Friday, November 16, 2012

Search for the Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl Photo by Eddie Huber
Last night around 7 p.m., my cell phone rang. "Kathy, you have to get out here right away!" Morgan exclaimed. "We have a SNOWY OWL out by I-65 near the airport!" I had been watching Hercule Poirot reruns on Netflix, and hadn't checked my emails lately, but a Snowy Owl was sighted in Louisville on Nov 15.  There are several strange things about this sighting. One, Snowy Owls very rarely get as far south as Louisville. Even in a bad winter, they come to Ohio and Indiana, but not Kentucky. AND mid-November is extremely early for such a bird to be sighted. We've heard about the finch sightings, but I was blown away by this. Of course, we put our shoes on and hurried to the car, but only a mile away from home my friend called again and the bird had flown off. This photo was taken by Eddie Huber, another birding friend. Apparently it was found at the foot of an exit ramp off the interstate!

So I got in my car this morning and headed to the area of the sighting. Snowy Owls are diurnal and could be hunting at the airport again.  It should be easy to spot if it's there - a large white bird tends to stand out. So I scanned all the light poles, power poles, roof tops, signs and fences, but no luck. When you see something light colored you take a closer look, with your heart pounding madly. Maybe I got lucky this time, you whisper to yourself.

I never realized how many odd things are attached to the top of various poles and posts! I met up with another birding buddy, and we cruised the back side of the airport for a scenic tour of the industrial side of Louisville, checking in with other birders via cell phone. I would have been completely lost, but Del seemed to know where he was going. Of course, we saw plenty of plastic-bag birds. I suppose this metal feather duster thing is some kind of anti-bird device.

Large Great Brown-Tailed UPS birds perched at their regular feeding area at the airport. I wondered what was going through the mind of that young owl. (I know, this is anthropomorphising, but hey...) Coming so far from the familiar barrens of the Arctic tundra, it must have felt like it entered the Twilight Zone. There were areas of short bare grass, kind of familiar looking, surrounded by large paved areas completely devoid of life. To the north of the airport is the Kentucky State Fairgrounds, with more grassy areas and parking lots. To the south of the airport is the largest landfill in the county, with few trees but plenty of rats to eat, making it attractive to raptors. Therefore, this strip has attracted other northern visitors over the years, including a Rough-Legged Hawk one winter. Last year, a Ferruginous Hawk stayed at the Cincinnati airport for several weeks.

As we cruised through the industrial buildings and warehouses, I did spot this young Red Tailed Hawk, trying to ignore a vicious attack from a Mockingbird. The hawk finally gave up and flew off. I'm keeping my cell phone nearby and charged up, hoping that someone will find this bird again, and I can get to see it. Wow! A real, live Snowy Owl here in Louisville! I just hope we don't have to bring it in for rehab sometime.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As he was found at an interstate eit ramp, we know his route.