The year 2013 offered many exciting opportunities for this wildlife photographer. Of course, the elk rut was amazing this year and although the River Otters were a bit on the elusive side, they did cooperate late in the year. Our trip to the Canadian Rockies was amazing and we captured thousands of images from scenery to critters of all types. We finished off the year with a bang compliments of an exciting Snowy Owl Irruption.
So for those that are not familiar with the term "irruption" I will give a quick and dirty explanation. The Snowy Owls are actually from the Arctic and are comfortable living on the tundra. Their favorite meal is the Lemming which is a small rodent type critter. When the Lemmings are in short supply, the Snowy's will travel south looking for a replacement food source. This is called an irruption. In 2010, my son Jeremy and I traveled to New Jersey and hoped to locate one Snowy Owl at the rear of a large reservoir. We were thrilled to locate and photograph that single Owl and the memory of that day will always be special to us.
2013 has proven to be one of the most significant irruptions in recent history. They have literally been spotted all over the northern section of the United States and even some as far south as North Carolina. Often the Snowy's will irrupt to a place similar to the tundra of the Arctic but certainly not always. We had the opportunity of photographing several Snowy Owls out on Gull Point on Presque Isle. The terrain at Gull Point probably closely resembled their home in the Arctic and trust me when I say the frigid temperatures and wind made us feel as though we were in the Arctic at times.
The Snowy Owls are one of the largest owls in North America. They have a wingspan of 4.5 - 5.5 feet and stand over two feet tall. The males may have some dark bars in their plumage but will get pure white as they mature. The young males will have noticeable dark variations in their feathers while the females will typically be darker. Their eyes are large and round and an awesome yellow color with a dark center.
It's anyone's guess as to how many Snowy's will irrupt to Presque Isle and of course we have no clue how long they will stay. We are so fortunate to have spent time photographing these amazing Owls and hope to spend more time with them. A wildlife photographer must always keep in mind that it's a delicate balance of trying to get the shot but still be respectful of the subject.
The four images below were shot on a more recent visit to Gull Point.
I believe the blood on this Snowy came from a recent meal but could also have been the result of a mid-air fight with another Owl that occurred that morning.
Can you believe the size of the talons on these Owls! I shot this image as he sat out on an ice dune along the shore.
The main reason for including this shot is to show the amount of ice crystals and sand in the air as the winds pummeled us.