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Nyctea scandiaca (Snowy Owl) – Le Raysville, Bradford Country, Pennsylvania

DSC_4224.jpgThe beauty of the bird rendered me speechless. I was totally blown away watching my first Snowy Owl sitting about 35 yards away from me. He was like the physical avatar of the real ray of sunshine.  A Snowy Owl was recently spotted by a birdwatcher on a countryside farm. Kevin Raymond, dedicated wildlife watcher, first discovered this diurnal owl while he was driving on a back road and was looking for another owl species. Kevin first brought this owl to a Facebook group name ‘PA Birders,’ which eventually attracted many local bird watchers and banders. According to the expert, who banded Bradford’s Snowy owl, this is a first-year male. A study shows that time required to grow from 10% to 90% of asymptotic weight in males is 36 days. The body weight of a male Snowy can get up to 3 lbs in less than two months. Female Snowy chick grows little slower than male. The owl of Arctic who lives in severe cold climate develops their plumage in such so that they can regulate their body temperature. Their adaptation techniques are fascinating. To control body temperature, a snowy owl can change the thickness of their plumage. The ambient temperature decrease (or Lower Temperature of Survival) and bird’s metabolism are directly correlated.

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He has carefully selected the location. It is reasonably comprehensible that availability of preying species, the openness of the land, quietness, and temperature are few of the primary criteria for this Snowy to select Le Raysville as a temporary home. Although owl species are naturally nocturnal, Snowy is exceptional. They are seen hunting any time of the day or night. Nomadic Snowy is an infrequent visitor in Bradford County, particularly in a rural landscape. The land he temporarily inhabited also supports healthy lemming population, which was his primary nourishment source. Kevin has spotted him preying on voles. Small wood patches surround this abandoned piece of private land. Fortunately, according to local countryman, no red fox or wolf inhabit near the land. Red-tailed Hawks and Bald Eagles were seen foraging in the sky but weren’t interested in attacking the owl. However, a couple of American Crow did pursuit the owl, perhaps too aware him about their presence. The usual territory of a Snowy Owl in the Arctic would be ten sqm, whereas, Bradford’s owl was observed to be within a couple sqm or less. He refused to take flight as I kept begging for few more shots. Such a nerd, he was sitting right beside the silt bag for four hours with little movement, except rotating his half-opened eyes scanning surroundings area. Adjacent areas are moderately wildlife friendly. A flock of white-tailed deer was browsing within 100 yards from the owl.

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Although Snowy population seems stable, human irrationality towards common but magnificent species is injurious. There is ample evidence that changing the climate and continually increasing temperature affecting snowy and other animals. Snowy owls are exclusively native to the North America and Eurasia (Holarctic Bird).

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A Glimmering Day at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area

Snow Geese lit the Middle Creek. The natural connection they developed over time instituted a school of an incredible ecosystem.

The sky of Lancaster and Lebanon counties, Pennsylvania gets covered by Snow Geese every morning and evening since the mid-February 2017 and will continue until the end of March depending on the temperature rise and food availability. This human-made wildlife conservation site supporting diverse species year around, providing critical shelter to migratory birds since 1972. Not only human beings but also birds like shelducks are concerned about their security and future of existence. Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area provides absolute security and adequate ecosystem services for their well-being in general. Surrounding farmlands are a critical source of food besides the lake itself. Some observers might be dismayed observing waterfowl from a decent distance. All through the lake banks, there is fence keeping human away from migratory ducks and swans and other animals, which apparently protecting animal during their stopover at the creek. An onlooker can easily understand that how freely and confidently those birds are moving around. Snow Geese and Tundra Swans are an innately social animal; they love to stay together in a group. Rarely, an isolated swan is found in nature. During a flight, they fly in a ‘V’ formation in a group also called skein. As it was twilight on the horizon, small skeins were returning to the lake from nearby farmlands. Among big birds, Snow Geese and Tundra Swans are perhaps less aggressive than Canada Geese. During my visit, I haven’t seen a single fight among them but did witness two separate territorial battles of Canada Geese. This year is quite extraordinary because of two reasons – early arrival of Snow Geese and their astonishing number. Scattered gaggles of Snow Geese are present all over the lake surface. It is so difficult to photograph them under bright sunlight. Thousands of geese temporarily make middle creek their home to regain energy before heading to the north as temperature start rising in the East Coast of the USA.

Tundra Swan: character-wise they are so gracious than others. Hundreds of them were floating on the lake surface in small and medium gaggles. They do follow order at all doings and certainly enjoy togetherness. Few giggles were even accompanied by American Black Ducks, American Coot, and Great Blue Heron.

Geese Fight: Right before the dusk, witnessing a 15 seconds battle of 2 male geese wing to wing made my day. The male Canada Geese was hanging with a female geese mortified me by losing a duo with an intruder geese. The other geese stopped whatever they were doing to watch and honk. The second one, carnival barker, ultimately won the fight and took the girl away.

Other species I observed includes Common Merganser, Mallard, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, Red-tailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Song Sparrow, Sparrow sp, ring-necked ducks, Northern Flicker, chickadees and few others.

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Puerto Rican Avifauna

Puerto_Rican_Avifauna

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