EVERYONE’S familiar with the saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” and it would appear that so too is a particularly lovesick snowy owl.
The male bird is maybe trying to cash in on Valentine’s Day, because he’s just arrived in the Hebrides for the eighth year running in search of a mate – who as yet, eludes him.
“You’d have to give him full marks for effort,” says RSPB Scotland conservation officer Martin Scott. “I just hope that his year he gets lucky in love. To have snowy owls breeding in the Hebrides would be fantastic.”
No snowy owl has bred in Britain since 1975 when famously a pair bred in Shetland.
And given the minimal human disturbance the Western Isles would be an ideal site for the bird to breed as it has a plentiful su0pply of rabbits and lots of open moorland and rocky landscapes.
The large white owl, similar to Harry Potter’s companion Hedwig, has most recently been spotted on the Isle of Lewis.
With a wing span of over five and a half feet, unlike most other owls, being active during the day, views of this stunning bird have been particularly good.
The owl first appeared on the Outer Hebrides in 2003 and has since roamed the islands around this time of year in search of a mate. In the past, his love quest has taken him to North Uist, Lewis, Harris and even remote St Kilda, but sadly he remains a single white male.
It is thought the roaming Romeo is at least nine years old, and was confirmed as a male when his white feathers lost some of their black flecking which is more commonly recorded in younger snowy owls and adult females.
From his distinctive plumage, local RSPB Scotland staff are confident that he is the same bird and, once again, seems to be without a mate.
Hopes were raised in 2008 when the bird was joined by another snowy owl, but dreams of a happy ending were dashed when it emerged that the newcomer was also a male.
Snowy Owls are rare visitors to Britain and Ireland, but there has been an increase in records in the past four years.
This particular bird on the Western Isles has been a major draw for visitors and has become something of a local celebrity.