Congratulations to Craig Hunt for winning the February 2023 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! His snowy Barred Owl portrait received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.
There’s more than one kind of “snowy” owl in Vermont! Craig’s stunning image of a Barred Owl dusted with snow offers an intimate glimpse at the facial discs surrounding the eyes that funnel sound towards this owl’s highly-sensitive ears. Barred Owls are able to use their heightened auditory abilities to listen for the faint sounds of shrews, mice, and other small mammals, even when they’re under the relative cover of snow. When the snowpack is soft enough, Barred Owls often secure a meal by plunging talons-first, wings-splayed into the snow, leaving behind an unmistakeable imprint and story of a life lost and a meal gained. The Barred Owl is the species of owl most likely to be encountered by people in Vermont, and though they often appear quite comfortable around people, it is important to give them space as you would any wild animal. Thanks to a long telephoto lens, Craig’s photo allows us to appreciate the astonishing details of this owl while it snoozes and relaxes on a snowy February day.
Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!