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Birding From the Road: Chicago Snowy Owl (12/26)

posted by Jeff Bilsky at
on Tuesday, January 3, 2012 

I had the pleasure of going to the Windy City for Christmas this year. My family is there so I usually head out to see them for the holiday. Illinois is often one of the spots Snowy Owls show up during "invasion winters" and having unsuccessfully looked for them there over Thanksgiving and the previous couple of years, I was pretty confident I was going to track one down this time. Before I tell you about my experience looking, here's a video that puts this in perspective and certainly helps remind me what these birds go through to get to where I can even have a chance to see them.

On the 26th, I headed down to Montrose Point, an area literally nicknamed "The Magic Hedge" for the abundance of birds that have been seen there. Located along the southern edge of Lake Michigan it is the true definition of a birding hotspot during migration with over 300 species recorded. It so happened that 1 or 2 Snowy Owls had been seen there pretty regularly for most of the month.

The area is sort of a point that juts out into the lake, separating a harbor side and a more open, lake side. I combed the beach area on the lake side for an hour or so with my mom and my older sister, Sarah. The only evidence of Snowy Owls I found were some pellets behind a building, which I dissected, locating a rat skull. I'm not sure they were quite as enthused as I was...

We had resigned ourselves to moving on to an area south of where we were to see if we could find another possible reported Snowy. We had parked along the harbor side and I said I wanted to just take one last scan of this area before we left. I felt like I hadn't really looked too thoroughly here. Sure enough a Snowy Owl sitting on a white box in the middle of the harbor along one of the walkways. Fishermen and birders all over and a Snowy Owl hiding in plain sight, right in the middle of it all. I couldn't have asked for better looks and couldn't be happier that the owl was in a place where no one could get to it and bother it by trying to get too close. It was fun to share the sighting with many of the other birders there who had been searching as I was.

I'm certain there has to be at least one in Utah....hiding in plain sight.

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Blogger Canicas said...

I am getting a real kick out of reading your post--I, too, was at Montrose Point on the 26th and saw the Snowy Owl perched on one of the boat docks in the late morning. Not only that, I was there with two folks originally from Logan, Utah. Small world! I just found your blog a month or two ago and have really enjoyed reading it--I hope to do some Utah birding one of these days soon!

January 3, 2012 at 11:30 PM  

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