Visitors use busy Route 100 in Waterbury Center to get to and from Stowe and beyond. But shopping and skiing will have to wait; birding is the attraction on this December day.
"It's a great bird lifer for me, lifer for Joe," said Mayne Hipp of Boston.
Hipp jumped in the car with his friend, Joe, at 4 a.m. in Boston and made the three-hour-plus drive hoping to see the northern hawk owl.
"It's a northern species that rarely strays down to the lower 48," Hipp explained. "Usually it's found up in Canada."
But it's now in the Green Mountains. The bird, which has a head shaped like an owl and a body shaped like a hawk, has birders flocking to Vermont.
This is not the first time this rare owl for these parts has visited Waterbury. About a decade ago, it came to this same spot.
With the internet, word travels fast in the bird world. Bird alerts are sent out. Hours later, avid birders from around New England and New York can be found perched on the side of the road, looking up with their big telescopes and cameras, snapping photos and adding a bird to their seen list.
"For the year, it's 301 for me," Hipp said.
That's 301 different species seen by Hipp this year in his travels. Now, it's was off to the Kingdom, looking for more birds.
"Boreal species like boreal chickadee, gray jay, spruce grouse, some black-backed woodpecker," Hipp said.
Boreal birds that are now being tracked by Bostonians in the Green Mountains.
It's likely the northern hawk owl is here looking for food. The bird hunts during the day. And when the food supply dries up in its boreal habitat, the birds come south looking for food.
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