Well, this was a first for me.
I had the great privilege of leading music for a wedding this past weekend. Beautiful couple, beautiful ceremony. All around beautiful. And BOY do they know how to pick a location!
Upon arrival in Oconomowoc Friday night for the rehearsal, I pulled up the BirdsEye app just to see if there had been a Snowy within a chase-able distance recently. On the one hand, I wasn't getting my hopes up; on the other, I figured this would be as good of a year as any for one to just happen to be nearby. Much to my delight, I found that one was bring seen consistently at an airport directly between the ceremony and reception locations! The couple decided to do pictures after the ceremony, leaving a solid chunk of time to go looking for this state lifer before the reception the next day. My wife was going to help the photographers during that time, so things were falling into place for me to give this bird a shot.
Saturday afternoon, the ceremony drew to a close. People had mostly filtered out of the church. Skinny tie and all, I packed up my guitar and made my way to the Waukesha Airport. As my black leather dress shoes took to the salty, wintery snow/slush mix of the airport roads, I realized just how ridiculous I must look. Slacks and peacoat are not standard attire for a birder, though it's what my dad wears every Sunday morning when he goes on a drive before church. I guess the apple didn't fall too far from that tree.
My first find there was a small flock of Wisconsin birders. The instant sense of connection and camaraderie I felt with these fellow birders is part of what makes the birding community so unique, so enjoyable. One guy had watched the bird for four hours atop one of the hangers earlier in the day, and had just watched it fly down near the airstrip. It was currently out of sight, but definitely still in the area. I had some time, and figured if I waited it out till dusk my chances were pretty good.
I worked the road up and down many times, scanning and scoping frequently. The snow fell harder and flakes got larger, all the while the sky was beginning to grow quite dim. Visibility was diminishing rapidly as 5 o'clock struck, and I needed to get back on the highway in order to make it to the reception on time.
Bummer, I really thought I had a decent chance at this bird. In previous days, it had been reported on the other side of the airport, which was harder to access. I figured it was over there somewhere, and that my chances of catching a glimpse had all but slipped through my grasp by that point. I turned back onto the main road, and as I passed a hanger I could see a dark lump on the corner of the building. Could it be? It was the only corner of the roof with something on it. I strained to get a decent look as I drove by and couldn't believe it, it was the Snowy! The shape was a dead give away, and the white face stuck out from the rest of the bird which was heavily barred. I found a place to turn around, and made my way back to the bird, and snapped a couple poor shots just to document the experience.
Waukesha Airport, Waukesha Co, WI
Pre-reception, January 18, 2014
The birds are making me work this year, but I'm learning over and over again that, if you can put in the time, the results usually come. Not every time. But most of the time for sure. The result this time is that I can now say I have a list, be it ever so modest, of birds I have seen between a wedding ceremony and reception. And I'm thrilled that Snowy Owl is on it. The perpetual quest of a birder and random little adventures like this one are just part of what make this hobby endlessly intriguing. There is always something else to be seen.
Wisconsin Life List: 128