The last time the snowy owl descended upon the Flathead Valley in large numbers was in the winter of 2005 – 2006. It was my first winter residing here and being a southern gal from New Orleans, I was very impressed with wintertime and snow. Occasionally, I would drive around different parts of the valley to admire the view. On one of those excursions, I was lucky enough to get a glimpse of the snowy owl. It sat perched atop a fence post in the Lower Valley.
Once again, the majestic snowy owl has migrated from its natural Artic habitat to Montana and many of us folks are doing some bird watching. Our wonderful Flathead Valley offers an ideal wintering spot for the birds as the windswept prairies and frozen lakes are reminders of the tundra of which they call home.
If you’ve never seen a snowy owl, these birds are impressive. They are big and reach a height of 2 feet tall with wing spans of 5 feet. White plumage is offset with piercing yellow eyes.
I’ve learned that lemmings, which are found in the tundra, are the owls preferred diet. They won’t go hungry here as the valley has a variety of rodents such as voles, field mice, and rabbits for which they can scrounge.
Also, I found out something that I think is pretty amazing. The snowy owl’s insulation is second only to the Adelie penguin, among birds, and is equal to the Arctic fox. The owls can stay comfortable to 40 below. Can you imagine that?
The Flathead must feel like a tropical paradise to the owls, as it is extremely rare for temperatures to dip that low. And this winter in particular has been quite mild.
We started our pursuit of the snowy owl on Lower Valley Road. I do believe we saw one atop an electric pole, but we didn’t stop for further investigation.
Next, we stopped at Church Slough. It’s a favorite spot of ice fishermen and we like to take pictures there. Several years ago, when we had a frigid autumn with little snow, we had the experience of walking on its frighteningly clear surface. The sounds of cracking ice and gurgling water underneath our feet was unnerving at best.
We didn’t find any owls. However, ice fishermen dotted a glistening, smooth lake that appeared to be water instead of ice.
Out into the farmland we searched, as we had heard reports of the owls being spotted near the town of Somers.
We scanned the fields for the snowy owl but instead found old cabins,
and a giant hornets nest lying in the weeds.
I was able to capture this bird with white feathers soaring in the distance. Is it a snowy owl or a hawk? I can’t be sure.
Undoubtedly we will keep our eyes open for the elusive snowy owl. Should I snap a good shot of one, I will surely share it with you. Until then, I’ll give you this link, lest you wonder what this extraordinary creature really looks like.
5 thoughts on “In Search of the Snowy Owl”
rough legged hawk
Beautiful photos! What a nice winter you have been having!
Thank you! It has been more springlike than winter, I must say. Honestly, I’m feeling kind of gypped.
I think it’s a hawk we have lots of hawks around here. There is even a falcon that hangs out at the end of the road. It’s a feeding frenzy when the farmer cut the hay fields. I do love to just sit and watch them.
I’m thinking hawk too. The lighting was pretty bad and he was so far away, I couldn’t get a clear look.