After we checked in to the hotel, we went to the Refuge. It was a nice sunny day and I wanted to check out the place and hopefully get a few pictures. We stopped by the visitor center to get info and see about recent bird sightings. I was glad to hear that the Snow Geese were plentiful and that thee was a good abundance of ducks. I was intrigued by a listing on the book about a few sightings this winter of the rarely seen (in this area) Snowy Owl. There had actually been a sighting that morning of one in a certain area of the beach. We drove around the Refuge, got some nice pics of the Assateaque ponies, a few ducks, and shorebirds. We reached the area where the owl had been spotted that morning. I decided, with encouragement from Glyn to take a walk up through the sand dunes to see if just by chance , I could get a glimpse. I had no notion that I would see one, because these sightings are extremely rare, but I looked. After about an hour, I retreated to the car, convinced the one seen had flown back to the Arctic where he belongs! We got some good pics and, tired and hungry after a long day in the car, retreated to the hotel and enjoyed a nice dinner at Bill's Restaurant in downtown Chincoteague. ( I recommend it if you visit). Then to bed--
The next two days were socked in, rainy and foggy, which greatly diminished my photo efforts. We decided to drive a little further north on Saturday to visit Ocean City, Maryland, see the sights, and have lunch. We were referred by locals to a neat little restaurant, The Shark, located on a canal with many fishing boats and docks. I recommend this as a must stop if you are in the area. The rain continued as we returned to our hotel and I was convinced my photo luck was busted since we were scheduled to leave by 11AM the last day.
My pessimism was relieved the next morning as the sky was clear and promised great light for pics. I drove to the back beach area where there are inlet ponds across the dunes from the ocean I had seen many snow geese, ducks, sandpipers, tundra swans, etc there on the first day and knew the sun would be to my back and I could get some nice pictures. Another photographer had the same idea and we talked birds and photography as we got some great shots. I was contented to be able to get the pics for the website. The other fellow, as it turned out, was a retired engineer from the NASA facility who had retired in the area. Our conversation turned to the Snowy Owl. He said there had been several sightings in the Refuge in the past few years, and 4 or 5 this year, but that he had never been lucky enough to spot one. An older couple walked up and asked, " Have you seen that Snowy Owl over there?" I'm sure both our mouths flew open and we asked in unison, "Where---?" The lady said , "right behind you", pointed to a small dune about 50 feet behind us, and, sure enough, there sat a nearly pure white, beautiful owl who seemed totally out of place on the beach. I am sure other visitors in the area wondered what was up with the two old geysers doing a jig in the sand dunes. We were facing into the sun, so had to walk around to the other side of the bird to get a good pic. Scared to death he would fly away, I doubt if either of us breathed---but we made it around as old Snowy sat there serenely with no worries. We actually took pics for 15 minutes as more and more lookers showed up. Perhaps if you are not a birder or photographer, you would not understand the absolute thrill of that moment. If you are a birder or
photographer, I don't need to say anymore-----enjoy the pictures below!!!
For a full introduction to the Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge, go to the main page on this website. Click Here.