My mission to photograph and see owls in the wild for the first time in my life lead me out of the State of Maine. I joined up with another photographer and friend of mine, Ed, in Beverly, Mass. Our owl mission began bright and early (5:30 a.m.) on Friday, Feb 24th. It was a very rainy and cold day. As the day progressed and we had only seen a few snowy owls far, far away, I was beginning to think I may not get an opportunity to see one close enough to photograph. But after miles of driving and walking, our luck changed! Ed spotted a snowy owl at Sandy Point in Mass. Through the binoculars I was able to see it. But Ed had photographed them many times and knew exactly how to get us in position to photograph it. We were lucky enough to observe this snowy for an hour or so. Just before dusk we headed to another location to look for short-eared owls. But there were none to be found.
On Saturday, Feb 25th, there was no rain in the forecast but they were calling for wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour! And the wind was all that and more. We could barely keep our tripods from blowing over and it was hard to keep it steady. In windy weather the snowy owls seek shelter around the sand dunes or in some cases man-made fire pits. After a great morning seeing the snowy again, we headed out to other locations to see if we could find screech or barred owls. We didn't find any so we headed over to a wildlife sanctuary in Topsfield, Mass. The birds there are used to visitors and welcome the chance to eat bird seed out of your hand. I got to experience a black-capped chickadee and a tufted titmouse eating sun flower seeds out of my hand (Another first for me!). We then hiked a trail to see if we could find any white-tailed deer. We saw 5 or 6 off in the woods peering back at us! After an exciting visit to the sanctuary, we headed out once again in search of the short-eared owls. It was still windy and cold as we sat at the marsh waiting for a chance to see them. But once again they were nowhere to be found.
On Sunday, Feb 26th, the weather was frigid with high winds and gusts up to 40 miles per hour. We headed out to check the usual locations for the snowy owls and around sunrise we got word that one was in Hampton, NH. This time it was settled in on top of a sand dune. As we made our way on to the beach the wind battered us with sand. Holding on to our camera equipment and trudging through the sand storm we arrived just in time to photograph the snowy on the sand dune. It only stayed there for a short time, but it was just as well because we could barely stand the frigid cold. From there we headed to another hiking location to look for barred owls. The wind was still going strong, but we thought it would be less windy hiking in the woods. While on the trail looking for the owls a coyote ran across the trail very quickly and unexpected. This is the first time I have ever seen a coyote in the wild! We didn't come across any owls but seeing the coyote made the hike worthwhile. Around dusk we headed out to the marsh to look for the short-eared once again, as this was my last night in Mass. When we arrived there were several photographers out in the marsh. Ed spotted a short-eared owl way out so we headed out across the marsh in hopes of photographing one. The owl never flew close enough for me to get a really good photo, but it was amazing to watch it hunt. It was just about dark and we headed back across the marsh so we wouldn't get caught out in it in the dark.
My owl photo mission was complete! I got to experience many different wildlife encounters for the first time, and along with some great photos, I have many great memories! Thanks again to my friend Ed for a great photo mission!