Ecological Physiology

Julia Pupko
Field Observation 2: Ecological Physiology
3:30 to 6 on Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Today was overcast and 43 degrees. We drove out to Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison County. On the drive to Dead Creek, we saw six Red-tailed hawks, two Common Ravens, and a Mourning Dove. After arriving at Dead Creek, I took a moment to make note of the landscape. Most of the region is agriculture fields, interspersed with fragmented deciduous forests, ponds, streams, and wetland areas. The vegetated areas give the birds we saw a place to roost, and the agricultural fields provide a good foraging spot. A lot of snow had melted and the fields we were navigating were completely mud soup. We were on the prowl for an owl, a snowy owl to be exact.

The first bird we saw at Dead Creek was another Red-tailed Hawk. She was massive, and kindly perched in a tree next to the road for us to admire her. After she flew away, we continued on, seeing a pair of Mallards. Then we saw her: our first Snowy. She was contently perched on a fence post next to a pond. As I gazed at her through the scope, she turned her head and calmly met my gaze. I was ecstatic… Snowy Owls were a life bird for me. We slogged over to another field and saw the second Snowy of the day.

Snowy Owls have interesting winter migration pattern. It is sporadic, but numbers of them move south during the winter, which is why we were able to peep these beauts. The erratic nature of their migration seems related to food abundance: when there are high populations of food during the breeding season, a higher number of Snowy Owl eggs will be laid and hatch, so more migrate south during the winter. This is different from many species who migrate when they are starving. To save energy, Snowy Owls have adapted to sitting still in open places when they hunt, waiting until they see prey. They hunt a variety of prey, usually rodents such as lemmings, but will occasionally take down bigger prey like geese. Lemmings are the staple of Snowy Owls when they are in the northern portions of their range. I am so grateful I was able to share the space with these magnificent visitors.

Posted by jpupko jpupko, March 09, 2018 03:48

Observations

Photos / Sounds

What

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Observer

jpupko

Date

February 20, 2018

Photos / Sounds

No photos or sounds

What

Common Raven (Corvus corax)

Observer

jpupko

Date

February 20, 2018

Photos / Sounds

No photos or sounds

What

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

Observer

jpupko

Date

February 20, 2018

Photos / Sounds

What

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)

Observer

jpupko

Date

February 20, 2018

Photos / Sounds

No photos or sounds

What

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Observer

jpupko

Date

February 20, 2018

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