Monday, December 30, 2013

Snowy Owl in urban Columbus!

The urban jungle of Columbus, Ohio, about ten minutes from my office. I was peacefully eating my lunch at my desk today, when word came down from Scott Albaugh that one of his students had just seen a Snowy Owl. The bird was sitting high atop a water tower along Huntley Blvd, right where the yellow stick pin in this map is. Whoa! This I had to see!

I asked one of our administrative assistants, Vicki, if she would like to see (hopefully) a real live Hedwig, she said of course (who wouldn't!), and ten minutes later we were on the scene.

This is the street view, courtesy my Droid's camera. I had driven my non-field car into the office today, and it was clean as a whistle - no scope, binoculars, cameras, nothing. I borrowed a pair of bins before leaving, but upon arrival found another dozen birders there, with plenty of optical power.

Scott's student deserves the Medal of Eagle Eyes for spotting this owl. This unmagnified view shows the tower, from where we gazed upon the owl. I suppose if you click this photo to enlarge, you can make it a small protuberance on the left side of the summit of the tower, but it isn't obvious. Furthermore, this is not the type of locale that one would necessarily be on their toes for Snowy Owls.

Photo: Karen Chism

Yet there was the bird, a young of the year female, showing lots of dark stippling. By now, other birders were arriving, as word had been put out via Facebook and the Ohio Birds Listserv. It had been sitting up there for at least an hour at this point. I appreciate Karen Chism allowing me the use of her photos - pretty darn good, considering the distance!

SIDEBAR: I have noticed an increasing trend, and a rather disturbing one, of criticism of owl photos. Facebook is the place to see this sort of strange and often ignorant attack. Someone will post a photo, often like this one, and someone else will jump in and accuse them of being too close to the owl, and "bothering" it. While I'm not denying that can happen, in many cases they are looking at an image that was taken with a 500 mm lens, like Karen's, that was then cropped heavily. Look at the first landscape image, then the above image. Cameras can do amazing things these days. Don't launch attacks on photographers if you don't know the circumstances in which the photo was made, please. I've even noticed that a number of photographers must feel guilt-tripped, as there seems to be an increasing tendency for some to make sure and note their image was "heavily cropped" in an attempt to stave off the keyboard warriors' attacks before they start.

Photo: Karen Chism

After we watched the great white owl for a while, it began to stretch and shake out its wings a bit. Then, Presto! It leapt into the air, quickly gained altitude, and headed unerringly due south. It'd be interesting to know where it is now.

This wasn't the only new owl to come to light today. I heard of four others, and insofar as I can calculate, there have been reports of 112 owls in 39 counties since the first one was reported on November 22. CLICK HERE for the latest update and map.


Sue said...

No better guarantee of seeing something wonderful than leaving the equipment at home. Well, at least you did get to view it. Congrats!

Bruce Lindman said...

Well, when I posted this shot of a Snowy Owl on the Ohio Birder's Facebook page, I noted that it was heavily cropped just to excuse the low image quality!

Anonymous said...

@Sue: LOL How true.
@ Bruce: I think it's a great photo!

Those are just busybodies with too much time on their hands that complain about things like someone being too close to a bird when in reality, they know nothing about the real situation.