passed directly into their digestive system.

Now, a bird’s stomach has two parts:

The first part is the glandular stomach or proventriculus, which produces enzymes, acids, and mucus that begin the process of digestion.

The second part is the muscular stomach, called the Ventriculus, or gizzard. There are no digestive glands in the gizzard, and in birds of prey, it serves as a filter, holding back insoluble items such as bones, fur, teeth and feathers (more about this below).

Read More Here

SNOWY OWL AERIAL FIGHT

Hedwig arrived at Bass Rocks with the rising sun. Her face was smudged with blood from what I imagine was a satisfying breakfast. Off and on throughout the day, in between naps, she preened and groomed. By the end of afternoon her facial feathers were smooth and white.

After a day of grooming and resting, notice how much cleaner her face is by late afternoon.

A horde of crows arrived to harass Hedwig but she held her ground.

Hedwig crouching down while the crows were dive bombing.

She jumped from the upper rock down to the lower rock just prior to taking off.

Late in the day, about the time when she would ordinarily take off to hunt, a cell phone person crept out onto the rocks, getting way to close to her. Hedwig was visibly uncomfortable and took off over the water. Suddenly and seeming from out of nowhere, Bubo came flying towards her. An aerial skirmish ensued but with no real contact. The battle appeared to be about establishing territory. Although taking place out over the water in the distance nevertheless, you can see the owl’s facial expressions were incredible; click on the photos to see larger images.

Bubo took over the rocky area near to where had been Hedwig’s perch for the day, while she flew further down the rocks.  

She perched on the the rocky beach, when the same cell phone person again got way too close, and caused her to flush a second time.

Perhaps this was just an average day in a Snowy Owl’s life but I was reminded once again that nearly every moment of a wild creature’s life is a struggle to survive.

SNOWY OWL WATCHING TIPS: The following are some helpful tips for watching Snowy Owls.

  1. Watch from a comfortable distance–comfortable for the bird that is. Nothing makes the Owls more stressed than people getting too close.
  2. Please keep children from throwing rocks towards the Snowy or anywhere within the vicinity of the Owl.
  3. Please don’t allow dogs to play near the Snowies.
  4. There have been reports of Snowies flying into cars. They often fly low when flushed and it is easy to understand why this may happen, especially as the Snowies are drawing so much traffic. Please be on the look out when you are in known Snowy Owl territory.
  5. Slamming doors, radios blasting, barking dogs, and loud mufflers all stress the Snowies.

SNOWY OWL BUBO HAS A BOOBOO

Although Bubo appears to have an injury surrounding his left eye, it did not seem to affect his ability to see. I sent a photo yesterday to Erin Whitmore and both she and Jodi Swenson confirmed that he’s probably okay at this point.

This afternoon he flew into Hedwig’s territoy, which had been hers all day, and after an aerial battle took place, he claimed her rock. I don’t know if it’s the light but Bubo’s eye does not look any better today. The crows and seagulls are vicious and unrelenting towards the Snowies, other raptors don’t want them in their territory, and they are battling each other–it’s easy to understand how an eye could become injured. Posting photos tomorrow of the Snowy battle.

Comparing right eye versus left eye.

SNOWY OWL FIGHT AND HEDWIG AND BUBO WEEKEND UPDATE

Hedwig preparing for take-off.

Reports by several photographers have come in that early Sunday morning Hedwig and Bubo had a tremendous fight. They were going at it talon to talon and the feathers were flying. This is normal behavior amongst Snowy Owls. They are not a mated pair; Hedwig arrived at Bass Rocks weeks earlier than Bubo, and Snowy Owls don’t migrate together. The two were most likely fighting over territory. As a matter of interest, we generally see more males in our region because the female Snowies are stronger and better fliers and they often stake out territory further north, closer to their Arctic home base.

Bubo after the fight.

The two Snowies retreated, spending the remainder of the day on the Atlantic side of Bass Rocks. Bubo was perched out in the open opposite the Inns, while Hedwig stayed tucked under the shelter of a rock outcropping.

At dusk they both flew to their favorite perches to begin a night of hunting. Hedwig was unfortunately being dive-bombed by a single crow and Bubo may have been chased from the area by a bunch of crows. Monday morning, as of this writing, only Hedwig was seen.

SNOWY OWL WATCHING TIPS: The following are some helpful tips for watching Snowy Owls, reposted from yesterday.

  1. Watch from a comfortable distance–comfortable for the bird that is. Nothing makes the Owls more stressed than people getting too close.
  2. Please keep children from throwing rocks towards the Snowy or anywhere within the vicinity of the Owl.
  3. Please don’t allow dogs to play near the Snowies.
  4. There have been reports of Snowies flying into cars. They often fly low when flushed and it is easy to understand why this may happen, especially as the Snowies are drawing so much traffic. Please be on the look out when you are in known Snowy Owl territory.
  5. Slamming doors, radios blasting, barking dogs, and loud mufflers all stress the Snowies.

Reader Amy Mcmahon shared the following blog post about observing signs of stress in owls Signs of Stress in Owls.

Many thanks to Amy for sharing!

Hedwig grooming her feet and talons.

Hedwig in flight.

NOT ONE, BUT TWO SNOWY OWLS ON THE BACKSHORE, PERCHED WITHIN METERS OF ONE ANOTHER!

Golden Eyes of the Snowy in the Golden Light of Sunset

Snowy Owls once again this January drew crowds along the backshore Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Fans were treated to not one, but two Snowies, and for quite a good amount of time they were perched within meters of one another–the paler owl (most likely a male) sat atop the corner of the Ocean Inn and the owl with heavily barred feather patterning (most likely a female) perched at the top of a phone pole.

With the clear distinction between the owl’s feather patterns I think we could name the Snowies–the female, Hedwig (thank you Michele for the suggestion) and the male, Bubo. The scientific name for the Snowy Owl is Bubo scandiacus and the name Bubo may help us remember that fact.

The photos were taken Saturday and I’ll have time to post Sunday’s tomorrow.

Notice how perfectly Bubo blends amidst the surrounding rocks.

It’s no wonder why the Snowies are drawing such crowds. Most owl species are nocturnal; Snowy Owls are diurnal, which means they hunt during daylight hours. It is logical when you think about the continuous daylight of the Arctic, they must be able to hunt during the day. Snowy Owls wintering in our region hunt during both the day and night, depending on what type of prey they are after.

SNOWY OWL WATCHING ETIQUETTE: The following are some helpful tips for watching Snowy Owls. You will get better photographs and you won’t stress out the Snowies.

  1. Watch from a comfortable distance–comfortable for the bird that is. Nothing makes the Owls more stressed than people getting too close.
  2. Please keep children from throwing rocks towards the Snowy or anywhere within the vicinity of the Owl.
  3. Please don’t allow dogs to play near the Snowies.
  4. Slamming doors, radios blasting, barking dogs, and loud mufflers all stress the Snowies.

Hedwig and Bubo have an ability to tolerate some human activity nonetheless, we want to help them survive and protect their time here on our shores. When Snowies are perching, it’s not for our enjoyment (although beautiful) but because they are either resting or on the look out for their next meal.  After all, if they have a good hunting season and survive the winter, perhaps they will return next year!

Fellow photographer friend Dave shared the above photo. You can see the guy is waaaayyyyy too close to Bubo and has caused him to flush.

Snowy Owls have wonderfully expressive faces. Hedwig’s eyes lit up in the setting sun.

Female Hedwig perched in the distance on the far left, male Bubo perched on the corner of the Inn, to the right.