Readers’ holiday cards to all of us

I wish you all a festive celebration, with no lucubrations but plenty of libations. Two readers have sent animal-themed greetings to the rest of us.

Tom sent a photo of a gorgeous snowy owl that he took yesterday at Wolfe Island, Ontario. I’ve superimposed his caption on the photo to make it into a card:

Happy Owlidays!Some info about this owl (which Tom identified as a male):

I had 14 Snowys out there yesterday. Based on the eBird info (plus my observations in the field yesterday), as varied as the plumages were, it’s a pretty good/scientific guess they all were hatched last summer in the eastern Arctic. Like many large raptor species around the world, Snowy Owls are quite variable — lightly to heavily marked. But also, like many other species, there are a combo of proportions, size, and plumage that can be used (carefully, but not completely) to age and sex them. They exhibit sexual dimorphism, with the females being larger than the males.

At the risk of being a downer, I can’t help but add this photo from The Bruce Mactavish Birding Blog (also noted by Tom), showing a Snowy Owl nest with unhatched eggs—and 70 killed lemmings! They sure know how to stock up!


And reader Vera sent a lovely and foxy painting that was created by one of her relatives:

This is a painting by my great-uncle Count Vladimir Leonidovich Mouraviov, my maternal grandfather’s brother, who was a professional painter specializing in nature, wildlife and hunting scenes in the Russian wild. Unlike my grandfather, Vladimir chose not to leave Russia after the Revolution and continued to paint. His work was very popular and continues to fetch a very high price. He died in 1940, the same year that my grandfather died.

I thought you might like to have this reproduction of one of his paintings of a Russian fox! Season’s greetings to you all!

Vera Christmas Fox


  1. Posted December 24, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink


    And, as sad as that photo is for the lemmings, the owlets are in for quite the feast.


  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Nice pictures & painting!

    The dead lemmings thing just seems odd. Why so many?

    • SnowyOwl
      Posted December 24, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      1. And your eyes have never been bigger than…

      2. Isn’t this the owl-equivalent of wanting, “Two large — two topping — pizzas, plus bread sticks & a 2 liter bottle of soda for the regular price of our…”

      3. Instead of running off a cliff, here we see the lemming biomass going to a good cause (they are cyclic in their population numbers & so are Snowy Owls, Rough-legged Hawks; also Northern Goshawk, because of these cycles in Showshoe Hare & Spruce Grouse).

      4. If you were a lemming, wouldn’t you want to come back as a Snowy Owl? (this is just putting the carnage back in reincarnation).

      5. I was using “Happy Owlidays” for my seasonal greeting cards long before Bill O’Reilly started his War on Christmas.


      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 24, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        Maybe the lemmings were on sale & the owl just couldn’t resist. This happens to me with clothes & boots.

        • SnowyOwl
          Posted December 24, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

          Yes… like

      • pacopicopiedra
        Posted December 25, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        Shouldn’t it be ‘Appy Owlidays? And speaking of Bill O’Reilly – yeah, why do hate freedom, you war on Christmas waging DarwinoMarxist militant fundamentalist Owl-loving Lemming hater?

  3. Posted December 24, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic images! Thanks very much for the good wishes conveyed here. Good health to everyone too, and may you all find your bliss! ❤

  4. Posted December 24, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Season’s Greetings to all, and thanks to all for the continued interesting back-and-forth, and especially to Prof. Coyne for sparking and hosting such fascinating discussions.

  5. Posted December 24, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Wszystkiego najlepszego w nowym roku!

    • Marta
      Posted December 24, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      Same to you, but more of it!

  6. Posted December 24, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Someone counted all the dead lemmings? Not an easy task from what I can see. Is it important for the meat to stay fresh? Because that’s a lot of food, and the eggs have not yet hatched…

    The painting’s composition is a lovely, pristine one, suffused with warmth despite it being a snowy scene.

    Joyeuses fêtes! 🙂

    • Marella
      Posted December 25, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      I was thinking the same, I assume it’s so cold that the lemmings don’t go off quickly and also that the chicks don’t care if they’re slightly smelly.

  7. gravityfly
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for a great website, Jerry, and season’s best to all!

  8. Posted December 24, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Reader Vera is better known here as Vierotchka.

    Wonderful, happy holidays to you all!


    • gravityfly
      Posted December 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      So that’s who it is!

      Thanks for the great painting! 🙂

    • darrelle
      Posted December 24, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

      I really like that painting. Thank you for sharing.

      • Posted December 24, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        You are welcome. I find it quite delightful myself. 🙂

  9. Taskin
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic snowy owl! Seems to me that the lemmings could be put to use in keeping the eggs warm.
    Warmest best wishes to everyone here, cheers!

  10. Nwalsh
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Best website ever,Jerry, and merry Christmas to all here.

  11. Posted December 24, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Very good! I especially enjoyed the painting. Made me feel all warm and happy inside. Thank you for sharing, and…
    Hippo Holidays to all!

    • Posted December 25, 2013 at 5:18 am | Permalink

      Hippo? Holidays

      We’re infested with the wee buggers now.

      The lovely painting of the Russian fox brought back memories of tobogganing on the Toronto Golf Club (actually in MramdMississauga)and seeing foxes roaming the snowy fairways.

      Best of the season to all.

  12. Dermot C
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Cool Yule, y’all. Great painting and lovely story. Best wishes to Pussy Riot’s Nadia and Maria, as well, Russia’s next Presidents.

  13. Posted December 24, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    It occurs to me…those lemmings might be for the parents as much as for the owlets. They might not be too keen on hunting when they’ve got hungry mouths to feed.


  14. Mark Joseph
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Hopefully not overstepping my permissions here (I’m not looking to sell anything), but I did once create a christmas card that I think will appeal to some members of this website’s participants (underneath the main picture there are thumbnails you can click to see the other three sides):

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 24, 2013 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

      I’m afraid that link wants me to register before I can see anything, Mark.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted December 25, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        Oh well…

  15. darrelle
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Best wishes to all of you, and thank you all for making this website a haven of sanity and decency. Wishing you all wonderful and interesting noms and good company to share them with.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 24, 2013 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

      What he said. 🙂

  16. chascpeterson
    Posted December 24, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    When I was an undergrad at Michigan State lo these many years ago (I’m going to guess 1981?), a Snowy Owl showed up and perched atop a South-campus building for several days in a row. I was there for all of them. A most impressive bird indeed.

    • Dennis Hansen
      Posted December 25, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Love the chelonian avatar 🙂

  17. Posted December 25, 2013 at 2:43 am | Permalink

    Happy holidays

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