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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Philadelphia Airport Snowy Owl

On Jan 5, the weather was turning bad with a week of subfreezing temperatures forecast.  Birds were few and far between at my backyard feeders, so I wanted to make a quick drive to see what I could find down by the river in order to get my #20BirdMDR.  Since this has been a big Snowy Owl year in the East, for the past month I've been regularly driving the road behind the Philadelphia airport hoping one would show up there.

This time, as I pulled over to scan the westernmost part of the airport, I noticed a yellow operations vehicle out on a service road near the runway.  As I put my binoculars up to check it out, I saw something white flying.  Away.  Through the snow.  150 yards away.  For about 5-10 seconds.  Then it was gone.

 The bird was white with dark flecks, big headed, and long heavy-winged.  Fortunately, I've seen Snowy Owls in flight at a great distance before--in the 1990s.  I knew that's what it was, even though it was the worst look in the world, so I called it in.

The next day, local birder Al Guarente relocated it, and soon others were getting great looks at it--as it regularly landed on the airport fence or on light poles over the road.

I was super jealous of the good looks they got over the weekend, and finally on Jan 8 I was able to see it on the ground about 80 yards from the road, and get these shots through my scope (iPhone 6 with Kowa 883 scope).

Rare birds are rare, you don't always find rare birds.  But it pays to regularly go birding, and even to look for hoped for rarities.  Sometimes it pays to make yourself go birding in bad weather.  It pays to go out and make sure you find your 20 species for the day.  It pays to let other folks know what you see, so they can further verify it and enjoy the bird themselves.

And it's just nice to spend some time with visitors from the far north or other distant realms.

It's a cool world out there.  Go see for yourself.
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