Monday, February 22, 2016

OWL!!!!!

The kids were home sick today, more a result of being out late at Lincoln Center than actual full illness.  Sis's fever hasn't come back and Bud didn't have one, but both were listless with no appetite. By mid-afternoon, though, they had perked up and so I made them an offer:  come owling with me on the last nice day til the weekend and I will buy us lunch out.  Always game for take out, they agreed.

See, the snowy owl has been spotted in town again, even by very amateur or casual birders, not just the very dedicated ones.  And I wanted to try my hand at seeing him (most reports are that it's a male) before the rain drove him away.

So we headed down to the right beach, and even as we drove I swore I saw an owl fly over a few houses, the big chunky white body (compared to a gull), the distinctive flight.  I almost had a one-person car accident trying to keep my eye on the owl.  We circled the area a few times but gave up--probably sitting on someone's back deck somewhere (as it apparently has done before.)

Then we went to the beach and immediately noted a huddle of birders down on the edge of the marsh, with their binoculars and scopes on tripods.  We walked over and, sure enough, they had a snowy owl in their sights.  They pointed to a tiny bump on a log--albeit a very white bump--some 200 or 300 yards away.  How could they know it wasn't a plastic bag?  They let us look through the lens and sure enough:

SNOWY OWL!!!!!

There it was, right there, on a log, facing us full forward (not in the usual over-the-shoulder or side pose), with its oh-so-white body and some black specks.  Occasionally it would preen, cleaning around its left wing, but then it would go back to sitting stock still.  Like a white bump on a log.   Beautiful, just beautiful.

I couldn't believe it.

SNOWY OWL!!!!

And if the birders hadn't been there with their 20x scope, we would never have noticed it, perhaps even with our 8x binoculars (though, we could see it just enough with ours, once we found it.  Thanks for those, Pop!)  The kids were as jazzed as I was.  And so grateful to the birders for pointing him out and sharing the view.  If we'd arrived just 10 minutes later, we would have missed it completely.

They say there are 2 owls in the area and they've even been coming closer to the shore.  Some casual amateur birders--not intense ones like these who follow listserv updates on bird whereabouts--have even come across the owls very close up.

We stayed around a little while longer, marveling at our good fortune.  Perhaps hoping a bit that he take flight right towards us.  But no, he kept sitting on his log, safe in the confines of the marsh.  Such a beautiful bird.

And now we've seen one in the wild.

I think it just makes me want to see him again.

Can you see it?  It's right there!  Can't even see the white speck in the photo, but we could see it.


(For a sense of what he looked like, check out this Getty stock image, which is the closest "snowy owl on a log" result to what we saw today.  Now, make the image as small as possible and stand on the other side of your room and put up a rounded hand like a telescope--that's what it looked like.  About 1/2" tall in the scope.  Good thing they're white or we really never would've seen it.  And now I think I'll want a scope with a tripod!!)

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Update:  Okay, I'm now geeking out on birding.  Just joined the Connecticut Ornithological Association which hosts the listserv that tracks sightings in our area (all the birders today recommended it) and also eBird, where I reported my sighting of the Snowy Owl!!  Should do the Audubon too (CT has its own chapter not affiliated with then national one, typical Connecticut.)  I don't think I'll ever be much of a real birder, but I do love those birds of prey--we see hawks all the time.  We've even already seen a few Bald Eagles in flight this year along the river.  If I had to list them, very unscientifically and incompletely, I'd say I've seen a Barn Owl, Northern Saw Whet Owl, Great Horned Owl, Snowy Owl, Red Tailed Hawk (though, admittedly, I have trouble telling them from Red Shouldered Hawks and Cooper's Hawks at a distance), Northern Harrier Hawk, and Bald Eagles.

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