Friday, December 27, 2013

Snowy Owl Quest

I worked up the motivation for a day at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  Really, it is a lovely place with great beaches, boardwalk trails and birding, but it is a long drive and it was only in the low 30s today.  Whine, whine, whine.  I know!

Note the icicles hanging from the bottom of the sign!

Very clear signage.

Within 5 minutes of my arrival I passed a group of people with cameras who were trampling on fragile dune habitat in order to get their photographs of a snowy owl.  What a bunch of idiots.   Within less than 5 minutes further down the beach, I passed a second Snowy Owl, visible from the beach without harming habitat.   Victory!  I only took 3 quick photos, hoping that if I didn't stop too long, the idiots behind me might not notice it and climb the dunes again.

If you don't know the story of the snowy owls, let me share a little of what I have learned with you.  They are typically in the Arctic.  After a year of a good food supply (lemmings), there is usually a year with a large population.  Usually, the food supply doesn't keep up with the owls' demands, and those that are hungry fly south in search of other food supplies.  This year, there seems to be a huge influx of snowy owls, and we are certainly enjoying it around here (although this was my first time seeing one this year).

The beach was beautiful and at this point in the day, the wind hadn't whipped up too badly.  A couple hours later, it was much worse, and I was glad I hit the beach first thing.

 White-Winged Scoter

 Snow, sand and shells

 There were several of these "balls" on the beach.  I wonder if the wind forms them?

Northern Mockingbird

Wild Turkeys

Mute Swans

American Tree Sparrows

The clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped and the wind picked up.  There was one opening the sky where the sun was still shining through, and it was quite beautiful.  This photo doesn't really do it justice.

The above photo is cropped.  Here is an uncropped photo of the same owl.  We were standing on the boardwalk that takes you to the beach.

Once I had had enough of the cold and was satisfied with 3 different snowy owl sightings, I headed out.  Every time I visit Parker River I am tempted to stop and photograph the old homes in Newburyport.  Many are marked and date from the late 1700s.  This trip, I could no longer resist.  Christmas decorations and the snowy setting were just too charming to pass by.

 Darn car

 Look at those pillars!

I just know that my brother would love this town and all the old doorways and beautiful decorations!  While I was walking around, I spotted the road to Michael's Harborside, a delicious restaurant, so I stopped there next for a steaming bowl of clam chowder and warmed up.  Then I took a quick stroll down the Harborwalk, enjoying some ducks along the way.

 Red-Breasted Merganser (male)

Red-Breasted Merganser (female)

Long-Tailed Ducks


  1. Love that yellow house with the balustrade! And the owls were very cool! Glad you saw them!

    1. Newburyport is your kind of town! Those photos were within 1 city block. That street is long and filled with beautiful homes!