Friday, March 16, 2012

March 16: Finally!

I've lost track of how many times I've gone to the Samoset to look for the snowy owl first reported there over a month ago. Less than a week from the vernal equinox, I'd given up hope, figuring the owl was on his way back to the Arctic by now. This winter has seen a record number of snowy owl sightings across the country, dozens in Maine alone. I've been feeling like a birding loser, unable to see a snowy owl in the one year when they're virtually everywhere. (One even showed up on Hawaii!) I could have driven three hours down to York to see the one that's spent the winter at Nubble Light, or looked for the one reportedly still lingering at a dairy farm in Clinton, but with all the owls out there, I'd really wanted to see the one closest to home (and which I came so close to seeing back in early February--see post for February 12).

When I heard from two different sources that the Samoset bird was still around, my hope returned. With a use-it-or-lose-it vacation day today, I figured this was my last chance. It's supposed to warm up significantly over the weekend, which will probably send most of our lingering winter birds northward. I headed over to the Samoset directly from a massage, figuring the relaxed frame of mind would help my quest. One person I know had seen it near the ponds, so I parked near them and walked the paved path through the golf course from there. Many geese, but no owl near the ponds. I heard my first blackbirds of the season singing from the reeds. No owl visible on the golf course. No owl visible on roof tops. I decided that at the very least I could walk along the shore bluff and count waterfowl. A song sparrow flew past. A loon drifted offshore. I looked down at the stony beach...

And there he was: a big, white snowy owl perched on a rock, impassively turning his head to look back at me. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I was so relieved and happy to finally see the owl that I burst into tears. I watched him for a while until, satisfied and happy, I finally decided to move on and leave the bird in peace, wishing him a safe flight back to the Arctic tundra and good luck in finding a mate and lots of lemmings to eat there.

I took the long way back to my car to see what other birds were around. Song sparrows, cardinals, and robins were all singing. A flock of grackles flew over. Pairs of ducks bobbed off the breakwater and in one of the resort's ponds. A big harbor seal perched atop one of the rocks offshore, as if beached there by the low tide. Dozens of robins hopped around the golf greens, hoping for worms. A pileated woodpecker swooped past. Clusters of pussy willows edged an alder thicket. A junco trilled from atop a tree. The very air is breathing "spring." I don't know how much longer the owl will linger now, but I am very grateful he hung out long enough.

On spring's wet threshold,
snowy owl lingers, robins
sing their merry songs.


  1. I'm writing this note with envy from Las Vegas, wishing I was seeing the snowy owl and listening to spring's arrival through the voices of Maine's beautiful diverse bird life. Kristen, thanks for reminding me of my native state. A gifted writer, she has an index finger on the pulse of the heart beat of Nature.

  2. Wow. What a beautiful essay on a snowy owl, birds, and nature. Kristen writes with a passionate voice. Pure joy to read.