Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Snowy Owl

 The twin lakes, Aranmore, Co.Donegal

A male snowy owl on Aranmore Island off the west coast of Donegal for the last month finally became too much and after hearing it was still present last friday I set about trying to fill the car and make plans to get up at the first opportunity. A midweek trip didn't suit many so I set off aiming for the 730am ferry picking up two friends along the way. With no traffic, we arrived in burtonport shortly before 645 and had a bit of food and coffee ahead of the short boat trip. 
We set off for the twin lakes, scanning every white rock and plastic turf bag. After a good scan, we split up and started walking. The island seemed endless, every hill climbed led to another rolling hillside. Heading north in the hope that the bird would be sheltering from the strong south westerly wind, I came across a great arm chair overlooking a large sheltered valley leading down to the lighthouse. I was just about to sit down and scan when reception on the phone picked up and I got a series of txts of missed calls, eventually a text with directions came through and I set off taking the long way round due to a little dis orientation. When I finally caught up with them I was told the owl had just flown over the brow of the hill. Had I sat on the armchair I would have been looking straight down on it as it flew!

 Best view on the island, if I was sitting in it!

After another long walk around I looked back to see Ciaran and Laragh were waving and pointing back where I had come from, another long jog followed before a shadow passed over head, looking up, the immense shape of the snowy passed overhead and disappeared over a ridge. I continued up towards the others, glancing back the snowy was sitting on mound, sheltered under a ridge from the wind.

 The views were pretty good! The white spot in the dark ridge above is the snowy owl! After a while crouching in the soggy heather watching it dozing, I tried to change position onto a small rock for a bit of comfort and sketching, the bird took off and disappeared over the hilltop back towards the lake.
We moved in to check on where it was sitting and found a pile of atleast 6 pellets, moulted feathers and the remains of a rabbit. It was pretty clear this was an area the bird favours and well worth a look in future.

                          Some of the pellets and rabbit remains found where we had the snowy today.

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