It was a week ago that I happened upon a Snowy Owl while on a walk at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. Truth be told, I probably would never have seen her had it not been for a group of bootleg photographers I’d run into in the parking lot. I’d ventured across the two bridges to Aquidneck Island to register as a volunteer and to walk along it’s unspoiled, pristine shoreline.
I approached this curious gathering of camera enthusiasts as they huddled at the edge of the parking lot. They held all manner of decadent photography equipment in their possession, each one aiming toward something in the sky unseen by my naked eye. I asked warily of them if they were “birders”. I say “warily” because, not being a birder, I use caution when approaching birders. I’m unfamiliar with birding terms and not in possession of the patience required for such an admirable pursuit. “No, we’re photographers.” Someone replied. “What are you looking at?” I said. “A something-or-other-harrier.” Was her response. Even I knew this was a bird. Yet, I did know there was a Snowy Owl at Sachuest Point and since I was here and walking with my camera anyway, I figured these people would best know where to spot it.
I went inside, accomplished my intended goal of registering as a volunteer hoping they’d still be there upon my return. Viola! They were. They welcomed me along as they headed onto the trail. They spotted one only a short distance in, sitting in a thicket on a hilltop. The only noise was the wind. We took many photos. Most of mine were blurred due to distance, cold, wind, inexperince, excitement and not having all of that very high end equipment. I enjoyed being with the group, made a few new acquaintances and we went our merry ways.
Yesterday I returned to Sachuest for another walk with my camera, thinking I may run into some of the same folks again or perhaps another owl. Sure enough the owl was there in the same spot in the thicket. What luck! I snapped a few photos and continued with my walk.
As I rounded the turn at Flint point on the northern end, the south wind disappeared. The only sound was that of the waves lapping against the rocks. The sun shone from the south. I climbed down onto the rough rocks to fully experience what was before me and there, sitting atop the highest rock, she was. Slowly and quietly I scrambled toward her, sneakily snapping photos as I went. Not even the ssh-ssh noise of my shutter disturbed her majestic countenance.
After a few minutes, the sun felt so warm that I had to shed some of my winter layers. I found a comfortable nook between rock layers, put my camera down and we shared that spot, the Snowy Owl and I. Alone together sunbathing on a mid March afternoon in New England.
I wondered just what, if anything she thought of me there, staring at her. I wondered if she was as relaxed and composed, in charge as she appeared. I had many questions. I wondered if she thought, “Wow, look at that human. What a beautiful sight. I think I’ll just sit here and spend some time with her, share this space in the universe before we move on.”
Then I wondered why I had to do all of that wondering and decided to quiet the noise, immitate my feathered friend and just breath.
Here she is. The Snowy Owl.
Photo Creds: nbwildephotography