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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ookpik

My family took a ride yesterday near the Hudson River after our yummy New Year's lunch.  There in a tree beside the water were two beautiful bald eagles. What a treat!  The perfect way to start off 2014.

Have you ever gone birding?  Well, if you have, you know that birders are a friendly bunch. We got chatting with some as we marveled at the birds perched near us. They shared the news that some snowy owls were spotted not far away.  We jumped in the car and sped off to find them.

Now let me back up a bit.  Owls have always been special to me.  It started with this book.

I even had a small ookpik (Inuit for owl)  stuffed toy that I kept until my dog ate it after I was married!  It looked like this:


As an environmental educator I became friends with a live barred owl.  Barred owls are locals.  I can hear them outside when I walk my dog and can hoot the "who-cooks-for-you" back to them. 

And then, thanks to Jane Yolen, there was Owl Moon. It quickly became a favorite book to read to my young daughter and a signed copy sits on my shelf! 

So, let's get back to yesterday. Snowy owls are not locals. They're birds to add to your life list.  They're the ones you drive to find.  But, we were just heading out after lunch…..without binoculars or a long camera lens.  We took our chances and followed the directions. Lo and behold we weren't alone.   Other birders had gathered and, as I said, they are a friendly bunch! Not only did we see a magnificent snowy, but we were able to get a closer look with a borrowed peek into a scope.  And we snapped a few photos through the scope using our cell phones.   

Here was Ookpik all grown up!  



There have been other sightings of snowy owls in the northeast recently.  I'm going to keep my eyes open and see if I can spot another before they head back to the frozen north. If you want to learn more about these magnificent birds check out author /illustrator Bruce Hiscock's wonderful picture book or take a look at this National Geographic link.  









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