Dhe US capital is enjoying a very rare visit from the far north these days: a snowy owl has been sailing through the streets and parks of Washington for a week, making bird watchers enthusiastic. “There he is!” shouts one of them, having sighted the bird of prey again. Against the backdrop of the Capitol’s lit dome, a small group realigns their long camera lenses.
For once, the motif is not the monuments of the capital, but the young owl, which can be recognized as a female bird because of its grey-white plumage. “This is so great,” says Meleia Rose, wrapped up in a thick winter coat. “I’ve been bird watching for a long time, but this is the first time I’ve seen a snowy owl.”
And then right next to the Capitol: “The contrast between the wilderness and the city is breathtaking,” she enthuses. The 41-year-old and her partner organized a babysitter to get a glimpse of the animal. Like many others, they were alerted by eBird, a network that reports particularly interesting sightings to birders.
Users recently located the snowy owl near the main train station near the Capitol. She has perched on top of a marble fountain in the adjoining park. A pair of yellow eyes keeps an eye out in the dark for an evening snack – it’ll probably be one of the capital’s myriad rats.
One of the owl fans is none other than Jacques Pitteloud, Swiss ambassador to the USA and passionate amateur ornithologist. “The snowy owl has been on my list for a long time,” he told the AFP news agency. “But it’s really extraordinary to see her in the middle of Washington DC.” Here she really is a “superstar”.
Snowy owls live near the Arctic Circle for much of the year. In the winter, many head south and spend time on the US-Canadian border, hundreds of miles north of Washington. It’s like “a polar bear walking by your neighborhood,” says ornithologist Kevin McGowan. “Like a creature from another world.”
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