Do you know what a “Life Bird” is? Well it is a bird that gets added to your life list for the first time. If you just got a bird book for Christmas and started keeping track of your list…well then, life birds come along almost every day. But if you’ve been at it for a while (I got my first bird identification book in nineteen-sixty-something) then a life bird is a pretty big deal.
So after reading about a group of 4 snowy owls that had been hanging out at the northern end of Port Susan, near Stanwood, WA we decided to hike out on the marsh and have a look. Snowy owls are not commonly seen in Washington State.
Right off the bat we saw dozens of red-tailed hawks, and Northern harriers. There were hundreds of trumpeter swans, and thousands of snow geese…but no owls 😦
Finally, after scrambling to the top of the dike to scan a dozen times, I spotted a plump white owl across the slough. Wow, distances are hard to estimate out on the marshes, but it had to be two miles away. I passed my binoculars over to Susan so she could evaluate the sighting as well. Yep! It certainly was a snowy owl.
I used the buildings, the power pole and the mountain to “vector” Susan in on the bird.
We hiked around for a mile or more, enjoying the fine weather. Several Northern harriers glided by just above our heads. The brisk wind allowed them to hover in place, two feet off the grass, searching for mice.
Wouldn’t you know it, when we got back to where the car was parked we saw a small pack of people all glassing the marsh, 50 yards from the parking area. There were two more snowy owls perched on some snags. Gorgeous! Brilliant! Stunning! (Fill in the blank).
I wandered out onto the marsh to get a better view. Even though I was moving slowly and carefully, and wearing my camouflage, I was cautious to keep a responsible distance away. Sadly, my trusty Canon G9 camera just didn’t have enough zoom to get a really great close-up. I did try to “digi-cam” an image through my binoculars…
I nestled in behind an upturned stump and watched the owls for a while. Their bright white feathers were striking (I didn’t use that word yet, did I) against the rusty brown grasses. As an added bonus for hiding and being still, I had a small group of trumpeter swans fly directly in front of my position. Sweet!
Well that’s about it for the owl spotters.
We had great weather, enjoyed a nice hike around the marsh, and added snowy owl to the Life List.