After we finally ripped ourselves away from the "photographer" we did find some Snow Buntings and an American Kestrel which made us happy. Finally ready to give up on the two species of owls we had come to see, I did one more sweep of the fields, and made a left turn onto the main road. I noticed a flock of Canada Geese to my right after I made the turn, and some lumps of snow in the corn stubble. Since there were signs that said no parking along the road, and there was nobody behind me, I slowed down to almost a stop and had Libby check out one of the lumps of snow to see if it might have eyeballs. No luck. I then saw another very suspicious lump of snow which I had Libby check out as well. She passed it off as snow. My mind was convinced otherwise. I quickly pulled off the road, put binoculars to my face, examined the lump of snow with scrutiny, and eventually the lump turned its head around and squinted in our direction!!!! The conversation then went like this:
Me: "SNOWY OWL! IT'S A SNOWY OWL LIBBY! GET ON THIS BIRD!"
Me: "Yes! IT JUST LOOKED AT ME! IT HAS EYEBALLS!"
*owl turns its face away from us*
Libby: "I don't know, it looks like a lump of snow to me"
Me: "KEEP WATCHING!"
*owl turns head back around toward us*
Libby: "Oh My God...it is a Snowy!!!!!"
|Snowy Owl - the lump of snow with eyes|
This darned Snowy Owl that we had been searching for along with numerous other birders had been hanging out with the Canada Geese the whole time in an adjacent field, camouflaged by the lumps of snow in the corn stubble! I immediately found a better place to pull off and we spent some time taking photos and enjoying the magic of the Snowy Owl sighting.
After all the Snowy Owl excitement we headed back to Niagara Falls to look for ducks and gulls. We discovered that there aren't many places to pull over along the river, but we only got chased off by the police once. By the time we got down to the whirlpool area it was getting late, but we did see some Bonaparte's Gulls which were new for the trip. Just after pulling out of the whirlpool parking area I spotted a Merlin perched right above the road! What a treat!
|Horseshoe Falls in the winter|
|American Falls in the winter|
|Niagara River whirlpool|
On our trek back to Pennsylvania the roads were great and we even had a few minutes to stop at the duty free shop and pick up some delicious maple syrup products. The border guard who eventually allowed us back into the U.S. was a real grouch, very opposite from the guy who welcomed us to Canada. This guard asked me all kinds of questions like I was some sort of criminal and didn't want to believe that I owned my own vehicle. When he asked if we were bringing anything back to the U.S. from Canada I started telling him about our duty free shopping trip and he rudely cut me off! I badly wanted to inform him that I wasn't done telling my story about the delicious maple syrup I bought and that he was being rude. It was at this moment that he decided to let us go. I guess he had enough of my storytelling.
That is all for this trip! Stay tuned for stories about future birding trips and experiences!