About Me

My photo
Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer has been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a weekly blog about photography in New England.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Hillary the Snowy Owl Visits Keene

Hillary, Keene NH, 2018

Rye Harbor 2014 
During the last couple of weeks Keene, New Hampshire has been honored by the presence of a majestic Snowy Owl.  These Artic creatures occasionally venture south, tending to arrive in occasional “eruptions”.  They are most frequently seen along the seacoast and my first encounter was during a particularly intense visitation back in the winter of 2014.  On that occasion I had to travel to Rye New Hampshire and Salisbury Beach, but was rewarded with several sightings.

Male Salisbury Beach, 2014

My first encounter was on a rooftop in Rye, but later I caught a couple of birds in more natural habit at the entrance to the beach.  These birds are amazing in any situation, but the holy grail is to catch them in trees or settled into the grass, and most notably when in flight.  In 2014 I was lucky to shoot the Snowys in all of these situations, although my one “in flight” picture was only a partial capture on take-off.  

Salisbury Beach, 2014

Salisbury Beach 2014
The Snowys were definitely worth the long, early morning schlep to the seacoast, but this winter I was thrilled to hear that a Snowy Owl had taken up residence right next door in Keene.  Given the fact that I am primarily a landscape photographer, I was initially able to assume a nonchalant attitude.  After all, I had photographed snowys in the past, and they probably hadn’t changed much in the last four years. But I kept seeing great pictures in social media and, since she was only fifteen minutes from my house, I had to check it out.  Most of the observations centered around the Monadnock Market Place and the industrial park on the opposite side of Route 9. Both developments are built on marshy lowlands on the west side of Keene, and was the focus of my search.

Red Tail Hawk
My first drive-by was unsuccessful, but since these locations were conveniently placed on my normal route home from Keene, it was easy to return.  I was successful on the second visit.  Snowy owls are famously easy to observe, first because they are calm birds and not easily disturbed and secondly because, unlike most owls, they tend to be out during the daylight hours.  All you need do is scan the light poles and telephone poles for small blobs of white.  My first sighting turned out to be a lovely, although quite common, Red Tailed Hawk, but I spotted my first white blob on a light pole in the Subaru parking lot.  When I returned later in the day , she had moved across the lot to the Hundai Dealership. 

Resting at the Days Inn Keene 2018
Two days later I caught the bird on a telephone pole across route 9 next to the Days Inn. The Snowys are wonderfully photogenic when seated imperiously surveying the fields.  She was easy to approach and I got some nice shots perched on human created poles, but I was disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to catch the bird in natural habit or in flight.  So I decided to have some photoshop fun and try to place the bird in a nicer setting - otherwise known as cheating horrible with Photoshop.

I searched my archives for winter photos which matched the lighting and which provided somewhere for the snowy to perch. 
Hillary 2018
I ended up with a shot from several years ago of a pasture fence in a snow storm and combined it with the snowy image at the top of this article. I wasn't trying to fool anyone, but the challenge was  to make the images blend together naturally.  I had to adjust the snowy’s color to match the warmer tones of the scene and then I blended in claws from another image to make the bird appear to be more naturally perched.  Finally, I made a highlight selection to capture some of the snowflakes and layered them over the “unsnowy” Snowy.  Ok it was all “fake news” but it was a fun activity, and not fake as long as I admit the deception.

Magical (And Make-believe) Snowy in the Storm

Over the last few days I have not seen our Snowy.  I fear that all the attention might have sent her to parts unknown, but I’ll keep looking, as I continue to search for that prefect airborne image.  Regardless, I felt  honored to spend more time with these remarkable creatures

*** My Mistake ***
As of  last evening 1/15, Hillary was still with us. 
Keep looking!

Someone Has to Name Her
Did I mention that, since no one else has done it, I have taken the liberty of naming Keene’s 2018 Snowy “Hillary”.  Let me assure my conservative friends, that Hillary is just a name.  The bird ia apolitical and  IS a female, and I refused to call her “Kelly Anne”.  I promise, if we get a male next year we can name him “Sh**hole”.

Jeff Newcomer, NEPG

No comments:

Post a Comment