Mobbed!

Earlier in the week I made yet another trip to observe and photograph Arctic birds. My goals were to complete my Snowy Owl story and improve my inventory of Snow Bunting photos. It was a bright, clear morning with an air temperature around 0 (degrees F) and wind chill about minus 10 — roughly 40 degrees below acceptable operating conditions according to my camera manual. The search area is accessible by lightly traveled roads running E-W and N-S, so my strategy was to road hunt. If I found something of interest, I would shoot from the truck if at all possible, using a  padded window edge to steady the camera.

My search of perhaps 15 square miles of tundra-like terrain was drawing to a close, with nothing to show for my efforts. A last minute decision to check an unfamiliar road before heading home led to one of the more interesting and rewarding wildlife observations of my career.

I found an owl, an immature female, doing what I was doing – hunkering down and trying to stay warm. I had my truck and cold weather gear, the snowy her thick, fluffy, insulating feather coat.

Snowy29Jan14#046Eps

Since my goal was to capture a new and exciting chapter in the life of a Snowy Owl, I waited. And waited. Finally! I never dreamed that I would welcome the disturbing presence of crows in the  midst of a shoot, but in this case they made my day.

SnowyCrow29Jan14#159Ec5x7

Crows are very intelligent, social birds capable of solving problems. A social group will locate, harass and drive away predators like hawks and owls, a common behavior called mobbing. This wasn’t a typical mob scene though. The crows were unusually quiet (they usually squawk loudly and often), and the owl seemed to be more curious than concerned or annoyed. I wondered if this was just a normal variation in behavior, or a function of unfamiliar species trying to figure one another out.

The gallery that follows includes a few highlights from the mob activity that followed. (The owl eventually found refuge on the ground, under a large shrub, and the crows left it be).

Photos by NB Hunter. ©  All Rights Reserved.

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19 thoughts on “Mobbed!

  1. Hey Nick, beautiful series of images, well done! What an amazing place to live – it”s been a tad different to that over here lately – up to 40C here the last few weeks, no snow (lol, as they say).

    Have you thought of trying a WordPress plug-in that, when a visitor clicks on an image in your post, shows the image as a pop-up window? I got put on to one that works well –

    http://www.23systems.net/wordpress-plugins/lightbox-plus-for-wordpress/

    If you want to see how it works try clicking on the first image in my last blog post, you’ll see the effect (www.robertashdown.com/blog).

    Just a thought, everything on your blog is terrific as is.

    Cheers
    Rob

    • Hi Rob. I visited your last post and really liked the pop-up feature. I have much to learn about the technical aspects of word press blogging and your advice is much appreciated. I will investigate further and see what I can do. By the way, your images are incredible. I follow, not only to see and appreciate beautiful work, but also to learn and gain a realistic perspective on the world of nature photography beyond my lens. Cheers to you too and thanks for the visit and comments!

    • Thanks Linda! I use persistence in an attempt to shift the odds of “right place/right time” in my favor, and every now and again it works! Glad you visited – I knew you’d enjoy it. Feedback like this makes it all worthwhile!

  2. What a fantastic outing you had, thanks so much for sharing it with those of us reading from the warmth of home while you ventured out in the freezing wild places!

  3. Hey boss great pictures I’m very impressed with those pictures you have posted. I had seen an owl going back and forth out that way for work the first day I saw it I thought it was a plastic bag in a tree much to my surprise it was a owl. I saw the bird on and off for a week and once in the early am when it was still dark sitting on a telephone pole I took pictures with my I phone but boy I wish I had my good camera. Good job and keep them coming

    • Much appreciated Matt. I’ve been thinking about you and the challenges of doing aerial tree work in this cold weather. Really good to hear that you’re checking up on me and my photo journal! Be safe!!!!

  4. Reblogged this on per mare… and commented:
    Amazing images! I am privileged to witness this kind of bird behaviour on an almost daily basis between the noisy miners, crows, magpies and pigeons. For some reason they all decide to use the bird bath at the same time and that can be quite amusing to watch.

    • Thanks for that nice comment and of course the reblog! It’s very satisfying to have a good audience for something special. Agree, interactions among and between species are fascinating and provide great photo ops. Crows mobbing birds of prey is a common sight around here, but rarely does one have the opportunity to capture the event in detail, up close and personal.

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