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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Snowy memories

I've been wanting to follow up on the Snowy Owl posts of late December for a couple of reasons.

First, at the time I couldn't recall how many Snowy Owl records there were for Sonoma County.  I knew there was at least one.  And it turns out there's another, or three more:  Three Snowy Owls were collected in Sonoma County some time around 2 December 1896 (reported by Donald Cohen in the January 1897 edition of The Osprey).

The most recent record was 40 years ago.  A Snowy Owl appeared on Bodega Head and in the Bodega Dunes between 30 January and 2 February 1974.  Peter Connors (of Salmon Creek) kindly provided a scan of a photograph he took at that time.  For those of you who didn't have a chance to observe this bird, I thought you might like to see one of the only Snowy Owls to have appeared in Sonoma County!

Second, I need to make a slight correction to my post on 23 December 2013.  I told a story about a Snowy Owl "screeching" at a harrier that was trying to take some of the duck it had caught.  Later I read that not much is known about Snowy Owl vocalizations during the winter.  So I decided to review my notes to see exactly what I had written in 1991.  I did not use the word "screech," but instead said that the owl "whistled" and that the whistle was "very shrill."

It was a good lesson in being able to go back to your field notes.  I also found some fun field sketches from that same winter.  Here's one I did in Eastham, MA, on 25 March 1992 while trying to learn about the general shape of the owl:

So there you go.  Snowy Owls have only appeared in Sonoma County during two years: 1896 and 1974.  Peter's photograph brings the 1974 sighting to life.  (I'm so impressed that he was able to locate the print so quickly!)

And my field notes from 1991 record that Snowy Owls sometimes whistle during the winter, at least when defending their prey from a hawk.  This small anecdote highlights the value of keeping good field noteswhich is always on my list of New Year's resolutions!

1 comment:

Leth Benz said...

beautiful owl drawing :)