I’ve been chasing a few rares here in Ohio recently. I’ve been fortunate enough to score a Prairie Falcon on my third trip to Weston, and a Northern Shrike also on my third trip to Sandy Ridge. I caught a Brant on my first trip to Friendship Lake. But my biggest bird thus far I finally caught yesterday… the ever elusive – for me – Snowy Owl!
I was hanging at home yesterday, early afternoon.. raining outside and generally a yucky, windy, wet day. A friend sends me a Messenger note… posted just several minutes earlier, someone had spotted a Snowy Owl at Cleveland’s Hopkins Airport. Do I go? Do I forget about it? I have already struck out four times in trying to see this, my favorite bird, including just this week at Burke Lakefront. I decide to go… no guts, no glory, right?
I quickly gathered my stuff, hopped in the car, gassed up and was on the way… at like 75mph up 77! “Please be there, please be there…” It was reported to be seen from the vantage of the 100th Bomber Group restaurant lot, so that’s where I headed. When I pulled in the lot, I’m thinking that this bird is not going to be here. There were a couple of other cars pointed in the right direction when I arrived, giving me hope. I then pulled up to park in front overlooking the highway, and started searching when, to my surprise, I spotted a white blob in the field by a taxiway.
Another person was there, camera in hand, and I gestured, “is that him?’ An affirmative response. I just couldn’t believe it! Finally, the Snowy. The last time I had seen a Snowy Owl was around 1975 I believe, the year everyone was going nuts over a little gull in Newburyport, the Ross Gull. My father used to take me to Parker River NWR, which I called Plum Island, and it was there that I first glimpsed the Snowy Owl through another birder’s scope (interestingly, along with a Tufted Duck). it’s been my favorite bird ever since.
I spent about 30 minutes observing the Snowy yesterday, as best I could with a 10×42 bin. It was just so great to see a Snowy again. I am wondering if this is the same bird that has been seen at Burke Lakefront? They have a tendency to favor airports, which could be a health hazard… I am hopeful that once I get a spotting scope, I can see them again…