No, it's not a Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) in the sense of the large, white, circumpolar owl species that's been observed at various locations throughout the Midwest this fall/winter. It is, however, an Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) that must have had its head sticking out of that Wood Duck box for quite some time to accumulate a layer of snow on its head... hence, a snowy owl! I'll take it. Lindsay found this bird while we were driving past a wetland in South Bend during the South Bend Christmas Bird Count on 17 December. During our count, Lindsay and I tallied 34 species in our portion of the southwest sector, and 57 species were tallied in the South Bend circle overall (both tallies were right on the mean for this count).
The next morning (18 December), I was at it again, joining Kip Miller, Gabriella Meredith, and Sherry Manison for the Berrien Springs Christmas Bird Count in Berrien County, Michigan. On that count, our foursome tallied 42 species; I haven't yet heard the total for the count circle, but Kip mentioned that due to the range of habitats it is typically one of the top five or so counts in Michigan. Some of our highlights were Common Merganser, Red-shouldered Hawk, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (2), Winter Wren, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Swamp Sparrow. Although not rare birds, we enjoyed nice looks at the Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) and the Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) shown above and below, respectively.
I have one more count to do this year, on 31 December in Elkhart, Indiana. Christmas Bird Count season runs through 5 January 2012, so there is still time to join a count in your area. If you've never done the Christmas Bird Count, I recommend it to beginners as well as experts. The first count that Lindsay and I ever did was a Christmas Bird Count, and from that count we learned a lot about both birds and birding.