You may have missed the big news around here, but Birds and Words got a new winter coat. Believe it or not, this is actually tremendously birdy information, just bear with me. While out on one of my (many) outings to find the Painted Bunting, I ran into a woman wearing a gorgeous, yet sporty red knee-length coat that I instantly began to covet. It turned out the brand was a Montreal-based company called OOKPIK. And once I learned that Ookpik is the Inuktitut word for Snowy Owl, I knew there was no turning back. Oh yes, you read that correctly: I based my winter coat decision solely on avian criteria. As luck would have it, the coat also turned out to be both warm and semi-stylish, which helps, but it’s quite possible I might have bought anything from a company called Ookpik.
And on Saturday it finally happened: I saw an Ookpik in an Ookpik! Truth be told, I saw three Snowy Owls. In fact, it ended up only being a five-species day (Snowies were preceded by a million Red-Tailed Hawks, our most common Buteo, which I finally learned to ID by the black belly band, a few crows (not anywhere near a murder) and a delightful Northern Shrike, affectionately known as the “butcher bird”, given its predilection for impaling its prey on thorns), but even so I couldn’t have been happier.
I’m not sure what it is about Snowies. It might be their regal stature, their fierce yellow eyes, and this time I even noticed a hint of black bangs on the juvenile specimen. Magical feels like an understatement. Or maybe it’s the allure of the Arctic — yet another indicator that I’m a child of Northern climes. Whatever it is, I’m entirely smitten. My fearless leader found our first snowy sitting atop a barn, displaying its dramatic head rotations. I could have sworn the snowy winked at me, but I was in a bit of a trance, so my narrative may not be 100% reliable. I found the second snowy in a most improbable location: he was resting atop a pine tree, treating the upper branches as if it were an ottoman. The top of the pine tree cradled the bulky owl, and I stared (and yelped etc) in disbelief; I could have watched that bird for hours. The third and final Snowy was hanging out on an irrigation structure in the middle of the fields, likely on the lookout for rodents of all and every persuasion.
It was a glorious day. My snow tires got a workout and I can finally say that seeing an Ookpik in an Ookpik is quite possibly the best thing ever.