Sunday, April 8, 2012

Finally got Snowy Owl!

The Kids checking out a Snowy Owl in Findlay, OH

This Friday we headed up I-75 to Detroit, MI from Cincinnati. I checked and found a report for a Snowy owl the day before in Findlay, OH. Findlay, OH it turns out is directly on our path to Detroit!
When we reached the area the Snowy Owl had been reported in, we found a car pulled off the road with a man looking through a big camera lens. We thought he must be on it. We pulled over to find he hadn't seen it but had confirmed that we were in the right area. We scanned the fields together and couldn't find a Snowy Owl. We did find plenty of plastic bags and misc garbage :( We gave him our card and decided to go to the other side of the field which was bordered by a reservoir.
We walked along the flood wall on the edge of the field scanning from different vantage points and still found no owl. The reservoir had lots of good birds though: loons, gulls (Bonaparte's in numbers), ducks and grebes all in good numbers! We decided this was another missed Snowy Owl venture and made our way back to the car to head on to Detroit. The kids had run ahead in front of me and were getting in the car. As I thoughtlessly glanced at the previously unnoticed small cornfield in front of me, I saw something directly in the middle that didn't strike me as an owl but caught my eye enough to put the scope down and check it out. As I got the object in my field of view I yelled out to everyone, "I Got It!" My main birding skill is being fairly accurate at impression birding. I actually had to move 150yds closer to get an identifying look and sure enough the top half of a Snowy Owl was visible. turning his head occasionally and otherwise looking like a white rock sitting in the middle of the field. If I would have thought about it, that probably was one of the subconscious clues used in first impressions. Part of my brain probably recognized that a relatively large rock would not be sitting in the middle of a freshly plowed field.
We are so happy and relieved to have gotten Snowy Owl!!

We had enough time while in Detroit to travel over to Hillman Marsh, an annual hotspot for migrating shorebirds in Canada near Point Pelee. Although not much was around yet we were able to add Greater Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpiper to our list.

The trip to Hillman has me wanting to once again shout out my love for Eagle Optics and Vortex. I have told anyone who cared to listen for years that Eagle Optics Rangers are the best binocs you can find for the price. In my opinion, $1000 range quality for $299! Eagle Optics Vortex brand is proving maybe even more impressive. We have recently started using the $1599 Vortex Razor HD spotting scope (thanks to a loan from Grandpa) and I am certain it is as good if not better than any scope of twice the price I have looked through! Yes, including Swarovski. And the VIP warranty is second to none. If you are a birder, you have got to have a quality scope. I suggest looking into the higher end scopes. The quality of image and ability to identify birds you wouldn't be able to see with even a $500-$800 scope is a reality. If you bird often and are agonizing over the cost of high end scopes and how you wish you could have the quality a $3000 scope brings but just cant pull that much cabbage together, you will actually be glad you couldn't. Get your hands on the Razor HD! If you have a hard time justifying the cost even at $1599, think about how much that is over a lifetime of birding and it becomes a very inexpensive hobby compared to most other things even with high $ optics purchases. If you still can't swing the $ just figure out the most you are willing or able to spend and go to Eagle Optics to get the Vortex scope in your range. I am confident that it will be the best you can get for the money. With the disappointing quality of most products these days I am just happy to help fellow birders find a good product and to support a company who is producing quality products and supporting the birding community the way Eagle Optics does. It is refreshing to see.