The Snowy Owl and I

Male Snowy Owl

To be honest I have anticipated this blog for many years now. The day had to come eventually. Even if it required a private plane to Point Barrow in Alaska at age 97 I´d do it.

The story started back in 1999 and developed from there. At first I was soaked up in self-pity, but after a while it became too tragic not to laugh at – the story of the Snowy Owl and I.

I started birding very early on. At age ten I was hooked and twitched my first Pale-bellied Brents in my hometown of Fuglafjørður. I read all the field guides about birds that I could get my hands on and one of the birds that stood out was the Snowy Owl. Big and white with staring yellow eyes. A dream bird for anyone to see.

I made my first attempt to twitch a Snowy Owl aged 15 in 1999. A bird had been present in northern Denmark for weeks. I got a ride with some twitchers and we hit the road. As we reached the area we scanned with the scopes and found a white spot on a pole far away. Too far to tell what it was. We drove closer but a thunder-shower hit us and when we reached the pole, there was no white thing on top. Further search proved fruitless.

The second attempt was of a bird in the Hansted Reserve in Denmark. Again I got to drive with some twitchers. We arrived, scanned the area for hours, but then started to do alternative birding. We didn´t see the owl, but when I got home I learned that it was seen 20 minutes after we left – mocked by a Gyr Falcon.

I went back to the Faroes in vacation in 2000. During the week I was gone two Snowy Owls were just 7 kilometers away from the school I was attending. They both left the day before I returned.

I really wanted to see Snowy Owls. So I went to Lapland with some other birders in 2001. We checked breeding sites way off the grid. We say plenty of awesome birds, but we didn´t see any Snowy Owls – they was apparently breeding at another mountain peak that year we were told by a ranger as we left.

In 2006 we hard our first daughter. When my wife went into labor we rushed to the hospital. As the birth got close I got a message about a Snowy Owl 30 minutes drive away. After careful consideration I remained at the hospital. The Snowy Owl only stayed for that one day…

At a family birthday on the Faroes in 2009 my brother in law and I talked about football. After a while he said: “Oh, by the way, did you hear of the Snowy Owl at Múli?”. He pulled out his phone and showed me pictures that a friend of his had taken just 10 minutes drive from my home. It had been present the entire previous day. I rushed out the door with permission from my wife – but didn´t see any Snowy Owl. It was gone.

Then I moved to Mongolia in 2018. But I didn´t find any Snowy Owls there – but got the Great Grey Owl. Due to covid-19 we came to the Faroes in August 2020. In September and November a Snowy Owl was seen on Eysturoy. I hiked and hiked in the remote area, but didn´t find anything. Then I got a call from people hunting Hares. They had seen a beautiful Snowy Owl sitting on a specific rock. I hiked to the place. I found the rock, I found its droppings. But no bird.

My oldest daughter and I – I stayed for her birth rather than twitching a Snowy Owl.

Yesterday I got a call from a shepherd. He had just seen a Snowy Owl close to the Halgafelstindur mountain. I jumped into the car with my oldest daughter. Blizzards, rain and long hiking distance didn´t keep us from going. We hiked, got soaked and pressed on. And then it was there. The white dot in the distance. The Snowy Owl.

Male Snowy Owl

We obtained good views from a distance and then I tried to get some photos. It turned out that the adult male Snowy Owl was very approachable and allowed me to get great views. What a stunning bird! Beyond words simply. This is only the 5th record for the Faroes in 32 years!

Not always easy to see

I am still not quite sure if I was dreaming, but it seems like I´ve finally seen a Snowy Owl 22 years after my first attempt to see the species. I´d did see it. I really did. No need for Point Barrow now.

Silas

6 comments on “The Snowy Owl and I

  1. About time, then 🙂 Adult male is certainly the most magical.

  2. birdingfaroes says:

    I wouldn´t know since I haven´t seen a female… But mannnn it is a nice bird…

  3. Judith Schenck says:

    You deserved that after such a quest. Congratulations!

  4. Come to NY. They are on the beaches of Long Island, New England and New Jersey right now.

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