In late December, I twice went down to the Lake Andes area in south-central South Dakota, to look for the incredible numbers of Snowy Owls being seen. Both days were very memorable, and I saw around 30 different owls the one day, all in a relatively small area. I really hadn’t been out birding since then, but took today off and went out to try my luck in the central part of the state.
Where I go in winter in the central part of the state is always incredible for raptors, and today was no exception. I started near “Presho, drove north, through the Fort Pierre National Grasslands, and up to the area around Lake Oahe north of Pierre. There were all the “usuals”…several dozen Rough-legged Hawks, quite a few Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks, more Golden Eagles than I think I’ve seen in one day (maybe 15 or so?), and a handful of Bald Eagles, Ferruginous Hawks, and Prairie Falcons. Also one Merlin.
THAT part is a typical winter trip in that area. But again, the story this winter continues to be the big numbers of Snowy Owls. They weren’t concentrated like they were in the Lake Andes area back in December, but I still saw 7 different Snowy Owls, a number which in ANY year would be a truly awesome day for them. They were scattered around, but in one spot near the shores of Lake Oahe, there were three, including 2 that were completely unconcerned about my presence. One was sitting on a billboard, and after watching from a distance for awhile, I drove by, then parked RIGHT by the billboard. For the most part he just kept on sleeping. I watched him at very close range for quite some time…quite a treat to be THAT close to a wild Snowy, where you can see all the little details in his feathers, his brilliant yellow eyes (on the occasions he opened them!) and those massive, powerful talons.
Terrific day! Certainly THE year folks will always remember for Snowy Owls!