Readers’ wildlife photos

We have two contributors today, each sending photos of a cool animal. First up is reader Karen Bartelt, whose notes are indented:

One of our winter quests was to see a snowy owl [Bubo scandiacus]. “In some years, some North American Snowy Owls remain on their breeding grounds year-round, while others migrate in winter to southern Canada and the northern half of the contiguous United States. In the northern plains, New York, and New England, Snowy Owls occur regularly in winter. Elsewhere, such as in the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, and eastern Canada, Snowy Owls are irruptive, appearing only in some winters but not in others.”  (Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology)

There was an irruption this year; large numbers of snowy owls migrated much farther south than they normally do in winter.  One was recently sighted in Oklahoma.

There have been many sightings in Illinois, but every time we tried to see an owl in Central Illinois, we were unsuccessful.  The Lake Michigan lakefronts (both east and west sides) have been hotspots recently, so we headed to Milwaukee.  We checked out several hotspots, and found no owls, but then spotted this beauty as we were driving north on Lake Drive, just south of the water treatment plant.  It was on an ice-covered rock about 50 feet offshore.  The light was good : so good that the owl only opened its eyes about halfway.   Quite a crowd after a while.

A flying squirrel sent by James Blilie and photographed by his son:

Just when you think you have made your bird feeders squirrel-proof, they send in the flying monkeys! This morning we had a flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus) on our bird feeder (in suburban St. Paul-Minneapolis!). My son, Jamie, 13, got some excellent photos.  He uses a Canon PowerShot SX530 “super zoom” camera. In the close-up, one version has the original red-eye and the other has the red-eye corrected in SW.

The interesting thing was:  The squirrel absolutely froze when my son turned on the deck lights (this was 1-2 hours before sunrise).  I was able to get within a meter of it and my son was able to take photos from that sort of range. It must be similar to the freezing behavior of rabbits.  The squirrel is also very small:  Significantly smaller than the little red squirrels around here (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus).  The other interesting feature was the distinctly flattened tail.

After he shut off the lights, it was gone a short while later.


  1. Posted January 12, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    An Irruption of Owls would be a great name for a rock band.

    Curiously, this is only the second example I have ever seen of the word “irruption” (or its derivatives) in print. The other is the “Galactic Milieu” series of sci-fi novels by Julian May. Ms Bartelt and Ms May have the best words!

  2. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted January 12, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Wonderful! Two species that I would drive far to see. I like the word ‘irruption’, and would be happy to use it one day.
    Great pictures of the flying sqrrl too. Let’s call them honorary birds and let ’em have their bird food. They are special.

  3. GBJames
    Posted January 12, 2018 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Love the squirrel photos, Jamie! Especially the uncorrected red-eye version.

  4. Posted January 12, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I had no idea there were flying squirrels in Nova Scotia until the cat brought one in-unfortunately dead. I was kind of confused at first-too small for a squirrel and almost more like a chipmonk

  5. Hempenstein
    Posted January 12, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Flying squirrels adapt marvelously to captivity. I had one early in my grad student years – he came down the chimney in the bedroom of the place where I was living at the time. Went to release him and a c*t walked past the door. Figuring that was the reason he came down the chimney, I kept him for the night. That turned into another day and before long he was named Geronimo…

    • Hempenstein
      Posted January 12, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      That was in Richmond VA, where their minor league baseball team has, since 2009, been the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 12, 2018 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        Aww on both anecdotes, but especially Geronimo. 🙂

  6. Joseph O’Sullivan
    Posted January 12, 2018 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    It’s an irruption year for snowy owls, if that what you call it. There being seen already, including by myself, in the NYC area.

  7. rickflick
    Posted January 12, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    The snowy owl is terrific. What a handsome beast. On studying cave art in France last year I noticed one representation of an owl from something like 32,000 years ago in Chauvet Cave.

    • Christopher
      Posted January 12, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Wow. That’s great. I think just about everyone on here has a more exciting life than I do!

      • rickflick
        Posted January 12, 2018 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        Air fair to France was only $550 when we went. Easy peasy.

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 12, 2018 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      Very cool!

  8. Christopher
    Posted January 12, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Reports snowy owl sightings in northern Missouri, alas, none have ventured further south to my neck of the woods.

    And how lucky to get a photo of a flying squirrel! I thought I was lucky to spot two in different neighborhoods in urban and suburban Kansas City! They seem to like the big oaks we sometimes have around there and it was only by the odd swooping flight onto the side of a tree that I was alerted to them. It is quite unlike the bat or bird (plus one was seen in the winter, thus eliminating the bat) the way they glide in for a landing, and only once out of three sightings of two different squirrels did one land low enough that I could see it clearly with a flashlight but not low enough for an iPhone pic (all I had at hand). Well done, you!

  9. Paul Doerder
    Posted January 12, 2018 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Love the Snowy Owl! The irruption of Snowy Owls into Ohio occurred earlier than usual last year. One bird has been hanging around a farm since before Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, there’s evidence the farmer has baited it. Other northern birds are also being sited along the farm roads.

  10. Diane G.
    Posted January 12, 2018 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful shots of the owl, Karen!

    James and Jamie, what a delight to see such great views of a flying squirrel! I’d definitely roll out the red carpet for one at my feeders. Wonderful pictures!

  11. Posted January 12, 2018 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Flying squirrels and owls! Love them.

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