This past Sunday, Barbara Brosnan, Carol Ramsayer and I participated in the Snowy Owl blitz, an informal one-day survey by birders of Snowy Owls in Addison County with the goal of finding out just how many of them are currently here. My team found five Snowies on the day, all of them known bird at their regular locations, and though any sighting of a Snowy is a great experience, our first one of the day definitely ranks as the best.

The owl in question has probably become the best known and most photographed Snowy locally by making its home at the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area Goose Viewing Area. Described by some as a ham for its perceived tendency to show off from such a prominent perch at this well know and accessible birding hot spot, this owl did not disappoint us being right where we expected to find it on a tree at the viewing area as we drove up in the dawn light. But then something unexpected happened. Suddenly a Common Raven flew right up to the Snowy and proceeded to hover right in front of it, dipping left and right, and swooping toward the Owl occasionally, all the while giving a “quorking” call right in the Owl’s face. In response to this harassment the Owl puffed up its feathers, and sometimes raised its wings to make itself look bigger, and opened its mouth, though if it made a sound, we didn’t hear it. The really amazing thing was the duration of this encounter. For about two minutes, the Raven pestered the Owl, all the while hovering on the wing within a few feet, giving us ample time to marvel, fumble for cameras and take pictures. Eventually I thought to switch my camera into video mode and captured the end of the encounter  which you can see above when the Owl finally had enough of the Raven’s persecution and flew off to the field to the south where it was finally left alone.

– Ron Payne

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