November 28, 2013

A Thanksgiving Quest

Today at sunrise, a snowy owl's quest for its own feast, at Hanscom Field airbase, became the focus for a few fellow birders, who were willing to rise early this Thanksgiving and brave the bracing wind for a distant glimpse.  Thanks to our ever-vigilant spotters of rare bird visitors -- Alan Bragg via the Winstanley brothers via Simon Perkins -- word reached me last night about two owls hanging out in center field.  So up I went for a distance glimpse of this marvelous bird, from a hilltop at dawn among kindred spirits.  The best possible beginning to this day of gatherings, feasting, and gratitude.

High numbers of snowy owls have been reported moving south this November, throughout coastal New England and down into the mid-Atlantic states.  As indicated by the plumage on this one, it is thought that these may be young birds on a quest for food in years when their numbers run high in their customary northern latitudes.  Cycles of high lemming populations and successful breeding, in the tundra, may drive these cycles of southern 'invasions.' Though there have been sightings at Hanscom in the past, and the last one nearly four decades ago, I was told that this is the first time to be officially recorded.

One of two snowies, still near the tarmac on 11.30.13
 The bird was barely discernible through some very good spotting scopes.  My photos were taken with a Sigma 500mm lens and significantly enlarged and post-processed to enhance some detail. 

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