Snowy Owls are Back!

Snowy Owls are Back by Kevin Povenz

Snowy Owls are Back by Kevin Povenz

While these arctic owls are not found in the summer, the Michigan DNR shares that Snowy Owls & other winter visitors spend time in our state during the winter months:

Just because the leaves have fallen from the trees and there is a chill in the air is no reason to put away your binoculars. Winter offers unique viewing opportunities. Many of our summer resident birds migrate to warmer summer climates. Still, there are several species of birds that migrate from Canada and find Michigan the perfect winter temperature. Winter is the only time several of these species can be found in Michigan.

Two of the largest migrants are the snowy owl and the great gray owl. Snowy owls can be found moving into Michigan during winter when the food supply on the arctic tundra is in short supply. Snowy owls have been recorded as far south as Lansing, Michigan. Because they rarely see humans on their northern homes, they are not timid and can be easily viewed for long periods of time.

Kevin took this photo back in the winter of 2016, but he’s been hearing that they are back in Michigan now. See more in his Birds of Prey album on Flickr & be sure to follow Kevin Povenz Photos on Facebook.

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Happy Solstice & Winter

Happy Solstice and Winter by Dale DeVries

Happy Solstice and Winter by Dale DeVries

The Winter Solstice which marks the beginning on winter in the Northern Hemisphere officially happened at 5:02 am this morning. As you may know, the two largest planets Jupiter & Saturn will appear at their closest point since 1623 and the closest observable conjunction since 1226  just after sunset this evening! Michigan weather being what it is, the likelihood of us being able to see it isn’t high, but we will have a chance to enjoy it for the next few evenings.

Dale took this photo on the winter solstice back in 2014. He says that he was overjoyed to find a Snowy Owl on my first trip out that winter – almost like a Christmas present! See more in his Best of West Lake gallery on Flickr & also follow Dale on Facebook for more.

Lots more snowy owl pictures & info on Michigan in Pictures!

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Groundhog Warning!

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl, photo by Kevin Povenz

Any Michigan groundhogs out there probably better just stay inside and check to see what Woody the Woodchuck from the Howell Nature Center predicts. Word is already in from Punxsutawney Phil that we’re in for an early Spring!

You can learn all about Michigan groundhogs/woodchucks and Woody, Michigan’s official groundhog and snowy owls on Michigan in Pictures. One thing about snowy owls that you may not know is that due to their remote existence, they typically don’t have the same fear of humans that other owls exhibit.

Kevin took this gorgeous photo on Saturday near Sault Ste Marie and writes:

Yes I was laying down on my belly in the snow to get this shot. Not the sharpest of shots as there were weeds between me and this snowy and was hard to focus. Should of used manual focus, but I loved the moment. He just kept looking at me probably thinking “what the…?”

View his photo bigger and see more in his Birds of Prey slideshow.

Snowy Topper

Michigan Snowy Owl Winter

snowy12-28-4, photo by Dan Lockard

What’s on top of your tree this year? Right now in the Absolute Michigan photo group, we’re seeing a ton of snowy owls. While these arctic owls are not found in the summer, we are in their winter range, as the Michigan DNR’s Winter Visitors page shares:

Just because the leaves have fallen from the trees and there is a chill in the air is no reason to put away your binoculars. Winter offers unique viewing opportunities. Many of our summer resident birds migrate to warmer summer climates. Still, there are several species of birds that migrate from Canada and find Michigan the perfect winter temperature. Winter is the only time several of these species can be found in Michigan.

Two of the largest migrants are the snowy owl and the great gray owl. Snowy owls can be found moving into Michigan during winter when the food supply on the arctic tundra is in short supply. Snowy owls have been recorded as far south as Lansing, Michigan. Because they rarely see humans on their northern homes, they are not timid and can be easily viewed for long periods of time.

Friday’s Sault Star reported that about three dozen snowys were sighted during the annual Audubon Christmas Bird count on December 20th. That’s more than average. We’ll know if this is an irruption year after all the bird count numbers are released in January.

View Dan’s photo taken near Muskegon background big and see lots more (including a couple shots of the great gray owl) in his awesome Owls slideshow.

Lots more snowy owl pictures & information (including a couple more by Dan) in the Michigan in Pictures archives!

Crosseyed & Snowblind

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl, photo by Sherri & Dan

Enough with the vortexes already.

Sherry & Dan took their photo of a snowy owl near Muskegon. background bigtacular and see more in their 100+ photo Owls slideshow.

More about snowy owls on Michigan in Pictures.

Let’s Do Lunch (Snowy Owl Style)

Snowy Owl 1

Snowy Owl 1, Sherri & Dan

Dan Lockard captured a cool sequence last weekend of a snowy owl on the hunt. View his photo background big, watch the hunt (which doesn’t end well for Mr. Mouse) or check out his owls slideshow.

The Owl Pages entry for the Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) says in part:

The Snowy Owl is a large diurnal white Owl with a rounded head, yellow eyes and black bill. The name “scandiacus” is a Latinised word referring to Scandinavia, as the Owl was first observed in the northern parts of Europe. Some other names for the Snowy Owl are Snow Owl, Arctic Owl, Great White Owl, Ghost Owl, Ermine Owl, Tundra Ghost, Ookpik, Scandinavian Nightbird, White Terror of the North, and Highland Tundra Owl.

…Most hunting is done in the “sit and wait” style. These Owls are highly diurnal, although they may hunt at night as well. Prey are captured on the ground, in the air, or snatched off the surface of water bodies. When taking snowshoe hares, a Snowy Owl will sink its talons into the back and backflap until the hare is exhausted. The Owl will then break its neck with its beak. Snowy Owls have been known to raid traplines for trapped animals and bait, and will learn to follow traplines regularly. They also snatch fish with their talons. Small prey up to small hares are swallowed whole, while larger prey are carried away and torn into large chunks. Small young are fed boneless and furless pieces. Large prey are carried of in the Owl’s talons, with prey like lemmings being carried in the beak.

…Snowy Owls produce large, rough-looking cylindrical pellets with numerous bones, feathers, and fur showing. They are usually expelled at traditional roosting sites and large numbers of pellets can be found in one spot. When large prey are eaten in small pieces with little roughage, pellets will not be produced.

Read on for much more about these winter visitors, who the DNR explain migrate to Michigan in wintertime and have been sighted as far south as Lansing. They add that because snowy owls see few if any humans in their Arctic home, they are not very timid and easier to observe than other owl species.

More Michigan owls on Michigan in Pictures!

Snowy Owl Irruption in Michigan

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)_0314_1

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)_0314_1, photo by johndykstraphotography.

We’ve been seeing a lot of snowy owls this winter in the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr. These 2′ birds are native to the Arctic tundra, but they’ve been sighted in large numbers in Michigan this winter. Snowy owls flock to Mich. in unusual numbers in USA Today explains:

Scientists say the likely reason for the explosion is that the owls’ chief food source, small animals called lemmings, was abundant last summer, allowing the adults to raise more young. Now, in search of food, young owls are heading farther south.

Although there are a few snowy owls spotted in Michigan every year, “I can tell you this winter is highly unusual,” said Karen Cleveland, bird biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

…The phenomenon is called an irruption, an invasion of birds in unusual places or in high numbers. It usually occurs because of a lack of food in the birds’ home territory.

They even talk with photographer Stacy Niedzwiecki about her snowy owl photos, which we featured on Michigan in Pictures a few months ago!

The Snowy Owl page at All About Birds notes that they are the northernmost, heaviest, and most distinctively marked owl of North America, and that an individual adult Snowy Owl may eat three to five lemmings per day, or up to 1,600 per year! While this irruption means that there are many more owls than usual in Michigan, they are a common wintertime visitor.

John captured this owl in Muskegon County earlier this month. See it bigger and see more in his Snowy Owl slideshow.

More Michigan birds on Michigan in Pictures!