Snowy Hoot-ers

Anyone who’s published an e-book lately knows that just about every waking hour that you’re not working your regular job, you’re marketing.  My book From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds was published as an e-book in late December and all I’ve done is Tweeted, gotten LinkedIn, blogged, written articles for interviews or other blogs until finally, last Friday, I found myself sitting at my computer writing “blah, blah, blah.”  I decided it was time to get away with my two fun traveling pals, fellow biologists and adventurers, Brenda and Sylvia.  On Saturday we set out to see a snowy owl. 

You see, snowy owls don’t normally hang out in Michigan, but this year they’d been spotted in various places in Michigan because their population outgrew their food source in the arctic and some had to wander south to find food.  The two places the owls had been spotted that were closest to the Lansing area were the Tawas Point State Park and the Muskegon Wastewater Treatment Plant.  Treatment plants are smelly affairs, so I called the State Park in Tawas on Friday only to learn that the 5 owls that had once been seen there had moved on.  Our destination became the Muskegon WWTP.

Lansing didn’t have any snow on the ground but as we got to the outskirts of Muskegon, we found an inch of snow blanketing the area.  The wind was blowing mightily as well, and since one of the members of our party arrived to go look for owls without wearing any socks, we stopped at a local dollar store.  We didn’t ask why one would show up without socks in the winter time, but while buying socks we discovered several tiny bags of yogurt covered pretzels, sesame sticks and almonds, and loaded up with enough snacks to keep us through a winter storm. 

We arrived on the grounds of the Muskegon treatment plant and took in the fresh air.

Three well prepared wastewater treatment plant visitors, Brenda, Sylvia, and me. Photo by Brenda Sayles.

The wastewater treatment area is laid out like a series of football fields divided by earthen berms.  In each earthen berm is a concrete chute or notch that allows water to flow from one treatment cell to the other.  When we stood back and took in the giant area, we realized that from the view of a snowy owl, it might just look something like the arctic tundra.  We also realized that it might be difficult finding a mostly white owl in the mostly white area.  Luckily, we saw an old guy in a Buick driving around, flagged him down, and, after a wee bit of flirting, got directions to the cell where he’d seen an owl. 

Tundra-like grounds of the waste water treatment area. Owl is in the center of the photo.

 At a better angle, and using my 400mm lens, I was able to get a better shot of what is an adult male snowy owl, sitting on a concrete chute between two treatment cells.

Snowy hoot-er who'd apparently been there for a while, pooping.

I felt particularly lucky to have seen this snowy owl, because I’m not likely to get up to the tundra any time soon, and I realized that in the real tundra, a snowy might be really hard to see.

A white head in the treatment tundra.

 Still, I was hoping for a better picture than one taken from far away, so I sat down in my ghillie suit, thinking I could creep up on the owl and take photos.  But I think I just looked like a giant bush on the otherwise white tundra.  The owl was not impressed. 

Me and my out of place ghillie suit. Photo by Brenda Sayles.
I was also hoping I could get the owl to do something, like move or fly or something, and to do that, I’d brought along a fishing pole with one of my cat’s stuffed mice on the end.  In Lansing, we had no snow, so I’d gone with a white mouse toy.  This did not work well either.
Snowy owl fishing didn't work well, either. Photo by Brenda Sayles.
While we didn’t get to see a snowy owl do something exciting like fly around or catch a vole or something, at least we saw one, thanks to the old guy in the  Buick.
Last shot of the snowy.
 In honor of finding a snowy owl, we decided to name ourselves the Snowy Hooters.  Look for more of our adventures in future postings, a month or so from now when I find myself once again sitting at my computer going, “blah, blah, blah.”
Amy, Sylvia and Brenda at the beach after seeing a snowy owl. Photo by some other guy we flirted with, willing to take our photo.
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Pam Eisensmith
Pam Eisensmith
10 years ago

So glad to see you’ve published. The current book looks like fun, although we don’t have a Kindle.

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