Print

Print


     I visited Knox County late Monday afternoon, arriving at the
intersection of Missouri Highways 15 and 11 shortly after 4 p.m. I first
stopped at the spot described by Lee Kraft in his "Snowy Owl Saturday night"
message of Sunday. Reaching the intersection northbound on Route 15, I
continued through, past the cattle farm in the northeast corner of the
intersection. Reaching the end of the cow pasture on the right-hand or east
side of the road, I pulled into the old entrance at the closed gates on that
side, only 100 or so yards past the intersection. I stopped and scanned the
fields and telephone poles in all directions. No sign of the SNOWY OWL.
     Next, I went to the spot described by Mary Anne Auer in her posting on
Sunday. To get to this spot, on reaching the intersection of 15 and 11 the
same way, one would turn left onto Highway 11 and head west, passing the
cattle farm in the northwest corner of the intersection. The first right
turn off Highway 11 is Knox County (Rural Route) 12. Turning right, I
followed the western edge of the cow pasture, all the while scanning poles
and fields. After passing the cow pasture, the road makes a sharp left turn.
From her message, I believe Mary Anne saw the owl on one of the first few
T-poles after making the turn, right where some of the big round bales of
hay are sitting. Not seeing the owl, I proceeded even a little farther west
on RR 12, then back the way I came.
     I spent about an hour driving back and forth between these two spots,
as well as scanning quickly down the roads a little past them. No luck. By 5
p.m., the sun was down, there was only some dull sunset glow low in the
west, and I thought I was going to have a dry run. At 5 p.m. or so, I had
passed the first spot on Highway 15 again, going farther north, and had
checked out a farm road (dirt) on the west side of the road, just north of
the abandoned farm described by Lee Kraft. As I made the return approach
southbound toward the 15-11 intersection, I saw the SNOWY OWL flying
virtually over the pulloff by the closed gates. It crossed the highway in
front of me and flew out into the field on the west side of the road,
landing in a small tree some 50 to 75 yards out. I pulled off the highway on
the west side, directly across from the closed gates, where there also was a
dirt road entrance to the field that was open. Pulling directly in, the owl
was sitting in the tree ahead and to the left of me. I angled in and used
the window mount for my spotting scope, and got the owl squarely in my
sights, sitting atop the little tree and framed by the glow of the sunset.
LIFE BIRD!
     Even better, I had hardly got the scope locked in position when the owl
flew directly toward me. For a few seconds, I was able to watch him in the
scope, then I picked him up with the binoculars and had the thrill of
watching him pass right in front of the Jeep, maybe 25 feet ahead of me, at
eye level. He flew right across my windshield from left to right, crossed
the highway and landed on top of the first pole north of the closed-gate
pulloff on the east side of the highway. From there, he was 15 to 20 yards
from my Jeep. For the rest of the time that I watched him, I just stood
alongside the Jeep, resting my elbows on the roof and watching the bird at
my leisure. For the most part, he sat atop that pole or the next one north
of it, sometimes showing me his back, but frequently turning his head to
look at me with both eyes open. The light was getting dimmer and dimmer, but
I got to saw him fly several more times, and it was a treat to see those
white wings catching the last few rays from the sunset and lighting him up.
He flew back to my (west) side of the highway once and landed in the field,
scaring up some small birds (sparrows? horned larks?) in the process.
Frankly, I kept my eyes on the owl and couldn't tell you what he scared up.
My heart jumped as he flew back across the highway, because he was still low
to the ground, and he flew right through the headlights of an oncoming
northbound car; for a moment, I thought the car might hit him, but he zoomed
past and up to the top of the pole again. The next time he flew down to the
ground on the east side of the highway, he behaved as if he had caught
something, perhaps a rodent. He stayed on the ground for several minutes,
mostly with his head tucked down toward his feet. I never actually saw
anything in his mouth, but it looked as if he was eating something. When he
flew back up to the pole, he didn't appear to be carrying anything.
     By 5:30 p.m., it was getting fairly dark, binoculars weren't pulling in
much of an image any more, although I still could see him clearly with my
eyes only. But I wasn't going to get any better looks, so I called it a day.
I got to watch him for nearly 30 minutes in all. Note, I have called the owl
"he," although I believe there was some discussion earlier about its gender.
All I can say is, I saw it several times at extremely close range, although
the light was admittedly getting dim. What I saw was exactly what Mary
Anne's picture shows. I didn't see anything that didn't look consistent with
a male snowy owl in Sibley's, but I'll leave it to those who are far more
adept at ID skills than I am to decide based on the photo or their own
observations.
     An exciting life bird and some tremendous looks, an unforgettable
experience, especially that awesome flight directly toward me, getting
bigger and bigger in my binoculars until I had to drop them to see him fly
by my windshield. He certainly had no fear of me. Thanx again to Lee and
Mary Anne for the excellent directions.

Steve Whitworth, Glen Carbon, Madison County, IL







_________________________________________________________________
MSN 8 helps eliminate e-mail viruses. Get 3 months FREE*.
http://join.msn.com/?page=features/virus&xAPID=42&PS=47575&PI=7324&DI=7474&SU=
http://www.hotmail.msn.com/cgi-bin/getmsg&HL=1216hotmailtaglines_virusprotection_3mf

__________________________________________________
*        Audubon Society of Missouri's           *
*         Wild Bird Discussion Forum             *
*------------------------------------------------*
* To unsubscribe send the message                *
*    SIGNOFF MOBIRDS-L                           *
* to [log in to unmask]                    *
* To subscribe send the message                  *
* SUBSCRIBE MOBIRDS-L your name                  *
* to [log in to unmask]                    *
*------------------------------------------------*
* To access the list archives from July 2002 on: *
* http://po.missouri.edu/archives/mobirds-l.html *
##################################################