Baby, it’s cold outside | Waterline

The vacations are over, however the music nonetheless suits. Wearing fleece and heat socks with a shawl, I noticed the thermometer learn 51 levels and realized I’ve develop into a full-fledged southerner with out the drawl. My blood should have thinned to water. I seemed out and noticed the garden coated in white. I yelled out to Don: “Is that snow on the bottom?” Then I spotted it was just a few little Mexican clover flowers within the grass.

This chilly climate dropped at thoughts one among my first and most memorable experiences of racing to a different state to see a lifer chicken within the freezing chilly. I’m a real visionary and may roll out the reel of remembrance in my thoughts’s eye.

This was many, a few years again. I used to be nonetheless studying a lot from my great little birding group. A snowy owl was noticed on the seaside in Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware. This can be a magnificent chicken, simply lovely, and I used to be so excited.

I posted my hope to seek out this chicken on my birding group’s board. The group, which remains to be in existence, is Songstar. All members have been good associates for greater than 30 years. Herb, one among my associates from New Jersey, stated he would meet me at Henlopen and we might seek for the owl collectively.

Herb was a birder excessive and I used to be elated to have his assist. I grabbed my brand-new Kowa scope and my binocs and off I went in my van to fulfill with Herb. It was fairly chilly and there was about 4 or 5 inches of snow on the bottom. This was no deterrent. I used to be residing in Maryland however nonetheless a Jersey woman at coronary heart.

Our meet web site in Lewes, Del., was set and I used to be now tooling by means of the countryside in my trusty previous Dodge. The open fields have been dusted with snow, and drifts created little hills right here and there. The leafless timber have been stark towards the winter sky.

Lastly, after a number of hours, I arrived and met up with Herb. We discovered the location the place it was alleged we might even see this superb creature. This was not a lifer for my skilled birder pal, however he at all times stated seeing any chicken is an efficient day. He was there to assist me, the novice.

We trudged by means of sand and snow and arrange the scope at a spot the place we had a very good view of the world. We didn’t have to attend very lengthy earlier than the near-mythical owl flew in and landed on a dune fairly close to us. With an enormous wing span of three toes, this chicken was troublesome to overlook.

I assumed it was essentially the most lovely chicken I had ever seen. The white feathers flecked in black have been so placing towards the snow on the sand dune. I used to be additionally grateful to have the scope with me as we might see an unbelievable quantity of element.

Snowies are the one owls which are usually white (Luna the screech owl is a big exception). The males are inclined to have extra white than the females. Each sexes have feathers fringed with black or darkish brown, however the feminine can also be dotted with darkish brown.

Snowy owls are fairly massive and could be nicely over two toes in size. Their white feathers softly fall over their claws, most likely retaining them heat. Black-rimmed golden eyes and a black beak full the look.

They’re merely gorgeous. I took each element in as Herb and I took lengthy appears to be like by means of my Kowa. I nonetheless have this scope. It’s classic now however I nonetheless use it.

It was thrilling to see one among my favourite birds as an alternative of simply a photograph — however, why was it right here? Properly, this Arctic creature tends to comply with the meals. Their weight-reduction plan consists of small mammals and birds similar to geese and geese. Their favourite mammals are lemmings. When prey turns into scarce, the owls begin transferring south.

There have been instances when a number of snowy owls have been noticed in Maryland. I’ve seen quite a lot of snowies since this one — in New Jersey, Maryland and even on the Potomac River on the Virginia facet. They have been all males. I’ve by no means seen a feminine snowy owl.

The fabulous sightings weren’t over for the day. The snowy owl quickly flew off, however then one other lifer for me flew in. A lot to my delight, a small flock of snow buntings appeared on the identical dune.

They have been of their winter plumage: White wings deeply fringed with black. Males have extra white on the wings. The beak is yellow within the winter. Their again is mottled with rust and black. That was an ideal day in my estimation.

I dedicate this column to the reminiscence of my expensive pal Herb Thompson. Herb left us a couple of years again on account of critical problems from diabetes. His spirit and information and love of nature will final perpetually within the coronary heart and soul of his associates.

Abbie Banks is a member of the Venice Space Birding Affiliation, a gaggle of parents who need to benefit from the setting and nature with out the cumbersome politics of an organized group. For more information on VABA or to be notified of upcoming birding journeys, go to AbbiesWorld.org/references.html or e-mail her at Amberina@aol.com.

Abbie Banks is a member of the Venice Space Birding Affiliation, a gaggle of parents who need to benefit from the setting and nature with out the cumbersome politics of an organized group. For more information on VABA or to be notified of upcoming birding journeys, go to AbbiesWorld.org/references.html or e-mail her at Amberina@aol.com.

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