The Snowies Are Coming

 

The Snowies are coming: dismay, when there should be delight.

The first Snowy I saw this season was on his first migration. He was hatched on the tundra earlier this summer, he made the harrowing Lake Superior crossing, and he also broke my heart, in a way. As the season’s vanguard, he attracted quite a crowd. I regarded him as a fellow being merely attempting to escape dwindling resources–but when he landed on our shores, he, suddenly, became the coveted resource. In a process catalyzed by social media’s immediacy, he was quickly used, and used up, for no defensible purpose.

I managed to confront one person, who bumped him–she informed me that it was Snow Buntings, and not her close approach, that flushed him. I wish I could find her again, so I could inform her that the bird she just HAD to crowd was in such bad shape that a rehabilitator became involved.

“The Snowies are coming,”–the first line from a recent message from a Upper Peninsula rehabilitator. It’s followed by the report that they’ve received 4 Snowies in the last few days. 2 passed within several hours; one was already a carcass. Exhausted birds, with no energy stores left.

The Snowies are coming. Owls–especially Snowies–get treated terribly by photo-takers. It’s hard to experience joy watching them in areas with heavy human presence; rather, I get upset about the abusive treatment they invariably receive. It is important to me to care, intentionally, about the space I occupy. An owl’s survival needs for shelter, for space, override any human’s perceived need to get close; to press near. And with this in mind, when I have the good fortune of finding an owl, I do not disseminate its location: more than anything, I do not want to be the link that enabled human stress.

 

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