Monday, March 02, 2009

Black squirrels and snowy owls

It's been a winter of unusual sightings.

Deep in the heart of a bitterly cold December ice storm, I saw a black squirrel eating on the ground beneath the bird feeder. I thought the creature must have fallen down an oil well, but upon Googling "black squirrels" I learned they are a genetic mutation of the grey squirrel favoring cold climates. I tried to take a photo, but the little fellow was quite skittish. In fact, I only saw him on what turned out to be the two coldest days of the year.

My mother-in-law drove from Bloomington to Peoria for a visit in January. Approaching an empty parking lot in a less-than-desirable part of town, she said she thought she saw a pair of snowy owls hovering in the cold air. I said such behavior sounded more like sea gulls than owls, but I kept an open mind. She has spent lots of time near the ocean and knows the familiar outline of sea gulls quite well.

This weekend, my sister and my nephews visited. My husband said, when he was putting our dinner on the grill outside, that he had seen what appeared to be a snowy owl gliding over our yard. I came home today at lunch and thought I saw a huge white figure soaring through the trees behind the house. We all got excited and pulled out the binoculars.

Then, again, maybe it was the reflection of a white car in the window. We peered into the woods but only saw a red fox squirrel perching at the tippy top of a tree. Hmm.

Maybe, in our deep hope for an early spring, we are just seeing things.