Friday, January 20, 2017

Big White Birds

ring-billed gull :: no owl here today :: snow geese :: the view from the bench where we sat
when we decided to stay over :: so many geese (look closely over the treeline at the white "cloud"
tundra swan :: snowy owl, juv. female :: our work here is done

In the sweet, sweet lull that happens between Christmas and New Year's, when no one knows the day of the week it is but everyone knows the date, Julian and I escaped to the Eastern Shore one last time in 2016. I've said it before and I'll say it again - this place is amazing. Having never been there prior to this year, we went THREE times in 2016, because we just love it so much.

I have oodles more pictures to share but I noticed a gentle theme of the trip, focusing on our most prized finds: big white birds. We had planned to get away to the shore sometime in December but the dates just weren't working out for us. It ended up being perfect in the end because by waiting until after Christmas, we were able to find this snowy owl!

She had been there for about a week already, and getting to her required a long hike down a windy beach in less-than-ideal weather. We planned a one night trip but didn't find her after our three mile beach hike in the driving rain. We had already checked out of our hotel but at the end of the day, feeling rather let down, we opted to stay over and try again in the morning. Much to our delight, with only about a one mile hike and only sandblasting winds (no rain!) we were able to find her and snap this incredible photo.

In addition to the snowy owl, our Virginia Year List (birders find weird ways to categorize and quantify our listing obsessions - this means the number of distinct species seen in Virginia in 2016) was lacking a few "easy" birds that we needed to find. I say that they are easy because they are not considered rare for the state, even though seeing them where we actually live would be difficult. Included in this bunch were snow geese and tundra swans, and the Eastern Shore provided plenty.

I keep a nature bucket list - things I want to see in the wild - and the sky blackened by snow geese has been on there for a time. Check! You can only imagine the number of birds in the air for the sky to appear filled with a black cloud when the birds are actually white but only have black wing tips! The snow geese numbered in the thousands across the entire Chincoteague NWR while we were there.

We had a few more fun things to share but since I'm only just trying to get myself back into the swing of blogging regularly, I will leave it here and catch up some more later. Happy naturing!


  1. so good to see you! As you may remember my husband is a professor but he is currently acting dean and I (we!) miss that winter break where day after day it's just the two of us doing nothing and everything. Hopefully he goes back to being a prof in the summer fingers crossed.

    1. Oh! I didn't know he was acting dean! (I'm tempted to say "good for him, will he apply to stay?" but then so many profs hate to be in administration!) He must be busy busy busy! I worked in the dean's office and never got a break either! I am hopeful you'll be able to make plans for your summer!

  2. so cool! and that owl- wow! how beautiful~ I really like all of the pictures but I think the last three are just so striking.