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Dear Eleanor

Did you ever want something so bad, that you longed for it? That one thing that would make you sigh every time you thought of it? Elusive Eleanor - That is what Nicolas Cage’s character named his elusive quarry in “Gone in 60 seconds” when he tried many times, in vain, to steal a Mustang GT. As birders, my husband and I have seen thousands of birds and got photos of many of them, which you will see in later painting series’. Every time we heard of a snowy owl coming down from the Arctic Tundra to grace our Winter beaches or fields here in Virginia or North Carolina, we would scamper out into the cold, and brave freezing temperatures trying to see and photograph our elusive snowy owl.

Besides being a Harry Potter fan, I have long desired to see one with its impressive 5 foot wingspan, piercing golden yellow eyes, fluffy feet sporting vicious looking talons, which likely give lemmings nightmares. This year, we got an opportunity. Everything lined up and off we went, half excited and half expecting to be duped again, but that day was different. It was sunny, with an impossibly blue sky. It was an unseasonably warm 65 degree day with a slight breeze in February.

We parked excitedly and headed to the beach where we heard our bird would be. After walking most of the morning, talking to other birders, all of us had no luck. We went to the local information center for the Wildlife refuge and talked to a helpful birder who had seen the snowy the day before. Armed with a more precise location, we went back to the beach. Met some other kindred spirit birders, Mel and Angela. A ranger was walking by and Mel asked him if he had seen the snowy. “Yes,” he replied, “not even 5 minutes ago, just up the beach from here.” We all nearly leapt for joy. He gave us excellent directions. We enjoyed our walk up the beach with our new friends. They were cautious and quiet when scouting for the bird with us. We would walk up on the dunes being mindful not to step on grass, and peer over with our binoculars. We repeated this process a few times until I saw something that was white, not a white sign or a white bag as seen in previous excursions. No, this was different, rounded, white and on the ground in the distance. I was so excited I stuttered as I called for Jeff to confirm my sighting. I explained where the unidentified white object was and it was indeed our snowy! We were all elated. Jeff and Mel clicked away with their big lenses. Angela and I just kept saying “Wow, wow, wow.” It was a long way away and I was hoping the pictures would do this magnificent creature justice.

Mel decided to walk up the beach to see if there was an angle she could be seen up farther. It was a great idea! Mel found the perfect spot to be low profile and get great photos. I got the video below. You can see how far we were away, a respectful distance. This time, Eleanor patiently stayed and allowed many great pics to be taken by Mel and Jeff. Giddy, I stared through the binoculars and laughed.

With gratitude, we moved slowly away. We started back down the beach and were elated by the encounter. Other birders who had heard about the location were headed up the beach. Mel was kind to give excellent directions, so they too, could enjoy some time with such a majestic and elusive iconic bird.

Thank you, Eleanor, I hope you enjoyed your stay and have a wonderful flight home. Live long and prosper!

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