Jim Salge Photography Blog

Images of New England captured in dramatic light and atmosphere

A ‘Snowy’ End to the Year

It’s been a rough few months for my photography. I ended up spraining my arches in my feet early this fall, and the injury wouldn’t heal. That sidelined me from hiking anything big this fall, and once the leaves fell, I decided to take it easy and recover. I planned on shooting lots of holiday scenes this December, but the snows never came, and my camera remained dormant.

Determined to break the camera out one more time in 2011, I went over to the coast to capture sunrise. Beach scenes are great to shoot in the transition seasons, as they are uncrowded, and don’t rely on snow to make them look good this time of year. In the back of my mind though as I headed over was the irrupption of snowy owls that have taken residence along the New England Coastline this year.

Snowy owls live most of their lives above our northern border. They breed around the arctic circle, and head a bit further south into Canada most winters. A few are seen each year along the New England coastlines, but I’ve never seen one. This year however, the population of lemmings and rodents has been reported to have crashed, which, following a few successful breeding years, has caused the population to migrate further south and spread out in search of food. There have been sightings all along the New England coast, including down to Connecticut and Long Island.

After a pretty, but non-photogenic sunrise, I walked the beach seeing if I could spot one of these beautiful birds. Nothing. I was on my way back to the car when it flew right in front of me though, and perched near the parking lot.

Snowy Owl on Picnic Table

Snowy Owl on Picnic Table

I spent the next few hours crawling around on my belly, inching up on it at two different perches. It first rested on a picnic table, before moving to some posts right on the water. It was fairly tolerant of my presence, often napping in fact, but if I moved to fast it did this circular head bob showing its irritation. The whole time I was shooting it, the horizon maintained its pastel hue, as an incoming storm kept the light soft. A few snow flakes fell overhead as well, but it fortunately wasn’t too cold or windy, or the experience wouldn’t have lasted as long.

Snowy Owl on the Post

Snowy Owl on the Post

Snowy Owl Closeup

Snowy Owl Closeup

At about 10:30, I was about 15 yards from the bird, flat on my belly, when it started looking around nervously. Seconds later, three crows swept in, and chased it off of its perch. It flew over the dunes…and out of sight.

Owl Spotting the Crows Just Before Leaving

Owl Spotting the Crows Just Before Leaving ... Love How They Move Their Necks!

I’m hoping that they continue to stick around this winter…as they are a rare and beautiful sight in these parts!

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