Thursday, December 25, 2008

Owl on a Beach

   After having dipped big-time on the Barn Owl last Saturday (and risking a nasty accident in the process), Birdcouple was undeterred. Natch. We set off early Sunday morning, with both hope and trepidation, to see the Snowy Owl that has been hanging out on the beach about 2 1/2 hours southeast of us, on Assatague Island National Seashore.  

   This bird hangs out on the Arctic tundra in summer, so the mid-Atlantic beach in December must feel balmy compared to the temperatures up north.

   The bird was well down into Assateague's over-sand vehicle zone (we didn't have one), so we knew it would be quite a walk. We were right.

       The morning started out dreary and rainy. But Birdcouple's usual luck kicked in. Virtually the moment we arrived at the Ranger Station (where the rangers were extremely nice and helpful), the rain stopped and the skies slowly cleared. Compare the photo below with pictures from later in the day: 

    Well, walking on sand is different from walking on solid ground, for sure. Birdcouple knows how to walk - we're hiking the Appalachian Trail, after all - but after a while, I actually found myself saying out loud how I wished for some good ol' Pennsylvania AT rocks. Never thought I'd ever say that. Lisa was a machine, just cruising ahead, even when we took a detour and found ourselves out in the middle of a marsh.

    A few minutes later, we ran into Ranger Craig, who was the first to spot the Snowy Owl when it arrived some weeks ago. He kindly escorted us five kilometers down the beach, and deposited us ... right in front of Mr. Owl.  

    Lisa was, as usual, the first to find the bird. Isn't that a magnificent, beautiful creature? I meant the owl. (Lisa is, too). It was also quite skittish, making really good pictures difficult. If we approached closer than about 80-90 yards, it flew off down the dunes - not far, but to what the bird must've considered a safe distance. I felt somewhat relieved that our good friend Dan Haas, who is really becoming an ace shutterbug, had the same experience.

   The Snowy Owl is beautiful in flight as well:

   We stayed for about 20 minutes, enjoying this amazing life bird. But we did not want to intrude on its space any more than necessary. And we also knew that we had a long walk back down the beach to the ranger station and Lisa's Volvo, plus a 2 1/2 hour drive home to the Lovenest.

    See ya, Snowy Owl.

   We began walking down the beach. Lisa's Volvo was 7+ kilometers away. We were happy, with a spring in our step, after seeing Mr. Owl. After about a half hour of walking, Ranger Craig drove back by us, returning from the southern end of Maryland's portion of Assateague Island. He stopped his truck, rolled down his window and started chatting. Silently, I said to myself: Please offer us a ride down the beach.

    He did! I opened my mouth to gratefully accept and was about to make the move to Craig's truck when... Lisa ... said ... no ... thanks ... we ... are .. fine. We'll walk the rest of the way.

    HONEY, are you out of your mind ???!!

   Craig kindly repeated his offer, and then tooled off down the beach, his white truck a bright gleam in the distance.

   But of course, Lisa was RIGHT and I had suffered a momentary lapse of resolve. Birdcouple is hard core. Birdcouple does the whole enchilada. Birdcouple takes the hard - but worthwhile - route, stopping to smell the roses, see the sights, and enjoy the birds.  

   And we always get out of the woods (or off the beach) on time. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, darling.

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