Snowy Owl at Sachuest Point

The beautiful birds of prey that linger in Rhode Island before their flight home have been spotted at Sachuest and Napatree Points.
Photography Wolf Matthewson.

Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul — and atop rocky outcroppings at Sachuest Point in Middletown. Like Emily Dickinson’s “thing with feathers,” the snowy owl’s journey to our cold-bitten shores is one of hope, too. In summers of abundance in the Arctic, these birds of prey have up to eleven young, which creates food shortages and sends juveniles south for sustenance. Typically, they linger in Rhode Island between November and February. “The longest one stayed was until the middle of April, but he was sort of an odd bird,” says Lauren Parmelee of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. Already in 2022, the species was spotted at Sachuest and Napatree Points — “open, treeless places that look like their habitat up in the Arctic,” say Parmelee who, despite once mistaking a snowy owl for a plastic bag, says they’re easy to spot with the naked eye. They see us, too, often staring with the unabashed assurance of an animal at the top of a food chain. Since, like Dickinson’s thing with feathers, our winter visitors “in the chillest land and on the strangest sea”/ “never, in extremity, ask a crumb of me,” Parmelee makes the ask on their behalf: Try to keep at least 200 feet of distance so as not to stress them and to, as she puts it, preserve their magic for all to see before winter fades. “It’s a stunning animal,” she says. “It’s a beautiful animal that, if you do have the opportunity to see it, it really will stay with you.”