White Christmas…Owl

We haven’t had any measurable snow yet in Chicago, but due to an irruption of Snowy Owls, we have had several visitors from the far north in the area. After a long Christmas Eve baking, I got up early to package the cookies for my neighbors on Christmas morning…

delivered the gifts, and went down to Montrose Harbor to see the Snowy Owl that has been there for weeks. The reason for the Snowys coming down from the Arctic is a lack of food, and in a Snowy’s case that’s lemmings. Perhaps there is a food shortage due to an overly optimistic breeding year for the owls, or weather conditions have disturbed the snow pack resulting in too much ice, affecting an owl’s hunting capability. Whatever this owl is finding to eat at Montrose I hope it is getting some nourishment and will make it back to its breeding ground.

Unfortunately for the owl, those of us who show up to gawk at it catch it when it’s trying to get some well-needed sleep. Yesterday I met some people who had just seen the owl fly from the beach where I was headed and then take off again, toward the harbor. I followed them and was lucky to be there when a generous young man spotted the owl sitting well-camouflaged on the dock next to the white something it tried to resemble.

Snowy on Pier, Montrose Harbor

Of course the owl knew we were taking pictures and would turn around to peer at us through half-opened eyes. The dock accoutrements didn’t make for a very good photo opportunity but I am not complaining. I’d never seen a Snowy Owl before.

Snowy Owl

Thought I would press my luck and check to see if a juvenile Harris’s Sparrow was still hanging out with the White-Throated Sparrows at the Aon Building. I had birdseed with me to draw the sparrows out, which worked beautifully but there wasn’t a Harris’s among them. I went down to Monroe Harbor briefly and saw nothing except one Common Merganser diving. I found out later I had missed a Red-Throated Loon seen earlier. I saw a Red-Throated Loon there a couple years back, but it would have been nice to see one again. Such is the way with birds. And with people. One lifer under my belt and I think I should be able to see everything.

I had peanuts with me because I knew I’d run into my crow buddies. White-Wing spotted me and virtually announced herself.

Hey, it's a holiday, what are you doing here?

She was soon saving some for later…

White-Wing in Peanut Flight

As I was heading back to my car, White-Wing followed me to the end of Daley Bicentennial, cawing all the way, and then she got courage and crossed Monroe into Butler Field, followed by her clan. They know how to fleece me, so I left them the rest of the peanuts. But Butler Field isn’t their territory, and sure enough, as White-Wing was busily selecting and arranging her peanuts…

White-Wing with Peanut

the other not-quite-as-white-winged crow I’ve seen occasionally in Butler Field showed up for this challenge.

Stop Thief!

The other crow took her stash. She complained.

Mom, he stole my peanut!

Then she went back to the peanut pile and decided to work a little harder. I caught her flying back to her territory across the street.

White-Wing flies far with her peanut.

My last stop was Northerly Island, where I heard no passerines and saw no birds save geese on the ground and gulls in the air. The wind was blowing through the tall dried grasses.

Northerly Island, facing south

I encountered sculptor Dessa Kirk’s Daphne Garden. I’m not used to taking pictures of inanimate objects, but these figures were too interesting to ignore.

Inevitably some of the Canada Geese took off for another location. On my way back, I caught them as they flew by Soldier Field…

and then back around toward the lake.

A fine Christmas Day.