In the grand scheme of things, it's a trivial matter. But spotting the first snowy owl in Ellis County is something of a badge of honor.
One that I wear proudly, even though an exceptionally small handful of people know about it. Until now, of course.
News of snowy owls invading Kansas have spread like wildfire, in newspapers, on birding mailing lists and the ultimate word of mouth.
Oh sure, I've seen one before. Up close and personal, you could say, but it was one that someone else found and captured. I just had the good fortune of being able to see it.
This one, spotted Thursday morning on a utility pole southwest of Hays, is mine -- all mine.
Of course, I couldn't believe it when I first spotted it, and yes, it's not at all mine.
Sure, I spotted it and photographed it. But it remains in the wild, all plump and healthy looking.
I kept my distance, taking photographs of it from a greater distance than I did a prairie rattlesnake this summer.
It's stressed enough already, having flown all the way down from the arctic tundra to an otherwise balmy Kansas in search of food.
Let's hope it and others like it around the state find plenty to eat here and safely return home.
-- Mike Corn, HDN