Snowy Owl Fever

By Marilyn Zuckerman

 (Photo © Ira Zuckerman)

(Photo © Ira Zuckerman)

Discovery Park, January, 2006

Excitement along the beach
a snowy owl
rare here
so far from its Arctic home
found perched on the church roof,
but when seen
(it had been roused by crows)
was fixed like a white kite
among the green branches of a spruce tree,
perfectly visible from a distance
and up close, the details:
swivel-necked and gimlet-eyed
mechanical as a toy clock
a yearling with barred body
white face disk
hook nose and a soft ruff of white feathers.
Almost immobile,
half comatose in daylight—
the night’s bloody work over,
the raptors scream muzzled,
the great wingspan
collapsed to its side
as it sat watchful,
planning to survive
as species after species
fades away.
Snowy Owl on Roof with Crows (Photo © Ira Zuckerman)

Snowy Owl and Crow on Roof (photo by Ira Zuckerman)
(Photos by Ira Zuckerman)

·    ·    ·

This poem was written during the delirium of the ’06 irruption of Snowy Owls down from the Arctic in their search for lemmings, their primary food source. When I saw the Snowy then, it was up a tall spruce tree in Discovery Park, perfectly visible with the naked eye.

They came again last year in another irruption of great numbers and yet again this year though are not as plentifully. Still it brought the same excitement to those of us who watch birds.

We are a family of birders, none more fervent or skilled then my daughter-in-law, Mary Bond or my grandson, Ira Zuckerman. Between them, their powers of attracting wildlife—birds, (especially raptors), seals, whales and other creatures—is uncanny in the Pied Piper sense. So it was with amazement and much excitement that they discovered a Snowy Owl perched upon their own roof in Fremont on Tuesday, November 27th.

Mary heard the crows mobbing (a sure signal that a raptor is around) and Ira rushed out with his camera to produce the three wonderful pictures you see above.

The Snowies will be here until February, though most will settle farther afield. However, some will likely continue to be sighted locally in Ballard and other Seattle sites.

Here are some links to the recent Seattle Times article about these visitors, as well as online bird spotting sites:

The Seattle Times

Seattle Audubon Society

Rare Bird Alerts

Bird Web

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Poem first published by Pemmican Press. It also appears in my book, In the Ninth Decade, from Red Dragonfly Press and in the anthology, Seeds of Fire, from Smokestack Books.

PNA Swoosh


5 thoughts on “Snowy Owl Fever

  1. Two Snowies have been hanging around Sunset Hill Park during the daytime as of late…to find them, just look for small groups of enthusiastic birders equipped with binoculars and telephoto lenses and look where they’re looking. What a treat!

  2. Wow, Marilyn, that poem sends shivers up and down my spine! Shivers of delight at the lovely language, and shivers of amazement at your precision in the last 10 lines, starting with “Almost immobile” — what a twist, from the earlier lines of clinical detail, lines that lull us with the beauty of the bird, and then the reality of what it takes to survive. So nicely done!


  3. Thank you so much for the beautiful poem and photographs, Marilyn! As you know, I spent many hours last year out at Ocean Shores crouched to the ground, being still, observing these beautiful creatures, camera in hand, during more than one unseasonably warm February day. In the stillness, watching their lazy, half-asleep head movements, golden eyes flashing out occasionally from under hooded lids, blinking in the bright sunlight, feathers plumped, perched on logs all over the tundra-like shoreline, it was hard to imagine them as the predators they would become come nightfall. Every so often catching a glimpse of their powerful limbs as one or the another of them would get disturbed – by another owl (there were at least 12 on the beach that day!) or by an excited birder/photographer getting just a little too close – and re-settle a little further off; and realize the carnage they were capable of bestowing on some terrified vole or field mouse, as the light would turn golden, then persimmon, then voilet, then indigo, and wings would begin to stir, eyes to open and owl adrenaline to kick in.

    The balance of nature. There to be observed in all its beauty and savagery. Brought to life so beautifully in your words (!), and in the wonderful pictures. Thank you for sharing the wonder . . . . you never fail to inspire and delight me.

    Can’t wait for the next post!

  4. Pingback: Snowy Owl Fever - Marilyn Zuckerman Marilyn Zuckerman

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