The Search for the Great Snowy Owl

 

All the birders (birders are bird watchers but “birder” sounds stronger and classier than bird watcher) were at Jones Beach West Field #2, tromping through the sand and the dunes with one harried lady scolding us: “Do not walk on the grass on the dunes!” We were not listening; instead we tromped all over the grass which was unavoidable since it was under our feet.

The grass is not like the grass on your lawn or on a golf course. Each stalk is about a foot or two high and every couple of inches there it was. You couldn’t help but step on the grass. But this lady, protecting our planet as she had a “Protect Our Planet” shirt on, was adamant. Everyone smiled at her benignly and she finally gave up the fight and stepped on the grass too.

Birders were all over the place – on the dunes, the beach, near the parking lot. Wherever you looked, there was a birder or groups of birders in their birding clothes with binoculars pointed wherever they thought they would see the creature we had all come to Jones Beach to see, the great Snowy Owl.

My group is from the South Shore Audubon Society and we were hunting for that great Snowy Owl also known as Bubo scandiacus. (Bubba scandiacus, if you are from the south.) We hungered to see it as these owls are tough to spot around our area since they hang out in the Arctic, which is a long drive from Long Island, New York. In the fall they migrate to the south. I guess these birds are the real snow birds, not to be confused with NY senior citizens who spend three months in Florida every winter.

Now, birding is not a precise activity. The leaders of our group saw the Snowy Owl just a few days earlier and some photographed it. So, everyone excitedly looked here, there and everywhere to catch a glimpse of this magnificent owl. Alas, after an hour and twenty minutes of climbing, walking and binoculing, Mr. Owl didn’t make an appearance. I have printed a great one from Claire Reilly, a pro photographer, who photographed the bird several days later on Jones Beach.

That night, after our day’s disappointment, my wife the Beautiful AP and I watched a documentary titled Wild Arctic and one beautiful sequence had a fabulous video of this fabulous bird. In the birding world, this sighting doesn’t count. We can’t put it on the list we’re not keeping (see article “The Pelican Brief”). But the documentary was great to watch.

snowyowl

Photo by Claire Reilly

[Read my new book Confessions of a Wayward Catholic!]

 

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