First Snowy Owl Sighting in Michigan – October 2018

While on a recent trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I found myself at Presque Isle Park in Marquette on October 15, 2018. It was a great night for photographing the sunset, and I spent an hour or so enjoying the views:

Once it started to get dark, I noticed a large white bird gliding low over the harbor, and it landed on the pier about 100 yards out (the gate was locked, so no one was out on the pier). There were a number of Gulls flying around, but something just seemed different about this bird. I grabbed the longest lens I had with me, which was my Canon 200mm f/2.8L, and set it on my tripod to figure out what this bird was. The first shot I took, I zoomed in on photo after I took it, and knew right away that it was a Snowy Owl:

I had my longer Sigma 150-600mm lens in my car, so I went to go get it right away to get a better look. In the 2 minutes it took to get my Sigma lens, the bird was gone when I got back, and I didn’t see where it went. I was losing light fast, and spent the next 15 minutes looking around the harbor at 600mm, but couldn’t find any sign of it. I went back to my Hotel, and made sure to document the sighting on ebird.

I looked to see if there were any other sightings of Snowy Owls in Michigan, was very surprised to see I was the first submission in Michigan that month. There are a few things I’m not certain of, so let me clarify:

  • While its possible that this bird stayed all summer, as a few other Snowy Owls have in Michigan, there were no Snowy Owl sightings in the central Upper Peninsula over the summer, so its definitely possible this is one of the first migratory Snowy Owls.
  • Its not unheard of how Snowy Owls to show up in Michigan in October. See this Map from ebird of Snowy Owls in October over the last 10 years.

If nothing else, this sighting got me really excited to see more Snowy Owls this season! Below is one from the 2017 irruption:

A Snowy Owl