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.
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.
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!
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.
About time, then 🙂 Adult male is certainly the most magical.
I wouldn´t know since I haven´t seen a female… But mannnn it is a nice bird…
You deserved that after such a quest. Congratulations!
Come to NY. They are on the beaches of Long Island, New England and New Jersey right now.
I would love to… though it is pretty far away 🙂