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February 3, 2013 at 4:25 PM

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Snowy Owl at Sunset in Ballard


A Snowy Owl basks in the last light of day while sitting atop a roof in the Sunset Hill neighborhood of Ballard Sunday January 20, 2013. "It's nice, it keeps the squirrels away," said Robert McIntire, who lives next door to the home that the owl was perched on. This view is from the upstairs window of his home. McIntire has lived in the home for 11 years and said he had never seen a snowy owl in the neighborhood until just recently. He's noticed at least two distinct birds rotate their perches on nearby homes for about a month. While they scare away squirrels, they've brought crowds of people to watch, sometimes 20 or 30 at a time.

A couple weeks ago I was finishing up photographing some breaking news when the photo desk called and asked me to check out the sighting of a snowy owl in Ballard. I knew the creatures were hanging around from the earlier story we did with Mark Harrison's stunning photos, but it was a Sunday evening and the light was just starting to get nice, so I went to check it out.

Once I arrived there, sure enough, a group of people were gathered to get a glimpse of the bird, perched on a tall roof, bathed in golden light. Since I didn't have a chance to go back into the office, I didn't have any long lenses for bird watching with me - just my normal 70-200 zoom. Then, I looked at their next door neighbor's house and realized their window looked right at where the owl was sitting.

I knocked on their door and explained who I was, and although they seemed a little wary at first, they let me in and showed me up to the window. Robert McIntire, the resident of the home, said two different birds had been making the rounds in the neighborhood for the last couple of weeks.

In this case, while it would have been nice to have a longer lens for birding, the kindness of a stranger got a better angle instead.


Nancy McFaul, left, and her granddaughter Amelia Garling, 4, look through binoculars at a Snowy Owl perched atop a roof on Northwest 75th Street, just east of 34th Avenue Northwest, near Sunset Hill park in Ballard Sunday January 20, 2013. Amelia's brother Logan, 10 months, naps in the stroller. McFaul lives down the street and has had an owl perch on her own roof twice. "It's like a neighborhood event," she said. "It's more fun watching the people."

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