This week’s photo, taken November 24, 2014 from the fishing pier in Edmonds, WA, features a SNOWY OWL returning to land after a brief flight over the Puget Sound.
Only 3 SNOWY OWLS have been spotted so far this season in the entire state of Washington. One of them has been hanging out in Edmonds for about a week and, conveniently for me, it’s now being seen from the fishing pier where I’ve been doing most of my birding the past several weeks.
On Monday morning, the owl is perched far out on the rocks of the breakwater, but even from a great distance this magnificent creature is an impressive sight. As other bird photographers begin to arrive, no one feels any sense of urgency because Snowy Owls are known to sit still for hours at a time. Everyone will get a photo, for sure.
I watch one veteran photographer as he calmly and methodically sets up his tripod and attaches his camera and enormous lens. My 400mm lens seems rather puny by comparison. He’s finally ready for action, but when he points his lens toward the bird, he says, “Where’d it go?”
We can’t believe it. The owl has disappeared, and none of us was keeping a constant eye on it to see where it went. Did it fly? Did it hop behind a rock? We don’t know, and we’re all feeling pretty foolish for taking our eyes off the prize. The guy with the monster lens expresses his frustration by uttering, “This is the story of my life.”
A long, agonizing minute later, a birder behind us anxiously yells, “Here it comes!”
I spin around, just in time to see the Snowy Owl coming straight at us, flying low over the water and remarkably close to the pier. I’m totally caught off guard and also so excited that one of North America’s most revered birds is on a flight path directly towards me, that I struggle to find the shutter button on my camera. As the large white owl cruises by, I fail to capture even one photo, and I manage to miss one of the most significant photo opportunities of my life.
Luckily, a few minutes later the owl takes flight again, heading out over the water and then turning around and returning via the same route as before. This time I’m ready and very thankful for second chances.
Holiday greeting cards: