Sunday, 7 April 2013

Sollas Snowy Owl shots

Although we were only a few miles along the coast when news of the Snowy Owl at Sollas broke it wasn't possible to head in that direction until mid-afternoon. There were no details about viewing so we were unaware that all you had to do was view from the Co-op carpark. Instead we had parked at the beach carpark and then spent a couple of hours slowly working the dunes and scanning the fields.
After quite a number of plastic-bag-related false alarms, Colin realised that a white blob on the opposite side of the field we were checking was the owl - such a relief for me and such a beautiful bird. We were concerned that we were stuck out in the open so we just sat down and watched. The owl showed no concern at our presence or of the farmer checking his stock in the adjacent field. It was sitting near to a fence line and we watched it in that spot for about an hour and thirty minutes. In that time it sat rotating its head around to scan from time to time. It shuffled regularly and seemed to want to keep in the sun. As the shadow of a fence post passed across it, its brilliant white plumes were plunged into a vibrant shaded-snow blue and it would then stand and shuffle into a sunnier position.

With the cold wind at our backs we knew how it felt. On a couple of occasions it stood, stretched its wings and indulged in some light preening but other than that it appeared to have little interest in moving. We were pretty cold so we started debating when to head back to the car. Also appearing to sense the heat disappearing from the sun, the Snowy Owl's behaviour changed and it seemed to become more alert. It took to the wing and with a few powerful strokes it was away to perch on some boulders two field widths away. Cold, we decided to start our walk back but were surprised when after a few minutes the owl flew closer to us and landed at a marshy pool to drink.

After drinking it headed to a large fencepost where it looked like a Barn Owl on steroids. It now appeared to be in full hunting mode which was exciting, though I had confidently told Colin that it would shun the fence posts in favour of the boulders only a few minutes earlier!

On our route back to the car the owl continued to pose on its post and then treated us to a fly-past into the sunset.

An unbelievably exciting two and a quarter hours of observation.


welchs said...

Lucky you, what an experience...

Morg said...

Yes, lucky with this species at last after dipping this bird for last two years and failing to connect with the Ben Macdui bird last month. Only disappointment was not being able to show this bird to the whole family - only after we got back to the car did we drive to the Co-op at Sollas and realise that it was visible from there all along!