Friday, January 17, 2014

Snowy Owl In Not So Snowy Florida

There had been reports that a Snowy Owl had been spotted at Little Talbot Island State Park just north of the St. Johns River.  It was said that this was only the third time ever that a Snowy Owl had been spotted in Florida.  One of my favorite all time photos on SmugMug is of a Snowy Owl (in the snow) by Gilles Archambault from Quebec City, CA (Gilles obviously has better access to Snowy Owls than I).  Naturally I had to beg off work for a morning to go check it out for myself.  So, I got up at 0-Dark-Thirty, drove out to the beach, and humped my camera gear and a tripod a mile over soft sand to get to the rumored owl hang-out.

I arrived while it was still dark and the sunrise only the faintest of a glow in the southeastern sky.  The weather forecast was for 45 degrees with a 20mph wind and 30mph gusts out of the west, so I layered up with long johns, a shirt, jacket, gloves, and beanie (yes, I'm from Florida).  The weather forecasters held to their usual stellar accuracy... it was as calm as a mill pond on the ocean with not a breath of wind.  By the time I had walked a mile in the soft sand, I was sweating like a pig and shedding clothes on the beach.

I looked around in the dark trying to find an owl-looking shape, and low and behold, here she came... flying in over the dunes from the south and alighting on a dune right in the rumored usual spot.  It was still far too dark for decent pics, but I tried a few from a distance anyway.  Then I just waited for the sun to come up... and waited... and waited... it was like waiting for Christmas day!  Ugh!  Ultimately, my impatience won the day and I started in toward the owl's position to get a closer shot, even though the sun wasn't quite right.  I snuck and took a pic, snuck up some more and took a pic, snuck in some more and... off she went.  I watched her fly about 200 yards north.

Gear gathered up, I headed up the beach to catch up with the shy owl.  I caught up with her about where I thought she was and repeated the sneak up routine.  She wasn't having any of it, and she turned around, shed some extra weight (nice euphemism), and off she went again.  This time, she burrowed herself deep in the dunes where I couldn't find her, so I called it a morning and headed in to work.

Here are the fruits of my sneaky efforts.  These aren't great photos... not up to my usual technical standards, but given the rarity of the sighting, I'm allowing them to live on my photo site. 

Here's a fun thing to do on my site... go to the following picture here, click on the thumbnail on my site to view the large version, then use your left and right cursor keys to jump back and forth between the two adjacent photos... It's the Snowy Owl Two-Step!   Funny!

See just a couple more Snowy Owl pics here.

And see much more at

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