I headed in and went back to bed.
I awoke at 6am and got ready to go to Buena Vista. Since my family was going with me (They wanted to see Snowy Owls) I left much later than planned. I arrived at Buena Vista at 11am after a 2 hour drive.
We began cruising roads, slowly heading up to Taft where the bird had been seen before.
Thanks to a tip from a kind hunter, we learned that the bird had been seen on Taft Rd only an hour earlier. We hopped it over to Taft where Dad and I quickly spotted the female Snowy sitting on a sprinkler. I took several photos. Here are the best:
Then we started cruising around in a futile attempt to find some Prairie Chickens. My guess is that the weather was bad enough that they were all hunkered down. It was west winds at 15mph and snowing. Visibility was down to half a mile at times. Not the greatest weather for seeing Prairie Chickens.
In an attempt to cover every road, we turned down a snow covered section of Swamp Road between County UU and Tower Line Rd. Little did I know that it was to become the most "fun" trip of the winter so far. Our suburban has 4-wheel drive but even that can't get through everything. As we drove along, the snow drifts got deeper (apparently they don't plow on New Year's Day and do not plow anything except the primary roads anyway). Finally the end of the road came in sight. So did a huge pile of snow in the middle of the road left by some @#$#$$@ idiot plowman. There were no signs warning that the road was closed (for all practical purposes it was) so we unknowingly ran into trouble. Unable to stop, we ran headlong into the snow pile and perched the car (yes, our big, powerful 4-wheel drive Suburban) right up on top of the pile. High and dry. After a few necessary (and unnecessary) curses, we started digging our way out. It took my Dad, my brother and I about an hour to dig our way out, get the car back on the ground and dig a path through the snow. I can now proudly say that the next car going down that road will not become stuck on that particular snow pile! :D
Anyway, we cruised up and down a couple more times and then called it quits for the day. The Snowy Owl was what I had really come for, and I got it! So it was a productive day.
N Shrike, Common Raven, Rough-legged Hawk and Snow Bunting nicely filled out the list.
I ended the day with 23 species. Only 3 less than last year. Also, befittingly, I ended the day by watching our resident pair of Barred Owls as they hooted away from the maple tree in our front yard.
Here's to 2009 and may it be a great birding year for you all!! Happy New Year!!!! and, as always, Happy Birding!!!!!!!!