Thursday, January 17, 2013

Still waiting for a hoot

For the second time in my life, I got a good look at owls.  I think I might make this an annual pilgramage, given the abundant birding that's available at Boundary Bay Regional Park.  Last year, I got a good look at some snowy owls and I wanted return with some recently acquired camera gear to get some better shots. I first starting hearing about the snowy owls in December, so I expected they'd still be around this past weekend, but alas, they had already moved on. Despite their absence, and an overcast sky, the air was buzzing with raptors of all sorts.

The road to Boundary Bay Regional Park is lined with telephone poles on one side, and trees on the other.  Just like last year, eagles perched on either side of the road watching the traffic.  The drive in is good preparation for the activity that awaits in Boundary Bay itself.

Owl chasing another raptor
One didn't need to walk far along the dyke before noticing that birds of prey were everywhere.  As pedestrians strolled northwards from the parking lot, owls and hawks pulled aerial stunts, divebombing each other, and chasing would-be competitors off their best hunting grounds.
Short eared owl launching itself off a perch
The dyke divides a wide tidal marsh from farmland.  Last year, it was the tidal side where most photographers aimed their instruments, where the snowy owls sat still on driftwood.  On this visit, most of the activity was witnessed on the farmland, where owls and hawks terrorized voles and other small rodents from manmade perches.

 Just like the snowy owls, the short-eared emit a squawk rather than a hoot.

This short eared landed not 10 metres away, squawking periodically for about 10 minutes.  On the ground, they're nearly invisible:


An owl's success at catching prey doesn't go unnoticed. Typically, it would fly off to a more private location, prey in talons, before swallowing it whole away from its competition.  This trip tends to be a stressful one, as other owls give chase to attempt stealing its freshly caught prey.
The owl dance
Despite my initial intention of getting a second view of the snowy owls, the activity of the short-eared owls definitely made for a more exciting visit to Boundary Bay.