During a mid-afternoon bike ride around Ocean Drive on Saturday, I saw three top-down convertibles, five or six motorcycles, two scooters (not that I know the precise difference between motorcycles and scooters), any number of cars with sunroofs and/or windows open, at least a dozen bicycles other than my own and one unicycle.
Yes, a unicycle.
Oh, and two donkeys (in the interest of mentioning every conceivable mode of warm-weather transport).
And that brings to mind another tally of sorts: the bird count. I don't keep close track, if I'm being honest, but I am privy to a daily e-mail chain that posts what real birders have sighted in the area. Recent excitement has centered on a snowy owl who seems to be wintering in these parts. At Sachuest Point, specifically. Where there's not a snowflake in sight, incidentally. The only place to see snowflakes about now is on the windows of Yesterday's ...
ANYWAY, I've made several attempts to see him, this snowy owl. The first time, as I pulled into the sanctuary parking lot — jammed, by January standards — I ran into a friend, all hatted and mittened on that particularly brisk day (which felt bizarre when it should have felt typical). She was getting into her car to head home.
"I hear there's a snowy owl, " I said.
"Yeah," my friend said. "But no one's seen him since this morning. I think he's holed up in the rocks."
So I took a walk out that way: to Island Rocks, on the northeast i.e. Sakonnet side of Sachuest Point, facing Little Compton. Once there, but still not sure what I was looking for, I asked a few people wielding binoculars what they had seen.
"There were some arctics," one young woman (25ish?) said. "And I think we saw gannets."
I nodded as if I knew what she was talking about, which I didn't, and apparently that truth shone through.
"Would you like to know what gannets are?" she asked.
"Sure," I said.
"Well, they look like seagulls, but their wings are narrower, so they flap more. There's also a V of black on the bottom. And they dive straight down. They get going really fast. We were at, like, the third inlet back that way [she pointed South], so if you think you see gulls, look again, because they might be more than gulls."
I never did see gannets. I did see gulls — lots. I also saw the snowy owl when I returned to the sanctuary on a slightly warmer occasion a few days later. He was nothing more than a white speck (a bit of snow?), barely visible from shore through my decidedly amateur lens. But after waiting my turn behind assorted youngsters in hats of assorted animals likeness to look through a telescope aimed in precisely the right direction, I got a pretty good look at him. And, later, I found a close-up posted on the aforementioned birders' email chain, where I found a nice shot of a gannet as well (!).
Have to say, I'm impressed by the numbers and diversity of folks so engaged in watching birds in general and the snowy owl in particular. I guess there is something pretty special/magical about him. I'm wondering if this has something to do with it: CLICK HERE. I forwarded it (that clickable thing) via e-mail to Super Son, whose response was prompt and enthusiastic.
"Cool!" he said.
Yes, but definitely not cold ...
See the little white spot poking up from the rocks on the upper left?? That's the snowy owl.
That's the unicycle; I wasn't kidding.
That's a gannet (photo credit: Bob Weaver).
And THAT's the snowy owl (photo credit: Bob Weaver).