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Snowy Owl

Shaking it up for Snowy Owl Sunday!

What an absolutely treat to spend not one but two evenings with this Arctic visitor recently. This guy has become quite a local celebrity as it has spent the last few weeks hanging out in a suburban area northwest of Denver. Despite multiple attempts, it wasn’t until Thursday and Friday that I was able to get some good pics of him.

On this evening, the fluffy, white owl was hanging out on a home’s roof. He spent much of the time sleeping and occasionally preening. Here, he gives a big shake showing just how thick a Snowy Owl’s plumage is – something that is needed in its normal home of the Arctic.

It is rare for Snowy Owls to come this far south to Colorado but this year there have been at least five different ones spotted in the Centennial State. The types of events that bring them here are called an irruption and while it isn’t perfectly clear what causes them, it is believed that a very successful summer breeding season results in an over-population of young owls in the Arctic. As a result, many head south in the winter in search of food.

I’ll have many more pics of this guy to share in the coming days. If you’re interested in a print of one of the images, be sure to let me know.

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl fluffs up while perched on a suburban roof northwest of Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

Rare Snowy Owl pays a visit to suburbs of Denver

This guy (or gal) has caused quite a stir over the last couple of weeks. It was spotted right before Christmas northeast of Denver in a suburban park and lake area. Of course, once word got out, bird watchers and photographers soon descended. It is very rare for a Snowy Owl to come this far south so it wasn’t surprising to see the interest.

I have spent multiple days out there looking for it but on only one did I have any luck. It had nestled in among some tall grasses so I was never able to get a clear capture of the beautiful creature and the distance was hefty so these images are quite cropped.

At the end of my time with it, it did take off to an area further from the group that had gathered. By then the long shadows signifying the end of day had descended and the light was minimal so my flight shots were not good at all. Even if the pics aren’t the greatest, it was a treat to get to see this.

A Snowy Owl keeps watch from the grasses or a suburban park near Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl keeps watch from the grasses or a suburban park near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl keeps watch from the grasses or a suburban park near Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl keeps watch from the grasses or a suburban park near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl keeps watch from the grasses or a suburban park near Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl keeps watch from the grasses or a suburban park near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl takes flight in a suburban park near Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl takes flight in a suburban park near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl takes flight in a suburban park near Denver, Colorado.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl takes flight in a suburban park near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

Return of the Snowy Owl?

It was almost exactly two years ago that my son and I were on a photo drive and we spotted this odd, white clump of “snow” on a piece of oil equipment. As we went by, I realized what it was and became absolutely giddy. That day and then again a week later I was able to get some images of it. None of the pictures were extraordinary but the encounter itself was amazing as they rarely make it this far south to Colorado.

I was just reading an article that says that indications are that they may once again come a good ways south this winter. I can only hope! I’ll definitely be looking. For those interested, see here.

A Snowy Owl hangs out on a piece of oil equipment near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl hangs out on a piece of oil equipment near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl in a field near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl in a field near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl in a field near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl in a field near Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

The Snowy Owl says, “I want snow!”

Well, actually it was yawning at the time this picture was taken on December 5. But I have no doubt this visitor from the Arctic would have preferred a whiter landscape.

Today it gets its wish as the Denver area is getting hit by a stronger-than-expected snowstorm.

Unfortunately this rare bird disappeared a couple of days after this picture was taken and it hasn’t been seen since. I’m sure it is still in the area but I have not been lucky enough to re-locate it.

A Snowy Owl yawns in a field on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Snowy Owl yawns in a field on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

Northern Harrier hassles a Snowy Owl

Working together, some fellow shutterbugs and I were able to find a Snowy Owl in rural Adams County, Colorado yesterday. We were absolutely giddy with excitement, even if the owl stayed a good ways away and never let us get very close.

While I managed some ‘okay’ pics of just the owl, this particularly event was the most interesting. Out of the blue, a Northern Harrier flew in and started making high speed passes at the owl. It was clear the hawk did not appreciate the Arctic visitor intruding on its hunting grounds. It never did actually strike but came quite close and certainly made its feelings about the owl’s presence known.

It was a lot of fun to watch but I couldn’t help but be yelling inside, “leave the owl alone!” Snowy Owls are such a rarity, I didn’t want anything to scare if off. 😉

A Northern Harrier hassles a Snowy Owl on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Northern Harrier hassles a Snowy Owl on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Northern Harrier hassles a Snowy Owl on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Northern Harrier hassles a Snowy Owl on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Northern Harrier hassles a Snowy Owl on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Northern Harrier hassles a Snowy Owl on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

Snowy Owl makes an incredibly rare appearance

Well, what else can I say about my photo excursion this past Saturday beyond: Snowy Owl! Yes, the lighting was horrible and yes, it was snowing so the pics didn’t come out all that great but… It is a Snowy Owl!

My son and I were out on our morning photo excursion on the Colorado plains in an area we don’t normally frequent when I spotted this beautiful creature. On first glance, I thought it was a clump of snow that had somehow gathered in a weird way but as we drove by, realization set in. My son and I screamed excitedly and I quickly made a U-turn back to the spot.

We both managed a good number of captures before it flew away – unfortunately directly away so we only got rear-end flight shots. It is quite rare that these gorgeous birds come this far south so I count myself very, very lucky to have seen it.

Snowy Owls maintain their distinctive white plumage to help them better blend in at their summer home in the Arctic. During the winter they move south into Canada and the northern quarter of the contiguous United States. Adult males are pure white while females like this one have the ‘salt and pepper’ markings.

As an addendum, because this is such a rare find, I have already been asked by many people and groups to share its location. I will not. This find is going to be kept between me and my son. It is not often a Snowy Owl is found in Colorado and I don’t want to stress it by a having a glut of photographers descend on its location. After a few months when I am confident the owl has moved on, I will log the find with some organizations as I do realize there is a scientific benefit to knowing the creature was here. Until then, mums the word.

Scroll down to view the complete gallery.

A female Snowy Owl keeps watch on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Snowy Owl keeps watch on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)