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I Could Have Stayed Home To Embroider But My Sister Made Me Do This Instead...

Ok.  Here's the thing.  My big sister is a birder ... bird watcher. 

I know. 

I don't get it either. 

But experience has taught me that what SOUNDS like a COLOSSALLY BORING waste of time can turn out to be something special.

She's in town for the week and was reading a bird magazine and discovered there's a tract of prairie land about 1/2 hour's drive east of my house where the Snowy Owl hangs out for the winter.  (I can't beLIEVE I'm telling you this stuff ...)

And FYI, all the pictures in this post were taken from the safety and comfort of my driver's seat.  Just so we're clear on that.

Now, she's taken us on some "wild goose chases" before, but she learned that she can bribe my daughters (& me too) with the prospect of a treat (that involves something bad for your waistline) if we help her find what she calls a 'lifer bird' - a bird she's not seen in the wild.  (Seeing a bird in the zoo or on tv or even on someone's camera DOES NOT COUNT.  There are very strict rules in the birding community about what counts as a sighting and my sister is nothing if not a stickler for following the rules.)


She proposed we go look for this Snowy Owl. 

On a Sunday afternoon. 

I would have MUCH rather stayed home to work on my Daisychain Sampler, but ... well ... sometimes I manage to get off my duff and actually venture out into the world to have an experience that doesn't involve a comfy sofa and a needle & thread.

We travelled about 150 kms (93 miles).  Mostly on gravel roads.

Did I mention she bought each of my daughters their own pair of real binoculars?  Yeah, like 3 years ago.  And they use them too.

We saw a lot of this ...

Yeah, the landscape isn't exactly ... lush this time of year.

These are wheat fields.

So you get to see the odd barn.

And silos.

And horse.

But mostly more of this ...

(have you fallen asleep yet?)

and this

Oh goody!  We get to come to a complete stop at an uncontrolled railroad crossing!

And then continue with more of this ...

(No, the above photo is NOT the same one as the first picture, it just seems like it ... )


Shrubbery ... ;)

This goes on for over an hour.

(Can YOU say "boring!")

And then all of a sudden Sister yells, "STOP STOP STOP!!!! THERE IT IS!!!!!!!"

I slammed on the brakes ... on a gravel road (think Dukes of Hazzard!) ... and behold ... there it was ... the Snowy Owl!

A sub-adult male Snowy Owl, to be exact.

Just sitting there waiting for us to find him. 

According to the article, the Snowy Owl usually returns to the arctic around the end of February, so we were lucky to see him.

We got out of the van to get a closer look but he took flight (surprisingly magnificent ... sorry I didn't get a shot of that.)

BUT, according to the rules, my sister WAS able to identify it.  It counts.  Another lifer checked off her list.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit how exciting it was.  I mean it's just a bird.  But we saw it.  And it was fun.  I can't explain it.

Don't get me wrong.  It's not exciting enough to make me want to do this as a hobby or anything.  But the few hours us four girls spent driving up and down quiet back roads, braking a lot for what might have been the Snowy Owl but always turned out to be a road sign, tuft of snow or litter is now a fun memory for us all.

For my sister, that Snowy Owl is #561 out of (roughly) 900 birds in North America she has seen.  And in case you're interested, my daughters and I have also helped her find the Island Scrub Jay, Rock Wren, California Gull & Abert's Towee.

And tomorrow we get ice cream. :)

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Reader Comments (46)

You catched Hedwig's bother on his break during his post owl delivery? Great, but don't get me wrong yesterday I went to a quilt market and this is defintly more my style;-)

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHildy

Too cute of an adventure - this is a memory that all of you won't forget. My sister is coming to visit me this weekend......I don't think it will involve birds......sewing, painting and maybe a trip to the casino! Love your blog.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

how fun....so great that you were game to help her out and make a memory in the process.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Q

In 2nd year of University, I took a biology course that studied a section on birding. I LOVED it! I still have my birding book, but have forgotten how to identify many of the species. I don't do any birding now, but I can totally relate to how exciting this would have been to see the owl. Mind you, I also took a bio course on fungi, and went mushroom hunting (which I also LOVED), so perhaps I'm a bit of a bio/nature nerd hehe.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I actually "get it". Hummingbirds are my favorite. :) Enjoy your ice cream!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterA Little Blue Dragonfly

What a gorgeous bird! and you are the funniest and funnest blog I read. Love it and look forward to reading about your adventures every day!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSharon (Michigan)

OHMYGOSH I WOULD HAVE LOVED THAT! I used to have a barn owl living in our ugly palm tree. At night he would swoop out like a ghost. Frankie and I would lay in the hammock for ages waiting for him to come out. Amazing. I don' t have a life list, but I do enjoy looking at and for birds.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam

This is sooo cool! I'm not a birder and didn't even know what it was, but wow! What a fantastic treat to see this gorgeous guy! Thanks so much for the photos. I loved ALL of the pictures leading up to the owl, and when his picture popped up in the mix, I gasped! Great day for you guys!!!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTina in Nevada

OHMYGOSH! That would have been SOOO worth it! And WAY better than embroidering. I've been wanting to see an owl -- ANY owl in the wild for...ever! You. Lucky. Duck!!!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThimbleanna

When we drove to Alaska in 2006 and took two grandsons with us, the plains of North Dakota looked exactly like three of your pictures towards the top of this post. After a couple of hours of nothing, my then 13 year old grandson said, "Grandma, it's really blank out there!" Family saying ever since.....it's blank out there!

Fun adventure with your sister and girls. Bet it was exciting to see that magnificent bird!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarge

I am also a birder (had already seen the snowy owl) but you got some lovely pictures. Fun isn't it? I go a lot with my husband, but do you think I can get him to go to a quilt show? I just want to add that I love your blog and your sense of humor. Don't ever lose that.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary L.

lol, yep, the girls will always have the memories of an auntie who gave them their own binoculars and took them scouring back roads to see birds. owls are worth it in my book! a friend of mine lives out on the delta and she had a screech owl nesting on her property. it was just SO AWESOME to hear him screech each evening on his way out to hunt! ;p

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterina

Well I have to say Kristyne, I think that is totally a-maz-ing, being able to witness that wonderful bird in real life is fantastic!
V x

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergreenrabbitdesigns

Loved the build up to the sighting of the Snowy Owl (a magnificent bird) and it will be a very special memory for your daughters. Where I live in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand we have fantastic bird life in our garden and it is always wonderful to look each day to see what is out there. Yesterday there was a Pheasant Hen with two chicks ... what will today bring!!!!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOriel

Hysterical! I can relate to the flat countryside, being from the Midwest. But I've never seen an owl in the wild to make it worthwhile. Absolutely beautiful.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

Ahhhh... the memories you are making are priceless! And, LOL, loved this blog post as usual you made me laugh! :o) You are a great sister! :O)

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBari Jo

I would quite hapily drive that far to see such a magnificent bird!!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfrayedattheedge

I have to admit those are the kind of excitements that excite me as well. Heck, I get excited still whenever I see deer or bald eagles both of which happen on almost a daily basis..so there you go..What a fun sister I might add!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLouise

My mom loved bird watching and had a ton of books. She never went birding other than where she happened to be at the time. I never knew there was a name until I watched the movie "The Big Year" with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black. It was a good movie and ironically now, I have now met two persons who "bird". One of the was a gentlement that walked in to my office on business and in chit chatting, mentioned an oddity of his....birding. Now, you. Awesome. Love the pictures and the story.

Quilting in Texas

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVonna Johnson

Wow! What a treat to see a snowy owl in real life. A great experience for your daughters - and you!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

Your scenery is...erm..umm...flat?!! Love the photos of the owl, how magnificent! I love watching the birds in my garden and spotting them out on a walk but I've never gone on a drive specifically to see a bird - might have to start!!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterArchie the wonder dog

You. Are. Sooooooo. Funny!
(thank you!!!)

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLady Jane

My son is a wildlife biologist so I hear these stories all the time.......they bring him such delight....that is the part I really like.......well the ice cream is really really the best part.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristy

I loved loved loved reading your adventure. That is so cool that you actually spotted one and was able to get a photo. My husband picks on me because I have 2 categories for birds which are they are either a chickadee or a fat biddy. The owl you spotted would fit nicely in my fat biddy category. Thanks for sharing your story.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTami

The Owl was beautiful - what a treat! So glad she's paying you back in ice cream - so worth it :-)

You can tell your girls this for me: In Washington they are making those round bales illegial - because they don't give cows a square meal.

LOL!!!! (Hopefully you haven't heard that one and can enjoy it! I totally got my father-in-law with that one on our first meeting, he then told his son to marry me HAHA)

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

seeing a picture of a bird or an animal is..well..ok.. but pure joy when seen in its' natural habitat..

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterteawithhazel

I am thinking you must live pretty near my folks in Montana as they were considering making the trip to see the Snowy Owls but were concerned about trying to get over "the pass" in winter. Anyway, I am glad you all had a nice safe trip and got to check one off the lifer list.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeAnn

Seeing those pics of the flat prairies takes me back to Manitoba, where I grew up. I miss the feeling of the sky being SO BIG, and the cloudscapes. The northern lights in the winter were always spectacular, too. It's hard to explain these things to those who haven't experienced it.
I live in Cincinnati now, and still take great delight in the hills and windy roads. When MY sister came for a visit, I took her for a special drive on all the twisty, hilly roads I could find. It was fun to show off! :)

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTanis

Sometimes the most fun is when we get out of our own zone and into someone elses for a bit. You guys earned the ice cream.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercharlotte

I loved this post. I even got excited when I saw your owl! I can relate. I don't think I would want to do this as a hobby, but to see a snowy owl in the wild-so worth it.
Thanks. I almost felt as though I was there.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam C

That was exciting to actually find one! I just realized howdull my life must be.We all need someone like that in our life,and think how far your experience has reached now!!! Nice change of pace. Wonderful memories for everyone!!!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie Nyquist

I am from Alberta and can I say that I an almost tearing up as I look at these pictures, I miss the prairies (maybe you nned to spend some time is a very densely populated and polluted area to appreciate the amazing wide open spaces). Where did you go? I used to live in High River-
Oh, instead of looking at the ground and thinking brown and dead, my father always says it's gold!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDara

I remember sitting on greyhound bus 20 odd years ago going across Canada looking at endless miles of countryside I should have been looking for an owl Australia has miles and miles of similar looking countryside and the kids expression are we there yet always great to do family stuff and girl bonding helen

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

Hahhah what an entertaining post! Thanks for sharing :)

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

I have read this twice so far and laughed out loud both times. You have a gift for making people smile, so keep it up. Family and making memories, that's the most important thing......and to see that magnificent owl, was maybe a once in a lifetime experience....so glad you caved and went on the adventure.....thanks for sharing...Oh, I know you're feeling a little special right now, seeing that rare Snowy Owl and all.... but.... Today, I saw... a Blue Bird...a Cardinal and....get this...a Robin....so, just sayin.....lol .... Thanks again

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

This was funny!! My son and I had to go to the city last week which was a two hour drive, when we spotted one of these owls. By the time we arrived in Regina, we had spotted NINE snowy owls!!! It became one of those road trip games as. Kept seeing another and another!!!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChrista

My FIL, God rest his soul, was a huge birder. I have two favorite memories of a road trip that I took him & MIL, SIL & BIL on when they visited us in Delaware. Being from Ireland, there were a lot of new birds for him to see in the mid-Atlantic states, so I took them during this visit to a bird wildlife refuge on the coast. My good favorite memory from that trip is how excited my FIL, a very quiet man, got over seeing new-to-him birds. My evil favorite memory is of MIL, who is, shall we say, a pip, looking through her binoculars in the complete opposite direction that FIL was looking, and saying, "I see it, I see it!". I resisted the urge to point out her error but every so often, fifteen years later, I do still cackle over it.

Love the owl pictures, btw!

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSiobhan

I am a bird lover too and WHAT A TREAT!!! Congratulations on spotting a Spotty!! Thanks for sharing:)

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCeline

That story was a HOOT! Get it?! Two years ago I was in Maine and wanted to see puffins. They only live on this one island and you have to take a motorboat to get there. I am terrified of boats (what if I drown? what if sharks get me?) but I got myself onto that boat just so that I could see those birds! So I kinda conquered a fear and got to see cool birds at the same time.

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergreg

Not a "birder" myself, but it strikes me how similar the landscape is to here in Australia where I live. Different trees of course, but acres and acres of crops and hay bales. My Dad is a wheat and sheep farmer! Love your blog, Sarah xx

March 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

In Australia a bird watcher is called a "twitcher"! Beautiful bird though! It's always exciting to see a creature in it's natural habitat - I think because it's seems so rare!

March 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I chuckled at this post but I must say, all of that earth and sky look heavenly to me (living in Tokyo at the moment, surrounded by concrete). What a fun adventure. And who (no pun intended) knows, the day may manifest itself in a quilt someday! Thanks for your blog - I enjoy it and have added it to the sidebar of mine.

March 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia

I watch for birds and wildlife ever since my friends pointed out Grey Owl, fox, moose, etc. while travelling to their vacation home in northern B.C. They also have a bird feeder so can watch them while having morning coffee or..evening cocktails!!
But...quilting is still my first and foremost passion!!

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCathyC in Alberta

As a quilter AND birdwatcher I can understand your dilemna, but I would love the chance to see a snowy owl in the wild,but they are few and far between in this part of the world, but well done you for being such a lovely sister.

happy stitching,


What a great adventure, while looking at the pictures I was just amazed at the scenery, it is so like the wheat country here in Australia, I first thought it was in Australia. Your children will definitely remember their Auntie and their binoculars, all their lives, just as they will remember their sewing and crafting lessons from their Mum. I am only 65 but I well remember being taught to sew on a button when I was about 6, and being allowed to turn the eggs in a hatchery when i was about 7 on our first real holiday in a country townabout 100 miles from our home in a beachside suburb of the capital city.
Cheerio from Marie in Western Australia.

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

that is seriously cool.

and all the boring photos are ace!

the barn has a face.

January 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterA Peppermint Penguin

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