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Ernie's Quest for the Snowy Owl

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Photo by Ernie Hawks Photo by Ernie Hawks


I try to start each day affirming I am open and receptive to all goodness and grace, a practice that allows room for wonderful surprises. 

Several weeks ago my inbox contained a note from Gary saying the Snowy owls were in the Polson area and was I interested? My intention of being open to good immediately buried any resistance I may have conjured. I wrote back, “I’m all in,” without any thought, an opening to a wonderful surprise.

That is how I found myself, early one morning, driving into the Flathead Lake region with three friends. The car filled with anticipation, curiosity and keen interest as we drove through the remains of ancient glacial floods in search of the Snowy. 

In many cultures, mystery, fear, and wisdom are associated with owls. The Greek goddess Athena carried one on her shoulder symbolizing wisdom. Since most owls are nocturnal, fear of darkness and the unknown surrounds them in mystery. Plus, there is their silence, an absolute silence, when swooping down on unsuspecting prey. Add to that large, round, all-knowing eyes with their uncanny appearance of tracking a full circle, thus giving the feeling of “other worldly” wisdom even in the dark.

The Snowy adds to that mystique their ethereal white color and the fact they are as comfortable hunting in the day as they are at night. For me, light plus wisdom, mystery and silence gives birth to wonder. 

The first one I saw was sitting on a large rock outcrop. The curiosity I had been steeping in for several hours gave way to wonder, excitement, an indisputable thrill. 

Bigger than I expected, though I knew their size, and with a light grey ceiling for a backdrop, ghostly is the only way for me to describe the Spirit-like, white presence. Later, while standing camera ready, another one flew into my view only a few feet from me. I was amazed at the complete silence—even with wings spread to nearly five feet. 

To find them on the edge of a town, sometimes sitting on roofs and chimneys, people all around packing SLRs, point-and-shoots and camera phones, created cognitive dissonance with the habitat I know is theirs by nature—the vast, uninhabited wilds of the Arctic.

All was a confirmation: I am supposed to be open and receptive to all the goodness and grace this Universe has planned for me, and it is greater than I can imagine. 

Finish it off here with Gary's story.


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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

Tagged as:

birding, Ernie Hawks, Snowy Owl

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