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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Snowy owl hunt

I was tipped off earlier this week by my birding buddy Geoff Davis about snowy owl sightings near Arcadia. Unlike Geoff, I am retired so I am able to jump on stuff like this, and he previously clued me in to a snowy that I was able to see two years ago at Mt. Comfort airport. That was a real treat.

I cruised the very specific location at 281st street and Gwinn road in northern Hamilton county, just northwest of Arcadia. It was snowing horizontally and the fields were covered with snow, not the best day for finding a Snowy owl. As I was very slowly driving north on Gwinn Road, I saw another motorist doing the same thing driving south toward me. This is a very remote and desolate place,and I figured another birder. I was correct and was able to stop and talk briefly with her. She said she had seen the owl the day before at the exact spot where we were. She had no luck this day. She said she had seen the owl perched on the irrigation rig that was in the adjacent field. She had friends who had also seen it. We exchanged information and wished each other luck. I went on running the roads around. There are six or seven irrigation rigs in the area that surrounds the massive seed complex. I checked them all. I found that each one has a fitting on one end that has the same shape as a snowy owl. Makes your heart go bumpety-bump, but when you get your binoculars on it, it is the same on each rig.

After an hour or so, I gave it up. I did return the next day after about three inches of additional snow, but no luck.

I did find some similarity in the Mt. Comfort spot from 2012 and this area. Both the airport at Mt Comfort and this spot have very large metal buildings and large open areas. The Beck complex looks just like an airport, and snowys are known to frequent airports.

If you were to start looking for a snowy owl without any guidance, you could search forever without seeing anything. Although I was not successful, I was able to be certain I was in the right spot. It is a credit to the Internet network of alert birders that make it possible to share sightings like this with others. THANKS GEOFF!!

NOTE: the photo I am posting on this is from the 2012 Mt Comfort sighting, which was seen by a lot of people and made it into the Indianapolis Star.

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