He was definitely hunting. Their method is to HEAR rodents under the snow and dive right into the snow to catch them at a depth of up to several feet. However, he found no mice in our backyard and flew on to greener (snowier?) pastures after a few minutes.
Oh, Kimby ~~ you're so lucky! How great to see him and then to capture him with the camera. I wonder if he will hang around your house. I lived in a house that had a white owl very nearby. I only caught a glimpse of it once, but I heard it ever night as it swooped past the kitchen side of the house. It had an ugly squawk, but I was thrilled to hear it. It seemed to be on the same trajectory each & every time.
They are rather rare, living in the far north and only coming south during winters when their prey is scarce up north. I have looked at our local Christmas Bird Count records from the past ten years and Great Greys were only seen twice in ten years! And a bird distribution book lists 25 sightings in Montana between 1996 and 2002. Of course not all sightings are reported. (I haven't reported our bird.)
Those facial disks act as satellite dishes, K2, to channel sound into the owl's ears which are located near their eyes. Owls also have an adaptation on the leading edge of their wing feathers that breaks up the air as they fly, making them soundless. This particular owl hunts almost entirely by ear.
BTW, "our" owl was back this week when we returned to the lake cottage. We watched as it moved from tree top to tree top, listening for prey. Did not see it nab any mousies, though it did disappear from sight several times and may have been on the ground.
We saw the owl a third time, though not from our lake house. As we were driving away, I scanned the tree tops along the road and there he was! He was not observed the last time we visited. Maybe it's time to head back north.
Rita writes "a female Sparrow Hawk pays me a visit"
Interesting how common names vary from place to place. Our "sparrow hawk" is very different from yours, Rita. Our sparrow hawk is a Kestrel, which is a small falcon, and is brightly-colored in slate and rust.
Yours looks more like what we call a "Sharp-shinned Hawk" or perhaps the larger "Coopers Hawk", two accipitors (hawks adapted to life in the woods with long tails for ruddering and short wings for flying in tight quarters).
Fabulous photos good people. My goodness!!! I 'm dazzled by them all. The Sparrow Hawk so regal and majestic,the Goldfinch is simply beautiful.
Here are some Purple Martin (swallows) and a couple of weaver finches AKA common sparrows who invade the Martin houses much to the chagrin and consternation of the Martins as you can see in the first pic.
Fantastic pics of the Sparrowhawk Kimby - they are extremely hard to photograph in the wild as the minute they spot you they're gone! Here they love sitting on telegraph poles but the minute you slow the car down or reverse to get a shot -they off!
I am intrigued by the Purple Martin village. Where is it and who set it up?
Tod, I didn't mean to mislead anyone. Full disclosure: While I did take the picture of the Great Gray Owl, the sparrow hawk and winter goldfinch are from Google image searching. As this is not an Image Bank thread, it is not required that all photos be one's own work. (And besides, we can't all be such good photographers as you, tod!)
We have dear friends who in their busy lives have had time to open their home as a sanctuary for injured, abondoned and neglected wild animals. Mostly birds and buck, but have had an otter, snake and other wild creatures. This is what we photographed on our last visit:
Kimby, even though I've been less than two feet away from them, at my eye level, I haven't managed any photos yet. I still think there can be no more than two kinds visiting my yard. Here's a bad picture of the view from my computer -- the rounded thing on the right is the edge of the monitor. I was trying to capture the cat sitting on the tinaco at the time. The other feeder is outside the photo on the left, about 4' from the one you can see. I get one bird there at a time & one bird at the four-port one. If another bird tries to approach it, war breaks out.