Dear Mr. Snowy —

Snowy Owl, First NJ Sighting, LBI, November, 2014 by Ray Yeager, Fine Art Photographer

Snowy Owl, First NJ Sighting, LBI, November, 2014 by Ray Yeager, Fine Art Photographer

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

signified starvation

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

that science

geolocators

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.

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