The snowy owl trip, with bald eagles as a bonus
Well, I did it. I went to Muskegon today to visit the wastewater treatment facility to look for snowy owls, and I found one, and a whole lot more to boot! I’m not exactly sure where to start, so I guess I’ll start with a blurb from the Michigan Audubon’s website about the facility.
“Muskegon County operates a huge, 11,000 acre, Wastewater Management System that is one of the best birding sites in the state. If the name didn’t alert you, be prepared for a fragrant visit. This site is home to huge numbers of waterfowl and gulls during migration and also attracts large numbers of shorebirds. In the fields used as spraying areas you can find raptors and open-country birds. Many rarities are often found here. While you’re in the area, check out the nearby Muskegon State Game Area.”
And, here’s a map of the area, courtesy of the Michigan DNR. The place is huge, and only a small area is used for treating sewage, the rest is mostly farm land with a few woodlots here and there.
There are two other things I have to say before I get to the photos, one is that the place is a birder’s heaven, and I don’t know why, but none of the pictures I took with either of my cameras came out as well as they should have, luckily, the snowy owl photos are the best of them!
Oh! One other thing, you’re supposed to have a pass to be on the facility, but they are only available during the week. If you want to go there on a weekend, you have to arrange for a pass in advance. You must obtain a permit from the Administration Office as you drive into the facility. The office is closed on weekends so a permit must be obtained in advance. Contact: 231-724-3440 to arrange to have a pass left for you to pick up at the administration building.
OK, so how do you find a snowy owl in a 11,000 acre facility? You drive around until you spot the crowd of photographers taking pictures of them!
Then, you walk up to the owl, and start taking photos yourself.
There’s one of the Snowy owls that is known for being a ham, and posing for photographers. The only thing is, he seldom opens his eyes all the way.
He is a cutie, isn’t he?
It is quite the social event, there will be groups of photogs there, alternately snapping photos, and holding conversations with their fellow photographers.
All the while, the owl sits there squinting into the sun, listening to the conversations going on around him. When he hears that you’re all talking and not paying attention, it moves a little ways away so that you will return your focus to him!
Then he sits there until a sufficient more number of photos are taken.
I don’t know what this guy was shooting.
I was using my 70 to 300 mm lens for these photos, the guy with the BIG lens was even closer, and telling the rest of us to be quiet and not get as close as he was or we would scare the owl away. After all he was wearing camo. I almost cracked up laughing at that one. He’s wearing dark camo in a snow covered field, his camo was flapping in the wind like a tattered flag, and he’s telling us to be quiet? I have some news for the guy with the BIG lens, even a squinting owl could see you sticking out like a sore thumb when you’re only 50 feet from the owl. What a hoot! And that lens at 50 feet, what was he doing, checking to see if the owl had fleas or mites or something?
That’s something I have to mention, the wind. It was nasty out there! That may have had something to do with the other big story of the day, which I’ll get to later. I was only out of my vehicle for a short time, and I was chilled to the bone by the wind. The rest of us there retreated to our vehicles to warm up, while the guy with the BIG lens kept inching closer to the owl, until it took off.
And the owl perched where I could shoot it from my vehicle nicely.
My, what big feet they have!
You can tell how windy it was, the wind was trying to blow the feathers off from the owls chest!
The guy with the BIG Lens tried sneaking up on the owl wearing his wrong color camo again, and again the owl flew off.
You may or may not be able to tell from the pictures, but the owl basically circled those of us sitting in our vehicles, giving us great photo-ops, while staying clear of the guy with the BIG lens and his camo. I like that owl! As much fun as it was watching the owl give the guy with the BIG lens a hard time, I decided to drive around a few of the roads to see what else I could find, and it was considerable.
The other story of the day was that I couldn’t get a sharp picture from either of my cameras, other than the owl pics, and they’re not that great. I saw so many species of birds that I have never photographed before, and the photos I took today came out like crap, could be because I was at a sewage plant, I don’t know. Here are just a few examples.
I spotted what looked to be a flock of eagles.
And I got this shot of two unidentifiable birds and an eagle.
Then this shot of a mature and immature eagle together on the ground.
And lots of eagles in the air.
I’m not completely happy with any of the shots in this post, the owl pics came out OK, but they should have been better. When I first did the download from my Nikon, I thought that because I had switched from spot metering to center weighted, it was up to its old tricks again. But, I took a few back-up photos with my Canon just in case, and they all came out crappy as well. As I am typing this, it dawned on me that several times when I was either walking, or had the windows in the explored down, it felt like I was being snowed on. There was hardly a cloud in the sky, and I never saw snow other than that which was being driven by the wind. But thinking about it now, I’ll wager there was more snow blowing around than than I could see, and all those little ice crystals in the air are what caused my photos to come out as poorly as they did.
Since this is about the snow owl, I’ll finish up with one more of him being the ham that he is.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!