Saturday, February 23, 2013

You took a wrong turn at the Arctic

As Nick wrote in an earlier post, Georgia has been having some crazy rare birds visiting us. And we have been very fortunate that many of them have not been very far of a drive. Our latest, and probably greatest, sightings have been a Northern Lapwing, a rare visitor from Europe, and a Snowy Owl, a rare visitor from the tundra.

Northern Lapwing 

 (All photos here of the Northern Lapwing are iPhonescoped).

A graduate student was taking a group of undergraduate students out on a field trip to some farmland out in Statesboro to look for some shorebirds that might hang out in the grasses and mud. One of the undergrads pointed out that one bird especially stuck out as being quite different than the others, and when the graduate student got a good look at it, she knew she had something special.

Frontal view of his thick, black breast band

Here, in a random farm in a random town in Georgia, appeared a super rare Northern Lapwing. This just goes to show that there is no telling when and where something extraordinary will show up.

Enjoying other beautiful birds while viewing the Northern Lapwing, such as this lovely Yellow-throated Warbler

Pine Warbler looking tough on the barbed wire

iPhonescoped photo of an American Pipit. Several of them were in the same field as the Lap

And speaking of extraordinary… The Snowy Owl. I had started to feel left out when it seemed like EVERYONE was seeing a Snowy Owl last winter when the super breeding season pushed owls beyond their northern territories. And after we dipped on the Snowy Owl on St. Simons this past December, I was feeling like I had missed my chance.

Snowy Owl peeking up from his slumber 

Sleepy Snowy

But then here came along a Snowy Owl practically at our back door on Tybee Island. And he’s been sticking around the past couple of weeks. Birders from near and far are flocking to see him (pun intended). Just about everybody, birders and nonbirders alike, are excited to see this awesomely amazing bird. Everybody loves an owl! The only ones who aren’t so happy are the fired up crows and the shorebirds that the Snowy has been picking off for dinner.

A wink ;) and a smile

Crows harassing the Snowy Owl

The crows are not afraid to get close to the Snowy Owl with their raucousness

What’s funny is that about a week before we had seen him, I had raised the question to Nick, “What was the best bird you saw last year?” Of course, we both agreed that it was the Black-headed Gull we found. But I threw in a side note that it would have been a toss up if we had found the Snowy Owl. 

The only photo of the Snowy Owl here that was not iPhonescoped. Pretty nice lighting in those awesome wings, if I do say so myself. =)

And whataya know? The Snowy Owl decided to grace us with his presence and make it a super difficult game of “What has been the best bird we have seen this year?” With all these rarities practically falling at our feet, it’s definitely hard to choose. For the sheer rarity, I would say the Northern Lapwing. For sheer majestic beauty, I would say the Snowy Owl. But luckily I’m not a real judge in a real contest. They’re all wonderful to me! 


  1. Good grief...

    Well, in case y'all needed further validation of your decision to move to Savannah...there it is. What an impressive winter of birding! I hope that the rest of the year doesn't seem boring now : )

    A Lapwing and a Snowy Owl in Georgia...truly remarkable. Your yellow-throated Warbler and your shots of it are stunning too. I do declare, y'all are getting spoiled over there!

  2. Yes, we are definitely getting spoiled! Savannah has been very kind to us =)