Ok. Here's the thing. My big sister is a birder ... bird watcher.
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.
But mostly more of this ...
(have you fallen asleep yet?)
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. :)