In search of a snowy owl….

In the last few weeks there have been many reports of snowy owl sightings along the northeastern coast of the US including sightings in Massachusetts. Duxbury Beach was the closest area where a snowy owl had been reported from so a little over a week ago my sister and I headed off Cape to see what we could see.

I’m sort of embarrassed to admit that I’d never been to this beach before but I had not–and what a beauty it is! Snowy owls spend most of their time in the arctic tundra where they can watch for passing lemmings from atop low hills and grassy hummocks and our barrier beaches seem to offer a similar habitat.
Unlike many of their relatives, snowy owls are diurnal, meaning they hunt and hang out in the daylight, hence their light coloration. Well, there is that snow thing, of course, as well, but even without the snow they blend in extremely well.
We walked on the beach side and also along this dirt road that ran along the backside of the dunes and along the harbor. We knew the owl would most likely be way out and when we saw someone with a big scope and camera coming off the trail from up ahead we asked if they had seen the owl. Indeed they had. It was on the beach side and down about a mile or so. He said we’d see the people watching it.
We walked and we walked and we walked but we eventually saw the people standing in a group looking at something and we were pretty sure it was probably the owl so we picked up our pace and headed in that direction. By the time we got within a close distance the group dispersed and the owl seemed to have left. We headed up that way anyway, ever hopeful but alas, the owl was indeed gone. The view above is looking back from where it seemed the owl had been perching.
We were pretty discouraged…we had come a long way for….not much. Well, to be fair it was an absolutely beautiful day for beach walking and we saw a marsh hawk as well as many loons and other birds. We saw lots of people clamming, too.
Because we didn’t know where to park we ended up parking way, way, way far away from where we ended up….like about 3 miles away so we decided to walk back along the dirt road. I was trying very hard to be cheerful and upbeat but I was very disappointed….I have seen snowy owls before but this one had been so close!
In a move that will no doubt go down in family history as a true Mary bird nerd moment I stopped, stretched my arms out and spun around saying, Okay, owl, where are you?
And then I saw it… wasn’t in the dunes…it was on a tiny spit of rocky sandy mud sticking out into the harbor…this photo is with my full zoom so you can see it was quite far away. The shape was too hunched over and the head too wide and rounded to be a gull….

I got a bit closer to be sure it really was the owl….

and then it turned to look at me and there was no doubt! It flew a while later and landed in the dunes nearby.

I have to say….it was a long but joyful 3 mile walk back to the car….it was indeed a day well spent!

The snowy owl was still there as of yesterday so if you get a chance to go see it, please do!