Some days I just hit the lucky jackpot and today was one of those days. I had hoped to tag along with one of the Sandy Neck rangers to see a snowy owl since several had been reported out there and I do some work with the junior rangers throughout the year. I wasn’t sure if that would be possible or not but I was lucky and got to tag along at the last minute!
Every day the rangers patrol the beach, picking up debris that washes in, monitoring the wildlife activity according to season and just generally making sure all is in good order. Sandy Neck is about 7 miles long so it takes a while to drive out to the point.
Because it had been a cold night with a very high tide and lot of wind, looking for cold stunned sea turtles was also on the to do list for the morning. It didn’t take too long to find one, just about 2 miles down the beach. Ranger Nappi pretty much leaped out of the truck to grab the turtle and get it out of the wind and water. Here he is with Donna Bragg as they inspect the turtle. It was the first cold stunned turtle to be found at Sandy Neck this year!
Cold stunned turtles need to be gotten out of the wind and old water but they also can’t be warmed up too quickly so all heat in the truck was turned off as our new visitor rested on the floor. It was a Kemp’s Ridley turtle, one of the rarest in the world and though it doesn’t much look it in the photo, it was alive. You can see it already looking better in this photo with Nappi and head ranger, Nina Coleman.
A lot of debris washes up on beaches in the winter and these balloons were a sad reminder of someone’s party and careless disposal. The strings are dangerous to wildlife but also the balloons themselves as marine animals may mistake them for jellyfish and choke to death.
On and on we drove but still no sign of a snowy owl. Several had been sighted on the beach and dunes over the last few days so we didn’t want to give up hope. We got to the very tip to turn around and there it was! It flew off as the truck rounded the bend but we saw it land on a dune not too far away. Not wanting to take any chances of it just taking off again without at least a picture of a speck of an owl I took a few shots like this one…
As we rounded the corner we got a little closer but didn’t dare get out of the truck. Nappi took my camera (I was in the backseat and on the wrong side for picture taking at that point) and got off a few nice shots like this one. Snowy owls are big and my camera has a small zoom capacity so you can see we were still quite far away.
Right now snowy owls are showing up all over the New England coast and many Cape beaches are hosting more than a few owls so if you want to go see one, go now! Prepare to walk out pretty far or to drive out because these birds tend to like their privacy. Also, if you do find one, please keep your distance. They spook pretty easily as you can see from this picture, taken from several hundred yards away.