Montana Wolf

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Irruption of Ghosts

It was a late start; an indecisive morn. I couldn't decide whether to hit the road or do a bit of research. I'd read of an irruption of Snowy Owls two hours away, at the south end of Flathead Lake. I would have preferred to make a couple of phone calls, get the specific location and take some notes on the Arctic Owls, but that's not the way the new moon morn unfolded. Once a pileated woodpecker swooped by my head it was clear the morning contained magic.Wood Tick was game.

We knew the area from an article description: Skyline Drive, at the top of a hill in a subdivision, overlooking the town of Polson. Subdivision? We drove the hill but didn't spot a bird as we continued south onto barren plains. This is where the owls would prefer to hunt; where the landscape resembles their barren tundra home. Alas, no white birds. I spotted a car ahead on an otherwise empty and straight gravel road. Catch up, I said to Wood Tick ... it's a birder and he'll know where the the owls are. Wood Tick cast me a how-do-you-know-look. I'd been watching the vehicle. I recognize my ilk. Sure enough, the kind man had just spotted seven snowy owls and gave directions. Back we went to Skyline Drive.

We turned onto a side street and there they were, ghost owls perched on snow-blotched roof tops with a 360-view that included Flathead Lake to the north and hunting fields below. Puffy, fluffy magical white sentinels. I counted twelve as we drove around the neighborhood. We parked and walked through snow to a hilltop for another angle. Their beauty ... and presence ... defied description.

I'd never seen a snowy owl. Irruptions are normal every few years, when nomadic groups depart their Arctic home in winter and travel further south than normal. The last irruption to Polson was in 2005-06; they wintered about a mile from this subdivision home, laying claim to fence posts and old farm machinery. Now the solitary birds were hanging out on houses as if they were the most sociable creature alive. Irruptions are usually regional. They might occur in the NW or the NE, but this year thousands of owls have come south, in pockets from coast to coast. Seattle. Kansas. The Ohio River Valley. Boston. In fields north of Denver International Airport.

The Snowy diet is 90% lemmings. If the food supply dwindles in their circumpolar home, they move south in winter. But these primarily diurnal birds were not starving or stressed. It felt like they came to dazzle. To reach into souls with pure white awakening. A female defending her chicks will launch like a stealth bomber  at a predator from a half mile away at 25 mph, tearing through cotton layers, down jackets and flesh with ease. No wonder Oglala Sioux warriors who excelled in battle wore a cap of their powerful feathers.

When the subconscious is out of sorts and needs to give us a wake-up call it sends us dreams. To the extent we ignore the dreams, it sends stronger, more outrageous symbols until we can't ignore -- a person we dislike; a nightmare of fright; vivid images in those minutes before we wake up.

Snowy Owls from coast to coast, never before witnessed on such a scale, can not be ignored. They take to silent flight from melting ice caps and land on rooftops that we might marvel and give thought to a planet out of kilter. Just what will it take to open hearts and minds and turn the world around?

Late starts do reap results.






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Thank you for reading!
I invite you to check out my updated, spiffy website at www.christinanealson.com 
And as always, I love reading your comments.









11 comments:

  1. Oh! Thanks for going there and bringing them to us. So beautiful. Wonder what the neighborhood thinks? And the word irruption is so tantalizing. At first I thought it was spelled wrong. Is this a birding term?

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    1. Thanks Carole. Irruption is a rich word, isn't it? None of the neighborhood folks were out and about; it would have been fun to ask but I didn't bother them. I'm sure they're getting lots of gawkers.

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  2. They sound dreamy...You're lucky to have seen a whole flock! Last night the hoot of a Great Horned Owl stirred me off the couch during TV. I love owls - they are such magical creatures, truly messengers of the mystical.

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    1. Hope, I can't believe it. All my life I've wanted to see just one; to see 12 on one day was beyond belief. Yes, owls are magical. And white animals of any species is captivating ... wolves, buffalo, polar bears ... powerful spirit implications.

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  3. Chelsea Van KoughnettJanuary 25, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    Thanks so much! Your words and the photos are heart-warming. I too wondered at the word "irruption" and, loving words, looked it up and found it is a "sudden upsurge in numbers". You gift us, Christina, sharing your world!

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    1. Chelsea, I notice that newspapers are covering it an an "eruption," but as you found out, that's a very different word and connotation. And not nearly as much fun to type. Thanks for joining me on my journey.

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  4. FROM CAROL in Cortez: Lovely....I wish one would land on my roof. How blessed those homes are, who now have become transient homes for those birds... thanks for opening up the world a little wider for me.

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    1. According to one account, the folks hardly noticed at first. Now cars and people abound to watch (gawk!).

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  5. They are simply gorgeous! Thank you for sharing the photos!

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  6. Thanks, Jac. Here's the link to more photos. Enjoy!
    https://picasaweb.google.com/102985546133142485134/SnowyOwlGhostSpirits?authuser=0&feat=directlink

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