Winter Barn Owls and Spinning Ice Circles at Bear River MBR

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A Barn Owl resting on a mound of snowA Barn Owl resting on a mound of snow

The theme of my photo adventure yesterday seemed to be Barn Owls and spinning ice circles at Bear River MBR. It was bitter cold and the lowest temp I saw was 1°F, the air was clear and the first bird I photographed was a Barn Owl hunting in flight over a ditch next to the road.

When it is this cold and there is snow on the ground Barn Owls will hunt both during the night and day just to have enough food to survive. I dislike seeing them hunting during the day because I know that they are stressed by the cold but I appreciate being able to photograph these nocturnal owls during the day. I never stay with the owls long because I don’t want to stress them any more than they already are and hope that other birders and photographers will do the same. I spotted several Barn Owls this past week at Farmington Bay but they were just resting and weren’t in flight.

The Barn Owl landed right next to the road on a mound of snow and rested there for a few minutes before it took flight to hunt over the marshy area again.

A Barn Owl lifting off from a mound of snowA Barn Owl lifting off from a mound of snow

When the Barn Owl lifted off from the mound of snow I was able to take this image of it with its wings fully extended but unfortunately I couldn’t get a catch light or even a nice view of its eyes because they are dark and sunken in to the owl’s facial discs. Still I like the nice contrast between the warm tones of the owl and vegetation and the cooler tones of the snow on the ground.

Barn Owl in flight head onBarn Owl in flight head on

I was able to take this image of another Barn Owl in flight facing me head on with the snow-covered Promontory Mountains in the background. Covered in snow and out of focus the mountains can some times look like clouds in the sky.

As I photographed these Barn Owls in Utah I wondered how the Barn Owl I helped to rescue in the Centennial Valley of Montana is doing in the cold and snow up there. I hope he is doing great.

A Tragic Sight To See – A Barn Owl Caught on Barb Wire

Flying Wild And Free Again – The Barn Owl Was Released Yesterday

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge covered in snow and iceBear River Migratory Bird Refuge covered in snow and ice

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is beautiful any time of the year but I find it even more beautiful when it is covered with snow and ice. It does look like a winter wonderland when the marshes and distant Promontory Mountain Range is white and bright.

Spinning Circles of Ice in the Bear RiverSpinning Circles of Ice in the Bear River

We came across an interesting phenomenon yesterday of spinning ice circles in the Bear River by the maintenance buildings. These discs of ice occur in slow moving water in cold climates, they are not common and though these discs were small some ice circles can be 50 foot wide. I would say the largest discs I saw yesterday were between 2 1/2 to 3 feet and their edges showed frazil ice that appeared delicate and lacey. When we first saw the ice circles they were mostly in the shade because the sun was low and the bridge cast a shadow so we swung back around to photograph and video the ice circles in better light before leaving the auto tour route at the refuge.

The discs of ice reminded me of water lily pads only they were icy and blue.

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A short video of the spinning ice circles

This video is shorter than I would have liked but I had to edit it to remove some sounds I didn’t want in it.  I have wondered what those ice circles looked like later in the day and if the cold last night changed them in some way.

Close up of the spinning circles of ice in the Bear RiverClose up of the spinning circles of ice in the Bear River

I took some images of the ice circles with my bird set up but like the ones I took with my D300 and 18-200mm VR lens most because it shows individual ice discs, the frazil ice on the edges and it looks quite abstract.

Again, you just never know (what you will see) until you go. From one day to the next nature is full of surprises.

Life is good.



  1. Azstu January 1, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    You deserve all the accolades that you get, for your endless drive to obtain the superlative images your attain,
    these same images capturing the most intriguing and rarely seen aspects of Flora and Fauna.

    World Class Mia ! ..

  2. John Fox "Omnitrigger" December 30, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Great series. The head on in-flight of the Barn Owl is my favorite.

  3. Mia McPherson December 29, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Thank you all for you lovely comments, they are much appreciated. I am happy I can post owls on my site and share them with you all.

    The ice circles were amazing.

  4. Utahbooklover December 28, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    The nocturnal owl looks sleepy. Love the straight-on view and the novel ice-circles.

  5. Kerry December 28, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Nice pictures Mia. Beautiful Owls. The Ice Circles are interesting.

  6. Elephant's Child December 28, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Owls AND spinning ice circles? Life is better than good.

  7. Nicole Haller-Wilson December 28, 2015 at 11:39 am

    Amazing photographs! I feel so bad for these owls, struggling to survive in such cold weather… Why do some birds migrate and others do not?

  8. Patty Chadwick December 28, 2015 at 10:45 am

    How beautiful can it get? Far more beautiful than diamonds in a ring!!! How I woukd love to see them, lucky lady!!! I get excited by circular clouds….

  9. Cindy December 28, 2015 at 9:27 am

    A feast for the eyes and even the quiet sounds of the water as frozen “lily pads” circle. You really enjoy life, Mia out and about each and every day. Yesterday I saw a hawk on the ground partaking of it’s kill. Sad and yet the circle of life all feasting in one way or the other. Thank you, Mia.

  10. Bob Mcpherson December 28, 2015 at 6:47 am

    Stunning images Mia. Your owl photos are the best!!
    Loved the ice circles too, I have never seen that.

  11. Nancy Collins December 28, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Nice Mia! The owl is beautiful, the ice circles are fascinating and the snow covered mountains are spectacular!

Comments are closed.