|This is probably the best of my photos of the Snowy Owl as it flew in an arc about 50 yards away, Ogle County, IL; 1/29/11.|
Okay, how did this start? I was interested in trying to find some Snow Buntings that are winter residents in Northern Illinois so I looked up on http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/IBET.html to see if anyone had reported sightings of Snow Buntings in my area. Well when I received the page of bird reports from Illinois, I saw that a Snowy Owl was reported hanging around an area not too far away from Rockford (where I live). Now I just blogged about Snowy Owls after I visited the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago three months ago (see my post from ... http://northernillinoisbirder.blogspot.com/2010/12/snowy-owl.html ),
I noticed that a lot of the sighting entries were about 3-4:00 PM. So I decided that I would leave Rockford about 2-2:30 PM and make the hour drive to the site, and was hoping that there would be other birders already there so I would not have to do a lot of hunting - others would have done the hunting for me. As planned, I left Rockford at 2:30 and in slightly less than an hour, I turned onto Route 72 where the Owl was spotted, I knew I would have to drive at least two country blocks to where most of the sightings have been occurring. Sure enough, there were at least a half dozen cars pulled over to the side of the road and people were outside their cars aiming cameras and telescopes out into a vast snow-covered, harvested cornfield. Being a logical person of deductive reasoning, I decided this was the place. I grabbed my camera and got out of the car and asked the first person if the owl is visible. He pointed out into the cornfield. I have a Canon Rebel T1i with a 250mm zoom lens, and by far had the smallest camera of anyone there, in fact most of the zoom barrels on the cameras pointing out into the cornfield were easily 4-5 times bigger than mine. I made no excuses and put my camera on "Sports Mode" and "Manual focus" and trained my lens in the same direction as everyone else. The sky and ground were of the same white color, and I assumed the Snowy Owl wouldn't be much different. I could not spot anything that looked like an owl, so I decided to zoom in make a sharp focus and just start taking photos panning from left to right. By the time I focused in on my 4th picture, I spotted some movement on the ground and there she was - the Snowy Owl! I refocused and took several pictures. The person next to me said it's been sitting there for quite sometime and was apparently feeding on a mouse that she caught. Even with my zoom all the way out, the owl was just a tiny grayish/white spot in my viewfinder and I knew that I would be hard-pressed to get any kind of quality photo. So I snapped away, hoping at least one might be clear enough to be note-worthy. None were (Below).
|The same Snowy Owl photo cropped. As you can see the quality is still horrible, Ogle County, IL; 1/29/11.|
|As the Snowy Owl turned to fly back to its place in the cornfield, you can see that it has a mouse captured in its talons, Ogle County, IL; 1/29/11.|