Oddly enough, this is a letter to an owl.
I avidly studied a recent Audubon article on the phenomenal irruption (visitation by many creatures not usually in our region) of snowy owls, particularly in New Jersey, during the winter of 2013. Although I read everything I could find on snowies, after being gifted with their presence, at the Brigantine last year, I learned much that I never suspected from this splendid nature magazine put out by National Audubon. Sometime in the night, after finishing the startling story, I wrote what you might call a fan letter:
Dear Mr. Snowy
here I thought you’d been driven down here
by an unaccustomed dearth of lemmings
that your sleepy golden eyes
encountered in wild reaches
of Brigantine Refuge
that being this far south
is half a hell for you
lacking your protective background
of snow on sand or tundra
but now I learn
and feather samples
reveal you to be absolutely bursting
with health and vigor
part of exceptionally large clutches
in your native Arctic
that you are capable of taking down
your very own relatives
–black ducks, mergansers, eiders–
not only coasting, pouncing
on Jersey mice and voles
but taking spectacularly in flight
and even sometimes on water
you can end the lives
of great blue herons
meanwhile, you sit here
blinking on snow-sifted sand
planning next kills
There is an intriguing sequel to writing this letter. A few hours after I penned it, I was at work at D&R Greenway, where my job is to do what it takes to save New Jersey land, especially as habitat, especially for birds (my personal mission.)
In walked Ray Yeager, new friend and new artist to us. Ray’s spectacular photographs, –not only of wild creatures, but also of wild preserves–, were the most purchased art works in our previous exhibition, “People of Preservation.”
Ray had just completed a seven-hour vigil along a very specific part of the Jersey Shore. With the season’s first snowy owl!
Its portraits filled his camera. We all crowded around, marveling. With Ray’s permission to share his masterpieces, including for a November 26 article in US 1 (Business) Newspaper, “A Winter’s Tale,” I attach his most recent snowy.
Realize that irruptions rarely take place back-to-back. Decades can separate them.
Know that November is early, even for a ‘normal’ irruption.
Get out on winter’s trails, in remote and treeless stretches near our coast. You may be gifted with snowies, likely or not!
And do whatever you can to preserve what remains of our beleaguered state’s open spaces, so such wonders can unfold.