Snowy Owl at Long Branch

As the latest Arctic front pushed through Missouri, a friend and I headed north from Columbia this morning, crossing the frigid, bleak landscape of the Glaciated Plain.  We were on our way to Long Branch State Park, just northwest of Macon, where a snowy owl has taken up winter residence.

Not finding the owl along the rocky slope of the dam wall, where reports indicated it had been seen, we continued northward along the west side of the reservoir, stopping to explore a jetty that extends into the lake.  As we endured the cold wind to observe a variety of winter sparrows and juncos, we caught sight of the snowy owl, perched on the metal roof of a fishing deck and oblivious to the brutal weather.  Eventually disturbed by our approach, it flew off and landed on the frozen lake where a couple of crows stopped by to express their displeasure.

Before we headed back to the comfort of my pickup, the juvenile owl took off once again, heading for a rocky shore to our south.  Only a small patch of the reservoir remained open this morning, harboring a mix of Canada geese, ring-billed gulls and various ducks; one wonders how this young visitor will fare in the coming months and whether it will move further south to find sufficient prey.  To have observed the snowy owl at an area that had the look and feel of its Arctic homeland was especially rewarding and gave us even more respect for the hardiness of this beautiful northern raptor.