Snowy Owl and White-winged Scoters, January 30, 2014

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl in the dunes at Montrose Beach (click to see the larger version)

My birding highlight today was undoubtedly the pale and minimally marked Snowy Owl I saw at the beach. The bird was roosting on top of a “snow dune” in the western panne when I first noticed it. After a few minutes of looking at and photographing the bird I noticed someone walking almost straight towards it and me from the west, waving his arms. At first I thought he might be a birder or photographer alerting me to the owl, but it became apparent that he was just walking his dog on the beach and waving his arms for exercise. When this fellow and his dog got too close, the Snowy Owl flew about a hundred yards to the southwest and landed on the open beach outside the protected area. The bird remained here until the dog walker turned around and started heading back west. When the guy and his dog got too close again the owl flew back to the north and landed on top of the shelf ice on the beach. I watched the bird for a little while but when I looked back a few minutes later I didn’t see it. This is the palest Snowy Owl I’ve seen anywhere this season, and one of the palest I’ve ever seen. I’m guessing it’s an older male. Unfortunately the photos I took don’t do it justice.

White-winged Scoters

White-winged Scoters (click to see the larger version)

After the Snowy Owl excitement I walked back along the lake and had a group of 5 White-winged Scoters, including 3 adult males, very close to shore near the tower in the native planting area. This has been an exceptional winter for White-winged Scoters along the Chicago lakefront.