By MIKE CORN
While there have been markedly fewer snowy owl sightings this time around, they're still a bird worth seeing.
And to confess, I've chased the solitary sightings near Salina, at Lake Wilson, at Webster Reservoir and the three individual birds spotted near Cheyenne Bottoms.
I've failed miserably on each and every chase.
But please, don't tell anyone.
At least I didn't follow my apparently very poor instincts and start chasing after the snowy owls that were spotted near Topeka and Newton, although I will confess I scoured the roadsides more than I should have while driving in the Washington County area.
Snowy owls are just that impressive. And they're such an infrequent visitor to Kansas, venturing this far south only when they are forced to do so in search of food.
Unfortunately, it's apparently such a daunting task that few, if any of the migrating visitors, actually can recover well enough to make the flight back home.
The outcome for snowy owls that fly south typically isn't very good.
Still, I can't complain too much about a lack of sightings.
Two years ago, I had the fortune of seeing a snowy owl up close, as it was being tended to by wildlife rehabilitator Carrie Newell in Hill City.
If that wasn't enough, there was the chance sighting of a snowy owl in a fence row on the way to work one morning.
Suffice it to say, the adrenaline was pumping and the shutter clicking.
There was a second Ellis County sighting, and it was thought to be a different bird. Unfortunately, a snowy owl carcass was picked up in the area about a month later.
That's why I do feel so guilty about rushing out to see something that has struggled so mightily to make its way south, knowing it soon might be taking its last breath.
Perhaps it's a fitting tribute.
They are awesome creatures, and deserve every ounce of attention they get.
Much like the highly endangered whooping cranes or the simply majestic trumpeter swans, they are a sight to behold.
It's just a shame the outcome is so bleak.