Nature is a better reporter than prognosticator, and it’s wrong to think of snowy owls as a sign of things to come. But it’s easy to understand how this bit of folklore developed. Snowy owls have been scarce all season — until last week, when I received reports of seven different sightings, all in Grand Forks County. And I saw a snowy owl myself, my first owl of the winter.
Probably, the birds most associated with Christmas are the goose and the partridge. Both of these traditions come to us from England — and in fact are among the few authentically English Christmas traditions in the United States. Most American Christmas traditions come from the Netherlands and northern Germany — Santa Claus, for instance, who is an outgrowth of a Dutch tradition.
Nature has been sending contradictory signals. For those eager for winter, there’s the first report of a snowy owl this season. For those hoping to hang on to fall, there were enormous flocks of migrating geese and swans and lesser numbers of lingering ducks. For those nostalgic for summertime, there were goldfinches. And for those already anticipating spring, there were robins.
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