Sunday, May 18, 2014

Short-eared Owl near Market Lake

This post is just a few highlights from one of our monthly (or almost monthly) trips to Rexburg to see our parents. We didn’t have much time for birding, but did see a few fun things from the highway. First off was a huge flock of Snow Geese with a few Ross’s mixed in hanging out in a field near Terreton.

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Snow Geese (and probably a few Ross’s), near Terreton, Jefferson County. March 21, 2014.

It’s fun to watch a huge flock coming in to a field or pond at the end of the day – you can watch a flock of thousands of birds go from being spread out across the sky to spiraling tighter and tighter as they descend and eventually settle on a small patch of land. We like to call it a “goose tornado”.

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Snow Geese (and probably a few Ross’s), near Terreton, Jefferson County. March 21, 2014.

It’s amazing how close they can navigate to each other without any serious mishaps, and we love watching when they spread out their wings and tails and adjust their angle to slow their descent just before they land. We can just imagine them calling out “BRAKES!” as they near the ground.

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Snow Geese (and probably a few Ross’s), near Terreton, Jefferson County. March 21, 2014.

Any time you see this many Snow Geese together it’s a good time to check for Ross’s Geese. Here’s a close crop of one photo where there are several Ross’s together. When you get them right alongside the Snow Geese it’s easier to compare just how big of a size difference there is. A few good close looks also really helps with quickly picking them out of the crowd the next time a large flock flies over head.

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Snow and Ross’s Geese, with a few Northern Pintails in the background, near Terreton, Jefferson County. March 21, 2014.

Just before sunset we thought we’d head over for a quick stop through Market Lake WMA. We thought we might get lucky and find a Short-eared Owl, but didn’t really have our hearts set on it. Well, it was our lucky night, because we only got halfway between Sage Junction and the Roberts exit where you turn to head over to Market Lake when we saw a pair of Short-eared Owls cruise right over the highway and perch on a fence right next to the road! We were still going 65 MPH when we saw them and with the divided highway we couldn’t really make a stop and back up to see them again, so we went the rest of the way down to Roberts and got right back on the highway. We pulled over at about the same spot where we’d seen them before, and in just a few minutes we saw them cruising back and forth over the highway again.

Short-eared Owls near Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. March 21, 2014.

At first the bird stayed to our west, putting it directly between us and the sun. As anybody who’s tried to take bird pictures knows, you don’t get much detail when the sun is behind your subject, so we waited a bit to see if we could get a shot of the birds on the east side of the highway.

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Short-eared Owl near Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. March 21, 2014.

After about 10 minutes one of the birds perched on a fence line right by the highway to our east, perfect for a few shots with the sunset light illuminating the bird. It was a nice treat after a long day on the road!

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Short-eared Owl near Market Lake WMA, Jefferson County. March 21, 2014.

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