Visitor from the North

When was the last time you shared a walk on the beach with a snowy owl?

It doesn’t happen often, but every time it does, a visit from a snowy owl to Nature’s Coast brings with it a moving, magical experience for observers fortunate enough to witness it. Naturally, I’m happiest of all when that includes me.

At first glance my eyes suggested “seagull,” but my mind quickly backtracked to question what a gull could possibly be doing perched alone in the dune grass?

To resolve this cognitive dissonance I would first have to overcome the inertia of thinking I knew what I was looking at, pull out binoculars, and have another think. 10X magnification quickly made its opinion known, though even that didn’t immediately overrule a mind that continued to insist I couldn’t possibly be seeing what I was seeing — especially since no one else appeared to be seeing it, too.

But blow me down, there it was: a bright white snowy owl near a busy human trail to the beach in the full light of a sunny day on the Oregon Coast. Though my eyes and mind might conspire to confuse, my camera is always without doubt. It knew what it saw … and now you can see it, too.

Almost as if in a dream, I hung out for nearly a full day with this rare visitor from the north. I followed along as s/he short-hopped from grassy dunes to the beach, then back again, finally disappearing on silent wings into the fading twilight. I’ve posted a longer clip here of my time with this bird as it “hid in plain sight,” somehow unseen by any other person all day long. How easily I might have missed this experience as well, if I’d believed I didn’t see what I thought I saw.

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